Take a Deep Breath. Here's Why.

“Take a deep breath.” We’ve all heard this old adage at some point, but you may not know that it is grounded in some really solid science. Deep breathing is one of the best tools we all have at our disposal to center the body and mind and regain composure. You can do it anytime, anywhere, it is completely free and easy to master. While many ancient cultures have extolled the virtues of deep breathing for centuries, modern scientists are now shedding light on how this fundamental technique can almost instantly benefit your body, mind, and spirit. Sometimes it feels like we’re not in control of the way our body and brain react to a situation, but deep breathing reminds us that our behaviors can have profound influence over our heart rate, blood pressure, and mood. 

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Good Stress vs. Bad Stress

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The very word “stress” can instantly evoke feelings of anxiety and tension. These negative connotations arise as we are constantly hearing how stress is bad for the body and brain. We’re told that stress can damage everything from the heart to the brain and even the immune system, elevating our risks of cardiovascular disease and even cancer. There is no doubt chronic, overwhelming, and negative stress is harmful and a persistent and growing problem in today's society. What you may not know, however, is that a little bit of the right kind of stress can actually be genuinely good for you! Scientists call this ‘good’ stress eustress, from the Latin ‘eu’ meaning “well” and it is different from the bad stress, sometimes referred to as "distress" in several ways. Researchers think that having a healthy dose of the right kind of stress can, in fact, be beneficial to your body, mind, and spirit. This healthy stress surprisingly improves both our focus and performance and may be an essential part of living a fulfilling and meaningful life.

There are several important distinctions between healthy, positive stress and toxic negative stress. Healthy stressors often elicit some or all of the following characteristics:

  1. They motivate and focus energy

  2. They are short-term

  3. They  are perceived as within our coping abilities

  4. They feel exciting

  5. They improve performance and focus

These qualities may help you reframe a stressor as something stimulating and challenging but ultimately enjoyable. Meeting these positive stressors head on can result in immense feelings of euphoria, success, invigoration, and accomplishment. Small doses of beneficial stress can be motivating, revitalizing and encouraging. In the absence of any stress at all, we can feel listless, bored and without direction or purpose. Good stress can kick us into high gear, exciting the body and brain to tackle new challenges. There is even evidence it can help to improve memory and performance on both cognitive and physical tasks. Good stress may even help to fortify the immune system and improve cardiovascular health!

The nature of a positive stressor is in stark contrast to the characteristics of a negative stressor, the kind of things we typically associate with the word "stress". Negative stressors usually check some or all of the following boxes:

  1. They cause anxiety or concern

  2. They can be short or long term

  3. They are perceived as outside of our coping abilities

  4. They feel unpleasant

  5. They decrease performance

  6. They can lead to mental and physical problems. 

It is sometimes hard to concretely categorize what makes stressors "good" or "bad" because different people can have very different stress responses to the exact same situation. Public speaking is a great example of this. What is thrilling and exciting to one person can be absolutely debilitatingly stressful to another. This wide variety of individualized stress responses truly illustrates how much of the manifestation of stress is not in the experience itself, but in how you perceive it. We do also have to be careful of oversimplifying this, however, and resist the urge to put each stressful experience in a discrete box of "good" or "bad." Some experiences are both good and bad stressors, vacillating between the two and containing a healthy mix of both. The experience of having a new baby, for example, can bring immense joy but the physical toll of giving birth and the inevitable sleep deprivation can be very negative stressors. Additionally, the anxiety over having a new set of responsibilities can sometimes almost overwhelm the feelings of joy and love. Much of the stressfulness of experiences like these are dependent on a variety of other factors as well, such as social support and the individual's outlook and mindset.

 

There are some pretty clear-cut examples of both positive and negative stressors, however, like the death of a friend or family member which is almost always a negative stress experience. Profound losses of any kind typically fall into the harmful stress category, including divorce or separation, loss of a job or other meaningful relationship. Instances of abuse, neglect, severe injury or illness are all negative stress experiences as well. Alternatively, there can be life events that are exciting and joyful, yet still taxing. These full into the category of positive stressors. Examples include new relationships, marriage, children, buying a home, moving, starting a new job or getting a raise or promotion. Going on a first date is an excellent example of a positive stressor. Your heart races, your palms sweat, and your body has a clear cut stress response, though typically it is an enjoyable one! These positive stress experiences can be profoundly stressful in the way that they alter our lives and require more of us, yet they are often immensely satisfying and give us great feelings of accomplishment. Once the experience is no longer stressful, we typically look back on these memories with fondness and even pride.

