Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Tuesday Canada

We've all heard about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday - where we can score some great deals on items that we have been coveting for ourselves or to save money on gifts, support our local businesses, etc.

This year, Canada Helps is launching their first annual "Giving Tuesday Canada" on Tuesday, December 3rd.  A day where you support a local charity of your choice - a day to give something to agencies that are working hard to provide you, your family, friends and community with services that benefit in one way or another.

It's very easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and Giving Tuesday is about taking a step back and thanking those charities with a donation. 

Most charities will provide a charitable tax receipt for income tax purposes, although some may have a minimum donation requirement (normally found on their website).

Making a donation to the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region on Giving Tuesday not only benefits our crisis line services, but the lives and mental health of so many individuals in our communities.  Did you know that we answer 40,000 calls for help each year?  This number is growing year over year, as the stigma of mental health lessens, and more people are open to speaking to someone about any issue that they are facing.  Anything that is affecting your day to day coping skills is worth talking about, since it affects your own mental health in one way or another.

If everyone took $25 that they would normally spend on one of these event days, and donated it to a charity of choice, what a difference that would make for those charities!!!

Making your Giving Tuesday Canada donation to the Distress Centre is easy!  Remember to have our Registered Charitable Number: 10807 9815 RR0001

Option 1

If you're not comfortable making a donation online, you can call our office at 613-238-1089 x 223 and speak with our Manager of Operations, Judy, who can process a credit card donation over the phone.

Option 2

You can make your donation by cheque or money order and send it to our office at: Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region, P.O. Box 3457 Station C, Ottawa, Ontario, K1Y 4J6

Option 3

You can make your donation online through Canada Helps!  Simply follow this link:  You can choose a one time donation, or even set up a monthly donation!

Option 4

Businesses can choose to join our 100 x $100 Challenge on Giving Tuesday!  We're searching for 100 businesses to donate $100 each, helping us to raise $10,000 for the Distress Centre!  More information can be found here: or by calling me, Leslie, Community Relations Coordinator at 613-238-1089 x 222.

Giving Tuesday Canada is a great way to give back to your community this year - and we appreciate every penny (nickel?  since pennies cease to exist...) that is donated to our Distress Centre! 

More information regarding Giving Tuesday Canada can be found here:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Holidays?

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or another special time, there's no avoiding it, it's coming and it's fast approaching with December 1st being this Sunday.

The holiday season is one that is full of a mixture of feelings and emotions, ranging from excited & happy, to stressed and overwhelmed, to depressed and sad.   These emotions vary from person to person, and the level of them depends on each individual.  For instance, myself, I LOVE Christmas, and am a very prepared woman who is almost done her shopping and preparation.  (Go ahead, make a face at your screen, it's okay, I'm used to it!)

While the hustle & bustle of the holidays can be exciting, it's crucial to take excellent care of yourself while you are suddenly doing way more than your normal routine.  Last year, we wrote about how to deal with the depression that can sometimes accompany the holidays, and provided some helpful tips to those who perhaps were looking for a way to cope.

1) Keep yourself organized.  Are you finding the whole idea of getting prepared and doing the shopping and the wrapping and the baking and, and, and, and.....too much?  Start with a trusty old "To-Do" list.  Make separate ones for each task you need to complete - shopping, food prep, decorating, etc.  Tackle one task at a time, and watch how satisfying it is when you cross each item off the list.

2) Take time for YOU.  Indulge in something that makes YOU happy.  Whether it's a specialty coffee at your favorite coffee shop, or a yoga class, a massage, or a guy's night out (or girl's!) taking time to do something nice for yourself will make a big difference in how holiday stress will affect you.

3) Go see the big guy in red!  If it falls into what holiday you celebrate, taking yourself, partner, kids to see Santa at a local mall or a parade can really bring joy and smiles to your face.  Yes, the line up of crying children, and hot parents, can be daunting, so check out the times at your local mall and choose an off peak time of day/night to see Santa.  One, you'll get to relax more, and two, you may just get an extra few minutes to talk to Santa!

4) Do something completely unselfish.  Have you heard of "Elfing"?  It's where you put something together, either handmade or purchased, your choice, and put it all together in a little package, maybe include some hot chocolate mix, and a little note (see below) and leave it on someone's doorknob, office desk, customer service area, wherever you decide to!  Just knowing that you've brightened someone's day will certainly brighten yours!

5) Take pictures!  Have you ever been so busy that you forgot to take your camera or smart phone out and snap some pictures to have for the years to come?  Grab some fun props, or go out in the snow (looks like Ottawa will get their first snowstorm tomorrow!) or have fun lighting the Menorah or decorating the tree, or out for a walk taking in the festive lights.  How about a photo a day challenge?  One photo each day that falls into a category like below.

If the holidays are just not your thing, don't feel badly.  You're entitled to feel the way you do.  However, if you are feeling severely depressed, anxious, stressed and do not know how to cope with these feelings, please know that we are here for you 24/7. 

We have volunteers here even through the holidays.  These volunteers have given us the best holiday gift of all - their time - to ensure that someone is always here to answer the line when you call.

So if you wake up on Christmas Day, and you are needing someone to talk to, please know that we are here for you - as the same goes for every other time period over the holidays.


