Saturday, 15 August 2015

A Strategy to Explore Closure

I have been working through what to write for my next post, and as I move into my final weeks of psychiatric nursing school I thought closure was a fitting topic. How often do you find yourself thinking about a friendship that went bad? A family member you have remained angry with for many years? A relationship that ended? Or perhaps someone you have never even met?

This brings me to the topic of Psychodrama. The majority of general definitions around psychodrama speak to one on one or group therapy involving acting out situations you wish to explore further (Tomasulo). What is discussed less are the different underlying methods within psychodrama people can use, such as letter writing. Letter writing was an activity we were to complete at one stage of our psychiatric nursing program; this was not something we needed to share with our instructor, but instead was something we were to share our experience of. The purpose is to take one of these situations we have not stopped thinking about and write to the person involved.

An important recommendation made by Dayton about letter writing in her book on psychodrama is to try to just write and avoid stopping too much to think about it. This allows for your thoughts or feelings to flow out more naturally. Dayton also says to make sure you truly complete the activity and add the person’s name at the top and sign yours at the bottom.

Here are some examples of different letters one can use in completing this activity:

“A letter…
…of forgiveness to the self
…expressing anger towards someone
from someone expressing sentiments he [you] wishes that person had expressed
…telling someone about a hurt
…to someone expressing a desire for reconciliation
…to someone expressing understanding of what that person went through
…from someone expressing understanding of what the participant (you) went through
…to “the disease”
…to an aspect of self or the self at a particular time in life
…to a substance or behaviour to which a person in recovery is saying good-bye
…to a person who you feel you’ve lost but still have much to say to that has remained unspoken
…of forgiveness, asking forgiveness from someone you feel you have hurt, or a letter you wish you would receive from someone who has hurt you, asking you for your forgiveness”.

When assigned this activity I initially had no idea how to approach it. After some reflection, I chose to write a letter of forgiveness and was surprised by the result. Although I do believe you have to be at a place where you are at least ready to think about forgiveness (or whatever letter type you choose to write), I also found that this process helped me in working through the feelings I have had for many years. Furthermore, it allowed me to explore where the other person may have been coming from. An additional step you can take is to write a response to the letter from the other person’s side. In completing this, for me the response was a combination of reasons this person may have been the way they were, and also some of the things I wished had been said.

As you can see there are many approaches to this technique and there is no wrong way to complete it. This is not a letter intended to be shared with the person, but instead is for you. For myself, I found this activity prompted additional letter writing and even the reconciliation of a friendship I had been very hurt about losing.

It isn’t easy exploring feelings or trying to find ways of living in the now instead of dwelling on the past, but this is one method that I found to be very helpful in doing just that.

Jennifer Lynn

Dayton, T. (2005). The living stage: A step-by-step guide to psychodrama, sociometry and experiential group therapy. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.
Psychology Today (Tomasulo, D.J.) -

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Can We Achieve a Work/Life Balance?

The concept of work/life balance seems to continuously come up as an issue for many. In looking at this term the work part is obvious; this is our form of employment and means of earning income. The life part can be seen as not only one’s ability to build and maintain personal relationships, but also one’s ability to take the time for themselves. I located a quiz on work/life balance provided by the Canadian Mental Health Association which encompasses all of these areas to an extent. While this is not the be all and end all, it provides an interesting perspective on where someone may fall, even when there appears to be a good balance - Work/LifeBalance Quiz!
Now that we have completed the quiz and are completely in balance *cough*, I have found some recommendations on how to work on this balancing act.
  1. If you’re someone who finds it difficult and like you’ve run out of time at the end of each week for all those extra things you wanted to do, try building out your schedule in advance (Uscher, J.). I don’t know about you, but when I do not have my days scheduled I can easily waste them away. Although it is good to get these relaxing, not doing anything days in, for some of us taking the extra step of making a plan is all we need for the extra push.
  2. Eliminate the things that suck away our energy (Uscher, J.). It may be someone at work who spends all their time complaining and trying to gossip, a friend you find it very difficult to be around, or even social media. We all have things that we engage in that we ourselves even know we should stop. Whether it’s because they take time or take away our energy, it’s good to check in on these things to see if changes are possible or needed.
  3. As was also stated in my emotional resilience post, exercise is important! Yes, I know this is something that also takes time but it also increases your energy levels overall as well as your ability to concentrate (Uscher, J.). As an example, when I am struggling to focus on my weekly reading for school, I will get up and move around – ideally I would be exercising each time, but if you do need to get back to the work quickly a short walk around the block, or even getting up from your work station and walking around the house can help.
As was stated in my last post, it’s not about making huge life altering changes, but making minor adjustments that help you feel better overall. If I compare a week of no exercise to a week when I have exercised a number of times I feel far better. The same goes for engaging in an activity that I enjoy or seeing my family. I have great difficulty finding balance these days, but I have tried to have a schedule ahead of time of all the things I need to do (and want to do!), try to move more, and have taken a break from some of the things that suck the energy out of me. All of these strategies have helped me greatly in keeping my mental health in check.

