Tag Archives: #waystowellbeing.ca

Things to do when you feel overwhelmed

group of people

Things I can do When I’m Overwhelmed

By: Angela Englander March 3, 2016

The next time you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed it may be helpful for you if you’ve got a list of things you can do to feel better already prepared. Sometimes people carry their list with them for when they need in, sometimes people will post a list on their fridge or in another place they can easily find it when they need it. Use the space below to make your list, when you start to feel overwhelmed do the first activity, if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, do the next activity. Continue doing the activities till you get to the bottom of the list then start at the top again until your emotions are feeling more manageable. Remember to keep breathing, the feelings will pass. If you can’t think of ideas feel free to check out this list: http://waystowellbeing.ca/pleasant-activities/ .


















By: Christine Hall   February 29, 2016

self compassion by christine


[kuh m-pash-uh n] /kəmˈpæʃ ən/


a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

Synonyms Expand

  1. mercy, tenderness, heart, clemency, sympathy.

“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”
Christopher Germer

Self-compassion is compassion directed inward.  Operationalized self-compassion consists of three main elements:  Self-kindness (vs. self-judgment), a sense of common humanity (vs. isolation), and mindfulness (vs. overidentification).  These components combine and mutually interact to create a self-compassionate frame of mind.

So why would one wish to incorporate self-compassion into their life?  Self-compassion can give you super hero powers!  No, really.  Self-compassion can help you when experiencing personal inadequacies, mistakes and failures, as well as confronting painful life situations that are outside our control.  How great would it be to be able to make YOURSELF feel better during times of pain or suffering?  Pretty great, I say….kinda like having superhero powers!

Let’s explore the 3 elements:

  • SELF-KINDNESS:  Being kind, gentle and understanding with yourself when you are hurting.  We are often SO hard on ourselves.  Try to imagine what you would say to a loved one that was hurting.  Now imagine saying those same kind things to YOURSELF.  Watch your language.  You may be so used to criticizing yourself that you don’t even realize that you are doing it.  If you wouldn’t say the same statements to someone else, you are being self-critical.

Comfort yourself with a kind gesture:  Kind physical gestures have an immediate impact on our bodies, activating the soothing parasympathetic system (like tapping into super powers!).  Examples of physical gestures could be putting your hands over your heart or simply holding your arm.  Any gesture will do.

Memorize a set of compassionate phrases:  Whenever you find yourself saying things like: “I suck”, it helps to have a few phrases at the ready.  Pick statements that resonate with you.  Combining that with a physical gesture – like hands on the heart – is especially (super!) powerful.  Here are some examples of phrases:

This is a moment of suffering.

Suffering is part of life.

May I be kind to myself in this moment?

May I give myself the compassion I need?


  • COMMON HUMANITY: Realizing that you are not alone in your struggles.  When we are hurting, we tend to feel especially alone.  We think we are the only ones to experience loss, make mistakes, feel rejected or fail (I bet this sounds familiar, right??).  But it is these very struggles that are part of our shared experiences as humans.
  • MINDFULNESS: Observing life as it is (especially the messy parts), without being judgmental or suppressing your thoughts or feelings.  You’re probably thinking:  “ick, I don’t WANT to sit in painful feelings!”, but when we do this, we actually amplify these unwanted emotions.  For example:  some people self-harm in an effort to numb to painful emotions.  In the short term, self-harming may feel soothing.  However in the long run, it ends up increasing one’s stress level.  Sitting with our emotions simply means allowing them to happen, resisting the urge to get rid of the pain, and not judging ourselves for having them.


So, how do I that? 

  1. Observe your emotions. Sit with your emotions by noting what you are experiencing without judging yourself.  For example:  “I’m feeling hurt that (fill in the blank)”.  I am feeling like I want to cry – my throat is tightening up.  Now I am noticing that I’m starting to judge myself because I don’t want to cry.

This is uncomfortable, but I am okay; I CAN tolerate this, and I can recognize that this will pass.

  1. Validate your emotions. Validating your emotions, means accepting  Accepting uncomfortable emotions does NOT trigger extra pain.  When you are “angry” at someone, attempt to discover what is underneath that anger for you. Anger is considered an “intense reaction to an unmet need”.  What need of yours is not being met?  Could it be: desiring to feel included, desiring to feel heard, respected?

Oftentimes, we can jump to negative conclusions about others, when in actuality they did not mean to hurt our feelings.  Have you even unintentionally hurt someone else’s feelings?