There is some emerging evidence that the way that you think about stress can actually change the way it manifests itself in the body. Notice that one of the most significant differences between eustress and distress is whether or not the challenge is perceived as within our coping abilities. When we believe that we have the capacity to overcome a stressor it can be seen as a challenge and even be fun. When we feel that a stressor is outside of our abilities, it seems unmanageable and scary. In this instance, we tend to project failure and become overwhelmed by the experience.  

In addition to trying to reframe the stressor as within our capabilities, here are a few more tips for managing stress:

  1. Take care of yourself: exercise, eat healthy whole foods and sleep

  2. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other drugs

  3. Try mindfulness, meditation or other deep breathing or relaxation techniques

  4. Try to set up a support network of friends and family you can turn to in stressful times

  5. Try to get ahead of things by setting up a time management system that works for you.

  6. Go easy on yourself! Sometimes we can be our own harshest critics. Try reframing your accomplishments.

Both negative and positive stress can be overwhelming at times. If you are struggling with stress or something else in your life, please reach out to us at Rivers Edge Counselling Centre. Building the right support structure for your mental and physical health is essential, no matter what life throws at you. 


REFERENCES & FURTHER READING

We are looking for a new member of our team!

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River’s Edge Counselling Centre is seeking a Registered Psychologist to join our team. The successful candidate should have at least 3 years experience providing counselling services to adults and adolescents, as well as specific training and experience in the areas of addictions and trauma. Couples referrals can also be provided, if desired. Therapists may find unique opportunities to pursue interests in groups, workshops, teaching, community outreach and supervision at our Centre.

River's Edge Counselling Centre is located in a beautiful, bright office space along the river in downtown St. Albert. We value excellence in practice and service to the community. Candidates should have a strong interest in being part of a collaborative, supportive team of therapists and demonstrate a passion for continued education and growth in their practice. An interest in practicing client feedback informed therapy is also required.

River’s Edge offers administrative support that contributes to the flexibility, independence, and healthy work/life balance that our therapists value. Therapist compensation is offered at competitive rates. Candidates should be willing to see at least 15-20 clients per week and work at least one evening or weekend shift. We are hoping to commence orientation with a successful candidate in mid-March.

Our therapists are passionate, warm, and experienced professionals who understand that when we work together, we best serve the individuals and families who come to us for help. We look forward to welcoming and supporting the successful applicant for this position!

Interested applicants should submit a letter of expression of interest and their CV to Nicole Imgrund at nicole@riversedgecounselling.com.


in the news: The Mental Health Services Protection Act introduced in Legislature

The Mental Health Services Protection Act was introduced in the Alberta Legislature yesterday. If passed, it will create a new college of Counselling Therapy and set standards for Counselling Therapists, Addiction Counsellors and Child and Youth Care Counsellors.

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in the news: Business tough on mental health

“Our identities are often what help us determine our career paths,” said Lori Tiemer, registered psychologist at Rivers Edge Counselling Centre. “When our careers (and) jobs are in line with our identities – so our interests, our abilities, personality, values – people often do have a greater sense of job satisfaction.”

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Reflection

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The other day I noticed some small pansies growing from a seam in my neighbor’s driveway. I thought what an amazing thing. These little flowers are growing in a difficult environment. They could grow in a more hospitable place, but somehow ended up there and chose to grow in a tough situation. Similar to the flowers, we as humans also grow when circumstances are hard. We learn things about ourselves, and how to be resilient, and often how to live our lives a little differently, or make changes or choices for a better or healthy path. It’s always hard when we face difficulties and struggles, but in the end there is learning and growth. I will think of the pansies on a tough day and remember how they grew.

-Anonymous RECC client

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Renew & Restore Event

River's Edge Counselling Centre was proud to host an invigorating day of talks, workshops, self-care practices, and connection with other helping professionals in the community. With deep appreciation for the commitment and care that you offer to the St. Albert community, we have created a relaxing, rejuvenating, and fun retreat from your daily routine.


keynote address

when you are looking after others, who is looking after you?

Georgette Reed, OLY, ChPC, MA, BPE, CSCS TSAC-F

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Georgette will discuss the synergy between physical and mental health. Many of us are in positions to help others and spend a lot of time and effort doing so…but when we are helping others who is helping us.

Georgette’s presentation discusses some of the pitfalls we all come across leading busy lives and she discusses ways in which participants can make and create a more balanced approach to being of service.

Georgette Reed has had a keen interest in Sport, Fitness, Health and Wellness all of her life. A certified track and field and strength and conditioning, coach with 43 years of competitive experience under her belt in the sports of athletics, bobsleigh, swimming and water polo, Georgette now puts all of the knowledge and expertise to good use as the Health and Wellness Coordinator for Edmonton Fire Rescue Services and Mental Health First Aid, Psychological First Aid and R2MR (first responder) instructor for the City of Edmonton.