As we head into December, we would like to wish each and every one of you a very happy holiday season, with however you are celebrating.  May the season bring you great joy in your life, and peace in your body, mind & soul!

Friday, November 22, 2013


It's one of those days when you have to force yourself out of bed, for either yourself, work, your kids, your pets, WHATEVER.

It's getting stuck in traffic on a Friday when there's never any traffic on Friday.  

It's forgetting your lunch on the kitchen counter, and not having any cash with you to get something else.

It's dealing with your depression and anxiety, and feeling like you're just in a rut with everything.

It's hearing that someone you care about has been diagnosed with a terrible disease.

It's wanting so much more from your life, but not understanding how to get there.

It's that fight you had with your friend/sibling/co-worker/partner that just was not even worth the arguing.

It's having lost something so very precious to you - a person, an object, a life, a job, WHATEVER.

It's knowing the holiday season is just around the corner and trying to muster up the strength to just get through it in one piece.

It's getting your paycheque and knowing that it's just not enough for your family to keep surviving on.

It's like feeling as if today would have been better without you in it.

It's WHATEVER is affecting your life, that you can reach out and talk to us.

We often blog about different mental health disorders, different coping mechanisms, what's going on in accordance to the time of year, etc.

Today, our blog post is just about one thing: having you know that WHATEVER you are dealing with in your life, we are here for you.

Our crisis line specialists are at our phone stations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for WHATEVER you want to talk about.

In fact, this year, we'll have answered over 40,000 calls from people just like you who have been dealing with different issues in their lives that have been affecting their every day.  For some, it may be something that they've been dealing with for a very long time, and they know that we are always there to talk about WHATEVER with them, for others they may be a first time caller, looking for someone to turn to, and we are here.  Honestly, we cannot stress that enough - we are HERE for WHATEVER you need to talk about.  You don't even need to give us your name if you're feeling overwhelmed about calling, but just know that every call is confidential.

If the thought of calling us to talk is just not on the table for you right now, we encourage you to check out our website at to learn more about our services.  

And just remember that no matter what, we are here for you to talk about WHATEVER you need to talk about.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Mental Health & Pets

A wag of a tail, or a purr, even a blub blub?  (that's supposed to be a fish...)

If you are fortunate enough to have a pet at home, you can understand the unconditional love that your little friend gives you on a daily basis.  

But can pets help with your mental health, depression, anxiety?  Some studies show that having a pet can reduce tension and elevate your endorphins, and improve your overall mental health well-being, when combined with proper treatment - medication, therapy, exercise and eating well.  Having a furry friend to take care of when suffering from mild to moderate depression may help you feel more at ease.

Unconditional love

Unlike relationships with family, friends, loved ones, co-workers, a relationship with a pet just allows you to experience your emotions without feeling judged or hurting someone's feelings.  Your pet will always be there to comfort you, as you are their "parent" in a sense, or their pack leader.


Taking care of a pet is a huge commitment, yes, and it may seem very difficult to grasp taking care of something else while you're hurting, but experts say that adding a responsibility to your schedule can help, giving you a sense of purpose.  Of course, if you're not feeling 100% ready to take on a pet, give it some more time before committing. 


If you're like me, you love being a couch potato - because is there anything better than being curled up on the couch with a book or a movie?  Yes, there is!  Pets definitely help with getting exercise!  Dogs especially, because they need to be walked and played with.  Morning, afternoon and night - little walks - and in the meantime - lots of floor or outdoor playing!  A little physical activity will better yourself mentally and physically!


Depression may cause some people to become isolated, pulling back from family, friends and loved ones.  If you have a pet at home, you're never alone, and that can make a huge difference.  Of course, if you are isolating yourself, taking time to talk to your family doctor or us here at the Distress Centre is a good way to cope as well.

Getting Out There

Having a pet can help push you to get more social contact.  You won't find too many people who won't want to pet your puppy or talk to you at the dog park, or while waiting at the vet with your cat, etc.  Pet owners love to talk about their pets!

Remember, if you're not ready to get a pet just yet, take time to think about it.  Pets do cost roughly $1500/year to take care of between food and vet bills and other expenses, so it is a commitment.  However, if you're feeling ready to take on a pet, you can rescue one from the Ottawa Humane Society, or you can look at a breeder.  Do your research as to what you want in a pet, and don't be shy to ask employees at a pet store or friends for their advice and best practices.  

As we always like to close our posts off the same way, we are here for you, 24/7 if you need someone to turn to, to talk to, or just some support.  613-238-3311 anytime of day or night.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Who Turned Out The Sun?

It's that time of year again, when the days get shorter, the weather gets frigid, and we turn back the clocks an hour for daylight savings time - which is this weekend, if you didn't already know!

Less daylight.  Getting up in the dark, going home in the dark.  Where does that leave us? In our offices or at home, or at work in a store, where we only see the daylight from our windows (if we're fortunate enough to have a window) or experience a measly breath of fresh air going to and from the car or bus.  

All of this can leave us feeling groggy, fatigued, irritable, angry, and depressed.  

How can you break free of this unhealthy schedule that can be harmful to your mental health and overall well-being?

