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The joy of intentional living

The joy of intentional living

Have you ever placed a glass upside down in the sink while washing dishes?  Sometimes, it gets stuck.  A powerful force of suction holds it to the bottom.  If you are able to pry it up, water rushes in, quickly filling the vacuum or void that was created.

Most of us are experiencing significant upheaval in our lives due to COVID-19.  The hustle and bustle of daily routine is replaced by a strange new reality.  Maybe you are trying to work but struggling to find a quite space to do so.  Perhaps you have not been able to work or pursue your regular daily activities and find yourself stuck at home more than you would like.  One of the challenges we face is knowing how to intentionally fill the time so the default isn’t just whatever happens to be close by.  Hmmm, the gym is closed, so I’ll get a snack instead.  You see where I’m going with this?

If we are not intentional about how we spent our time, we run the risk of the vacuum being filled by whatever happens to be around.  It might be video games, Netflix marathons, excessive eating, alcohol consumption or cannabis use. Maybe you normally go out and socialize, but now you are finding yourself stuck at home.     

There has never before been a better time for intentional living.  What is that you might ask?  It’s the idea of structuring your day so that it falls in line with your values and beliefs.  It ensures you are doing what you can to feel pleased with the way you’ve spent your time.

Me, I’ve increased my creative time.  I’m painting up a storm, having fun replicating beautiful patterns on rocks.  I am starting a series called “Napkin prints”, copying beautiful patterns from napkins onto smooth rocks that I found at the beach. It gets me outside rock hunting, and is both relaxing and enjoyable copying beautiful pictures while listening to great tunes. Simple mindful practices such as this can go a long way towards restoring calm and a sense of order in a chaotic time.  I’ve made a short video to show you, which I’ll post below.  For those of you interested in learning more, we still have a few spots in our Healthy Living program, starting April 16.  Instead of meeting at our office, all of our courses will be offered online, and we’ll arrange for you to have a box of supplies needed in advance.  No fears, we are quarantining our supplies as we speak to ensure that they are germ free, both after we purchase them, and before sending them to you.  Even though these groups are being held virtually, spaces will remain limited.

Warm wishes,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Making the best of a bad situation

Making the best of a bad situation

How are you holding up?  These are uncertain times indeed.  
 
When I go to the grocery store, I like to play a game.  Which line is moving the fastest?  I scope out the cashiers, check out how efficient they are, how much they’re talking with their customers, and how full the carts are of the people in line ahead of me.  I’m talking about the sophisticated, mathematical equation that predicts grocery-store line waiting time.  Even when the lines are long, I can tolerate it if my formula predicts an acceptable outcome.  In a way, I’m inserting a degree of control over a situation which might otherwise cause internal stress.  
 
The current situation we’re facing is challenging, because there are many uncertain variables which seem to change on an hourly basis.  I haven’t been able to figure out the mathematical formula that tells me when life goes back to normal.  My gut feeling, is that this is going to be a long line.  
 
I tried asking google home to set an alarm for when COVID-19 will be over, a reassuring voice informed me that the alarm was set for 7pm the next evening.  If only it were so easy.  
 
So there are many things I’m not able to control, but there are others that I know I can.  I’m doing my best to create a semblance of normalcy in my daily working life.  I have been able to learn to use video conferencing for counselling appointments.  Not bad for an ol’ dog.  It may have been stressful, but I think I’ve got it.  
 
As for outside of work, I’m going to focus on those things I can control.  Doing art, organizing my house, planting an abundant garden.  I’m even thinking about trying to make crumpets from scratch.
 
Let’s make the best of this, we’d love to hear what fun things you’ve been doing to cope. 

Warm wishes,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Spring cleaning your emotional closet

Spring cleaning your emotional closet

When I was a little girl, I was sure that there were monsters in the basement.  I remember running full speed up the stairs, away from the dark cellar so that the monsters didn’t get me.  They were huge, scary and dangerous.  Avoiding it kept me afraid.  Had I faced them, I would have discovered it was just the furnace making a weird noise.  Slightly unsettling but not scary at all. Certainly not unmanageable.

Sometimes when we don’t want to feel something, it’s easier to compartmentalize our emotions.  We run away from them so that they can’t hurt us.  The problem with this is that our fear of them is usually greater than the pain they can cause us.  We feed our fears by looking away.  They get their power from silence and being ignored or hidden.  

By talking about them, we take away their power.

This May, we’re offering a repeat of our trauma program: Your Past is Not your Future: Master Strategies to Overcome Trauma.  For those of you who have already taken this course, try Mind Body Health and Recovery, an exciting new program co-facilitated by Naturopathic Doctor Adrienne Wood. Program size is limited, so sign up now to avoid disappointment. 

Warm wishes,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

If you want to go far, go together

If you want to go far, go together

Apparently there’s a toilet paper shortage in Nova Scotia.  When under stress, we run the risk of going into survival mode, taking care of ourselves while losing sight of the larger picture.  If I run out and buy a month’s worth of toilet paper tonight, chances are the old man who lives down the road who has run out will get none.

