Wednesday, November 25, 2015

'Tis The Season

Silver bells...silver bells...

It's Christmastime in the city!

As Ottawa woke up to its first snowfall yesterday morning, it seemed like everyone was A) making appointments to get their snow tires on and B) realizing that Christmas was just a month away!

And then for some, C kicks in, which sounds very similar to B, but in a different context.

C) Realizing that Christmas is just...a month...away....

It can be overwhelming to think that there's just a month till the biggest holiday of the year.  

Shopping.  Wrapping.  Baking.  Parties.  Kid's Concerts.  Santa Visits.  Family.  

And for others it can mean or even result in stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness & fear.

There's something to be said for balance over the holiday season, and while it doesn't always seem easy, we've complied a few ideas that can help keep your Christmas spirit up, and your stress level lowered.


1) Stay Active!  We aren't saying that you need to hit up bootcamp or the gym every day for the entire month, but hey, if you can squeeze in a cardio session, a brisk walk outside with a friend, or even a workout at home of sorts, by all means, this will keep your heart rate up in a good way!  If you have kids, get them involved too.  You can have them come up with a great 30 minute workout that you can all do together.  Or if a run on the treadmill solo will make you calmer, you are entitled to that time too.

2) Watch Family Favorites!  This is something that so many of us love to do!  Is there a Christmas movie that warms your heart, or makes you laugh or brings you back to your childhood, watching your favorites can lift your spirit more than you know!  (My favorite?  Garfield Christmas)

3) Volunteer!  You may be thinking "Come on lady, we just talked about being busy, how on earth am I going to find time to volunteer?!"  Someone once told me that volunteering is the most rewarding experience they could ever ask for, for themselves and their family.  If you can find the time, there are so many great places around our city that you could volunteer at which are completely worthwhile!  Between fundraising for the Salvation Army with their Kettle Bell campaign, to Toy Mountain, to homeless shelter, or the food bank, there are definitely many places that you and/or your family could help out at this year.  If you're looking for a long term commitment for the new year, the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region are always looking for volunteers!

4) Gift to Others!  One of the best things about Christmas is not receiving gifts, but giving gifts to others.  Giving gifts to others is a wonderful way to show your appreciation for those you care for or are special to you.  You don’t need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars. Remember, it really is the thought that counts and people will appreciate small gifts because it shows you have thought about them.  When you give some thought to your gift, your friend or loved one will feel special and loved. This will then flow onto you feeling warm and positive from giving to someone you care about.  You could also talk with those around you who you celebrate with an talk about supporting a charity you all believe in rather than exchanging gifts.  

5) Appreciate!  Taking a moment to sit back with a coffee or hot chocolate in hand, and take in the wonder of the holidays can bring your soul much needed peace.  Whenever you have a stressful moment or day, taking time to focus on the good around you will instantly lift your spirits.  If this is a Christmas where you've recently experienced a loss, don't worry about trying to make it a perfect holiday.  Take your time to grieve your loss and remember them on the holidays.  

The joy of the holidays is within your heart, and with mindfulness, you just may be able to feel it all around you.  

If you don't already know this, the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region is open 24/7, and that includes every single day over the holidays - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years...our phone lines always remain open.  So if you need someone to talk to, we'll be here waiting.  


We are wishing you all a happy & joyful month leading up to Christmas!!

*Editor's note: we are aware of the many holidays celebrated around this time period including Hanukkah, Kwanza & those who simply do not celebrate anything.  The Distress Centre is non denominational and wishes everyone to enjoy the next month.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

One Year Later

A year ago today, Ottawa lost its innocence with an attack on Parliament Hill, and the tragic & fatal shooting of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial.

Ottawa was scared.

Confused.  Angry.  Filled with anxiety.  Hurt.

We shook, cried, screamed and had troubles breathing.

In a single morning, Ottawa changed...and quite possibly, you changed as well.

