Pregnancy and Postpartum · Anxiety

Postpartum Anxiety and Feelings of Overwhelm

It may seem that being overwhelmed is just a given. You’re up to your eyeballs in dirty diapers and wet burp clothes. You can’t remember the last time you had more than a few hours of rest. What even is breakfast? You run on a steady stream of coffee and fistfuls of cheerios. When you put this all together, postpartum anxiety (PPA) and feeling overwhelmed seems to be par for the course.

If being overwhelmed or anxious has been your experience for the past few weeks (or months, or years), it is not fair and it’s not okay. It does not have to be like this. Postpartum is not meant to be a painful or miserable time. If you’re struggling with PPA (or similar symptoms), here are some tips to help.

Know the Signs of Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum mental health gets overlooked because so many of its symptoms are normalised. Unfortunately, because having a new baby comes with lots of questions, PPA can get mistaken as “normal” adjustments to parenthood. Someone out there has claimed it is acceptable that you are this tired and irritable and anxious.

Yes, it’s normal to have questions and worries. This is part of being human, and certainly a part of being a new parent. However, it’s not normal to have these worries keep you up at night, cause conflict with your partner, or make you avoid time with the baby. Anxiety is only considered “normal” when it’s within your capacity to address it (a.k.a. your window of tolerance).

Postpartum anxiety is a genuine illness that requires attention and help. Here are the symptoms to look for:

  • Inability to stop worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty with sleep or appetite
  • Difficulty with focus and concentration
  • Inability to rest or relax
  • Feeling on edge
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritability or rage
  • Physical cues: tightness, tension, dizziness, nausea, hot flashes

One quick way for you to check about the severity of your postpartum anxiety is through the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale. This is a screening tool that is used to identify postpartum mental health struggles (including PPA). Specifically, any score above 12 on this depression scale indicates a high probability of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.

Three quick grounding techniques

If you’re struggling with overwhelming anxiety, you likely want these feelings to calm down ASAP. Here are three quick grounding techniques that can help reduce the panic and overwhelm.

1. Butterfly Hug

The Butterfly Hug is a popular technique used in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to quickly settle your body and mind.

Why it’s helpful:

  • Does not require much thinking: This approach does not need you to think through things calmly. You don’t have to “logic” your way out.
  • Helps your brain process in a unique way: EMDR uses bilateral stimulation to activate both your left and right hemisphere while addressing extreme anxieties, traumatic memories, or distressing events
  • Activates your parasympathetic nervous system (the parts of your brain needed for relaxing)
  • Reduces your cortisol level (a.k.a. your stress hormones)
  • You can use this strategy anywhere. It does not require any “equipment”.
The following video shows the steps of the Butterfly Hug:

2. Temperature Change

The temperature change exercise is a great strategy that comes from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. This approach triggers the mammalian dive reflex. This reflex occurs when we are submerged in ice cold water. In order to survive, our body is forced to slow down our heart rate and oxygen is only sent to key organs that are needed. Everything that is considered “non-essential” is overlooked.

Why it’s helpful:

  • Tricks your brain: Your body cannot go into “survival mode” and panic at the same time. Your heart rate is forced to slow down. Your oxygen level drops, thereby making it hard to panic.
  • Provides about 5-20 minutes of calmer thinking. This gives you some time to problem solve or find alternative coping strategies.
  • You don’t have to “think through” it to feel calmer.
The following video shows the steps of the Temperature Change technique

3. Mindful conversation with another person

Using distractions is really helpful to get through a distressing moment. However, if you cannot find a distracting enough activity, your mind tends to wander back to its original anxious thoughts. Participating in mindful conversation with another person face to face is more effective in helping you stay out of the overwhelm. Rather than focusing on the anxious thoughts, you’re turning your attention to the other person, asking and answering questions, and staying present.

Why it’s helpful?

  • When your postpartum anxiety is highly activated, your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system work overtime. Your body turns to survival strategies like fight, flight, freeze/shut down in order to cope. Social engagement, on the other hand, activates our ventral vagal pathway. This pathway tells our brain that we are in a safe and socially connected space.
  • Focusing on topics outside of your postpartum anxiety helps your system recognize that there are still safe options in your world.
  • Gives you the option to engage with someone else outside of your baby.

Working with your anxiety

So now that you’ve coped more effectively in reducing the anxiety, you may be wondering about your next steps. After all, these earlier coping strategies only resolve things for a short time. They’re not actually fixing the issue, and instead, providing brief respite. This is where the hard work of listening to our anxiety comes into effect. In order for you to gain more clarity, you will need to work with your postpartum anxiety.

Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) explains that there is always a positive intention to our worries (even though it rarely feels “positive”). It’s challenging to slow our body and mind down enough to hear what your postpartum anxiety has to say. But, we can break down the steps to better support our mental health.

Step One: Find where your anxiety is in your body.

Daniel Siegel coined the term “name it to tame it”. Basically, when you are able to find the feeling in your body and label it, you can get a bit of space from that feeling. Rather than “being” the emotion, you can observe it. So, call out what and where you are feeling things: “I am feeling scared… There is a ball of anxiety in my chest… my shoulders are feeling tense and stressed.”

Step Two: Stay curious

In this step, you will use a bit of mindfulness to approach your emotions. Now that you’ve noticed the emotion, keep your awareness on this feeling. Be aware of the thoughts, sensations, memories, and whatever else comes to mind as you focus on this feeling.

This step involves staying curious about your anxiety is telling you without judging it, trying to get rid of it, or needing it to change. Your anxiety will start to share more as you stay open to it.

As a word of caution, your anxiety may not share the nicest feedback. It may share beliefs such as: “Get me away from this baby! I can’t do this! What was I thinking? I need this to stop!” Stay aware of these thoughts so long as you are within your window of tolerance.

Step Three: Understand what your anxiety is trying to protect

IFS recognizes that our anxious parts are trying to help out in some way or form. Because they tend to communicate in harsh and overwhelming ways, it’s often difficult to understand what our anxieties are trying to achieve.

As you complete step one and two, you will start to identify what your anxiety is telling you. Then, ask yourself, what would happen if these anxious thoughts stopped? What is your anxiety trying to prevent? For example, if your anxiety is often saying, “Get me away from this baby”, what would happen if this warning was no longer present? You might presume that you’d be calmer. While that’s true, what else would happen? Would you suddenly be considered calm enough that others encourage you to parent independently? Would you spend more time with your newborn and make a mistake? What if your baby keeps screaming and you’re reminded that you’re not cut out for this whole parenting thing?

