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Breaking Up is Hard to Do -- But it Can be Done Respectfully

The end of a close relationship can be very difficult to handle, even if you're the instigator.  Emotions can run high and couples are rarely at their best with each other.  Harsh words may be said in anger and sometimes it's not possible to even identify our feelings or know how to properly express them. This article aims to help those who have decided to break up with their partner to do so respectfully and with self-awareness, for the benefit of both parties. 

1. Accept Your Difficult Choice

Deciding to break up with a significant other can take weeks, months, or years, but now you know you're ready to move on, alone.  The first step in initiating a mature break-up is to accept that even though your decision may cause hurt and disruption it is the right choice. Continuing in an unfulfilling relationship only delays the inevitable and saves no-one from hurt. Accept your choice and accept that such a choice is not usually made in a vacuum. There will likely have been many influences, not all within your control, that lead you to where you are today.

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Don’t Let Your Mindset Hold You Back

Frequently in my practice, I hear clients express concerns about not feeling “good enough” and how their low self-esteem and poor self-confidence are holding them back. They feel “stuck” in life and worry that they are never going to be as successful as they had hoped to be.  Often they will mention how others at their workplace or in their family circle,  seem so much more successful and they are convinced it’s due to superior intelligence or innate capabilities that they themselves don’t possess.

While occasional self-doubt is normal, a mindset fixed in the belief that you won’t be successful is not only unhealthy but almost sure to prove you right!  That’s because mindset is hugely important to outcome.  In fact, it was this insightful thinking that triggered Henry Ford’s now-legendary remark, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”  In this article, I invite you to consider that it may be your attitude to learning that is playing a significant role in how you see yourself, your potential, and your ability to succeed.

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Signs of Burnout and When to Get Help

Burnout is a serious issue which the World Health Organization (WHO) now recognizes as a legitimate medical

condition.   While it's normal to feel very tired or stressed occasionally due to work, burnout is much more serious and should be recognized and treated as soon as possible. Below are the most common symptoms:

Exhaustion  --  feeling tired occasionally is perfectly normal, especially during busy or challenging times at work.  However, feeling tired all the time or most days is not normal and may progress to feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.  If you feel completely depleted and dread the thought of work, you may be experiencing burnout.

Insomnia --  many of us have trouble sleeping occasionally, but frequent difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep is a sign of trouble. Insomnia can be very difficult to overcome. Sleeping pills may not be the answer and it's important you do not come to rely on them to get the sleep you need.

Recovering from an Affair -- What You Can Do to Rebuild Trust

One of the most devastating issues we can face in a committed and monogamous relationship is the discovery of an affair. For many, the sense of betrayal is just too much to bear and the relationship is swiftly abandoned. However, it is possible to get past infidelity if both parties want to and commit to the difficult journey it usually requires.  Here are a few things to consider if you find yourself in this situation:

Take Responsibility

This is critical.  The "cheater" must own up to their actions, apologize, and be genuinely remorseful about what they have done. Without feeling remorse -- and communicating that remorse to their partner --  it will be impossible to build trust again and create a path forward.

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Angry? Sad? Contemptuous? The Importance of Constructive Expression

As human beings, we are able to experience a wide range of emotions. However, not all emotions are viewed equally, with many considered either positive or negative,  good or bad. In this mindset, negative emotions would include anger, jealousy, fear, contempt, sadness, disappointment, and even grief. Good emotions would include happiness, compassion, affection, empathy, and love. Yet, considering it's perfectly natural for each of us to experience all manner of emotions in our lifetime, it's important to understand that, in reality,  no emotion is bad or negative in and of itself, although of course, some emotions do feel better than others.

Emotions are not  "good" or "bad"

Positioning certain emotions as negative is so pervasive and so subtle in our society that it usually goes unrecognized. For example, in times of great loss, such as the death of a loved one, if the bereaved person appears to be functioning normally and not "breaking down" into floods of tears, they may be considered strong, stoic, or even brave. They are admired, even praised, for not displaying, publicly at least, a perfectly natural response to loss, which is sorrow and grief.

