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

Getting out of your comfort zone

Getting out of your comfort zone

If you go on a trip, where do you like to go? 

To a beach resort, where cold drinks are brought to you by the side of a pool?  Or backpacking through a mountain pass, discovering tiny flower buds as they push their way through barren soil towards the sun?  

Do you like things packaged, and neat?  Or are you comfortable with uncertainty?  

This April, I plan to escape for a week to somewhere hot where everything is done for me.  Perfect. 

Next Summer, I hope to backpack the rugged coast of Newfoundland with some good friends, hopping from cove to cove searching for hidden gems.  I don’t know what we’ll find, but I know there will be great fun in the searching.  Being connected and together is an important part of the journey.  

I’ll get something different out of each trip.  At the warm resort, I’ll get relaxation and catch up on my reading.  On the adventure trip, I’ll probably be uncomfortable at times but learn more about myself and those around me.  That’s the trip I’ll most remember.  I need both, but if I don’t get out of my comfort zone I’ll stay pretty much the same.  

In any journey, we have the power to decide how much risk we’re ready to take on.  Increasing numbers of you are signing up for our workshops, and becoming involved with the Landing Strong community.  Even after one day, we see change.  

Life’s always smoother when things stay the same.  It’s in our response to disruption that true growth takes place.  

Take a moment to check out the workshops available this month. 


Warm thoughts from the Landing Strong Team,

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

We are all affected by trauma.

We are all affected by trauma.

Twenty years ago I did some time in a federal penitentiary. 

It’s not what you might think.  I didn’t break the law.  I was acting in the role of Chief Psychologist for four hundred federal male offenders.  Trying to help them undo the harm they had done to others.

Truth is, there are some wrongs that simply can’t be righted, no matter how hard we try. The dead can’t come back to life, and some emotional injuries run too deep to be healed.  Figuring out how to lessen the emotional impact of such loss is incredibly important, both for the victims and the perpetrators. Otherwise, there is no moving forward.  

During this time I met Pierre Allard, an amazing Chaplain who has been championing the Restorative Justice movement in Canada for decades.  He told me of a reconciliation group he had facilitated, where a group of offenders who had committed murder met with family members of victims of murder.  The goal was for the two groups to sit in a room together, so the men who had committed the crimes could hear how the loss of a loved one had impacted the survivors.  My discussion with Pierre centered not on the actual meeting, but rather, the minutes leading up to it. 

The family members were brought into the room first.  Many were pale and out of shape.  Grief had visibly been affecting a number of them physically.  Their eyes were bloodshot, rimmed by dark circles from decades of sleepless nights. They walked with slumped shoulders and shuffled gaits. Avoiding eye contact with one another, they clutched their coats tightly around themselves, despite the warmth of the room.  They spoke hesitantly, their thoughts jumbled with the powerful unprocessed emotions that they were experiencing. 

Then the offenders came in. They entered with straight backs and sure strides, carrying well-sculpted bodies, the result of countless hours in the weight room. They sat together with comfort and familiarity.  Articulate and thoughtful, they spoke of their deep regrets and immense shame.  Their clear voices were indications of having spent many years processing their feelings and experiences with professional staff within the facility.  

I remembered this story recently as I witnessed the impact of trauma on the loved ones affected by it.  It is not just the immediate victims who are injured.  Those who love and support them are also powerfully affected.  Secondary traumatization can be profound.  In many ways, these people too have experienced a profound loss.  They may not have been in the direct line of fire, but for many, the person who came home injured from work may not be recognizable.  Years, and even decades, are spent trying to restore connection.  Countless efforts are made to end the isolation that can accompany the injury of a loved one.  They wait patiently, looking up a lonely road, waiting for their loved ones to return home. Soldiers in their own right, they travel a journey that is seldom discussed.  Used to turning attention to the injured family member, it can be hard to know how to care for themselves.

Let’s not forget anyone on this journey.  Not those who have been injured in the line of work, nor those who support them. Whether it is in the role of a spouse, partner, child or friend, we are all affected by trauma.   

Warm thoughts from the Landing Strong Team,

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

What is joy exactly?

What is joy exactly?

This is the question I have been asking myself recently.   

I know it isn’t the many photos I see on Facebook – of smiling people doing exciting things.  I know enough to understand that these pictures don’t always tell the real story.

Maybe it’s channeling my inner Marie Kondo and decluttering my home, keeping only those things that spark warm feelings… 

Perhaps it’s talking to my dogs in my best birthday party voice, watching them dance gleefully on two feet just because I’m home.

Or maybe joy is something quieter…softer.  Like a calm wave that washes over me after having a good cry in the presence of a compassionate friend or partner.  Or being that person for someone else as we face their deepest fears together.