  1. Focus on the present. It is helpful to focus our attention on the present, instead of “wallowing” in the experience.  We wallow when new fixate on the feeling, judge ourselves, or judge others or the situation which triggered our negative feelings.


“You’ve been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
Louise L. Hay

Christine Hall, Youth & Family Counsellor Community Options Society

  • Adapted from the works of Kristen Neff & Christopher Germer, creators of Mindfulness Self-Compassion

Coping with Negative Self-Talk


Coping with Negative Self-Talk

Anna Bystrova     February 27, 2016

When we talk about self-care, we often think about external stimuli that help us battle everyday stress. Taking a walk, going on vacation, meeting with friends and family, eating healthy food, exercising, learning something new, doing something exciting, going for a massage, and many more come to mind. All these examples are great choices of activities that help us lower our stress level and balance our emotional selves. However, there is one very important aspect that we often forget to address when we embark on a journey of self-care – negative self-talk!

Our brain is a magnificent thought-producing machine. It comes up with new ideas, stores and recalls wonderful images of our experiences, and provides us with millions upon millions of thoughts every day. However, at times, negative thoughts and memories come to the surface, often flooding our consciousness. Have you ever felt like a negative thought could not leave your mind regardless of how hard you tried to forget it or ignore it? It almost feels like the more you try to forget it, the more your brain tries to remember it and focus on it. These could be phrases that you have heard in the past, or some persistent messages from your childhood. These also could be ideas that stem from a recent failure or painful experience. In any case, these thoughts can become very heavy to bear on your shoulders. It is important to recognize that this experience can be overwhelming for anyone. You might even start to believe these negative thoughts because they are so persistent and you feel like you cannot escape them. In that moment, you might succumb to the power of your brain’s memory and accept these negative thoughts as the ultimate truth and reflection of your true self. There is great danger in this, as these thoughts can become so strong that they turn into your everyday mantra, leaving you with no space to breathe.

Recognizing that the negative self-talk spiral can happen to anyone, and you might have experienced it already, it is important to know how to take care of our thoughts and how to cope with negative self-talk.

Here are some examples of trigger thoughts that can start a whole cascade of negative self-talk, increasing your cognitive vulnerability:

__”I am so stupid”

__”I will never be able to do this”

__”There is no point in trying”

__”I’ll never achieve anything”

__”People always hurt me”

__”I am unlovable”

__”I am a failure”

__”It was my fault”

__”I can’t trust anyone”

__”There is something wrong with me”

__”It will never stop”

__”No one cares about me”

__”I don’t deserve to be loved/happy/successful/__________________”

__”I am incompetent”

__”I am going to be alone forever”

__”I am a bad friend/son/daughter/employee/parent/_______________”

__”I can’t make it in life without the help of _______________________”

__”I am broken”

__Your example:____________________________________________”

These thoughts can prove to be a powerful source of your distress. However, it is important to remember that even though it is difficult to ignore them and escape them, it is possible to learn to replace them with some coping thoughts that eventually will change the way you think, literally re-writing and rewiring your brain.

Coping thoughts can help you soothe your emotions and rebalance yourself when you are in distress. They are statements that remind you of some commonly held truths, your strengths, and your successes. If you find yourself in a situation when you begin addressing yourself in a negative way, use a self-encouraging coping thought that counteract the negative thought. You can create your own list of coping thoughts that you find powerful, encouraging, and motivating. Think of a list of negative thoughts above. Indicate those that apply to you and add those that you know you often think about. Then, keeping that list in sight, create a new list of coping thoughts that you think counteract those negative thoughts well. You can always search for more encouraging statements on the internet, ask your friends to come up with some, or look for some encouraging quotes that are easy to remember. If you are religious, you may want to use quote from your religious text that apply to your daily situations and can help you feel encouraged or motivated in a stressful situation.

Here is a list of some positive coping statements to start with:

___ “You don’t need to be perfect! Everyone makes mistakes”

___ “This too shall pass”

___ “My fear/sadness/anxiety won’t kill me. It just does not feel good right now”

___ “These are just my feelings, and eventually they will go away”

___ “It is ok to feel sad/anxious/angry/afraid sometimes”

___ “I can think different thoughts if I want to”

___ “My thoughts don’t control me; I control my thoughts”

___ “I am not in danger right now”

___ “Thoughts are not facts”

___ “It was not my fault. Some situations are out of our control”

___ “My feelings are like a wave that comes and goes”

___ “I have survived other situations like this before, I will survive this one too”

___ “I can ride this out and not let it get to me”

___ “I am strong enough to handle what is happening to me”

___ “This is an opportunity for me to learn how to cope with my fears”

___ “I can take all of the time I need right now to let go and relax”

Remember, it is not useless to continue doing this exercise on a regular basis as it  work on a neuropsychological level. Your brain houses about 100 billion neurons (more for children and adolescents) that interact between each other with the help of synapses. To simplify the process let’s visualize a pathway between point A and point B. When a stressful situation happens, a neuron A fires or activates. You start thinking a negative thought – your neuron B activates. Since they fired in close timing, they connect with a pathway. So, what happens when we react with a negative thought (neuron B) each time the stressful situation happens (neuron A)? We strengthen the pathway that our brain laid out the first time. Think of a grassy meadow. If we want to cross it, and there is no path in sight, we lay out a new path by stumbling through the grass. The next time you want to cross that meadow, will you stumble through the grass again or use the path you’ve already created? Yes, the majority of us will use the old path. So, each time you are near that meadow you end up using that path over and over again, until even grass does not grow there anymore, and you don’t even question which way to go, stepping on that path. It is exactly what happens in your brain. When you use negative self-talk each time you encounter a certain negative situation, the synapses (pathways in your brain) become stronger and more powerful, making it more and more difficult to see any other way each time that happens. Thus, to change how we think, we should not avoid the path, but consciously make a new one. Afterwards, we have to consciously choose that new path until the old path is covered with grass again.

McKay, M., Wood, J. C., & Brantley, J. (2007). The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT Exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation & Distress Tolerance. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

7 Things You Do That Cause Depression and Anxiety

7 things you do that cause depression and anxiety!

By: Angela Englander    February 15, 2015

  1. Watching or reading the news: Seeing devastating and upsetting stories sends your brain messages that the world is a scary and unsafe place.IMG_0598
  2. Focusing on the negative: Focusing on the negative aspects of your life are training your brain to ignore positive events in your life and amplify the negative events. Over time you will have a hard time to appreciate things or feel happy and will just feel stressed and depressed.IMG_0604
  3. Spending all of your time with unhappy people: The brain uses a process called mirroring to help you sync up with the people you are around. You may have noticed you use similar mannerisms and have similar beliefs to those of the people around you. Your emotions are likely also similar.copy cats
  4. Trying to change the past: By refusing to accept things as they are you create an ambivalent tension in your brain. You logically know you can’t change the past yet you continue to rethink what you could have done differently.15312_384072104542_502649542_3932732_4121789_n
  5. Working too hard: By over-extending yourself you are ignoring the messages your body is sending you. Your body may become more and more tired until you can’t ignore it any more.030
  6. Holding grudges: These subtle energy seepers leave you tired and cranky!IMG_0506
  7. Ignoring your emotions: Emotions are the language of our subconscious. If you ignore its communication you won’t be able to make choices in your best interest.


Thanks for reading and have a great day! As always feel free to e-mail me at Angela@waystowellbeing.ca or leave a comment below!

Body Awareness After Trauma

body awareness

Trauma in the Body

By: Angela Englander              January 17, 2016

Trauma has a number of effects on an individual’s life, it can cause flashbacks and nightmares, intense emotions such as fear and rage, feeling different than other people, and feeling separate from the rest of the world. One side effect that is not as commonly talked about however is the effect traumatic stress has within the body.

Body awareness and body dissociation can cause a number of symptoms including body pains, headaches, stomach aches, and numbness, problems with balance and coordination, and sensory integration difficulties. At times individuals may be considered clumsy and uncoordinated, at other times they may be seen as fussy and temperamental because of how particular they may be about their environment. Children who have been traumatized and especially susceptible to these body symptoms and may complain about the textures and consistency of their food, the feeling of their fabric on their skin, and noise in an environment. When the body is overwhelmed and on high alert chronically even these every day experiences can be perceived as intense and dangerous.

There are a number of strategies that have been studied and shown to be effective in decreasing the intensity of trauma symptoms. Some strategies are yoga, breathing exercises such as square breathing such as the one demonstrated in the square breathing video http://waystowellbeing.ca/video/, belly breathing, and body scans like the one described in this article http://waystowellbeing.ca/therapy-to-prevent-cancer/.

If you are finding that you have a lot of headaches, stomach aches, body pains and other physical trauma symptoms engaging in some of these body awareness exercises will likely help you release the tension and decrease the sadness and fear your body is holding onto. If you have any questions feel free to e-mail angela@waystowellbeing.ca and as always, good luck on your healing journey!

