The Cottage, the BBQ’s, the Patio’s, Oh My!

There exists a Canadian cultural norm where a beer, or two, is an integral part of summer. While a majority of people can socially enjoy alcohol, there are also those who cannot, by choice or otherwise. Working in the addictions field for the last 9 years, I have learned that there are two times a year when those who struggle with alcohol use, have the hardest time: Christmas and Patio Season.

Summer activities like BBQ’s, weddings, and those patios, can often be high-risk situations and a source of frustration. Many of my client’s often feel isolated and tell me they won’t be able to enjoy the summer “like everybody else.” However with some reassurance, a list of coping strategies, and a little bit of willpower, the summer can be just as fun, (and a whole lot cheaper!).

Over the years, clients have shared with me many different coping strategies that have worked for them, either to maintain their abstinence or to help them stay within their chosen limits.

  • Say NO (white lies are acceptable here; I’m on medication, I have a gluten intolerance)
  • Drink lower percentage of beer, buy a 12-pack instead of a 24, forego the hard stuff
  • BYOB; you’re in control of the alcohol content and the number of drinks you consume
  • Drink from that red cup or wine glass, but drink pop or juice instead – no one will know
  • Eat and/or drink non-alcoholic beverages in between each alcoholic drink
  • Arrive early at the party and leave early; arrive late at the party and leave early
  • Offer to be the DD – instant friend to many and you just saved lives

Like any coping strategy, some will work, other’s will not, it takes practice and some creativity. I also like to remind client’s of two things:

  1. If you have a medical condition not conducive to drinking (liver disease), you’re taking medication that interacts with alcohol, or have legal issues (DUI’s), drinking is not recommended. And
  2. People really don’t care as much as we think they do about our alcohol choices – if you are feeling pressured or are given a hard time about your decisions, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the situation and those who are in it. 

If you are finding it difficult to stay within your personal drinking limits or you are worried about someone else’s drinking, please seek support and guidance from either your Family GP, or therapists like me.

I hope you have an awesome, fun, and safe summer!

~Jordan Smith, MSW, RSW

About the author ...

Jordan Smith received her Masters of Social work from the University of Toronto, specializing in both mental health and addictions. Jordan is focused on compassionate, strength-based, and client-centred care all while using a motivational and recovery-orientated approach.

Winter Making You Feel SAD?

February may be the shortest month of the year, but it is by far (in both research and perspective!) the worst month of the entire year.  February typically brings the worst weather, colder temperatures, and overall gloominess to both the sky and our moods. For some people, such low mood peaks in February, preceded by declining mood since the Fall. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of Clinical Depression that occurs only at certain times of the year, the most typical time being winter. This debilitating mood disorder affects 2 to 3% of Canadians, while another 15% will experience a milder form of SAD in their lifetime (CMHA).

Symptoms of SAD

  • Depressed mood *
  • Lethargy
  • Sleep disruption; too much, too little
  • Irritability
  • Withdrawing from social contacts 
  • Lack of concentration, motivation
  • Weight gain
  • Intense cravings for carbohydrates

*The depressed mood must occur over at least two consecutive winters, alternating with non-depressed periods in the spring and summer. 

**It is important to not diagnose yourself without talking to your doctor first because there may be other causes for these symptoms.**

How Do I Deal With SAD?

  • Light Therapy: One of the most effective treatments for SAD is using light to help relieve depressive symptoms and aid in normalizing your body’s rhythm and internal clock. Research has found that light therapy has an anti-depressent affect in 70% of people suffering from SAD after 2 weeks of starting treatment (MDAO).
  • Psychotherapy: Working through your thoughts and feelings during this time is extremely important. With increased irritability, anxiety and depressive symptoms like hopelessness and guilt, a professional therapist can give you coping strategies and provide support during the most difficult of times. 
  • Self-Help: Even with decreased energy and a lack of motivation, getting out and being active is vital. Participating in yoga, mindfulness meditation, cardio exercises, massages, and social activities all lead to improved wellness. 

Better Health Clinic Support for SAD

At Better Health Clinic we strive to support each individual in the most holistic way possible, with many of our services effective for SAD:  naturopathic medicine, psychotherapy, nutritional support, massage therapy, mindfulness meditation, and our very own infrared sauna. 

About the author ...

