The Empathy Epiphany

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Empathy.  The art of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.  A crucial component of the human condition.  In regards to someone you love and have similar opinions to it’s easy to have empathy.  When it comes to someone you “hate” or triggers you, our immediate instinct is to defend or deflect (thank you sympathetic nervous system!).  That reaction is meant to protect us, yet it also prevents us from learning a valuable life lesson.  Being triggered has just as much to do with us as them, suggesting they’ve aggravated our self hurt.

Hurt.  It’s a strong word.  About as strong as hate.  And the two are interrelated.  Is it hate or is it hurt?  If we are able to remain calm and refrain from reacting we then have the ability to see beyond the hate, the anger, the frustration and see the hurt vulnerable soul that hides behind the cloak of emotion.  People hurt because they are hurt. When we see beyond their defensiveness, we see their hurt, and we can evoke empathy for that individual.  This is one of the first steps toward forgiveness and letting go.

Another enlightened thought came to me after observing an epic tantrum from my 2yo nephew.  The family was frustrated with his behaviour, but ultimately had compassion for his situation (and we discussed what triggered his tantrum as to develop his awareness of his emotions and reactions).  Why did he have a tantrum?  He was tired, didn’t have a snack, and wasn’t getting his way and just melted down.  He lashed out, hitting and yelling, well screaming, “NO” and how he didn’t like us.  Yet we remained untriggered because we knew he was just hurt and this was an expression of too much happening at once.  With conditional love it’s easy to have empathy and see beyond the tantrum.

It’s important to note that developing empathy in children is a necessity in their neurological and emotional evolution.  Kids are naturally egocentric and need to practice and experience empathy towards others to develop compassion.  With my nephew we discuss hypothetical situations and I ask him how the other person feels and why, or we role play with his toys different situations.  You’d be amazed how quickly children understand and adapt with this type of learning.

Imagine if the next time you had a fight with someone you were able to see them as their vulnerable unfiltered self – a visibly hurt and overwhelmed child tantruming outward because they are unable to process what is going on inside themselves.  Would you have more empathy for them?  Would you rather give them a hug than hit them with hard words of anger? The next confrontation you have look beyond the hate, the anger, and see the hurt and beauty in that person.  Address the person with that insight and see how that diffuses the conflict.  Empathy is our greatest gift, our greatest skill, but it needs to be practiced to grow and evolve.  Be kind to humans and humankind will evolve in kind.


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Beyond the Mask

As a child I loved Halloween.  It was a holiday were it was acceptable to embrace what I loved – dressing up (yes, I’m ignoring the whole folk lore and dark undertones of the holiday’s origin, but as a kid that’s what Halloween was about).  One day of the year I could let me true self shine and proudly display my fondness for bright colours, glitter and makeup.  Being an adolescent even changing your hair style was shamed as odd, so I hid my individuality and need to express myself as a way to protect my fragile self esteem from being taunted and hurt by others.  I would put the colours on paper instead of myself (the power of art therapy). Halloween was a day I could dress up in my favourite colours and fabrics, wigs and polish, and the smile I wore was one of confidence and contentment.  The freedom to express was a form of therapy, and still is one today.

Makeup made me happy as it was an outward artistic expression of creativity.  Recently I had been watching a reality show on make-up artists (if there is a show based in any art I watch it) and was surprised how many of the artists had been bullied or felt inadequate, and had used makeup as a form of therapy to improve their self esteem and confidence.  Ironically makeup in mainstream is considered to be more of a tool to hide from the world when you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, yet these artists were using the power of makeup to become comfortable with themselves.  One saying my psychology professor said always sticks with me – “Makeup is healthy if it is used to enhance oneself, rather than to hide oneself.  If a person can’t be seen in public without makeup then it is unhealthy as the person has become dependent on it and incomplete without it”.  If we think of the use of makeup in society it truly does have a subtext of “making yourself better” or becoming a dependence or substitution for self esteem.  We are taught to not leave the house without “putting on our face”, to “put our best face forward”, or you’ll be more attracted if you just “painted your face”.  My personal favourite was “she’d be so pretty if she just wore makeup”.  We are encouraged to hide behind a painted mask, conform with the norm, and suppress self expression of emotion.  Makeup had the negative connotation to cover imperfections physically rather than to embrace them emotionally.  No wonder the empowered female movement rejects makeup for what it represents (or use to represent)!  And as we explore it more beyond the female gender roles, men whom love art and makeup face difficulties too, being bullied and taunted for their use of cosmetics.  Makeup is stereotyped as a “female subject” but truly can be loved by all genders, ages, ethnicities, etc.

Makeup is meant to heighten your features, not hide your face.  It is art on the face to celebrate our inherent beauty or be a walking canvas of our artistic talents.  Think of it as a form of evoking our imagination and connecting to our inner child’s need to play.

