Rest, Recuperation, and the Need for Self-Compassion

We have all faced a wide range of challenges as we have navigated our way through the current pandemic. One thing I have been observing and reflecting on is my own uncomfortable feelings about being unable to rest or slow down. Though there has been countless advice floating around  the web about taking this time as a personal slow-down, an opportunity to rest and reset, or even a time to begin working on new hobbies or projects (hey, why not learn a new language or master the piano??), I have found myself unable to slow down, rest, or relax much at all. Though it is true that I have had fewer clients over the past few weeks, I have also had to rapidly adapt how I work, seek out and participate in additional training, ensure my children are completing their home-school requirements every day, and adapt to parenting on a 24/7 basis. It has been a whirlwind of adaptation and activity and responsibility, and because of this I have felt the need to cope with an unusually high level of frustration, fear, and resentment amidst it all, even in amongst the moments of connection and gratitude that also arise.

This reminds me of a theme that comes up a lot in my work with clients, and has come up plenty in my own life as well. It is the need to rest and to recuperate – to compassionately give ourselves permission to have needs and to find ways to meet those needs. We have a great tendency to “push through” – to ignore our body’s signals to rest, relax, and recover. Our bodies are constantly giving us signals to nurture ourselves with food and water and sleep, to seek the comfort and support of others, and to heal when we are hurt. I have seen what happens when we push through these signals – indeed, I have lived it – and I can tell you from all kinds of experience that eventually those signals become louder, and louder, and even louder, and eventually they get to a point that they can no longer be ignored. They take over until your capacity to push through them is overwhelmed entirely – at this point, your body forces you to stop. Perhaps it is through illness, or fatigue, or emotional breakdown – however it happens, you can find yourself forced to stop and recover because you are no longer physically or emotionally able to return to “pushing through”.

It can be terrifying, to be sure – but I promise you, there is wisdom in this. If your body is no longer allowing you to keep going, it is for a good reason: because whatever you were doing before was not sustainable, and you must either adapt or continue to be sidelined. In some ways, I can see the current pandemic driving this point home. A Facebook friend and fellow psychologist, Claire Wilde, recently wrote on social media, “I really hope that regardless of what happens in terms of vaccines, cures, or the [corona]virus simply dying out, that we continue to figure out an economy and a way of living that allows for us to respect the need to rest, heal and recover.” She makes a really meaningful point here: that perhaps this pandemic, this period that has required us to stay home for 10-14 days even if we have a simple, mild cold, and that has forced us to reflect on whether we truly are symptom-free or just wanting ourselves to be out of necessity or boredom or self-importance, is teaching us how to take our symptoms seriously, to stop and rest, and to give ourselves permission to heal.

Another friend and fellow psychologist, Nicole Perry, also advocates for us to listen to ourselves and set appropriate boundaries in the interest of health, wellness, and sustainability. She shared this wonderful article about the science and practice of self-compassion recently and I thought you might find it interesting and helpful, especially in light of the above arguments. We cannot learn to prioritize rest and recuperation, and we cannot change our relationship with our bodies (and their signals/symptoms!) from one of conflict to one of cooperation, without practicing self-compassion.

You do not have to do anything extraordinary during this pandemic. You don’t have to better yourself or “fix” anything, or do anything aside from just get through it. But I do hope that along with all the adaptation you have to go through during this time, you are able to practice treating yourself with compassion and giving yourself permission to rest and recuperate when needed. I promise I will try to do the same!

Sharing a Video About Empaths in the Pandemic

I thought you may be interested to know that my lovely colleague – the inimitable psychiatric nurse, spiritual healer, and Reiki practitioner extraordinaire Fola Veritas – started a YouTube channel, and I wanted to share with you her first-ever video post. The 8-minute video provides a great little commentary and a handful of suggestions on becoming an unstoppable empath during the pandemic, and I imagine some of you may really appreciate this.
(Warning: there is a casual f-bomb in the video – I suspect if you’ve been working with me you may not be too bothered by it, but I thought it would be wise to give you a heads up just in case!)

Self-Isolation and Quarantine Resources

Many people are struggling with a variety of concerns now that we are in the midst of a global pandemic. We are living through unprecedented times, and most of us are not well-equipped to cope with the level of fear and uncertainty we find ourselves in. In my last blog, I re-posted some helpful tips on how to cope with being in quarantine that were written by a New York psychologist (Dr. Eileen Feliciano, Psy.D.). Today, I want to share with you a handout I developed that can help you put into practice some of those tips and practice some healthy coping skills as you and your family get through this challenging time. I am including the handout link in this blog post today (Quarantine Care Plan), and have also uploaded this care plan document as well as a PDF version of my last blog to our Forms and Resources page (Quarantine Mental Health Tips). You may also want to check out our self-help and self-care Apps document to see if there are any resources there you may find useful.

