If You Do Just One More Thing To Save Your Sanity This Month, Try This!

Today, I'd like to suggest an experiment: 

Those of you who've been working with me know that I often reiterate how important it is to align your thoughts and feelings with your speech and actions; my prediction is you’ll feel a teeny bit saner every time you manage to do that.

So, here's a question for you: 

Suppose you had just a little more confidence, which conversation would you have and with whom?

If you really want to go for it, you might pick the most important outstanding topic, but it could anything smaller scale, too, that you've been thinking about addressing for a while and that seems more manageable at this time.

For inspiration, you could think of a dialogue you witnessed, whether fictional or IRL, where you thought that the speaker did a particularly great job. What did you notice and like about how they expressed themselves? What went well in their conversation?

So, as a little optional experiment idea for the remainder of the month, I'd like to challenge you to get clear on what you'd like to say to whom and then have that talk

You can totally do this!

You might also ask yourself what people would notice different about you once you’ve had that conversation.

So much to think about, eh?

Let me know how it went, if you want! :) 

Is Feminist Counselling Right For You? Here's How To Tell! 


I consider myself a feminist counsellor mainly because of five core values and beliefs that I have that I think are crucial to the way I work. 

If you agree with these notions, feminist counselling will be a perfect fit for you! 

I believe all genders deserve equal rights. 

To me, it is crystal clear that all genders (read: people) deserve equal rights politically, socially, economically, and personally. I understand that our lived reality is different, that people are far from equal in our current society, and that that difference results in discrimination and oppression of certain groups: women, the LGBTQ community, people of colour, substance users, fat people, and many, many more. In my work, I operate on the understanding that no one person is better or more deserving of support than another, and that we all strive to be happy and free to lead our lives as we please.

I believe that stepping into our power is key to recovery.  

Oppression can take many forms, but in my experience, they all result in stress. This stress we feel then leads to unhelpful - or outright harmful - coping behaviours like substance use or disordered eating. Emancipation to me means moving towards a preferred future that is as aligned as possible with what we want, feel and are. I believe that as women and/or members of minority groups, we have an incredible wealth of resilience to draw upon in recovery. 

I believe that recovery happens fastest in safe spaces.

Safe spaces to me are spaces that recognize Sizeism, Classism, Racism, Ableism, Healthism, Sexism and other forms of discrimination as real and hindering. While my professional approach is not problem focused, I believe that a keen awareness of hindering systemic forces is important to effectively support my clients. As a white, middle class woman with thin privilege, I have to acknowledge and understand that my experience of life comes with built-in advantages, like having greater access to power and resources than people of colour, economically disadvantaged populations or people living in larger bodies. I believe that being aware of my own privileges is the first step in bringing attention to injustice and being an effective ally. 

I believe that sexual expression, and maybe liberation, is part of recovery. 

Research shows that sexual expression, as long as it is consensual and safe, is healthy, and I support all types of sexual activity that bring people pleasure. When I say "sexual expression", I include asexuality, masturbation, polyamory, BDSM practices and sex education.    


There are no taboo topics!

I have unconditional positive regard for my clients, which means that nothing they will say will make me like them less. True story! :)

Five Ideas To Help You Be Present In The Here And Now

I first learned about the power of being present in a Yoga class, when the teacher asked us to lie flat on our backs and notice that, at this moment in time, we have everything we need. 

That was incredibly powerful, and I think it's really also when I started understanding that we all are already perfect, just as we are. 

But back to this week's topic - there are typically three situations in which I am fully present: 

With my clients, on the road, and when I do my breathing exercises. 

I have come to ask myself what is different in those situations, and why staying present comes more easily to me at those times. Here are the five factors that I think make all the difference to me: 

1. Choose to focus

Obviously, removing distractions might be quite obvious, but I think it all starts with choosing to focus. And trust me, once it's important enough, you *will* focus! 

2. Sober up, eat enough

Similarly obviously, it's impossible to be fully present when under the influence or underfed. Your cognitive abilities will be lacking when you are drunk, high or hungry. 

3. Find a concentration aid that works

I'm talking breathing exercises, meditations, mantras, music, brain training apps... Whatever floats your boat!  

4. Do one thing at a time

This one is related to point 1, but oh how tempting it is to abandon your focus and do all the things at once, because you can. If you want to be present, make doing one thing at a time a priority. 

5. Listen more closely

Notice you check out of conversations? Think about what to say next a lot? Practicing active listening and compassion can really help with zooming in: What is important to that person? Show them you care by being full there. 

The 6 Ways In Which Free Personality Tests Can Help You Recover

It's probably happened to you before: All of a sudden, everyone seems to be asking you the same question. For me, it's been: "What's your personality type?"  I was asked that three times before I gave in and took this free personality test, a version of the Myers-Briggs assessment. 

I had taken it previously, about a decade ago, and didn't remember my result at all - quite likely because I was still drinking too much at the time, but personalities change somewhat, too, overtime, so what does it matter. 

