Hello universe

Hello universe

It’s a funny thing sitting down at a computer, composing thoughts that will be sent out into the universe.  Who are you I wonder?  What are you thinking? What are you feeling?  Will I be able to write something that will make a difference in moments when you may feel tired or alone? Am I able to offer something that is helpful, or simply bring a smile?  Normally, when I go out for coffee with a friend, I rely on my companions feedback to let me know how the conversation is going.  It may be a smile, a glint in the eye, or a shared confession of the soul.

But when I look at my computer screen, it’s different.  I imagine you, my on-line friends, busy in your lives, squeezing a quiet moment for yourself so that we might connect and hopefully find points of convergence in our lives.  It’s those quiet moments of reflection that cherish, opportunities to dip into the well that nourishes us.

I think today I’d like to make you a cuppa tea, and offer you a freshly baked cookie.  There’s something about the smell of fresh chocolate chip cookies that feels like home.  Because they’re virtual, they’re calorie free, so you can enjoy as many as you like!   Please sit with me as I welcome you into my heart.

Next week Joe and I are off for a well needed break in the Dominican Republic.  My main goal is movement.  That’s it, allowing my body to go anywhere or do anything without fear of time constraints.  I don’t know about you but for me, one of the biggest challenges of aging is range of motion.  If I don’t move enough, I lose myself.  We’re taking our inflatable paddle boards so that we might explore and dip to the tune of our internal rhythms.  By the time you get this blog, I’ll likely be out there, floating in the crystalline Caribbean.  I’ll take a piece of you with me, and think of you all as I connect with the sun, the sand, the ocean breeze, and my quiet self.  Thank you for enriching my community.  For although I may be miles away, I know we are still connected.

Thanks as well to those of you who have offered comments and feedback, it means a great deal and helps guide the next discussion.

Warm regards,

Belinda

Alone in this together

Alone in this together

My husband recently took a group of 30 students, aged 11-18 to the summit of Kilimanjaro.  Every one of them made it to the top.  Braving the cold on that last difficult night, the students dug deep to find the resources to keep going when their bodies were shrieking at them to stop.  There is no doubt in my mind that if they were walking in isolation, very few would make it.  With support, encouragement and companionship of others in the same predicament, the venture somehow feels less daunting.   There is, indeed, strength in numbers.

This week I came off an intensive week working with veterans and first responders recovering from Operational Stress Injuries.   Even though they are only four days into a ten day program, I already see a difference: a lightness in their faces; straightness in their back; and a shift in the manner they speak to one another.  What originally started out as a journey of isolation has transformed into a group effort. Accessing emotions that have been long buried they push forward in their desire for recovery. 

Initially avoiding eye contact, they now meet each other’s gaze with respect and admiration. Trained to view expression of emotions as a sign of weakness, they are coming to understand it is, in fact, the opposite.  Facing that which we fear is the ultimate act of courage.  

“We are alone in this together.”  One of them affirmed.   With these words I know that something important is shifting.  For what started out as a solo journey, has now become a group expedition.

Warm regards,

Belinda

Belinda vs. Brussel sprouts

Belinda vs. Brussel sprouts

When I was little, my mother repeatedly tried to get me to eat Brussel sprouts. 

“I can’t…I don’t like them!” I’d exclaim

“I didn’t give you many”, she’d insist. “Don’t leave the table until you’ve eaten them up”.

And with these simple words, the challenge was on.  Belinda vs. Brussel sprouts.

Resting my chin on my hands, I’d stare down the offending cabbages.  Determined not to weaken my resolve, I alternated my gaze between the congealing green lumps in front of me, and the painfully slow moving hands of the wall clock.   Eventually, she’d give in, removing the plate and sending me upstairs to my room. I’d won…or so I thought.

I’m reminded of the fact that sometimes if we really don’t want to do something, no-one can make us do it. Even if it may be good for us.

The funny thing is, I don’t actually mind Brussel sprouts now. It’s all a matter of how it’s prepared.