  • Take a break!  Even if you're not a smoker, even a 5-10 minute bout of fresh air can do wonders.  Breathe in deeply while outside, letting the air fill your lungs, and exhale through your mouth.  Breathe in the oxygen and let out the stress, etc

  • Lunchtime walks!  Have a half hour or even an hour for lunch?  Bust out of your work environment for half of your lunch break.  Grab your jacket, and good shoes and just get out and enjoy the outside world.  I know this may not be as appealing in -35 degree weather come January/February, but you'll come to appreciate the feeling of releasing your mind for a few minutes.

  • Have a dog that you just let out the back door at home?  Head to the dog park or just go for a walk around the block.  Fido will love it, and it gives you the chance to rejuvenate.

  • Partake in seasonal outdoor activities!  Skiing, snowshoeing, sliding, skating, are all great winter activities - and for the time being, hiking in the Gatineau Hills is superb!  Look at joining a walk or run club in your area where you can also meet others who are wanting to get out and about!

These are just some quick ways to get out and breathe in the fresh air during the time of daylight savings.  

  • Be sure to get enough sleep as well.  "Falling Back" an hour means an extra hour of sleep (little bit harder with children and pets, but everyone adjusts in the end) so it's a good time to curl up with a great book, and just relax.

  • Also, ensuring that your diet is a healthy one is ideal.  Lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables are a key ingredient to a well balanced diet, as well as steering clear of fast food, and all that extra Halloween candy still laying around!

Taking care of yourself during this time adjustment is the best way to get through whatever feelings and emotions come into play.  If you find yourself struggling, please don't hesitate to reach out to us for support.  613-238-3311 anytime of day or night, we are here for you!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Calling All Divas for DIVA DAY!

Imagine a day to yourself, or with your BFF, sister, mom, aunt, whichever lady in your life, at the beautiful Nordik Spa & Nature.

Submerge yourself into the Nordic baths, indulge in the steam room, get toasty in the sauna.

But that's not all what Diva Day, in support of the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region is about!

We're excited that our ladies only fundraiser is just around the corner on Sunday, October 20th, from 1-5pm.

Divas in attendance will not only get to experience Nordik's beautiful grounds, and baths, etc, but will also receive the following:

Mini Makeover

If you ever watch Dragon's Den, you may remember a women named Andi Marcus who developed a 6-in-1 makeup and named it Mistura!  For those in need of a makeup with no fuss, no muss, Mistura's makeup will condense your makeup routine to seconds instead of minutes!  The Mistura Beauties will be providing free mini-makeovers for all of our Divas!  

Mini Manicure

Life is too short for boring nails!  That's what our manicure gurus, Koku Nail Bar, says!  The latest & greatest addition to St Laurent Shopping Centre, Koku Nails is there to transform your nails in 11 minutes, since we all don't have the time for that hour long mani!  Express manicures at Koku are their trademark service, but they offer that and SO much more!  Koku nail masters will be doing express manicures for every Diva!

Mini Facial

Before your makeover, indulge in a mini facial by Arbonne rep Juliann!  A fresh feeling that will leave your face feeling supple and smooth, while cleansing your pores, and minimizing your dead skin cells.  Each Diva will feel fresh and invigorated with a mini facial by Juliann and Arbonne!

Mini Tarot Card Reading

Do you have questions that you want answered?  Divas will each receive a mini tarot card reading by Suzanne Duc, which will provide you with enlightenment and a renewed sense of purpose in managing your future - plus it's just so cool!  Suzanne has over 10 years of experience with Tarot & Astrology.

Not only will the Divas enjoy everything you just read about, but there will be treats all afternoon, with thanks to the Cruz Family, as well as coffee, tea and herbal tea.

PLUS!  Divas can enter to win fabulous prizes including mall gift cards, jewelry, gift baskets and more!

At last, but most certainly not least, each Diva will be going home with a gift bag full of amazing local and national products!

...and more!

Thank you in huge part to our Title Sponsor, Paul Rushforth Real Estate!  Did you know that Paul & his team of agents have won countless business awards, for their professional services and amount of homes sold in a year?  Paul's team excels in buying and selling homes, and also provides a "your home sold guaranteed" agreement so that you don't end up owning two homes at the same time!  Paul also hosts a radio show on Saturdays all about home ownership, selling, buying, and everything in between.  As if he couldn't be busier, Paul is also the co-host of the show "All For Nothing?" on the W Network!  Paul and his team dedicate and donate time and funds to local not for profit organizations and charities year round, including the Distress Centre - to that we say THANK YOU!


Do you really need any more reason to come to Diva Day and support the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region?  

Tickets are selling quickly, so don't delay!  Call and buy your tickets now at 613-238-1089 x 222!  Tickets are $100 each, and we accept Visa, Mastercard, AMEX over the phone.

We are so looking forward to seeing you at Diva Day!  If you have any questions about the event, please call Leslie at 613-238-1089 x 222 or via email lscott @

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Guest Post - Yoga for Depression Part 2

Thanks to Kate Durie for providing us with a second piece on Yoga for Depression!  We loved learning about different poses and techniques  to help in the restoration of the body & mind!  

Yoga for Depression (Part 2):
Four foundational practices you can start, today!