Everyday is Halloween for kids because they are always dressing up and playing make believe.  Children are encouraged to activate their imagination and artistically express their true selves (like going to school dressed as a princess, or superhero, or superhero princess).  Young girls (or boys) look in awe at their parents at the magic of makeup, and are so eager to try it themselves because it is so bright and colourful. They will pretend to put on makeup and look in their play mirrors wide-eyed gleaming at themselves with just exuberant joy.  It’s not the makeup that makes them beautiful, it’s their ability to evoke pure joy and see their beautiful.  They could smear their face with purple lipstick (think about it, you’ve done it) and they think it is the most beautiful thing ever because the colour purple brings them joy.  Rather than look at makeup with our own cynical eye as a necessity to be “presentable” to the world, look at it in the eyes and wonderment of a child.  If you see yourself with unconditional love than you are beautiful, in the same amount, with and without the makeup. The makeup becomes an expression of what you love and how loved you feel.  Either you can use makeup more to embrace and express your colourful individuality, or you can stop using an excess of makeup as mask to hide your true self.  Both are movements in the positive direction towards unconditional love.

Happy Halloween everyone.  Have fun, dress up, embrace your creativity and need to play imaginatively.  Make time for make believe and believe in your make.


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Back To School – Student Self Care and the 3 B’s

Happy first week back to school! I’ve been greatly enjoying the kid school pics hitting my facebook homepage (bonus points for the kids rocking their own style… especially if it’s rainbow glitter) and the eclectic array of coloured pens, pencils, markers and planners.  This all got me thinking – what piece of advice do I wish I was told in school? I love learning and I love school (that I typically find myself either teaching or learning, or both) but finding balance as a student was my biggest challenge.  Heavy self expectations combined with a condensed work load equalled an unbalanced and stressed out me (like how I made an equation there?).  When you are stressed your ability to focus and concentrate diminishes, leading to increased difficulty understanding concepts and poor school performance.   It’s the student self care sacrificing cycle.  We prioritize grades over learning and are willing to sacrifice core fundamentals of health to improve our performance.  Eventually we spiral in to a self sacrificing cyclone that results in break downs, break ups, and break outs.

Students may take their health and vitality “for granted” as they heal quicker or do not experience immediate detrimental results from their self care sacrificing behaviour.  However, it catches up with them (as early as puberty to mid 20’s) as their tolerance for stress and adrenals diminish and they are then faced with the inevitable task of self care to survive schooling.  So….with that slight pessimistic statement….what can students do for self care and ultimate health and happiness in later years????

I suggest following the 3 B’s of student self care: basics, balance, and boundaries.

Basics – I wrote a blog on basics last school year (see Back to Basics ) and believe it should be addressed every school year (students and adults alike).  When in doubt of how to help, always start with the basics. It’s just like learning a new skill – before you learn calculus you have to learn basic mathematics.  In order for our neurons to be firing optimally and performing high order advanced neurocognitions, we need to have the energy to do so first.  Energy is a crucial commodity.  If we don’t have it, we can’t perform the higher functioning operations of concentration and thinking.  For example – if we are living paycheck to paycheck our money will go to the basic life necessities of water, heat, and rent.  We wouldn’t spend money on sushi if we can’t pay the rent, hence we would have difficulty performing algebra if we didn’t sleep the night before.  Of course we have energy stores (just like we would have money saved up for hard times), but eventually we run through them. The best way to improve our energy is to concentrate on the basics – food, water, sleep, breathe, and rest.  In an optimal world we want all of them….but it’s not always feasible.  I suggest focusing on one each week and see how you can improve upon it.  You can use a tracker or keep note of it in a planner.  A simple start could be reducing sugar, or drinking 2L of water, or get an extra hour of sleep.

Balance – Or homeostasis, if you want to get all biological.  The one piece of advice I wish I got as a student?  Find balance (luckily I found this out in medical school….but it was a lesson I wish I knew in high school).  Not everything is grades and performance, experience is also important.  The happier and more balanced we are, the better we learn.  Memory is tied to emotion (thanks to the amygdala), hence why our most detailed memories are the ones linked to a strong emotion.  By putting in things/events you enjoy into your schedule it will improve your mood, which will indirectly improve your studies.  So put some social events and self care days into your schedule.  This applies to adults (ie. parents) too – kids learn via example so if you are taking time for your self and your health they will realize how important it is too.  Some days we need to read a book or go for a walk rather than study for 8hrs a day or participate in 3+ organized sports.

