Summer Might Actually be More Stressful Than Winter. Seriously!

Summer Might Actually be More Stressful Than Winter. Seriously!

If you find summer stressful, you’re not alone.


People tend to think about summer as a season for fun, relaxation and as an escape from the dreary cold days of winter.  


But there is some interesting research that confirms what so many of my clients tell me; summertime is stressful!

In fact, it actually might be more stressful than wintertime.

This study, done with female medical students, found that cortisol (the “stress hormone”) was higher in the summer than in the winter.  They had the women take saliva samples every 2 hours over a 24 hour period on two separate days in the winter and two separate days in the summer. 


While winter was expected to be the more stressful season, the participants’ cortisol levels were highest during the summer dates.


Researchers were not exactly sure why the outcome was so counter-intuitive and  they were surprised by the results. 


Do you find summer more stressful?


5 Reasons Why Summer Can Be More Stressful


1. If you are a parent, demands on your time and energy can be higher than during the school year.  You are out of your regular routine.  Childcare can be tricky to co-ordinate (or maybe your kid hates the summer camp you signed them up for).  Parenting guilt can run high.

It’s not uncommon for moms, especially in the summer, to beat themselves up and feel like they are failing their kids because they don’t have the time or energy to be creative and fun.   


2. If you’re more introverted, like 25-40% of the population,  feeling the pressure to have a super busy summer social calendar can be exhausting. 

If you’re the kind of person who needs time alone to recharge and prefer connecting in smaller groups over deeper conversations (hello, INFJ!) a busy summer social calendar might feel stressful for you. 

Friends might be wondering why you’re reluctant to plan or attend gatherings and you can easily end up feeling guilty (or just wondering what is wrong with you, since no one else seem to feel this way).

3.  Late nights,  patio drinks, and BBQ food can wreak havoc on your system.  While it sounds amazing in theory, being overtired and full of junk is never a recipe for feeling recharged and refreshed.  

4.  FOMO.  Before the days of social media, we could blissfully relax without thinking we were missing out.  Now thanks to Instagram and Facebook, we have real time images of all the things that are going on without us.  

Whether it is extended family that has gone camping without you or a girls night out  when you are home in your PJs, seeing that we have been excluded can hurt.  It’s easy to get caught up wondering why we were not invited along.

5. Insecurities about our bodies and physical appearance seem to peak in the summer.  There is so much pressure to be ‘beach body ready’ and to find cute summer outfits. It is tough not to get caught up in self criticism and feeling the pressure to look like a different version of ourselves. 


Here are a few things you can do to help with summer stress; 


1.Make a plan. Whether that is a plan to spend time in solitude, take your kids park or visit with friends and family,  cultivating some direction for your day can be so helpful.  Here are some helpful ways to ditch mom guilt and have some fun with your kids.


2. Give yourself permission to say no.  Not everyone is wired the same way.  What is workable for someone else,  might not be for you.  That’s OK!  


Being able to say ‘yes’ to things that matter most to you and say ‘no’ or ‘not today’ to things that might contribute to feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, plays an important part in finding greater balance in your life. 


3.  Instead of busyness and  rushing around trying to please others and meet their expectations, what about experimenting with mindfulness and being more in the moment.


What would it be like for you to intentionally be more present as you are going about your day.


I’ve been experimenting this summer with 10 minutes of silence.  


Find a quiet place.  


Sip your coffee slowly and really notice the taste.


Take in any smells around you.  Do the flowers have a scent?


Sit on the grass and notice the texture and sensation of the grass on your skin.


Notice any thoughts that come into your awareness. Without judgement, let them go and turn back to your mindful focus.


Notice what difference this makes.


If stillness is a challenge for you, start with shorter periods of time. 

If this still feels uncomfortable, which can be especially true for people with a history or trauma, try mindful movement like walking or stretching. Pay attention and engage all your senses while you do some movement. 


4. Learn to find greater compassion for yourself.  It’s perfectly natural that if you see people having fun without you that it would being up feelings or envy, sadness or loneliness.  Why not try experimenting with self-compassion? 


One way to begin to develop greater compassion and kindness for yourself is through a loving-kindness meditation.  Here are 18 Reasons why this practice can be helpful, including reducing self-criticism and depressive symptoms, and improving self-compassion and positive emotions. 




