Articles Tagged with: mental health
The Essential Stepmom Podcast

There is no time like the fall for getting cozy inside with a good book, or as is increasingly popular, a good podcast.  

LISTEN to Episode 12 of the Essential Stepmom Podcast hosted by Tracy Poizner where I talk about the challenges of infertility, particularly in the context of being a stepmother, and the mindset that can help us grow through this incredibly difficult journey.


GUEST BLOG by Gabrielle: Breaking Up With Social Media

My boyfriend and I decided to take a break, a break from social media. Inspired by hearing about others who did the unthinkable and quit social media ‘cold turkey’ for 30 days,  we decided to give it a try.

Thirty days was a bit more than we thought we could handle to start, so we opted for a week.  Seven days with no Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat. Which interestingly, rendered our phones quite useless  after all of these apps were locked.

Our 1st challenge occurred three days into the week while at a Raptors game.  I wanted to post a picture of us on Instagram. After a debate, we decided together that I could post it, but that I had to close the app right afterwards and not reopen it until the challenge was over. Five minutes later, we started to bicker about the caption on the picture. I could feel myself becoming agitated. I closed the app and while looking at one another we had the same realization. The first conflict we had since starting the challenge was when one of us started to engage with social media. Let that sit with you for a minute.

If I could describe the week in one word, it would be relief. It was a relief to learn that I could go into an experience without the pressure or expectation to share it with the world. I was relieved of the pressure to prove to someone else that I was having a good time. It was just the experience and I, and that was pretty great. We enjoyed the week so much that we continue to have time limits on our social media apps to this day and still hold each other accountable.

So many of us use these apps to express ourselves; to show the world what we love and to capture amazing memories. But ironically, the process and the pressure of capturing life’s special moments in order to share them with the world also distracts us from fully enjoying them.  Moreover, our awareness of the “likes” we acquire along the way runs the risk of reinforcing a soul destroying premise: that our lives only matter if approved of by others.  And then there is the automatic comparison to those who are always living a more fabulous life – a recipe for feeding the wide-spread  belief most of us carry that whoever we are is not enough.

The week without social media was like finally taking a conscious deep breath and realizing just how much stress I had been carrying.   We can certainly get by with shallow breathing throughout most of our days.  But once we know what a deep breath feels like, well, we might decide to pay attention to the process we take for granted and consciously give ourselves more of what we really need.  Which is not to live in the shallow, but to dive in, and really enjoy the deep.

I am a millennial and there is no denying that smartphones, technology, and specifically social media, have a huge influence on how I engage in the world. But I have redefined my relationship with it. Now I can see that the connections I want are all around me. For that, this was the best break I have ever had.

When was the last time you spent an extensive amount of time without social media? I invite you to try this same challenge and share your experience with us in the comments below. Or don’t comment and enjoy the experience for yourself.

Feeling grateful to have shared this with you,

Gabrielle Iwaskow, Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying)

 

Interested in learning more about Gabrielle and how she helps people Design Their Lives? Click here to learn more and to book your free consult today.


Conscious Parenting: An Invitation to Drop the Guilt and Receive The Love your Child is Ready to Give.

Almost every day for a year and a half;  that’s how long my daughter has been waiting and talking about going to drama club at her school. This was going to be her year.  She was finally old enough to attend.  So when she brought home the forms, I was on it.  I filled them out right away, sent in my money and placed them in the envelope along with all of the other forms needed for the start of the school year.  Or so I thought.

The call came a few days later from the school administrator to let me know that she did not receive any of the club forms.  WHAT???!  How was that possible?  The school administrator stated that she is always very careful as she knows how important registration in the school clubs are to the kids and their families.  She insisted that they were never received.

Is it possible that I somehow forgot to put the forms in the envelope?  My heart sank and the panic started to rise as I pictured my daughter’s disappointment, sadness and anger in response to this situation.  I choked back tears as I begged and pleaded to find a way for my daughter to be in drama, but there was nothing that could be done.  The club was full and there were 6 other children ahead of her on the waiting list.

I hung up the phone and tried to go back to work, distracted by thoughts of how I was going to break this piece of bad news.  The thought occurred to me to not tell her the entire story, to just tell her that the class was full and play the role of the heroine as I consoled her in her grief in order to shield myself from the possibility of anger directed towards me for any role I might have played in this situation.

But I couldn’t do that.  I knew that presenting her with a half truth would have created a barrier between us.  Because as much as part of my distress came from my desire to shield my daughter from pain, it was also in response to having to face the very real possibility of my own failings and the feelings of shame that typically accompanies the evidence of my imperfection. This was the real issue that I had to face.  She was not the one who needed protection.  A choice to not honestly share the truth would have been all about protecting myself.