Boundaries – Another way to improve energy is to work on boundaries, or the inevitable saying “no”.  Now those with kid’s are aware that “No!” is a child’s, or teenager’s, favourite word and just the thought of it is cringe worthy.  However, it’s more about saying no to the unimportant things or things we feel we need to do in order to gain approval from others.  It’s about prioritizing – what is necessary and what can wait?  What, or who, adds to your energy and what, or who, takes away from your energy.  One scientific analogy is that of the semi-permeable cell membrane – only select things go in/out maintaining homeostasis and keeping the cell balanced and healthy.  If the membrane was completely permeable or impermeable the cell would die because there would be no exchange between the cell and the extracellular environment.  Boundaries are necessary for balance, and ultimately living.

So in an achievement driven world consumed with getting “A”s, strive for “B”s.  Or just strive for “B”ing.  Students needs support, not social media.  They need self care, not self indulgence.  Self care starts with basics, balance, and boundaries, and it starts young.  Rather than academic lessons, these are the life lessons we should teach our kids, while abiding to them ourselves.

Have a healthy happy return back to school everyone!

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Sunrise Sunset – “Soul”stice Reflections 

Summer solstice is the longest day of the year and marks half of the year gone (or half of the year left…..depending on your mindset).  Many businesses do a semi annual report where they evaluate their progress and put a plan together for year end.  I like to do the same thing with life – what have my obstacles and triumphs the past six months been and what do I want to accomplish by year end? 

The solstice is a cycle that the earth makes around the sun.  To have a summer one, there needs to be a winter one.  To have a sunrise there needs to be a sunset.  Everything presents in an perpetual wave like motion that appears to be an extreme all or none depending on our perspective.  We are primed to see opposites and contrasts – in between the extremes of sunrise and sunset are the many sun vantage points of different heights at different points in time.  Motion moves in a cystolic wave – we just only pay attention to the peaks of amplitude hence creating an all or none perspective.

In our North American culture we are so concerned with movement – are things moving in our life, are we moving and accomplishing?  Movement is the antidote to feeling stuck in life.  As a treatment for depression we use physical movement as a specific goal to address the apathetic lack of joy or intrinsic motivation.  When we are driving we are most frustrated by traffic because we aren’t moving.  We are static sitting in the car and need the car to move to alleviate that frustration we feel being immobile by sitting in a metal box.  

A wave is balanced with an equal magnitude acceleration and deceleration working in rhythm (where the amplitude peaks are the same values).  The wave averages into a straight horizontal line signifying balance between extremes.  If you were to add two waves together of opposing magnitudes they would cancel out – or balance.  It’s the Newton’s law concept that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction to create a balanced or harmonious force.  

If the treatment  for  stickiness or apathy is movement, what is the treatment for too much movement or stimulation? 

Norman Doidge presents an interesting concept in his book “The Brain’s Way of Healing”.  He mentions that chronic pain is a learned signal – our bodies absorb the memory of pain into our brains and muscles which can be stimulated by any minute elicited signal.  The best way to address the pain is not to suppress it, but to consciously address it and diffuse it through visualization techniques (the brain has intertwinded the pain signal into its psyche hence we need to use the brain to unlearn this pain signal).  For example – if your pain feels like a million needles prickling you then imagine calmly removing each needle until that sensation subsides. You are diffusing hypersensitivity (i.e. High brain neuron firing or activity) with calm restoration techniques.

Recently when speaking to a patient with anxiety I was explaining the concept of surrendering to the chaos and embracing a sense of calm.  When we are anxious or towards panic, our brains are over active or over active.  Many times we use distraction as a way to cope or misdirect the stimulated signal.  The best treatment is to breathe and be calm.  Experience or target where the anxiety is, breathe through the discomfort, and support the self with positive and calming statements.  If we are constantly moving moving moving without inserting moments of calm or rest, then we remain unbalanced and stuck on the “on” switch.  If we are stuck on “on” then our bodies and brains are shunted towards a hypersensitive stimulated state primed to be anxious.  The best preventive treatment for anxiety or overstimulation is to implement moments of calm, clarity, and reflection throughout the day to reduce overstimulation and angst at night.  The common comment I get when explaining this concept – “But I sleep – isn’t that rest?”  Sunrise – sunset.  How you are during the day needs to be just as balanced as how you are during the night.   When we sleep we go through cycles of wake, rest, REM, repeat.  Sleep is sleep – it’s not a substitute for less rest through out the day (less rest in the day will create restless in the night). 

We live in a world of duality between the opposites, the physical and metaphysical.  To have movement in life we need to calmly survey what we have done and learned, then plan for future movement.  Rest and run creates peristaltic purpultuations of movement for advancing in life.

Enjoy your movement and your rest, your sunrise and your sunset.  

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Life Lessons From a Two Year Old

I took my nephew to the aquarium yesterday.

This kid is an absolute water kid – he lives in the pool/bath and loves sea creatures (must be the Pisces in him).  I was certain he was going to be “Gaga” over the aquarium and was so excited to take him.  Of course it was going to be expensive, but it’ll be “worth” it. It was, but not in the way that I thought.

