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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

Managing Triggers

Managing Triggers

“I’ve learned how to be in the present”
“How?” Asked the boy
“I find a quiet spot and shut my eyes and breathe”
“That’s good, and then?”
“Then I focus.”
“What do you focus on?”
“Cake” said the mole.
 
True confessions time.  When I’m in yoga, trying to clear my mind, I may not think about cake, but I do contemplate having a lovely London Fog at the café next to the studio when class is over.  It’s usually when I am really uncomfortable, experiencing the full force of my cardboard stiff body that I allow my mind to drift to more pleasant things.
 
It’s normal not to think about the things that are uncomfortable.  When we are at work doing uncomfortable tasks, that’s an essential skill.  Knowing how to unpack it at the end of the day, though, is often a skill that needs to be developed.

Warm regards,

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

The things I’m thankful for

The things I’m thankful for

I like to take Thanksgiving literally.  A time for reflection, and gratitude.

The internet and news remind us that there’s a lot wrong with the world.
This weekend I plan to turn it off.
Instead, I want to think of the many things that I’m thankful for. 
 
Simple things, nothing earthshattering…

A perfect latte on a cold day

The tantalizing smell of a roasting turkey

The good company of family and friends 

Sun rays glistening off a water’s surface

The cry of a newborn baby

Crisp fall air and brilliantly coloured trees.

Picking perfect apples on a sunny Saturday morning.
 
Join me in thoughts of gratitude and plenty,
Warm thoughts and Happy Thanksgiving 

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

Love your muffin top

Love your muffin top

As I view the dark days of winter in my rear view mirrors and think about the months ahead, I find myself contemplating bathing suit season.  That’s right, the dreaded time of year when we’re held accountable for our mid-winter indulgences.  I admit it, I put on a few pounds.  My stomach isn’t flat the way I want it to be.  Could it be encroachment of the dreaded Muffin Top?

I found myself defaulting to considering quick weight loss strategies, accompanied by uncharitable thoughts about myself and unkind words about my body.  “There is absolutely no reason,” I think, frustrated with myself, “why I shouldn’t look exactly like I did in my twenties.  I just need more discipline!”  I seem to be overlooking the fact that I’ve had a few kids and it’s thirty years later.

Okay, I’m a psychologist, I should know better.  Enduring change is built on love and compassion, not hatred.  History holds countless examples.

But I’m still human. It was Mackenzie, my daughter, and our Landing Strong Director of Community Engagement and Wellbeing who reminded me of this.  I made a comment about being displeased with my muffin top, to which she replied:

“Remember, the top of the muffin is the best part”.

The wisdom of these words struck deep, for I know in my heart that I am in the best years of my life. Instead of internally criticizing, I’ll focus on practicing loving compassion.  A person who loves her body cares for it, exercising it regularly and nourishing it with whole foods and a rainbow of colour.  A person who struggles with their body doesn’t connect with it or use it much, viewing food as the enemy.  This makes enduring change very difficult.

I think our relationship with our bodies very much reflects our relationship with ourselves and with life in general.  With courage, love, and compassion, we’re able to leave the dark days of winter behind.

Stuck in the dark corner of judgement and shame, we remain immobile. Change escapes us.
I’ll think of you all as I wander the nature trails with my dogs, enjoying the buds of spring and bursts of colour.  I won’t focus on what I don’t want, but on what I desire, and allow that path to gently guide me forward.
 
Partners in recovery,

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

Old traditions, new routines

Old traditions, new routines

I have a confession to make. I love Christmas, it’s the simple things that make it special really…like the smell of my mother’s traditional shortbread recipe filling the house as we play good tunes and decorate cookies together. Although my mother is gone, the smell reminds me of her love. Or watching cheesy Christmas movies together and participating in family fitness bootcamps. It’s a time when we all take time away from our busy lives to connect. My kids will come home, we’ll cook some good food together, and maybe have a kitchen dance party or two. In this busy life, and despite the many events of the season, for me, it’s a time of reflection and appreciation.

Have you noticed how easy it is to fall into routines in our daily lives that place the needs of others ahead of our own? We form patterns that might not be sustainable, often leaving us discouraged and exhausted. I’m reminded of the importance of taking time to “refill the well” before the supply runs dry. It’s an aspect of our wellbeing that’s often neglected.

If we don’t make a conscious effort to destress at the end of each day, the cumulative effect of what we carry in our lives can become increasingly difficult to hold. That’s why doing something we enjoy each day is so important. We are offering two programs in January, both designed to build resilience and help us stay strong.

For First Responders and Veterans living with PTSD, anxiety or depression, we have the “New Year, New You” workshop on January 11th.

For Caregivers, friends and family of these First Responders and Veterans, we are offering Part 1 of our “Care for the Caregiver” series on January 7th for those who weren’t able to attend the first series.

We hope that you will join us.

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season.

Warm regards from the entire Landing Strong Team,
Belinda