Coping with loneliness during the holidays.

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When we feel a painful emotion, our first instinct is to pull away. To numb the pain. To hide from the intensity.

This was the case for Sarah and Jack, two unique individuals with vastly different circumstances. But they each experienced the same emotion: loneliness. An emotion that is heightened during the holidays.

Original Source:

I originally wrote this article for The Drive Magazine.

https://thedrivemagazine.com/posts/lean-into-loneliness/

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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. To protect the privacy of individuals, names and identifying details have been changed
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SARAH

Sarah was a 42-year-old recently divorced woman who was about to face her first holiday season alone. Living in a new town, miles away from friends and family, she was waiting to begin a new job in January. Hours felt like days.

Days felt like months. Sarah had tried everything to fill the void inside. The mistake she made was running away from the one thing that would help get her to the other side: loneliness itself.

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Knowledge is power

1. Understand the emotion

We need to first understand an emotion before we jump to the conclusion that it’s either good or bad, because in reality, emotions are almost entirely physiological in nature.

There’s not a negative or positive to them. It’s in our mind that we make it one or the other. This concept is supported by Schachter-Singer’s theory of emotion:

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This theory of emotion explains why two people can experience the exact same event and have completely different emotional reactions to it.

What matters most is the person’s interpretation of an event, not the event itself. After all, as they say, one person’s glass-half-full is another one’s glass-half-empty.

In Sarah’s situation, she interpreted her physiological response to idle time as loneliness, while another person might label it as much-needed relaxation. Ultimately, Sarah has a choice. One interpretation debilitates; the other empowers.

2. Witness the emotion

Now that Sarah understands the interpretative power she holds over her environmental triggers, the next step is to witness loneliness in a neutral, curious state rather than fighting it at every turn.

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In doing so, Sarah neutralizes the intensity of her emotions, allowing them to flow through her, rather than getting stuck in a repetitive loop of pain.

Here are four simple ways to create space between triggers and responses:

1. Count to 10

2. Take a long deep breath

3. Make three wishes

4. Look up at the sky

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Taken one step further, each time that Sarah experiences a challenging emotion during the holidays, rather than running from it she needs to lean in and ask that emotion, “What are you trying to teach me?”

3. Reframe the emotion

The final step for Sarah is to learn how to reframe the situations that trigger her loneliness, and understand why sometimes she overreacts, while other times she lets go without a second thought.

Solitude is perceived as isolation by one person and freedom by another.

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Reframing exercise:

1. Identify a situation that triggers loneliness.

2. Imagine the best-case scenario: “This situation is temporary.”

3. Look for evidence of the best-case scenario: “The longest I’ve been single is two years.”

4. Describe the worst-case scenario: “I will be alone forever.”

5. Name the benefits of the worst-case scenario: “I am free to do what I want.”

6. Finally, ask for help in reframing triggers, especially when feeling overwhelmed.

Once Sarah learns how to change the story “behind” the story, her instinctive loneliness lessens. And her ability to choose a higher thought improves.

Watch Video Summary

Click Here

JACK

At 55 years of age, Jack was also feeling the pangs of loneliness. His wife of 25 years died suddenly of a heart attack two years ago.

Unexpected was an understatement. They had run in three marathons together and had spent their weekends sampling new vegan restaurants in their local community. Ever since his wife had died, Jack struggled to face the holidays alone.

Jack’s story is as much about him as it is about the family around him. His family and friends’ automatic response was to feel sorry for him, a response that compounded his feelings of disconnectedness and misunderstanding.

Jack did not want people to feel sorry for him. He was a proud man who was ready to move on.

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Get out of your own head

1. Meet with “experienced” widowers

As much as Jack missed his wife, he also missed his ability to connect authentically with friends and family. Having been treated with kid gloves since his wife died, Jack longed to be seen as a victor rather than a victim

As such, I encourage Jack to connect with like-minded individuals who had been through a similar situation: widows and widowers. Specifically, ones who had been on their own for several years.

The benefits are twofold. One, Jack would learn new ways of relating to friends and family. And two, he’d be given the green light to grow and acclimate to his new circumstances.

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2. Connect with others in unexpected, low-pressure ways

The other component missing in Jack’s life was fun. Simple, cheerful, good-time fun. Everything had become so serious since his wife died, with almost every conversation beginning or ending with his wife’s death.

There was no doubt that he missed her with all his heart. But equally, he longed for moments where he could be free of the loneliness and pain.

I recommend that Jack reintroduce sports into his life. Something non-competitive that would get him out of the house on a Wednesday night. Better yet, if it involved people that he had never met, it would allow him to continue his journey of reinvention and rediscovery.

