How to Support a Loved One with Mental Health Concerns

How to Support a Loved One with Mental Health Concerns

In the spirit of #BellLetsTalk last week, which focuses on talking about mental health, let’s turn a page to talk about how to support others.

When it comes to talking to a loved one about mental health, it can be very uncomfortable because as a society we are still living with a lot of stigma and there isn’t enough information out there to help us know how to start such a conversation. Try these R-E-S-P-E-C-T tips to start the conversation:

(R) Realize it’ll take time to understand where you’re coming from.
For those experiencing a mental health condition, they might be having a hard time coming to terms with their mental health condition. Some might be experiencing “anosognosia” which is a symptoms where someone does not have self-awareness of the condition they’re in, meaning someone actually doesn’t know or think they’re ill. This TED Talk by Dr. Xavier Amador gives a good description of what this might look like.

(E) Educate yourself and others.
It can be really helpful to speak to a professional about your concerns and what you’re observing as the first step to getting support, and to continue these conversations.

(S) Say to yourself “it’s okay to feel what I’m feeling”.
It can be really challenging for family members to support a loved one with mental health concerns. Caregiver burnout is a feeling of mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion due to the demands of providing care. It’s important to have support when this happens, because your loved one needs you to be healthy in order for them to be supported by you.

(P) Patience
While it’s easy to say, patience is a virtue and definitely hard to practice, so start practicing now. Not only will you need to be patient with your loved one, it’s also important to be patient with yourself and the difficult feelings that might come up for you.

(E) Expect that there will be good days and bad days.
Plus there are lots of days that are both good and bad. other days in between. Progress isn’t linear. It can feel frustrating after several good days to have a bad day. It would be important to notice what happened on that bad day so you can strategize on minimizing future bad days.

(C) Crisis plans are important.
A crisis plan is a plan that is discussed in calm moments to decide which supports (personal and professional) to access during a crisis. Here is a great template to use.

(T) Teamwork makes the dream work. 
Think about who to involve in your “team” to support your loved one and you as well. List out people like mental health professionals (e.g. psychiatrists, family doctors, therapists), peer support (e.g. groups, crisis helplines), and family and/or friends.

How To Keep It Classy After A Breakup

How To Keep It Classy After A Breakup

Breakups can be awful. Whether you’ve been with someone for a few weeks, years, or decades, going through a separation can make us feel a range of emotions, including:

  • shock
  • regret
  • shame
  • anger
  • insecurity and
  • despair

If you’re currently going through a breakup, this list is for you. Follow these six steps to keep it C.L.A.S.S.Y.

You can do this. Remember, you deserve better.

C – Consider your words

As tempting as it may be in the moment to spill your ex’s awful secrets to his or her closest friends, you’ll feel better in the long run if you take the high road.

Also, if there is even the slightest chance you might get back together, be careful when telling your friends and family your ex’s biggest mistakes or failings as a partner. You may be able to forgive and forget, but those closest to you might not.

L – Look Ahead

Find new things to enjoy as a single person. Everyone needs to make compromises in relationships. Now is your time to rediscover those things you love that your ex didn’t.

  • Explore that hobby your ex never wanted to try
  • Spend time with old friends now that you have more free time
  • Stretch out in the middle of your bed and hog all the covers!

Being newly single can be an exciting time to rediscover who you are and what you love to do.

A – Alternate Your Supports

Even your best friend will need a break sometimes from hearing about your ups and downs. If you’re concerned about overwhelming one person, alternate between close friends and family members. Sometimes having someone impartial to talk to, like a therapist, counsellor, or life coach, can also be helpful.

S – Select the Right Friend for the Job

Think about what kind of support each of your friends can offer. Are they the friend that has always given you tough love? A shoulder to cry on? A fun distraction? Most likely you’ll need all of these types of supports at different times, but it’s important you match what you need with the person who’s able to give that type of support. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends what type of support you need right now.

S – Stay off Social Media

Especially early after a break-up, social media can be not only one of the most tempting but also disastrous ways for you to spend your time. Stay away from your ex’s social media. It is now a plague that you must avoid at all costs. This can extend to his or her close friends and family too.  Remember that postings are more about what we want to show the world than how we’re actually feeling.

If you aren’t ready to block or limit your contact with your ex and the people closest to him or her, consider limiting your time on social media altogether.

Y – You – Take Care of Yourself

Now is the time to take care of the most important relationship you’ll ever be in – the one you have with yourself. Remind yourself that “you alone are good enough” and embrace this time to truly take care of yourself on a spiritual, emotional, physical, social and mental level.

How To Move Past A Breakup

How To Move Past A Breakup

The end of a relationship can be extremely painful, whether it’s with a romantic partner, a friend, or a family member. Sometimes there are people in our lives that we can no longer be around because it’s not healthy for us and it’s no longer working. Yet, regardless of how necessary it might be to end a relationship, it will still take time to get over that loss.