Last year, we wrote about how to deal with tragedy and traumatic events.  These messages still ring true today as we remain #OttawaStrong one year later.

Today, there are many reminders of this tragedy from all media sources, Facebook friends, Twitter followers.  It's nearly impossible to avoid, and this may be difficult to remember.

Some may feel like they don't want to go to work today, that another targeted event may happen. Having these feelings of vulnerability are normal when a tragedy has affected you.  However, if the feelings are too strong, too much to handle or you don't know how to move forward, this is something that should be addressed, as you may be suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or secondary trauma stress.

There are three main types of PTSD or secondary trauma stresssymptoms and they can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time:
  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event
  • Avoiding reminders of the trauma
  • Increased anxiety and emotional arousal

If you are experiencing any of these feelings, we encourage you to reach out for support.  We have amazing people on our phone lines who are there to speak with you and help you through any emotions you may be experiencing.

As the city prepares for a ceremony at the National War Memorial today to honor Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, as well as Sergeant at Arms (former) Kevin Vickers, who was successful in taking down the shooter, and all First Responders, there is an increased police presence to be sure that our city and country are indeed safe.

Today may not be easy for you, or maybe you'll be the shoulder someone else leans on.  Regardless of which side of the page you're on, know that we are all in this together.

And if you happen to be near an Ottawa Police Officer, RCMP, or a member of the Canadian Military, consider taking a moment to personally thank them for everything they do.  

We are here all day & night for you to talk to if you need us.  Pass along our phone number to anyone who may need it.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Back To School Blues

The first sighting happened this morning as I took a walk with my dog before leaving for work.

I honestly couldn't believe my eyes.  It couldn't possibly be...could it?  

As I walked a little further, it came clear into my vision that what I was seeing from afar, was truly what I thought it was.

A school bus.

How is it that summer went by so quickly, that it has become "back to school" time already?

Many adults, with or without children, have a feeling of nostalgia when September rolls around.  After years & years of elementary, high school and post secondary education, you almost expect that butterfly feeling in your stomach that comes in September.  You remember certain school years, heading off to college or university, and just what that first day of school felt like.

For parents, it may be a time of joy sending their kids back (Hello, Staples commercials "It's the most wonderful time of the year!") and for others, there may be sadness, or the Back To School Blues.  It may be difficult watching your children grow up before your eyes, sending them into higher grades, hoping that they are safe & learning, hope that they aren't being bullied, hoping they aren't the bully, wanting them to experience sports, and science, math & drama.

For students of any age, there can be excitement, let down of having to go back, anxiety, fear, stress, and many other emotions.  While someone can say "You'll be FINE!"  a million times over, the emotions that students feel are very real.  

If your child (4 years old or 20 years old) is experiencing some concerning emotions about school, there are some great ways to help them through it.

  • Help them find an activity that they are passionate about when it comes to school.  Is it soccer?  Is it art?  Maybe they have a passion for photography and being on the Yearbook Committee would be ideal.  Whatever the passion is, encourage them to follow it!
  • Check in daily with them, with open ended questions, ex: "Tell me about your day" or "What did you focus on in geography today" or "Tell me the hardest part of your day, and then tell me the best part of your day".  Using open ended questions will get you more than a "Good, yes, no or fine" answer.
  • Watch for signs of stress.  Stress could come from a teacher, another student, homework, a subject they are having a hard time with or with a relationship.  
  • Make sure they do their homework!  Checking in on homework daily could seem like a daunting task, but it'll save the "I didn't know it was due" or "I forgot about it till right now" excuses.  We've all used them!
  • Listen.  It's human nature to want to offer advice, however, listening will do so much more!  Intervene when necessary, but watch them learn & grow through every life experience.

If you or another parent needs someone to talk to about their school aged children, we're always here to listen.

If you're a student reading this, and you need someone to talk to, you can call us day or night confidentially to talk about ANYTHING you want to talk about!


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

You Spin Me Right Round, Baby, Right Round

Life isn't always easy.  