Equally therapeutic for Jack would be joining a cinema group or regular euchre meetup—both would offer him a chance to be in the moment and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

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3. Honour the old, create the new

Finally, I advise Jack to examine the memories and traditions that he wanted to keep alive during the holidays—and, equally, the ones of which he was ready to let go.

Jack took the practice one step further. Declaring December a month of renewal and reinvention, he revived a strength and peace inside that radiated out to his entire family.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Conclusion 

Jack and Sarah have a lot to teach us about loneliness and how important it is to honour the unique ways in which we process adversity.

One size does not fit all. Fellowship and fun were vital for Jack’s growth and recovery, while Sarah needed a more analytical approach to processing difficulty.

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• Lean into loneliness

• Approach it with openness and curiosity

• Make space for the lessons beneath the suffering

Your Turn

1. How do you cope with difficult emotions during the holidays?

2. What strategies do you use to make peace with the heightened pressures of the Christmas season?

3. How do you make “Hallmark Card” traditions your own?

Video of Blog Post → Click Here

Repeat after me: It’s ok not to be ok during the holidays. 🎄❤️

CPR: Sustainable Mental Health Habits

Dr. Andrea Dinardo MENTAL HEALTH HABITS

sus·tain·a·bil·i·ty
/səˌstānəˈbilədē/
  1. the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.

CPR is a framework for Sustainable Mental Health Habits

CPR includes three simple steps as outlined in the video below :

1. Catch

Catch yourself in the midst (or before) before a stress response escalates by becoming more aware of what triggers you.

2. Pause

Pause and take a 60 second time out when you feel the physical sensations of stress begin to escalate.

3. Repair

Repair the root source of the heightened stress response which is often physiological in nature. Possible unmet needs include: sleep, food, fresh air, exercise.

DrAndreaDinardo.com QUOTE

Supporting Student Mental Health

Requested by

The CPR Presentation  was developed for the St. Clair College Student Sustainability Group as part of their initiative for supporting the health and wellbeing of college staff, faculty, and students.

New Opportunity

This was the first time I’ve been approached to make a video for a third party. And it was so much fun!


December 9, 2019 Update

This post went “live” at St. Clair College at noon today.

KIARA CLEMENT SRC President C.P.R. Writing Journal

KIARA CLEMENT

SRC President and CPR Journal Reflections Author

KIARA CLEMENT SRC President.

Click Here for College Mental Health Resources

IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH with Positive Psychology

The goal isn’t to get rid of negative thoughts and feelings. The goal is to change your response to them.

Instead of thinking of mental health as a burden you must shoulder, imagine it as an opportunity to experience peace and joy.

In the same way that we make time for our physical needs, we must devote equal attention to our psychological needs.

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Where do we begin?

P E R M A Theory of Well-Being

PERMA..

PERMA is a framework for happiness and well-being developed by UPenn professor Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology.

The model contains five key indicators of human flourishing: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Achievement.

Original Source:

This blog post first appeared in The Drive Magazine.

https://thedrivemagazine.com/posts/cultivating-mental-health-daily

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Positive Emotion

Feeling good is an essential part of well-being.

That said, it’s easy to get lost in a spiral of negativity — What’s wrong? Who’s to blame? Why did this happen to me? Leaving little time in the day for appreciation, wonder, and fun.

Which is why it’s essential to schedule good vibe moments into each day.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Begin the day with inspiring quotes on your bathroom mirror.
  2. Create a spa atmosphere for morning coffee with music and candles.
  3. Listen to upbeat music and podcasts on your way to work.
  4. Start conversations with your dreams, not your stressors.
  5. Put a 20-minute daily time limit on blaming and complaining.
  6. Go to bed visualizing three new things you’re grateful for that day.

Joy needs room to breathe.

And so do you.

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Engagement

Remember when you were a kid playing with friends, and before you knew it the street lights came on? If it wasn’t for your mom yelling your name, you would be outside playing all night long. In that moment, you were in a state of flow.

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You were completely engaged in what you were doing, independent of everything around you.

Your mom could have called your name for hours, and you wouldn’t have heard a word.

One hundred percent of your attentional capacity was taken up by the activity right in front of you.

Most likely you still experience a state of flow and engagement, but not as often as you like.

Activities that create a flow state include:

  1. Writing
  2. Dancing
  3. Music
  4. Art
  5. Sports

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Engagement and flow are important for mental health. When you’re completely absorbed by a task, your mind has no capacity left over for distressing thoughts and emotions.

Relationships

Social support is an important buffer for life’s challenges.