He spent literally 30 minutes there (those with kids reading this are laughing in agreement). A whole magical shimmering tunnel of sharks and stingrays and this kid was more interested in pushing his stroller (and I don’t think he even looked up!).  The one part he enjoyed was watching the fish store guppies in the kiddie section.  We left with us both being frustrated, hungry, tired, and honestly overwhelmed.

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It was at my surrogate grandmother’s house that I had an “Ah Ha” moment, while watching my nephew get more enjoyment out of playing with coasters then a pool full of exotic fish. The real reason (or “realson” as I like to put it) I was disappointed was all to do with me.  Here I was so excited to share this amazing experience with him and he did have a great time in his mind – he saw fishies and got to push the stroller and hang out with Gros Omi – that was a great time.   And you know what? He could have had that anywhere! It’s not that he took the experience for granted, it’s that he’s grateful for every experience.  I wanted to do something special for him and for it to be this “great event” but low and behold that was for me and my need for approval.  He did have a great time, and there’s no price to put on that.

We teach our children and we learn from our children.

Children are so much more resilient and intelligent than we give them credit for.  When they are tired, they rest on the floor.  If they are hungry they stop what they are doing and grab a snack.  If they want hugs or comfort they fling themselves at you with open arms.  My parents worry that my nephew can work my phone without my assistance.  They say to limit his screen time as it’s negatively affecting his development.  After minutes he’ll hand my phone back to me and go “done” then run outside to chase butterflies.  He has an internal technology time limit check.  When’s the last time you put your phone down in the middle of doing something to go outside and enjoy?  If you can’t answer that then put your phone down (even if you are reading this blog on it, I’ll completely understand) and go outside and just immerse yourself in the simplicity of nature, of pure joy and fun.

I laugh the most when I run after my nephew and he falls down in a fit of giggles.  He’s more active than I’ve ever been yet he makes me want to run (which I’ve never been inclined to do before).  Professionally, I’ve learned a great deal of skills and treatment tools from our interactions to use in practice with the pediatric population, and new (and soon to be new) parents.  He’s taught me about the importance of having boundaries, rules, and structure in regards to modifying thoughts/behaviours and promoting neurological cognitive development.  I’ve also learned a lot about myself from him (the importance of self care being most monumental – it’s difficult to have patience on no food, sleep, or breaks!).  Our children are a reflection of who we are.  They are an unbiased, unfiltered, truth telling mirror that reflect back to us things about ourselves we need to focus on.  We need to listen to them, and to ourselves.

Rather than live through our children, lets let them shine through us.

The more I live, the more I learn and am able to use these experiences and life lessons to help others live to their fullest.  And that is worth more than any overpriced aquarium.


Feel free to comment with the lessons you’ve learned about life and yourself from interacting with your children.  Be happy and healthy everyone 🙂

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Be the change you want to see

Image result for the world in pupil

“4% of what you see is real”

That was the opener to the talk I heard last week (thank you Hayhouse).  The number may be skewed, but the concept is true.  What we see forms our reality and what we believe influences our perception.  The basics we get right and agree on.  We see an orange, we know it’s an orange, and we know that we eat it.  But what if you see someone smile?  Is it a smile because they are happy and joyful, or is it a smirk because they are making fun of you?  Many of the things and experiences we see are like abstract art – everyone sees something or feels something different depending on their past experiences and current mood.

Now let’s talk biology.  The cell, the simplest unit of life, is in constant flex and dynamic change in response to the environment it senses.  It has the ability to change it’s response (whether it’s gene transcription to create a protein for a signal/receptor/channel or cell signal to divide or grow) dependent on the signals it picks up on the environment.  Then the environment changes in response to the cellular changes – there is a constant balance between the inner cell biology and the outer extracellular environment.  We have the same ability (makes sense since we are a “bucket of cells”).  We create a reaction to the environment, and the environment shapes/shifts in response to our reactions.  In the cell it’s simpler as the environment consists of basic chemical and electrical signals.  Humans are a bit more complex as our “environment” consists of physicality, thoughts, emotions, past trauma, family, media, peers and social network.

Our reality creates our perception and our perception forms our reality.  What you see is how you think and what you think is how you see.  When our eyes see something, it only takes a minute amount of physical info (usually the outline of an object) which is configured in our brain to create an internal thought of what we are viewing.  We are primed neurological to fill in the gaps based on our previous experiences.  An example of this concept are those brain teasers that show partial words and your brain fills in the rest (the words are created in your brain using the vocabulary you have learned).  If you spoke a different language or didn’t know the words, you wouldn’t be able to complete the puzzle.