And so I decided to do something different.  I decided first to make peace with myself.  I decided to show myself compassion.  I let myself cry as I recognized that mistakes can happen in spite of our best intentions.  I forgave myself for whatever I might have done to contribute to this situation and I decided that I would hold space for whatever feelings my daughter needed to express.  I would apologize.  Because even though I tried my best and did not know how the forms did not get to the right place, it was ultimately my responsibility.  And I committed to looking for another drama class in the community that she could join if she was amenable to this.

The decision to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but my whole truth was a decision to be fully present with my daughter; to not abandon her.  It was a decision to communicate to her that sometimes things don’t work out, but that we can deal with these disappointments… together. It was a decision to show her that she and her brother could always come to me with their mistakes because I was willing to be honest with them about mine.

When we got home, I sat both my daughter and my 8 year old son down to tell them what happened.  I wanted to include my son as he needed to see me walk the walk just as much as my daughter did.

I told them about the call, about the things I thought I did to secure her spot, about how my search for the forms at the house came up empty but that at the end of the day the school did not have them and they are also sure that they never received them. I told her that this meant that she would not be able to go to drama club this term and that I was truly sorry.

I braced myself for her tears and anger.  What happened was something that I had not anticipated.  Rather than getting upset, this child simply looked at me, hugged me hard and gave me a big kiss on the cheek.  The only tears that were shed were from my own eyes as I took in the unconditional love she so clearly expressed to me in that moment, a profound gift that healed and will forever touch my heart.

The gift my daughter gave me that day not only showed me her resilience but did wonders for further weakening my harsh inner critic. It is a gift that I opened myself up to receive because I was willing to face my own suffering, and meet it with compassion.

This is what conscious parenting is all about.  It’s not about being the perfect parent.  It’s about creating a space for self-compassion, and awareness so that we as parents can accept the invitation our children have for us to come into our authentic selves.

Interested in learning more about Conscious Parenting? Then you absolutely need to come out to see Dr. Shefali Tsbary in person in Toronto on September 30, 2018.

Image result for dr.shefali

For those of you who are unfamiliar with her, Dr. Shefali is a world-renowned psychologist, Oprah regular, TED Talk veteran and the NY Times best selling author of The Conscious Parent, Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children, and The Awakened Family.  She is one of the foremost authorities on Conscious Parenting, and one of the most engaging speakers I have ever seen.

You can learn more and register for her event here.  And not only will I be there for her talk and the post-talk Q&A, but …..I am going to have the chance to interview her in person (eeeee!!!!).

Dr. Shefali has agreed to be a key participant in a 7-day, on-line summit by Mindful World called Parenting In The Age Of Change, which will be hosted by none other than yours truly.  I can hardly wait.

The summit will be bringing together world leaders and practitioners in the areas of parenting, mindfulness, education, brain science, and holistic health, to teach us how we can truly  apply mindful practices and teachings in support of parents and children who are feeling more disconnected than ever in a hyper-connected world.

I cannot believe that I get to pick the brains and play a role in sharing the wisdom of some of the greatest teachers in this area.  So send me your questions! Let me be your voice. It is incredibly important that my questions reflect your concerns, so do not be shy.  Send them.

And do let me know when you register for Dr. Shefali’s event.  I would love to meet up and meet later that week to discuss our takeaways and how we can start implementing some of these ideas for our families and ourselves.

We are all in this together.

With Deep Respect

Dr. Stacy


I Looked Down the Barrel of a Gun and Found Compassion

The impetus to share this story arose as a response to the chaos that was unfolding in the summer of 2016.  I have come to think of that summer as the time of my own awakening when I heard the call to action and made the decision to do more to have a positive impact on the world.  My hope is that reading it will not only help you gain some insight into what motivates me, but will awaken you as well to being bolder, and more courageous to create the world you want to live in. 

And for those close to me who were previously unaware of this story and might be shocked and distressed to learn about what I experienced, I need you to recognize that, while I kept this story from you, I have never hidden the essential part of my truth:  I am and have always been OK.  I encourage you to keep this in mind as you read below. 

 

The place was a small fishing village in northern Brazil.  A piece of paradise where nothing much happens other than eating, surfing, dancing and swimming with dolphins who delight in teasing humans with their regular visits to the beach.

My husband and I were on the last leg of our month-long honeymoon in South America.  That morning, we decided to take the ferry from the mainland to a small strip of beach frequented by kite surfers.  There was a makeshift restaurant at one end close to where the kite surfers were doing their thing, and a broad stretch of beach further up the strip.

Kite surfers on the beach

We decided to admire the kite surfers at a distance and set up far enough away that we could enjoy the tranquility offered by the nearly uninhabited stretch of white sand and the hazard free ocean in front of us.