Good luck, and be well!


Getting Through This Unprecedented Pandemic

I found these tips quite helpful and thought I would share them with you as well!
Originally posted by New York Psychologist Dr. Eileen Feliciano on Facebook
(March 20, 2020)
o Stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.
o Dress for the social life you want, not the social life you have. Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Take the time to do a bath or a facial. Put on some bright colors. It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood.
o Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes. If you are concerned of contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, and try less traveled streets and avenues. If you are high risk or living with those who are high risk, open the windows and blast the fan. It is amazing how much fresh air can do for spirits.
o Find some time to move each day, again daily for at least thirty minutes. If you don’t feel comfortable going outside, there are many YouTube videos that offer free movement classes, and if all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!
o Reach out to others, you guessed it, at least once daily for thirty minutes. Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting—connect with other people to seek and provide support. Don’t forget to do this for your children as well. Set up virtual playdates with friends daily via FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, Zoom, etc—your kids miss their friends, too!
o Stay hydrated and eat well. This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!
o Develop a self-care toolkit. This can look different for everyone. A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (comforting pressure). An idea for each: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, a hot chocolate, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, a small swing or rocking chair, a weighted blanket. A journal, an inspirational book, or a mandala coloring book is wonderful, bubbles to blow or blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath. Mint gum, Listerine strips, ginger ale, frozen Starburst, ice packs, and cold are also good for anxiety regulation. For children, it is great to help them create a self-regulation comfort box (often a shoe-box or bin they can decorate) that they can use on the ready for first-aid when overwhelmed.
o Spend extra time playing with children. Children will rarely communicate how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention and communication through play. Don’t be surprised to see therapeutic themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through. Understand that play is cathartic and helpful for children—it is how they process their world and problem solve, and there’s a lot they are seeing and experiencing in the now.
o Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blowups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges and continue disagreements. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through this.
o Everyone find their own retreat space. Space is at a premium, particularly with city living. It is important that people think through their own separate space for work and for relaxation. For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed. You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, beanbags, tents, and “forts”. It is good to know that even when we are on top of each other, we have our own special place to go to be alone.
o Expect behavioral issues in children, and respond gently. We are all struggling with disruption in routine, none more than children, who rely on routines constructed by others to make them feel safe and to know what comes next. Expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns. Do not introduce major behavioral plans or consequences at this time—hold stable and focus on emotional connection.
o Focus on safety and attachment. We are going to be living for a bit with the unprecedented demand of meeting all work deadlines, homeschooling children, running a sterile household, and making a whole lot of entertainment in confinement. We can get wrapped up in meeting expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary and unpredictable times for children. Focus on strengthening the connection through time spent following their lead, through physical touch, through play, through therapeutic books, and via verbal reassurances that you will be there for them in this time.
o Lower expectations and practice radical self-acceptance. This idea is connected with #12. We are doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress. This does not make a formula for excellence. Instead, give yourself what psychologists call “radical self acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback. You cannot fail at this—there is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.
o Limit social media and COVID conversation, especially around children. One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalized, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (again 30 minutes tops, 2-3 times daily). Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.
o Notice the good in the world, the helpers. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in regarding this pandemic. There are also a ton of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in miraculous ways. It is important to counter-balance the heavy information with the hopeful information.
o Help others. Find ways, big and small, to give back to others. Support restaurants, offer to grocery shop, check in with elderly neighbors, write psychological wellness tips for others—helping others gives us a sense of agency when things seem out of control.
o Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it. In moments of big uncertainty and overwhelm, control your little corner of the world. Organize your bookshelf, purge your closet, put together that furniture, group your toys. It helps to anchor and ground us when the bigger things are chaotic.
o Find a long-term project to dive into. Now is the time to learn how to play the keyboard, put together a huge jigsaw puzzle, start a 15 hour game of Risk, paint a picture, read the Harry Potter series, binge watch an 8-season show, crochet a blanket, solve a Rubix cube, or develop a new town in Animal Crossing. Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.
o Engage in repetitive movements and left-right movements. Research has shown that repetitive movement (knitting, coloring, painting, clay sculpting, jump roping etc) especially left-right movement (running, drumming, skating, hopping) can be effective at self-soothing and maintaining self-regulation in moments of distress.
o Find an expressive art and go for it. Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts, and it is a direct portal for release of feeling. Find something that is creative (sculpting, drawing, dancing, music, singing, playing) and give it your all. See how relieved you can feel. It is a very effective way of helping kids to emote and communicate as well!
o Find lightness and humor in each day. There is a lot to be worried about, and with good reason. Counterbalance this heaviness with something funny each day: cat videos on YouTube, a stand-up show on Netflix, a funny movie—we all need a little comedic relief in our day, every day.
o Reach out for help—your team is there for you. If you have a therapist or psychiatrist, they are available to you, even at a distance. Keep up your medications and your therapy sessions the best you can. If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time. There are mental health people on the ready to help you through this crisis. Your children’s teachers and related service providers will do anything within their power to help, especially for those parents tasked with the difficult task of being a whole treatment team to their child with special challenges. Seek support groups of fellow home-schoolers, parents, and neighbors to feel connected. There is help and support out there, any time of the day—although we are physically distant, we can always connect virtually.
o “Chunk” your quarantine, take it moment by moment. We have no road map for this. We don’t know what this will look like in 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month from now. Often, when I work with patients who have anxiety around overwhelming issues, I suggest that they engage in a strategy called “chunking”—focusing on whatever bite-sized piece of a challenge that feels manageable. Whether that be 5 minutes, a day, or a week at a time—find what feels doable for you, and set a time stamp for how far ahead in the future you will let yourself worry. Take each chunk one at a time, and move through stress in pieces.
o Remind yourself daily that this is temporary. It seems in the midst of this quarantine that it will never end. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very scary and difficult, and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeing free, safe, busy, and connected in the days ahead.
o Find the lesson. This whole crisis can seem sad, senseless, and at times, avoidable. When psychologists work with trauma, a key feature to helping someone work through said trauma is to help them find their agency, the potential positive outcomes they can effect, the meaning and construction that can come out of destruction. What can each of us learn here, in big and small ways, from this crisis? What needs to change in ourselves, our homes, our communities, our nation, and our world?
We can do this, I promise you – we are built for this. We are living through incredibly challenging times, but remember that we are also the strong ones – the products of thousands upon thousands of years of survival that has left us remarkably resilient. We have gotten through unbelievably difficult situations through the history of humanity, and all this has left us with incredible capacities to make it through. Turn to each other, be the light that others need, and find the light you need.
In love and health,