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How to Transition from Co-Worker to Boss

Making the move from a co-worker to the manager of a department can be one of the most challenging situations experienced in the workplace.  Some former co-workers may feel resentful about your promotion, believing that they are more worthy of it. Others may have difficulty accepting that a former equal is now in a position of authority.

This shift can be a challenge for all.  As the new boss, you must take the lead in recognizing and mitigating any problems that may arise from the new dynamic, so that the focus remains on achieving departmental goals.  Here are some tips for transitioning smoothly from colleague to boss:

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How to Stay Positive During Times of Unemployment

Virtually all of us will experience unemployment at some point. Being out of work impacts each of us differently but, for many, a good deal of our identity is wrapped up inwho we are in the workplace.  Without work, it's possible to lose that sense of self, and the confidence that comes with it. For the senior executive, being unemployed can be particularly disorientating due to the sharp contrast between the status and power enjoyed at work and being suddenly at home. So, what can the senior executive, or anyone else do, to stay positive and make the most of this challenging time?

Why Is Modern Love So Hard?

esther perelOur modern world is not without its challenges. Most of us work long days, have multiple demands on our time and are moving at breakneck speed. Is it any wonder, then, that relationships are difficult to maintain?

Esther Perel, a New York-based marriage and family therapist, speaks and consults regularly on the topic of relationships and sexual intelligence. One of her observations when exploring the concept of modern love relationships, is that there is a sense of anxiety for people seeking a long-term partner.

When we look for a life mate we have high expectations that they will fill all of our many needs. In her blog, Perel reflects upon the unrealistic wedding vows being made by new couples making promises that no one could realistically keep, effectively setting them up for failure. It’s hardly surprising that if we expect our partner to provide friendship, protection, compassion, reassurance, sexual excitement and financial partnership, we may be disappointed. 


Why Wait til January 1st to Make a Change?

changeSetting a date to start a new behaviour is not an unusual way of thinking. But does it really have to be on the 1st of January? The trick to making a change is understanding the change cycle and where we stand in it. Prior to picking a day to start a new behavior, it is important to do the mental preparation necessary to be psyched up to implement the change.

Most of us have something we would like to change about ourselves and sit contemplating the need to make a change for a while before taking action. The change cycle is similar for most of us. Initially we believe nothing is wrong or we minimize the impact of an unproductive behavior such as procrastinating, spending or drinking too much.  

The Developing Mind - How Relationships and the Brain Interact

developing mind bookHow important are family and friends in shaping our minds, from the time we are born and throughout our lives?  Can you explain why one child can be painfully shy and have difficulty socialising even within the family while another child is outspoken?

These questions bring to mind the concept of Nature versus Nurture. Did we become who we are because of our upbringing or are we just born that way?  Those who support the Nature argument believe that we are born with a set brain and personality and that we move through life with what we had at birth. Nurture proponents, however, believe that the accumulations of experiences have a stronger effect on our personality. 

The validity of Nature versus Nurture is just one of the areas addressed by Daniel J. Siegel. In his book, The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are., Siegel suggests that the brain is plastic, and that it can change and adapt as we move through life. 

Love Languages To Guide Your Christmas Giving

love languagesWhat if you had the key to fully understand what will make another person happy? Presents can take many forms and are likely to have a greater impact if they are tailored to the love language of the recipient. As you plan your Christmas list, consider the love language of the recipient and make a choice based on what they value. 

The Five Love Languages, is a concept introduced by couples counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman. According to Dr. Chapman, there are five specific patterns in the way people express and interpret love.

The five languages are pretty straightforward, but here’s a brief description of what each of them mean:


Supportive Emotional Language and Why You Need to Use It

emotional languageHow do you feel when something good happens to a friend or colleague? Are you happy for them? Do you wish them well? Or are you envious, wishing YOU had been the one to get that big win? In most cases you likely feel good for your friend and will congratulate them. But how do you do that?

When something good happens to a colleague or a friend, we tend to say Congratulations. We may even send a congratulatory note. What a lovely gesture. And I’m sure it is most appreciated.