During her athletic career, Georgette represented Canada in the Olympic Games, the World Athletics Championships, The World Bobsleigh Championships, The Pan American Games, The Commonwealth Games and many other international events. As a competitor, Georgette won 17 national titles (15 in the shot put and two discus titles). Upon retiring from competing, Georgette was the head cross country, track and field coach for the U of A for 10 years, and helped develop champions at the provincial, national and international levels and was a mentor/coach for Special Olympics Athletics athletes and coaches in Alberta.


ted-style talks

burnout: why the risk is real, and finding your own path towards healing

Jasmine Fulks

the courage of innovation

Petal Murti

the process of becoming vulnerable

Petrina Runke

splashing in the fountain of hope

Wendy Edey

Wendy Edey is a counselling psychologist whose favourite tools are hope, humour and storytelling. All three of these have unfailingly fostered healthy connections between work and her personal life. In recent years she has developed hope and strengths groups for people with chronic pain and Parkinson’s disease. She helps train family care partners at the Alzheimer Society of Edmonton. Wendy is a Practice affiliate with Hope Studies Central at the University of Alberta.


workshops

the gift of self-compassion:
learning to soothe yourself with love and kindness

Facilitator: Grant Wardlow

When navigating the road of life we are often faced with confronting the less desirable parts of ourselves, including our personal failures and shameful behaviour, among other inadequacies. This often comes at a cost to our self-worth, as we become governed by the belief that we are unworthy of life’s pleasures, or of love and respect.
 
Our reaction when faced with these parts of our being is to either go to war with ourselves, or to lash out at others, or to turn to alcohol, or drugs, or food, in an attempt to help soothe our pain and suffering. However, instead of continuing down the same path of destruction, the mindfulness practice of self-compassion offers us the opportunity to respond to ourselves with kindness rather than harsh self-judgement, recognizing that imperfection is part of our shared human experience.
 
Please join me in learning about the mindfulness gift that is self-compassion, where you will learn to soothe yourself with love and tenderness. This workshop includes a guided self-compassion meditation.


contemplation and connection through art making

Mary Norton & Janet Stalenhoef

  • AM Workshop: Follow the ebb and flow of watercolour

  • PM Workshop: Moving breath into modelling clay

Step out of day to day busyness and into some time for quiet  contemplation and renewal. These workshops will invite you to connect with your creative self as you engage with materials. You may also gain insights about the possibilities of art-making for self-care and creative exploration for yourself. All materials provided. No experience necessary.

Mary Norton values art making as a pathway to serious play and as a way to address life challenges and imagine possibilities for change. Mary is engaged in community-based and private practice as a professional Art Therapist, Expressive Arts Facilitator, and Certified Hakomi Therapist.

Janet Stalenhoef came to her interest in art therapy as a result of her experiences as an artist. She has a Masters in psychotherapy from St. Stephen’s with specialization in art therapy. Her practice is also informed by her studies in expressive arts therapy. Janet is certified with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association and has advanced training in Self Regulation Therapy (SRT). She currently works private practice in Edmonton.


satisfied or stressed: thriving in hectic times

Kathleen Johnston

Personal and work-related stress is at an all-time high. We’ve had to adapt to relentless change and ever increasing demands on our time. E-mails, cell phones and PDA’s have moved us to instant response and 24-7 expectations. Although some stress in our lives is inevitable, feeling consistently “stressed out” and miserable is not. This seminar will increase your knowledge and your ability to mitigate and manage the stressors in your life. It will give you the facts about stress as energy. You will understand the impact of stress overload and how to offset that by increasing satisfaction. Learning Objectives include: To explore the effects of increased demands on your work/life To recognize warning signs of distress To assess current personal wellness and create a vision for peak wellness To comprehend the concept of stress as energy To realize the impact of stress overload on personal wellbeing To understand the difference between stress overload and burnout.

Kathleen JohnstonCareer Strategist, is a Professional Certified Coach, Canadian Certified Counselling Therapist and Certified Stress Consultant. Her enthusiasm and energy for career development supports and inspires individuals to be successful in their careers without compromising their health and well-being.


communicating your boundaries: learning how to say “no”

Facilitators: Laura Byrtus

It’s important, but often difficult to keep your self-care sacred. Establishing boundaries can help us make space for self-care. This workshop is designed to provide practical strategies to develop and communicate healthy boundaries in both personal and professional lives.


stress busters

River’s Edge Counselling Centre team

In this workshop, therapists from the team will share with you some of our favourite tools, tips and techniques to manage stress and anxiety. You will come away with practical resources for a more relaxed, stress free life!


music

a live concert with ann vriend

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Ann Vriend is known most for her soaring, evocative, Aretha-eque vocals, as well as her abilities as a songwriter, both lyrically and melodically. With a compelling combination of defiant resilience and heartfelt vulnerability she delivers her unique brand of gritty, inner-city soul-- and sometimes quite the funky old-school dance party.

