Thursday, December 18, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...Stress

Imagine you're in a snowglobe.

You're the little figurine inside, carrying wrapped up gifts taller than you, you're holding the hand of a little one beside you.

There are trees, and maybe a shopping centre behind you.  

And then there's the snowglobe snow, flying & billowing all around you, in the small dome that surrounds you, coming at you from all directions.

And then it settles on the bottom of the globe, until someone or something shakes it up again.

Starting to sound like your life right now?

You're not alone.

As the holiday season is now upon us, the hustle & bustle of everything is coming to light.

The food.  The shopping.  The wrapping.  The visitors.  The travelling.  The weather.  The parties. 




Maybe this is your first holiday season after suffering a tragedy or a loss.




Maybe you have people in your life that you'll be seeing, and you don't want to.

Loss of sleep.



Maybe you just are feeling like this is it for you.



Suicidal thoughts.

You don't need to feel ashamed if you're experiencing any of these thoughts.

The holidays are meant to be bright & merry, to have you happy & healthy, and to end the year with joy in your heart.

Here are some helpful tips that may make sense for you to try out!

TO-DO Lists

I am a huge to-do list person.  I find that if I write out literally everything I have to do, from grocery shopping to packing our overnight bags, that I know as soon as I cross that one item off my list, it's done.  Start with the tasks that you know will take up the most time and get those done first, that way as you get through your list, the easier tasks are on the bottom, and you'll zip right through them.


We as humans, want perfection at the holidays, just as we see in the movies, with the big tree decorated, a gorgeous turkey on the table, everyone dressed up and on their best behavior, and that you did it all by yourself.  In reality, we're more like the movie Four Christmases - baby is spitting up, kids are fighting, everyone's tired, the dog is in the garbage & the smoke alarm keeps going off for no reason.  Then someone asks you what they can do to help. Take the opportunity to delegate a task or two this holiday season, and you'll feel so much better, knowing that one thing is off your plate, so to speak.

Cranberry Sauce, a la Bart - kids can help too!  :)  (anyone remember this episode?  It aired 25 years ago this year!)


The age old saying of "Less is more" still rings true today.  Have a budget set out for gift giving?  Stick to it!  What will going over your budget bring you?  Sure more presents under the tree, your kids receiving more...and a hefty credit card bill in January that will cause stress & anxiety.  Why not make some gifts this year? (Search handmade gifts on Pinterest, the possibilities are endless!) Or plan an outing with your family to a local amusement establishment?  (If you're in Ottawa, there's Skyzone, Laser Quest, Top Kart etc!)  Or ask them to fill out the following list:


If you're experiencing feelings of uneasiness, anxiety, sadness, depression, or thoughts of suicide, please know that our phone lines do not close over the holidays.  We have some pretty incredible people on our phones from Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, New Year's Eve & every day in between, to make sure that you have someone to talk to this holiday season.  Every call is completely free & confidential, and we are not here to judge you.  If you need a break between the presents and the turkey, take a few minutes to call us, and we'll be here to listen and support you.  613-238-3311.

From all of us at the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region, we'd like to wish you a very happy holiday season, filled with joy & love.  Be well!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Falling Back

The leaves are almost gone from the trees.  There's a permanent chill in the air.  There's frost on your car in the early hours of the morning, and let's be honest, there are more Christmas decorations in stores already than there were Hallowe'en.

Welcome to the time of the Autumn season where we "Fall Back" an hour.  Tomorrow night before bed (November 1st) we turn our clocks back, which means an extra hour of sleep (yay!) but less daylight (boo).

When you're getting up in the dark, and you're getting home in the dark, it's hard on your body & mind.  It's easy to fall into the routine of being in your workplace during the day, and staying indoors in the evening.  We turn to comfort food (hello, Mac & Cheese!) and fall victim to prime time television.  

While this all sounds like it isn't too big of a deal, our bodies & minds crave & need the daylight.  Without daylight, we become sluggish, our minds become slower, and our metabolism slows down.  Some people will deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D), and some will become depressed and deal with anxiety.  

So how can you deal with the time change?  Here are some tips!

1) Maximize your exposure to daylight.  It may be something as simple as a walk on your lunch hour.  If it's cold, bundle up, grab some mittens, and a coworker or pet, and take a 20-30 minute walk.  While you're walking, breathe in the air, and soak in the daylight.  Studies show that 30 minutes of daylight will energize your body & mind for the rest of the day.

2) Participate in outdoor activities you enjoy!  Do you enjoy going for hikes?  Take a trip up to the Gatineau Hills.  Like to ski?  There are amazing ski hills just 30 minutes away.  More of a "walk with a friend" kind of person?  Get some friends together for a morning walk before work, or start a Learn to Run group.