Here's why I think that taking a fresh look at yourself through one of these standardized tests might be just what you need, if you're currently in recovery: 

It will remind you of your strengths and all the things you can do well

This is really the main point I want to make. If you're regularly dealing with negative self-talk and self-doubt, a test like this one might just remind you why we others think you're awesome. 

In my experience, I've found that everyone I shared my result with - I'm an ESFP-A, in case you've been wondering - has found the assessment accurate enough and shared with me which part of my analysis they thought resonated the most. (My fave: "No other personality type is as generous with their time and energy as ESFPs when it comes to encouraging others, and no other personality type does it with such irresistible style." Who wouldn't love to hear that about themselves?)

Zooming on what's working instead of what isn't is a key feature of how I work with my clients, and I see the benefits of focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses first-hand and all the time.

It can help you understand yourself a little better

What's not happening a lot in my conversations with clients is root cause analysis, because I firmly believe that we do not need to know why something happened in order to improve our quality of life in the short term.

So for those of you who are into detailed analyses, an extensive personality assessment like this one might shine some light on things that you were previously unaware of, and that could be helpful going forward. 

You might feel less alone

Because, clearly, your personality type is a thing. In a way, there are millions more of you out there - how cool is that?

It will provide you with an opportunity to discuss your needs and preferences with others (with scientific back-up!)

Another thing I thought was great about having these test results at my disposal was that I could say to my partner: "See, I'm not making this up, it's quintessential to my personality!" Ha, there really is no arguing with that! ;) Plus, you might even learn something about each other if friends or lovers decide to take the test, too. 

It might give you direction

Usually, personality tests include ideas around potential suitable careers and the like - so if you're stuck wondering which type of role might be more fulfilling, taking a look surely can't hurt. 

For me, slightly uncannily, it said the following: "ESFPs genuinely enjoy spending time with others and getting to know them, and have a knack for making people happy, even in the most frustrating situations. A good challenge is always appreciated by ESFP personalities, and they make wonderful and inspiring counselors, social workers, personal coaches, and consultants who improve employee or customer satisfaction."

It's a sober activity that won't hurt anyone

If you're wondering how to delay your reaching for a drink in the evening - why not give the test a try and see if you still feel like having one after? It might spark ideas and remind you of your love of scrapbooking. ;) 









Is Meditation A Good Time Investment? Here's My Report Based On Fifteen Years Of Practice

TLDR: Yes, it is. I started with Savasana, then used guided meditations, and am now doing mostly brief breath work. IMHO, the peace of mind gained is 100% worth it. 

I first started meditating shortly after I got into Yoga about fifteen years ago. Depending on whose teacher's class I took, we would lie down with our eyes closed in corpse pose before or after class, and I would hope that the time would pass quickly. I did not understand why, when I sought out a physical practice, I was encouraged to lie still, and focusing on my breath made me nervous and uncomfortable. I really thought that spending ten minutes doing nothing at all in a room full of strangers was a waste of time.

It took me a while to come around, and I think I first started appreciating the opportunity to take rest when my practice became more regular and I had already learned how to tune into physical sensations better. 

When I got into Ashtanga Yoga, I started taking things more seriously and somehow stumbled upon a guided 21 day meditation challenge that, unfortunately, is no longer available these days, but that made a huge difference in how I thought about things. Some books I read at the time were "How To Practise - The Way To A Meaningful Life" by the Dalai Lama, "Teach Us To Sit Still" by Tim Parks and the "Dharma Punx" by Noah Levine, but to be perfectly honest, I don't remember much from any of these books other than that the struggle was real. 

I was pretty good about keeping up my meditation habit for a while there, until I started paying more attention to my breath. 

These days, when I meditate, it's usually by focusing on my breath. If you're interested in the exact breathing methods I use, I've recorded them here:

Full Torso Breathing

Calming Breathing

Sleep Inducing Breathing

I am trying to be compassionate with myself around the fact that I don't make a regular time for sitting still at the moment, and that I don't have a ritual. Rather than beating myself up for not doing that, I applaud myself for being able to fit in a minute or five here and there - it's what's working for me right now. 

I find the benefits of even these few minutes every day are immense, and I'd like to think that the time I took in the past to practice this skill was a very worthwhile investment and useful in me allowing myself to find my own rhythm and way to meditate. 

If you've been considering starting up a meditation practice, I believe there's very little you could do that's more helpful. And since it's free, you have nothing to lose by trying it whatsoever. :) 

Intuition ≠ Impulsivity

Lately, I have been reevaluating how I make my best decisions

In the process, it occurred to me that there is a huge difference between making decisions based on being in touch with your inner workings - say, a gut feeling or your intuition - and making decisions just because you can. 

When I still drank, my moods were erratic and many of my decisions were on the spot. I guess I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be looking for within me to aid the process. Now that I'm in touch with my whole being more, I understand much better what it means to give a situation the time of thought, amount of curiosity and honest respect it deserves. 