Reference: Langmuir, J. I., Kirsh, S. G., & Classen, C. C. (2012). A pilot study of body-oriented group psychotherapy: Adapting sensorimotor psychotherapy for the group treatment of trauma. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(2), 214-220. doi:10.1037/a0025588

Newton, A. (2014). The body in relationship: The intersections of body-awareness, attachment, emotional regulation, and trauma

Price, C. J., & Thompson, E. A. (2007). Measuring dimensions of body connection: Body awareness and bodily dissociation. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), 13(9), 945-953. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.0537

Scaer, R. C. (2014). The body bears the burden: Trauma, dissociation, and disease (3rdition. ed.) Routledge.

Therapy to Prevent Cancer?


Therapy to Prevent Cancer?

By: Angela Englander December 20, 2015

I’m sure you’ve heard that stress is hard on the body, maybe you have been told to treat yourself better or that self-care is important. Has anyone told you that certain personality traits and thought patterns could be putting you at a higher risk for cancer? This article explores the personality traits and choices that put some people at a much higher risk for developing cancer while other people do not have as high of a risk. Through exploring psychoneuroimmunology and epigenetics new insight into the disease process and healing from the inside out can be gained. After completing the short self-reporting questions, read through the suggestions below and remember to e-mail angela@waystowellbeing.ca if you have any questions!

Although people are in no way, shape, or form to blame for developing cancer or any other disease. There could be some ways to reduce the risk of developing cancer. I was very surprised to stumble upon so many seemingly positive and pro-social personality traits and choices that could put someone at a higher risk. To determine if your personality and choices could be putting you at a higher risk for cancer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I go out of my way to make other people happy?
  • Do I regularly put the needs of other people ahead of my own needs?
  • Do I push myself to achieve things even when I am exhausted?
  • Do I feel like relaxing and taking time to myself is a waste of valuable time?
  • I have a lot to worry about?
  • Am I keeping a secret that I would be ashamed if people found out about?
  • Did I experience being sexually or physically abused (especially before the age of 18)?
  • I have a deep hatred for myself?
  • I am unworthy of love?
  • I have a hard time to express my anger and hurt feelings?
  • I have a hard time asking people for a favour or saying no to a request?
  • I regularly volunteer and give to others?
  • I don’t know what I want or I don’t know my purpose?
  • I feel confused about who I am?
  • I put the needs of my friends, children, partner, and parents before my own needs?

The more questions you said yes to, the higher your potential risk for developing cancer at some point. I am not saying doing any of the above things is a bad thing, balance is the key factor here. The great news is that there are many ways to challenge and change choices and patterns of interactions that will decrease your stress and lower your risk for developing cancer. The following strategies may be key ingredients to your healthy and happy life:

Learning to let go

Letting go is a really hard thing to do. Setting ourselves free from the negative and critical things we have been told about ourselves. Learning to love ourselves and accept ourselves as we are. There are a number of reasons we hold on to the past so tightly, sometimes it is the only connection we have to our parents, sometimes it helps us to understand who we are and define ourselves, other times it helps us to feel grounded in an otherwise chaotic world.

Take a deep breath, feel the warm air entering your body, filling your lungs and diaphragm with health and vitality. As you slowly breathe out picture yourself releasing the stress and tension from your system. As you take another deep breath in, visualize bringing vitality and positive energy into your system. Feel the positive energy going from your lung into your core. As you exhale realize you are taking a step towards the self-care and healing you deserve. Feel free to take a couple more deep and healing breaths, you deserve them.

Being Present in your Body

Being present in your body can be a very hard thing to do, this skill is especially hard for people that have experienced violations to their boundaries because indeed their body was not safe in those experiences. This is a healing day, you can be safe in your body now and learn how to be present and aware of your body, you can learn the skills you need to be safe now.

If you have not experienced violations, have successfully gained safety in therapy, or are feeling like you want to be present in your body and gain an awareness of your body’s needs. This exercise is called the body scan. This mindfulness based exercise works by building the brain maps for various areas of your body and helping bring a conscious awareness to the signals your body is sending you.

