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Reclaiming a Meaningful Pregnancy during a Pandemic

“My baby shower has been canceled, our trip is not going to happen, and all of our exciting pre-baby plans thrown out the window.”


“My husband just lost his job – now I’m worried about our financial stability.”


“What if my friends and family can’t come to visit us when our baby arrives?”


“We both are so stressed and moody… but I feel like we are not connecting, and it’s scary to think about how we will cope with a new baby.”


“People are dying all around the world… what right do I have to complain about morning sickness or low energy?”


“I’m exhausted, working more than ever and feeling hardly any connection to my baby right now… and then feeling guilty about it.”


“I’m worried about what kind of world my baby is going to be born into.”


Do any of these sound familiar?

I’m hearing over and over from my pregnant clients the multiple ripple effects that this pandemic is having in many parts of their life.  Maybe for you this means increasing day-to-day stress and uncertainty, or causing financial concerns, worries over your health and the health of your baby, as well as adding pressure to relationships.  

We can’t help but minimize our losses

And yet there’s also a common theme of bookending any complaints with “but I’m sure lots of other people have it way worse”.  And so begins the process of squashing down our emotions because they don’t feel fair, significant, or justifiable.

But let’s face it, we as humans like to make plans, set goals, and arrive at a destination.  Preferably one that we had planned. We also have expectations that may sound unimportant to others, but carry personal meaning for us.

I couldn’t type fast enough to write the list above – there are SO many examples because the changes, adjustments, and losses are far-reaching.  Everything from the seemingly small inconvenience, such as a canceled social event – to much bigger existential questions about what the future looks like – they all are worth naming, talking to your partner about, and grieving. 

Don’t rush to find a silver lining

And despite what many well-intending friends and family will do – which is to often go straight to the silver lining, or convince you that everything is going to be ok – I am here to do something different.  To encourage you to have a good cry (or laugh) about how your world has been shaken up, at a time when you may feel at your most vulnerable. And how your hopes and dreams for your pregnancy are feeling far out of reach.  From this place – and only from this place – can you truly process the impact of the pandemic and be able to move through it in an emotionally constructive way. 

“…have a good cry (or laugh) about how your world has been shaken up, at a time when you may feel at your most vulnerable; how your hopes and dreams for your pregnancy are feeling far out of reach.  From this place – and only from this place – can you truly move through this is an emotionally constructive way.”

4 Steps to Reclaiming Meaning in your Pregnancy

1)  As described above, name the losses you are grieving. 

  • Make a list or use a journal
    • This includes everything from small inconveniences, to the total shakeups
  • What are those things that are most upsetting to you?
  • Which has had the greatest impact?

 2)  Check-in on your values. 

  • How do you want to show up in the face of this adversity?
  • What are realistic expectations of yourself and your partner through all of this?
  • Through all of this, what have you learned about what matters or doesn’t matter?
  • What lessons do you want to carry into the next chapter?

 3)  Find & create moments of connection with your body and your baby.

  • This could be a daily ritual, for example before bed, where you have some quiet time to connect, reflect, and tune into your body
  • What do you notice? What do you feel?
  • Or simply paying more attention, in the moment, to simple pleasures – be they food, sunshine, a friend’s voice, or a funny movie

3)  Allow yourself to think about the future.

  • Yes, there is bound to be some uncertainty, and you may not have all of the answers about what the next several months or years may look like
  • But even in crisis, you are entitled to think about the future and all of the new hopes you have for your child and family
  • Ask yourself:
    • What am I most excited about?
    • How do I imagine explaining this time to my child?
    • What do I want to remember about it?

4)  Finally, spend some time on problem-solving and taking control.

  • What can you control right now in your pregnancy? 
  • What will make you feel even a little bit more excited about your pregnancy? 
  • Have you considered a ‘virtual’ baby-shower (if that’s important to you?)
  • What do you need from your partner right now?  This could be something as simple as carving out time with your partner to connect with your baby and find a moment of normalcy.  

A final note… a strong relationship IS within your control with my Online Course for expectant parents

We often forget to take the time to nurture and strengthen the most important part – the partnership.  By feeling more confident in our relationship, we can be the best possible parents to our new babies and ENJOY this incredible time so much more.  We can grow closer to our spouse instead of disconnecting or drifting apart.