If you feel like you need some more help managing your emotions and schedule this summer, so you can be the kind of mom you want to be, let’s connect. You can book a free 15 minute consultation online or call Stephanie at (902) 702-7722 to schedule an appointment.


All my best,



3 Ways Individual Counseling Can Help Your Marriage

3 Ways Individual Counseling Can Help Your Marriage

Even happily married couples can hit obstacles along the way. Did you know that individual counselling can be helpful, even when your partner is not interested or able to attend couples therapy.

John Gottman, is an American psychologist, researcher and clinician who has studied divorce and marital stability for more than 40 years.  He found that couples are in distressed relationships for more than 6 years before seeking help. That is a long time to struggle.

In my clinical practice, people often tell me that they have waited to come to therapy until their partner was willing or able to seek help.  The person who has been waiting, often expresses a mix of relief and frustration when their partner finally agrees to come to counselling.  They feel like they have been wrestling with the problems in their relationship all by themselves for a long time. 

 Many people assume that when their partner is unwilling or unable to come to therapy, that they have to wait tho see a therapist until both people can see one together.

While I there is solid research that shows the effectiveness of couples counselling for resolving relationship problems, if your spouse is unwilling or unable to come, I would encourage you to consider coming to counselling on your own.  

Individual counselling can help you learn new skills and strategies to cope in your relationship. And while there is no guarantee that your partner will be responsive to your changes, individual counselling can help you feel like you are coping in the best possible way with the challenges in your relationship.

3 Ways Individual Counselling can Help Your Relationship.


1.  Identifying Behavioral Patterns

 Most of us are aware of our partner’s behaviours but less focused on our own.  

In a struggling relationship, it is not uncommon for the focus to be the other person’s behaviour.  But when you can’t seem to get them to change, the problems in your marriage can seem overwhelming and discouraging.

But here’s the truth. I have never met a someone who said their behaviour was transformed because their partner continually pointed out their flaws and shortcomings.

 If you are going to help things improve in your relationship, getting clear about your own steps in ‘the dance’ and making sense of why you keep going back to these same old unhelpful behaviours is so important.  

 Individual Therapy Can Help You Recognize Your Own Negative Patterns

 As someone who specializes in marriage and couples therapy, I am trained to help individuals recognize their own negative patterns and how they play out in their relationship.

 I can help you get clear about the kind of responses that you would rather give, even when things are strained between the two of you.

Individual therapy can help you learn to slow down your reactions so you can intentionally behave in ways that are more like the kind of partner you want to be.

 Individual therapy will help you make better sense of what happens to you emotionally in conflict situations.  You can learn to recognize triggers for behaviour that ends up getting you and your partner stuck.

 As a result, you will be empowered and able to take a step back during conflicts as they occur, preventing escalation.

 As a bonus, a therapist can also point out the strengths and resources they find in your relationship so you can leverage and learn how to nourish them.

 2. Change at the Root Level

Once your therapist has helped you identify negative patterns, they can then help you understand why they are happening and assist you in changing them. Most behavioral patterns are formed and ingrained when we are very young – before we become self-aware and before we’ve met our significant others.

 Our attachment strategies, how we seek to maintain closeness with others,  are formed early in life and have a lot to do with our first relationship with a primary caregiver.  

 Lesley Becker-Phelps, author of Insecure in Love: How Anxious Attachment Can Make you Feel Jealous, Needy and Worried notes that your current attachment style is probably the same as what was nurtured in your childhood relationships.  If you never experienced as sense of security in your relationship, were fearful of being rejected or had a desire for closeness you could never satisfy, you are likely to still struggle with some of these worries.  

 The ways in which people deal with these ‘attachment insecurities’  are known as attachment styles, which describe how you relate to yourself (how worthy you feel of being loved which can create anxiety) and significant other in a relationship (how much you feel you can rely on others which can create avoidance).  The 4 attachment styles; preoccupied, fearful, dismissive and secure, reflect varying characteristic of anxiety/avoidance.   You can read more about attachment styles in this awesome book.  

 Even if you have never experienced a close, connected relationship, you can develop a more secure attachment style known as “earned secure attachment”.  While this often happens in adult love relationships, earned secure attachment can also develop in therapy.  This happens because of several key events;   a strong alliance with your therapist.  and learning to become more self-aware and self-compassionate.  

 Having a more secure attachment style and a sense of compassion for yourself  can create a positive difference in your relationship.