You get pulled in 100 different directions at once, between work, family, friends, you're jumping over life's hurdles, you're trying to make ends meet, do the groceries, fold laundry, answer the 10 emails that came in late after you've already left the office.

You keep running in circles, around and around and around and around and....

You fall down.  Hard.

You've burnt yourself out.  You're sick, you're run down, you're physically, mentally and emotionally unable to do ANYTHING else.

Guess what?  You're not alone.

Studies have shown that at least once a year, each and every one of us has that moment, where our bodies just say "hey now, I can't keep going at warp speed".  Then we have what is known as a "nervous breakdown".

A breakdown will vary from person to person, and mean different things to each of us.  Some people may experience severe breakdowns, while others just may need a day to recoup.


Take "Jamie" for example.  

Jamie is 38 years old.  He works for a retail store that he loves, and does very well with customer service.  Today he's learned that he's been promoted to Store Manager, which includes new responsibilities, like opening & closing, balancing cash, doing deposits, scheduling employees, holding staff meetings, and on top of all of this, he is expected to meet a higher sales quota.  Oh and they're planning a store invite only party that Jamie's boss wants him to take on.  Jamie's grateful for the opportunity, but notices he's a bit more fatigued and has a lingering headache.

Jamie also has a family - his partner of 10 years, and their 2 children.  Jamie's partner, we'll call him Henry, and the kids have a surprise waiting when Jamie gets home from work - a puppy!  A sweet, 8 week old puppy.  Jamie & Henry had discussed waiting until their children were a bit older and more responsible, but he falls in love with the little puppy.  He feels a bit overwhelmed with having two young kids and a puppy, but he figures it will be okay, especially since Henry is a stay-at-home Dad and can train the puppy.  He shakes off the feelings of doubt as just being nervous.

Jamie & family sit down for dinner, and learn that their eldest daughter has a project due for school...tomorrow.  Clear the table, work with the kids to get the project and other homework done.  Jamie's head starts to ache a bit more, so he takes an Advil.

Henry is paying some bills, and sighs, and says to Jamie "I got the quote for the water heater today, and it's going to be about $1000."  Jamie calculates how much he'll have to sell at work to meet his commission to offset the cost, and oh wait, there's the family vacation they wanted to take the kids on when school let out for the summer.  Henry takes little puppy out for a walk while Jamie looks over the numbers, while his head continues to ache.  He's also noticing his eyes are strained.  Maybe he's catching a cold.

Jamie ponders all of this as he tucks his kids into bed, and he and Henry start the housecleaning - laundry, bathrooms, dishes, tend to the gardens.  

As Jamie settles into bed for the night, he starts feeling heavy in the chest, like someone is sitting on top of him.  He didn't even have the strength to shower tonight.  Then one by one, as if he somehow summoned them, the children and the puppy all need his attention.  Jamie's headache is now a full blown migrane and he doesn't think he'll be able to work tomorrow.

Jamie's family all fall asleep, puppy included, for the night, while Jamie struggles to fall asleep, tossing & turning, fighting against the heavy feeling & migrane.  He just can't seem to shake these feelings he's having.  

Jamie's next day starts off even worse.  He wakes up feeling like he's going to cry, and he can't figure out why.  


Do parts of Jamie's story sound familiar to you?  This is a completely fabricated story that I just made up on the spot.  However made up it is though, this is easily comparable to many people in how a breakdown can begin.

What's disturbing is, many of us don't recognize the signs of a nervous breakdown coming, until it hits us full speed.

If you're experiencing signs of a breakdown, please take the time to assess yourself.  You only have one "You" and you need to take of yourself as well.

How do you ensure that you don't have a nervous breakdown?  Every person is different, but here are some key ways to help avoid a breakdown

  • Exercise & eat well
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Learn to say no, if you can't handle any additional responsibilities
  • Delegate tasks - employees & family members alike
  • Use a "To-Do" list & cross things off one by one
  • Talk to your doctor if you're having troubles with sleeping, eating, or are concerned for your mental well-being
  • TALK.  This is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  Talk about how you are feeling, what you are experiencing, and know that you aren't alone, just as "Jamie" has shown us above.