Our piece of paradise

We were alone with the exception of 3 men who were hanging out, throwing what looked like a flimsy fishing line in the water.  It seemed like a strange way to fish, but what did I know?  I didn’t give it much thought.  One of them looked like someone who had attended University with me.  Another fleeting thought.  Without a care in the world, we turned our backs on them to face the sun.

My next memory was of being woken from a daze by one of those men standing over me, yelling.  My eyes struggled to transition from the darkness behind my eyelids to the blinding white light of the sun that back lit his face.  In spite of my initial blindness, the intense tone of his voice triggers everything in my body to instinctively and immediately ready itself for action.  My pupils constrict and I can see through the blinding sun to the features of his contorted face as he yells in a quick staccato voice filled with aggression.   And somehow, with powers I did not know I had, I spring up from my prone position on the ground to standing on my feet.  I am ready to run.

My initial thought was that there was some kind of emergency.  As I came to my senses, I quickly realized that we were the ones in need of help.

The next few moments in my memory are like a frenetic scene out of a Guy Ritchie movie, sped up in some places and incredibly slow in others with dramatic close ups of the most dangerous aspects of the threat:

An angry face yelling angry words in a language I didn’t understand;

Another grabbing our knapsack and my husband running after him with pure rage on his face, a look I had never seen before… and never want to see again.

The man with the gun fires a shot into the ground and I see the sand fly upwards in response.  In my mind’s eye the shot explodes just in front of my feet.

My husband falters but keeps going after him and I am screaming for him to “STOP! STOP! STOP!”

In that moment, I did not fear my own death.  Nor did my life flash in front of my eyes as is often portrayed in movies as the main character falls towards their demise. In that moment, I feared for only one thing: the death of my future with the man I had waited a lifetime to meet.

What flashed through my mind was not my past, but of stories of others’ who had survived the horror of witnessing their spouse murdered during the honeymoon.  Was this going to be my story too? Was this the moment when my life would take a dramatic turn?  The moment that would leave me traumatized and would forever be a marker by which I judged the ‘before’ and ‘after’?

I knew why my husband was desperately trying to retrieve the knapsack.  It had nothing to do with the money, the keys and the papers for our rental car, or the key to the home where we were staying.  He was running after our camera, which contained the memories of all of our experiences of our honeymoon up until that point.

I kept screaming for my husband to stop because I didn’t care about having a reminder of the wonderful moments we shared in the past. All I could think about was keeping him with me so we could continue to create new moments of wonder in the present and future.

It was the bullet that whizzed past my husband’s left ear that finally got him to stop.  The man with the gun, aimed it at his face and then, with a steady hand and arm outstretched, moved the gun slightly to the right and fired.

What followed in the wake of encountering this dark side of humanity was a surprising demonstration of love, caring and concern from the most unlikely places.

As we ran for the safety of the restaurant, screaming for help at the top of our lungs, we were met by a tall French man who told us that he caught the entire robbery on video.  He had been filming his friends kite surfing when he heard our screams.  When he saw what was happening, he immediately started filming our assailants in the act and continued filming them as they escaped into the bush with our knapsack.

Among the mixture of locals and tourists at the restaurant was a young man who took it upon himself to escort us back to the mainland and act as translator in our initial interactions with the police.  This young, brown faced man in a green t-shirt, was somehow able to communicate with me in spite of the fact that I do not speak a word of Portuguese and he could not possibly have any familiarity with the Spanglish that was coming out of my mouth.  To this day, our mutual understanding remains a mystery.  And quite honestly, his calming presence and willingness to stay with us earned him guardian angel status in my eyes.

He accompanied us on the ferry back to the mainland, and woke up the village police who were literally sleeping at the time.  As the village police got dressed (and I know this because they were putting on their long pants, socks and shoes in front of us), the roar of a speeding vehicle and the loud screech of tires rudely disturbs the lazy pace of the scene in front of us.  The military police have arrived.

With the vehicle barely stopped, four large, muscular men in full fatigues, carrying big machine guns jump out of the vehicle and come running towards us.  And I find my heart in my throat once again for the second time that afternoon.

They are intense, and are clearly not impressed with the village police who are taking far too long to respond to this situation.  They drive their truck onto the ferry and my husband, the guardian angel, and I head back to the scene of the crime.

Once we arrive on the shore, the military police get back in their jeep and are motioning for our angel to go with them.  He backs away refusing to join them, to which they respond with a mixture of frustration and disbelief.  My sense was that he did not want to witness anything he would want to forget.  Sure enough, we later learned that when the military police are involved, their approach is to shoot first and ask questions later. Not wanting to waste any more time, they sped off into the bush on the hunt for the criminals who stole our knapsack.