Sometimes your anxiety gets triggered, and it forces you to escape the circumstances. Your brain says, “This is too much, I can’t cope,” and you turn towards avoidance, drinking, zoning out in front of your phone or some other strategy. I’m not saying that these are effective ways to manage things. In all likelihood, this form of “self-soothing” will create new problems. But, as far as your anxiety is concerned, it is satisfied that it has reduced your distress and gotten you away from the “danger” (e.g. time alone with baby).

Step Four: Befriending

Have you seen “Beauty and the Beast”? The Beast is known for being a lousy character. He’s rude, ill-tempered, and scary. But, we see that meeting the Beast with compassion (mixed with assertive boundaries) helps him shift out into a kinder character. (For those who are cringing reading this example, humour me. It’s an analogy. I’m not trying to condone Stockholm syndrome).

In many ways, your anxiety is like the Beast. It’s loud, frightening and has awful manners. However, what happens when you approach your anxiety with compassion or confidence? Have you ever shown any desire to get to know this part of you? What happens when you acknowledge what your anxiety is actually trying to do? Imagine what it would be like to approach your anxiety by saying: “I get it… I get that you’re really scared of me making a mistake… I know this feels like the only way you can help me.” How would it respond to you?

Becoming kinder to yourself

IFS brings in a different level of self-compassion. We are not only meeting our inner system with kindness, but we’re also identifying what our anxious parts are attempting to achieve. When we treat ourselves in this manner, our anxieties will soften. These steps don’t cure postpartum anxiety. We have to address the actual issue, whether it’s the fear of making mistakes, feeling insecure about parenting, or addressing our own childhood traumas. But, meeting our anxiety in this way will reduce the overwhelm.

Curious to learn more?

Postpartum anxiety is treatable. If you found the above examples helpful in reducing your overwhelm, please let me know. If you have any questions about the above steps, or want to work with your own unique circumstances, reach out.

Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW
Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW

Kasi Shan Therapy is located in Kitchener, Ontario. She offers in-person and online appointments supporting individuals with struggling with trauma and perinatal mental health.

Trauma

Starting trauma therapy? Tips to support those initial fears

It’s normal to feel a bit nervous when you’re connecting with a new therapist especially when you’re starting trauma therapy. This is the person you intend to tell your vulnerable history, and pray that they know what to do with all that information. The idea of opening up to share your lowest times can be an aversive factor in starting the work. I hope the following tips will provide you comfort and guidance as you consider starting trauma therapy.

Acknowledge the hesitation

starting trauma therapy. nervous. anxiety

There are parts of you that are cautious of opening up. Why wouldn’t they be? If you are nervous, there is a reason for this caution. So take a moment and pay attention to the thoughts and feelings showing up right now. What are those cautious parts of you needing in order to feel safe? Here are some questions to consider:

  • Is your anxiety asking you to go slowly?
  • Are these cautious parts of you concerned about becoming overwhelmed?
  • Are these parts worried how your therapist will react once you share your experiences? Have you been shamed by others in the past about this experience?
  • Does your system need time to feel safe and build a relationship before it feels willing to open the door to the past?
  • Are your anxieties worried about what they will find out if you start this process?

Everyone has reasons for hesitating, and it’s important to make space and create safety for those fears. When it comes to trauma therapy, sometimes going slow IS moving fast. Parts of you may be frustrated that you’re working at a glacial speed; however, taking the time to process slowly may be the safest option. There are safe ways to process traumatic memories without reliving or re-experiencing the events. The point of therapy is not to trigger you. Therapy should not make you reenact horrible events that you have already survived. It’s more about dual awareness: your system will slowly learn to talk about these events knowing that you are safe in the present moment.

You get to lead

This may sound obvious, so humor me as I clarify this point. Most folks come into therapy with the goal of “feeling better”. However, there are parts of their life that are an open book to review and many topics that are completely forbidden. This is fine! However, let your therapist know these boundaries. You may have experienced an eating disorder as a child. Perhaps you survived a sexual assault. You may be grieving the loss of a parent. Despite knowing this history, you may not want to open the door to these topics. Your therapist should be respectful of this boundary. At the end of the day, you are the boss in therapy. This is your life, and this is your wellbeing. You get to decide what feels most important to address. There will be times as you start trauma therapy when you realize these old wounds keep coming back. When this happens, your therapist will be honest with you and point out the value in addressing these topics. However, you are ultimately in charge of deciding whether this issue is worth exploring.

Your feedback matters

You can let your therapist know when something is not working. This may feel very unsettling, but protecting your therapist’s feelings provides only short-term relief. It doesn’t actually help you in your recovery. That isn’t fair to you, and your therapist may not be aware that you are going through this internal battle.

You can ask questions, clarify where treatment is going. When it comes to starting trauma therapy, many folks are not clear on how therapy works, or what a session will look like. You are welcome to ask at any point in time about your questions. Whether it’s been a few weeks, or a few years, it’s fine to clarify! Therapy is meant to be a safe space to build a relationship. It should feel safe to ask questions or voice uncertainties.

Therapy takes time

This may seem obvious, but it’s an important factor to consider with starting trauma therapy. You may have seen TV shows where a sassy, brilliant therapist says some profound statement and the client walks away completely changed. This isn’t really the case in real life. Sure, you may learn more about yourself at each session. You may also have a deeper patience and openness to those difficult parts of you. Therapy is about having a better relationship with yourself. Having insight into your internal system is helpful and can absolutely make you look at the world differently. Understanding what all of your “problematic symptoms” are trying to do can help you shift to appreciating these parts of your personality. However, as with every relationship, it takes time. It takes time to build this understanding about yourself. It takes time to start to trust yourself.

Therapy is not forever.

Sure, therapy can sometimes take a few years to work through old wounds and feel regulated. You may continue more for the sake of check ins and maintenance work. But, this does not have to be a permanent arrangement. You are at the lead of deciding when your goals feel complete. The beauty of working in private practice is that clients can reach out when they want to work on something, and can leave when they feel this has been adequately addressed. If you hesitate to start trauma therapy because you fear you will be ongoing, please know that this is not the case. Your therapist is forever working him or herself out of a job. That’s the point of our roles. We support you in creating internal leadership so that your emotions can show up, express themselves, and feel safely supported by you.