To learn more and see a free preview of my online course, click here: Babyproof your Relationship Online Course

The Benefits of Video & Telephonic Counselling

This time of uncertainty and change can challenge our coping, strain our relationships, and may take a toll on your mental health.  Support and clarity is only a couple of clicks away!

 

I’ve had hesitations about counselling by video or phone in the past – there is something unreplaceable about being in the same physical space as a client.  H0wever I’m learning why video counselling and phone counselling can be such great options – now more than ever!  Read on if you are considering this as an option – and hopefully address any questions that you have had.

GET STARTED WITH ONLINE BOOKING

 

It’s unbelievably convenient.

Going to see your therapist is unlike most other appointments you have, in that you really don’t need to be there in person (sorry but it can’t say that for the dentist, RMT, physio, hair, chiropractor, etc.) We, as counsellors, are fortunate (especially during this time) that we can provide services without you having to leave your home. 

It’s a time-saver for your mental health.

No commute required, no trying to squeeze an appointment in over your lunch break without the boss noticing you left early, no trying to find parking or even paying for gas or transit.  If you are working from home, you can seamlessly weave a session into your day as needed.

You will get used to video therapy quickly.

For some people who are used to traditional counselling, they may have hesitations – I get that.  But I think you’ll find that after figuring out the technical stuff (which is actually very straightforward with JANE), within a few minutes you will forget that there is even a screen between us.

Telephone counselling move you toward your goals – quickly.

And for those of you who are still feeling camera shy after reading this, telephone counselling can also be really effective.  There is actually evidence suggesting that people delve into their issues soon and work towards a resolution much more effectively than in-person.  Imagine — having a safe space to discuss your most personal issues, a supportive voice on the end of the phone… but without feeling like they are staring back at you are analysing your body language (not that we do that)!  I am always amazing at how effective this modality can be – I think people are more willing to open up and cut to the chase.

GET STARTED WITH ONLINE BOOKING

Adjusting to Parenthood

It’s been a year since I have entered into the world of parenthood.  It’s been one of the most stressful and emotional periods – filled with huge highs and lows.  During this time, I’ve seen new parts of myself and my partner that I haven’t known before (good and bad!).

This precious time with our babies has also forced me to really appreciate the challenges that many of the clients I work with face as they adjust to being new parents.  The sleepless nights.  The changes to your identity and your body.  The huge time pressures and responsibility.  And of course, new dynamics in your relationship.  These are just a few of the MANY challenges.  But does it HAVE to be so hard?

Online Preparation Course for Expectant Parents

I am on a mission to help more expectant parents learn the tools they need to help their relationship thrive during this time.  Recognizing that face-to-face counselling isn’t for everybody,  I’ve designed a self-paced, affordable option, delivering the same information I teach to couples in my office.

I’m really excited to announce the launch of my online course: “Baby-proof Your Relationship” – to help people PREPARE their relationship for the arrival of a baby.  As expectant parents, we get so caught in the practical things we need.  The crib, the stroller, the change table.

A Strong Relationship is Best for your Baby

We often forget to take the time to nurture and strengthen the most important part – the partnership.  By feeling more confident in our relationship, we can be the best possible parents to our new babies and ENJOY this incredible time so much more.  We can grow closer to our spouse instead of disconnecting or drifting apart.

To learn more about this course, watch the preview video below or go to: www.counsellorruth.thinkific.com

Counselling after car accident

I’ve been in a car accident – now what??

Whether it’s stress, anxiety, depression, shock, tearfulness, sleeplessness, or countless other impacts, we all respond to and experience a traumatic event differently. When it comes to an MVA, this may depend on how much physical damage was done, the nature of the accident itself (how shocking was it – did you see it coming or not?), whether you are also experiencing physical injuries, and how you are making sense of what happened (are you blaming yourself? Or blaming others?)  These factors can absolutely play a part in a person’s recovery. But there are things that EVERYONE can do NOW to help them get on the best possible course towards healing. These basic principles may even reduce the likelihood of developing PTSD:

1) Make self-care a top priority.

They may seem basic. But eating well, creating conditions where you can sleep well (enough), and maintaining some degree of a regular routine can really make a difference in the early days.

2) Change your expectations of yourself.

If you are physically or psychologically injured, you are not going to operate at the same level that you did earlier. Period. It is an adjustment for sure, especially if you are used to being very active and motivated. But meeting yourself at your current level of functioning will allow you to set reasonable, achievable goals and work upwards from there. Many people can get hung up on feeling frustrating with the disruption of the accident.