Welcome back. If you read part one of this post, “Yoga for …Depression?” you may remember the transformative potential Yoga can have on our lives. I lived it first hand, facing depression and chronic pain, following a Traumatic Brain Injury.

The easy and the hard part? It. Takes. Practice. Time.
An open heart and an open mind.

Even the best drugs, treatments or therapies will only result in lasting change if it is taken or experienced regularly. What we’re talking about here lasting change. The kind of change that rewires our bodies, our minds, our nervous systems. Old, well-worn pathways.

We think we’re comfortable here, because it’s familiar. “This is the way it is,” you say. But we’re not comfortable, are we.

This can change. Let’s start right now.

Here are four foundational practices that you can begin to incorporate into your life, immediately.

#1: Getting still. The power of noticing.

Without question, awareness is the first step of change. Sounds simple, but this can be really hard if our minds and bodies are busy racing from one thing to the next, one thought to the next … or even tuning out, numbing out, and shutting out. Hard, but totally and completely possible.

How do we get there?

Pick one thing at a time & become a 3rd party observer.

Start checking in with yourself throughout the day. Pause. Start noticing if/when your thoughts are racing, or when a familiar negative story is playing in your head. Just notice. No judgment. No reaction. Just notice.

Check in with your breath. With your body. Where are you breathing? In your chest? Your belly? Do you find yourself holding your breath? How long are your inhales, your exhales? Just notice. Do you feel tension in your body? Restlessness? Pain? Stiffness? Where? When? Just notice.

Notice your habits. Eating is a big one. Drink choices. Bedtime routines. Interactions with people. Procrastination. Excuses. How do you spend your time? Anything. Everything.

Why is noticing important?

This is the first step towards change. Awareness. And you can do this.

You are increasing your inner wisdom: body and mind. The more you practice this check-in process throughout the day, the more natural it will begin to feel.

You are learning to cultivate the witness. The ability to experience what is, to simply “BE” without judgment or reaction. To see the choices we make. To be more conscious as we go about our day. Learning to notice, recognize and accept the way things are without immediately trying to change them, and watching as these states of being change, or even pass altogether.

Set a reminder on your phone, or pick an activity like getting into your car, pouring yourself a glass of water, or any other activity that you do regularly throughout the day, as a reminder to check in. How am I breathing? What types of thoughts have been spinning around? How do I feel in my body? How is this different from the last time I checked in?

Then … just watch, listen, feel. Notice.

#2: Big, deep, belly breaths.

Most of us can only survive three minutes without air, so technically speaking we all know how to breathe. Yet most of us are on a default breath setting that keeps us in a perpetual state of unease, stress, and even disease.

Breathing from our chest, the short shallow breaths we are so accustomed to causes havoc on our bodies, signals a fight/flight/freeze response in our nervous system, and starves our blood of oxygen.

We were born knowing how to breathe deep, full, expansive breaths. Watch babies. They are pros. Yet, as we age, many of us lose touch with our natural therapeutic ability to breathe. Something we can absolutely reclaim!

It’s free. It’s immediate.

Bringing mindfulness back to our breath, learning how to breathe deep long nourishing breaths, and how to use various breathing techniques (like 1:1 or 1:2 breathing) can have an immediate and positive effect on our emotional and physical well-being.

The best part? It’s free! Accessible any time, anywhere. And it is completely within our control. We are more powerful than we think.

A great place to start is simply to observe your breath. What is your default setting? If you started with the noticing exercises above, you may already have a good sense of this.

Let’s practice together.
Begin by counting the lengths of your inhales and exhales. Not changing them yet, just counting, just noticing.
One count is roughly one second.
Engage your inner witness - as though you’re observing your breath from the outside in. Not reacting, not changing, not judging. Just observing.
You may notice that your inhales are longer than your exhales, or vice versa. You may notice your breath is short, rapid, shallow, you may notice that you unconsciously hold your breath from time to time throughout the day, or any other variation.

Next, place your left hand on your chest, right hand on your belly.
As you inhale expand your belly, pushing into your right hand.
As you exhale, practice drawing your belly button in towards your spine.
Fill your belly on the inhale, puffing it out as much as feels comfortable. Draw your belly in on the exhale.
Repeat this for 3-5 breath cycles.

Eventually you will move into a 3-part breath, engaging all four quadrants of the lungs, but deep belly breathing is the best place to start, to increase our awareness, and it is an easy “go-to” during stressful situations or moments of tension.

Noticing and counting our breath alone often results in automatic change to our breath pattern. That’s okay. It’s pretty cool actually! Just remember that for most of us, learning to breathe more mindfully and healthfully takes time. Give your body a chance to catch-up.

Noticing without reacting or judging is how you will truly cultivate the calming, relaxing, and nourishing powers of breath.

#3: Finding YOUR way “in”.

Yoga is so much more than most of us believe it to be. Physical postures, breathing techniques, mindfulness, and meditation – even a way of being. Yoga is all these things and more.

Illness, injury, age, mood, experience, availability can all make a 60-90 minute power yoga class an unlikely proposition. If this works for you, great! But let me be really clear. This is not the only way. Far from it.

