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Maeve's Picks

Maeve's Picks

 
 

WHO DOESN'T LOVE FREE RESOURCES?

Psychologytools.com is a great website that is packed (and I mean packed) with information and resources, both for self-help and professionals. From educational material on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and the function of emotions, to forms that can help you monitor intrusive thoughts or your mood, to cognitive restructuring exercises, to downloadable audio files on relaxation techniques... The list goes on. Most of the resources are free, too (bonus!). I use the site to find user-friendly material for clients (i.e., to normalise all the weird and wonderful physical sensations that are associated with anxiety), and I encourage you all to take a look to see if  there can be any information or tools on there that can be of use to you!


PSYCHOLOGICAL TOOLS FOR CHRONIC PAIN

Chronic pain is a condition that can be debilitating, distressing and (yes) painful, both physically and psychologically. This wonderful, user-friendly website set up by a chronic pain researcher (and sufferer) offers psychological tools and education for coping with some of the parts of chronic pain that may be amenable to change. Complete this short questionnaire to assess your thoughts and feelings when in pain. For example, catastrophising about pain is a common, but unhelpful internal process that can create a vicious cycle, whereby the pain catastrophising causes stress in the body and amplifies pain. Check out Lisa’s pick and Annelie’s blog post for more information and insight about coping with chronic pain.


MENTAL HEALTH FOR MEN - RECOGNIZING AND MANAGING DEPRESSION

Depression is the most common psychological disorder, affecting 121 million people worldwide. Despite this, many people have difficulty in recognizing depressive symptoms, and in seeking treatment. This especially true for men, who may feel the stigma of a mental health diagnosis more than women (we still have a way to go with mental advocacy, but we’re on the right track!). https://headsupguys.org/ is a wonderful website set up by clinicians, researchers, and mental health advocates and based at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver. It provides a “self-check” assessment of depression, and tips and tools for managing depressive symptoms (e.g., sleep, social life, relationships), information about professional services, and stories of success – specifically targeted to men, but helpful for women too!


THE HAPPINESS TRAP

“Popular ideas about happiness will make you miserable if you hold on to them too tightly”. Dr. Russ Harris, a well-known proponent of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, has written a wonderful, relatable, easy-to-read book called The Happiness Trap, where he puts forward the argument that our expectations about what our lives “should” be like can be harmful for our psychological health.

He presents three “happiness myths” (also available in this this short YouTube video), namely:

  1. Happiness is the natural state for human beings.
  2. Happiness means feeling good.
  3. If you’re not happy, you’re defective.

Dr. Harris suggests that a rich, full and meaningful life involves making space for, and expecting, a range of emotions, and that “the reality is, if you’re not happy, you’re normal”. Life is often difficult, and even our most positive experiences (e.g., meaningful relationships), are associated with tension, anxiety, frustration, anger (etc, etc), in addition to the warm and joyful moments.


LET’S GIVE OUR YOUTH PERMISSION TO FAIL

“Am I good enough?” “Smart enough”?” “Attractive enough?” “Do people like me?” Pressure to achieve and to be valued starts young, and youth often report striving for success and recognition at school, with peers and in other activities. Achieving success (however it is measured) can be a way of building our self-esteem. However, striving for perfection can become a goal unto itself, where we can lose track of what is important and become consumed with the pressure to excel, to be valued, to be perfect. This pressure can lead to anxiety, and interfere with our ability to engage in the present moment, to be spontaneous, to play, to just beThis thought-provoking article encourages parents to reflect on the pressures experienced by youth to excel, and suggests that we re-engage with what’s most meaningful to us, rather than mindlessly (and sometimes frantically) striving to achieve, to thrive, to excel. I would argue that this article is just as relevant for adults!


“ACT IN CONTEXT” PODCAST

Many of us at Connecte are big fans of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or “ACT” (for more information on ACT, see Brent’s blog post, as well as a TED talk by the founder of ACT, Steven Hayes, previously posted by Lisa).

One of the most interesting and useful podcasts that I listened to this year was “ACT in Context”, which brings you through the main components of ACT in an informal and user-friendly approach. The podcast is appropriate both for professionals using ACT and individuals interested in ACT for their own personal purposes (I used it for both!). The hosts are clinical psychology PhD students, and they invite in different ACT specialists for each episode to present a different facet of the ACT approach.

Access the podcast through the iTunes store, or by streaming it from the Contextual Psychology website, where many ACT resources can be found. 


