Grieving is a difficult and complex process that every person experiences differently. Grief is well-known to be the result of the loss of a loved one, but it may also be caused by other significant losses in life. Finding out that you or a family member has a terminal illness, losing a close relationship, moving away, or losing your job can all lead to a period of mourning.
Five Stages of Grief
Most people are likely familiar with the five-stage model but may not understand exactly what it entails. This model can help people understand where they are in their stages of mourning by putting their feelings into context. That being said, everyone mourns differently and there is no “right” way to grieve. It’s perfectly OK if you don’t experience each stage in order, or if you don’t go through a certain stage at all. The most important thing is allowing yourself to feel intense emotions without judging yourself.
How Long Does Grief Last?
The grieving process varies depending on each person’s experience and beliefs; someone who loses a loved one to a tragic accident will likely spend more time mourning than someone who ends a relationship with their significant other. In some cases, such as the passing of a close friend or family member, you may never “get over” the loss completely.
Dr. Michael Craig Miller says that grief rarely has a clear ending, but the difficult emotions associated with grief often change and begin to soften over time. It’s normal to miss a loved one if you hear a song they used to enjoy, or wish that they were with you for an important event in your life. Dr. Elisha Goldstein writes, “Grief may be something that doesn’t completely go away, but instead evolves and weaves into your life, lessening during some hours and making its presence known during others.” Mourning is a normal and important experience; it shows us how much we care for one another and the impacts just one person can have on others.
How to Cope with Grief
As you’re experiencing the intense emotions of grief, here’s some advice that may make your life a little easier in this tough time:
There’s a big difference between merely feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder. It’s normal to feel anxious before starting a new job or speaking in public. This type of nervousness has a specific cause, it’s predictable, and others can understand why you feel anxious. However, for people with generalized anxiety disorder, feeling nervous and “on edge” is a part of their daily life even when there’s little reason to worry.
Mental Symptoms of GAD
Several years ago, a survey found that roughly 3 million Canadians, or nearly 12%, suffered from some form of anxiety. General Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is among the most common anxiety disorders. One common misconception about GAD is that people with the disorder don’t realize that their anxiety is unrealistic. In reality, people with GAD recognize that their worry is irrational, but they’re still unable to stop their anxious thoughts. While each person’s experience with GAD can vary in severity, some common mental signs can include:
Physical Symptoms of GAD
While describing their experience with GAD, one individual said, “Anxiety is like an adrenaline rush without the actual roller coaster! Heart races, palms sweat, knees get weak. You have all the physical symptoms of a thrill ride but your brain has no actual event to tie the symptoms to.” The physical signs of anxiety disorders are less well-known than the mental symptoms because the general public typically doesn’t associate anxiety with physical effects. Due to the constant feelings of dread and apprehension, GAD can cause a litany of physical symptoms. Some common signs can include:
Causes and Risk Factors
Like most types of mental health disorders, there is no one known cause of GAD. Researchers believe that developing GAD may be caused by a variety of biological and environmental factors such as:
Possible Complications Due to GAD
Sometimes, GAD can become debilitating. Being unable to sleep, or having worsening feelings of restlessness or worry can start interfering with someone’s daily routine. The symptoms may increase in severity and prevent an individual from living out their normal life Untreated GAD may even cause or worsen physical and mental illnesses such as:
Tips to Prevent GAD
Although there’s no way of predicting the development of a mental illness, anyone can benefit from adopting healthier habits. These simple tips can help improve your life and create healthy ways to deal with stressful situations or worries:
If you believe you’re suffering with GAD, make an appointment with your doctor. They will be able to rule out other illnesses or conditions and will give you an accurate diagnosis. It’s also important to get treatment early rather than later on; your anxiety may worsen, and it tends to be easier to treat if you get help sooner. Your doctor may suggest medication, such as antidepressants or sedatives, to help you manage your anxiety.
If medication along isn’t enough, talk therapy is often beneficial for people with anxiety disorders because they can express their worries without fear of judgement. A great therapist will teach clients coping skills to deal with worrisome thoughts and work with them to start changing their thought processes. Cognitive behavioral therapy is typically a short-term commitment and is dedicated to helping people ease their worries and return to living a normal, fully-functioning life.
Starting therapy can seem scary, but Oakville Wellness Center makes it easy to choose the right therapist for your needs. You can check out profiles of qualified therapists or even schedule an appointment today.
Everyone experiences negative thoughts from time to time. Looking on the bright side might seem unrealistic or futile, especially during stressful situations. People can easily slip into negative mindsets and start developing a more pessimistic outlook when they feel discouraged, but this only causes more stress and anxiety. To avoid falling into a negative cycle, the first step is to recognize which thoughts are harmful or untrue.
Automatic Negative Thoughts
Many people have such habitual cycles of negative thoughts that they don’t even question the validity of their thoughts anymore. Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs), also called cognitive distortions, come to a person’s mind instantly and leave them feeling discouraged and defeated. But these thoughts are usually far from the truth!
Before you can start challenging or replacing your negative thoughts, you need to become more aware of your thought processes and be willing to understand that they’re unrealistic. To help you start recognizing the damaging thoughts, here are nine of the most common ANTs people experience:
How to Set ANT Traps and Practice Positivity
Once you recognize your negative thoughts, then you can work towards stopping them and replacing them with positive thoughts. Dr. Daniel G. Amen writes,” If you can catch them at the moment they occur and correct them, you take away the power they have over you.” Dr. Amen and other researchers suggest the following steps to begin changing your thoughts:
Why Positivity Matters
Mark George, M.D., researched the brain activity in women during three different moods: happy, neutral, and sad. He noticed that the deep limbic system became much more active when the women were sad, but it calmed down significantly when they thought positively. The study proved that thoughts create physical reactions throughout your brain and body. Sadness can cause muscle tension, increased sweating, and a faster heart rate, while positive thoughts help relax and calm people.
Positivity combined with eliminating negative self-talk has been shown to have excellent health benefits. Researchers claim that positive thinkers typically have:
If negative thoughts are holding you back from fully enjoying your life, therapy may be a great option for you. View our therapist profiles or schedule an appointment today.
Many people dread the transition from autumn to winter. The days grow shorter and colder, and thoughts of the upcoming holiday season can cause unneeded stress or dread in anyone’s life. While some are content with the colder weather and happily bundle up to continue their regular routines, others find winter much more difficult to manage. It is estimated that 2-3% of Canadians suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder at any given time, and winter is the most common time for SAD symptoms to flare up.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
The main criteria for SAD is that an individual must experience major depression or manic episodes that coincide with certain seasons every year for at least 2 years in a row. SAD itself isn’t a type of mood disorder; instead, it’s considered to be a type of major depression or bipolar depression.
However, unlike chronic depression, those affected by SAD won’t experience symptoms during other seasons of the year. For most people with SAD, they begin experiencing symptoms in late autumn or winter, but their symptoms go into remission when spring arrives.
Symptoms of SAD
To have a diagnosis of SAD, the symptoms should be a result of the changing seasons rather than stressful life situations. For example, a person who commonly feels down in the winter due to slow business or lack of work is experiencing other stressors that aren’t directly related to the season. Someone with SAD will notice that the same symptoms appear during specific seasons regardless of how happy they are, or how well their life is going. Although everyone experiences SAD differently, some common symptoms can include:
You might be tempted to just “wait it out” and see if your symptoms go away on their own, but this will only increase the chances of the symptoms becoming more severe. Even though the symptoms may last only a few months, about 6% of people with seasonal affective disorder have to be hospitalized due to their intense feelings of depression or hopelessness.
For any type of depression, including SAD, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will likely run a few tests to rule out other illnesses that can mimic symptoms of SAD, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, low blood sugar, or underactive thyroid. If you are diagnosed with SAD, you will have a few different treatment options, including:
Ways to Decrease SAD Symptoms
Treatment may take some time before you start feeling better, so doctors also recommend making a few small changes in your daily life to combat SAD. These tips can be useful for anyone who may feel a little sluggish or unmotivated at any time during the winter, so encourage your family and loved ones to follow this advice as well!
For more help coping with the symptoms of any depressive disorder, reach out to us at Oakville Wellness Center.
I do not ask a wounded person how he feels,
I myself become the wounded person,
My heart turns livid upon me as I lean on a cane and observe.
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
Empathy and sympathy are two words we hear a lot, particularly in the context of one person reacting or relating to the difficult circumstances or challenging situation of another.
What’s the difference, exactly?
Empathy is About Sharing Feelings
In her charming video about the subject, University of Houston researcher Brené Brown says that empathy involves sharing feelings or being able to feel with someone.
Sympathy, though it also involves recognizing another person’s emotions, often leads to a response that tries to minimize the intensity of the other person’s experience, the offer of a solution or way to ‘fix the problem.’
An empathetic reaction recognizes that there isn’t necessarily a response that can make things better. “Connection makes things better,” Brown says.
The Four Qualities of Empathy
Theresa Wiseman, a nursing scholar, describes four qualities of empathy. These include:
Sharing is Caring
What should you say when someone comes to you upset and struggling with overwhelming emotions? Brené Brown suggests that sometimes the best thing to say is, “I don’t know what to say, but I am really glad you told me.” Fostering a sense of caring and acceptance is often more helpful than trying to come up with a solution to a problem.
Walk a Mile in My Shoes
An empathetic reaction is only possible when you are able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, to recognize in yourself the same emotional reaction to a similar experience.
Sympathy Recognizes Emotional Experience
Sympathy, on the other hand, involves a recognition or acknowledgement of the other person’s emotional experience without necessarily also sharing a personal understanding of the experience. Comforting the other person and providing reassurance are kind and thoughtful responses to another person’s emotional pain even when it’s not possible to directly relate through shared experience.
Though a sympathetic response may be much appreciated when someone is suffering, an empathetic response can lead to a deep connection between people who feel they have a special bond as a result of a strong shared emotional experience.
In both empathy and sympathy, kindness and compassion underlie the desire (and ability) to recognize the experiences of others.
Too Much (Or Too Little) Empathy Can be Problematic
For someone who is naturally empathetic and feels the emotional pain of others often and deeply, it’s possible to feel overwhelmed. For natural empaths, it’s important to maintain boundaries and practice self care so as not to take on too much of another’s emotional pain.
The opposite is the case when someone is unable to share the emotional experiences of others. A sociopath is someone who has trouble empathizing with others while a psychopath lacks this ability completely.
Children Can Learn to Be Empathetic
Developing empathetic skills requires practice and that practice can start in early childhood. Teaching our children to talk about their own emotions and to recognize and identify the emotions experienced by others lays the foundation needed to become empathetic adults.
Expressing Sympathy is Also Rooted in Kindness
Given that we all have different life experiences and emotional reactions, it’s impossible to always have a deeply empathetic reaction to everyone else’s intense emotional experiences. When we can’t directly relate an emotional experience of our own to one we encounter in someone else, then expressing sympathy is a way to recognize and validate another person’s emotional pain. Learning to recognize similarities in our own past emotional responses even when the exact circumstances may differ is a way to deepen the empathetic response. By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and share in another’s pain we are able to form rich and deep connections with others.
For more information on establishing boundaries so you don’t feel overwhelmed in emotionally intense encounters, using empathy to strengthen your primary relationships, or raising empathetic children and teenagers, visit the Oakville Wellness Center.