But what happens when you OWN that feeling of congratulations? If you are truly happy for the person, how are you making it clear? If you tell someone ‘I am happy for you’, it elevates the well-wishing by giving that person the gift of your supportive emotion. 


Why Aren't We More Compassionate?

compassionIt’s not surprising that compassion is often confused with empathy or altruism. Empathy is described as emotionally experiencing or mirroring another person’s feelings while Altruism is an action that benefits someone else. Although compassion may involve an empathetic response or altruistic behavior, it is generally defined as the emotional response when perceiving suffering and involves an authentic desire to help. (Source: Psychology Today)

Studies have shown that more often than not, the natural human response is to be helpful. Social neuroscience suggests that it is our default wiring to help, particularly if another person is suffering. When presented with this opportunity we are predisposed to offer assistance. Yet oftentimes, we don’t. Why?

The Science of Happiness

happinessAsk most people and they’ll say that the concept of ‘happiness’ is a perception or a warm and fuzzy idea. But if you ask Martin Seligman, a pioneer of Positive Psychology, you’ll get a more systematic theory because he uses science to explore the idea of happiness.

In viewing a number of psychological theories, Seligman concludes that happiness has three dimensions: the Pleasant Life, the Good Life, and the Meaningful Life. These three dimensions can be viewed as levels along the happiness continuum. We may experience the Pleasant Life when we’ve learned to appreciate basic pleasures such as companionship, the natural environment and physical needs. Moving on to the Good Life, we might discover our unique virtues and strengths and apply them in our lives. In the final stage, or Meaningful Life, we find a deep sense of fulfilment by using our strengths for a greater purpose than ourselves.



Can Our Marriage Recover From an Affair?

survive affairWhen an affair occurs, conversations can be explosive and turn into blaming sessions. How can a couple survive and move forward from this crisis?

Couples can certainly recover and positively transform their relationship after an affair. Initially, the hurt partner may have a period that is very emotional. During that period, conversations tend to center on the anger and pain that comes from the betrayal. It is also common for the hurt partner to seek details about the affair. 


The Benefits of Being Positive

Did you know that your outlook on life and your attitude toward yourself, whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic, has an effect on your health and well-being? Studies have shown that the positive thinking that comes with optimism is a key part of stress management. Positive thinking doesn’t necessarily mean you’re always wearing rose-coloured glasses and oblivious to negative things that are happening around you. Positive thinking simply means your response to unpleasant situations is driven more toward productively managing rather than throwing up your hands in defeat.

Couples Counselling and Healthy Relationships

What if your greatest relationship problem was not communication but a lack of commitment to maintain love and safety? 
Here are some tips on how to maintain safety in communication. 

1. Manage your emotions.  We all know how important it is to manage our emotions at work and in public.  However, many of us believe that we can let it rip once we cross our front door. This mindset often results in a "no holding back attitude". 


Why You Should Conduct a Fourth Quarter Goal Review

Here we are, it is the final stretch.  It is the last quarter of the year, and your last opportunity to refocus and regroup to achieve the personal and professional goals you had set out for yourself last January. 

You might say it is an end and a beginning at the same time. September is a pivotal point in the calendar. It marks the beginning of an academic year, launching point after summer’s rest, change in the season, new beginnings, start of activities for kids, final quarter for businesses and the list goes on. This is what makes September a crucial time for people when it comes to reviewing and re-establishing their personal and professional goal.


Forgiveness is Not All its Cut Out to Be

Many people believe that in order to heal they need to forgive. This is not necessarily the case. Not everything can be fixed and forgiven. There is a current idea that forgiveness is some kind of healing balm for the person who forgives.

Even when the offending party acknowledges their transgression, it may still not feel right to forgive. The hurt may just be too deep. However, the opposite of forgiveness - holding a grudge - may not be the solution either. Holding a grudge is like "swallowing poison and hoping the other person will die". Resentment and holding a grudge is your poison and will only torment you and nobody else.


How to Prepare for College or University

prepare for collegeWhether you are considering a new career or are a high school student in your last semester, anxiety usually runs high when it comes to choosing a college or university program. Here are a few tips that will help you prepare:

Choose Your Path
Selecting a program can be complex considering the abundance of choices we have. Deciding on a career path takes some reflection.   