That’s the difference between community thinking and individual survival.  

If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together
– African Proverb

Most civilians are not trained to work in high risk emergency situations.  It’s times like this that we truly appreciate those who are trained in risk management and emergency response.  They specialize in big picture thinking, operating from a position of prevention, resource and risk-management, and de-escalation.  

A large percentage of police work, for example, involves talking to people while calming volatile situations…

Step away from the toilet paper Ma’am… 

Ultimately, we all do better when we approach any situation from the perspective of the needs of the group. A panic response to stress might be a natural human instinct or response.  Learning how to cope with these instincts allows us to connect with our community in a supportive and meaningful way.

Warm wishes,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Knowing when you’ve arrived

Knowing when you’ve arrived

When I was young, my parents would take me and my three siblings on road trips to visit the East Coast.  We loved exploring Nova Scotia’s beaches and would spend hours looking for ‘beach treasures’ that had been left behind by the tide.  It’s a long drive from Toronto, and eager to start our holiday, we tried to make the trip with as few detours as possible.  

On one of these trips, we were on a remote road in Nova Scotia when my younger sister complained of feeling nauseous.
  
“Are we there yet?”  she asked, holding her belly.

If we were smart, we would have pulled over quickly. Unfortunately, we didn’t.  Minutes later, all I can say is that we all got an unpleasant lesson in wind velocity and splatter patterns.  

Had we paced ourselves better, this likely could’ve been avoided.  Taking needed breaks is very important, even though it makes the trip a bit longer.

I recently spoke to my good friend Finka about pacing myself at work, and I was wondering aloud about when I’d know when I’d “arrived”.  At what point would I get that sense of accomplishment that the job was done, and I could take my foot off the gas for a while and not have a never ending “to do” list in my head.

“Ah, that’s the myth,” she smiled wryly, “It doesn’t matter how successful you are, in any business, each success brings more challenges.  Challenge is the one thing that’s constant”

I thought long and hard about this.  I’ve been operating on the principle that one day, I will arrive.  My job will be done.  I realize now that life simply isn’t like that.  The more I do, the more I open the possibility for more to be done.

So what if recovery is like that?  It’s a steady stream of building, growing and understanding.  Each day we evolve into a better version of ourselves, whether we have PTSD or not.  If that’s the case, the need for pacing becomes incredibly important.  Maybe the point is not arriving, but the journey itself.  I’ll need to be sure to stop and enjoy the view, taking a breather when needed.  

What if we remind ourselves to take those precious moment to appreciate the little things.  Thoughtful interactions, humorous moments, small victories.  These are indeed the stuff life is made of.

Warm wishes,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Is recovery from PTSD possible?

Is recovery from PTSD possible?

It’s not uncommon to hear people say that there’s no recovery from PTSD.  

Well, in my mind, that’s simply not the case.

It’s true that you’ll never go back to being exactly the same person you were before you were injured.  But when you think about it, how many of us are ever the same as we used to be?  As we learn and grow in life, we can’t help but grow from our experiences.  What I’m referring to is post traumatic growth.

Sure, life might have been easier if I hadn’t logged seven years working in one of Canada’s largest penitentiaries.  I might not have been injured.  But then I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I’m kinda liking her.

Don’t know about you but I certainly don’t want to go back to being my high school self (although the flare jeans with Canada flag inserts were quite fetching).

I definitely do not want to relive the angst of my twenties.

I may have a few more bumps, and scars on me now, but they serve as a testament to the fact that I have truly lived.  I have a massive scar across my right knee that I got while building a school in Tanzania.  I’m proud of it, and in no way want to erase that experience.  

If I work too hard my muscles flare up – reminders of the need to pace myself better. Areas where I have previously been injured will always be vulnerable during times of stress.  They serve as my personal barometers for health.  I thank these symptoms for gently reminding me when I’m not paying close enough attention to my needs or limits.

I guess I’m saying that I work hard each day to keep the superwoman cape in the closet. It’s not easy because it feels oh so comfortable.   I try to simply focus on having a good day, going to bed at night feeling satisfied with whatever small thing I might have been able to accomplish.

So, it’s true, you will never be the same person you were before.  It is possible, though, to become someone capable of living a rich and full life, wiser for all the things you have experienced.

Warm wishes,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

It’s all a matter of perspective

It’s all a matter of perspective

Last week was a bit of a rough one for me, and my brother, bless his heart, sent me flowers.

Touched by the gesture, I brought the flowers to work so that they could be enjoyed by all.  The first client who walked in the building noticed them immediately.

“Who died?” he asked.

The second person who entered the building was someone we’ve known for a while.  When she saw the flowers she leaned over, closed her eyes and took a deep breath.  Sighing, she sat down to wait for her appointment, a serene expression on her face. 

The exact same experience, but very different reactions.  Proof that emotions aren’t created by situations… rather, they are the result of how we interpret them.  It’s our thoughts that determine how we feel, not the actual events. The wonderful thing about this is that it gives us a powerful degree of control over how we experience the world.