What are some strategies you have tried and have worked for you? Please share below so everyone can take advantage!

Thank you for reading, and please take a minute to complete my short 3 question survey -

Jennifer Lynn

WebMD (Uscher, J.) -

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Emotional Resilience

Over two years ago I decided to change my path and embark on a new journey; I did not know exactly what this would look like, but I knew that I wanted to help people and decided to pursue an education in psychiatric nursing. Of course this is the simplistic version of how this decision came about, but I am writing not to talk about myself, but to provide some insight into ways we can all be healthier both physically and mentally.

What has been proven to me time and time again is that the mind and body truly are connected. When feeling stressed, how does ruminating about our stresses affect us? Different people have different reactions, but I would say some common ones might be a faster heart rate, short quick breaths, sweating, and even the loss of one’s ability to think clearly. This is only one example and you may not be able to relate to it, but I will venture a guess that everyone has gone through experiences that have a strong effect on both the body and the mind, which brings me to the topic of emotional resilience.

One’s emotional resilience is essentially how we react to the stresses that come up in our lives. If the circumstances allow, much of our emotional resilience should seemingly be learned as children. The American Psychological Association even provides tips for parents on how to help build resilience in their children including teaching them to make connections with others, teaching them self-care, helping them view themselves in a positive light, and that change is and always will be, a part of life. If you have children and want to look into this topic further the article is available at 10 Tips for building resilience in children and teens 10 Tips for building resilience in children and teens. And for those who want to work on their own personal resilience, below are some ideas on how to do so.

These may not provide brand new earth shattering ideas, but it can be helpful to go back to basics and sometimes be reminded of the simple things that can help us get through the more difficult times.
  1. Take the time to do things that make you happy (HealthyDay News). Simple enough, right? This can be any small thing that brightens our day, yet it is we ourselves that are usually left for last. Reading, listening to music, watching reality TV, cuddling with someone you care about, watching a movie, going for a walk, stretching, cooking, catching up with a friend on the phone, just going for a drive…this list can go on and on. The point here is, it is about what makes you happy and we all need happiness to help our resilience against the difficulties in life.
  2.  Get some form of regular exercise, sleep, eat a balanced diet, and try to avoid drugs and alcohol (HealthyDay News). As someone who has had difficulty sleeping most of my life I realize that this may be a daunting and easier said than done list, but this is about moving towards a healthier way of being; the expectation is not that everything change overnight. Take one of these healthy habits that you may have more difficulty with and plan one step to make it better. Take a walk around your neighbourhood after dinner, avoid electronics right before bed, or decide not to have that glass of wine after work.
  3.  Realize that we all need support and while independence is a strong trait, having and being able to allow people to help us is also very strong (PBS). There are two parts to this. The first is to realize that we all have our own individual strengths that can help us through difficult times – what is one of your personal strengths? No, I want you to actually think of a personal strength. Now, think of one person you know you can open up and talk to about possible struggles you are having or have had in the past. If you have answers to both of these questions, that is a part of emotional resilience in itself. If not, that’s ok too because this is about working towards something, and building social connections that allow you to open up can be a very large step towards a healthier life. How about starting by discovering one of your strengths? You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with if you put the negative self-talk aside and truly think about it.
What needs to be kept in mind through all of this is that we are not destined to either have or not have resilience (PBS). Resilience is something that can be learned, changed, and relearned throughout our lives. At times of great struggle we may believe we have lost this ability, and while I cannot say how easy or difficult it is for each person to build on their emotional resilience, I can say that I have seen the possibilities and the changes in people beginning with small, simple adjustments.

Thank you for reading, and please take a minute to complete my short 3 question survey -

Jennifer Lynn

American Psychological Association -