Reshma Saujani’s wonderful TED talk explores the societal pressures that can be endured by girls to perform well, and argues instead that we should teach girls to be brave. She argues that being afraid to take risks or to fail inhibits girls’ willingness to learn or to seek opportunities, be they social (e.g., asking someone out on a date) or professional (e.g., asking a question when they don’t understand, applying for a job even though they might not have all the qualifications listed). Although this TED talk focuses on young women, I feel that the issue of being insecure about one’s own abilities or worth, and being afraid to take risks (that may ultimately lead to opportunities!) is relevant to a much wider audience. 

Danit's Picks

Danit's Picks

 
 

Understanding the science of willpower

January is a time during which people reflect on the past and plan for the future. We ambitiously establish goals and take on new challenges. We feel more motivated than ever and look forward to a fresh start. However, a few months in motivation often begins to wane and our resolutions are tested. Understanding the psychology of willpower (hint: it’s a muscle!) can help shed light on this process so that we can become more effective. Check out the APA’s publication on willpower here: What you need to know about willpower.


TALKING TO YOUR TEEN ABOUT MARIJUANA

The upcoming legalization of marijuana has important implications for all Canadians, yet it raises a particularly important question for parents— how do you talk to your teen about marijuana? Having an honest conversation is the key to keeping communication channels open and helping your teen understand and navigate important choices.  

Drug Free Kids Canada offers a user-friendly step-by-step resource for starting the conversation. The PDF guide can be found here: Cannabis Talk Kit Know How to Talk with Your Teen.


HANDLING GRIEF IN THE CLASSROOM AND BEYOND

Like many events of a similar nature, the Parkland shooting brings to the forefront a painful reality: We cannot easily protect our children and loved ones from traumatic events or loss. Further, we are also faced with the question of how to handle grief in the aftermath. Teachers and adults in closest proximity to children often lack the time, resources, and training to guide children through processing emotions around such events.

To address this need, the Coalition to Support Grieving Students offers online resources. These include helpful information, advice, and other tools useful for assisting adults in leading conversations and supporting affected children.  The website includes modules, guides, videos, and resources shedding light on how to help youth process grief after crisis or loss.


CHECKING IN WITH YOUR SHENPA

I first learned about Shenpa in Pema Chödrön’s book “Getting unstuck”.  It is a Tibetan word that refers to our tendency to get “hooked” by certain thoughts and emotions, and our immediate urge to react or “scratch the itch”. By giving in to this temptation, we teach ourselves that we absolutely must react to our Shenpa. Often, this leads to reacting with behaviours that are harmful in the long term. We also forego the opportunity to observe the Shenpa and experience our emotions. Refraining from biting the hook is an important part of meditation—it paves the way towards observing, understanding, and being in charge of our experiences and actions. 

Read more about Shenpa: Shenpa and getting hooked

Getting Unstuck by Pema Chödrön (book)

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ON FEAR

In this stop-motion animation, Karen Chan highlights the way our fear can limit the way we engage with our lives. Although anxiety and avoidance have been researched and written about extensively (see Machell et al., 2014, or Dymond, 2009), Chan simplifies the complexity of ‘fear conditioning’—the (very adaptive) way we teach ourselves to keep safe by avoiding danger. However, beyond that, she brings to light the tendency to hang on to fearing old fears, even when they no longer present a threat. The questions at the end of the video prime us to take a deeper look at the terror we create with our thoughts and with our actions, as we continue to avoid what may no longer be dangerous to us. There is evidence that by doing this, we condition ourselves to keep living in fear even when there is no danger. In doing so, we may be missing out on important and enriching life experiences!


YOUR PERSONALIZED DRINKING PROFILE

Roughly 80% of Canadians report drinking alcohol (Taylor, 2016). For many, alcohol consumption is a source of pleasure—enjoying a glass of wine with dinner, a beer with friends, a cocktail on a terrace. However, many Canadians drink in a way that puts them at risk for harm (physical or other), sometimes without even realizing that their drinking is risky! If you are curious about where your drinking stands, there is a tool to help you learn more about your drinking patterns. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) makes this brief survey available to all, and includes personalized feedback about your drinking. You can learn about how your drinking compares to others’, how much it costs you (not just financially!), and how quickly you metabolize the alcohol such that it is no longer in your system after you’ve had a drink. Check it out here.


CREATING YOUR MINDFULNESS PRACTICE WITH AN EASY APP

Practicing Mindfulness is the art of bringing one’s attention to the present moment with purpose and compassion. Mindfulness has been linked to improved physical health and psychological well-being (Brown et al., 2007), and is often a first step in the journey of self-exploration and wellness.