3) Practice healthy habits.  Eat well.  Sleep well.  Exercise. These three activities will be your best friends throughout the Fall/Winter months.

4) Follow your schedule. If you are taking medications, continue to take them at their appropriate times, and talk to your doctor if you think you need any adjustments.  If you are able to, under the advice of your doctor, consider taking a Vitamin D supplement as well, to boost your daily intake.

5) Watch for signs of S.A.D.  If you are feeling depression, anxious, stressed, and you aren't entirely sure why, you could be suffering from S.A.D.  Reach out to your doctor, and our 24/7 phone lines to talk about what you are feeling.  

You know how great the sunshine feels, so when Mr.Sun is out during the day, consider going out to say hello to the sun, and smile while his warm rays shine down on you!

As always, we are here for you anytime you need us.  613-238-3311.  Visit us online as well at 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dealing with Tragedy & Traumatic Events

Today, Ottawa has lost its innocence of being a city where nothing happens.

Upon arriving to work today, I hear of a shooting at the Canadian War Memorial.  Followed closely by another shooting outside the Peace Tower.

My first thoughts were with my spouse, my sister in law, and my brother in law, who all were downtown today for work and school.  My thoughts went there, and then to "What is going on in Ottawa?!"

There is nothing that can prepare us for a tragedy and traumatic event such as what we are experiencing today.






These are all emotions that we can expect to feel as these events unfold.  We are all glued to reports, radio & television, waiting to hear that it's over and that the shooters have been caught, or taken down.

These emotions are not something to be ashamed of, or something to hide.  These are normal feelings and taking time to acknowledge how you feel will help with the healing process.

Shock is another feeling that many will experience.  Ottawa is known as an otherwise sleepy, political city, and the thought "Things like this do not happen here" are being spoken repeatedly.  Shock symptoms can include:

  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Heart fluttering
  • Confusion
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Rapid & shallow breathing
  • Anxiety
  • Lightheadedness

Be sure to alert someone if you are feeling any of these symptoms.

Many parents are posing the question "How do I explain this to my children?"  It's not going to be easy, and each parent will do this in their own way.  There is no "best way" to explain to your children that there was multiple shootings today, but with these tips, you may find your own way to explain:

  • Sit your child down in a spot where they are comfortable
  • Let them know that you & your family are safe
  • Allow your child/ren to ask questions when they need to
  • Stay clear of unnecessary details
  • Explain that it's okay to feel different emotions
  • Encourage them to talk to you when they are feeling something

We are all in this together, and leaning on each other in tough times is key.

There is something to be said on how a tragedy can bring a community closer together, and we can know that Ottawa bands together in this tragic time.

Please know that we are here for you 24/7, no matter what.

Call us. 613-238-3311

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Building Good Habits

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."  - Aristotle

Building good habits is not as easy as 1-2-3, rather is takes time, dedication, and strength that can come from within, and other factors.

Some argue that a habit - albeit, good or bad, takes 21 days to develop.  Others says that there are many factors, including social & environmental surroundings, the actual habit that is being formed, and whether the person is in good mental health.

A teenager being offered a cigarette a couple times, then finding his/her way into a full pack, and after a few weeks, may find themselves smoking daily.

A woman who wants to be thin and makes herself purge a few times, may lead into once or twice a day.

A person trying out cocaine at a party, and then wanting to reach that same high over and over again.

Or....a person who decides that they are going to be fit, and gets their butt out to the gym for three straight weeks, and starts seeing results in more than one way.  That's a positive habit.

So how does one go about building good habits that will benefit their life?  There's so easy solution, and often we give up too quickly.

Here are some tips on how to start, and hopefully continue with good habit behavior!

- Commit to 1 month of the habit you want to form.  
- Make it a daily thing in that 1 month.  
- Start simple.  We often set huge goals, and then fall short.  
- Set reminders in your phone, on your fridge, etc
- Stay consistent.
- Use the buddy system with a friend who will support you.
- Accept imperfections. It won't happen overnight.
- Remove temptation from your surroundings.
- Know the benefits and the pain, so that you are prepared.

And lastly, and the biggest one, DO IT FOR YOURSELF. 

You can do it.  Believe in yourself that you can make this healthy, good, habit behavior stick.  

As always, we are here to help support you through anything you are facing and want to know what healthy habits you're adopting!


Thursday, June 12, 2014

What's On Your Music List?

Often we talk with callers about how they are coping with what is going on in their lives, and we hear them say "music".  

Having one of those weeks?  Where you just want to stick your headphones in your ears and drown out the world?  Understandable.  We all have those days.

We've talked about it before on our blog.  How lyrics capture someone's emotions.  How one song can bring back good or bad memories.  How the sound of an acoustic guitar can have you closing your eyes and imagining you're the one the artist is singing about or too.