There are a few ways to understand relationships and the feelings you get when you lose them. To help you navigate this topic, this blog is divided into three parts:

  • “What happens inside your mind and body” talks about the biological and chemical
    changes that happen
  • “What attachment theory can teach you” discusses the relationship itself (by taking a look at early childhood relationship patterns known as “attachment patterns”) to understand why the relationship is – or was – so important to you
  • “How do I get over this pain?” The pain that you might feel physically and emotionally from this loss, and how to get over it.

What happens inside your body
Our bodies respond to relationships in unique ways. In our body, we create chemicals (like dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline, and vasopressin) that give us those “feel good” moments when we’re in a relationship, help us build a bond with others, and create patterns that we use as templates to understand relationships in our lives.

So, what happens with these bodily chemicals when a relationship ends? First off, chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline, and vasopressin decrease; so this means your probably won’t have those “feel good” moments as you did when you were part of that relationship. Then, the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, increases as a response to what it thinks is a “stressful event”. What this means is, you probably already don’t feel as great anymore and your body is also responding to say “hey, I’m super stressed about this!” and this results in the confusing feelings you might be feeling at the end of a relationship.

The good news is, we have enough research to tell us how to help our body limit production of cortisol and boost up those chemicals that help us have “feel good” moments.

What attachment theory can teach you
Attachment. You’ve probably heard this word before, maybe even used negatively “you’re being way too attached”. What does it actually mean to be “attached”?

Attachment theory is a psychological model used to help us understand how we respond in relationships; especially when we’re hurt, separated from loved ones, or think something dangerous is about to happen. This response is a process that starts in childhood through one of our strongest bonds, a mother-child bond (but don’t be mistaken, this bond can also be formed with others too. The most important role model or attachment figure in your life is your template for a strong bond). These bonds we build are what make us feel connected and safe. In adulthood, we try to re-create relationships where we hope to feel those same safe and connected bonds.

Usually, when a relationship ends, that bond is threatened. This means you lose that sense of safety and connectedness, which can make you feel scared, alone, sad, or even betrayed and angry. It’s hard to tell what emotions will come out because of this loss. Especially in the storm of these emotions, we may feel a need to go back to that relationship in order to feel safe and be comforted. That feeling of safety may be temporary. It’s important to remember why you ended that relationship and take time to go back to actual relationships that are safe, as well as learn about how you might be able to let go of this relationship (keep reading!).

How do I get over this pain?
Losing a relationship is painful on so many levels. Our body responds with chemical changes to this loss and the loss in sense of safety and connection.

The good news is, there is something we can do about all this. Here are some tips that you might find helpful:

One, trick our body into thinking the positive chemicals are still around by:

  • Participating in exercise and new activities so that we can create adrenaline
  • Doing activities that help us relax such as going for a walk or meditation, and making sure we stay hydrated to regulate vasopressin
  • Get some rest. Sleep the recommended 7 to 8 hours, because this will help with minimizing cortisol (the stress hormone) and also balance our dopamine levels
  • Cook a nutritious meal (for example, you can try these recipes) maybe even share that meal with family or friends

Two, be kind to yourself. Sometimes we will doubt if we did the right thing to end a relationship, that’s totally normal. It’s all part of what we call the grieving process, where we physically, emotionally, and mentally have to get over a painful loss but it’s not forever.

Three, ask for support from those around you. This can include seeing a therapist. They might be able to help you understand more about your attachment patterns and work with you to form new patterns that are healthier for you. They can also help you get through this experience of loss.

How To Know Your Failed Relationship Was Actually A Success

How To Know Your Failed Relationship Was Actually A Success

Ask anyone who’s ever dated, and they’ll tell you about their unsuccessful relationships.

“My past relationships were unsuccessful.” 

“I always seem to fail in love.”

“I’d like to be in a successful relationship that actually lasts.”

What does it mean to be in a successful relationship? And how do we define it? 

For some, the term “successful” is saved only for those partnerships that end in life-long marriage—’til death do they part. But who is to say that marriage (or a long-lasting marriage) is the only qualifier for success?

What happens if we change the way we define a successful relationship to mean any relationship that resulted in a better, stronger, smarter you?

A 3-month relationship, where partners learn about their sexual desires and preferences is a success.

A 5-year relationship, where you now more clearly understand of the qualities you need in a long-term partner is a success.

A 20-year marriage that has ended, where you’ve learned to love and let go, leading to more self-discovery and resilience is a success. 

I have clients who tell me they’ve had “no successful relationships,” and after a little more conversation, I can see that they’ve had many successful relationships. While those relationships have now ended, the amount of information they’ve learned about them is amazing.