In the hours and days that followed this dramatic event, the people in this little community continued to astound us with their generosity and demonstrations of care.  The developer of the time share community where we were staying was one notable person whose efforts to take care of us went above and beyond anything we could have expected.

He anticipated that we would not feel safe going home that night while they were in process of changing the locks.  So he offered us a room in his hotel down the road and fed us at his expense.  But more than that, he sat with me and listened as I told my story and allowed me to cry.

He was also there for us as a driver, and translator as we went into town to file an official police report and in all further dealings with police and the investigators assigned to the case.

That night after he dropped us at the hotel, my husband and I talked for hours in spite of our exhaustion.  We shared every thought, every feeling we experienced throughout the ordeal.  As a psychologist, I knew it would be important to not hold anything back.  The time to process this was now, not later, so that we could move on without having to relive it repeatedly in our minds in the future.  I was determined that we would not leave this place as victims of trauma, and this was not going to take away from the amazing experiences we had up until that point, or those that we were yet to experience in the days ahead.

One of the questions we contemplated was whether we should leave or continue with our vacation as planned.  As we reflected on everything that happened, we could not help but be moved by the kindness of strangers and the support this community had given to us.  In spite of having an encounter with the dark side of humanity, we made the choice to focus on the love that we received and decided to stay.

Believe it or not, the authorities actually took this case seriously.  In fact, the chief of police for the biggest city in the region got involved and openly expressed his determination to find the men who did this.

Why would they care so much about a stolen knapsack belonging to a couple of Canadian tourists?  Because the knapsack was not just a knapsack; its theft at gun point from tourists who would undoubtedly tell the story when they returned home, represented a threat to the entire community.

This little place where nothing happens had built its reputation on being a safe heaven, an oasis, in a country too often plagued by chaos.  So yes, they had a vested interest in keeping the peace.  As they should, because the benefits to them went beyond the monetary.  They were fiercely protective of their way of life.  They were passionate about their community.   They were courageous enough to care.

Caring and acting on that care was clearly demonstrated by people from all walks of life.  From the store owner across the street from where our rental car was parked who organized to keep watch over the vehicle throughout the day and night, to the chief of police of the small community who was moved to tears as he held our hands and expressed how sorry he was for what we had been through.

In the end, they caught the three men.  Between the video, the community banding together, and the police, they caught the men who did this and our camera was returned.

The people in this community became our heroes and defenders and it was their actions of compassion that ultimately healed our hearts.

It was a little place where nothing much happens.  And they knew what it would take to keep it that way.  They lived with compassion.  They cared but were not passive in their caring.  They embodied the true meaning of that word:  with feeling, with care, with passion, together.  This is what it takes to build and nurture a strong community.

As I write this in the midst of the summer of 2016, it feels like the world is crumbling all around us.  The politics of division fuelled by fear are inescapable as is the news of yet another mass shooting, or attack on citizens by those given the authority to serve and protect.

After Orlando, Philando Castille and Alton Sterling, I wake on the morning of July 8, 2016 to hear about the shooting and killing of several police officers guarding a peaceful anti-violence protest in Dallas; the act is assumed to be in retaliation for the killing of black men at the hands of police.   I read in a state of near disbelief, and I lose it.  The tears start streaming down my face.  No amount of deep breathing or meditation is going to be a salve for the ache in my heart.  And as I cry, I realize that this is what I need to feel.

I cry not only for the victims and their families but also because it feels as if we, who are committed to having a positive impact on the world, are losing the battle.

And then, I come back to thinking about that little fishing village in Brazil and their compassion and courage to act boldly and decisively to protect, and nurture their community.  And my sense of hope returns because I can see the answer through their example. The only way to counter the chaos and the temptation to retreat into passivity is to fight even harder to build a strong sense of place, to make meaningful connections and to contribute.  To care like your entire life depends on it.  Because it does.


Fear Not The Dark Side. Understanding it is the Quickest Route Back to the Light.

Renovations are hell.  Anyone who has undergone a renovation knows this.  I should know this.  I have lived through enough of them in my personal life to expect broken promises, and things to not happen as planned.  But somehow, as with other challenges we welcome into our lives, we often go into them focused on all of the shiny and happy they will bring in the end and seem to forget about the discomfort and turmoil that happens on the road to getting there.

Let me just say close to the outset of this post that I am keenly aware of how lucky I am to have such problems.  To be able to have an office to renovate is such a privilege and a blessing that to complain about things not happening as planned seems pretty ridiculous.  And yet, as much as I managed to keep calm and carry on through weeks of delays, poor communication, and lack of follow through, even after I let go of timelines, plans for a big grand opening, and surrendered to the fact that much of this important project was out of my hands, I managed to reach a breaking point.