Don’t settle

Just because you start with one therapist does not mean you are stuck with him/her forever. Research shows that the relationship matters. The quality of the relationship you have with your therapist is a solid predictor of how treatment outcome (irrespective of the type of therapy that is offered). What does this mean for those who are hesitant to start therapy? Ask yourself if you feel truly comfortable with the therapist. Is your clinician hearing you and understanding your needs? Do you feel judged? While you may not enjoy vulnerability, does it feel safe to be vulnerable in front of your therapist? Is there compassion? Your therapist should have a positive regard for you. If not, this isn’t the right fit.

Reach out

 If you have any questions about the above details, reach out for a free consult. Starting trauma therapy could finally provide that relief you’ve been searching for.

Take care,

Kasi

Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW
Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW

Kasi Shan Therapy is located in Kitchener, Ontario. She offers in-person and online appointments supporting individuals with struggling with trauma and perinatal mental health.

Trauma

Considering trauma therapy? How to tell if EMDR is right for you

If you have been searching for trauma therapy, chances are that you have come across the term “EMDR”. While there are many types of therapy that can address trauma, EMDR has become well known in the counselling world as being an excellent and fast option for processing difficult life events. But how do you know if EMDR is right for you? I hope this post will provide you more clarity and answers.

What is EMDR?

What is EMDR and how do I know if EMDR is right for me?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Many clients come to counselling expecting a traditional talk therapy session. They may expect to share lots of details about their lives, and have the therapist ask stereotypical questions like, “How does that make you feel?” EMDR is not at all like this.

EMDR involves the use of bilateral stimulation (BLS) to process traumatic events. BLS is a fancy way of saying that a therapist will be adding some visual, auditory or tactile prompts during therapy. For example, you may be asked to follow a ball moving across the screen or listen to audio prompts. A shift starts to occur when you combine these sensory inputs while also thinking of a traumatic event. The understanding from EMDR creator, Francine Shapiro, is that this combination activates an adaptive neural network in your brain. What we see is that EMDR clients feel calmer when they think about these disturbing situations. To learn more about what an EMDR session is like, I’d encourage you to read this earlier post or watch the following video:

Why use EMDR?

EMDR has been proven to work quickly in processing disturbing events. This is especially the case for those who have survived a single traumatic event (as opposed to complex trauma where a person has survived years of distressing circumstances). This therapy can be used irrespective of when the trauma occurred, be it yesterday or 50 years ago. EMDR has been effective in meeting the needs of diverse clientele regardless of age, race, gender and other identifiers. Beyond past events, this therapy can also help clients work through fears of a similar trauma happening again in the future.

How to tell when EMDR is working:

For clients who have had success with EMDR, they will notice several indicators to healing:

How do I know when EMDR is working?
  • Clients can speak and think about these traumatic events more calmly
  • Clients notice a change in their thinking pattern. Negative beliefs are transformed into more compassionate and positive perspectives. For example, a client who initially believed “I should have done more” may shift into thinking,”I did the best I could.”
  • Clients notice improvements of PTSD symptoms (e.g. intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, anxieties, hypersensitivity).
  • Clients’ physical pains starts to ease. They can speak about the trauma without feeling tense, clenching their muscles, or experiencing other signs of constriction.

What prevents EMDR from working?

While all of this sounds great, there are some factors that can affect whether EMDR is right for you. As with any therapy, there is no guarantee that one approach will be the miracle cure. While EMDR has a high success rate, the following points should be considered:

1. Readiness:

Before starting EMDR, clients have to be open to addressing a painful part of their lives. While this may sound obvious, I want to emphasize how incredibly hard it is to sit with memories and thoughts that you have worked to avoid. Avoidance is a natural way to manage anxiety. If we find something frightening, we protect ourselves by staying away. As with any form of therapy, readiness involves taking the chance to stop avoiding in order to address these fears. This is much easier said than done.

2. Learning to work within our window of tolerance:

For EMDR to be the right approach for you, your therapist has to ensure that you are prepared. The goal of this therapy is to process disturbing events without overwhelming you. This means being able to think about these events without feeling emotionally hijacked. The point of EMDR is not to relive the trauma, but to recognize you are in a place of safety while thinking of a difficult past experience.

IS EMDR right for me? Trauma counselling online and in Kitchener, ON

If you go beyond your window of tolerance, the work will not feel safe. Your therapist will be monitoring how quickly or slowly to take trauma processing based on your emotional state. There may be pauses in treatment to help calm your system (e.g. deep breathing, relaxation exercises, calming visualizations, distress tolerance skills, etc). You may spend several sessions focusing on these calming skills before beginning BLS. This does not necessarily mean that EMDR cannot be used; however, there may be a delay in starting trauma processing.

3. Complexity:

Complex trauma and complex mental health (e.g. personality disorders, addiction) can take time to heal. Even with a fast approach like EMDR, clients may spend many months or years working through painful memories. You may have to spend a significant amount of time addressing these other mental health needs before starting to work through traumatic events. This does not mean that EMDR therapy is not helping; however, clients must be patient to work through these additional needs.

4. Current life stressors:

Is EMDR right for me? Learn about this form of trauma therapy

Are there current life stressors that are getting in the way? It is hard to focus on a past trauma if you are thinking about current financial struggles, work demands, or a recent arguments with your partner. When life feels unsafe or stressful, you may have a hard time focusing on the past. It is understandable that current needs keep distracting you. In these types of situations, you may need to pause EMDR, and address what changes need to occur today to help life feel more stable.

5. Fear of recovery:

This is a difficult point to make because the majority of people want to get better and the title insinuates that a person is avoiding healing. That is not my intent. There are a lot of changes that will happen in your life because of recovery. This may include embracing new routines after years of living a certain way. It may involve returning to work where there are old triggers and difficulties waiting. Perhaps recovery involves acknowledging that your parents were not kind or well-intentioned people. There is an understandable fear of what recovery might mean for a survivor, and those fears need to be supported and addressed prior to opening old wounds.

Is EMDR still right for me?

Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence. Not only can trauma be healed but with appropriate guidance and support, it can be transformative.

Peter Levine

While the concerns mentioned above may influence your therapy journey, EMDR can still be the right approach for you. It is best to speak with your therapist about these influences in order to problem solve. The solution may be to do EMDR in a slower manner to prevent overwhelm. Alternatively, your therapist may use a combination of other therapy styles (e.g. Internal Family Systems therapy, DBT) to address other mental health needs alongside trauma healing.

