Friday, July 15, 2016

Travelling with Mental Illness

July. The month of vacations. Should you let a mental illness keep you from enjoying a trip out of town? Absolutely not!

Travelling brings with it a certain level of uncertainty which can be fun to the adventurous but daunting to the rest of us. Even if you are well supported and stable at home, how can you prepare yourself to travel and ensure your mental illness will not get in the way of seeing the world?  Here are some tips to help you get the most of your vacation this summer.

1.       Be Prepared: If disorganization and battling the unknown triggers anxiety for you (which is completely normal), being prepared in advance can help you feel at ease and you will feel more ready to deal with situations as they come up.

Ensure you have enough medication to cover you for your whole trip and a few days extra just in case. Also ensure you have the necessary documentation for your meds if you are questioned at the border (consult your doctor about this).

Buy medical insurance so you can rest easy knowing that if something does happen to you while you are away, you won’t be faced with a hefty medical bill when you return home.

Make lists! Making lists of what paperwork you need to have with you (passport, Visa, flight documents, etc) as well as what clothing you need to pack and other toiletries you’ll need will help you prepare in advance and ensure you don’t leave anything crucial behind.

2.       Know Yourself: Only you know how your mental illness affects your day to day life. Travelling disrupts your daily routine and it’s important to remember to eat, sleep and drink water as much as possible while you are away to keep your body functioning at its best. Knowing yourself includes acknowledging your limits. Listen to your body and allow yourself to rest when you need it before you get too overwhelmed to function and risk losing out on new and fun opportunities on your trip.

3.       Seek Support: The standards of care and stigma surrounding mental health are unfortunately inconsistent around the world. However, depending on your length of stay and location, it may be possible to seek out support where you are going that is similar to home. For example, if AA meetings are a part of your schedule and recovery, finding an AA meeting to attend while away may benefit you. As well, many cities have their own crisis line or Distress Centres that you can call and many of these are 24/7. This website has a list of many different countries and the helplines available: Your Life Counts

4.       Seek Help Upon Your Return: If you notice that you are unable to settle back into your normal routine upon returning home, don’t be afraid to seek support from your doctor or mental health professional.

5.       Have Fun! Try to enjoy yourself as much as you can. The world is your oyster. Stay safe and have fun!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Depression

Summer Depression

June has arrived. Nice weather, kids excited to be out of school for the summer, everyone is packing up their towels and umbrellas for the beach, and you might not be feeling so great about any of this.
You might feel guilty that while it seems to be the most beautiful time of the year and you “should” be enjoying some fun in the sun, you are instead feeling down and depressed. This can happen for a multitude of reasons and you are not alone!  Here is some information about summer depression and what you can do about it.

Causes of Summer Depression
Disrupted Schedules:  It is quite easy to stick to a daily routine throughout fall, winter and spring. With the daylight hours extended in the summer, kids home from school and summer vacations disrupting work, sleep and eating habits, being thrown off your schedule during the summer can most definitely have a negative impact on your mental health.

Disrupted Budget:  Summer can be expensive! The allure of time spent eating and drinking with friends on a patio on a nice evening in July is strong but the bills can add up. Not to mention summer vacations can be expensive, and if you are planning to send the kids to summer camp or have to pay for childcare, having your budget disrupted can cause extra stress.

Heat: Summers in Ottawa, much like winters in Ottawa, can bring extreme weather that is hard to handle.  If you don’t have air conditioning, sleeping can become difficult in the extreme humidity and cooking over a hot stove can be unbearable. If you do have air conditioning, you might find yourself becoming a bit too cozy in the comfort of your cooled living room and could start isolating or avoiding going out into the heat or missing out on activities you used to enjoy that you are no longer engaging in due to the weather.

Body Image: Hot weather and outdoor summer activities often call for more exposing clothing which might have you feeling self-conscious about your body. With social media a major part of our lives, it’s really easy to see pictures of your friends seemingly having a great time in their bathing suits at the beach while you are left feeling down and out by your body. Feeling bad about your body contributes to your mental health and may prevent you from doing activities you could find or used to find to be really fun.

Consistency: Keeping your circadian rhythm in check helps with keeping emotions regulated. Even with extended day light hours, try to keep your sleep schedule consistent throughout the summer. Make use of black out curtains to ward off daylight if needed.

Prepare your wallet: If you know that you will be taking time off work this summer or paying to send the kids to daycare or camp, start preparing by putting a little bit of money away in the early months of the year. This will help lessen your financial strain come summer time and you will be more able to enjoy the summer without worrying about your bank account. Try to pick activities that you know you will enjoy, rather than ones you feel obligated to partake in. You can also make use of less expensive activities like local splash pads to have fun and beat the heat!

Feel good in your skin: Wearing more exposing clothes in the summer can be intimidating but it can also be fun to find new pieces that accentuate the parts of your body that you do like. Summertime clothes are often more colourful and flowing than warmer clothes and for women, a maxi skirt or dress is comfortable, cool and easily hides things you might not want to be seen around the beach!

Get Help: If you feel your summertime blues are worsening or not going away, please contact your doctor for help. The Distress Centre is also available 24/7 and we are more than happy to listen and provide support not only during the summer but all year round!



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Chocolate Affair Gala

It's that time of year again, where indulging in everything CHOCOLATE is more than okay with us!

Join us on April 28, 2016 at the Shaw Centre/Centre Shaw for our 9th annual Chocolate Affair Gala!  You do not want to miss out on the most delicious event you'll ever attend.  Tickets are on sale now!  Get in on the Early Bird pricing from now until February 29th and save on your tickets.  

Our event boasts an amazing night of everything chocolate from your first bite of chocolate at the door to a four-course chocolate infused dinner, delicious treats from local chocolatiers, chocolate fondue and scrumptious morsels of chocolate all evening long.  Chocolatiers include Hummingbird Chocolate Maker,CocoHariJoJo CoCoSteeped Tea with Shelly, Cococo Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut and more!  Special guest, Megan Schellenberg as our keynote speaker.

Sponsored in part by the Shaw Centre, our Gala will take place in the gorgeous Trillium Ballroom, overlooking downtown Ottawa and all its beauty.  MAJIC 100's Sarah Freemark will grace our stage with her prescence as our Emcee for the evening.

We can't wait to share a night of pure chocolate indulgence with you again this year!  Get your tickets early, this event WILL sell out!  Eating chocolate for charity?  Amazing.  Buy your tickets here or call 613-238-1089 x 222!
Businesses interested in joining our Chocolate Affair Gala can use the contact information at the bottom of this page.

Don't delay!  Tickets are already 1/2 sold!


   shaw_centre.png                   430195_312095738843890_2098414919_n_-_copy.jpg 





      10926376_851966781508308_3192470097303999246_n.png                 logo_1.jpg  steeped_tea_logo.jpg

   cocohari_logo3.jpg  logo-e1428276665628.png   



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.