Here is a little video of me in the office at 7 am, on the day that this project was supposed to be completed (which was one of many “final” delivery dates that did not come to fruition). This is the calm before the storm.

 

While the renovations were happening, I set up shop in one of the boardrooms in the building.  That day when I came back to the unit to pack up, I was delighted to discover that the appliances from my unit had finally been removed and were delivered to my house.  I was chatting with my contractor, so happy to express my appreciation for some work being done after a week of nothing and was feeling hopeful as we discussed next steps via bluetooth on my way home.  When I arrived, I hung up, and was greeted with this:

I immediately texted him with a picture of the scene and asked for him to contact his crew to come back to put the appliances inside the garage.  His texted response was to tell me that his team were not returning and that he had explained this to my husband.  That’s when I lost it.

 

I could not believe that these men could not make the effort to climb the stairs, ring the doorbell, to give the adult at home the opportunity to open the garage so that they could deliver the appliances properly.  They clearly did not care.  They did not care about me.  They do not care about this project.  How could I have people who do not care be involved in creating a space that is all about taking great care of people?   And why is he talking to my husband and not to me?  We had discussed this so many times.  My husband had told him this over and over again and yet he continued to discuss plans with him and not me.  I was just on the phone with him!  No matter how I looked at it, all that I could see was evidence of disrespect and a lack of care and I was mad.  So mad.  A line had been crossed.

That evening was tough.  I went for a walk by myself to blow off some steam, which was probably visibly coming out of my ears looney tunes style to anyone who was in my vicinity.  It helped a little, but not enough.

I did not get much sleep that night as the frustration and anger and the uncertainty of not knowing how to proceed swam around and around in my head.  It felt awful.  Something needed to change.  This was not me.

In my 2 am delirium I had this vision of going to my office with a big piece of paper (the kind you used to paint on with those messy easels in grade school) to write out a mission statement of sorts with a black sharpie.  It went something like this:

This space is a place of healing and transformation

This is a safe space.

A place where all who enter can expect to be accepted, nurtured and cared for

in order to access and empower the divine within.

Every being who enters, no matter their role, is invited to take a moment to centre themselves in the purpose and focus of this space

So as to do their best work, with their highest level of skill, ability and care

In service of the divine within themselves, which ultimately functions to serve others.  

With deepest gratitude and respect for your service 

Your willingness to show up fully in all that you do

and share your divine light with us

Dr. Stacy

My focus in writing this message was on the men hired to bring my vision to life.  It was a desperate plea.  An attempt to try to regain a sense of control of this thing that was not going as planned with a team whose actions communicated to me a lack of caring for something that I believed required the utmost care.  It felt like everything was misaligned.  This was my way of righting that.

And while the image of me writing this in big black letters and posting it on the wall was all about them, in the end it was really about me.  I was the one who was misaligned.  That message was for me.  I was the one who needed to return to being a place of healing and transformation.

As soon as I crafted that statement in my head, something shifted for me internally.  The anger, that I chose to accept and allowed myself to feel, started to dissipate.  So much so, that two days later, when I came back to the space on a Sunday morning it felt like the anger, that at one point was overwhelming, was completely gone.

As I entered the unit with my friends to give them a tour, I was surprised to find my contractor and crew working away. To my surprise, and his, I immediately walked over after greeting him and, believe it or not, I actually gave him a big hug.  I was able to express my genuine gratitude for him being there.  I also grabbed him by the shoulders as I pulled back and told him to look into my eyes.  As I pointed to my own eyes while I stared into his, I asked him to do a simple thing.  To see me.  I told him that I needed him to see me.  I reminded him that my eyes existed before my husband existed.  I exist.  I needed him to see me.  And seeing me meant that he needed to speak to me. No matter what, he always needs to speak to me.

He laughed and said he understood.  We hugged it out again, and we both parted with smiles.

As I left I realized that just like the way my subconscious brought me back into alignment with the divine light within me, my anger was all about me too.  I had projected my own values, and assumptions onto the renovation crew.  I made the assumption that they could not be bothered, that they made a choice without regard or respect for how overwhelming it would seem to have to figure out moving appliances a few feet when for them it was so easy.  The fact is, they were likely not conscious at all.  Who knows what they were thinking? Their thoughts were somewhere else.  And yes, thinking things through is a reasonable expectation to have of anyone we hire to do work for us.  But the extent of my anger was about something else.  I was the one who added the layers and made it into something much bigger than it likely was or needed to be.  I was the one who has had too many experiences where I was overlooked, my opinion, undervalued, my voice unheard that predated the experience with this contractor.  In the end, it was all about me.

Now I know some of you are wondering whether my internal shift resulted in a better outcome.  The answer is, yes and no. The office is useable and I am delighted every day that I get to be in it.  People tell me that they feel at home and some of the groups I have hosted hang out because they don’t want to leave.  It means the world to me that people feel comfortable here.  In this respect, my goal has been realized.

However, it remains a work in progress.  I am still missing my internal doors, the lighting is not quite right and there are some other finishing touches that need to be completed.  But whether with the original crew, or someone else, it will all get done.  And more importantly, I am not stressed or distracted by it.  I am focused and relaxed and my energy is where it needs to be.  And I am confident that I will be able to maintain this mindset, regardless of how long it takes for the vision for my office to be realized.

The point of this story is not so much about the outcome, it’s about the process. It’s always about the process.

I do not regret feeling my anger.  I did regret expressing it to those who were undeserving (e.g., hubby) and apologized for it. But I do not regret allowing myself to feel it.  It pushed me to explore why I felt so strongly, which ultimately led me to understanding and affirming my values, my purpose and even my existence.  The solution that arose was fantastical and weird and perfect in its own way.  It allowed me to come back to me.  And I am happy to say that I have been even more conscious about choosing how I want to feel and what I want to experience each day, especially those days that have the potential to be hard for whatever reason.

Designing Your Life is all about assuming responsibility for your inner world.  It is the only way to have true control and to live the kind of life you want to live.

So as we enter a new year, I ask you, are you willing to face your “dark side” with compassion, and acceptance with a focus on understanding the source of your distress?  If not, consider that it might just be the most efficient and effective way of reconnecting with your light.


Spotlight on Fellow “Emotional Wellness Warrior”, Allison McDonald Ace

“Emotional Wellness Warriors”.  This is how Allison referred to she and I in one of our early emails soon after we met. It is a moniker that is entirely fitting for  us and others in the wellness space who are dedicated to bringing together all of the training, skills, and innovation at their disposal in an effort to affect meaningful change from the inside out.

The universe brought Allison and I together at a time when I was asking it to guide me to figure out how I might be able to have a greater impact.  It was on that very morning, when I was wakened by the answer, that I came across a piece of Allison’s writing that moved me so much, I felt compelled to not only comment, but to also track her down. My curiosity led me to her website where I discovered that the idea about how I could help more people, was in complete alignment with Allison’s expertise.

My idea was to develop a guided journal to help people grow consciously in the midst of life’s challenges.  It so happens that Allison, who is a writer,  is also trained in teaching expressive writing (a.k.a,  journaling) as a practice to facilitate healing.

By the end of our first in-person meeting, I was committed to providing a forum for Allison to reach as many people as possible.  While I was impressed with her inherent wisdom and training, I was more impressed with her genuine desire to make this essential skill accessible.  Backed by good science, expressive writing is a practice we could all be using to improve our mental and physical health. And the best part is that it is portable, does not require an appointment to access, and is basically free.

Allison is a pretty cool woman with this easy, self-effacing sense of humour that immediately puts everyone at ease.  It was ‘her vibe’ and dedication that caused me to immediately form a connection with her and decide that I wanted to support her ability to do her purpose in whatever way that I could.

And so I am deeply honoured and delighted that she agreed to run Healing Through Writing Workshops through my practice.  Our pilot workshop in November was unbelievably well received.  Those who attended, were blown away with how much they had in common with people they otherwise would have never met.  Being able to have this experience, live and in person, rather than in the virtual space is another aspect of this workshop that makes it special and more likely to have a lasting impact.

Allison setting the table for November’s workshop

Diversity captured around the table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what are you waiting for? Sign up here today and make 2018 the year you learn how to harness the power of your authentic voice and Design Your Life.

And if you are interested or even just intrigued, do not delay.  The word of mouth in response to the first class was so great that the next date filled up before I was able to post and promote it here on the blog.   In fact, given the demand, we have added another class in January. And we will continue to add classes as needed at your request.   It is our contribution to making the world a better place.

We both look forward to meeting you at a workshop soon.

The Emotional Wellness Warriors

Dr. Stacy & Allison

 


Dr. Stacy’s Design Your Life Clinic, opening soon at suite 209, 321 Carlaw Ave

I am moving again.  Don’t worry…nothing is wrong.  It’s all good.  So good actually.  This is not a moving away, but a moving towards something even better.  After spending two years renting from established places with spaces that are great in their own right, I am now preparing to move into a space of my very own and I can hardly wait.

Like much of my journey as an entrepreneur thus far, I have been learning as I go.   Before I had a physical space to work out of, I built a virtual space on line with my website, a place where I defined my mission for myself and others and created a space to connect.  I had no idea where I was going to actually see clients, but I was confident that I would figure it out.

I literally stumbled on my first location at Magenta Health Family Medicine Clinic as a result of following my attraction to the building.  The facade drew me in and as I stepped in, I not only liked what I saw, but how I felt in the space.   It was clean, bright, modern and embraced technology in a way that was functional and easy from a user perspective.  It was clear, thoughtful, and…cool.