I now appreciate that just because a gut feeling may show up quickly, I'm not impulsive and my inclination isn't worth less; rather, I have learned that that gut feeling's function is that of a guiding light. Once I see it, I can honour its message by mulling things over, gathering information and taking others' views into consideration. 

I learned that coming back to my initial gut feeling and being able to pay attention to it is a strength, and not, as I had previously thought, a sign of immature, "improper" or incomplete decision making. 

Both in my personal and professional experience, a big part of recovery is learning to tune into your intuition. Being able to rationally decide and analyze all the options is another highly useful skill, but for myself I know that things won't feel quite right until I manage to consider both - which is doable and totally worth all the effort, because it results in me living my life aligned with my interests, needs and values. 


Dramatically Improve Your Decision Making By Reading This Blog Post

If you're anything like me, you're not only being asked for advice on the regular, but you also need to make important decisions that affect your business, organization and relationships. 

In my practice, when working with clients who are conflicted about whether or not to continue certain behaviours, I often use a pretty standard Motivational Interviewing worksheet known as "Decisional Balance" that I enhance with a bit of value scaling, meaning I ask my clients to weigh each point that they listed according to how important it is to them. 

Mind you, it's a bit of a glorified pros and cons list, but I find that adding an extra step of weighing the options and then adding them up to see the bigger picture can be quite useful - especially as part of a facilitated conversation.  

Now, when on my own, the process is not as straightforward - I usually end up with close margins on my decisional balance sheets, which, if nothing else, nicely illustrates why I have a hard time moving forward in any direction.

That said, I have found a few strategies fundamental in my own decision making that I'd like to share with you: 

Trust the process
It's easy to forget that whatever happens, things will work out somehow. When I get caught up in the What Ifs, I try to remind myself that the future is too complex to foretell, and that research shows that the more we know about a subject, the less likely we are to make accurate predictions. 

Give it time
As the weeks pass, things will inevitably become more clear. While overthinking things can be anxiety inducing, scientists have found that rest after rumination will increase the brain's ability to make informed intuitive decisions.

Gather diverse perspectives
Steven Johnson talks about this in his book Farsighted: Good decisions arise from considering diverse view points from a diverse range of people. 

Find an advisor
I have been fortunate enough to have people in my life that I can turn to when faced with important matters. I cherish and work hard for these relationships, and in a best case scenario, I'm able to reciprocate somehow for their mentorship, support and guidance. 

Trust your gut
This one is funny, it's been a strange constant in my life: Sometimes it happens that when faced with an option, the first thought I have is "maybe not". From experience, I know that when that thought pops up, the option on the table has an expiry date, and I won't be sad to decline it when the time comes. 

 

What about you - how do you make your best decisions?

I'm curious to know! 

Warmly, 
Annina

Five Great Reasons To Start Over (No Matter Your Age)

Whether you're contemplating a career change, a move, another education, a new relationship or quitting unhelpful behaviours: If you're feeling a pull towards the unknown, here are five great reasons to dare stepping into your greatness and starting over, according to me: 

1. You're Ready For The Next Chapter

Sometimes we reach a point in life when we've outgrown our current circumstances and feel an itch that we can't quite explain. There's room for more in our lives, or at least there should be. 

2. Life's Just Not Good Enough As It Is

This one is hard to explain, because on the surface, things are all good. Except for that inexplicable uneasy feeling that somehow, your situation as just isn't good enough for the rest of your life. Something needs to change, and while making that change won't be pretty, it will be for the best in the long run.


3. Your Purpose Lies In Something Else

You've got a great job and are maybe even making good money, but your heart just isn't in it, and the day-to-day brings no joy. You'd rather use your talents to help people in a way that is fulfilling and rewarding, and you know for a fact that can only happen when you start afresh in another role or career. 


4. You Can't Live Your Full Potential

As it is, your qualities and abilities go unused, or, even worse, unnoticed. You feel constrained in your development, because your boss doesn't get it or because your work setting just doesn't offer positions that would allow you to step up. Or maybe you're a writer, but your current role in data entry sucks the life out of you and leaves you with no energy to pursue your true calling and practice your skills after work. Whatever it is, it is clear that in your current situation, your goal is nowhere on the map and you're not appreciated for your true talents. 

5. You might actually die if you won't (!)

Especially if you're struggling with an eating disorder or substance use, the future looks grim. Particularly in times of the opioid crisis and accidental overdoses, even very recreational cocaine users, for example, can't know for sure that they'll wake up after a hit. And eating disorders, too, are often deadly; in fact, they're the deadliest psychiatric illness out there, and if physiological complications from the illness won't kill you, there's a good chance that suicide will. (If you've been thinking about harming yourself, please know you're not alone and call your national suicide prevention hotline as soon as possible. Canada: http://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/ and 1-833-456-4566  US: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ and 1-800-273-8255)


5 Tips To Help You Move From Self-Criticism To Self-Compassion

If you're at all like many of my clients, you might have no clear idea of what self-compassion is or how it works. 