Traumatic events happen to every individual, and we cannot prevent it from taking place, unfortunately. While some recover on their own, many of us experience lasting symptoms from traumatic events. If you continue to be plagued by a traumatic event, reach out for support. EMDR may be the therapy you are looking for.

All the best,

Kasi

Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW
Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW

Kasi Shan Therapy is located in Kitchener, Ontario. She offers in-person and online appointments supporting individuals with struggling with trauma and perinatal mental health.

Pregnancy and Postpartum

The pressures of breastfeeding

That first year with a baby is all about feeding, feeding and more feeding. For every parent, there is a time when he or she decides whether to breastfeed, exclusively pump, stick to formula, or use a combination approach. There are a variety of factors that push a parent towards one choice over the other. There is no “right” choice outside of what works best for a caregiver and baby.

pressures of breastfeeding. support for parents who are struggling to breastfeed

Unfortunately, there is a push in our society to breastfeed. We see signs of it right from the day we deliver. There are subtle cues from healthcare staff as they share latching tips before inquiring whether formula is preferred. We are provided pamphlets of breastfeeding support in our care packages before bringing our newborns home. There are posters for breastfeeding help at our midwives’ office.

This blog post is not to push formula feeds. I have no right to claim whether formula is better than breastfeeding, or vice versa. Ultimately, I am true believer that fed is best. As long as your baby is getting the nutrients he or she needs to develop, I consider it a win. Instead, this post is for the parents who are struggling to breastfeed. Whether by choice or by capacity, they are stuck in that internal battle of guilt, frustration and helplessness as they face yet another feed.

The pressures of breastfeeding:

We live in a culture where breastfeeding is encouraged and subtly (or sometimes, not so subtly) pushed as the best option for our baby. New mothers face an onslaught of judgemental messages about breastfeeding, and these comments are made in permanent and absolute terms: “breastfed babies have higher IQs”, “breastfeeding will prevent illness, infections and chronic conditions,” “breast is best,” “you won’t have a good bond if you formula feed,” etc, etc.

struggling with breastfeeding. postpartum support. new mother.

I agree that there are a lot of values to breastfeeding. However, I also work with parents who are driven to the point of exhaustion and anxiety in trying to produce enough supply for their baby. These parents are so angry at their bodies for failing them and not doing enough to support their baby’s growth. If the option of working with a lactation consultant or consuming fenugreek daily is working, then please keep it up! In fact, I encourage you to start here if you truly want to breastfeed. However, if your baby is losing weight, you are feeling stressed out, or are experiencing any number of production difficulties, I want you to take a moment and consider why you are trying to keep up with this expectation.

The “Mommy Wars”

New parents would love to have the ideal postpartum experience. We see images of celebrities looking beach-wear ready a few days after delivery. We see influencers posting feeds of their babes sleeping through the night. There are endless tweets and posts about the “right ways to parent”.

pressures of parenting. super mom. mommy wars.

With all of these messages of ideal parenthood, it makes sense that we are self-conscious about our own parenting. The Times wrote a beautiful article in reference to the Goddess Myth: “Like millions of other American moms, [mothers have] been bombarded by a powerful message: that she is built to build a human, that she will feel all the more empowered for doing so as nature supposedly intended and that the baby’s future depends on it. ” With this constant push for doing things “naturally”, moms carry the stress of parenting a certain way. There is a need to delivery vaginally, breastfeed on command, only feed your body the “right” foods, and of course, look stunning throughout the process. Of course, mothers then bear the burden of immense guilt when they are unable to meet these pressures.

This push to parent in a specific way also comes from mom-shaming experiences. These experiences can include rude comments and glances from others as a new mother orders a second cup of coffee, buys a drink, and of course, pulls out some formula. It’s as if there is a moral obligation that has been violated by not following the rules others deem best for our children. It’s no wonder that new parents are surrounded by a sense of failure and dread as they step into parenting.

Know that you’re not alone

The American Pediatric Society encourages breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby’s life. While 80% of mothers start off with this intention, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention state that only about 58% make it to the six months.

Why is this? Breastfeeding is described as natural and easy; however, any parent who struggles with breastfeeding can vouch that this is not the case. From poor latches, supply issues, mastitis, and other complications, many women start to experience a sense of dread when it comes closer to feeding times. These parents may undergo a period of grief as they cope with the disappointment of needing to put aside their hopes for breastfeeding.

Other parents prefer to not breastfeed. This decision could be based on a variety of reasons: struggles with hormonal shifts while breastfeeding, managing the demands of other children, returning to work, wanting support with nighttime feeds, sexual abuse histories, or simply not wanting to feed in this way. These are not selfish or bad parents. They care deeply for their children while also respecting their own boundaries. At the end of the day, a happy parent is better able to support their baby. If formula feeds provide a calmer structure for the parent, then this is the right decision for this family.

Worries about attachment

Sometimes we push ourselves because we think it’s what’s best for the baby. Sure there are physical benefits to breastmilk, but there are significant benefits to having a grounded and calm parent. If you are overwhelmed everytime you start nursing, that bond is going to feel so much more difficult. You have years to build and nurture the relationship with your child. It does not have to be perfect from day one. Listening to your mental, emotional and physical limits will set you up for success.

For those who feel that nursing creates a better attachment, I encourage you to consider your attachment with your own parents. Are you truly better connected with your mother because she chose to breastfeed versus formula feed? Is your IQ significantly higher than a peer who was formula-fed? Who even asks these questions today of other adults?

You are doing your best for your child

cheerful young multiethnic parents admiring sleeping baby on bed
Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

A hungry baby is a cantankerous baby. A guilty mother is an unhappy mother. Pressures that come from strangers, the internet, and sometimes our own friends and family are perhaps meant with good intentions. However, you are this child’s parent. And if you are feeling stressed and guilty about breastfeeding, you are allowed to stop. You will always be this child’s caregiver, and your bond can be secure irrespective of how you feed this little one. Your baby will grow up and eventually eat food, and this pressure to breastfeed will no longer be the central focus of conversations. So for now, go and enjoy your child. Focus on getting those baby snuggles. Spend time playing, singing, talking, and teaching him or her. And when your little one gets hungry, feed them in whatever way is feasible for you.

All the best,

Kasi

Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW
Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW

Kasi Shan Therapy is located in Kitchener, Ontario. She offers in-person and online appointments supporting individuals with struggling with trauma and perinatal mental health.