Finally, know that our volunteers are always here, 24/7, if you need someone to talk to who is unbiased and non-judgmental.  613-238-3311.  Call us anytime.

Life isn't always easy, but it can get easier, starting with a call to the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine's Day

It's been rumored that Valentine's Day has one of the highest suicide rates out of any day in the year.  Truth is, it doesn't.  While over the course in Canada in 2011, there were 3738 reported suicides, there was no more suicides on Valentine's Day than there were on other days.

In fact, the number of suicides in Canada has dropped from the previously reported numbers.  While we still lost many lives, knowing that 60+ people more than before decided to not take their lives, shows that we are doing something different, something helpful in our communities.  We need to keep improving to save as many lives as we possibly can.

So why do people assume that Valentine's Day shows more suicides than others?  

Mainly because society in general, movies, books, etc, have said time & time again that Valentine's Day are for those in relationships, lovers, partners, husbands & wives, telling someone who means the world to you how you truly feel, and showering that person with gifts, adoration, and love.  

Basically saying, that if you are single on Valentine's Day, you should be feeling:

Depressed - "No one wants to be with me"

Anxious - "Why can't I keep a boyfriend/girlfriend?  What's WRONG with me?"

Stressed - "I'm NEVER going to get married/have kids/buy a house this way!"

Sad - "I wish I had said yes to that person who asked me out last week..."

Suicidal - "If there's no one who loves me, why am I ever bothering with life"

That you should be:

Overeating - "Hellooooooo tub of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.....BFF's?  Okay"

Watching sad movies - "I can't believe Allie doesn't remember Noah!"

Going to single's parties - "All dressed up to meet people I don't want to meet"

Burning your ex's photos - "You wasted so many years of my life!!!!"

But here's the thing:

You don't need to be any of these things!

Valentine's Day is for some people, and for others, it's not.  It's okay to be single, not to have a date, not to get all caught up in the holiday.

Instead of feeding into the above "what you're supposed to feel" emotions, let's make a list of things you love about yourself.

I love myself because ______________________________.

I love this about my mind ___________________________.

I love this about my appearance ______________________.

I love this about my life _____________________________.

I love this about where I live _________________________.

I love that I can do this _____________________________.

I love to do this every day ___________________________.

Change your thoughts, and you'll change your world.

Valentine's Day shouldn't be anything that causes you anxiety, stress or depression, but if it does, and you need someone to talk to, we are ALWAYS here to listen.

Just give us a call at 613-238-3311

Remember to love yourself this Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Student Life

Exams.  Studying. Parties.  Midterms. Projects.  Thesis. Group work.  Grades. Tests.  Tuition. Work. Roomates.  

Oh, the life as a student.  Sure, being a student has its benefits even beyond the educational side of it, but it also comes with inevitable stress.

You're bouncing around from class to class, buildings to libraries, dealing with the pressures of exams & midterms, and all the while you're fighting a cold or the flu, you have 4 projects that are worth 60% of your final grade, and it's only the second week back in this semester.

Student life is not easy.  There is a lot of pressure to excel & succeed, and it can be truly overwhelming.  For those of us who have surpassed the post secondary education part of our lives, there are definitely times of stress that will forever stick in our memories.

Students can often wear themselves down when they don't take the appropriate measures to take care - of their physical selves, as well as their mental selves.  In fact, when a student continues down a slippery slope of not taking care of themselves, one may potentially experience depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and thoughts or actions of self harm or suicide.

This doesn't mean that if you're having a particularly bad day or week that all of a sudden you're going to have these thoughts running through your mind, however it is possible.

How can a student take care of their overall being?  It's not always going to be easy, but with practice, students can adapt to coping skills that will benefit them all school year round.