You can practice mindfulness throughout your day-to-day activities, or, you can set aside time dedicated to mindful meditation. If you are looking to explore your own mindfulness and meditation preferences, there is a (free) app to guide you.

The Insight Timer app is a great tool for beginners and more experienced meditators alike.  You can browse through guided meditations or simply set a timer for your meditation and proceed without instruction. You can choose from a range of meditations, some lasting a single minute, to others lasting upwards of an hour!


MINDFULNESS AND CREATIVITY IN THE WORKPLACE

All the wonderful benefits of practicing mindfulness also extend to the workplace. In this context, mindfulness has been linked to enhanced performance, smoother interpersonal interactions and improved relationships with clients (Good et al., 2016). Taking a moment to slow down is essential in the world of multitasking and information overload. In fact, just a few mindful moments a day can stimulate creativity and insight in the workplace. 

Check out this article to learn more about mindfulness as a way to jumpstart creativity at work.

Miriam's Picks

Miriam's Picks

 
 

PREVNET – A CANADIAN RESOURCE ON BULLYING

Bullying can have significant and long-lasting consequences for children’s well-being and development. That’s why it’s so important to find ways to help children cope with ongoing teasing or victimization.  When a child is bullied at school, it’s not uncommon to hear someone, be it a parent or a peer, suggest that they should “fight back”. But does that really work? What can we do as parents, educators, therapists, and bystanders to help children who are being targeted by their peers? Prevnet is a Canadian resource for youth, teens, parents, and educators who are dealing with bullying in some way. It contains information about the warning signs to look out for (e.g., anxiety, school refusal, physical complaints), tips on building healthy relationships, and advice on what we can do to intervene. The team at Prevnet has done a fantastic job of compiling research and making it accessible and it’s a great resource to have on hand if you or someone you know is being bullied.


In this TED Talk, Kang Lee, a researcher from the University of Toronto demystifies children’s lie-telling behaviour. Dr. Lee argues that lie-telling is not only normal, it is actually something to celebrate (to a point!), given that it signifies the appropriate development of self-control and theory of mind (our ability to perspective-take). Dr. Lee also discusses his research demonstrating that we aren’t nearly as good at detecting lies as we think they are. This talk (and the related research) is near and dear to my heart having studied lie-telling with one of Dr. Lee’s colleagues, Dr. Victoria Talwar (McGill University) during my undergraduate studies.


BIG MAGIC – ELIZABETH GILBERT

Lately, I’ve been sharing my appreciation for “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray Love”) with anyone who will listen. This wonderful book touches on how the need for creativity, be it through writing, painting, music, or innovation of any kind, is universal. It is not frivolous or self-indulgent, but rather deeply meaningful and even necessary. Gilbert’s message about how fear and self-criticism can interfere with our creative process and well-being will resonate with anyone who is interested in Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability (Brown, 2010, 2012). Overall, “Big Magic” is a great choice for anyone who struggles with perfectionism or self-critical thoughts and is looking to pursue a passion, be it a creative hobby or career path.


THE 5-MINUTE JOURNAL

Here at Connecte we often talk about the importance of gratitude. This isn’t surprising since the practice of reflecting on the people, things, and experiences we have to be grateful for can greatly improve our mental and physical well-being (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010; Rash Matsuba, & Prkachin, 2011). However, it can be difficult to find time to practice gratitude on a regular basis. The 5-Minute Journal provides the ideal solution and structure. In the morning, you are encouraged to list three things you are grateful for as well as three things that would make your day great. In the evening, you are prompted to reflect on three positive things that happened that day. It also includes motivational quotes and challenges to help you make the most of each day. Check it out here: The 5-Minute Journal. For more on the importance of gratitude check out Andrea’s recent blog post.


SETTING LIMITS ON TEEN’S SOCIAL MEDIA USE

At one point or another, most parents have likely been frustrated with their teen’s frequent social media use. Although a moderate amount of social media use is expected and perfectly normal, recent research suggests that youth who are heavy users of social media (e.g., more than 2 hours a day) have poorer mental health outcomes (Sidani et al., 2016). Heavy usage of social media can also interfere with sleep and physical activity and create unrealistic expectations related to relationships and body image. That being said, it can be difficult as a parent to know how to regulate teen’s use of technology and social media. In the following article, Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker, provides 10 helpful tips for setting limits. Read more about teens' mental health and social media use here: Here's Why Social Media Harms Your Teen's Mental Health.