Anxiety · Pregnancy and Postpartum

Common anxious thoughts during the postpartum year

Cognitive-behaviour therapy has taught us that there are certain themes to our anxious thoughts. These themes are referred to as “cognitive distortions” or “thought traps” in CBT lingo. Anxious thoughts can happen to any of us, irrespective of whether or not we have a clinically diagnosed mental health issue. More often, they tend to pop into our minds when we feel vulnerable. Unfortunately, during the postpartum year, there are numerous vulnerabilities that new parents face. Examples of these vulnerabilities include lack of sleep, hormonal shifts, adjustment to a new life, changes to routine, and an increased sense of responsibility. The following are a list of common thought traps, and examples of how they may show up for postpartum parents.

Common anxious thought patterns that new parents experience:

Over-generalization

common anxious thoughts during postpartum
Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

When we over-generalization, we are making assumptions based on limited information. This means we come to a conclusion about someone or something from a single piece of evidence. In future circumstances, we overestimate the likelihood that the same set of events will happen again. The following are a few examples of how over-generalization can show up during the postpartum stage:

  • “My baby is not latching right away, I’ll never be able to breastfeed.”
  • “This baby has been fussing for nearly an hour. I am never going to be able to get to sleep.”
  • “My spouse was so tired and cranky when he came from work yesterday. I don’t trust him to take care of the baby on his own in the evening now.”

Catastrophising

woman in black long sleeve shirt lying on gray couch
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

This anxious thought pattern basically means we are magnifying an issue into something awful and disastrous. We may do this by exaggerating the meaning or importance of certain events. Often times when we catastrophise, there is a sense of dread in facing uncertainty. We don’t feel we have the skills or confidence to manage in this situation. Examples of catastrophising during postpartum care include:

  • “My spouse and I argued this morning. We must be heading towards a divorce.”
  • “I got angry with the baby. We are never going to have a good relationship. I’m not cut out to be a parent.”
  • “Sleep training was so hard yesterday. I can’t imagine that it’s going to get better.”
  • “My daughter freaked out at the doctor’s office. The staff must have been pissed that I couldn’t calm her down. I can’t go back there.”

All-or-nothing

anxious thoughts during postpartum
By Itati Tapia from Pexels

All-or-nothing thinking keeps us stuck between two restrictive options. This anxious thought pattern refers to when we things as falling into extreme categories without any middle ground. We are either perfect or a complete failure. Things are either good or bad. Life is either easy or impossibly hard. When we focus on these polarized options, we forgot to notice exceptions to these extreme thoughts. We don’t take into account all of the various and complex factors that may have affected achieving full success. We don’t consider how our self-worth is separate from our achievements.

Personalizing

Personalizing is when we take on the responsibility of a situation or take ownership of other people’s behaviours. This happens quite often with parents who take on the responsibility of their child’s behaviours as if they are fully to blame. It does not allow space for the many external factors that could have also influenced what had taken place.

  • E.g. the baby is teething and unable to fall asleep: “I’m a lousy parent. I can’t help my baby get some rest.”
  • E.g. Your partner received negative feedback from his/her boss. “It’s my fault. I kept my spouse awake by asking for help during the feedings.”
  • “It is my fault that my baby is not walking, talking, or meeting a developmental mile stone at this time. I must be doing something wrong.”

Should Statements/Perfectionism

This anxious thought pattern is really tough during the postpartum period. We are all trying our best as new parents, but the pressure to manage these high standards can be incredibly straining. Perfectionist thoughts involve terms like should, shouldn’t, must, must not, ought to, have to, etc. We use these thoughts as if they are iron clad rules. Unfortunately, there is a lot of frustration and resentment when we cannot meet these high expectations.

  • “I should be able to do the dishes, make supper, tidy up and take care of the baby.”
  • “I have to get to the gym. I can’t be walking around with all of this baby weight still.”
  • “I should be calm and soothing all the time, even when my baby is cranky.”

Do these anxious thoughts sound familiar?

Anxious thoughts can happen to any one. However, there is a higher vulnerability for anxiety during the postpartum year. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing postpartum anxiety, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is a quick self-assessment that reviews signs of depression and anxiety in parents. Postpartum anxiety is treatable. If you are struggling, please reach out.

Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW
Kasi Shan, MSW, RSW

Kasi Shan Therapy is located in Kitchener, Ontario. She offers in-person and online appointments supporting individuals with struggling with trauma and perinatal mental health.

Anxiety

What is Exposure Therapy?

Exposure therapy is a wonderful and challenging form of treatment that can improve phobias and anxieties. This treatment modality works off the assumption that, by slowly and continually facing a fearful situation, we become less scared. Gradual exposure involves creating a formal list of tasks that are completed in order to build confidence in facing our fears. Repeating the exposure task helps us become desensitized to a scary object or event. Exposure therapy is based on cognitive-behaviour therapy wherein clients address their anxiety by challenging negative thought patterns and shifting their behaviours. If you have struggled for years with anxiety, exposure work could be the effective approach that helps meet your needs.

Exposure therapy to treat anxiety

Anxiety and Avoidance

When we experiences anxiety, our natural reaction is to avoid whatever it is that is causing fear. For example, if you’re scared of heights, you may avoid climbing ladders or standing out on a balcony. If you’re scared of roller coasters, you may avoid amusement parks. If you live with social anxiety, you may feel distressed at the idea of speaking to strangers or participating in group work.

When our anxiety gets triggered, it tells us there is some form of imminent threat. The safest option is to get away from that threat. Avoidance is an effective strategy, and it can work for many years. However, if your fears are more common place (e.g. public speaking, taking tests, speaking to strangers), it becomes harder to avoid these fears all together. At some point, facing the actual fear becomes a necessity, and our desire and need to address these fears becomes stronger.

How avoidance makes things more complicated:

When we become anxious, we worry that something bad will take place if we actually face our fears. This belief is so strong and uncomfortable that the idea of confronting our fears is overwhelming. Unfortunately, we can spend years avoiding this fearful object or event because of this feared negative consequence. So, we listen to these problematic beliefs without testing whether it is accurate or likely to occur. We trust this belief without assessing whether we have any evidence to back it up.

Because our anxiety naturally feels better when a scary or distressing threat is taken away, we feel like we have managed this situation. However, the next time we are presented with the same threat, our anxiety comes back. As we get into these habits of avoiding, our anxieties become stronger. We stop trusting that we have the skills or ability to face our fears.

exposure therapy to treat anxiety

If you are struggling with a phobia, take a moment to consider: What would happen if you actually faced this fear? If you take public speaking, for example, the problematic beliefs could be:

  1. others will laugh at me
  2. I will make a mistake
  3. I will stutter and have a hard time being articulate.