That said, not all associations are created equal. Some relationships, unfortunately, lead to a deterioration in mental health.

Which is why CHOICE is an especially powerful tool when it comes to relationships, well-being, and happiness.

Consider the following when you spend time with people:

  1. Do you feel uplifted or drained?
  2. Do you feel listened to or ignored?
  3. Do you feel encouraged or criticized?

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Stay close to people who feel like sunshine.

Meaning

Meaning comes from serving something bigger than ourselves.

Whether it be family, charity, occupation, or community, meaning unites us in a common vision and gives us the will to get through adversity.

Students Are My North Star

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That said, meaning can appear elusive to some, so why not consider one purpose each day.

Begin with a typical workday. Choose one purpose, and do something to give meaning to that purpose.

I’ve listed a few options, as well as an example for each:

  1. Pick one person — thank a custodian for their hard work.
  2. Pick one place — post uplifting notes and quotes on a section of the wall.
  3. Pick one time — declare 3 pm gratitude hour.

 Achievement

Achievement is the final component of the PERMA model, and, in many ways, its foundation. Goals give us a sense of achievement and satisfaction, helping us to know if we are headed in the right direction.

The key is to balance our drive and determination with the right level of difficulty. If we set a goal that’s too easy, we get bored. If it’s too hard, we experience learned helplessness.

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The solution?

Set daily goals that are achievable and tied into your highest dreams.

In Conclusion

Cultivating mental health daily prepares us for the big things in our life. Every little bit counts, everything adds up. Small things on repeat change the world.

PERMA

Video 1 of Blog Post  Click Here
Video 2 of Blog Post  Click Here

 

How does a psychologist make a clinical diagnosis?

Psychology in Your Life

The intention for this post is to introduce you to one aspect of the diagnostic process — specifically: differential diagnosis.

And ultimately to help you understand that psychological assessment is a complex, worthwhile process.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo

What’s normal 🆚 clinical?

To answer that question, I would like to invite you into my clinical psychology class. 

Specifically, when I teach the concept of “Differential Diagnosis” using the STATE versus TRAIT anxiety distinction. 

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STATE 🆚 TRAIT ANXIETY

Misdiagnosis

People often believe they have generalized anxiety or panic disorder, when in fact, what they are experiencing is an acute reaction to a short-lived, stressful circumstance.

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Differential Diagnosis

For example, STATE anxiety involves temporary and situational symptoms to stress inducing events (public speaking, midterms, first dates) universal to all of us. 

In contrast, TRAIT anxiety has more lasting, debilitating, and pervasive symptoms (eg., impacts all aspects of an individual’s life) independent of external events.

Psychology on Campus

For additional insights into the diagnostic process, including how I teach this concept in the liberal arts program, check out my latest video:

Reflection Questions

1. How is understanding the state 🆚 trait distinction applicable and/or helpful in your daily life?

2. Have you ever jumped to the conclusion about yourself or someone else regarding a diagnosis, only to discover later that the condition was temporary?

3. What psychology topics and ideas would you like to learn more about?

Dr. D 📕❤️

DrAndreaDinardo.com

FOMO ANXIETY Simple Tips for Feeling Better

This post is for anyone experiencing FOMO. Particularly on a long weekend holiday!

Psychology Insight:

Holidays heighten social anxiety of every kind.

FOMO especially.

Consider these questions as you explore what’s going on below the surface.

1. Do you remember the first time you experienced FOMO?

2. How did you cope with the anxiety of missing out?

3. What if anything would you be willing to give up in your life in exchange for the fantasy of someone else’s life or experience?

4. What about your life do you cherish above all else?

Please share in the comments below, including your own strategies for handling FOMO. I’d love to know!

Savour this moment.

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Free Yourself 🦋

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EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE

1. What would you stop doing if you only had one year to live?

2. What would you start doing if you only had one year to live?

3. What do you need to let go of to feel a sense of happiness, well-being, and peace? 

4. What and who do you no longer want to be obligated to?

5. What joy do you wish you had more time for?

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CONTEMPLATION TIME

Take a long deep breath and meditate on your answers. You’ll be surprised at what your soul has to say.

YOU GET ONE LIFE.

Make it yours. 

Dear Readers:

This video is equally a note to you + me reminding us to live with discernment and wisdom. For not everyone in our life appreciates the limits of our time and energy. And that’s ok. For we are the magic wand. We have the power to make choices. We have the ability to overcome social conditioning. We have the authority to change what and who we want in our lives. What and who we give our energy to unnecessarily, repeatedly, unconsciously.

WE HAVE THE POWER TO CHOOSE.

This ^ is freedom.

