The power of choice

The power of choice

No matter what the situation, remind yourself “I have a choice.”
               – Deepak Chopra

Injury is often associated with powerlessness or a loss of control.  When I first started working in the federal penitentiary, I believed I was capable of evoking powerful, positive change.  Both for the inmates I was working with, as well as with the system itself.  

“You don’t belong here” the inmates repeatedly warned me.  Turns out they were right, but it took me seven years to understand that.  

I’ve never thought of myself as a quitter. I had to learn the hard way about the difference between quitting, and choosing not to continue.  Quitting is giving up.  Choosing not to continue is making an informed decision based on your experiences regarding what is healthy and sustainable, and what isn’t. It’s easy to judge ourselves based on what we were not able to do.

We can focus on the things we couldn’t do, or we can choose to focus on those things that are in our power.
I choose to do my best to help someone today
I chose to invest in my health
I chose to move forward.
I chose love.

Warm regards,

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

You never know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been

You never know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been

“Don’t look back, stay in the present,” people may tell you, urging you not to dwell on the difficult times. 

Yet…like trickles of rain finding their way through creases in a rock, our minds revisit old scenes and emotions, replaying them in an endless loop that interrupts sleep.

It may feel like you’re haunted, having these old stories replay over and over in your head. In reality, it’s our brain’s way of pointing is to the things we need to examine in order to recover.

“You never know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.” A wise man said to me recently.  Besides the fact that’s it’s a great lead line for a country Western song, it’s also true.  Our brains know that, in order to heal, they need to repeatedly return to the site of injury, working to make sense of what happened.  The problem is, when we do it alone, we tend to view our past the same way, over and over.   Knowing where you’ve been helps navigate the way forward.  Doing so in good company provides a fresh lens through which to view it.

Join the Landing Strong on-line experience.  Call now to register for programs starting in November and January. We’ll help you find your way.

Warm regards,

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

Embracing the power of positive change

Embracing the power of positive change

My dogs are completely ridiculous.  When I come home each day, they charge towards me at top speed, so filled with glee that they can hardly contain themselves.  They are so excited that they start jumping on one another in a playful Ninja manner, the little dog trying to nip the haunches of her older sister in an effort to reach me first.  They quickly become a blurred black and white explosion of play and energy, forgetting the fact that they were even coming to see me. 

When they are relaxed, it’s not uncommon to see them mirroring one another, their bodies unconsciously copying the posture and mood of the other.  What we are witnessing is co-regulation in action.  Because they are close, the mood and actions of one significantly affects the mood and actions of the other.

Co-regulation is that moment by moment interaction between the central nervous system of one person (or dog) with another.  

When you laugh, I laugh with you.  

When you cry, I feel the heaviness in my chest, and instinctively reach out.

Being in close proximity with one another during this COVID crisis, we can’t help but have a profound effect on those around us.  Our central nervous systems are in synchronicity, constantly interacting, bouncing off one another and mirroring emotions that we may not even be aware of.  How I am feeling has a huge effect on my household, and how others are feeling affects me.  At this time in particular, it’s incredibly important that we are aware of the manner in which we are contributing to, or detracting from the health and well-being of those in our circle.

Co-regulation doesn’t just happen in person.  It can also travel through the internet.  Another person’s anger can transmit virtually.  So can joy.  I’m careful in deciding which news to watch, because in general, bad news sells.  This morning CTV focussed on new vaccination efforts, miracle plane landings, and funny bad haircuts, and I started my day off with a smile.

I invite you to take the time to notice what you are feeling, and set an intention about the mood you want to spread to those you love.  Attached is a fun exercise called “Cookie breathing” developed by Liana Lowenstein which might help.  Try practicing, and see if you experience an internal shift.

Warm Regards,
Belinda

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

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

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