When people say “you only see what you want to see” they are kind of right.  Psychological studies show that if you think negative thoughts, you only see (or pay attention to) negative things – the self-fulfilling prophecy.  If this is true for the negative, why can’t the same rules apply to the positive?  If we choose to act positively and see the light in things, we shift our focus to positive aspects or optimism (the “law of attraction”).  Mind you this isn’t a 100% philosophy.  There will still be negative things that happen that will cause emotional or physical discomfort.  Things aren’t on/off, positive/negative, black/white – they exist in the standard unit of energy – a wave.  There are highs, they are lows, and there are transition periods between the two.  It’s where we put our focus that matters.  Negative things happen – we have our emotion, we learn the lesson, and we let go of the hold it has on us to let in other experiences.

If we feel “stuck” or “powerless” in our lives we need to be active in changing them.  When you are passive in life, you are passing on life.

Be the change you want to see and see the change you want to be.  

You can change your mindset, you change your pool of past experiences, and you train your brain to perceive a new reality.  Then you see new things in your environment that your brain use to ignore.  Yes – you can make your brain “work” for you!  And you can change your reality by changing perception of the environment around you.

It’s the same concept with our health.  We are not a vacuum – symptoms we experience are not created singularly in a cause-effect fashion.  Your health is a collection of your past and present responses to your “perceived” environment.  The mind and body are not separated – they work together in the same homeostatic dynamic flux, or wave, that we previously discussed above.  Our bodies sense the signals in our environment (usually to changes in our environment), they are cerebrally interpreted, and our reactions are formed thoughts/emotions/actions.  Reactions to our environment can change our biology and vice-versa.  Hence, if we change how we react to our environment by changing our thoughts/mindset (ie our perception of reality), we can change our biology.

Be the change, see the change, live the change.

Healthy happy changing everyone!



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My Self Worth is not Measured in Weight

self worth not weight

We are on week 2 of women’s health month – new moon, new topic.  For this week I wanted to address common symptoms that women come in with in regards to physicality and outward appearance – skin, hair and weight.

Once again I’ll reiterate that there seems to be themes attached to astrological shifts.  The week before the new or full moon I’ll have patients come in with the same complaint or “theme”.  The past week has been all about self worth, boundaries, and hypersensitivity about physical appearance.  The new moon on Tuesday was in the sign of stable and stubborn Taurus – all about security, finances, physicality, and stability in life.  It’s during those times of stability that we become more attune to what is disresonant in our life.  When our outside doesn’t match our inside, in the most simplistic terms, we feel disresonance, and are called to change in someway.

When women come in wanting to address weight loss, the reason behind it is usually the same – “I don’t like the way I look”.  It’s the same statement for young girls that come in with acne “I don’t like the way I look”, “I want to be pretty”, “I feel like others are judging and making fun of me”, “I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin”. Skin – skin is the key word.  Skin is your outward protective layer – it’s your armour, it’s your boundary between the outside and the inside world.  If you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin, of course you are going to reject it metaphysically and it will begin to break down or burst out to create a fragile yet rigid protective physical layer.  Hence, we need to address the uncomfortablity, the rejection of your physical self, the reason you are trying to hide from the outside world behind a protective shell.  If you don’t address the person inside the shell, the shell (or skin, or protective barrier) will not change.

It’s interesting how such a physical symptom, as weight or acne, has such a mental emotional theme.  That’s the reason weight loss programs may not be sustainable – if you don’t address the reason why the person has difficulty with weight you don’t “fix” the weight problem.   If you feel you are only worthy if you lose weight then the weight loss is not sustainable.  Your weight is not the health problem, it’s the symptom.  Finding the multifactorial causes of it is the key to sustainable weight loss (or gain).  Physical causes can be thyroid dysfunction, fatty liver, nutritional issues, cortisol excess, insulin insensitivity, heavy metal accumulation, etc.  Mental-emotional causes typically involve self confidence, self esteem and self worth.  Is it the weight gain that creates lower confidence or lower confidence that leads to weight gain?  It truly is a cycle and flux of both. Where does this line of thinking come from?  Do we inherit familially that we need to “look good” in order to be accept?  Were we criticized for our physical appearance by our peers or family, negatively affecting our confidence?  Is it the media influence with the constant bombardment of beauty and weight loss ads of linking thin and blemish free with beautiful? In the midst of this media multiverse it’s our family member’s (typically mother figure) job to diffuse this disillusioned message and help their children discern what is true and what is fake, to see the beauty in their personality and skills.  Yet if the mother figure believes herself that she is only worth her physicality, how could she teach her children any differently?