Practicing in community is powerful stuff. For a lot of us, finding a yoga studio and attending a class is our “way in”. That’s what worked for me, and made sense given my past experience with fitness classes. But…

In can be hard to find the right class. The right teacher. The right location. The right time. I get it. It can be especially challenging if we’re brand new to yoga or contending with various injuries, illnesses, or scheduling difficulties. There are so many variables.

The key is practice. Regular practice. If you want to see real, positive, lasting change, you want invite some form of yoga into your life 2-3 times a week.

And … You have options!

Group classes: Check out one of the many studios in Ottawa. Here are just a few:
Pure Yoga (hot only)
Yogatown (hot only)

Start with classes that include the word gentle, beginner, restorative, yin, meditation, or even therapeutic.

Once you get a feel for what feels good in your body, you can seek out classes to meet you where you are, that day, that week, that month. Ask! Yoga teachers are more than happy to speak with you before or after class if you have any questions. Or, ask the person working at the front desk what they would recommend given your preferences.

Home practice: Carve out a space in your home and keep your yoga mat in plain sight. Start building ‘mat time’ into your daily hygiene. Wake up, wash your face, get on your mat. You get the idea. How can you build a home practice from scratch? Here are a few ideas:
Pick up a book, go online (YouTube), buy a DVD and start building your own home practice. Google is an incredible place to start. Whether you follow a pre-defined routine or mix and match postures that work for you, the Internet is an endless source for videos, pictures, and ideas.
You can begin with a few minutes of deep belly breathing, 1:1 or 1:2 breath, or any other breathing exercise, then add 1-3 sun salutations, a couple standing poses, followed by a few seated/reclined/restorative postures, and savasana.
Start slow. Take breaks. Above all, listen to your body. Our body often knows better than our head.
The most important part of your practice is your breath. Cultivating focus on breath is a powerful way to calm your mind, body, and nervous system.
If you lose your breath while you are practicing, or catch yourself holding your breath, pause, ease up, and come back to that slow and steady, deep belly breathing. Your breath is your guide.

Private classes / Yoga Therapy: If a public class or DIY approach doesn’t sit well with you, consider a private session or Yoga Therapy.
This can be a more costly option in the short term, but will provide you with 1x1 personalized support to get you started in the comfort of your own home.
A private session with a Registered Yoga Teacher or Yoga Therapist will take into account your personal needs, restrictions, and preferences. The teacher/therapist can come to your home, and will meet you where you’re at in that moment.
This is a great way to learn and design a home practice that you can then continue on your own going forward.
Many yoga teachers offer private sessions. If you contact one of the local yoga studios, they can help you find a yoga teacher or yoga therapist who is open to private sessions.

When it comes to depression, anxiety, or any other health concern for that matter, our best “way in” is to practice a type of yoga that will meet you where you are (e.g. depressed lethargic body, anxious restless mind), then move the energy in a healing direction. Find the style, the pace, the duration that works for you.

When we’re dealing with depression or are brand new to yoga, going out into the world can feel overwhelming, intimidating, too much. I want you to know you have options! Get curious. Give yourself permission to try. I encourage you to explore one of the options listed here.

#4: Get restorative. On you.

Restorative poses (combined with breathing techniques like 1:1 or 1:2 breathing) and long holds are powerful way to release tension, increase body awareness, calm your body and mind or energize your body and mind, depending on what you need.

Here are 5 wonderful restorative poses to help with feelings of lethargy, slowness, heaviness, as well as racing thoughts and worry. Trademarks of depression and anxiety. The key here is backbends, heart openers, and balanced or extended breathing.

Before your begin to practice, always take a few moments to check with your body, your mind, your thoughts. Make note of how you feel in each of these areas, before and after. Even write it down.

Props: In addition to your mat, have a couple thick blankets and cushions (or bolster) close by. Yoga props are great if you have them, but regular house-hold items work great too!

Relaxation Pose: Sit down on your mat, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place a twice-folded blanket under your back, with the rounded edge beginning at your waist and extending beyond your head. Place two blocks or cushions/bolster under your knees, and lie down on your back. Explore different placements of the props under your knees, finding the most comfortable position for your lower back. Draw your arms out to a 45 degree angle, hands facing slightly upward.

Gentle Backbend Pose: To begin, you will keep the set-up for Relaxation Pose, and add an additional blanket or bolster under your back. Using the second blanket, fold it two or three times (first lengthwise, then widthwise 1-3 times depending on your comfort and blanket shape). Place the blanket on your mat, where your upper spine will be. Lie back over the blankets, so that the fold is under your upper spine. Adjust to find comfort. Stretch your arms out just below the level of your heart. If using a bolster, place it lengthwise under your back, starting from your lower spine and making sure it extends to your head (so your whole head is supported). Return the blocks/cushions/bolster under your knees, as in Relaxation Pose.