This exercise is suitable for people with all types of bodies and ability levels, if any body parts are experiencing pain, numbing, or no sensation at all simply close your eyes and visualize that part of your body healing. Begin by focusing on your toes, perhaps you can feel them on the ground, feel whether you are wearing socks or are barefoot. Visualize your feet as a healthy and vital part of your body system. Think of how feet impact your life. Next move up to your legs. If possible gently squeeze your shins or thighs with your hand. Can you feel the pressure or the warmth or coolness of your legs? Visualize the energy pathways in your legs, what colour are they? Slowly move your focus to your hips. As you move closer to your hips and core some people who have experienced sexual violation may feel themselves getting nervous, remind yourself that you are safe in this moment in time and continue. Feel your hips and bottom against the surface you are sitting on. Close your eyes and visualize your hips, do you see a colour or feel a particular temperature? Can you tense and release your muscles? Slowly move your attention to your abdomen. Is it quiet or do you hear a rumbling? Is there any tightness or tension in this part of your body? Put your hand on your abdomen and take a deep breath, can you feel your abdomen expanding as it fills with air? Realize the amazing capabilities your abdomen may have to help you absorb nutrients or expand to allow more air into your system. Move your attention up to your shoulders. Gently move your shoulders from side to side, do you feel any tension or tightness? Cross your arms across your chest and give yourself a hug. You have done well during this body scan exercise. If you would like you can take a minute to focus on your head and neck and face. Paying attention to various feature and organs you have and their purpose in your life.

Finding yourself

Lastly we will take a moment to focus on gaining identity and finding yourself. People who give too much and struggle to say no often also have a hard time describing themselves and understanding who they are. They may feel confused and unsure of who they are and what they really want. Feel free to grab a piece of paper and answer a couple simple questions to help you figure out who you are. At the top of the page write your name. Write out your favourite food, your favourite ice cream flavour, or the last thing you ate. Next write out your favourite show, movie, or the last thing you watched on a television. Have you read any good books or magazines recently? Write down something you learned or enjoyed or found amusing while you were reading. Although these may seem like simple things to write, they begin to draw your attention to facts about yourself which helps your brain to both accept yourself and conceptualize who you are and what you enjoy. Developing an identity and sense of self is much like building a muscle, it takes focus, perseverance, and consciously paying attention.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and are a step closer to healing and preventing cancer and other diseases. You deserve to be happy and healthy. If you feel like you need more support in changing patterns that are increasing your potential risk of cancer and other diseases please reach out to me, your doctor, your therapist, or other healing professionals in your community. Have a great day and as always, good luck on your healing journey.

References: Attitudes and Cancer. (2014). Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/emotionalsideeffects/attitudes-and-cancer

Bond, L. (2015). The Cancer Personality. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://www.laura-bond.com/2011/09/the-cancer-personality/

Mate, G. (2015). When the Body Says No – Dr. Gabor Maté. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from http://drgabormate.com/book/when-the-body-says-no/

Wellisch, D. & Yager, J. (2008). Is there a cancer-prone personality? Cancer Journal for Clinicians 33 (3) 145-153


Hormones and Depression

How the body works

Hormonal imbalances 

Hormone imbalance has been known to contribute to a variety of problems from pains to cramps to mood swings to anxiety and depression as well as a number of other problems. These hormone imbalances are especially troubling for women who have more of a natural hormone fluctuation than men. Some symptoms of low estrogen for example include foggy thinking, hot flashes, depression, memory lapses, forgetfulness, sleeping problems, and problems with bone density. Some symptoms of high estrogen include anxiety and irritability, cramps, and increased triglyceride levels. Some of these symptoms are very similar to hormone imbalances from thyroid dysfunction. Hyperthyroidism can cause hand tremors, nervousness, hot flashes, sweating, joint pain, insomnia, and poor concentration. Hypothyroidism on the other hand can cause exhaustion, constipation, weight gain, feeling cold, depression, and puffy eyes. As you can see the symptoms of estrogen imbalance and thyroid hormone imbalance are very similar as are the symptoms of some other hormonal imbalances. When the endocrine system is struggling there are a number of ways we can help it regain balance including getting enough sleep at night, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and listening to the signals your body is sending you!

References: http://www.integrativepsychiatry.net/hormone_balance.html


Making Good Decisions


Making Good Decisions

By: Angela Englander      August 20, 2015

In order for someone to make a good decision they need to incorporate both logical information and emotional information. This means knowing what emotions we are feeling, what emotions come up when making this decision, and how the outcome of the decision will affect us, and what factors are contributing to the decision. You can use the pro’s and con’s chart http://waystowellbeing.ca/pros-and-cons-of-living-the-life-you-want/ to help you figure out the logical factors contributing to the decision and the emotions chart and primary and secondary emotions sheet to help you figure out what emotions you may be experiencing at this link http://waystowellbeing.ca/links-resources/  The following chart can be used to help you figure out what the best decision to make in any circumstance is.