Take for example The Beatles song "Let It Be".

"And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me, shine until tomorrow, let it be."

Does that lyric to you inspire you?  Does it help you think that tomorrow is a brand new day, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel?

What about Leona Lewis "I Got You"?

"And when you a need place to run to, for better for worse, I got you"

Does that make you think of someone in your life that needs your support?  Does it make you feel inspired to turn to the person who needs it the most and tell them, that you're there for them, no matter what?

How about Defying Gravity from the Broadway music "Wicked"?

"It's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap, it's time to try defying gravity"

Is there a big decision in your life that you've been putting off, or something that is scaring you?  Maybe it's making a commitment to something you've been shying away from, maybe it's a something someone has told you that you can't do.  

Or Jason Mraz's song "I Won't Give Up"

"And even the stars they burn, some even fall to the earth, we got a lot to learn, but God knows we're worth it, no I won't give up"

Perhaps you are experiencing difficulties in a relationship in your life, be it family or love.  Maybe it makes you think of a friend you've been helping to care for in their time of crisis.

And there's "Roar" by Katy Perry

"I guess I forgot I had a choice, you pushed me past my breaking point"

Do you have the guts & glory to do what you need to do, like what you hear in that song?  Maybe you're ready to leave a relationship that's been holding you down, and breaking your spirit.

Regardless of what type of music, song or lyrics speak to you, music is an effective way to really get in touch with your feelings.  Remember, it's okay to cry, be angry, laugh, and sing at the top of your lungs to whatever song is helping you cope.  Feeling through the notes & the melody are a great way to start healing, whether it be in your heart or your mind.

What's on your music list?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Battling Substance Abuse

This past weekend, I heard some terrible news.  A friend and co-worker from a previous job had passed from the effects of substance abuse.  Her heart became too weak to do its job, and she was gone.  A sweet, vibrant, funny girl, who always had a smile for you when you were talking to her, a hug for when you were down or got great news, and someone you could always talk to, no matter what.

But she, like many others, had a problem with substance abuse, and while she was trying to clean herself up, they overcame her and took her life.

My heart is heavy, as I think of her family, friends, co-workers, and her two little pups who she loved to the moon and back.


If you have someone in your life who is dealing with a substance abuse problem, there is help out there for them, and for yourself.

But, how do you know if someone is dealing with substance abuse?  Sometimes, it can be more difficult to spot than on someone else.

Physical Signs Can Include:

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming
  • Unusal smells on breath, body or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination
Behavioral Signs Can Include:
  • Drop in attendance & performance at work or school
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, interest, activities
Psychological Signs Can Include:
  • Change in personality or attitude
  • Mood swings, irritability or outbursts
  • Unusual hyperactivity, agitation or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation, lethargy or lack of concentration
  • Appears fearful, anxious, paranoid or becomes panicky for no reason
Not everyone will have these symptoms, and someone else may have all of them.  Substance abuse targets each individual differently.

How can you help someone who has fallen into the substance abuse trap?

  • Talk to the person.  If you are comfortable talking to this person, do so.  Talk about your concerns, offer your help and support, and be non-judgmental and unbiased.  
  • Don't attempt threats or bribes
  • Provide resources, like the Distress Centre's phone number 613-238-3311 and information about rehabilitation for the person, but be prepared to hear that they don't want or need help.  This happens more often than not, but it's not your fault for offering.
  • Research substance abuse rehabilitation programs in your area for them to help take the pressure off of them finding one.  Keep it to 3-5 choices, max.  
  • Listen to them.  There is a reason that the substance has taken over the person's life.
  • Don't hide, throw away or do the drugs or alcohol with the person.  
  • Don't argue with the person when they are under the influence
  • Do let them know that you are there to help them (if that is the case) when they are ready and willing.
Also, be sure to take care of yourself during this time - ensure that you too have support.

All of this being said, substance abuse comes from somewhere.  It is the age old question of "What came first, the chicken or the egg?".  Did the person start abusing because he/she is dealing with something in their lives they wanted to escape from?  Did she/he start abusing and then with the effects of abusing, came depression, anxiety, etc when they weren't using, so they had to use to "stay normal"?  Only the person abusing knows for sure.

While getting clean and sober is a scary feat for so many, there are hundreds of thousands - possibly millions who have done it, and stayed clean and sober for a very long time.

If you or someone you know needs to talk about their lives, their substance abuse, or are looking for community resources, we are here to listen and provide support.  You can call us at anytime of day or night at 613-238-3311.

I'd like to close this post off with a simple Rest In Peace for my friend whose smile and warm heart I will remember for a very long time.