That first impression compelled me to learn more.  It was while exploring the Magenta Health website that I learned that they rent out their space to other health professionals.  Hmmmm… I contacted them, and two of the owners of the company invited me to come in to meet face-to-face.  We immediately clicked.

Interestingly, just as I had connected with the design of their space, they connected with the feel and look of my website.  And when we met in person, it became clear that our connection went beyond the mutual convenience of me becoming their tenant.  Our connection reflected shared values and a way of doing things that broke with convention and embraced the importance of connection not only for those who would receive their services but for those who were there to provide them as well.

This is what made the clinic feel like home, a place where I would actually enjoy working.  As a result, I felt naturally inclined to take care of it and the people who worked there.  My focus early on was on seeing how I could be of service to the doctors.  So I introduced myself with yummy treats (of course) along with information I have shared with other doctors in education settings that could be of use to them in their practice.  They gave to me by referring their patients.  I credit the doctors at Magenta Health for playing a large part in helping my practice get off the ground and grow to the point where maintaining its own property is not only economically feasible, but a more economically sound option for it to continue to thrive.

The Chi Junky Yoga and Wellness Studio, where I spent my afternoons and Fridays was another home for my business that seemed to magically appear at the time I needed it.  You can read about how this came about in my previous blog post.  The level of zen you experience when you walk in the doors is off the charts.  It is beautiful.  A true gem in the city. And the feeling you have when you walk in has as much to do with the design as it does with the owner and the level of attention given to ensuring anyone entering the space is immediately able to leave the outside world behind the heavy metal doors upon entry.

I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to work in such a beautiful space with other gifted practitioners.  And as I begin the process of designing a space of my own, I will take with me all of the qualities that I appreciated about my former homes.

The Design Your Life centre, will be modern and clean, but also warm and welcoming.  It will be a place that will always invite each person to find that inner calm. It will be quiet.  It will be private.  A place where mental health is approached holistically, with the understanding that not everyone resonates with the same thing.  Sometimes we need to talk.  Sometimes we need to write.  Sometimes we need to move.  Sometimes we need to feel a vibrational tone that opens us up to a new understanding.  It will be a place where there will be different levels of service, with a focus on making the information and experience accessible to as many people as possible.  There will be more workshops and groups, movie nights, and curated discussions.

This is the future of my practice.  This is the future of mental health.  And I am completely confident it will happen…because it’s needed.

This new space will allow for all of these possibilities and more, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

For those design enthusiasts who are interested in building and design, I invite you to follow me on instagram (@drstacytoronto) and Facebook where I will post pictures of the process as it unfolds.

And I will be sure to let you all know about the grand opening.  It will be a party that you will not want to miss.

Dr. Stacy

 

 


Growing Forward on the Path to Parenthood: A women’s group for building resilience while trying to conceive

The need for resilience in order to navigate the ups and downs of the infertility journey is an understatement.  This year, my work in the area of infertility had me engaging in thought provoking conversations with some very inspiring women.  Jennifer Vanier  is one of them.

I was e-introduced to Jennifer, after she put out the call for a psychologist to contribute to a retreat she was organizing for women who have experienced infertility and/or pregnancy loss.  It was Jennifer’s compelling story that made participating and supporting her event a no-brainer for me.  As you can read on her website, Jennifer and her partner know too well the grief and turmoil that come with pregnancy loss.  She also knows what it is like to be dealing with such life changing events with few to no professional resources to assist her and her partner in their small community outside of Peterborough.  Rather than accepting the status quo, Jennifer decided to do something about it, and has been working to bring infertility services to her community.  The retreat was just one of the things that Jennifer started in order to do just that.

Nikki Bergen is another woman who some of you might know as a result of her work in the Toronto wellness and fitness community as well as her decision to share her story regarding the challenges she and her partner face as they too turn to infertility treatments to try to conceive.  Nikki was kind enough to grant me an interview soon after she “came out” on social media, and I am telling you, she drops some serious wisdom in both parts, particularly in Part 2.

When we did the shoot, I wanted to make sure that Nikki was clear that the only way we would do this is if the process was good for her.  Well, I am happy to say, that in the months that have followed since this interview, Nikki has watched it in order to help herself benefit from the wisdom that came through in her own voice.  Click here to see what I am talking about.

Both of these women exemplify what it means to Grow Forward in the face of life challenges.  There was nothing they did to deserve the challenge that life gave them.  And this challenge did not happen in order to teach them the lessons they have learned and continue to learn.  Life dealt them what it dealt, and at some point they made a decision to engage with the process, and to make use of the experience to serve themselves AND others.  As a result, they have evolved into an even better version of themselves.