3. Coping Strategies

We often reach for  unworkable coping strategies.  Things like opting out (not doing something or going somewhere), distracting ourselves (hello, Netflix binges!) and numbing ourselves with food, alcohol, drugs, etc. are all effective in the short term to get rid of uncomfortable sensations and emotions.

 The problem is that in the long term, overusing these strategies often leads us away from being the kind of person and the kind of partner we want to be.

The emotional pain of being in a struggling relationship can often lead people to get caught in a vicious cycle of overusing these unworkable coping strategies.

This impacts their relationship, leading to further conflict, which leads to more unworkable coping strategies.  Individual therapy can help learn new ways to regulate your emotions and find more compassion for yourself, both of which can have an impact on your relationship. 


While these things may not directly ‘working on’ your relationship, they can give you the emotional balance you need to do things differently. 


If after checking out this blog post you realize that you’d benefit from individual therapy to improve your relationship, let’s chat. I work with women and couples in Halifax/Dartmouth/Sackville and surrounding areas at my Bedford Office.  


 You can book a free 15 minute consultation  online or call Stephanie at (902) 702-7722 to schedule an appointment.


 All my best,



What Can You Learn From Painful Emotions?

What Can You Learn From Painful Emotions?

Do you ever feel like your emotions “run the show”?

You’re out at coffee with a friend and everyone around you is laughing.  They all look so happy.

Your friend is telling you about some award her kid won and the amazing trip she is going on with her husband.

The smile stays pasted on your face, but you’ve stopped listening.  You’re lost in thought, wondering why your own life is so hard.  You’re trying to figure out how everyone else has it all together.

You start mentally making a list of the ways you are failing and how you are not measuring up.

You feel so inadequate. Your self-esteem is at an all-time low. 


When you get home, what do you do?  

a) Get frustrated with your kids because they are watching TV and the house has exploded into a chaotic mess of blankets, cushion forts and crumbs scattered across the floor during your absence.

b) Hide in your room so you can continue to “talk to yourself” about what a failure you are.

c) Spend 3 hours on Pinterest, pinning everything from a new wardrobe to new paint colours and throw pillows for the living room.

d) Scarf down a bag of chips.

e) Decide you need to ditch that friend and never speak to her again; how could she be so insensitive?  Why would she tell you those things when she knows how hard it’s been for you lately.

So, what’s your ‘go to’ when you’re feel out of balance emotionally and your self-esteem has taken a hit?

Whether you are aware of it or not, most of us have a default ‘fix’ that we run to when our feelings begin to spin out of control. 




Numbing out.


It can feel sometimes as as though we are helpless in face our our feelings… as though our feelings can somehow cause our behaviour. But here’s the truth….

We develop bad habits and unhelpful ways of dealing with our feelings, but thankfully, our feelings never have the final say.


Artwork by Rachel Habermehl Art

Your feelings… my feelings… they can be so intense.   It seems as though we have to respond to them… like we have to do something with them or about them.

But we don’t.

Here’s the good news, we can learn how to be informed by our feelings, not run by them. We can get out of the vicious circle of responding to our emotions with behaviour that isn’t helpful.  We CAN find freedom from those things we get sucked into doing that move us further and further away from the life we’d like to be living. Instead we can learn to allow our feelings to inform us rather than direct us.

It can feel hard to admit to ourselves that we need to make some changes in our life.  We become so used to controlling how we feel, that it’s hard to imagine it any other way.  The ways we habitually respond to our emotions can feel comforting in the moment, even though they may be harmful in the long run. We become dependant on the ‘fix’ and so even when we recognize how unhelpful our coping strategies are,  it’s still scary to try to leave them behind.

Fortunately, your feelings don’t get to determine the outcome. You CAN change what you do when you experience powerful and painful emotions. 

Are you ready to get started? Here’s how.  Check out this worksheet and honestly evaluate what you do with your feelings.

You can’t (and shouldn’t) stop yourself from having feelings, but what you do with them matters.

If after checking out this worksheet, you realize you’d like to talk to someone about how to work through big emotions when they come up, let’s connect.  You can book a session at or call Stephanie at (902) 702-7722 to book an appointment. You can also read more about the therapy I provide for women who are struggling with their self-esteem.

ps. Know someone who feels like they are being run by their emotions?  Use the link below to forward this on to them.


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