In recovery, self-compassion is a useful concept, because it can help you let go of self-criticism and negative self-talk, and cultivate joy and kindness instead.

The idea is that once we're more patient and understanding with ourselves, we can overcome negative emotions more easily and appreciate that we're deserving of good things in our lives, just like everyone else.

If you'd like to find out how that might be possible, here are my six tips to help you move from self-criticism to self-compassion:

Embrace the idea of the beginner's mind.

The "beginner's mind" is the Zen Buddhist idea of an attitude that allows for learning and growth, no matter how experienced you are. A beginner's mind is open to trying new things and to new approaches, a prerequisite if one is serious about changing thoughts and habits. 

Start noticing self-talk.

When you talk to yourself, what do you say? Is your voice self-critical or understanding? What do you notice?

Pay attention to when you are nice to yourself.

What's different when you talk to yourself nicely - how come? What would it take to say nice things to yourself more often?

Remember this practice is new to you.

When you feel like you're still not nice enough to yourself, remember that you're only just starting out with this practice. We're looking for progress, not for perfection, and any one time you were able to say: "This is hard, you're making a really good effort!" instead of something less understanding and kind is a win. <3

Make joy a priority.

Marie Kondo the shit out of your life and understand that joy does not come from amassing material goods, but instead from cherishing meaning. What in your life has meaning? How can you prioritize joy, starting today?

How To Live With Someone Who Still Drinks Or Uses

If you're newly sober or trying to reduce the frequency in which you drink or use, being around someone who still does can be hard. 

Whether it's a room mate, a partner, or a best friend, distancing yourself is difficult, because not only might their behaviour trigger you, too, but you also see all the patterns and unwanted results of your friend's behaviour.  

As with any tricky situation, having a game plan is essential in this scenario, and here is the one I propose: 

First, define your personal recovery goal. 

What are you going for: full sobriety, drinking only on the weekend, no weed during the day? Be specific about your preferred future and try to stick with a recovery goal that is realistic (e.g. cut out a cigarette until you feel like cutting out another one vs. smoking a cigarette less every day). 

Then, define your friend's role in this.

How can your partner or friend support you in this? Again, be specific: Would it be helpful if they hid their drinks, smoked only in their room, or would agree to go out with you without drinking? Once you know what would be helpful, it's very important you actually let them know, as well.  

Lastly, put yourself first. 

People are creatures of habit, and unless we really, really want to make a change, it can be extremely difficult to stick with a plan, in spit of all the best intentions. If your friend or partner is dropping the ball on what they said they would do to support you, refocus on yourself and keep your priorities straight; at the end of the day, each of us is responsible for our own life, and recovery is not for those who need it, but for those who want it.   

If you'd like to dive into this topic more, here's a workbook that might be useful to you, and there are always individual appointments, too, of course. 


Supercharge Your Recovery In 5 Minutes By Adding One Of These Mantras - Or Learn How To Build Your Own! 

Very basically, a mantra is something nice you can say to yourself. It’s purpose usually is to keep you motivated in a process of transformation, or to re-focus you in the face of distractions.

Mantras originated in the practice of meditation, where they meant to help monks concentrate through their repetition in meditation. The most well-known mantra is probably the sound “Om” or “Aum”, in Hinduism understood to be the first sound of the universe that resulted in all creation. If you’ve never heard a group chant it, you can listen to an hour of Om group chanting here or a solo male here. :)

You might be familiar with mala beads, a similar idea to the rosary, where you move a bead through your fingers for every mantra you speak.

Depending on personal preference, mantras can be words or sounds.

In my own recovery from depression ten years ago, for example, I liked to use the simple statement: “It will pass.”

I believe that mantras can be an excellent way to zoom in on what matters most in recovery, and I would encourage you to pick one from the list below, create your own (see how below) or surf the web to find one that speaks to you.

If you have five minutes, I would encourage you to pick a mantra, get comfortable, close your eyes, start breathing deeply and simply start repeating your mantra silently.

Recovery mantras that could be helpful are:

“Expect nothing, appreciate everything.”

“I am free from sadness.”

“Purpose over perfect.”

“I am enough.”

“I am the change.”

“Everything I need is within me.”

“I am free from anger.”

“Life is a gift.”

“Inhale the future, exhale the past.”

“Yesterday is not today.”

“May all beings be happy and free, and may my thoughts and actions contribute that happiness and freedom for all.”

“May my heart be kind, my mind fierce, and my spirit brave.”

“I was born to be real.”

And if you’d rather make your own mantra, think of something that someone said to you or that you read somewhere that really hit home and think about how that could serve you as a mantra. For me, for example, one of those statements was: “Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.”

At the end of the day, recovery certainly is about trying new things all the time. Why not give a mantra a go one of these days?

As always, I hope this was helpful to you, and if you have any questions, you know where to find me!

Talk soon,

Annina

5 Questions For Sonia Seguin of Body Brave

In this free webinar, Sonia Seguin and I explore how she managed to not only survive her eating disorder, but become a helping champion in the field through founding Body Brave with her mother, family physician and therapist Karen Trollope-Kumar. 