October 16 at 1 pm – Free Shiatsu Demonstrations at Elevated Wellness Therapies

If you are interested in trying out shiatsu massage to see if it might fit into your wellness and self-care routine, I am pleased to share with you that Elevated Wellness Therapies (where Around the Corner Counselling Ltd. is located) is offering 15-minute shiatsu massage demonstrations to anyone who wants it on the afternoon of October 16th.

If you’re interested in trying out a 15-minute shiatsu massage (a seated, clothes-on treatment) , please stop by Elevated Wellness Therapist and visit Karen Cruickshank (a master shiatsu masseuse and our resident Chinese medicine practitioner) on Wednesday, October 16th starting at 1 pm. She will be offering free 15-minute shiatsu massage to anyone who wants one on a walk-in basis, so please feel free to drop in, say hi, and try out a free massage with Karen. I would recommend coming closer to 1 pm than later in the afternoon to ensure you don’t miss her.

Here’s to your health and wellness!

Next Level Restoration

A significant part of therapeutic healing involves investing your time in restorative practices and self-care. This includes ensuring that your eating practices, exercise regimen, and sleep hygiene are helping your recovery by giving you the best possible foundation for your healing process. It also involves spending time engaged in deliberate relaxation, and doing things that give you pleasure or make you feel joy.

My colleagues at Elevated Wellness (the integrative health centre where Around the Corner Counselling it located) may be able to help with some of that. If you are so inclined, I would encourage you to consider treating yourself to a relaxing massage with a massage therapist, seeing a manual osteopath to discuss your whole-person physical needs, attending a restorative yoga class with yoga teacher Amie Jonas, attending a 1.5-hr introductory workshop on yoga for anxiety, stress, and trauma with yoga therapist Shari Arial, or attending the candlelight yoga flow class on Monday nights with Amber Renee. Information about how to book into these events is included below.

– Book a massage or manual osteopathy appointment with Reset Wellness at

– Contact Amie Jonas at to book a restorative yoga class on Wednesdays

– Contact Amber Renee at to book your spot in the candlelit yoga class on Mondays

– Contact Shari Arial at for information about trauma-informed yoga and/or to book your spot in a trauma-informed yoga workshop or group

I hope you enjoy your restorative practices!

Collaborative Mind/Body Sessions

We at Around the Corner Counselling Ltd. are delighted to announce that we are now offering a collaborative mind/body therapeutic experience for clients seeking to process and integrate difficult experiences. Both Dr. Johnson and Ms. Chavez-Harrison are now working with Trauma-Informed Yoga Therapist, Shari Arial, to offer these powerful, one-of-a-kind collaborative therapeutic sessions. Each session lasts 1.5-2 hours and involves clients spending 45-60 minutes with a psychologist to engage in psychological processing of their experiences and 45-60 minutes with Shari to engage in somatic (body-based) processing. Clients describe these sessions as powerful and effective, allowing them to develop a variety of skills to be able to tolerate distress, reduce symptoms, and improve quality of life.

