Mindfulness moments on Nova Scotia’s craggy shores

Mindfulness moments on Nova Scotia’s craggy shores

Mindfulness moments on Nova Scotia’s craggy shores

We recently learned that many of our Landing Strong community members are rock hounds. I thought it was just me, wandering the beaches of Nova Scotia gleefully gathering prized specimens. It turns out, it’s a shared passion. We are united in the joy we glean from finding beauty in our craggy shores.

Is there something simple and beautiful that helps you keep your thoughts in the moment?

– Appreciating the afterglow of a sunset as the pink hue reflects on water.
– Enjoying a cool iced tea on a hot day.
– Hearing the sound of waves crashing on a long expanse of sandy beach.

It’s often the simple things that ground us. Rather than actively working to problem solve the future, or process the past, these activities hold our attention, actively engaging us in the present. There is something calming about going out in the world with the sole intention of nothing bigger than finding the next great rock.

Warm thoughts,

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

The beauty in vulnerability

The beauty in vulnerability

The beauty in vulnerability

Fifteen years ago, I wrote a book about my experiences working as a psychologist in a federal penitentiary. It’s dark, haunted, and not surprisingly, unpublished. It remains an important part of me, and I can appreciate it from a new perspective now. The work in the prison was powerful but not something I could do long term while maintaining my health.

I’ve always found it helpful to use creative forms of self-expression as a way of processing my emotions. I’m working on a new book now, and it feels very different, almost as though a different author is writing it. Where I am today is very different to how I felt fifteen years ago.

Creative self-expression is a theme that has been prominent in our Landing Strong community members as well. As people recover, they are able to show themselves to the world through their work; be it photography, art, woodworking or writing.

Each piece is very different, but they are similar in that they are accurate reflections of that person’s experience. I’ve come to appreciate that what makes art beautiful is not only the piece itself, but the honesty and vulnerability that went into creating it.

Warm thoughts,

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

Training and expertise can’t help but shine through

Training and expertise can’t help but shine through

Training and expertise can’t help but shine through

We’ve just started a new Healthy Living program that involves participation in the community. Once a week, after our morning programming, a group of Landing Strong members attend the Windsor Maker’s studio to work with artists in specialized areas such as ceramics, glass fusion, painting and woodworking.

It’s been a blast, but there have been a few surprises along the way.

The first day, our group members blew through the glass fusion workshop. What normally is completed in 2 hours took our highly specialized team of veterans and first responders 40 minutes to complete. Not to be undone, the instructor Cheryl good-naturedly upped the ante, inviting participants to make their own designs, cutting and buffing the glass in order to create beautiful large sized fusion glass art.

We’re talking highly technical, precision work.

Instead of shrinking back, the team rose to the challenge. They quickly formed an efficient team with members working collaboratively to draw, cut and buff the 15 houses needed for their projects.

Adapt, Improvise and Overcome.

In the ceramics corner, participants applied unbelievable focus and skill in the creation and glazing of fantastic over-sized mugs.

In the painting section, our veteran artists whipped off dot mandalas with hand control precision, speed and accuracy that was humbling.

Even when relaxing, the training, skill, focus, teamwork and adaptability of our community members shone through. Most importantly, there was a lot of laughter and cheerful banter.

I am reminded of how highly skilled our population is, even following injury. I look forward to next week, and only hope I can keep up.

Warm regards,

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

Becoming a Master of Reinvention

Becoming a Master of Reinvention

Have I told you about my 87 year old father?  He’s a master of reinvention.  He used to be a high school art teacher, but had an opportunity to retire early at 55.  We’ve all seen the Freedom 55 commercials right? It’s supposed to be great.

In his case, though, the transition wasn’t easy.  I don’t think he quite knew what to do with himself.  Accustomed to a highly structured day with many responsibilities, he suddenly found an endless stretch of time during which nothing was happening.  I remember a lot of TV watching and listlessness that we weren’t accustomed to seeing.  Over time, though, he found his way.  He started to watch the “talking heads” as he calls them, financial advisors and news reporters on TV. 
 
He read about the stock markets and investing.  Before you knew it, he was playing both tennis and the stock markets daily, getting super fit and doubling the income he had ever earned as a teacher, all while working only an hour per day.

Now he still plays with the money markets, but as an artist, he also tackles new creative themes each year.  During COVID, he was obsessed with painting waves.  A challenging thing to capture, perhaps it was his way to escape the confinement of isolation.  Each week, my siblings in Toronto would send me photos of his work.  He’s been painting faster and more than ever before, excitedly sharing his creations.

As I lead the Identity and Transition Program, I’m reminded that we all have periods of change and transition. Times when we need to pause from life, and allow ourselves the time to figure things out.  Making sure our next steps are thoughtful, not rushed.  

For many people who’ve committed their lives to the “job,” knowing what to do in their leisure time is not easy.  That’s why we developed our Healthy Living Program, starting this November. It’s virtual, so even if you don’t live close by, you can still join us.  Call early to enroll so we know to save a spot for you.

Warm regards,

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

In search of the perfect cookie

In search of the perfect cookie

The chocolate chip cookie.  What a perfect creation.  Whether it was first made by accident, or a flash of brilliance and loose hand with chocolate, this mouth-watering creation has remained a classic for many years.  

This year, Mackenzie made it a goal to perfect her chocolate chip cookie recipe.  We’ve been fortunate enough to sample her different attempts, each week learning more about the chemistry and subtleties of baking.  I never would have believed that the sprinkling of flaked salt on top of a baked cookie could have such a transformative effect.  Or understand the caramelizing effect of butter versus margarine.  Small changes can indeed, have profound effects on the overall creation.

It’s amazing how often in life we use the same ingredients in a recipe, somehow expecting the outcome to be different.  In many ways, health is similar to a perfect cookie recipe.  It takes a multitude of ingredients, with the quality of each element having a significant impact on the outcome. Recovery from injury isn’t just about individual therapy.  It also involves group work, exercise, balanced nutrition, healthy lifestyle and meaningful, supportive connection with the people who are important to us.  If we’re missing an ingredient, the result won’t be as good.

If your recovery is going slower that you might like, don’t assume you’re doing it wrong.  Maybe you’re exactly on track, but just need to adjust an ingredient or two.

We still have a few spots left in our Mind/Body Health and Recovery group for Caregivers.  This is intended for partners/adult children of those who are injured.  We want to take care of you too.  

For those Veterans and First Responders who have taken a course before, feel free to join our monthly Maintaining Health Program, starting this September.

Identity and Transition is full, but there are still spots left in Healthy Living, starting in November.  Consider planning ahead and enroll in the January Emotions Management Program.

Shake up your recipe.  You may be thrilled with the result.

Warm regards,

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

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