With a unique combination of cutting-edge projects, sensitivity to minority-specific matters and heartfelt, free-of charge, online and in person community support, Sonia and Karen are working hard at making recovery available to anyone ready to heal. 

No wonder that their Instagram following has exploded to over four thousand people in recent months! 

In addition to aaaaaall the questions Sonia is answering in our webinar, she was kind enough to consider the following five, which I hope are of particular interest to you. 

Sonia, if you could address the readers of this newsletter in a three sentence mini speech, what would you tell them? 

Eating disorders are not always visible or diagnosable based on someone's appearance - they don't discriminate and can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, weight, ethnic background, etc. Let's examine the systemic bias against eating disorders and stop blaming individuals by suggesting that disordered eating is a "lifestyle choice": To understand eating disorders and to support eating disorder recovery, we need to recognize them as a societal issue.  

What would you tell a professional who has been working with a client with an eating disorder, but feels progress is slow and might even question their ability to work with eating disordered clients?

Just because one type of treatment didn't work doesn't mean your client is a hopeless case. Definitely don't give up on someone with an eating disorder, even if progress feels slow. Recovery takes time, and that's ok. You never know what might help someone and there are always plateaus and breakthroughs.

And if you could add a thing, system, thought or service to the average eating disorder treatment process, what would it be?

Community support and peer support. These can be incredibly important parts of recovery, as oftentimes an eating disorder is an excruciatingly lonely experience, even for people who are already in treatment. 

Which free of charge online supports does Body Brave offer, and how can we access them? 


We currently offer online treatment groups as well as online educational workshops. We can take up to 20 people per group. Anyone interested can find out more about our services and how to access each of them here

Which question would you ask yourself in addition to these questions, and what's your answer to it? :) 

I would probably ask about the first-of-its-kind virtual body image conferencethat we are currently working on with NIED and you, Annina, as partners. I would tell people they should save the date for October 4th, 5th and 6th, and would also encourage anyone who'd like to get involved to get in touch. It will be wonderful and exciting, and people can follow us on Instagram @bodypeaceconference
 

If you’d like to learn more about Sonia’s own recovery journey and how she ended up founding the non-profit of her dreams, feel free to watch our free webinar here: Ed Recovery Success - From Survivor To Helping Champion

Why Investing In Yourself Is Always A Good Idea

As I see it, life is short, and there will never be anyone closer to you than yourself. For these two reasons, I am always a big proponent of investing in yourself: time, money, other resources, you name it. If it makes you happy long term, it is probably worthwhile.

In recovery in particular it is important to give yourself a chance to try new things. Whether that's counselling, fencing or intuitive painting, chances are that without an investment of either time or money, and most likely both, you won't be seeing the change you desire anytime soon. After all, as the saying goes, we need to do things differently in order to see different results. 

Everything is easiest, of course, when money is more or less freely available to pursue your interests and hire supports, but even when it isn't, there are things you can do for yourself that are mostly free, like taking a conscious break, going to bed early or getting up earlier, making regular snacks a priority and keeping in mind that everyone who is trying to sell you something is profiting off your self-doubt one way or another. 

Spending money intentionally revolves around asking yourself what makes you happiest and then arranging your finances to fund as much of it as possible - in the order of priority that you assigned. 

In fact, this is precisely why I encourage all my clients to self-schedule their appointments in a way that makes sense to them - to their recovery, their state of mind, their finances. I am well aware that enlisting the support of a counsellor or coach is a big investment, and I want that investment to be as intentional as possible, because I believe that the more motivated someone is to be in a session with me, the better the results of our work together. 

The good news is that often, in the early stages of recovery, funds will free up that in the past would have been spent on engaging in unhelpful behaviours. Have you ever tallied up what your unhelpful behaviours cost you in an average week, month or year?

If you were to invest that same money in yourself in a way that would help you be happy long-term, how would you spend it? What would you save for?

Personally, I find that spending money on education, travel and self-development satisfy me the most long-term. Food, of course, is high on my list of priorities, too, as I now recognize it as a crucial factor in my overall wellbeing. In its absence, I get hangry, and, in reverse, food I enjoy eating generally puts me in a good mood. 

So, depending on where you are currently at in your recovery journey (start, middle, or finish), what would it take to maximize your resources? 

And what skills do you already have that you could monetize, specifically with the purpose of spending the money on something that helps you grow as a person? 

As per usual, I hope this was helpful, and if you're interested in finding out more about how I work, feel free to book yourself in for a free intro chat during my Open Office Hours. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

New Year, True You - How To Keep Doing What Works To Align Your Deeds and Your Needs In 2019

If you've been following me for a while or have spoken with me in person, you'll likely have heard me say that aligning your actions and speech with your thoughts and feelings is important in recovery. 

That's because letting it all out instead of bottling it up helps with mental hygiene, which in turn helps us feel less externally controlled and more in charge of our fate. 

