In Harmony with Self & Nature

Nature & Inner Harmony

The restorative aspects of nature has long been verified in both folk lore and science. The further you drive away from the city, the fresher the air may feel. Enjoying long walks, hikes, trails, or climbs in nature affords you the opportunity to learn from the environment. Retreating to the countryside, conservation areas, local parks or beaches gives your body, mind, and spirit the chance to reconnect with nature in the wild and to reflect on your own corporeal nature.

There is no doubt that modern modes of work have increased demands on cerebral functioning. Business and service industries have migrated to online platforms. Even those jobs that require direct or in-person contact have increased digitization and techo-merging with computer systems and processes aimed to streamline administrative and staffing functions such as scheduling, attendance, payroll, and more. The amount of time required to merge traditional labour, as you know it to virtual webspaces has been enormous. It remains to be seen what the toll of this work will be on the human brain and body.

Cognitive Fatigue & Burnout

More and more clients disclose symptoms consistent with adrenal and cognitive fatigue that typically result from extended periods of extreme stress. There appear to be a set of shared mental and physical impacts created by working too much, too hard, and for too long. Clients who avoid symptoms of overwork are at greater risk of burnout. Learning to identify when to take a break is a critical first step in sustaining your wellness over the long term. Once you begin to become aware of your need to take a break, the next challenge will find ways to integrate these into your work and play days.

Your body is usually the best measure of your health and wellness. Your corporeal self is essentially made up of the same materials found in all other life forms on the planet. When you find time to rest and recharge in nature, you benefit from the subtle nuances of natural rhythms you encounter when walking through a field, forest, or mountain top. You are exposed to reproductive, life and death cycles, and seasonal changes in all the plant and animal life that surrounds you. Being close witnesses to these miracles of nature will likely lead you to a deeper reflective view of yourself in nature as well.

In my clinical practice, understanding the self is a lifelong process of deep introspection and reflection. It is an integrative journey of self-knowledge that includes your body, mind, and spirit. A lack of balance in your life generally leads to problems in one of these three areas of the physical, mental, or spiritual self. Journeys of recovery and healing require you to regain balance in one or all areas. Years of self-neglect may require months or years of recovery. Getting to know yourself is a cool journey. Getting to a state of inner harmony where you appreciate that your life is as miraculous as those miracles of nature you see regularly on a casual walk each day is well worth the time you invest in yourself.

There are several natural cycles that you experience each day as well. These bio-rhythms include sleep, digestion, menstrual cycles, and hormonal changes. Some bio-rhythms change hourly, others daily, and even others progressively change over several years as you age. As a younger woman, I had regular menstrual periods that were consistent and not terribly painful. As a married woman, my sexual activity was connected to a loving partner who agreed to a family planning method that did not rely on the pill. I noticed many things about my monthly cycle that did in fact change when stressed, overworked, or with changes in the number of daylight hours. I had a relatively longer cycle that was usually 32 days in length, while many peers had shorter cycles. When work had been particularly stressful, I noticed a delay in my period by up to two weeks. Many women shared similar experiences and reflected on the impact of stress on this regular monthly hormone driven bio-rhythm.

Peri-menopause and menopause itself is another very intense period of several years where natural bio-cycles progressively change and on many levels. My professional and personal approach to care has always been bio-psycho-social. Understanding the self must include a corporeal perspective that allows you to be aware of the changes in your body when distressed. You may learn that you lose your appetite for food, sleep, or sex under great stress, or alternatively that your desires for food, sleep, substances, or sex grow as a means to release a build-up of toxic energy or the primary stress hormone cortisol. Some people make reckless decisions when distressed and regret that they failed to learn healthier coping strategies sooner. Practices such as yoga, Taiichi, mindful meditation, or contemplative prayer offer opportunities for you to slow down and “feel” your body‘s cardio and breathing rates. Newer technologies such as the Apple Watch, or Fitbit also provide you with immediate bio-feedback that can help you to identify signs of overwork as well as periods of rest.

Achieving states of inner harmony at different developmental stages in your life is possible when you care for yourself as a miraculous creation of nature. Self-love flows when you accept the fragility of your human body, and nurture yourself for health and wellness over the long term.

Lisa Romano-Dwyer BSc, MSW, PhD, RSW

Collateral Damage of Parental Alienation

Undermining Moms and Dads results in serious societal problems.

As divorce rates continue to rise, Provincial and Federal Acts are changing processes to make it easier for families with children to come to agreeable terms of divorce earlier. The Moving Ontario Family Law Forward Act, 2020 proposes to align more closely with the Federal Divorce Act so to modernize language around terms used in processes of custody and access. Any updates in legislation that minimize the emotional injury caused by separation and divorce on children is always a good thing. Families are worth fighting for, and many people have repaired what at first might appear to be failing relationships.