Inversion Pose: Fold one or two blankets (first lengthwise, then widthwise) so it forms a wide and long rectangle. Experiment with one or two blankets and go with what feels most comfortable. Place the blanket(s) on the front half of your mat with the rounded edge facing the back of your mat, leaving the back half for your shoulders and head. Lie down on the blanket(s), so that your upper shoulder blades and head are grounded on the mat, while the rest of your body (heart to feet) are elevated on the blankets. Adjust until you find a comfortable position. Draw your arms out to the side, about 45 degrees from your body, with palms facing slightly upward. Start with your knees bent, feet flat on the blanket, and let your knees fall together, letting go of all muscle tension. If it does not strain your lower back, you and extend your legs out straight, feet relaxed and open, or place blocks/cushions/bolster under your knees.

Butterfly Pose: Using the same blanket set-up as Relaxation Pose but twice the height, sit down on your mat with your legs out in front of you. Leave a couple inches of space between your bum and the edge of the blanket. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, lowering your knees out to the sides of your mat. Place blocks or cushions beneath your thighs, so that no effort is required to keep your knees up. Draw your arms out to the side, about 45 degrees from your body, with palms facing slightly upward.

Legs-up-the-Wall Pose: Bring your mat up to a wall, with the short side flush against the wall. Take a stack of two blankets folded four times and place them within reach of your mat. Sit with one hip against the wall, then slowly swing your legs up the wall, lying down in the centre of your mat. Work your bum as close to the wall as your hamstrings allow. Bend your knees, walk your feet a few inches down the wall, and lift up your hips, then place the blankets under your hips, about an inch or two from the wall and straighten your legs. Draw your arms out to the side, about 45 degrees from your body, with palms facing slightly upward.

After you have found a comfortable resting place in each pose, begin to find your breath. Slowly deepening the inhale and lengthening the exhale. Observe your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without becoming involved in them, without reacting or judging. Acknowledge them as you breathe in, and release them as you breathe out. Become the impartial, 3rd party witness. Breath through any thoughts, feelings or sensations, then let them go. Slowly balance your breath so that your inhale is equal to your exhale. If your mind is active, let your exhale be longer than your inhale, moving into 1:2 breathing. Counting your breath is a great way to cultivate focus and draw your senses inward. Hold each posture for 2-10 minutes (or longer if that feels right).

When it comes to restorative postures, the important thing to remember is that the most subtle practices can create the deepest relaxation and have the greatest positive impact.

I also encourage you to simple Google any of these poses for pictures, as well as additional guidance and support.

What’s next?

Take what serves you. Leave the rest. This is your journey. You have total permission to make this yoga practice your own.

Practice. Print out this list. Keep it somewhere close.

Remember, even the best drug in the universe will only work if you take it as directed, which means regularly and consistently, usually daily. Yoga is great medicine. Plain and simple, yoga heals. But like any deep lasting change it can be slow medicine. The most important part of the Yoga Rx is PRACTICE.

Practice is not an all or nothing equation.

Our mind automatically jumps back to thinking a 60-minute yoga class is the only way. It is not. Every little bit counts. And the more often these ‘little bits’ happen, the more change you will see. Just get on your mat, on your cushion, or even your bed or chair. Five minutes can make the difference. One of my favourite sayings is “if you can show up and breathe, you’re doing yoga.” This may your way in.

Every step you take towards incorporating these practices into your life paves a new pathway in your brain, begins to rewire your nervous system, and is the catalyst for change. Transformation. Give yourself permission to try. I promise, you can do this.

"It's not too late at all. You just don't yet know what you are capable of."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Need help getting started? Let me know. As I complete my Yoga Therapy Certification, I will be looking for 5 clients to guide through the entire assessment and intake process, leaving you with a personalized Yoga Therapy recommendation and program. I would love to be of service to you on your healing journey.

xo Kate

Kate Durie
Registered Yoga Teacher, Blissologist, Yoga Therapist (in progress)
Kate is a Registered Yoga Teacher, and has trained under renowned yogi and Blissologist, Eoin Finn. Kate is currently in training to become a Yoga Therapist, specializing in yoga for chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and other various conditions. As a Traumatic Brain Injury survivor, Kate understands first hand how Yoga is more than a series of asanas. Yoga heals. With every breath, every movement, every intention, yoga is transformative.

Connect with Kate on...
Twitter & Instagram: @kateudurie
Facebook: /kateunderhilldurie (coming soon)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back To School - College and University

Their room is packed into boxes in the car, they've bid farewell to their hometown, and are ready to start their post-secondary career in the field that they feel they want to venture into.  Or maybe they're staying at home to attend the closest college/university and do a daily commute.

Regardless of their choice, your child has now become a young adult, and is taking baby steps into the world of college & university.

I can still remember my parents dropping me off at Loyalist College in Belleville - the furthest I was willing to go away, and I was going to be living in residence with 5 other girls I had never met before, and going to this school, where I knew a total of 2 people.  Nervous?  You bet.  Best two years of my school career?  Absolutely.  (In fact, it's where I met my now spouse!)

That first month where your student is learning their way around campus, what studying is REALLY like, how to cook for themselves, how important sleep really is, where they need to concentrate, how to make new friends, and most importantly, how to succeed in school.

But with all of those things, can come stressful times.  Anxiety, depression, stress come very easily to post-secondary students as they are learning the way of the world.  OSAP, student loans, finances, how to control money - it can send an 18 year old spinning out of control.  I saw many students in my college years, spending their OSAP on stereos, televisions and unfortunately, at the bars.  Bullying can also continue into the post-secondary stage, making it feel like it's a never-ending cycle.