Based on these beliefs, you may decide to avoid all forms of public speaking. While this makes sense, the unfortunate consequence is that we never actually test the validity of our belief. How likely is that you’ll make a mistake? If you do make a mistake, then what happens? Will you really be laughed at by your peers? Sometimes, we don’t quite know what would be so bad about these fearful consequences, but the sense of dread is so strong, we don’t want to test it out.

Starting Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a gradual and systemic approach to facing our fears. By slowly placing ourselves in situations that make us fearful, we can start to challenge our fears and our problematic beliefs. We learn to assess whether our feared beliefs are valid. By taking a gradual approach, we can start at a pace that feels uncomfortable, but manageable. For example, if you have a fear of spiders, your exposure task may involve looking at pictures of spiders as a starting point. The task is not pleasant; however, it is much more manageable than actually touching a spider or being in the same room as a spider.

Gradual exposure is incredible in helping build our confidence. The more often we practice an exposure task, the easier it becomes because we learn that these problematic beliefs are either a) not happening, or b) not as bad as we initially believed. With an increased level of confidence, we can then move on to a more challenging exposure task.

Step One: Creating an exposure tasks

The first step to starting exposure therapy is to create a list of exposure tasks. A therapist can support you in creating a list where you consider every anxiety-provoking and avoidance-inducing scenarios related to this single issue. This list can be extensive, and it’s recommended that there are at least 15 exposure tasks to help give enough varied scenarios to build your confidence. For example, your fear of public speaking can include exposure tasks such as:

Exposure Tasks
Providing a long presentation (10 min+)
Providing a short presentation (5 min+)
Introducing myself during ice breakers
Speaking in small groups
Speaking to strangers one on one
Having conversations with authority figures (e.g. boss, teachers)
Maintaining eye contact
Sample Exposure Hierarchy

Step Two: Rating Distress Level

The therapist and the client then review the created list of exposure tasks and assess how uncomfortable, distressing or avoidant-prone the task seems. This is a subjective score, and the distress level depends on how the client perceives a situation. These items are then ranked from highest to lowest level of distress to create an exposure hierarchy.

Exposure TasksHow distress is it?
Providing a long presentation (10 min+)100%
Providing a short presentation (5 min+)90%
Introducing myself during ice breakers80%
Speaking in small groups80%
Speaking to strangers one on one75%
Having conversations with authority figures (e.g. boss, teachers)60%
Maintaining eye contact40%
Sample Exposure Hierarchy with Distress Ratings (0= neutral. 100= highest level of distress)

If you are looking for some examples of exposure hierarchies, here are some great examples from Anxiety Canada.

Step Three: Gradual Exposure

This is the hardest step of exposure therapy. Now that we have created a list of exposure tasks, we want to begin the actual behavioural work. The general principal with exposure therapy is to start with tasks that are mildly distressing (in the 30-50% range). This way, we begin with tasks that are challenging, but not so overwhelming that the individual wants to give up or is overwhelmed.

When you start exposure therapy, it’s best to do an exposure task enough times that the distress level goes down. You can stop the task when you are either at a point of habituation (you’re used to it), or to a point of extinction (the distress rating is at a 0% and the task does not bother you). When either of these factors happen, you can move on to the next task on your exposure hierarchy.

Some considerations to note when doing exposure work:

  • Make sure you are actually focusing on the fearful experience. If your exposure task is to look at pictures of spiders, but you have music on in the background distracting you, this is preventing you from truly doing the work. The point is to practice being in that state of distress without any form of avoidance, so that you can recognize your own skill and ability to handle the situation. This is also part of the reason we start with an easier task when we begin exposure work.
  • Who is with you? Are you able to do the task on your own or do you always have someone nearby? In the beginning, it is okay to practice doing an exposure task with another person. However, it’s important to try a task on your own so that you can gain confidence in your ability to manage the situation.
  • Try and switch the length of time you practice exposure work. In the beginning, it’s okay to start for a small period of time, but as the days go on, see if you can lengthen your amount of time doing the work.

Step Four: Tracking using an Exposure Record

As you do these exposure tasks, it’s important to keep track of your distress level. Does it change over time? If not, it’s important to let your therapist know so that you can problem solve together, such as by creating additional steps to help bridge between a task that is manageable versus an overwhelming task. Keeping track of your distress level is also a great marker that tells you when you are ready to move on your exposure list to a task that is slightly harder. Your end goal is to ultimately face your fear in a variety of environments.

As always, everyone has their own specific and unique needs. If you have any questions about exposure therapy, or are looking for support, please feel free to reach out.

Cheers,

Kasi

Anxiety · Mental Health

COVID-19: Working with the fear of not knowing

One of the biggest struggles with COVID-19 is the uncertainty with this virus. How do we treat it? Will we become infected? How long will we need to maintain physical distance?
Given that there is so much that is unknown right now, it is understandable that many of us are struggling with anxiety. The following are some suggestions that may help support your emotions.

1) Find areas in your life where you have control.

Do you have a routine that you follow? How are you managing to get adequate sleep, exercise, and diet? How are you practicing physical distancing? While there is a lot of uncertainty right now, notice and foster the many areas in your life where you have control.

2) Physical distancing is not the same as social distancing.

For many extroverts, it is extremely difficult to not have access to other people. Practicing physical distancing does not mean emotional isolation. Stay in touch via electronics. Yes, for once in our lives, it is acceptable to encourage screen time!

Are you feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the coronavirus? You are not alone. Read these strategies to calm down your emotions during this pandemic.
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

3) Limit your time reading the news

Stay informed, but do not stay glued to CNN, CTV, BBC, or wherever you get your news stories. Set a limited amount of time to tune in during the day so that you are aware of what is going on. Too much time reading about COVID-19 can leave us overwhelmed.

4) Validate your anxieties

Of course, you are overwhelmed right now. We have not faced COVID-19 before, and we don’t know what to expect. Your anxiety is a natural human emotion that is letting you know it’s worried about something bad happening in in the future. Validation does not cure anxiety. However, notice what happens to your emotions when you recognize the normalcy of feeling scared versus pushing it away or trying to argue with it.

5) Notice how you take care of yourself

Your anxiety will feel calmer once it trust that you will take care of yourself today, as well as in the future. This might involve creating a plan for your finances, your work, your health, your education, and so forth. What are you doing right now to ensure you are staying safe and well? Remind yourself often of these steps to help reinforce to your anxiety that you are doing your very best.