Coming from a humble background on Edmonton’s east side, and for the past decade calling Edmonton’s troubled and somewhat notorious inner city neighborhood of McCauley home Vriend does not shy away from difficult social issues. Instead, she contributes her own Canadian brand of RnB in the rich tradition of soul artists who have delivered stunning recordings and performances that are both contagiously fun AND socially thought provoking, while never preachy or simplistic.

Often compared to her vocal hero, Aretha Franklin, Ann Vriend also kills it live, having sold 18,000 albums off the stage independently. We are thrilled to have Ann, an award award-winning performer and songwriter, perform for us at this event!

Nicole Imgrund on Global Edmonton

As demand for counselling in Alberta grows, the Federation of Associations of Counselling Therapists is urging the government to regulate the industry. Nicole Imgrund joined Erin Chalmers on Global News Morning Edmonton to talk about the need for regulation, explaining that right now anyone can call themselves a counsellor – and that needs to change.



 

We are in the news: "Parents warned to keep a close eye on what children see online"

Our registered psychologist, Andrea Thrall, speaks to St. Albert Gazelle about the danger of children viewing disturbing video content online. Andrea said parents should always be present whenever young children are viewing videos. Read the full article here:

https://www.stalbertgazette.com/article/parents-warned-keep-close-eye-children-see-online-20180113

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12 Tips for Keeping You and Your Relationships Healthy Through the Holiday Season

Of the many spiritual or cultural holidays that are celebrated at this time of year, most are in some way a reflection of overcoming the toils and injustices of life to reconnect with positive human values and emotions. It is all too easy though, for the time, energy, and preparation of the traditions with which we mark this re-connection to reinforce the toil instead of the celebration. Here are a few ideas to keep the stress from taking over.

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Understanding Gender and Sexuality in a Non-Binary World

If you want to learn what the difference is between sex and gender, what it means to be pansexual or genderqueer, what the components are that comprise our sexuality, or you are just curious about the different ways in which people today understand and express themselves as sexual and gendered beings, please watch this wellness webinarabout understanding sexuality and gender in a non-binary world

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Manage Your Pain - wellness webinar

Living with pain can be debilitating not only physically, but psychologically as well. During this mental wellness webinarLori Tiemer explores the mind-body connection and discusses various strategies, including cognitive and relaxation techniques, for managing your pain and improving your quality of life. 

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River’s Edge Counselling Centre named as the recipient of the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce 2016 Ignite Award.

River’s Edge Counselling Centre is excited to be named as the recipient of the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce 2016 Ignite Award. Sponsored by Athabasca University Faculty of Business, the Ignite Award recognizes a small business that has demonstrated itself as the most dynamic start-up business in the St. Albert community. It is an honour to for us to be recognized in this way. We believe it is our commitment to excellence in care, service to the community, teaching, and working as a team, that has allowed River’s Edge to grow into a strong and healthy business that will continue to serve the mental health needs of St. Albert for many years to come. 

Clara Hughes Event

River's Edge Counselling Centre was proud to host Olympian Clara Hughes in our community on October 14th, 2016. She shared her inspiring story with over 800 kids at Leo Nickerson Elementary and 300 students at Paul Kane High School.

She then spoke at the Arden Theatre, sharing her personal journey through mental and physical pain, to a life where love and understanding can thrive. She was so moved by the work of the local organizations the event was supporting - SAIF, BAM, and OutLoud, that she donated 1000.00 from her book sales to those groups.

Clara stayed until well after midnight, signing books and connecting with people who stayed to experience her authentic and compassionate presence.

We hope the continued legacy of Clara's visit will be ongoing support for mental health organizations in our community and a deeper understanding for the challenges that people suffering with mental illness face every day. Her passionate challenge to us is to continue to fight stigma related to mental health and to advocate for increased access to mental health services in Alberta

local mental health initiatives that received support from this event:
 

SAIF (Stop Abuse in Families)
To provide free counselling services to those experiencing domestic violence.

 

BAM (Building Assets & Memories)

To support the Caelin Porter Mental Health Awareness Walk. Caelin was a St. Albert youth who brought light and love to his family, friends and many other people in our community through his warm, caring presence and music.St. Albert youth have organized this yearly walk following his suicide to bring support to other youth who struggle with mental illness. They donate all proceeds from the walk to the CMHA and SickNotWeak.

To support the 4UBYUS Conference (a one-day event run by youth, for adults who work with youth in our community, with a focus on mental health and wellness).
 

OutLoud

To support programs and activities for LGBTQ youth in St. Albert (ages 13-24), in a safe, supportive and fun environment.

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