How Shame Impacts Relationships

Shame is often confused with guilt, an emotion you might experience if you feel remorseful as a result of a wrongdoing and which may lead to making amends. Where you may have an urge to admit guilt and talk with others about a situation that left you feeling guilty, it is less likely that you will broadcast your shame. It is more likely that you will conceal your shame as it means revealing that you are feeling negatively about yourself. Guilt is feeling bad about something you’ve done while shame is about feeling bad about yourself.

Empowering Relationships

relationshipThe human potential movement has empowered individuals at the expense of relationships. We went from distinct traditional feminine and masculine roles within relationships to personal empowerment and the desire for self-actualization. While it has done wonders to grow assertive and successful individuals, this mindset has been at the expense of relationships.  

In focusing on self, we have not acquired the tools to adapt our communication and behaviour to accommodate both personal empowerment and relationship empowerment. It doesn’t have to be an ‘either/or’ scenario.


Losing Strategies in Relationships

Inspired by Terrance (Terry) Real’s book “The New Rules of Marriage”, we’d like to delve deeper into the subject of relationships. This is Part One in our series of blog posts on this complex topic.

In his book, Terry points out that oftentimes, people utilize “losing strategies” to get their needs met without realizing that their behaviour has the opposite effect.  Not only will these commonly used strategies fail at getting you what you want, they will damage your relationship by attacking the important pillars of a relationship: respect, dignity and compassion. 

Here are some of those losing strategies:


What is a Mid Life Crisis?

"Mid-life crisis” is a term that was coined in the mid-sixties by a psychoanalyst who observed that personal and professional performance decreases around age thirty-five. Today, due to our increase in longevity, mid-life crisis is most likely to occur around age fifty. It can affect women and men equally.

The struggle for many comes when they realize that the path they had carved for themselves and the life infrastructure which comes with it are no longer fulfilling. A mid-life crisis can come as a result of a sudden life change such as health issues, loss of employment or change in marital status. In these cases, the event becomes the catalyst which leads us to re-evaluate life.  As a result, it is not unusual to see a shift in values and priorities and the creation of a new vision and focus for the future.


Measuring Your Life Satisfaction

For most people, life satisfaction level depends on doing well in major areas of life, such as relationships, health, work, income, spirituality, and leisure. When a person is doing poorly in one of these areas, it can impact his or her overall life satisfaction level. People who score high on life satisfaction usually report having rewarding work or retirement activities, enjoy their leisure time, have good health, are invested in friendships and meaningful relationships and often have a close romantic partner (although this is not absolutely necessary). They feel that life is meaningful, and have aligned their goals to their values.  


The Power of Hugs

As social, tactile creatures, human beings thrive on the benefits of touch. A quick hug has a near-immediate impact on health, lowering your heart rate and inducing a calming effect while also leading to a more upbeat mood. So what is the connection between the physical touch of a hug and that lift in spirit?

Neuroeconomist, Dr. Paul Zak, has determined that the human brain naturally produces oxytocin in response to physical touch. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, a naturally occurring hormone in your body with incredibly powerful, health-giving properties. 


The Habits of Happiness with Matthieu Ricard

matthieu ricard“All the joy the world contains has come through wishing happiness for others. All the misery the world contains has come from wanting pleasure for oneself.”   
SHANTIDEVA (685-763)

Sometimes referred to as ‘the happiest man in the world’, Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk and French interpreter for the Dalai Lama. Although trained in biochemistry, Matthieu Ricard left science behind and moved to the Himalayas to pursue happiness both at a basic human level and as a subject of inquiry. 


Volunteering Fosters Happiness

Did you know that volunteering is a key component to fostering happiness in people’s lives? If you’ve ever volunteered, you are familiar with that warm feeling you get from having done something in service to another. Doing things for others gives us a sense of purpose and meaningfulness which leaves us buoyed by the experience. When volunteering we develop relationships which enhances our connectedness to our community and world.


Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

esther perelDrawing on more than twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Esther Perel examines the complexities of sustaining desire in her book ‘Mating in Captivity’. Through case studies and lively discussion, Perel demonstrates how more exciting, playful, and even poetic sex is possible in long-term relationships. 

Many patient conversations start like this: "We love each other very much, but we have no sex." They describe relationships that are open and loving, yet sexually dull. 


Rebuilding After Grief

Grief is a normal reaction to a challenging time in one’s life. While grief is most often associated with bereavement and being the survivor of someone who dies (lost loved one or pet). Grief can also be triggered by a change in life circumstances such as a promotion/job loss, marital status, birth of a child or retirement. 

We often forget that life transitions can be both a source of excitement and of grief.  Individuals will often be surprised by the fact that while they had looked forward to a change in their life, they might not have anticipated the feelings of loss that come with the transition. 


Positivity by Barbara Fredrickson

positivityWorld renowned researcher Dr. Barbara Fredrickson shares in her book ‘Positivity’ that experiencing positive emotions broadens people’s minds and builds their resourcefulness in ways that help them become more resilient to adversity and achieve what they once could only imagine.

One of the concepts introduced in the book is the ‘Broaden-and-Build Theory’. 


Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson / Joseph Grenny / Ron McMillan / Al Switzler

Many ‘defining’ moments in life come from having crucial conversations (as these create significant shifts in attitude and behaviour). There are three factors that tend to define a crucial conversation: 1) opinions differ 2) the stakes are high and 3) emotions are high.  If handled properly they create breakthroughs. If handled poorly they can lead to breakdowns. Quite often the health of a relationship depends on how well these are dealt with. The reality is that many people do not deal with them well – or at all. They live in either a sub-optimal state or hope the situation will resolve itself.


Resilience and Rebuilding for the Newly Single Person

Learning to live as a single person after many years in a relationship can be a challenge. The discomfort about being single is often based on the fear that one will not be able to cope with life’s challenges without the support of their partner or that one will never be happy again.  To counteract these fears try the following:

1.    Focus on your strengths. Resilience comes from focusing on our inner strength.

 2.    Break down any tasks into a series of manageable steps and focus on tackling one step at a time. Stay focused on the present and trust it will come together.


Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin

Referred to as “The complete insider’s guide to understanding your partner’s brain and promoting love and trust within a romantic relationship”, Wired for Love provides the reader with scientific principles that can help to avoid triggering fear and panic in your partner. The book offers valuable insights into the complex dynamics behind love and trust in intimate relationships.

Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, is a clinician, researcher, teacher, and developer of A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT). He has a clinical practice in Calabasas, CA, where he has specialized in working with couples and individuals who wish to be in relationships. The PACT Institute was developed for the purpose of training other psychotherapists to use this method in their clinical practice.


Christmas Triggers Powerful Emotions

christmasDuring the holiday season and Christmas, expectations and emotions tend to run high. Get- togethers with family can provoke powerful emotional triggers due to the history and relationship patterns we have developed with these people.

Emotional triggers are situations and stimuli (people, sounds, smell, touch, images, taste, etc) which stir you up and get you quickly into over-reaction mode or "push your buttons" .   


Why Self-Care is Important to Your Well-Being

If you want to be effective in either your personal or professional life, take a look at how you manage your self- care.

Most of us lead busy lives and experience the pressure of responsibilities encroaching on every hour of our day. As a result, we often adopt the mindset that “with so much to do, something has to go”. For many, it is self-care that loses the battle. 

What is self-care? It is essentially the conscious effort put forth to actively and purposely do something that energizes you. Self-care means you are making yourself a priority and treating yourself like you have value. 


Profile: Terrence Real, Psychotherapist

terry realTerrence (Terry) Real is a psychotherapist specializing in men's issues, particularly depression and relationships.  In 2002, Terry founded the Relational Life Institute (RLI), providing workshops that aim to offer healing and wholeness to men through their own resources, with the support and engagement of the parents and partners in their lives.