Some students find themselves enjoying the party scene of college/uni more than classes, and end up missing classes, sleeping in class, and watching their GPA drop, and drop quickly.

Then come mid-terms & exams.  This is possibly one of the most stressful times for a college/uni student, as quite often, their mark on the exam is worth 50% or more of their final grade.  It is not uncommon to see students at their breaking point during exam time, to see them get sick, depressed, and not eat well, and some even find themselves extremely depressed and end up with suicidal ideations.

How can you as a parent, help your child through their post-secondary school?  

  • Schedule weekly phone calls (or weekly dates if they're at home) to stay connected
  • Teach them how to cook healthy meals
  • Teach them how to do their laundry
  • Show them how to manage their money through a budget, how to pay bills, how to properly use a credit card (consider one with a small credit limit of $500)
  • Explain how to manage their stress (we're here 24/7 for your students to call!)
  • Talk about a healthy lifestyle that doesn't involve substance abuse
  • Go and visit!  They'll be so proud to show you around campus and their classrooms.
  • Listen.  You'll be able to see the emotions your child is dealing with, and listening without judgement will help your student get their feelings under control.
If your student is having problems with the course they are taking, it's not a bad thing.  It can simply mean their passion isn't in that area of focus.  They can work with a school liaison to find the right course for them.

...pat yourself on the back parents, you've gotten your child out of elementary, middle and high school and into their post-secondary education!  (or, into the work world!).  This can also be difficult on you, emotionally, mentally and financially.  Be sure that you have a good support system in your life as well, as you will also be dealing with your own stuff.  

As always, don't forget that we are here, for you and your post-secondary students, for whatever you're dealing with.  We're here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter what, simply by calling 613-238-3311.

Best wishes for this school year, to all of the students out there!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back To School - High Schoolers

Whether you have a "minor niner" starting high school or one entering into Grade 12, high school is four years of your child's life, that are some of the most emotional, difficult and overwhelming years.

Grade 9

The "Minor Niners" year.  Do you remember the feeling of walking into the large high school, feeling completely lost and nervous about where you locker is, how to find your classroom, where the cafeteria is, if you'd be picked on by an older student?  Those feelings are still around today for new ninth graders, but with a lot more concerning issues, like bullying, fitting in, sexual orientation and more.

One of the easiest ways for a ninth grader to get started, is to stick with someone they know.  Often, students will venture into a high school with someone they've already been going to school with for most or at least part of their lives.  Strength in numbers!  Your student will be able to have that friend closeby for assistance, or even just to have someone to talk to, as they meet new friends.

Ensuring that your child is safe & happy is one of the most logical concerns a parent can have.  Does the school have a zero tolerance for bullying?  Is your child someone who is friendly to everyone, or are they a potential bully themselves?  Are they involved in clubs or sports?  These are all excellent questions to keep in mind and to talk to you kids about.

Grade 10 

Not at the bottom of the food chain anymore, but not at the very top either.  Students in grade 10 are starting to know what they like and what they don't when it comes to subjects, and will definitely have a few choices for classes and electives.  Sitting down with your student to hash out details of each class together is a great way to learn more about what your high schooler is loving, and ensuring that they are meeting the school's requirements for graduation in a couple of years.  

All of the same concerns listed above can follow your child through their high school career.  Don't assume all of that ends in the 9th grade.

Grade 11

Your student is at the time in their high school career where they are going to be starting to think of post-secondary school or a career.  Now is an excellent time to listen to their hopes for their future, and how you can help them get there.   There comes a bit more expectation and pressure in the 11th grade, with making sure they stay on top of their studies to ensure good grades for college or university.  

This is also one of the times in your students life, where they're falling in love for the first time.  You may think "Oh she/he is just too young to feel that way!" but truth be told, we all had a first love in high school, and if you are honest with yourself, you'll remember the feelings that come with it.  Having the good old "Safe Sex" conversation with your child when they are in their first serious relationship can help you (and them) be more prepared for what can happen.  You'll most likely get a lot of eyerolling and the "Mommmmmm" or "Daaaaaaaaad" "I knoooooooowwwww", but believe me, they will care that you took the time to talk to them.  They will have their hearts broken, and there will be tears, so letting them know you are there, no matter what happens, will help them through tough times.

Grade 12

Top of the totem pole!  College, university or the work world are steps away from your almost graduate.  Finishing up missing credits, college applications, resume building - it's a very, VERY stressful time for your student.  You will invariably see changes in your child's demeanor, so taking time to sit down and talk about everything will help you both through it. 

Now is also the time where your student is just on the brink of being legal age (if in Ontario) and there will be parties, and dances, and more parties, and prom.  Taking time to talk about their responsibilities as a young adult are key, and setting ground rules.  They'll most likely be driving out late with friends now, so talking about being safe while driving to avoid tragedy is a must.

At the end of the day, ensuring that you are understanding and willing to listen to your student's anxiety, stress, depression, happy time, excitable moments, proms, dances, math tests, broken hearts, biology experiments gone awry, and simply being there for your student, is the most important thing. 