The ability for my clients to reframe their relationships experiences is empowering.

Let’s take back this phrase “unsuccessful,” and redefine what success looks like in relationships of all kinds. Every relationship—no matter how short or long—teaches us something about ourselves and desires. They help us prepare for future relationships, and that’s what success looks like!

How To Set Better Dating Resolutions

How To Set Better Dating Resolutions


Setting resolutions for dating? Yes, we need those too. When it comes to all areas of our life we set goals, put in time, energy and work and meet our targets. For some reason when it comes to dating, we view this tried and true strategy as “not romantic” and are often told we should just “stop looking and love will come”. Well, the research says otherwise…and here are a few dating resolutions you can try!

°  Get your mindset straight — Be positive. Everyone deserves love. Look around: people of all shapes, sizes, ages, abilities, and personalities find love. So can you.

°  Make goals (and stick to them) — Dating is like learning to play an instrument, mastering a new hobby, or going back to school. Set goals, assess, persist, fall down, and get back up. Follow through.

°  Manage your expectations — You are complicated, and so is your future partner. No one is perfect, but you might be compatible. Know your non-negotiables. (It can’t be more than 7!)

°  Create the Tools  Online/app dating is here to stay! Having half a profile filled out with no pictures listed is not online dating. See these tools as assets and not the enemy. Have a great first impression, and let the technology work for you!

°  Get feedback  Take a look in the mirror. What makes dating you difficult? What can you be working on and what’s your plan to improve in these areas?

° Hire professionals — We hire realtors when buying a house, tutors when learning a new subject, hairstylist to do our hair…but when it comes to love, we struggle in silence.  Get support!

° Attend a workshop — Keep your eyes open in our newsletter for SHIFT’s monthly workshops!

How To Transition At The End Of A Relationship

How To Transition At The End Of A Relationship

One of the hardest transitions is adjusting to the end of a relationship. The end of a relationship can represent many different kinds of loss, beyond just the loss of that person: loss of dreams, loss of support, connection and loss of a picture of what you thought your life was going to be. These feelings of loss can feel so intense and final that it is often difficult to see past the moment of suffering and heartache and on to a happier future. Here are a few steps to help move forward and recover from the end of a relationship.

Take time to grieve the relationship

It’s okay to feel hurt, anger, resentment, cheated. Feel what you’re feeling. Let yourself express the pain you feel. Worden’s (1991) model of grief argues that we have ‘tasks’ when we grieve. The TEAR Model of Grief illustrates the four tasks of mourning. These include:

  1. To accept the reality of the loss
  2. Experiencing the pain of the loss
  3. Adjusting to a new life without the lost person
  4. Reinvestment in the new reality

Just like the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), nobody can tell you how long to grieve the loss of your relationship. It takes time and is unique to you.

Write a forgiveness letter

Often times what keeps us from moving on and reinvesting in new realities is the feeling of a lack of “closure”. Once a relationship ends, often times we no longer have a connection to that person. This can leave us with unresolved feelings and emotions, especially if the relationship ended abruptly. A great way to process through these emotions and gain closure is to write a forgiveness letter. It is not easy to forgive those who have mistreated us, but it can be instrumental in healing deep wounds and letting go of anger. This tool is used in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). Mind Over Mood: Second Edition: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think, by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky has a forgiveness letter worksheet that can be used to help you write your forgiveness letter.

Take time for self

The time following a break-up can be a great space for self-reflection. Take some time to reflect on what you want and what you don’t want in a relationship. It may be helpful to ask yourself what you have learned from the experienceWriting this down can help you reflect on answers so you can access them as you move forward. These reflections can help in your next relationship. It may be helpful to work with a therapist to process through feelings of grief, self-esteem, abandonment, dependency and boundary issues. Seek support immediately if you notice an increase in alcohol or substance use, cutting or suicidal thoughts as a means of coping with the heartache.

Reconnect with friends

The end of a relationship may not only help us reconnect with ourselves, but it may also allow you the time to reconnect with friends and family. We can sometimes get so involved with our romantic partners that they become the focus at the sacrifice of other people or things. Having a strong support system is important when you are struggling with the end of a relationship. Your support system can be a great source of encouragement and positivity to help you to recover. It may just be the support you need to remind yourself that you are an awesome person worthy of love.

Be fair to your new partner

The end of one relationship and the start of a new relationship can bring its own set of challenges. Unresolved feelings from the ended relationship can seep into your new union and create tension. Be fair to your new partner, do not let them pay for the sins of the past partner.

The relationship that ended will not be your last relationship. Mourn the loss but also celebrate what you’ve learned about yourself in the process. An ending of one chapter is often the beginning of a new one.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the rest of the world calls a butterfly — Lao Tzu

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