D-Day Commemoration

D-Day Commemoration

It was on the night of June 5, 1944 that Winston expressed to his wife that they were going to bed with the knowledge that by morning, 20,000 soldiers may have lost their lives.

He was referring to Operation Overlord, the biggest seaborne operation in history.  An event that served to turn the tide of the Second World War as 156,000 Allied forces united to storm the beaches of Normandy in an effort to liberate the country from Nazi occupation.

More than 10,000 people lost their lives in an all or nothing gamble that paid off, but at tremendous cost.

Yesterday marks the seventy-five anniversary of the D-Day landings.

I woke up this morning with gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifice of those who paved the way for the rights and freedoms that we enjoy today.  

To the soldiers, the veterans, their families, and the leaders who bore the weight of such heavy decisions.  I give thanks.   
 

Warm regards,

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

The business of getting better: part 3

The business of getting better: part 3

Changing the world, one conversation at a time.

When we run programs at Landing Strong, we spend quite a bit of time discussing how to create an environment that feels comfortable and safe. Participants tell me that it’s not uncommon to walk into a community coffee group where they’re initially having a good time, only to have the mood shift once the subject of politics comes up. Suddenly the tone is angry and loud. Instead of ideas and insights forming the discussion, hard opinions become the propulsion for discussion.  Listening decreases as each person fixates on ensuring their “truth” is heard.  

 When this happens, I know it’s just a matter of time until the conversation shuts down, and the potential for insights and wisdom arising from the discussion are lost. 

Speaking truthfully without hurting feelings, writes Cheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, is an acquired skill.  It’s that wonderful balance between appropriateness and authenticity. 

In her book Lean In, Sandberg notes “When communicating hard truths, less is more…The ability to listen is as important as the ability to speak.”

What if we all made it our mission to seek to understand the opinions of others, without needing to be right?  How would the world change?  We may disagree with what we hear, but at least by listening we are inviting an opportunity for dialogue. Sowing the seeds of change.  If we are able to shift our focus from being heard, to accepting the uniqueness of each person’s truth, the discussion becomes richer.

I have to admit, I don’t always master this art.  But I try.

Please join me in noticing the tone and manner in which we communicate with others.  Is it inviting or overbearing? Welcoming or deflective?

As Sandberg confirms, being aware of the problem is the first step to correcting it.

Warm regards,

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

The business of getting better: part 2

The business of getting better: part 2

Lesson 2: Developing your own personal brand

Welcome to our second week of applying business principles to health and recovery.  This week, I’d like to talk to you about the power of belief.

Branding is a term in marketing that helps us understand the intended customer experience.  Donald Miller, in his book Building a Story Brand, describes branding as a transformational process: it’s a journey that offers promise of a desired final destination.  Our “brand” is our aspirational identity.  It’s how we want to feel.  Branding is about helping to guide people toward a stronger belief in themselves.  

Miller provides the example of Starbucks.  When you purchase a Starbuck’s coffee, you’re buying much more than coffee.  You’re buying an experience – a way of seeing yourself – sophisticated, chic, someone worthy of being treated to something special.  The simple act of drinking coffee is transformed into an experience of savouring, and the price becomes secondary to the experience.  Marketing genius.  

I think about how we describe ourselves to others, and wonder how our personal branding affects how we are perceived, and treated.

Do you view (and describe) yourself as an injured veteran or first responder?  Or are you someone who is embarking on a journey of personal growth following traumatic exposure?  

Are you unemployed, or taking time to learn more about yourself?

Are you exhausted, or rather, in need of a well-earned break?

Are you trying to recover what was lost, or looking to broaden who you can be?

Are you overwhelmed by emotions, or enriching your ability to feel and connect with others?

It’s worth considering how you want to feel, and being mindful to integrate these words into your internal vocabulary.  Words are powerful, for they are the utterance of our internal brand. 

Warm regards,

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

The business of getting better: part 1

The business of getting better: part 1

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading about business.  At Landing Strong, we’re committed to providing top-tier services on a non-profit budget.  Hence the need for great business strategizing. 

As I read, I’m struck by how many business principles are equally relevant to health and recovery. Over the next four weeks, I’d like to share with you things I’m learning with the hopes that you too will find them helpful.  Please join me on my voyage of inspiration.

Lesson 1: Success is the bi-product of a series of small experiments

It’s an unfortunate reality that most new businesses fail. In the Lean Start Up, Eric Ries claims this is because new business owners tend to make a common error: they put a large investment into a single idea and hope like heck that that they got it right.  The author suggests a more innovative approach to entrepreneurship is to run start-ups like a series of small experiments that inform and guide business development.  No single stage is too big an investment, and it is always possible to pivot and change tactics if it looks like an idea isn’t working out as expected.  

I love this notion, because there’s no pressure to get it right the first time.  In fact, the assumption is that you likely won’t get it right immediately, and you’ll probably have to continuously gather feedback to inform product refinement.

What if we applied this principle to healing and recovery?  One of the most common errors I witness in terms of people who are trying to make changes in their lives is the pressure they put on themselves to get it right the first time they try something new.  If it doesn’t work, they assume it was a bad idea.  Maybe, in fact, it was a great idea, it just needed a bit of feedback and fine tuning. 