In more recent times, “parental alienation” has emerged as a clinical term designed to capture the detrimental impacts on child-parent relationships caused by a persistent campaign of denigration aimed at discrediting the love, care, and compassion of one parent by the other. Research has found consistent indicators of this long cited phenomenon in children that results in an overall unbalanced perspective of one parent in favour of another by one or all children involved. It is possible that only one child in the divorcing family shows evidence of parental alienation even where siblings continue to hold fair perspectives of both parents. Over time, this persistent denigration takes hold, and one or more children reject the second parent in favour of the alienator.

The reasons for one parent to actively denigrate and injure the reputation of a child’s second parent are complex, and normally link back to the fundamental reasons for separation and divorce in the first place. Relationships built on unhealthy and insecure attachment styles are prone to years of distrust, ongoing emotional testing, and poor personal boundaries that can sadly permeate the family relationship style as well. You are likely going to handle your divorce emotionally in a similar manner that you handled your marriage. If you were open to regular dialogue and honest interchange while happily married, then you are more likely to want to talk about serious problems with your spouse that may or may not result in divorce. If you had a high conflict marriage, then the odds are higher that your separation and divorce will be likewise.

Adults seeking divorce following extramarital affairs are often implicated in active parental alienation of one parent over the other. Children may be exposed to details related to sexual infidelity for which they are not emotionally mature enough to understand or process without support. Emotionally injured and grieving parents may unconsciously engage in role reversals with their kids thereby expecting emotional support and nurturance from their children, rather than maintaining their role as care-provider for their children. Depending on a parent’s ability to cope and recover after their marital break-up, many adults turn to their children and family, rather than trusted adult friends or professionals to work through their pain.

So many people share details about an affair or marital break-up with people at work, in their community, or in the family that they later regret they had. The compulsion and need to share is a natural and healthy one designed to keep you from experiencing a full mental or emotional breakdown. Finding the appropriate person to share your emotional pain is important to your health and to the wellbeing of your children. A skilled counsellor, mental health practitioner, social worker, or psychotherapist will help to create a safe place to talk about your feelings, identify emotional roadblocks, and re-build important personal boundaries following martial separation.

An unexpected impact of parental alienation is the general collateral damage caused to Moms and Dads across society. There appears to have been a gradual and increasing denigration of parenting over time, whereby children are more often referred to a Kids-Help service before checking-in with their own Mom or Dad. In my opinion, it is important that clinical social work with children and adolescents always include the option of bringing Mom or Dad into the identified problem, and more importantly into possible solutions. Services that forgo parents as primary care providers risk further damaging the most fundamental relationship in a child’s life. If we are truly aiming to build a better and safer world for our children and grandchildren, then we need to make a better effort at being loving and respectful people with one another.

Updating legislative processes to adapt to adult decisions in ways that minimize emotional harm to children is a grand plan, learning early to make healthy adult decisions for your entire family may be an even greater one. Divorce hurts us all, behave responsibly.

Lisa Romano-Dwyer PhD, RSW, Owner Lakeside Wellness Therapy Affiliates

#wellness #mentalhealth #parentalalienation #parentingiskey

New Year, New Decade, New You – 2020

Aurora Festival of Lights in Toronto, Ontario

One of the main reasons societies celebrate “endings and beginnings” each year is the hope to begin anew. It is a time when people review the past year and decade reflectively.

You may have lost family members and friends due to illnesses, misunderstandings, divorces, or tragedies. At the same time, your life may have been blessed with family weddings, the birth of children, new degrees, credentials, diplomas, promotions, or a new job or business!

Everyone in society shares in the passing of the old year and the hope of the new year in common. New Year’s day is a statutory holiday for everyone to remember how fortunate you are to begin anew.

You may find yourself wishing you had reacted to something differently. You may also find yourself seeking to make amends with people you may have hurt or offended. The road you take in the New Year is completely up to you.

Starting slowly and honestly to review what aspects of your life you wish to improve, change, sustain, or maintain this year as the foundation to the next decade is an excellent way to move forward in your life.

Some people benefit from making a list of goals, ideas, resolutions, or plans for the next year. You may also expand your list to include a 3-5 year plan. Having an overall structure or framework for you to organize immediate and future goals is healthy and critical to success.

None of us experience success in isolation. Ensuring that you cultivate healthy and happy family relationships is essential to feelings of fulfillment, gratitude, health, and wellness.

In this past decade, North American societies have learned to talk openly about mental illness and the years of silent suffering caused by the social stigma created by misinformation and bias.

Know the signs of mental illness and be there when your friends need you most. Forgive yourself if you have missed the needs of others due to petty distraction or busy-ness.

Gone are the days of historic institutionalization where people lost self-determination and freedom due to episodes of depression, mania, anxiety, or psychosis. Canadians have come a long way due to the bravery of individuals such as Margaret Trudeau, Clara Hughes, Princes William & Harry, and Michael Babcock.

The constitution has also caught up accordingly and people with mental disabilities are protected equally under the law – even in the workplace and academia.

Your mental health and wellness is far too important to be misunderstood or mistreated. More service is needed, so you can find expert support at school or work without barriers.

Connect with a Registered Social Worker and Psychotherapist today who will truly remind you about your rights to be Well!

#NewYear #Let’sTalk #Heal #Wellness #KnowYourRights