(Name of deceased is withheld from this post)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Welcome Home, Soldiers.

This morning, on my daily commute into work, as I was congested in the traffic going west on the 417, a plane caught my attention.  It wasn't a normal commercial airliner flying in.  This was a massive, grey plane, with another small plane following just behind.

I watched it as I was stopped on the highway, trying to figure out what kind of plane this was.  Traffic started moving, and I was on my way to the office again.

On my normal social media check when I got into the office, this tweet came across from our friend Alison at CFRA:

Cue feelings of happiness.  Happiness for the families being reunited, children meeting their dad for the first time, partners holding on to one another not wanting to let go.  Happiness for each of the 93 troops, who have made it home to Canadian soil.  Happiness for our country.

Welcome home, soldiers.  

In the recent months, there have been many stories of soldiers taking their lives, after returning home from overseas.  Seeing unimaginable, tragic scenes, battling, losing comrades, incredibly long, hot days, and cold nights, even coming home can be terrifying. These things can become inner demons, that these brave soldiers may have a hard time coping with after they are home, and on rest for a couple of weeks or longer.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Fatigue, Anxiety, and other mental health disorders can be developed from experiencing instances like I mentioned above.  These can range in severity from mild depression, to severe PTSD, resulting in black outs, isolation, hallucinations, and suicidal ideations.

If you have a soldier in your life, or are a soldier, one who is just back from overseas, or someone who has been home for awhile, or even someone who is still rooted to Canadian soil, we are here for you.

No matter what you want to talk about, whether it is something you have experienced, something you cannot shake, thoughts that you don't want to be having, we are here for you.  No matter what.  

Our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  We are here to provide support to you, your families, friends, and loved ones, so that you can make it through another day.  Whether it is your first call, or your 50th call, we are always here, that we promise you.


Welcome home once again, soldiers.  We are proud of you.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Coping with a Breakup

Sometimes, it comes at you like a freight train, and other times it's comes completely unexpected.

A breakup in a relationship.

It may be your significant other, a friend, even a work relationship.  

Regardless of what the relationship is, it is now a "was" in your life.

Emotions are expected to be all over the place when it comes to a break up, depending on the circumstances.  There is no one perfect emotion that you are supposed to feel during this time.

Why does a breakup hurt so badly when you know in your head that it was for the best?  Simply because it signifies a loss - of commitment, hopes, aspirations and plans for the future.  

Someone coming out of an abusive relationship may lean towards the "when things were good they were great" times, and may not be able to see past the abuse, whether it was physical, mental, emotional or sexual.

A younger person may find heartache in losing the first person they truly cared for, or loved.  As parents, or older friends, we may tend to the "You're so young, you don't really know what love is".  That one person may have loved in their own way, that relationship, the person and the times together.  Love is a unique and wonderful experience, and is different for each person.

A couple that has been married for a number of years, were blessed with good fortune, children and that cliche "white picket fence", may find themselves at the end of their romance, and having just stayed together for their family's sake.  A split may be amicable, however, there is still the feeling of loss that can come through.

A work relationship may end on good or bad terms as well.  Something that you perhaps once saw yourself doing for a long time suddenly comes to a screeching halt, and you're left dazed.  Perhaps you decided to leave something behind and are walking away proud and feeling validated on your choices.

Someone may be completely blindsided in a breakup, not expecting their significant other to end things or walk away.  There maybe was another man/woman, an illness, an argument, or simply the person was not ready to honor their commitment.

As mentioned above, there are many emotions that can come through a breakup, including but not exclusive to:

  • Anger
  • Hurt
  • Resentment
  • Relief
  • Grateful
  • Happy
  • Confused
  • Depressed
  • Liberated
  • Sad
One person may experience all of these emotions, while another may only experience one or two.  It all depends on the person, the situation and the relationship itself.

So how can someone cope with a breakup?

In the age old way: time.

There is no magic spell to make going through a break up easier, whatever the case may be, even if you are the person doing the breaking up.

Be true to yourself during this time.  Do what makes your soul happy.  Love to dance?  Have a dance party with your closest friends.  Are you an outdoor-sy type?  Go skiing or snowshoeing or even for a long walk.

Share you feeling with your family or friends.  You're not alone - the majority of us have also gone through a break up or two in our lifetime and can be a great resource to lean on.

Allow yourself to feel whatever emotion comes your way, but please recognize if it starts to become dark thoughts, depression, thoughts of self harm or suicide come your way, please reach out and talk to someone.  If you aren't comfortable talking to someone you know the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region is always there for you, 24 hours a day.  

You aren't alone, and we'll listen to anything you want to talk about, even if it's just a memory of the relationship.

613-238-3311 any time of day or night.

Be well.