Now, contrary to other articles you might have been reading, I don't subscribe to the "new year, new you" agenda. Much rather, I'd like to propose a "new year, TRUE you" spin on the old saying. 

It is my belief that in order to be even truer to yourself than you already are, or true to yourself even more often than you already are, there are a few helpful questions you can ask yourself before diving into this year head-first. 

If you want, grab a pen and paper and start jotting down your thoughts around the following prompts: 

  • What have you done this week, quarter or in the last year that you would say was true to yourself?

  • What difference has your being true to yourself made?

  • What difference will it make in the future?

  • What feedback have you received that tells you you are doing something right when you are true to yourself?

  • How will you celebrate your being true to yourself more often?

  • What is one small thing you could do every day to align your deeds with your needs even more? 

Were these questions useful? Let me know! 

Warmly and happy new year, 

Annina

How Skipping Meals Ahead Of The Holidays Is Messing With Your Recovery

Whether you’re in recovery from disordered eating, binge drinking or substance use, feeding yourself regularly is of utmost importance.

Skipping meals for any reason, including prior to holiday meals, and even when you’re not in recovery, is a bad idea.

Here are twelve reasons why:

  1. Your hunger cues will be thrown off

    It will be hard to get clear around when you’re hungry or full when you make an effort to override hunger cues. Overriding hunger cues will eventually lead you to a point where you are no longer sure what you need at any given time, which in mu experience will also lead to confusion around what you’re feeling emotionally, because you’re just so used to ignore your needs.

  2. Your brain will go into starvation mode

    ..which means it will order your body to eat itself - fat, muscles, lean tissue (yes, that’s organs, bones, tendons and ligaments, too!), you name it. Essentially all the good stuff you want to keep, because it keeps you alive.

  3. Your ED voice will get strengthened

    With my clients, I often talk about taking the next recovery-oriented action. Whenever you choose to engage in an ED behaviour instead, re-committing to recovery will become so much more difficult.

  4. You will be more likely to binge when you finally do eat

    That’s the science behind the binge-restrict-cycle, which comes with a big, added portion of shame.

  5. You will get tired

    You’re depriving your body of energy.

  6. You will get cranky

    You’re depriving your body of pleasure.

  7. You will get depressed

    Your brain needs nutrients to be healthy, and the last thing you want on top of being depressed is being more depressed.

  8. You’ll have a harder time focusing

    Another effect from too little glucose in your brain. And, by the way, glucose is glucose, no matter whether it comes from what people call “refined sugar” or fruit.

  9. You’ll risk constipation

    That’s because your gut will get confused around what you’re trying to do. Regular meals mean regular poos, which means healthy digestion.

  10. It messes with your routine

    In recovery, routine is key, because suddenly ending up with lots of unaccounted time for will increase your risk to engage in unhelpful behaviours. Regular meals have a function not just in keeping us nourished, but also in keeping us busy (gathering food, preparing it and eating it can take quite some time, as I’m sure you know).

  11. You’re still depriving yourself

    This is an issue because, in recovery, ideally you’ll learn to understand that you deserve to be well and that you don’t need to punish yourself any longer. When you’re skipping meals, you’re making an anti-self-care choice. Not what we’re looking for in recovery, now is the time to pamper yourself and learn how to look after yourself better.

  12. You’re still participating in diet mentality

    When in recovery from an eating disorder, it’s key to understand that the diet industry is literally feeding off of you starving yourself. While you’re sitting there doubting yourself and potentially feeling miserable, someone is counting their dough.

Hope this list helps with making regular nourishment a priority at all times!

Warmly,

Annina

8 Ways In Which Unfollowing People On Instagram Revolutionized My Life

You've probably heard it by now: Using social media can be bad for our health, as platforms like Instagram encourage comparison, jealousy and feelings of inadequacy. 

For this very reason, I've started a self-experiment a few years ago, in which I've since unfollowed people that made me feel bad about myself through their posts on the regular. 

Here's what I noticed: 

1. My attitude towards life is more positive

Sounds a little corny, but it’s totally true. I spend a lot of time on the Internet, and since I've been making an effort to fill my feeds with neutral to positive content, that's exactly how I feel when I log off: neutral to positive. A definite improvement over feeling like I was lacking *something* all the time!

2. I spend less money

This is a direct effect of unfollowing social media influencers. No one is trying to sell me anything, and I hardly see posts that are embellished with free clothes, make-up or other so-called "must haves". As a result, I often miss the newest this or that, which means my money stays in my bank account, where it belongs. ;) 

3. I learned to see beauty in body diversity

Unfollowing fake, famous and rich people also meant there was room in my feed for people diversity and body positive content. Filling my timeline with people of all shapes, colours, genders and sizes certainly taught me how to recognize and appreciate beauty outside of the skinny white norm. In fact, when I look at white standard model-type people these days, I'm kind of bored. Grow a belly, become interesting looking, find meaning in your work!