Emotion Facts Best Decision




An example of making a decision through using this chart may look like the following:

I am trying to decide whether to go on a second date with a person I just met. This decision has been confusing and frustrating so I’m going to make an emotions chart to help me figure out whether I should go on the date or not.

Emotion Facts Best Decision
I felt anxious on the first date

We laughed and the discussion made me feel relaxed

I am scared that person will not like me



I am scared of getting hurt





I am scared of getting too close or being rejected

Many people feel anxious on a first date


Walking ca calm the nervous system but the conversation making me happy means that we connected in way


Many people are worried about this when they are getting to know someone new


If you don’t take a risk you will never know what could happen both positively and negatively


A second date doesn’t guarantee a relationship so having a second date can be part of taking things slow

After considering my emotions and thoughts and the facts about my emotions and thoughts it makes sense that I would agree to go on a second date with this person.


I will contact this person tomorrow and tell them I would like to see them again or agree to go out with them if they call and ask me.


Through using this chart I was able to decide to go on a second date with someone and feel calm and confident in my decision because I know that I’m not being impulsive. I also know that is it the healthiest decision for me when I’ve considered all things so I won’t feel regret or make impulsive choices.


Using this chart will help you make happier and healthier decisions that are in line with your morals and values. This will also help decrease impulsivity over the long-term allowing you to make good short-term and long-term decisions. As always if you have any questions please contact me angela@waystowellbeing.ca and I look forward to hearing from you!

A Multi-Phase Safe Trauma Treatment

A Multi-Phase Safe Trauma Treatment    By: Angela Englander June 8, 2015

Phase one: Education about the therapeutic process

Discussing goals

Making a plan for treatment

The client and the therapist form a working partnership and start figuring out how to work together effectively


Phase two: Focusing on emotional competence

Emotional awareness

Learning about the importance of emotions

Learning what emotions feel like in the body

Learning what triggers emotions and how to regulate emotions

Learning your limits with emotional intensity

Developing effective emotion regulation skills

The emotional intensity rating scale


Phase three: Understanding dissociation

Managing stress effectively

Anchors, grounders, and transitional objects

Developing a feeling of safety

CBT and DBT skills building exercises are incorporated

Body awareness


Phase four: Working through the trauma at a safe pace


  • It is extremely important not to jump into talking about the trauma before the right skills are in place. If emotion regulation skills, a sense of safety, patient-therapist trust, and a comfortable pace are not in place this can be very painful and destructive for the client! Rushing in to talking about a traumatic situation will cause high levels of distress and pain for a client. If the client is not able to regulate that stress, they may re-experience the trauma in their mind which is re-traumatizing.

Making Sense of Emotions

Making Sense of Emotions

By: Angela Englander    May 22, 2015

            Primary emotions and secondary emotions are the two categories that emotions are often placed into. Primary emotions occur when the emotion you are feeling fits the situation you are in. Secondary emotions occur when the primary emotion is too scary or painful to experience or your experiences in life have conditioned you to supress or ignore one or more of your emotional experiences. Using the emotions chart for reference you can see what events and situations trigger which common emotions, what the emotion may influence you to do, and how to act opposite of that emotion to decrease its frequency and intensity.

The two most common secondary emotions are fear/anxiety and anger. Often a person will feel one of the two emotions on an ongoing basis or in intense bursts and will ignore or supress the other emotion. There are many approaches you can use to start working on creating a balance between the two emotions. One path is to accept and work to understand the emotion you have been pushing away and fighting against. For example, if you constantly ignore your anger and instead experience chronic anxiety you can reflect on what anger and anxiety mean to you. Perhaps you believe if you allow yourself to be angry when someone violates your boundaries you will lose control and all your past anger will come up and you will physically or verbally hurt someone you care about. On the other end of the spectrum you may constantly feel yourself becoming angry about relatively small experiences. You may also feel invulnerable, fearless, or that if you show people you are weak they will take advantage of you. The work on this you can begin to understand the meaning of fear and anxiety and how you can use that experience to make choices that help you keep yourself safe. You can also reflect on your experience of anger and see what role it plays in your life. Some people who experience chronic anger use this emotion to keep others away, keep themselves safe, feel tough, or to ensure no one is able to come close enough to hurt them.

Through understanding and reflecting on primary and secondary emotions you can understand your experience of emotions and work on finding your balance between all emotions.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to e-mail me at angela@waystowellbeing.ca

Thanks and have a wonderful emotionally balanced day