Students will be going through a slew of emotions over these 4 years and can easily pick up the phone and call the Distress Centre.  It's free, confidential, and while you may not necessarily know that they've called us, you can rest assured that our fully trained volunteers are here to provide support and listen.  Put our number in the hands of your student before this school year starts, and together we can get through another school year!  613-238-3311 - any time of day or night, we're here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Guest Post - Yoga for Depression

Yoga for … Depression?

Wherever you are. Whatever you’re doing. Just for a moment, be right here. Put down the cell phone. Turn off the music. Close your door. Open a window.

Breathe with me.

No really, I mean it.

Start tuning into your breath. Just notice. Gradually start to slow down your breath. Begin breathing through your nose. Gently deepen your inhale, and lengthen your exhale. Close your eyes. Stay here for a while.

Place your hand on your belly. Feel your belly expand on the inhale and draw in on the exhale. Nice. And. Slow. In 2-3-4. Out 2-3-4-5. Whatever feels comfortable and natural, do that. Try five more rounds of inhales and exhales.

Pause. Notice. How do you feel?

This is the power of Yoga. And this is just the beginning.

I know yoga. I also know depression. I have faced it. I have lived in the fog. I have stared up from the bottom of that dark, empty, seemingly endless black hole. And I’ve climbed back up, towards that tiny crack that lets the light in.

Depression is not a straight line. Life is not a straight line. The honest truth: if life was a straight line (think ‘flat line’), we’d be dead.

So what can we do? Find peace in our minds and our lives? Accept the ups and downs? Learn to truly live through them, even thrive through them? Sounds about right. Easy? No. Worth it? YES.

One thing I know for sure is that nothing, nothing is permanent … the good stuff, the bad stuff, the in between stuff. We are inherently resilient. We have great capacity to rewire, change, adapt and grow. It’s never too late. The best part? We have so much more power than we think, and we already have everything we need. Yoga simply serves as a powerful tool that can help us access this.

Pain x Resistance = Suffering

Depression (and anxiety) is more than a mood disorder. It’s a universal human experience and more common than we’d like to admit, let alone talk about. Sometimes life is too much, too big, too difficult, too painful to bear. Pain, it’s inevitable. Even those who do not claim to be depressed still find countless ways to tune out, numb out, and shut out. Pick your poison. We all do it, to varying degrees. Suffering, though, this can be optional.

Yoga heals.

This mantra found it’s way into my life following a Traumatic Brain Injury, and helps me to navigate the tumultuous journey through recovery, rehab, and acceptance. It’s an ongoing journey (life is not a straight line!), but one that is hardly recognizable from that day yoga found its way into my life. Yoga awakened an ability to heal … myself. A capacity we all share.

It’s the connection of mind AND body. This is our way through.

Yoga is much more than a series of physical postures and pretty poses. You do not have to be bendy, strong, or in perfect health to do yoga. Quite the opposite! However, for most of us (myself included), this is how we first see yoga.

Equally important as physical yoga (and some would argue more so), are the breathing practices, mindfulness, restorative postures, and meditative elements of yoga.

Time. Practice. Awareness. Possibility.

While I was in the Rehab Hospital following my TBI in 2011, yoga called to me. I got permission to leave the hospital a few mornings a week and attend a yoga class before my various daily therapies. This was a critical turning point. In a place where I felt surrounded by closed doors, a window of possibility opened.

Awareness. This makes all the difference.

The obvious initial benefit was that yoga helped me to manage my pain, my mood, my sleep. The benefits began to compound. I started to see many other powerful changes as a result of my practice.

The easy AND the hard part: No pressure. Just practice.

I made a personal commitment to practice in any way, for any length of time, at least 3x a week. I scheduled it in my calendar. I had my therapists hold me accountable. I dragged myself out of bed or off the couch to practice. I stumbled. I fell off the wagon. I found my way back. Remember: it’s never a straight line. It takes time to build new pathways, new habits.

Want to see for yourself? I hope so. Experiencing this in your own body, your own mind, is truly the only way to really get it. To feel it for yourself.

And. It. Takes. Practice.

No pill or treatment of any kind will result in lasting change if it isn’t taken or            done regularly.

I want to help.

The yoga community is filled with incredible people who want to be of service, to guide you into a practice, to be part of your healing journey. If introducing yoga into your life seems overwhelming, confusing, intimidating. You are not alone. If going to a public yoga class doesn’t feel quite right, quite yet, you are not alone. I’m here to tell you there are so many options!

In my next post, I will provide you with four foundational practices that you can incorporate into your life, immediately.

Get curious. Trust me. You will not regret it.

xo Kate

Kate Durie
Registered Yoga Teacher, Blissologist, Yoga Therapist (in progress)
Kate is a Registered Yoga Teacher, and has trained under renowned yogi and Blissologist, Eoin Finn. Kate is currently in training to become a Yoga Therapist, specializing in yoga for chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and other various conditions. As a Traumatic Brain Injury survivor, Kate understands first hand how Yoga is more than a series of asanas. Yoga heals. With every breath, every movement, every intention, yoga is transformative.

Connect with Kate on...
Twitter & Instagram: @kateudurie
Facebook: /kateunderhilldurie (coming soon)