If you want to learn more, give us a call or send a message.  We’re gathering names for out next Emotions group, starting in the near future.  If you’ve already taken the Emotions program, the Healthy Living course may be for you.  It’s a hands-on chance to apply all that we’ve learned to our daily lives.

Warm wishes,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

PTSD: disorder or injury?

PTSD: disorder or injury?

Let’s face it, PTSD is a label.  Having a diagnosis can be very helpful as it allows clients to access appropriate resources and supports.  However, it doesn’t accurately reflect the experience of recovering from trauma.  

When healthy people are repeatedly exposed to traumatic and dangerous situations, it’s normal that there’s a residual effect.  Like an athlete that runs too many marathons without enough recovery time, injuries are sustained that can be lingering or career-threatening.  

The word “disorder” does a disservice to the injuries suffered by those who put themselves in harm’s way in the course of their work.  People with PTSD are not disordered, they are injured.  Their wounds originate from repeated or severe exposure to trauma.  There’s nothing disordered about that, it’s a natural and predictable reaction to unnatural events or situations.  

Just because it’s invisible, doesn’t mean it’s not real.  We’re going to increasingly be using the term PTSI in our communications.  These injuries are significant, severe, and potentially life threatening if not tended to in a thoughtful, compassionate manner.  As with any injury, there’s a continuum of severity, ranging from mildly disruptive to debilitating.  Not everyone who has these injuries is the same.  The mechanism of injury, presentation of symptoms, and severity of harm may vary from person to person.  Nonetheless, everyone has an equal right to access treatment and care in a timely manner.  

Disorders are something we stick in the corner and don’t quite know what to do with.  Injuries are something we heal.  So we get it, without the label, it’s impossible to access appropriate care.  But between you and me, we’ll be calling it an injury. 

Warm wishes,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Life is a struggle vs life is a climb

Life is a struggle vs life is a climb

Glancing through Facebook, it’s easy to believe that for most people, life is a series of joyful moments.  Even knowing that social media is a highlight reel of people’s lives, it’s easy to start believing that others are always happy.  
 
In reality, I think of life as more of a climb.  Some days a struggle, but most often a climb. 
 
I’ve had the opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro twice.  The night before the summit push is long, cold, dark, and tortuous.  There are many times I asked myself why I was doing it.  Reaching Uhuru peak at the break of dawn, it all made sense.  When we’re in the struggle, it’s often hard to see the point.  Glancing back in the darkness, the distant glow of headlamps of the other groups weaving their way up the mountain reminded me of how far we’d come, even though we weren’t yet at the top. 
 
We judged our movement by the needs of the group, taking breaks if people were struggling, telling stories, and singing songs when spirits needed to be lifted.  We knew we were going to do this as a team, and that we would leave no one behind.  
 
By husband Joe has led over 7 school groups up Kilimanjaro.  Of the people who attempt to summit Kilimanjaro, about 50% are successful.  With these school groups, after months of training, group work, and team building, the success rate is almost 100%.  What I have learned from this, is that we work best in teams.  The second time I summitted felt harder than the first.  Although the photos look the same, they represent two completely different experiences.  Both of which were preceded by many months of training. 
 
Perhaps life is like this, a climb, punctuated by triumphs and joyful moments.  If I’m not having fun today, that’s okay, as long as I’m content with the longer term journey.  Wherever you are on your journey, we invite you to reach out and join us as we move forward, together.  

Warm wishes,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Honouring who we are

Honouring who we are

This week, I devoted time to sort through stuff in my basement with the intention of clearing out junk that has accumulated over the years.  I found a box filled with all of my report cards from elementary school to the end of high school, as well as some journals, creative writing assignments, and art books.  I’ve always believed that life is about constant change, striving to be a better person, growing, adapting and taking on new challenges.  Looking back at my younger self, I’m not so sure that I’ve actually changed.  There’s a consistency to who I’ve always been that’s reflected through the art, writing, and report cards of my younger self.  
 
Striving for personal growth, fighting for social justice, practicing the voice of leadership, and expressing my thoughts through writing and art are themes that have been consistent through my entire life.
 
Even in grade five, my stories were about trauma and redemption.  I wrote about hardship, regrouping, and finding the strength to get life back on track.  In all of these stories, people had to trust in themselves and others in order to move forward.   
 
There are many days in my adult life where I question myself, and wonder if I have what it takes. Looking back, I realize I’m on the right path.  Some days, I’ll do it well.  Some days… not so much.  
 
Despite how much I think I’ve changed, maybe underneath it all we’re not that much different from who we’ve always been.  The gifts we’re born with that make us unique, are there from the beginning.  It’s a matter of how much we honour and develop them that determines whether or not we’re on the right path. 
 
If you’re injured or finding yourself off-track, it’s likely not because you’re a different person now, but rather, that you haven’t yet figured out how to continue being the person you’ve always been.  
 
We’re not just a trauma recovery centre.  We’re also a centre for resiliency and personal growth, for both those who have been injured as well as those who love and support them.  
 
If you’re interested, we still have space in our next caregiver program.  Honour who you’ve always been, but learn to take care of yourself in the process.  

Warm wishes,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong