How to Regulate Your Emotions with Mindfulness

How to Regulate Your Emotions with Mindfulness

Life has been beyond challenging for most of us the last couple of years as we’ve dealt with a global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Everywhere we look from social media, to the news, to just outside our front door there are tragedies, stressors and uncertainties that abound. Needless to say, these events can trigger some pretty strong emotions in us.

We never want to deny our emotions. Feeling them is how we process the events of our lives. But there comes the point where we need to figure out a way to be present in the moment, in the here and now and get our of our heads with all the worries and what-ifs. One of the most effective ways to do this is through mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness & How Can It Help?

Mindfulness is a simple, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. It is a powerful way to connect with our bodies and emotions, but in a higher state of awareness.

Mindfulness helps us regulate our emotions by putting us in a calm and relaxed state of presence. From here we can have a more grounded and emotionally steady experience of the events in our lives.

Second, when practiced regularly, mindfulness can help us develop skills that promote emotional maturity and self-regulation. These skills include self-awareness and attentional control.

And finally, mindfulness can increase the time between trigger and response. In this way, mindfulness acts a bit like an advanced warning system, alerting us to a potential ugly scene, giving us time to engage in emotional self-monitoring. This gives us the opportunity to choose our emotional response very, very carefully.

Mindfulness Impacts Your Body Too

Research has found that mindfulness could play a role in fighting cancer and other diseases that call upon immune cells. Other studies have found increases in interleukin-10 in colitis patients who took a mindfulness meditation course compared to a mind-body educational program, which is especially among patients whose colitis had flared up. Other research has found effects on markers of inflammation in the body (C-reactive protein) and that people with rheumatoid arthritis have reduced levels after taking an mindfulness based stress reduction course versus being on a waitlist for the course.

Getting Started with Mindfulness

There are many online resources for getting started with a mindfulness meditation practice.

A few of my favourites are

Wholetones music

Insight Timer


You can also take a walk, eat a meal or have a shower while engaging your senses and intentionally being tuned into what is happening in the present moment.

If you are interested in working privately with someone on regulating your emotions, please reach out to me. I use mindfulness in my practice with clients and would be happy to help you learn to integrate this practice into your life.




Four Ways Mindfulness Can Help Regulate Your Emotion


How Mindfulness Works to Regulate Emotion in Your Brain

4 Lies Anxiety Likes to Tell You

4 Lies Anxiety Likes to Tell You

Our brains are just like giant problem solving machines, always on the look out for danger or problems that might be going on in our surroundings that requires our attention. 

From a biological perspective, responding to the cues our brain gives us about danger has been useful for ensuring our survival.  The way our brain functions continues to serve us well in many ways such as when we need to get out of the way of a car that hasn’t seen us as we’re crossing the road.  

However, more often than not, the struggle with anxiety, or more specifically the struggle to get to get rid of anxiety, can leave us feeling discouraged, isolated and hopeless, believing that things will never change. 

If you find yourself feeling anxious, you are not alone!

The National Post reported on a recent poll surveying 1,500 Canadians. It found that 41% of people identified themselves as someone who struggles with anxiety and 33% of people had been formally diagnosed  with an anxiety disorder.  

Statistically speaking, anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health condition.  They are more common in women and peak during midlife.  

For some people, anxiety is an uncomfortable but fleeting feeling that pops up on occasion during particularly stressful times. 

However, for many others, anxiety may be more present and colour more of their daily life. 

Either way, there are some sticky lies that anxiety likes to tell us that get us stuck in a struggle to get rid or or eliminate our anxiety. 

It is this struggle that’s can amplify and worsen our experience of anxiety and decrease our ability to cope effectively. 

Does any of this sound familiar?

1) You Need to Solve Every Problem Anxiety Dredges Up

How often are you aware of your own thoughts? Our thoughts tend to bubble up from our subconscious without much control from our conscious mind. For those experiencing anxiety, many of these thoughts will be negative and frightening.  They may seem very compelling for us to try and solve. 

Often, anxious thoughts are not rooted in the present, they are about things yet to come in the future or events and regrets from the past that haunt us and trigger our inner critic who floods us with judgement.

We anticipate the worst, try to problems solve scenarios that have yet to happen or beat ourselves up for perceived failings.

We get lost in our heads overthinking, problem solving and criticizing ourselves, hoping to control, prevent or avoid these terrible scenarios.

We get stuck spinning our wheels, and flooding ourselves with stress hormones and we play terrible scenarios over and over again in our minds.


One helpful thing you can try when this happens comes from Russ Harris, one of the pioneers of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.  He calls this ‘Thanking Your Mind’.  This allows you to notice the crap your mind is saying, briefly acknowledge it, and turn your focus back to more meaningful activities.

Check out this video for a demonstration of how this works:

2) There is Something Wrong With You

Beyond frightful emotions, anxiety often comes with physical sensations like tightness in the chest, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. In other words, it can feel like you are dying.  The more we notice these strange sensations in our body, the more that the sensations can amplify and consume ever more of our attention.  This creates an anxiety feedback loop in our body and can be very distressing. 


Slow, deep breaths have been shown to instantly calm a person. The most important part of this, is to focus on exhaling all the air out of your lungs.  Try breathing in for a count of 4 and breathing out for a count of 6. Your heart rate will slow, your muscles will relax, your entire body will return to a normal state of being. Don’t underestimate the power of just taking a moment to breathe.

3) You’re the Only One

But you’re not.

Remind yourself of that ancient dialogue your mind and body are having and know that, in reality, this is something that happens to others too.  

One of the things that can happen for people who struggle with anxiety is that they can begin to view themselves as flawed, broken or damaged as a result.  This does nothing to ease anxiety, but rather increases the pain of it by layering on negative self-judgement. 

Tip:  Practice self-compassion.  Respond to yourself in the same way you would a good friend who was having a similar experience.  Self-compassion and coaching yourself through a difficult moment with kindness can help you build resilience and navigate anxious moments more effectively

anxiety anxious counselling Bedford Halifax Nova Scotia online

4) You’ll Always Feel Like This

Once you learn to be an observer of your thoughts and learn how to stay present in the moment using your breath, and apply self-compassion by reminding yourself that you are  knowing you are having a natural reaction to what your brain (amygdala) perceive as a threat, you can navigate difficult moments of anxiety more effectively.  

While anxiety may still show up, you can learn to handle moments of anxiety more effectively.  Over time and with practice, it is possible to behave in ways that give your life more richness and meaning and feel that anxiety has less on an impact. 

If after reading this you think that you might benefit from some help learning to manage anxiety more effectively, don’t hesitate to reach out!  I offer free 15 minute consultation appointments so we can make sure we’ll be a good fit.  All of my appointments are being done online through a secure video platform or by phone for people who live anywhere in Nova Scotia.


Emotional Eating; How to Manage When You’re Stuck at Home

Emotional Eating; How to Manage When You’re Stuck at Home

A recent Bloomberg report showed an interesting trend; sales were up — way up — for all types of comfort foods, including popcorn (48 per cent), pretzels (47 per cent) and potato chips (30 per cent) compared to a year ago. 

What is it about isolation, stress and the disorienting way each day blends into the next that has people reaching for salty snack foods as a form of comfort?

Honestly, it’s less about hunger than it is about how we use food.  

We use it to self-soothe.

To numb ourselves against our anxieties about the unknown.

We use it to distract ourselves from the stress and unresolved emotions we’re experiencing.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying food during a rough time, but when it becomes our ‘go to’ to quell boredom, stress and to manage our emotional experiences, it’s worth taking note.


What is Emotional Eating

‘Emotional eating’ is the term people often use when talking about snacking on comfort foods especially when they are not truly hungry.

In those moments what we are really looking for is comfort in our bodies and our lives and we are using food to distract or cut ourselves off from our emotional state, rather than because of hunger.

The problem with emotional eating, you may have discovered, is that it doesn’t work.

In the moment it brings you temporary relief, but once you’re done eating, you might even feel worse.

Eating can all too easily become a strategy for coping with a low mood, anxiety, boredom, stress, and anger.

During this crisis, when we are spending more time in our homes, it’s understandable that we may be relying on food as a coping mechanism more often than we ordinarily would.  This is not to say that you should never rely on food for comfort, but that it is important to have an awareness of why you are reaching for food and a to have a range of coping strategies in addition to eating.

Slow Down & Check in 

Before you reach into your cupboard or fridge, slow down.  Take a few breaths and check in with yourself.  Are you really hungry? 

Or, is there some other emotion that is coming up for you?  

Maybe you are bored, anxious, frustrated or worried.  

First, slow down and take a few deep breaths.  Try breathing in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 6.  Take at least 10 breaths. 


Try Something New

If eating has been your only coping strategy, it is good to add new tools to your toolbox. Consider trying out some other activities that you can turn to, rather than food, to help you soothe, distract, or discharge some emotional energy. These will be unique to each individual.

Here are a list of some new things you can test out:


Learn to play guitar, bass or ukulele 

Learn to play piano 

Learn to drum

Practice drawing skills

Improve your painting skills

Physical Activity:


Spin Bike Run

Interval workouts

Mindfulness Apps:

My favourite mindfulness apps

Read a new book or listen to a podcast

Connect with Others

We are wired for connection with others and isolation is psychologically very difficult.  While we cannot be physically close to our friends, family, teammates and colleagues, we can connect virtually.

My son is doing strength training with his swim team; something I never would have imagined possible, but it has been very helpful for maintaining a routine and connection with people who are important to him. 

Who can you connect with in a creative way? 

Coffee and FaceTime a friend?

Wine and dinner online with someone special?

Netflix watch party? 


Be Kind to Yourself

Research shows that the more the more understanding and forgiving we are of ourselves, the more motivated we are to do what we need to take care of ourselves, including eating well. 

Self compassion can also help guard against the feelings of failure that can arise when you ‘hijack’ your best efforts to eat well.  Self-compassion can help you get back on track rather than beating yourself up. 

Here are some helpful reads here and here on practicing self-compassion

Seek Help

 You do not have to go through this time alone. Even if you live alone or have limited means, there are resources and supports available to you.  I am currently  providing online services to help clients gain the skills and the tools they need to handle the stress and anxiety of COVID-19 more effectively. I’m offering reduced fee spots for those that have been impacted by job or income loss during this crisis and the option of 30 minute focused sessions to help keep you on track, if longer appointments won’t work for now. 

How to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety Caused by COVID-19

How to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety Caused by COVID-19

If you’re like most people, you are doing your best to stay calm and cope effectively with anxiety during COVID-19 pandemic. But that can feel incredibly difficult at times.

When you’re not worrying about keeping everyone healthy, there’s also the stress of working from home, parenting kids who are out of school and daycare, along with the experience of isolation that comes from being out of physical connection with our friends and family.

Signs of Emotional Distress and 6 Ways to Cope

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but most will exhibit some of the following signs:

  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • A sense of being on edge, restless or unsettled
  • Physical signs of anxiety like a racing heart, clammy hands
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability and frustration towards others
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Overuse of alcohol or other drugs

If you are experiencing significant stress right now, here are some quick ways you can help yourself:

1. Limit Media Consumption

Yes, you do need to know what is going on, but you don’t need to read every.single.article. about COVID-19 or watch the new loop on repeat.

Likewise, scrolling social medial for hours to deal with boredom, restlessness and anxiety is helpful int the moment, but ultimately unfulfilling.

It’s especially important to create times during the day where you are engaging in activities that you enjoy and getting a break from you phone.

Instead try:

Watching a movie with your partner or family

FaceTime or Skype or call a friend


2. Nurture Your Body and Spirit

Be sure to get outside for some fresh air and go for a walk. Eat well,  make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep.

One practice you can adopt to cope more effectively with anxiety is mindful breathing.  This helps to turn on the part of the nervous system that helps calm you down and turn off the stress response.

Breathing in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 6.  

This activates the parasympathetic system, the part of your nervous system that helps you to relax.

As you exhale, a signal is carried through your vagus nerve from your body to your brain, sending the message to move out of the stress response and into a more restful state.

Try it now for 6-10 breaths and see what happens.  .  

You can Also Try:

Calm App
Happiness Trap App

3. Contain Your Worries

There is a lot to think about these days.  Lots you could worry about.  Kids. Health. Employement. Finances. Loved ones.

But when our thoughts run wild, our anxiety increases.

It’s so easy to miss out on the pleasureable things we have going on when our minds are somewhere else while we are doing them.

Try having a worry time.

Throughout the day, when your mind pulls you into worries, make a note of it, but don’t get caught up in it. I use the notes app on my phone, but paper works just fine.

Then, at a set time each day, sit and reflect on your worries.  Make a flow chart, a diagram, pro/con lists.  Whatever you do, focus on the worries.  Spend 15-20 minutes really digging into your concerns.

At the end of your worry time, take 8-10 mindful breaths as described in #2 and return to your day.


4. Recharge

While you are not driving to and from your office, or taking the kids to sports practices, you still have plenty to look after.

Maybe it’s just the podcasts and blogs that I read, but everywhere I turn, there seems to be this hightened pressure to do something phenomenal with this time in isolation.

After all, don’t you know “Shakespeare wrote King Lear while he was quarantined during the plague?” 

Don’t buy into this pressure.  I believe many women are just on the edge of burnout from the fast pace of their lives and the many responsabilities they carry.

Rest.  Pursue your values.  Allow yourself time to feel  your emotions. Connect with your love ones; in person if they live with you or over the internet.

The impression that you should be able to accomplish incredible things during this time can add to anxiety and self criticism.

5. Stay in the Present Moment

Because of the uncertainty about the future and how challenging the current times are, it is natural that your mind would pull you out of the present moment.  However, living too far in the future provokes anxiety.

Listen to music mindfully.

Sip tea slowly.

Smell the scent in your diffuser or from a candle. 

Slow down and be in the present moment.  


If you find yourself becoming too stressed or anxious during this time, I encourage you to connect with me. Speaking with a therapist can help you cope with the situation and navigate the days ahead. I am currently able to conduct sessions over the phone or via a secure video platform, so you won’t even have to leave your home to get help.


How To Nurture Your Mental Wellness

How To Nurture Your Mental Wellness

The World Health Organization describes mental wellness “as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”.

When we talk about mental wellness, we’re not just talking about the the absence of disease or a clinical diagnosis.

It encompasses so much more.  

Are you living your life to the fullest, in alignment with what is most important to you and in such a way that it positively impacts others around you. That is mental wellness. 

Here are some ways you can work towards mental wellness, even starting today.

1. Set Boundaries

Boundaries are the limits we put in place to make clear what is ‘our stuff’ and what is someone else’s. Having healthy boundaries is a crucial part of mental wellness because it allows us to set limits on what we will (or won’t) accept in terms of behaviour from others and how much time, resources, energy we are willing to devote to certain situations.  

Boundaries protect us from taking on burdens that are not ours to carry and from developing resentment towards another person. Healthy boundaries allow us to be in relationship with others without becoming burnt out and exhausted.

Maybe you find yourself consistently doing things you know you don’t want to do to avoid conflict, to please others or to fit in. I’ve found this book Boundaries to be so helpful in figuring this out. (Note: There are some Christian references in this so if that isn’t a fit for you, skip the book)

2. Be In The Moment

How often have you found yourself being somewhere physically, but mentally your somewhere else, distracted by all the ‘stuff’ of life? You can hardly enjoy the experience you are having, even if it is one you have been longing for, because your thought life is carrying you away.

Research show that when we can remaining in the present moment we experience lower levels of perceived stress, anxiety and depression, improved mood, and a sense of improved well-being.  Results of the study confirmed that those with greater present-moment awareness responded to stress more often with a greater perceived ability to handle things by relying on core values to navigate the stressful situation.

To experiment with this practice, notice every time you are intending to do one thing (read to your kids or have a conversation with your spouse) but are simultaneously doing something else (thinking of an argument you had with your mother or the list of things you need to do before the end of the day).

When you notice that your mind has pulled you away from the moment, gently let the though go, and with intention turn back to what you were doing. You may need to repeat this several times. This is called ‘the practice of being in the present moment’, and much like going to the gym, it takes repetition before it becomes a habit.