4. The content I see is purposeful

If I see your posts these days, chances are you are either my friend, my colleague, someone I admire for their work (and this includes a couple of Insta astrologers, haha) or an intersectional feminist with political ambition that teaches me new perspectives and knowledge every damn day. Almost everything I come across on my feed at the moment makes for an interesting conversation with my friends.

5. I found my tribe

Between eating disorder therapists, non-diet dietitians, fat activists, the sober community and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I found my happy place on Insta. That makes me feel less alone, better understood, supported and like I'm part of a greater cause. So uplifting!  


6. I second-guess my own content less

"Am I too this, too little that, do I offer enough of whatever, or should I do this instead?" These are questions I asked myself the past. Due to points one through five, I have been able to recognize that what people I like are actually interested in isn’t the stuff I own, but my authentic self; and this authentic self produces articles like this one for people like you. That’s a win-win, I hope, and thank you for reading. :)


7. Less noise means better focus

I'm sure it's an algorithm thing, too, but my experience has been that unfollowing helped me see what people I actually hang out with post; the people in my city that I have coffee with or meet for toddler play dates. Keeping up with what they're doing was, I guess, the original purpose of social networks, and it's been nice to re-engage with family snap shots and restaurant recommendations.


8. I'm less susceptible to advertising in general

Enhancing my understanding of beauty and disengaging from artificially constructed happiness increased my sensitivity to marketing messages of all sorts, and I don't appreciate them anymore. I'm no longer interested in what people are trying to sell, but instead in what people are trying to say. Makes a world of a difference! 


Hope this little overview of the benefits I've come to experience after unfollowing people on Instagram has been helpful? What have you noticed since you started paying more attention to people who make you feel good?

If you're looking to populate your feed with new content, find me @substanceusecounselling.






7 Questions You Can Ask Yourself To Celebrate This Year's Recovery Wins (Or Any Wins, Really!)

Sometimes in recovery, it's difficult to see the forest for the trees. Today, I would like to invite you to reflect back on your recovery wins over the last twelve months - whether or not you think you should be further ahead, didn't try hard enough, or feel like you have a long way to go. 

Consider asking yourself the following questions instead of engaging in your harmful behaviour the next time you feel an urge, or simply stay in one night, fetch pen and paper and write down your thoughts; I promise this exercise will be even more effective when you jot things down. 

Here we go: 

  1. From ten to zero, where zero represents twelve months ago, where are you in your recovery right now?

  2. How come you are already at that number? 

  3. Which five thoughts or ideas you had or things you did were particularly helpful? 

  4. Suppose you were able to keep up the good work, what would others notice about you twelve months from now?

  5. When you think back over the last year or so, which three situations did you handle particularly well?

  6. How were you able to do so?

  7. What would it take to handle more situations this well?

Considering all of that… You’ve got this, don’t you? :)

The Hidden Benefits of Giving Back In Recovery (On #GivingTuesday and Beyond!)

When we are trapped in problematic behaviours, difficult relationships and otherwise hard situations, chances are we are pretty wrapped up in ourselves. 

That's totally fine and understandable, of course, except for the research that shows that helping others has psychological benefits

Those benefits include, but are not limited to, lower blood pressure, increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms, a potential reduction in the experience of chronic pain, and improved social connections. 

Needless to say, all of those positives are helpful to recovery, because they activate your brain's pleasure centres in a natural way - even donating money to charity checks all the boxes for this effect! (With the added bonus, of course, that you’re supporting others in need in the process!)

So, if you have been thinking about giving today, but are as yet unsure to whom, here are a couple of ideas for you (U.S.-based organizations in bold): 

  • ASDAH, the Association for Size Diversity and Health, a non-profit organization with an international membership committed to the practice of the Health At Every Size® (HAES®) Principles that envisions a world that celebrates bodies of all shapes and sizes, in which body weight is no longer a source of discrimination and where oppressed communities have equal access to the resources and practices that support health and well being. You can donate through becoming a member. 

  • Body Brave, a boy-inclusive not-for-profit that provides complimentary support services for individuals adults struggling with weight, food and body image issues, including eating disorders. 

  • Jean Tweed, a leading community-based organization that provides a safe and supportive environment for women with substance use, mental health, and/or gambling issues.

  • NAAFA, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance is a non-profit, fat acceptance civil-rights organization in the United States dedicated to improving the quality of life for the obese.

  • NEDIC, the National Eating Disorder Information Centre is a Canadian non-profit providing resources on eating disorders and weight preoccupation, including a free of charge helpline and online directory.

  • NIED, the voice for Canadian families, caregivers, and individuals who are affected by eating disorders and other comorbid and concurrent diagnoses.

  • Sheena's Place, a support centre for people affected by eating disorders and their families in Toronto. 

And if you would prefer to be of service in another way, think about a time in the last month or so that you have helped someone: List at least five ways in which helping someone else was helpful to you. 

Then, ask yourself: What would it take to do that again?

Happy #GivingTuesday!

