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Keeping your head above water

Keeping your head above water

I’m not a surfer, but I have a world of respect for those who have mastered the skill. It’s a sport that’s both thrilling, and terrifying.  

We took a family trip to Florida once, and devoted ourselves to learning to surf.  I did manage to get up a few times, but when I fell off, I wasn’t prepared for the crushing blow of the waves that snuck up from behind, pummeling me further under.  Just as I was coming up for air,  a massive wave would crash on top of me, leaving me coughing, disoriented, and gasping.  I just couldn’t catch my breath.

In many ways, recent news has been like that.  Just when we think we’re starting to get a handle on the latest events, another wave comes pounding down upon us, leaving us reeling. Canada (and Nova Scotia) has suffered another devastating loss with the recent crash of a Cyclone helicopter off the coast of Greece.  Our hearts and prayers extend the the families of those who who were on that flight.  The military is an extended family, and any losses or injuries cut deeply.

If we didn’t care, it wouldn’t hurt so much.

I don’t recall a time when there have been so many repeated waves of challenge and tragedy in such a short space of time.  At least not in my generation…and not in this country.

It’s important to acknowledge that there’s a backdrop to all of these current events.  Personal challenges or struggles each of us face in our immediate circles.  Family members who are sick or struggling, losses that people can’t formally grieve, economic hardship and uncertainty.

Yes, it is important to stay informed.  But it’s equally important not to oversaturate oneself with the news.  I’ve spoken with many veterans and first responders in recent weeks who’ve been glued to their televisions trying to get a handle on the steadily changing state of things.  Doing their best to be prepared.  After all, knowledge is power.

Or is it? If we watch too much, it starts to control us.  Maybe it’s time we cut way back, limiting our news exposure to a few basics.  Taking a break entirely, or limiting our exposure to a few minutes per day so that we gain the latest highlights. 

Putting distance between ourselves and the news does not mean that we don’t care.  It’s evidence that we do.  Because we care so much, it’s important that we don’t immerse ourselves in it.

So if you can, this weekend, turn off your electronics.  Go for a walk.  Bake, cook and be creative.  It’s a great time to make some flower boxes in preparation for transplanting your indoor garden outside.  Ride a bike, enjoy a hike and take some time to enjoy the signs of spring.  

Take some time to catch your breath, allowing ourselves to realize that this too shall pass.

Warm Regards,

Being the architect of my universe

Being the architect of my universe

I fully enjoyed my holidays, but have to admit…the thought of returning to work is somewhat daunting. 

I can’t help but think of the large to do list awaiting me.  The tightness in my chest serves as a reminder that I may be expecting too much of myself.  I don’t think I’m alone in this regard.

“I am the architect of my universe,” I remind myself.  “If I don’t like the way something feels, it’s no one’s job but mine to change it”. 

I decided to set aside some time this afternoon and draw up lists.  Get those “to do” things out of my head and onto paper.  I assigned them priorities. The list isn’t actually as long as I thought.  

The beauty of the sun glistening on the lake reminds me that deadlines are arbitrary.  There is really nothing that is urgent: no one is going to die if I don’t get it all done immediately. Instead of things I have to do, I’ll view my tasks as things I can feel good about accomplishing.

Most importantly, I’ll make sure to add a bunch of fun and creative things to my list.  If this is to be my job description for the next year…I want it to be creative, engaging and enjoyable.

I add an extra list…creative hobby ideas, and feel myself lighten.

Changing the world might be important, but so is enjoying the day 🙂 

Warm wishes,

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

Small flakes big snow

Small flakes big snow

This week I looked out the window and noticed a flurry of tiny snowflakes making their way down from the skies. Weather forecasters were calling for a large storm, and I knew that was going to make for a complicated day at the office.

“Small flakes big snow” one of the clients mentioned on their way out, “get your snow shovels ready!”

I’ve heard that expression before, and wondered about its origins.  Is there some ancient wisdom I’m unaware of that would allow me to be able to better predict my day simply by looking at the size of snowflakes?   A few minutes of google research later, I realize it’s not quite so simple.  Warmer temperatures lead to higher water content, and thus larger flakes.  Colder atmospheric temperature forms smaller flakes because there isn’t as much sticky stuff to hold the flakes together.  So in a way It’s true: if it’s warm outside it isn’t likely to stay snowy for long…it might turn to slushy wet stuff or rain.  Small snowflakes and lower temperatures are a sign that whatever falls is likely to hang around for longer.

It strikes me that change is a bit like the snow.  If we try to do too much too soon (large flakes) it isn’t likely to be lasting.  Small repeated steps in the right direction, however, accumulate over time and can lead to a mountain of change. If we turn the heat up on ourselves too quickly, it’s not sustainable.   If I want to take up running, for example, and start by trying to run 5 km at once, it’s likely too much.  Sure I did it some years ago, but that doesn’t mean my body will recognize that movement now.  A series of small steps, building up over time will increase my stamina so that I’m better equipped to do the run.  Maybe a better goal is to start walking 10,000 steps a day instead.   If I want any positive change to be lasting, easing in with gradual small changes is the way to go.

Keeping in line with our New Year commitment to self-compassion, I will embrace my inner (running) warrior, and enjoy pleasant walks through the snow this winter. Enjoying each small flake as it accumulates into something bigger. Maybe you will too?

Warm wishes,

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

What does it mean to live well

What does it mean to live well

“Helping people overcome their demons is not the same as helping people live well”  
– Martin Seligman 

What does it mean to live well?
Is it to be rich?
Is it to be loved?
Is it to live a life of purpose?
Many of you have chosen a life of service because at a deep level, you understand that personal fulfillment is connected to the notion of contribution.  Being of service is valued.  Through meaningful connection to one another, our lives have purpose. When we take off the uniform, it can be hard to know who we are.  
Chances are, who you are was determined long before you put on the uniform.  As a kid, you were probably the one who offered to help out. In social situations, you likely notice who is in need and are quick to offer assistance.  
Who you are is not defined by the clothes you wear, rather, it’s who you are inside: who you’ve always been.
Sometimes, when we’re injured, it’s easy to lose sight of that old self.  It’s still there.  It’s always been there.  Just waiting to re-emerge when you are ready.

Warm regards, 

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

Embrace the suck

Embrace the suck

“I just want to be happy,” the woman sitting next to me at the coffee shop exclaims to her friend, “is that too much to ask?”

I’m trying not to listen, but have a hard time tuning her out since she’s speaking so loudly.  As I sip my London Fog, I wonder if she is struggling because she’s asking the wrong question.

Everyone is talking about having a happy life.  I’m not sure such a thing exists.  In true Buddhist tradition, we can’t fully appreciate joy without knowing suffering.  Or love, without loneliness. I believe happiness is a byproduct of spending our time in meaningful ways, not a destination in and of itself.  It’s really about understanding the impact of the many small choices we make each day.  Happiness might come from supporting a friend instead of watching Netflix, or starting that fitness program we’ve been putting off.  It’s about choosing to do the hard thing, instead of settling for what’s easy.  It’s not always clear how important the struggle is when we’re in the midst of it. The joy of an accomplishment is in direct proportion to the challenge it presents.  If it isn’t hard to do, it probably isn’t worth doing.

So instead of asking the question, “why can’t I be happy?”, we should be asking, “how have I challenged myself today?”  Ultimately, it’s through meaning and purpose that we find fulfillment.