For more information about the therapeutic benefits of yoga therapy, please feel free to read this article as a simple introduction: Why More Western Doctors Are Now Prescribing Yoga Therapy.

Additionally, this article provides a bit more information about how yoga therapy can be used to help treat PTSD in particular: Can Yoga Help Treat PTSD?.

If you are interested in booking an appointment for yourself, or would like to speak with someone about whether this may be a good fit for you, please feel free to call us at 780-318-1480 or e-mail at to connect with us.


Pain Management

In the midst of the opioid crisis, some people are experiencing greater hesitation in accepting prescriptions for powerful painkillers, and physicians are more reluctant to provide the prescriptions in the first place. For these reasons, many people are looking for other methods to manage pain. Though pain is very much a biological phenomenon, many people do not realize that there is also a fairly significant psychological component to pain as well. Furthermore, the rapid rate of new information coming out of the neurosciences is constantly updating us on how the brain and body both sense and perceive pain. Indeed, a recent article in Psychology Today tells us about how brain imaging demonstrates that we can actually unlearn chronic pain. And even some new apps, such as Curable, are proving to be remarkably effective in helping people manage their chronic pain symptoms. What a time to be alive!

If you’re experiencing pain, you may want to look into psychological methods of pain management. If you’ve done your research and are interested in starting a round of pain management therapy, consider giving us a call.

The Sadness of the World

Today, I feel deeply connected with the sadness of the world.

What an awful couple of days it has been in the news. Locally, we in Edmonton experienced what may be our first terrorist attack, while reports are streaming in from south of the border that the US just experienced its most deadly mass shooting yet. The comments sections on news articles online are full of hatred, vitriol, anger, and fear. There are so many reasons your heart may feel heavy with all this, and to feel as though all the pain and suffering in the world is all too real – all too close – for you.

You’re not alone. I feel it, too. The air seems thick with sadness and fear. The emotional part of me understands that this deep empathy we feel for others, near and far, is not a bad thing, as it serves to keep us connected with the greater world around us, and can sometimes motivate us to take action towards meaningful changes we’d like to see in the world. And yet, it still hurts, and sometimes the emotions are so overwhelming that they can feel paralyzing.

There is no easy solution to any of this. Not the feelings, and not the events that caused them. So where can you go from here?

I recommend this as your first step: recognize you’re absolutely not alone. Put a hand on your chest, feel your heart beating beneath it, take a deep breath, feel your rib cage and your heart rate rise and fall with your breath and remind yourself that you are feeling exactly what a lot of people are feeling about this. Give yourself permission to feel these things, because it is perfectly human to connect with the sadness of the world. Second step: feel your feet on the ground, notice the muscles in your legs that are working subtly to keep you upright, feel the sturdiness of the ground beneath you and imagine the miles of earth and rock underneath that support your feet, and remember that in this moment you are safe. You are safe. Remember this any time your mind wanders to the awful things that exist in this world – you are safe right here and now. Third step: connect with others in positive ways: look for the helpers in the moments of tragedy, reach out to the ones you love, hug your partner or your children a bit longer today, and allow your eyes to linger just a moment longer than usual when you make eye contact with someone and smile. And, finally, be kind to yourself, because it hurts. It can be crushing. Pain is pain is pain, and if you’re feeling emotional pain it can be helpful to treat yourself as though you sustained an injury. Rest, soothe, take care of yourself, and provide yourself the time and resources you need to recover. Try to avoid the tendency to ignore or “push through” emotional pain, because that can be about as productive as trying to walk on a broken ankle. You have permission to need and accept care, both from yourself and others.

Doing these small things isn’t going to make the problems of the world or your intense feelings about them go away, necessarily. But it might help, and maybe when you start to feel a little more like yourself you’ll feel motivated to do something to help change the sadness in the world. And with every bit of action you take, you’ll feel more powerful and hopeful and in control, and when enough people meet you at this place you’ll actually change the world. But until then – breathe, get grounded, connect, and be kind to yourself.


Mindful Body Scan

I have found that the first step towards learning how to cope with your thoughts and feelings is to become more aware of them. Because people are born thinkers you may notice that it’s much easier to notice your thoughts than your feelings. And yet, so many of the problems people come to see me about are problems that are primarily felt in the body: the heart-racing, shaking tension of anxiety, or the heavy weight of depression that can leave people feeling slowed and exhausted. Our stress, depression, anxiety, trauma, and many other emotional experiences are intimately connected with the physical sensations of our bodies.

The first step in helping address the physical side of these experiences is to become more aware of how they manifest in you as an individual. To that end, I recommend checking out this guided meditation to bring attention to your body sensations through a mindful body scan. It’s a great way to learn about what you’re feeling and where, which is a necessary first step to being able to identify coping strategies that will best work for you.

Give it a try; what did you think of it?