Trying new things is hard, and stressful.  Like making the decision to begin therapy, or sign up for a treatment group.

“But I don’t do groups!” you may exclaim.

Ah yes…remember, it all boils down to how it’s done.

We’re cooking up some great programs for you. 

Starting May 24 and running five successive Fridays, Landing Strong is offering Stop faking good and start feeling good: A program for managing emotions.  I’ll be co-leading with Psychologist Patricia MacDonald and Trauma Yoga Therapist Caelin Nadin. A powerhouse team who know how to have fun.   Even if programs aren’t normally your thing, come out and give it a try…  

It’ll be good for you 😉 

Drop us a line at info@landingstrong.com or call to reserve your spot 902 472-2972.  The program is already half full so book soon to avoid disappointment. We will work with your insurance providers to obtain authorization for you to attend.

Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong

Paying to escape

Paying to escape

Have you ever wanted to just get away from it all?  Burst away from the demands and expectations of daily life?  I have.  This weekend I’m going to Toronto to meet with family.  You know what I intend to do?  Pay to be locked up with them.  That’s right…have an escape room experience. 

 I know what you’re thinking:

 ”You need to get out more Belinda.  Paying to be locked up with family members…really!!”

I’ll let you know how it goes.  I’ve never tried one before.

So…the fun may be brief, or you may not see me again…if we can’t figure how to get out.

Honestly though, I think we all just need to escape from time to time.  Do something fun and with people that we care about.  I challenge you all to try something different.  Step out of that comfort zone.  If you’d like to share stories/pictures of your escape, we can post on our Landing Strong Facebook site.  Just send them to Mackenzie at mseagram@landingstrong.com.  Oh by the way, she is part of this as well, so if social media messaging suddenly stops, you’ll know we’re really trapped. 🙂 

Keep your posts as anonymous as you wish.  Perhaps your ideas might inspire others.  I’ll post something of our experience.
 
Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong

Love your muffin top

Love your muffin top

As I view the dark days of winter in my rear view mirrors and think about the months ahead, I find myself contemplating bathing suit season.  That’s right, the dreaded time of year when we’re held accountable for our mid-winter indulgences.  I admit it, I put on a few pounds.  My stomach isn’t flat the way I want it to be.  Could it be encroachment of the dreaded Muffin Top?

I found myself defaulting to considering quick weight loss strategies, accompanied by uncharitable thoughts about myself and unkind words about my body.  “There is absolutely no reason,” I think, frustrated with myself, “why I shouldn’t look exactly like I did in my twenties.  I just need more discipline!”  I seem to be overlooking the fact that I’ve had a few kids and it’s thirty years later.

Okay, I’m a psychologist, I should know better.  Enduring change is built on love and compassion, not hatred.  History holds countless examples.

But I’m still human. It was Mackenzie, my daughter, and our Landing Strong Director of Community Engagement and Wellbeing who reminded me of this.  I made a comment about being displeased with my muffin top, to which she replied:

“Remember, the top of the muffin is the best part”.

The wisdom of these words struck deep, for I know in my heart that I am in the best years of my life. Instead of internally criticizing, I’ll focus on practicing loving compassion.  A person who loves her body cares for it, exercising it regularly and nourishing it with whole foods and a rainbow of colour.  A person who struggles with their body doesn’t connect with it or use it much, viewing food as the enemy.  This makes enduring change very difficult.

I think our relationship with our bodies very much reflects our relationship with ourselves and with life in general.  With courage, love, and compassion, we’re able to leave the dark days of winter behind.

Stuck in the dark corner of judgement and shame, we remain immobile. Change escapes us.
I’ll think of you all as I wander the nature trails with my dogs, enjoying the buds of spring and bursts of colour.  I won’t focus on what I don’t want, but on what I desire, and allow that path to gently guide me forward.
 