These women,  the others I had the pleasure to meet at the retreat, the clients I have seen one on one, and others I have met personally have inspired me to do more.  And so, starting this fall I have put together a very special group, to support women on this journey so they too can benefit from the growth that this life challenge has for them.  And I am bringing a kick ass lineup of some serious women’s health warriors with me who are just as passionate as I am.

The group is called Growing Forward on the Path to Parenthood. Click here to learn more. If this is not your particular struggle, I encourage you to share the information about this group with anyone you believe will benefit.

This group for women challenged to conceive is just the beginning.  For those of you who have learned about the group and have told me that you wish you could participate in a similar group to help you deal with the challenges of rebuilding your life after divorce, or are struggling to find the balance as a busy career woman, or are dealing with the challenges of another serious illness like cancer, or the loss of a loved one, I want you to know that I am thinking about you too.

My vision is to make Growing Forward a community..dare I say a movement.  My vision is to create a place, on line and in person, where people who are similarly focused on Growing Forward through whatever life might bring, can come together to learn and share tools that work.  A place with good information as well as inspiration, so that you, we, can support each other to Grow Forward through anything.

If this sounds like something that you believe would be of value to yourself or others you know, please reach out and tell me the issues you would like to see as a focus of this offering.

I am here to listen and ready to serve.

Dr. Stacy


YEARNING

The spot, my spot, my refuge in the city.
The place I have gone on the same day, at the same time for the past year
Is now fenced off due to “Hazardous Conditions”.

The waters have risen so high that it has almost become completely submerged
The landing becoming visible only briefly as the waves recede.

On other days it was an island with rocks spaced in a way that tempted me to try to
take a leap to try to traverse the gap.
I laugh at how my mind tries to find ways to go back
In spite of the natural and man made barriers that prevent my return.

I need to find a new place.

So I start my search.
I choose a day other than the one when I typically do this run to begin my exploration. When doing an exercise to be present, I don’t want to feel like I am floundering to find my place.

The first option seemed like a good idea; another look out point among the trees. Until four legged friends and the balls they were chasing proved to be too incongruous to the sanctuary I was seeking.

The next week I went a little further to the boat house. A look out point away from the boardwalk that juts out into the lake. It was rocky but there were some flat rocks should I choose to sit. There were even kindred spirits doing yoga on the beach close by and amazing pebbles and polished glass on my mindful walk back to the path that I collected in my back pocket.

It was a great option and yet…

Today I didn’t go there. I had to check on my spot, my place, my refuge in the city. The waters seemed to be receding elsewhere. Maybe it will be OK.

I stopped there today. The barricades were still there. But I know I could have made it onto the landing with just a little skip from the closest rock. I laugh again at how attached I have become.

Today I don’t run to the other good option just a few minutes away. Instead, I find a way to sit cross legged on the large log that found its way to the beach right beside the now hazardous site.

I focus on being present there and its good.

As I run back to where I started, I laugh again at how attached I have become to the spot, my spot, my refuge in the city.

I know that I need to let go of my attachment to allow myself the ability to fully enjoy other options that are magnificent in their own way. But to be honest, part of me doesn’t want to. And so I yearn. And I am comfortable with that. Because that place meant something to me. It was special. And I am not ready to let it go.

This was not my home. I was not born there. I did not have family there. I didn’t find my purpose there. I did not create a lifetime of memories there.

It was just the spot, my spot, my refuge in the city.

As I get ready to go on with my day, my heart has grown a bit bigger, my empathy more profound for all those in this world, who have been displaced by natural or man made barriers, making their spot, their refuge, their home a hazardous place.

I can only imagine. Can you?

Dr. Stacy


DYL Video Series: Part 2 of Coping with Infertility with Nikki Bergen

Here it is: The long awaited Part 2 of my interview with the amazing Nikki Bergen on her process of navigating the challenges of infertility.

In Part 1 Nikki gets real about what this journey has been like for her, what led to her choice to share it with the world, and the benefits she has experienced as a result.

In Part 2, she goes even deeper and shares insights that are relevant to all of us, no matter what challenge life might bring. Watch. Absorb. Learn. Share. Discuss. This is only the beginning of the conversation.

Thank you again to Nikki Bergen for being so generous and open with sharing your experience and wisdom with all of us. My hope is that participating in this conversation, has been as beneficial to you as it will undoubtedly be for others.

Have you been challenged with infertility and/or pregnancy loss?  Would you like to participate in a moderated group designed to help you move through the inevitable feelings of grief and reengage with living fully again?  Please email me.  I would love to hear from you to gauge interest as well as obtain your input as to how this group can be tailored to best suit your needs.

Best,

Dr. Stacy