3) Acknowledge the ways in which you were able to respond.

Sometimes an MVA, especially if it was without warning, can leave people feeling completely blindsided, like they had no control over it. And although there is truth to this, it can be helpful to think about in what ways did you respond that were helpful. This may your reaction to hit the brake, or to call 9-1-1, or to try and protect your passengers. Sometimes it is simple things that you do after the accident, like checking over your body to see if you are ok. Sometimes people are in a state of shock – which can feel unhelpful but actually is our body’s way of protecting us from further trauma. Acknowledge the small ways you tried to protect yourself or others.

4) Stay connected with people.

Sometimes if an MVA is serious enough, you may be off work for a period or become isolated. In this case, it becomes even more important to be proactive in your connections with others. Especially if you used to rely on work and other activities as your main social outlet.

5) Journal or talk to others about feelings that you are noticing.

– be they negative thoughts, frequent worrying, guilt, sadness, or any other strong emotion.  These are often part of the expected response, but sometimes these can be indicators that bigger things are going on, such as clinical depression or anxiety, which would benefit from treatment.

6) Catch yourself using avoidance strategies. 

You will likely be tempted to avoid things that remind you of the accident – like driving or being a passenger. Do your best to continue to expose yourself, even if in small increments, to those things, while also using relaxation strategies like breathing to help you remain calm. The more you avoid, the bigger the problem is likely to become.

7) Connect with a counsellor.

…and other professionals as soon as possible. If you live in British Columbia and you’ve been physically or emotionally injured, you may be eligible for free counselling through ICBC. As of April 1, 2019, you are entitled to 12 pre-approved sessions within the first 12 weeks following an accident, regardless of whose fault it is. So get started right away to maximize this benefit.

Anxious, depressed, or not feeling yourself after a car accident?

Why a Car Accident Impacts Mental Health

Even the most minor car accidents can really shake us up – and for good reason.  They can call into question our basic sense of safety.  It’s also easy to think about the “what ifs” – “What if I had been going faster?” “What if I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt?” What if I hadn’t been running a few minutes late?”  It’s easy and a natural part of the process to have these types of questions running through your mind.  It’s also common, as a result of what happened, to start worrying that it could happen again.

Even if no one was physically injured, sometimes MVAs can impact our mental health in a significant way, including our overall outlook, how we cope with stress, how motivated or energized we feel, as well as our mood.  There are many good reasons for this, and sometimes a negative feedback system can be created, where a change in one area causes a negative snowball effect.  From there, it’s easy to get stuck and not know what to do.

Signs and symptoms that it’s time to reach out for help:

  • You are having a hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep
  • The accident keeps replaying in your head
  • You have noticed impacts on your relationship, such as withdrawing, feeling irritable or snappy
  • You have less energy or motivation
  • Self-care has gone down or feels like a struggle
  • Normal parts of your day, like going to work or getting groceries, seem overwhelming
  • You feel more negative or hopeless about the future
  • You’ve been avoiding getting in a car or driving all together
  • Anxiety or stress have crept into your life
  • Things that used to bring you joy or pleasure don’t quite feel the same
  • You feel more tearful, numb, on edge, or moody
  • Other people have noticed a change in you

Really, if there have been changes since the accident that are impacting your thinking, behaviour, relationships, or commitments (such as attending work), then they are likely serious enough to warrant professional help.

Feel Like Yourself Again

The good news is, any one of these symptoms can be addressed and treated.  You don’t need to suffer, and the sooner you get the support you need, the better your recovery is likely to go.  And then you can get back to doing the things you love to do and feel like yourself again.

As of April 1st 2019, if you are in a car accident, regardless of fault, you will be entitled to 12 pre-approved sessions within the first 12 weeks following an accident (covered by ICBC for BC drivers). So don’t wait until things are really bad, because treatment is much more manageable when symptoms are mild.

Treatment following a Car Accident

Injury & Your Mental Health

If you have been physically injured or are suffering emotionally as a result of a Motor Vehicle Accident in British Columbia, you likely are eligible for free counselling.  It used to difficult for clients to get the treatment they needed; they would require a doctor’s note for counselling to be covered and sometimes this would involve a lengthy approval process for treatment.  Usually I wouldn’t see these individuals in my office until months or even years after their accident.  These sorts of delays would often cause their mental health and emotional state to deteriorate significantly, in the form of intense anxiety, depression, PTSD, relationship changes, self-esteem issues, and many other issues.

Changes to ICBC’s Care Model

Luckily, ICBC has recently adopted a more client-centered care model, which will allow people to get the treatment they need, when they need it.

As of April 1st 2019, if you are in a car accident, regardless of fault, you will be entitled to 12 pre-approved sessions within the first 12 weeks following an accident.  So if this has happened to you, and you feel that your physical and mental health, lifestyle, or relationships are suffering as a result, connect with care providers as soon as possible.

To learn more about ICBC’s new aClient-Focused Care model, click here.

7 Truths about Commitment

As the leaves begin to fall and the chill sets into the air, I am reminded that another summer wedding season has drawn to a close.  In the spirit of celebrating committed relationships, I enlisted the help of anonymous participants (ages 25-40) to complete a survey on marriage and commitment.  On today’s blog, I share 7 Truths about Commitment, inspired by their responses as well as my experiences with clients.  A big thank you to all who contributed.

1. Commitment means more than saying ‘I do’

Weddings are an excellent opportunity for couples to celebrate their love and also vocalize their intentions in front of friends and family – who they want to be as a partner as well as what they cherish in the other.

It’s been said over and over, but I’ll repeat it here, that a wedding is a day and a marriage is a lifetime.  Practically, I believe this to mean that true commitment has to be demonstrated on an ongoing basis, and not just when things are going well.  This may be small gestures like thanking your partner, showing appreciation, and apologizing first, or it could be more significant moments such as buying a home together, supporting your partner through a difficult time, and making efforts to integrate into each other’s families.

Read more

7 Signs that you may be Ready for Counselling

One of the most important questions I ask when someone comes in to see me is, “what has brought you into counselling now?”  The answer not only allows me to understand what is going on in someone’s life, but has helped me realize there are specific reasons why people decide it is time to get the help of a professional counsellor.  Below I’ve summarized the 7 signs that you may be ready to do the same.

Read more

Succeeding in Your OCD Treatment

For sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the intrusive thoughts and accompanying compulsions can be an inconvenience at best and devastating at their worse.  That said, OCD is HIGHLY treatable with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and other complementary techniques. Obsessive thoughts

In the article linked below, Fred Penzel, PhD, discusses the 25 Tips for Succeeding in Your OCD Treatment.

 

I wanted to share these, as reading them before starting counselling (and throughout the process) may make a big difference in the success that you achieve.

By getting on the same page as your therapist, you are working as a team to minimize the impact that OCD or obsessive thinking is having on your life.

Click here to read the article – I hope you find it useful.

A Counsellor’s Struggle with Vulnerability

As a newcomer to the field of public writing, and well-aware of how uncomfortable this can feel, I thought it would be appropriate to talk openly about my own struggle with vulnerability, and maybe inspire a few people to be open too.

A few years ago, when I was first starting into private practice, I had convinced myself that I didn’t need a website for people to find me (and in my defence, was told by a colleague that this was the case).  I probably just really wanted to believe this.  It is so much more comfortable hiding in the shadows than being vulnerable. 

It didn’t take long to realize that having a website was absolutely necessary to a successful business.  Of course, I now know how ridiculous that sounds.  But I remember having a really hard time defining myself.  What my values are, how I work, what I believe in.  Even though I knew I could help people, and I know myself well, putting it in black and white seemed so final, so self-involved, and so arrogant.  I think it was also hard for me to take the risk and “be seen” because it meant also opening myself up to criticism and judgment.  Especially hard when you are first starting out.

Anyways, I finally got over that and realized that I could endure the discomfort of publishing some basic information for people to read, and even have a picture or two of myself.  Read more

Reclaiming a Meaningful Pregnancy during a Pandemic

“My baby shower has been canceled, our trip is not going to happen, and all of our exciting pre-baby plans thrown out the …

The Benefits of Video & Telephonic Counselling

This time of uncertainty and change can challenge our coping, strain our relationships, and may take a toll on your mental …

Counselling after car accident

I’ve been in a car accident – now what??

Whether it’s stress, anxiety, depression, shock, tearfulness, sleeplessness, or countless other impacts, we all respond …