- Diet & Exercise - 
This does not mean you have to hit up the gym 5 days a week on top of your regular schedule and buy all organic foods, but it does mean to eat healthy meals (skip the fast food in the cafeteria and go for some homestyle cooking, or a fresh salad/soup combo) and to try and get at least 30 minutes of exercise in your day.  A great tool to help you get moving, are the active wear bracelets that you can sync to your smart phone.  A gentle vibration will remind you when you haven't moved in awhile - get your heart rate up with a walk, go for a skate on the canal, or hit up the gym!

- Do Something For YOU - 
Finding something that you love to do, will help ease the stress!  If it's going for a mani/pedi, or grabbing the guys to watch a game at the local pub, or if it's simply cranking the music and letting it all out in an impromptu dance party, do it!  

- Furry Friends - 
Do you have a pet in your home?  Or a friend with a dog or a cat?  Studies have shown that just 15 minutes with a furry friend can help ease major stress.  Many universities have Pet Therapy Programs, where animals who have gone through therapy training will visit on designated days, to help brighten the lives of students.  Ask your Student Centre if anything like this exists and how you can attend!  Or, visit your local Humane Society and volunteer as a dog walker.

- Talk It Out - 
Knowing that you have a place to turn to in your time of stress is helpful.  This is where we at the Distress Centre come in handy.  Since we're 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we are always here, ready to listen and support you.  If you're cramming for a test or a midterm and are at your wit's end, pick up the phone and call us.  Talking about what ails you, is one of the best ways to cope.  Our Crisis Line Responders are non judgmental, unbiased, and are people, just like you & I.  

If you have a student in your life, pass along our blog post so that we can help each of them get through potentially tough times.

We're always here, and always ready to listen : 613-238-3311

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Exercise For Your Mental Health


It's one of those things.  One of those "I'm going to start going for a run after work, five days a week!", and "Oh let's sign up for that free month of yoga at the local studio!" and the "I got a gym membership for the classes!"

Then they sometimes turn into...

"Ugh, I don't want to go run tonight, I'm exhausted."

"I'm too sore from the last yoga class & I didn't have a clue what I was doing!"


"I don't know anyone at the gym, so the classes are boring."

Sound familiar?

When you choose to exercise, you may not realize, but while your body is getting in shape, your mind is too.

Our minds & bodies are synced together 24/7.  When we exercise, it's no different.  

Exercising doesn't mean that you need the $750 gym membership (although if that motivates you, then great!) or that we need to be sporting the latest workout gear by celebrities, or even that you have to go run 5k every night.  

When you workout, in whatever form that may be (swimming, running, cycling, group exercise, hiking, walking, sports, skating, etc) your body releases endorphins, which trigger a sense of happy in your brain.  When your brain feels these endorphins, it sends them throughout your entire body, making what you're doing, feel even better!

How much exercise is recommended?  30 minutes a day.  Take a walk on your lunch.  Play with the kids in the backyard.  Do a home exercise dvd.  Go to the gym & do cardio or circuit training.  

Other benefits from those 30 minutes of your exercise include:

  • Less tension, stress & mental fatigue
  • Natural energy boost (throw away those energy drinks please!)
  • Improved sleep
  • Less anger & frustration
  • Sense of achievement (yes, you really did just leg press 150lbs!)
  • Appetite for healthier foods (these paired up together are a winning combination!)
  • Appreciation

If you need a step in the right direction, start small.  Focus on one exercise you enjoy doing.  If it's a walk, that's great!  Take on one exercise and own it, stick with it for 3 months, and you'll notice a difference!

Prefer the social aspect of working out?  Check out a gym that's close to your house, and encourage a friend to join you so that you have a workout partner all the time.  There are many gyms with memberships under $40 a month.

Always remember to consult your doctor when beginning an exercise regime, to rule out any potential complications.

Remember, above all, you CAN do it, and we're here to support you through it all.  613-238-3311