Maybe joy is more about connection.  Not feeling like we are in this world alone.  Perhaps we experience joy when we are seen, heard and understood.  Maybe it’s about being our most vulnerable selves, and still feeling accepted.

Warm thoughts from the Landing Strong Team.

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

Please join us in the first of our health promotion series as we welcome International Award Winning author Donna Morrissey on Feb 10 from 10 am – 3:30 pm.  Enjoy a fun day of expression and creativity as you find or refine your writers voice.  Watch our social media for details or email Donna directly at donnamorrissey@ns.sympatico.ca  Workshop fee: $125

Do I make a difference?

Do I make a difference?

It’s a common question we ask ourselves, particularly during periods of change or transition.  After years of service, taking off the uniform can mean a stripping of identity.  “Who am I behind the uniform?” you may wonder.

Growing up, I dreamed of changing the world, somehow making it a kinder, gentler place. The older I grew, the more I understood this was not so simple.  Today, my aspirations are more humble. Every night as I lay my head on my pillow, instead of judging whether I changed the world, I simply ask myself the following:

“Have I had a heartfelt discussion with someone today and felt a meaningful connection?  Have I been a good person today?”  If the answer is yes, then I sleep well.  If not, then I‘m motivated to do something about it. It’s my belief that a series of meaningful connections leads to a mountain of change, and a whole lot of purpose.

So when you look in the mirror and wonder if you’re making a difference, I challenge you to ask yourself the simple questions.  It’s my sense that the meaning and purpose will follow.

Warm wishes from the entire Landing Strong Team,

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

I’m so excited…

I’m so excited…

My New Year’s resolution is being realized.  

I committed to ensuring my work is filled with creativity and joy.  Today marks a special part of that with the launch of our first veteran/first responder day treatment program.  The program is full, and Mackenzie has been madly cooking chilli and baking wonderful treats to ensure that everyone feels welcomed and well cared for.  We’ve run two caregiver workshops now, and are thrilledby the response.   It’s such an incredible feeling knowing that a group of people who come together as strangers can so quickly form meaningful connections as they discover the strength of shared experience.

As Doug and I led the Caregiver workshops, we were struck by what an incredibly powerful and resilient group of people they were.  In addition to their caregiver roles, all lead very rich and full lives in their home communities. They wear regular clothing, but in our eyes, looked very much like superheroes.

By the time you read this, the important work we set out to do today will have begun.  I salute the courage it takes to come forward and register for a program.  I commit to do everything in my power to ensure the experience is both positive and welcoming.  It is such an honour to be able to walk on this journey with such a special community.

Wishing you all the best for a warm weekend.

Regards from the entire Landing Strong Team,

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

Finding fun in unexpected places

Finding fun in unexpected places

Just before Christmas, I had the chance to accompany a competitive girls basketball team to a tournament in Arizona. In addition to watching some great basketball, my husband Joe and I had the opportunity for a hike up Camelback Ridge, a famous trail in Echo Canyon Park. As we passed the trailhead at 4pm, a park ranger warned us to be back down by 5:25pm.  Confident and energetic, we forged ahead, making the steep climb to the peak by 5pm. At the summit, we stood proudly among a gathering of happy people enjoying the spectacular view. A friendly and hard-core looking hiker warned us that the 5:25pm deadline was real, and the park gave out tickets to anyone who is late getting off the mountain. We laughed and took a series of great photos to the warm glow of the setting sun.  

Making our way down, we continued to take great photos. We started to be passed by a series of ultra-marathon looking types jogging quickly by. Enough runners passed that I started to think that maybe they knew something we didn’t: either, they were being chased by wild game; or the 5:25pm penalty was real. With a surge of energy, we started to sprint down. My husband laughed at me, as he’s never seen me scamper down a mountain slope with such glee. It had become a game – Belinda versus park ranger. With sixty seconds to spare, we made it across the finish line. I looked around to give the ticketing officer a high-five, but none was to be found. Enquiries with other hikers revealed that ticketing is a practice, but seldom enforced. However, the large number of foolish hikers stranding themselves up on the mountain after dusk with only their cell phones to guide them was real. The emergency response team is frequently called to help pull people out after they injure themselves after dark.

All in all, what could have been a stressful situation ended up being the highlight of my trip. Sometimes when we’re stressed situation, it’s hard to see the silver lining.  Only afterwards are we able to reflect on the strength, courage or skill it took to get ourselves out of it.  

Although I know the journey that each of you is on might be difficult, we hope that you are able to take time to catch the sunset or beauty that exists within it.

Warm regards from the entire Landing Strong Team,

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