Everyone’s journey may be different but the destiny is the same – we have linked self confidence and self acceptance with our outer beauty.  In this mindset, if we confine to social norms we will be accepted and loved.  Unconditional love comes from within.  Your confidence shines through outwardly and this is your true beauty.  Confidence is the best thing you can wear.  When you are confident, truly confident and love who you are, it shines through and illuminates your physical beauty.  You don’t need an outer protective layer because no one person can hurt you with their words or opinions because you know they aren’t true and don’t resonant with how you feel, or know, about your self and your true worth.  Confidence is your protective cloak and it grows with unconditional love.  When it comes to health confidence is at the core of every issue. Hence, the way for weight loss to be sustainable is if you are confident and love yourself regardless of your size as then you are able to let go of the weight because you don’t need it as a protective layer or a superficial barrier for your fragile self worth.  It is imprudent to release emotions tied to the weight in order to release the weight itself – YOU ARE NOT WORTH YOUR WEIGHT.  Weight gain is a sign that the body is unbalanced, and to treat the weight we have to treat the entire self.  By “treat” yourself  that means “treating” yourself with acts of self care that prove to your energetic self you are worthy of love and care.  Finding love for who you are and not how you look.  Creating congruency between the outer skin and the inner self.  You are worthy, you are deserving.  Your self worth is not measured in weight, it’s measured in love.

See your beauty everyone – inside and out 🙂

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What’s “Normal”? Debunking Common Menses Myths

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Who knew prepping for women’s health month would be such a learning journey!  Wanting to address some commonly shared menstruation myths in pop culture, I decided to google “menstruation myths” to see what’s out there.  I was flabbergasted.  Sometimes I feel like I grew up in a shinny bubble protected by the world’s ideas, as I had no idea that “period shaming” was actually a thing.  My search turned about issues like women being seen as “unclean” in religious terms when menstruating, as to feel guilty or shame that they had their period.  Also mention to keep from talking about your period to men because it would make them uncomfortable (honestly people sometimes are uncomfortable when it comes to menstruation, I get it, but it doesn’t mean to avoid and suppress it…. that doesn’t mean the discomfort goes away, it just validates the shame and guilt women feel in expressing what is naturally occurring in their bodies… seriously the amount of issues we could resolve with just communication and good ol’ respect for each other… ugh… but I digress).

Repeat after me all women (and men) – A period is a natural occurring beautiful thing.  It’s something to celebrate, not shame.  No more shaming people for something that is part of who they are.  Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t make it wrong.

Okay… so back to menses myths! We all know the common ones – don’t exercise when you menstruate, don’t have spicy food, stay away bears… all the classics!  I wanted to discuss the medical incongruent misnomers more.  Growing up my entire female lineage had difficult heavy periods resulting in miscarriages and hysterectomies.  I remember being told, in a matter-of-fact way as a child, that I was “doomed” to suffer in pain and would have nothing but horrible periods my entire life.  I didn’t believe it because intuitively I knew that I was not dealt a “genetic sentence”.  Genetics aren’t everything.  The majority of your genes aren’t activated and need many environmental cues to become activated (one of them being mindset).  Thankful as a teen I knew that this wasn’t my “fate”.  Yet many young women are told a similar story, thinking their only reprieve from period pain is the birth control pill or removing the organ indefinitely (a hysterectomy).  It’s not.  It’s a sign that something is imbalanced and to explore further.  You can correct imbalances with foods, herbs, supplements, acupuncture, meditation, exercise, etc.  There are so, so, so many options and natural treatments out there.

Below are the 5 most common menses myths I hear in practice:

It’s normal to be in pain – NO

My period doesn’t come for months and is heavy but I’m sure it’s fine – NO.  Please have blood work done to determine your hormone levels.

I have heavy periods and my only choice is a hysterectomy – HELL NO.  However, if you hemorrhage constantly and it is negatively affecting your everyday living and has for years then this may be an option.

The birth control pill will solve all my problems – NO, it’ll suppress them.  Your symptoms will come back after taking the pill (as a contraceptive that’s a different story).

Is this stuff you learn in health class or from your family?  No.  Hence I’m trying my best to shed some light and common falsehoods when it comes to women’s health.  Your period can be affected by stress, by environment, by genetics, by low iron, by food sensitivities, by autoimmune disease, by thyroid dysfunction, by toxic overload, and so much more.  Hence all those things, and more, need to be addressed when assessing overall health.  It’s important to understand what is “normal”, what isn’t, and how we can treat it so it can balance and normalize.  The first step in health is “awareness”.  Let’s talk more about our menstrual cycles.  They are nothing to be ashamed of.  They are natural and something to be respected and grateful towards.  Let’s teach our young women that they don’t need to suffer in silence.  To be aware of themselves, their health, and that this knowledge is empowering.  The more empowered they are the more confident they become, as a healthy self esteem is the best treatment for any ailment.

Happy communicating everyone – debunk these menses myths.  Knowledge is empower.

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Bringing Beauty Back for Women’s Health Month

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It’s officially May! Amongst all the “It’s gonna be May” NSYNC memes today, I wanted to point out my favourite part about May – Women’s Health Month! May has Mother’s Day so naturally is going to be female-focused.  There’s a lot going on in the cultural and social environment regarding genderism, feminism, and equality.  It’s become a more polarized society which has created a defensive, and sometimes destructive, disresonance.  This energy takes us away from the constructive energy of celebrating who we are and the beauty that resides within.  Interesting enough “beauty” has somehow become a bad word.  Women reject the word “beauty” thinking being beautiful will make them only be viewed as a physical object.  Beauty is not purely physical.  It’s a feeling, an emotion, a descriptive adjective used to depict love and joy.  Beauty is seeing a sibling give their ice-cream to their other sibling because they dropped it.  Beauty is watching a flower grow and blossom.  Beauty is smiling at a stranger and not expecting anything in return.  It’s connecting to yourself and communicating your amazing to the world.  “Physical” beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  True beauty is in the mind’s eye of the perceiver.  You see it, you feel it, you embrace it, and it inspires you to emit your own beauty.  A woman, a man, a child, all humans and living things are beautiful.  When they see and radiate their own beauty – that is the most magical (and beautiful) moment.

Now back to Women’s Health.  Many women’s health “conditions” consist of menstrual issues, weight issues, skin and aging, or fertility issues.  The energy behind these issues are a metaphysical rejection of femininity, or not feeling “enough”.  Of course there are physical implications – hormonal imbalance, stress and cortisol exhaustion, thyroid dysfunction, autoimmunity, environmental sensitivities, etc.  Irregular or heavy menses are common in women, but it’s not normal – it’s a sign of hormonal imbalance. As women we don’t talk a lot about our menstrual cycles, because there is embarrassment or shame attached.  I remember being in 7th grade and there was this huge uproar amongst the class.  Guys were freaking out, pointing, jumping on chairs, acting crazy.  I thought it was a mouse or some sort of grotesque creature.  Then upon looking closer at the floor I was able to make out their object of induced chaos – an unused menstrual pad.  They were freaking out over a pad!  Sighing (insert “face palm” emoji here), I picked up the pad, shook my head, and put it in the garbage.  This reaction is a common one.  The disappointing fact is that men, well some men, are much older yet having the same “grossed out” reaction.

When I ask women details about their menstrual cycle they become embarrassed as they’ve never truly analyzed nor discussed it before.  Yet information about the menstrual cycle, the length, the quality, the consistency, or any PMS-like symptoms are important in determining what hormones are imbalanced and how.

Having a regular menstrual cycle is a blessing bestowed upon us.  It’s something we should embrace and celebrate (fact* an irregular menstrual cycle is the most common sign of fertility issues and is the first thing we aim to correct with Naturopathic treatment).  I remember being in Catholic School and being outraged, even as a child, when I heard the story of Adam and Eve, and that’s Eve’s punishment for wanting to have knowledge was a painful menses every month.  Seriously!  Period shame is rampant in our stories, our culture, and our society (I’m sure there are many other examples but that was the first one that came to mind).  When the menstruation “leaves” us and we enter menopause, that’s a different stage in life to embrace our identity and beauty.  Being a woman (whether you are biologically a woman or identify with being female) is a beautiful thing – it’s time to embrace our femininity and embrace our beauty!

Ask yourself:

What do I like about being a woman?  What does it mean to be a woman?

What does beauty mean to me?  Am I beautiful?  Do I see my beauty?

Do you use the same words to describe a “woman” as you do to describe “beautiful”?

When I think beauty I think strength, love, compassion, creativity, resilience, care, joy and laughter.  Beauty bewilders me and it inspires me.  As do teaching and treating women’s health.  A beautiful harmonious combination between who I am and the job that I love.  In future posts this month I’ll talk more about women’s health conditions and the physical and metaphysical reasons contributing to them.  It’s going be a beautiful month.

Happy May Everyone!


Note – Beautiful painting taken from Bridgit 2015

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What I’ve Learned in the Past 5 Years of Practice

On April 12th 2013 I officially got my Naturopathic Doctor license.  I was elated and excited to start working in the “real world” after my 10+ year academic career.  It’s been a journey of learning, and I’ve cultivated many skills and strengths along the way.  Below are the 5 things I’ve learned in practice that I’d like to share:


  1. Everyday you are learning and teaching

You never stop learning. Ever.  If you did, then either you’ve lost passion for your craft or you’ve hit an egotistical wall where you believe you know absolutely everything (both are problematic).  I learn from everywhere – including my patients.  I’m an open book and my books are always open!  To be engaged in a practice you have to actually practice what you teach!  In medical school I remember ever new thing we learned (whether it was a diet, a supplement, or my favourite hydrotherapy) we tried.  And discussed after.  We were excited to be engaged in the medical treatments and that excitement should not fade, even when you are no longer a student (that’s called passion!). Wanting to learn about your career field is a good check to see if you are in the right field.  You are probably thinking “but I’m an Accountant, what books am I going to read about that?”  There are many! Get your Freak Economics on!