Are you feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the coronavirus? You are not alone. Read these strategies to calm down your emotions during this pandemic.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

6) Create a plan if you were to get sick

This does not mean ruminate for hours, but set aside 10 minutes to plan for this possibility. If you were to start showing symptoms, what would be your first step? Knowing even a few of the steps you will need to take can balance out the fear of uncertainty.

7) Enjoy your space

A patient recently told me “your home is not your prison”, and I really resonated with this statement. You’ve worked so hard to create a beautiful home, and now you’re finally allowed to spend time in it. You may have considered slowing down with the busyness of life. Now, many tasks and errands have been removed from your daily responsibilities. Don’t get me wrong- this is no one’s idea of a vacation. However, there is a sense of release when given permission to spend time at home and enjoy activities at a slower pace.

Are you feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the coronavirus? You are not alone. Read these strategies to calm down your emotions during this pandemic.
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

As always, please feel free to reach out or share this post.

Cheers,
Kasi

Anxiety

Calming the anxieties of our inner perfectionist

I have talked about the “perfectionist” part of me in previous posts. When this part of me gets going, it wants to set high standards and throw all concepts of work/life balance out the window. You may have a similar perfectionist inside of you. This perfectionist may say harsh comments like: Why are you not good enough? Why aren’t you trying harder? How are you making so many mistakes? Are you really taking a break right now? How are you screwing this up? You notice your anxiety continuing to increase with each and every question. It never feels easy to hear these criticisms, and the struggle to calm this part of you can feel like the biggest hurdle.

Calming the anxieties of our inner perfectionist. Kasi Shan Therapy offers counselling support online and in Kitchener, ON

There are a lot of components that go into creating this perfectionist. We all carry wounds and burdens from our past. The ways in which we were raised, our childhood experiences, our moments of distress, and many other factors collaborate to form this perfectionist. Ironically, this perfectionist is acting in ways that it feels are the most effective in getting results. It hopes that by yelling, criticizing, or nagging, you will improve. Despite these well-intentions, the perfectionist’s words are hard to hear, especially when they fly at you frequently and incessantly. There are many ways we can support this part. We can use counselling strategies like EMDR and IFS to learn what happened to create this part of our personalities. We can then provide it the space and tools it needs in order to feel less anxious. We can focus on exposure work to help this part of you learn that making mistakes is not the be-all and end-all that it fears. We can gently challenge some of its beliefs to change thought patterns. We can work on mindfulness to recognize when this part gets triggered, and support it much sooner.

Calming the anxieties of our inner perfectionist. Kasi Shan Therapy offers counselling support online and in Kitchener, ON

I want you to have support right now if your perfectionist parts are feeling anxious. Dr. Christopher Germer is an incredible practitioner who helped develop mindful self-compassion. I encourage you to take a few minutes for yourself and practice this exercise, and I hope that it resonates with you.


At the end of your counselling experience, I hold many hopes for your inner-perfectionists. I hope this perfectionist learns that it’s okay to screw up and to have regrets. Making mistakes is part of being human. I hope this part knows that there is a future beyond this moment and this mistake. I hope this part of you recognizes that this is a moment of suffering; there is a beginning, and there will be an end (even though, sometimes it feels like it lasts forever). I hope it realizes that this moment can be just that: one moment in a lifetime of many moments. I hope that it is able to look around and see that there is more to you than being perfect. I hope it notices the humor, the personality, the kindness, the patience, the efforts, and all the other factors that make you a well-rounded person. I hope it recognizes that these other factors do not go away because you have made a mistake. I hope this perfectionist inside learns to accept that you are not perfect, nor do you have to be perfect, or prove to others that you are perfect.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out.

Kasi

Anxiety · Mental Health

5 Tips to handle stress

Many times in life we come across a problem that we cannot fix right away. During these times, therapists encourage a fancy term called “distress tolerance”. But what exactly does this term mean? Distress tolerance is all about handling a stressful moment without making matters worse.

Let’s say you’re expecting to have a difficult conversation with your spouse that evening. It makes sense that you feel at edge most of the day. You may end up drinking, avoiding your family members, being snippy with your colleagues, cancelling work, or any other strategy to cope with the edginess. These behaviours all make sense given that you’re stressed about the upcoming conversation. However, all of these behaviours tend to create further complications. Not only do you have to deal with the difficult conversation with your partner, but you also have to sober up, apologize for the avoidant behaviours, make amends to your relationships with colleagues, and grovel to your boss. All in all, we’ve taken a crappy situation, and made it significantly harder.

5 tips to deal with stress: Reach out to Kasi Shan Therapy for counselling support online & in-person in Kitchener, ON
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Don’t get me wrong, I have also chosen some not-so effective strategies on my worst days. We all make mistakes. The point is not to judge ourselves for these mistakes. Instead, we want to see if there are better ways to help us cope. This is where distress tolerance skills come into play. Using well-known strategies like distractions (i.e. video games, reading, watching TV, exercise) and self-care (i.e. comfort foods, long bath, getting a massage) are perfect at these times. They help you tolerate the waiting period until the end of the day when you can finally address the real issue with your spouse.

People often get frustrated with coping strategies because “they don’t make us feel good”. Fair enough. Distress tolerance isn’t meant to make you feel better (although, if they do put you in a better mood, enjoy it 🙂 ). These coping skills are all about tolerating the pain, not actually fixing the pain. In the above example, your primary concern is getting through a hard conversation with your spouse. Unless this is addressed and resolved, why expect that watching TV, taking a walk, or any other distraction will make you feel better? So how do we practice “distress tolerance skills” effectively? Here are a few key points:

1) Find distractions that actually get you distracted

5 tips to deal with stress: Reach out to Kasi Shan Therapy for counselling support online & in-person in Kitchener, ON
Photo by Matt Hardy on Pexels.com

If you are going to be bored out of your mind reading a textbook, this is not an effective coping strategy! Your mind will naturally return back to whatever is stressing you out. If you’re stuck thinking of effective distractions, I recommend an activity that is active or new so that you have to concentrate on the task at hand. Think about the first time you drove a car on your own. If you were angry that day, consider how difficult it would have been to maintain the intensity of your anger AND concentrate on following all the steps to drive. Your mind doesn’t have the mental capacity to do both at the same time effectively. Instead, you have to mindfully focus on driving so that you don’t crash.