When we design new Landing Strong programs, we work hard to get client feedback at the end of each session. Why?  Because our assumption is there are parts that were likely great, and other parts will probably need to be tweaked in order to improve.  The program becomes the product of an organic interaction between facilitator and participants.

Recovering from trauma exposure involves reinventing the self.  It is, in a way, a new business start-up.  Instead of waiting to have it all figured out and hoping we get it “right” let’s consider recovery as a series of small experiments in which you will be trying on new ideas or behaviours, seeing which are helpful and which need tweaking.  We should expect the first version of anything won’t likely be right.  Rather, it’s a first step in the gradual shaping of something new and wonderful. 
 

Warm regards,

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

Trained to stay strong when the going gets tough

Trained to stay strong when the going gets tough

As many of you already know, this is a special week.  It’s National Police week, a time when we’re encouraged to pause and think about the invaluable contributions these men and women make to our quality of life.  We thank not just the officers, but also their families, for the steadfast work they do in supporting their loved ones.

It’s my privilege to work with a number of officers, and I am constantly astounded by the extreme situations they find themselves in, and the incredible resourcefulness it takes to stay focussed on the job at hand.  I bear witness to the toll it takes on them, and the dedication they demonstrate through years of service. How do they stay resilient I wonder? This question has been a lifelong obsession for me, taking me back thirty years to my master’s research when I interviewed officers across the country, trying to understand the unique stressors that police officers face while on the job.

It takes a special kind of person to stay strong when the going gets tough.  The job takes a number of forms: whether it’s keeping our streets and highways safe, working homicide cases, investigating cybercrime, conducting sex crime investigations, working undercover with gangs, conducting military investigations, or in the case of RCMP members, doing time in isolated Northern communities.  

To each and every one of you, we are grateful for your efforts.

Thanks to you, our communities are that much safer.

Warm regards,

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

Safe and stuck vs uncertain and growing

Safe and stuck vs uncertain and growing

Have I ever mentioned how much I love homemade chocolate chip cookies?  Something deep within me settles as the familiar aroma of fresh baked goodness wafts through my kitchen. The simple routine of baking offers me reassurance that all will be okay. 

Although routines can be comforting, never straying from them has consequences.  Just because old habits make me feel good doesn’t mean they’re always good for me.  I love that there are things in life that are a sure bet, but at the same time, realize that taking risks is part of moving forward.  

I’ve taken a lot of risks lately.  I’ll admit it, it has not been easy.  It would definitely have been simpler and easier to stay in a place that’s old and familiar. 

So why do it you might ask?  Why challenge myself when I could simply sit at home baking cookies and watching Netflix?

Truth is, I believe there’s something big around the corner.  Something wonderful that’s worth the journey.  We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting there.  You and me and the Landing Strong Team.   

How incredible that we allow ourselves to venture into that new place together.
 

Warm regards,

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

Do you read the obituaries?

Do you read the obituaries?

Do you read the obituaries? I do. I didn’t use to, but since I have moved to our small community, I have a deeper sense of connection to those around me. I’m surprised by how often I recognize the names or families listed. Living in a small town, I’m more aware of the trials and tribulations of others in my community.  When I pass the fruit and vegetable section at Sobey’s, I expect to run into an old friend who I would often see there, only to be reminded he is no longer with us.  When I see fundraising notes and coin jars on the counters of local stores, I’m more inclined to donate knowing that I likely have an indirect connection to the face I see on the bottle.  When our first responders pass by areas on the highways that mark the sites of accidents, they too are reminded of losses.  Having grown up in downtown Toronto, I wasn’t used to that degree of connection. 

I received a letter from my father last week, and for the first time noted a shakiness in his writing that reminds me of his passing years.  I pray that those who reside on his busy Toronto street will keep an eye out for him, as I know we look out for each.  Together we celebrate, grieve, struggle and grow.  Growth, recovery and healing lies in the heart beat of our communities.  Strength lies in connection.
 
In appreciation of each and every one of you who helps to make us strong,

Warm regards,

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

Small steps in the right direction

Small steps in the right direction

It’s supposed to be spring, but it’s still cold outside.  We’ve had a couple glimpses of sun and warmth, only to be quickly reminded that winter isn’t too far in our rear view mirror.  Remember, objects in mirror are closer than they appear.  This year, more so than many I remember, the wait for spring feels long.  Winter brought with it a lot of ice, restricting movement and keeping us confined to our homes perhaps more than usual.  With the promise of warmer days just around the corner, many of us are likely seeding our lawns, tilling soil, and preparing for growth in the new season.  

This growth can take a lot of forms.  It may be literally working in your yard, or might look a little different: inviting someone new out to coffee; speaking to a friend or family member from your heart; trying something new; making the decision to get help; or continuing your growth through participating in a workshop.  

What kind of growth are you looking for this season?  What specific steps can you take towards reaching that goal?  

Remember, small steps in the right direction eventually get us somewhere big.

Warm regards,

Belinda

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