Stacey Ayres, Osteopath Manual Practitioner, Registered Massage Therapist, is the owner of Better Health Clinic, She is a member of the Canadian College of Massage Therapists of Ontario as well as the Ontario Association of Osteopathic Manual Practitioners. Stacey has a particular interest in pediatrics, chronic pain, post trauma and surgery rehabilitation, and fertility.

Coping Strategies for the Holiday Season

Many clients over the years have disclosed how difficult the holiday season can be.  Many expressed worry about being triggered and relapsing back in to their addiction, they explained how they cannot attended events due to overwhelming anxiety, or they expressed how isolated they feel despite all the activities. As a therapist, I seek to empower my clients to take ownership over their experiences, finding new ways to work through it and deal with uncomfortable situations.  How do they do this? By planning ahead and utilizing simple coping strategies that can be adapted in many ways.  

Below is a list of some coping strategies that clients have used during the holiday season:

  • Be accountable: tell someone your plans (location, time) or better yet, take someone you trust to the event.
  • Limit money availability:  if money is a trigger, pre-plan the amount you’ll need (food/transportation) and bring that amount in cash, leaving debit/credit cards behind. 
  • Time Outs: anxiety/panic attacks can happen at any time, so if you feel one coming on (tightening of chest, shallow breathing, sweating), head to a quiet area (sometimes it’s the bathroom!), and give yourself a 5-minute time out. Breathe deeply, placing feet firmly on the floor. Ground yourself, bringing yourself back to the present moment. 
  • Schedule your time: planning ahead is vital when feeling isolated/lonely. There are many events going on through community and volunteer agencies, and churches. Also calling up a friend or a family member can be a wonderful reminder of the support and love you have in your life.  Being proactive and searching out activities you can do will help lessen the burden of feeling alone; make a list of activities you want to do this season and make it happen! 

Wishing you a healthy and happy Holiday season,

Better Health Clinic

About the author ...

Jordan Smith received her Masters of Social work from the University of Toronto, specializing in both mental health and addictions. Jordan is focused on compassionate, strength-based, and client-centred care all while using a motivational and recovery-orientated approach.

The Mind-Body Connection

The mind is a powerful thing, and the body is a powerful vessel.  Knowing the fierce connection between the two, they are truly powerful allies. The mind-body connection relates to how our health problems can affect our emotions, and how our psychological state can affect how well we treat, manage, or cope with our physical issues. Even simpler, how we think can effect how we feel, and how we feel can effect how we think.

As a social worker in the addictions and mental health field, I easily recognized and concluded very early on in my career that addiction and mental health issues are symptoms of something deeper. I have never met someone who has “just an addiction,” nor have I met someone who is depressed “just because,” it simply does not work that way. I have worked with hundreds of client’s suffering from depression and anxiety while also struggling with chronic pain and fatigue.  In turn, I have worked with client’s who suffered from debilitating migraines and misused alcohol in order to deal with flashbacks from childhood abuse.  Although their stories are different, the commonality of their underlying symptoms not related to their presenting issues, is truly remarkable.

With new research circulating through the medical field, many physicians are beginning to understand how their patient’s psychological state can influence their physical well-being. We know that depression and stress significantly reduces one’s immune system, particularly during difficult times of the year, like winter. Speaking to your doctor about your mental and physical health is vitally important, as well as to your Better Health Clinic practitioner. Evidence also supports that talking to a trained counselling professional about your issues and concerns, all within a non-judgemental and supportive environment, is conducive to a healthier you; improved psychological functioning equals improved quality of life.
In joining the Better Health Clinic team, a new pathway has been created, a holistic and integrated approach to your care. Our hope is that by introducing psychotherapy into our repertoire of services, if you suffer from chronic illnesses, pain, depressive or anxiety symptoms, you can now easily reach out for help and find the support you need. The mind-body connection is real, and we must start listening to what it’s trying to tell us.

The next time you have a stress head ache, a new and on-going pain, or you notice that you are spending more time in bed than usual, stop and ask yourself, what else could be going on?  Visit the Better Health Clinic to support and nurture your whole-self.

About the author ...

Jordan Smith received her Masters of Social work from the University of Toronto, specializing in both mental health and addictions. Jordan is focused on compassionate, strength-based, and client-centred care all while using a motivational and recovery-orientated approach.