2) Have a bunch of coping strategies to use in a moment of crisis.

Some days we’ll only need to dance along with music in the car to ease our anxieties. Other days, we may have to eat a chocolate bar, go for a bike ride, snuggle up with our pets AND practice some breathing exercises. Neither options are wrong. It just depends on our needs in that moment.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

3) Use the acronym ACCEPTS

This is a great term from dialectical behaviour therapy that is useful for distress tolerance.

A= Activities (Participate in activities that you enjoy, or help you stay effectively distracted)

C= Contribute (Helping others out makes us feel better about ourselves, and it takes us away from our own stress)

5 tips to deal with stress: Reach out to Kasi Shan Therapy for counselling support online & in-person in Kitchener, ON

C= Compare (Think about a time when you struggled more than this present moment. This helps you recognize that you were able to overcome hardships, and puts this current issue into perspective).

E= Emotions (What will create a different emotion than the one you’re feeling? Watching sitcoms makes me laugh. Going for a run makes me feel confident. Giving my son hugs makes me happy. What works for you?)

5 tips to deal with stress: Reach out to Kasi Shan Therapy for counselling support online & in-person in Kitchener, ON

P= Push away thoughts (Definitely not one I recommend long-term. It’s okay to tell yourself that you cannot think about a certain stressor right now. For example, if you’re supposed to be concentrating on your exam, it’s probably not the ideal time to be thinking about a fight you had with your partner the day before. Pushing away thoughts is a helpful method so long as you come back to the thought at a more convenient time).

T= replace Thoughts (Focus on something else. Plan your family vacation. Think about the book you’re reading. How do you think it will end? Basically, focus on anything else except the present issue).

S= Sensations (Find safe physical sensations to use as distractions. i.e. a soothing cup of tea, a cold ice cube, a hot compress).

5 tips to deal with stress: Reach out to Kasi Shan Therapy for counselling support online & in-person in Kitchener, ON
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

4) It’s okay to take a mini-vacation from the stressor if it takes a long time to get things sorted.

5 tips to deal with stress: Reach out to Kasi Shan Therapy for counselling support online & in-person in Kitchener, ON

Whether this is a physical escape or a short mental break (i.e. guided meditation, pushing away thoughts). The stressor is still there when you return from the break, but the rest gives you some time to feel calmer and more at peace

5) Problem solve whenever possible!

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

At the end of the day, nothing will help you feel fully at peace until the stressor is resolved (or you willingly radically accept that the issue will not be fixed). This means hunkering down and brainstorming various solutions. As always, everyone’s situation is unique. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out.

Anxiety

A conversation with my anxiety: Supporting fears about COVID-19

There is an abundance of updates about the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s hard to not let our anxieties overwhelm us. The following are some of my anxious thoughts over the last week, and how I used Internal Family Systems therapy to shift my relationship with these fears.

There is a part of me that feels like a helpless little kid with this pandemic. This kid feels scared and uncertain of what to do. She’s worried about the safety of her family, friends, and loved ones. This kid feels overwhelmed and anxious by the constant updates of interventions, closures, and new cases. She wants to hide inside hoping that bad things cannot penetrate the four walls of her home.

There is another part of me that is angry. This part is frustrated by the flurry of shopping, the crummy communication from political leaders, and the lack of resources available for healthcare staff. She wants to have a temper tantrum and yell at anyone who will listen that all of this sucks. And finally, there is a part that feels like a whirling ball of panic. This part wants to join the masses and just freak out. It wants to buy all the toilet paper.

Using Internal Family Systems therapy to help with anxieties about COVID19. Contact Kasi Shan Therapy for counselling support in kitchener, ON.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

I took some time this weekend to understand why I’ve been feeling like this lately, and I hope these words may resonate with you. It may seem odd to think of anxieties as external parts of a person. However, Internal Family Systems Therapy has taught me how to have a different kind of relationship with my feelings. It has taught me to recognize that I am separate from my emotions. It’s helped me realize that there is a solid and stable person who is always present; however, sometimes anxieties can make it hard to access this person.

When my thoughts and emotions become loud and agitated, I try to pause and listen to them. This is not always simple, because the avoidant part of me comes out saying she doesn’t feel like working with my uncomfortable emotions. It can take time to negotiate with my avoidance to ease up and let me understand what’s going on in my mind. I work on validating my emotions. I can appreciate my anger at this time. I get why I feel frustrated for those trying to manage with a lack of resources and an ever-increasing demand in supply. My heart goes out to all of the hardworking healthcare staff who are being asked to do more and more. I have so much sympathy for those living in the epicentre of this scare. Yet, I ask my anger to step back, as much as it is willing. I ask it to trust in me to handle this situation to the best of my ability. Through my training with IFS, I can understand that my anger is protecting me from feeling helpless. It is much more empowering to feel angry than to say “I don’t know how to make this stop.”

Using Internal Family Systems therapy to help with anxieties about COVID19. Contact Kasi Shan Therapy for counselling support in kitchener, ON.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I can appreciate the need to dive into the mosh-pit of panic (Truthfully, I think this part of me would not have been as anxious if I had avoided Costco). The panic wants me to ensure that my loved ones and I are prepared for whatever is coming next. It notices that others are preparing, and it wants to guarantee that my family is also ready.

I think it is understandable to feel helpless at times. It’s hard to feel in control when we are experiencing a pandemic. It is not easy to take things day by day when we don’t feel secure about the future. It is fair that I want answers and plenty of reassurance that this health scare will dissipate and that my loved ones are going to be okay. I wish I could provide my anxieties that security, but I cannot guarantee this. I do not have a crystal ball that will predict the future, and I do not want to make false promises to myself. Instead, I ask my anxieties to trust in me. I ask it to trust that I have the capacity and strength to handle each new update. I ask it to trust that I have the wherewithal to reach out to my friends and family members and be with them in this time of confusion.

Anxious about COVID-19? Using IFS to soothe our worries. Contact Kasi Shan Therapy for further support.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

During the next few days, if you notice you are feeling anxious, I encourage you to take a quiet moment to reflect.

  • What thoughts and emotions have taken up space in the last few days?
  • What happens when you acknowledge them?
  • What is this emotion or thought trying to do for you? Can you identify the positive intention? Can you appreciate its intent?

As always, please feel free to reach out if you have questions, or share this post with others.
PS: For further information about anxiety and the coronavirus, please visit: Anxiety Canada

Cheers,
Kasi