3. Eat Healthy

Eating healthy is a vital part of positive mental health. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains will slowly release energy into your bloodstream, creating a consistent level of energy that won’t leave you feeling tired or sluggish. Eating healthy will also provide a mental boost because you’ll feel good about your healthy food choices.

4. Sunshine

Sunshine is a great way to boost your mood. Put on some comfortable walking shoes and take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood, or a local park. Exposure to sunlight will help your brain release serotonin which will boost your mood, and help you feel more calm and focused.

5. Get Some Sleep

A good night’s sleep is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. When you’re well rested, you’re naturally energized. Regular sleep also boosts your immune system as well as your cognitive and mental health.

You have the power to improve your mood. By making some healthy additions to your daily routines, you can develop regular habits that will improve your overall mental well-being.

How Cultivating Gratitude Can Change Your Outlook This Summer

How Cultivating Gratitude Can Change Your Outlook This Summer

I was the in the front passenger seat.  My younger kids were in the back.  


I’m racking my brain for ideas to captivate their little minds and get them to stop. 

Their favourite podcast.  

I grab my phone.  

And at that moment, this pops into my email box. Shared by a blogger who was encouraging her readers to complain less.  

I was curious.  Perfect, I thought.  I’ll read this to them instead of the podcast and see what happens.  

And what happened was awesome!  My kids got quiet.  Then, it led to a pretty interesting conversation. 

And I made an important commitment.  

But I’ll get to that in a minute. 


Does it ever happen to you that an idea or a concept keeps coming up over and over in your life?

When this happens to me, I tend to pay attention.  I have this belief that it is something that I need to learn or an area that I am meant grow in.  

Lately, the idea of gratitude has been popping up in all sorts of different places for me.  Like here and here.

This moment, in my car,  was just another variation on the theme. 

And so, out of curiosity, I dove into the brain science behind it (because I couldn’t just start practicing it, right?).

Practicing Gratitude Will Change Your Summer

There is some pretty amazing scientific evidence to support the benefits of gratitude, including the fact that practicing gratitude floods our brain with the feel good chemical dopamine.  

Dopamine is like a delicious bit of chocolate, as far as your brain is concerned.  It plays an important role in motivation and making you more likely to do something again. 

The very act of noticing something to be thankful about releases a bit of dopamine. Your brain loves it and starts looking for more things to be grateful for.  

On the flip side, staying stuck in negativity literally shrinks the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and intelligent thought (I didn’t know that either!)

Your brain also really likes being right.  And so, if you expect that dinner with a friend will be lovely, your brain will begin to tune into parts of the evening to confirm this idea.  

You guessed it, it works in reverse too.  If you expect something is going to be boring, annoying or stressful… your brain will go to work looking for details to confirm that. 

Interesting, huh?

Research that points to more potential  benefits of gratitude.

It can decrease pain, promote better sleep, relieve stress, decrease anxiety and depression and increase energy.

Decreased anxiety… increased energy…? 

Yes, please.  I obviously need some more gratitude in my life. 


3 steps to cultivate gratitude in your life 

1.  Just like any other skill, cultivating gratitude takes practice. Be intentionally on the look out for things that you are grateful or thankful for.  This is part of the new perspective you are working to develop.


2.  Record it.  Maybe you like taking photographs, or writing.  Maybe you keep a journal or a calendar with notes.  Take a second to document  what you are grateful for.  Here’s a PDF for you to print and use if you like. Recording it helps your brain reward itself with the feel good chemical serotonin.


3.  Express it.  Share your gratitude with God, the universe or send a thank you text a friend.  Expressing gratitude allows you to reconnect with those thoughts and experiences andrelive those warm feelings again. The expression of gratitude triggers your brain to release dopamine, which in turn helps you to feel good and keep this new habit going.


Gratitude is not a magic cure all.   

It won’t take away the hard stuff in life.  Or solve all your problems.  

Some days will still be really hard.  Your kids will still whine.  

But, what if cultivating gratitude was a piece of the puzzle.  Wouldn’t it be worth it?  

Back the decision I made in the car.  

I’m in. 

My intention is to to be more grateful this summer.  


And so, with this in mind, thank you for taking the time to read this post.  I feel privileged to be able to use this platform to encourage you and I hope in some small way it has been helpful.  

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