Do You Have the University Jitters?

university stressStudents in their first year of post secondary education report experiencing a great deal of stress and a heightened level of anxiety prior to or during their first year of university.  On the stress scale such a period of change in anyone’s life ranks quite high. Stress scales identify items that contribute to stress (e.g. weddings, death, promotion, moving, separation, new job etc.) and it is usually recommended that you don’t take on too many at one time. Oftentimes there is not choice when leaving home and heading out on your own for the first time.


Tips if You Are Feeling Bored and Unchallenged

When asked about what it is they want, many find themselves with an empty wish list.  There are all sorts of reasons and excuses why individuals stop dreaming and wishing for what they want. Lack of vision, confidence, and negative personal beliefs are some of the challenges which interfere with creating a fulfilling life.

 I often meet individuals who do not have a clear vision for their future. Whether they scaled down their vision and eventually let go of it due to failures and discouragement or they had achieved their goals and did not think of setting new ones, many are left with little direction and fall into an unchallenging routine.


Why Do Couples Suffer with Disappointment?

couples communicatingWe live in dangerous times when it comes to our relationships because our society is organized around individualism, disconnection, productivity and consumption rather than connection and relatedness.  While we are in search of achievement for ourselves and for our children, we cannot forgo the importance of love and connection in our lives.  

I often meet couples who dream of recapturing the quality of togetherness they experienced while dating. These people yearn to feel close again. 


Changing Perspective

rainbowSpring is one of those seasons that can be cold and wet, leading to dampened spirits that can last all day.

From grey skies, pouring rain, and even the occasional snowfall, it can sometimes be hard to work up the courage to get out of bed in the morning. Finding the energy, especially on dark and dreary days, can be its own daily challenge.


What if Guilt Was an Option?

guiltGuilt is an emotional warning sign that lets us know when we’ve done something wrong. It prompts us to re-examine our behaviour so that we don’t end up making the same mistake twice. In those cases, guilt is purposeful as it commands that one re-examine their moral compass and re-set their behaviours.  For example, after saying something offensive to a friend, feeling guilty suggests that an apology is required and that modifying future behaviour is in order. 

There are times, however, when behaviour isn’t something that needs re-examining or changing. While guilt may inform us of wrong doing, it can also be the by-product of a distorted belief system. 


Needs Vs Wants: Distinguishing The Difference

hierarchy of needs

We’ve heard often how important it is to distinguish between our wants and needs. Many people are unaware of their true needs and as a result they find themselves pursuing things that don’t bring them satisfaction.  

Assuming that you have air to breathe, food to eat and a secure roof over your head, now it’s time to attend to your emotional and psychological needs. This concept goes back as far as Maslov’s Pyramid of Needs but we lose track of the importance of meeting our emotional needs and get distracted by our wants.


Looking Back, Reaching Forward

When one looks back over the events of their life, it is most often with one of three mind sets: as victim, as survivor, or as thriver.  

If we view past events as a victim, we give new life to an uncomfortable story every time we think of it. This creates a barrier that prevents us from moving forward. We feel sorry for ourselves and keep the unwanted past event alive.

When we view a past experience as a survivor, we have acknowledged our ability to overcome an adverse situation but we still give life to that story even if our present shows promise of moving forward. Again, we are held back from completely moving forward by the need to give life to the past.


How to Create a Safe and Positive set up for Difficult Conversations

individual coachingBelieve it or not, the human brain is wired to fight more than it is to make peace. We are designed to either become defensive or retreat to keep ourselves safe when the conversation gets tough. Using the following tips should help your brain stay calmer and engaged. 

1. Sit facing each other. When we sit side by side, we end up giving each other a lot of darting sideways looks which your brain registers as threats. This could involuntarily escalate the tone of the conversation. Consequently, it is best to avoid discussing big issues in the car or on walks.


Conflict is Like a Load of Laundry

Just like laundry, conflict involves a multi-step process; handling, sorting, ironing things out, folding, and putting them away.   conflict

1. Sort out the issue: Many clients will state that they never come to any resolutions in their conflicts. As a result, they find themselves revisiting the same difficult conversations or situations repeatedly. When you address a conflict, it is important to clearly state the problem, and your concerns. Stay focused on one issue. Don't try to resolve all your issues at once.


For confidential discussion, call Manon Dulude at (905) 873-9393.

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