If you are always learning then you are always teaching.  Doctor means teacher and I greatly believe in and am grateful for that responsibility.  It’s our job to explain what’s going on physically, emotionally, and spiritually and how that relates to how a person is feeling.  One way to test if you’ve learned something is if you can teach it.  If you have difficulty teaching something you may not completely comprehend it (or you may have difficulty communicating it or relating to your student).  Being able to communicate information in a way which people understand is a big part of health.  If people can’t understand how they’ve gotten unwell, they’ll have difficulty in understanding, or believing, that they can get well.  

2. The first step to health is self awareness

You can’t address what you don’t acknowledge.  Sounds Dr. Phil”ish”, but it’s completely true.  If a person doesn’t want to help themselves, or refuses to look at them self honestly and humbly, then they will create a subconscious block to healing.  As a society we’ve learned that if we avoid something then it goes away.  That’s not how life works.  If you avoid it then it goes further down and lies hidden, not absent, and comes up as other symptoms.  Symptoms are a sign that the mind-body is screaming out to be acknowledged and taken care of.  Being aware of our health issues and taking responsibility for them is the first step to heal, because then you begin to believe that you have the power to heal.

3. Everyone has the ability to heal

Everyone and everything has the ability to hea;.  The amount of time and effort required is dependant on the individual.  Healing also can be uncomfortable, but the discomfort will pass with time and in hindsight be beneficial.  In biology we learned the ability of organs to regenerate their tissue, skin to recycle, and even the simple cell has the ability to divide and differentiate.  Neurons in the brain have been shown to take over the role of surrounding neurons that have been damaged or rendered dysfunctional.  The body and mind can adapt.  It can change and grow dependent on it’s environment.  When we change our environment (ie what we eat and how we think), we change gene transcription and our physiology.  Hence, we have the innate and amazing ability to heal.

4. Simplicity is key

Think about fixing a light bulb in the ceiling – would you stand on a rickety wooden ladder to do it?  Not at all.  You need a solid foundation to properly hold you.  The same goes with your health.  If one, or more, of you health fundamentals are lacking, then it makes you more susceptible to health problems.  These fundamentals are: food, water, rest, air, and love.  I relate them to the elements, love being the ether or effervescent magically elusive fifth element that cannot be quantitatively measured.  Many diseases are rooted in trauma, resulting from lack of self love or self esteem.  If will feel we aren’t worthy of love (or nourishment, or life, or acknowledgement, the list goes on…. ask a person what love means to them and that’s what they need in life or lacked growing up) then our vitality diminishes, making us more prone to physical and emotional injury.  These health elements must be addressed first and always.  If someone is lacking energy – ask where their energy is going?  Is it being drained, not hydrated (water), not restored (sleep), they are low in iron or nutrients (food), poor circulation or nerve cells are hyperactive (air) or they give their energy away to everyone else (love).  We look for a more complex answer because we think it must be complicated.  Think simple and treat with pure and whole concepts.

5. The mind and body are interconnected and intertwined in health. 

A mental issue may be a physical issue and physical issues may cause mental emotional issues.  For example, depression can be due to a lack of thyroid hormone, and constantly sacrificing yourself for others can cause hypothyroidism.  Mind you it’s not that simple of a cause-effect, but they can contribute.  We exist as complex weave of physical and metaphysical forces – hence our symptoms cannot be addressed in isolation.  That’s one of the core concepts that I love about Naturopathic Medicine – everything is connected.  As Naturopaths we ask about everything.  And many times I’ll hear… “well this may not be related…..”… it is! If you are experiencing it, then it’s related!  If you create one effect it will cause a ripple effect in the entire body.  Hence why drinking more water may alleviate headaches in one and constipation in another.  Simple intervention may have dramatic effects in many different ways.  It’s all connected and it all matters.

I could write a book on all the things I’ve learned in the past 5 years…..and things I didn’t read in my books or learn in my classes.  It’s been cultivated from experience and being active and engaged in practice.  Some days I wish people could hear what I hear in my walls (not that they will because patient confidentiality of course!), because then they would realize how normal their health concerns are.  We hide our pain and sufferings so well that people believe we are well… and eventually we too begin to believe our own compensations.   It’s ok to not be “ok” and to communicate that with others.  Connecting and being heard is part of being human, and another beginning piece in improving our health.  And even if we believe everything is going great and don’t need help with our health, it’s important to continue to do health check ins to foster that self awareness and encourage personal growth.  Our health is a journey is which we get to learn and grow.  


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