Body Image: Don’t Believe Everything You Think 💭

Perception versus Reality

I was motivated to write this post and film the accompanying video after witnessing so many students overwrought by feelings of inadequacy regarding their body image and self worth.

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There was no doubt that in reality they were healthy and whole, but in their minds, they believed the opposite.

 The Antidote

The following is a set of questions that challenge irrational perceptions and cognitive distortions using reality itself.

The inquiry is not limited to body image and weight and thus can be applied in any areas where you find yourself caught in a repetitive thought loop.

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Reality Testing Homework:

  1. How do I know if this thought is accurate?
  2. What evidence do I have to support this thought or belief?
  3. How can I test my assumptions/beliefs to find out if they’re accurate?
  4. Do I have a trusted friend whom I can check out these thoughts with?
  5. Is this thought helpful?
  6. Are there other ways that I can think about this or myself?
  7. Is it really in my control?
  8. Am I overgeneralizing?
  9. Am I making assumptions?
  10. What would I say to a friend in this situation?
  11. Can I look for “shades of gray”?
  12. Am I assuming the worst?
  13. Am I holding myself to an unreasonable standard?
  14. Are there exceptions to these absolutes (always, never)?
  15. Am I making this personal when it isn’t?

Source: Challenging Cognitive Distortions

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Related Research & Articles

1. Past visual experiences weigh in on body size estimation. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-18418-3#Sec2

2. The image in the mirror and the number on the scale: Weight, Weight Perceptions, and Adolescent Depressive Symptoms. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3610322/

3. Perception versus reality of body weight: Which matters most. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032713002905

4. How social media contributes to body dysmorphia. https://www.thelexingtonline.com/blog/2018/5/7/how-social-media-contributes-to-body-dysmorphic-behaviors

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REFLECTION QUESTIONS

What are your perceptual filters?

Rose coloured? Perfectionist? Overachiever?

How often do you TEST reality?

Do you believe everything you think?

Click Here to Watch Video

DrAndreaDinardo.com

Radio Interview: Is Social Media Good or Bad for Mental Health?

Interview Now Available 📻☀️

http://www.iheartradio.ca/am800/audio/april-anderson-talks-to-dr-andrea-dinardo-1.9455483?mode=Article

“Live” from the studio 📸

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Your Input Please

I would love your questions and reflections on the topic of social media and well-being for my upcoming July 7 SUNDAY MORNING LIVE interview with host April Anderson on AM800 CKLW iHeart Radio. We will also be discussing thriving under pressure and why failure is good for us.

To watch video — click here

RADIO INTERVIEW OBJECTIVES

The goal of the interview is to give listeners the tools to enjoy the benefits of social media without sacrificing mental health and wellness.

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WHAT DO YOU THINK?

What comes to mind when you think about social media? What’s your experience? The pros. The cons. The unexpected.

MY HOPE IS TO INCLUDE YOUR IDEAS IN THE JULY 7 RADIO INTERVIEW

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For example:

1. How does your phone and/or social media affect your mental health?
2. Your relationships?
3. Your mood?
4. Your memory?
5. Your self-esteem?

Please share in comments below.


JULY 7 INTERVIEW IS NOW AVAILABLE!

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Listen Here: Social Media & Mental 📻☀️

https://omny.fm/shows/am-800-cklw/april-anderson-talks-to-dr-andrea-dinardo

Your emotions have a message for you.

Create space for feelings to flow.

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Emotions are neither good or bad.

Only labeling makes it so.

Don’t run from challenging emotions.

Instead, lean in and ask:

“What are you trying to tell me?”

Witness. Observe. Learn.

The best part is how small fear appears close up!

We must go in — to get through.

Helpful Article with Strategies

Click Here:  Lean into lonelinessDriveLoneliness

Cultivating Mental Health Daily.

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In Celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month in Canada

In this video, I share an overview of my latest psychology article in The Drive Magazine (May, Issue 121). An issue devoted entirely to mental health awareness, treatment, and prevention. With the ultimate goal of ending the stigma of mental illness.

Instead of thinking of mental health as a burden to be shouldered, imagine it as an opportunity to experience peace and joy. In the same way that we make time for our physical needs (eating and sleeping) we must devote attention to our psychological needs.

Excerpt from The Drive Magazine, Issue 121, pages 58-60.

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Building a mental health reserve

In the article I discuss the importance of daily self-care as a preventative and restorative health strategy.

In the same way that save money to buy our dream home, it is critical that we contribute daily to our mental health bank account. Health is wealth after all!

Everything little bit counts. Everything adds up. Spa coffee dates especially. ☕️💗

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Read Magazine Article ⇒ Click Here