Partners in recovery,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong

Doing the emotional override

Doing the emotional override

I speak to many veterans and first responders who tell me they are having a difficult time feeling.

The problem isn’t that they’re feeling down…it’s that they aren’t feeling at all.  

Over the years, quietly and almost unnoticed, emotional flatness has seeped into their lives. 

“It’s not all bad” they tell me. “I’m not bothered at work by things that seem to disturb other people.  I just shut ‘er down and get the job done.”

You may recognize yourself in this picture:  highly skilled at being functional, even when the going gets tough.  When faced with disturbing or horrific scenes, we’re trained to shut down our emotions.  Because after all…Mission (service) comes before self.  

One of the challenges is that we get so used to being in this mode that we don’t always know when we’re are doing it.

We just notice that we are no longer able to feel like we used to.

The emotional override can be so powerful that that we may not even be able to recognize what our needs are.  Knowing how and when to take time out for ourselves isn’t simple.  Years of training has hardwired us to meet the expectations of strangers before those of our own families or even ourselves.  

Chronic pain, fatigue, anger, anxiety and emotional flatness are all indications that this has gone on for too long.

Recovery is about reconnecting with self.  Listening to our bodies and our minds.  

Change is possible but I won’t kid you, it’s not easy.  Particularly if the override has been going on for many years.

We will be offering a five week program on successive Fridays starting May 24 which will help.  Stop faking good and start feeling good: Manage your emotions and curb your addictions.  Call now to reserve your spot (902) 472-2972 or contact us at info@landingstrong.com

Partners in recovery,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong

Snow day

Snow day

As I sit here in the warmth of my kitchen, smelling the sweet aroma of baking granola, I feel particularly grateful to be inside while the elements rage outside.  Snow day, what wonderful words.  All the busyness of life comes to a screeching halt as I hunker down for a good ol’ time of doing nothin’. 

It feels strangely calming simply standing still in time.  Many people may be stressing about the elements they can’t control in their life today: appointments they can’t make; places they can’t get to; children who are stuck at home.  Although I have a lot of things I was hoping to do today, probably the most important thing I can do is recognize and accept what I can’t control.  Make the best of it.  I’m talking about the art of letting go.  

This snow day situation is perhaps a parallel of what many of you are facing every day in your lives: loss of the ability to do your job or participate in activities that you enjoy and are accustomed to.  Over the years, I’ve come to learn that the people who recover from trauma the fastest are generally those who acknowledge that it is a process that can’t be rushed. They are patient with themselves. Those who push themselves to get better faster take longer to recover.  By focusing on the things that we can control and letting go of those we can’t, we’re honouring the process of recovery.  

For those of you who didn’t get to stay home during this bad weather (perhaps your jobs involve going out in these conditions to help others), I thank you.  For it is your actions that keep us all safe.

Be warm, be safe,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong

Who would you invite to dinner?

Who would you invite to dinner?

This week, Mackenzie downloaded a podcast to my phone that I thought was terrific.  It made me laugh, feel sad, and prompted some deep reflection about the nature of relationships.  It’s the story of a couple trying to work out differences in three binge-worthy episodes.  The format of their discussion is 36 critical questions.  I use the word critical because they quickly get to the heart of what is most important in a relationship.  At the core, do we share the same values, laugh at the same things, cry at the same time, and know how to let loose and have fun in a meaningful way?

It’s impossible to listen to this podcast without reflecting on one’s own relationships.  I’ll share one of the questions with you,

         “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?”

In answering this, I went through a list of possibilities, ranging from Oprah to Gandhi to Michelle Obama. I’m happy to say that after a great deal of thought, I chose Joe.  That’s right, the same man who I’ve been married to for the past 28 years.  When push comes to shove, he’s the guy who I want to take me to dinner.  

I invite you to enjoy the podcast, and perhaps use the list of questions (excluding #35) to spark discussion. It’s called “36 Questions” and is a 3-episode podcast musical.