Talk soon,

Annina



What Makes A Great Listener? Two Lessons Learned From A 92-Year-Old Woman I Never Met

I attended an event the other night, at the beginning of which each of us was asked what was currently on our minds. As I knew I would be writing this blog post soon, I said that I would like to get peoples' opinions on what makes a good listener. I was hoping for a long list of proven qualities to share here, and had my pen and paper ready to take notes. 

We went around in a circle, and other people were stating what was on their minds, including the horribly othering ideas that the current Government of Ontario is tossing around, or how you could make good ideas at work spread faster. 

About five people down from me, a lady in her fifties that I had never met before turned to me: 

"Your question actually relates to what has been on my mind tonight. I just returned from a visit with my 92 year old mother, who is an excellent listener. She is the best listener I ever met. Every time I see her, she reminds me that she's there for me, and while she might not be able to do many other things anymore, she's here to listen. She says: You go ahead and talk, I'll be your container. She is also genuinely curious. Sometimes I feel bad for unloading all my thoughts on her, but she keeps reconfirming that listening to my story is what she can do to help."

It was a very touching story, and we thanked her profoundly for sharing it with us. 

I knew I had learned what I needed to know: 

The two key takeaway lessons for people who want to make sure they're perceived as good listener are 

(1) deep curiosity about what makes the other person tick and 

(2) an explicit invitation to share in a setting that makes the other person feel accepted and comfortable. 

As a listener, when you can provide those two things, you are golden. 

From personal and professional experience, I can say that developing effective listening skills takes a lot of time and practice, so keep at it - it will change your conversations for the better for the sure. :)

If this article sparked your interest, you can find more detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to be a good listener over at WikiHow. 

What To Say When People Give You Unsolicited Dietary Advice

We've all been there, haven't we? Just about to bite into something really delicious (or scary!), when somebody says: 

"Are you sure about that? I wouldn't eat that!"  

The last time that happened to me, I was about to buy a donut at a railway station, and I was quite surprised to hear the words, as I hadn't expected that particular person to take interest in - or issue with, for that matter - what I ate. 

The last time this happened to my daughter, who is two (!), was when someone asked her whether, along with her Halloween candy, she would also eat plenty of vegetables to offset the damage.

The last time this happened to one of my clients, her mother inquired whether she wouldn't much rather eat carrots. (I am sharing her story with her permission, of course!)   

You get the gist: We're rarely safe from diet culture, sugar fear mongering and carrot advocates, and better come up with helpful strategies around dealing with them.

So, how can we handle these moments?

Let me tell you how the situations above went down one by one…

Strategy #1: Educate By Offering A New Perspective 

In the first situation, I felt comfortable enough to say: "It's just sugar. We need sugar for our brains to work. This donut won't have lasting effects on me." Their comment also made me understand how much their own recent life experiences informed their thinking. Losing a parent to illness, as well as being surrounded by women who struggle with their body image clearly implanted the message that certain foods are not safe. Because I had trust in the quality of our relationship, I was able to point out that some of the conclusions we draw that we think are causal are really rather arbitrary and unfounded.

Strategy #2: Pick Your Battles

In the second situation with my daughter, I decided not to say anything, because I am a firm believer in picking your battles. In this particular scenario, I was quite certain that my daughter didn't really understand what the person was asking. I think being able to conserve vital energy by avoiding fruitless arguments is a vital skill. Just because we can speak our mind, we don't always have to. 

Strategy #3: Try Something New

The third situation is my favourite of all, because my client managed to set an incredibly boundary for herself. Somehow, in the midst of the moment, she was able to speak up for herself and say to her mother: "I know about carrots. I'm not interested in carrots. I'm trying to heal my relationship with food eating this!" This was a pivotal moment both in my client's relationship with her mother, as she hadn't previously advocated for herself quite this clearly, as well as in our sessions, as the client managed to really put some of the strategies we had mapped out for her to excellent use. We were both so proud! 

One of the concepts we had discussed around aligning your speech and actions with your thoughts and feelings revolved around filtered messages. (If you'd rather watch than read, here's a short clip of me explaining that concept.) If we manage to say what we want in a way that can be heard by others, we are well on our way to recovery. 

Strategy #4: Read Between The Lines

In any case, it might be helpful to remind ourselves that, most certainly, the statement that person makes says much more about their own relationship with food than us or ours. Quite obviously, they are working through something - fear, feelings of inadequacy, body image concerns - that we are not yet fully aware of. With parents in particular, it can be quite shocking to discover how entrenched they are in diet culture. I had to be 34 years old before I realized that my dad was stepping on the scale daily. I immediately advised him to toss it, of course, and he did concede that upon further reflection, he wasn't quite sure what he was hoping to make of the numbers he saw - other than a perpetual inadequate feeling.

Hopefully this article was helpful to you, and if you would like to talk through strategies personally useful to you, feel free to get in touch at any time, I would love to hear from you!

Warmly,

Annina

Image by paramoart, via BodyPosiPanda.