Warm thoughts from the Landing Strong Team,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong

How much are you willing to risk?

How much are you willing to risk?

My husband Joe recently shared a few “promposal” stories with me, reminding me of the intense joy, courage and compassion felt by adolescents.  For those of you unfamiliar with this time-honoured secondary school custom, promposals are the delivery of heartfelt sentiments, generally performed in a very public manner.  I felt touched by the thoughtful ways people were asking someone special to be their date. 

Expressing our affections for another can make us feel vulnerable, especially if we are unsure how the other person will respond.  Rejection is a risk.  To put oneself in a vulnerable position publicly takes even more courage.  

Joe told me about a female hockey player who wished to ask out a member of the boys hockey team. His team was scheduled to practice immediately after hers.  She secretly enlisted the help of both teams… even the coaches were included.  It was their task to distract the intended recipient while both teams lined up their sticks to make a path to a message spelled out in pucks on the freshly cleaned ice.  

  My goal is to score a date with you for the prom.

Luckily for both parties involved, he accepted.  I imagine a great roar of cheers arising from all those who helped orchestrate this wonderful event.

Another story involves a fellow who was in charge of thanking a particular girl during a school assembly for her role in organizing an event.  He got up in front of the entire school, acknowledged her effort, and then with only the slightest of pauses, presented her with a bouquet of roses, adding,

  There is one other thing I would like to say…

With the entire school watching, he took the plunge:

  I don’t have anyone to go to the prom with me.  Will you do me the honour of being my date?

Over 400 people held their breath as they waited for her reply.  After what must have seemed like an eternity to the young man, she broke into a huge smile and gleefully accepted.

These young people inspire me.  How often is it that we have the opportunity to witness such grand acts of courage?  I don’t know about you, but I found the adolescent years excruciating.  I stand in awe of the fortitude it takes to stand on a mountain top and declare one’s love or admiration in such a bold manner.

That, my friends, is living. This week, I chose to think about how inviting others to share powerful emotions can bring us together.  

Warm thoughts from the Landing Strong Team,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong

Welcoming new perspectives

Welcoming new perspectives

I have a piece of wildlife art on my wall: a majestic stag, staring intensely at me from a forest glade.  When I look at it, my body settles.  In fact, when I’m on a break between sessions, I often sit on my couch and stare at this deer, looking at it as it looks back at me.  A couple moments of mindful reflection in the blur of an otherwise busy day.  

A few weeks ago, I noticed a client standing in front of this piece of art, staring at it thoughtfully.  I immediately assumed it was bringing him the same joy it brought to me.  When I observed him more closely,  I saw a flash of pleasure dance across his face.  I suddenly remembered that he was a hunter.  

“You’re thinking about shooting that deer!”  I proclaimed, somewhat shocked.

“No,” he said to me, grinning slyly.  “I’m thinking of cooking it up over a campfire, and eating a great venison steak.”  

It’s all a matter of perspective. It doesn’t matter what we’re dealing with in life, there are always many ways to look at any situation.  

A snow day this week could be a headache, or cause for celebration.  

Are you aware of the direction your thoughts take you?  Our automatic thoughts are powerful guides in terms of how we interpret the world around us.  They drive our emotions.  It’s generally not a situation that causes an emotion, but rather the way we think about it that drives the feeling.  

If we want to change our feelings, we have to change our thoughts.  We can’t always control our environment, but we can control how we choose to think about it.  

One of the most impactful ways of gaining a new perspective is to work within groups.  We’re able to see ourselves, not just through our own lenses, but also through the lens of others.  A carefully facilitated and safe therapeutic group provides the ideal venue. 

We offer a variety of workshops and programs. Landing Strong members are welcome to join at any time. New programs are being launched on a regular basis (check out the “Programs and Workshops” tab under LandingStrong.com)  We hope you’ll join us. Spoiler alert: Keep an eye out for our emotions management program, coming soon!

Warm thoughts from the Landing Strong Team,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong