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,



Why Being Kinder to Yourself Matters

Why Being Kinder to Yourself Matters

 Women often come to see me In my Bedford counselling office for help with improving self-esteem.  They tell me that they are so tired of feeling like failures and the sense that they will never measure up.  Often, they tell me that they have struggled with self-esteem for as long as they can remember. In fact,  if you google the term ‘women self-esteem counselling’ you’ll come up with nearly 72 million results.  This leads me to believe that the women I work with are not alone in this struggle. 

As women, we are often quick to criticize ourselves or beat ourselves up for our perceived failings.  We’ll talk to ourselves in ways that we never would to others.  We get accustomed to using our inner critic as some warped form of motivation.  And for a while it might work… until it doesn’t and you crumble under the crushing weight of feeling like you are never good enough and will never be able to get it right. 

This experience of feeling like we are not enough is a common human experience.  So common in fact, that it has led to countless books, blog posts and articles having been written in recent years about self esteem and how to improve it.  Self-Esteem has become a buzz word.

Kristin Neff, an author, professor and social researcher, has studied self-compassion and self-esteem and she notes that “the pursuit of high self-esteem has become a virtual religion, but research indicates this has serious downsides. Our culture has become so competitive we need to feel special and above average to just feel okay about ourselves (being called “average” is an insult)… And then, once you’ve gotten high self-esteem, how do you keep it? It’s an emotional roller-coaster ride: our sense of self-worth bounces around like a ping-pong ball, rising and falling in lock-step with our latest success or failure.”

And so it is not that as women we should settle for low self-esteem, but rather that we want our own ability to be kind to ourselves not to be dependent on our performance or being better than someone else.  We want to have the capacity to treat ourselves with kindness when life feels difficult or things are not coming together the way we hoped.  The alternative to the pursuit of improved self-esteem is self-compassion.  

While self-esteem causes us to stack our performance up against others around us and to appraise how we measure up compared to others, self-compassion is really the acceptance of who we are and what we are going through without being judgemental or harsh towards ourselves, knowing that life on this earth is full of hard stuff.

I love the metaphor that Russ Harris uses in his book ACT Made Simple (p. 203) “Suppose you are going through a really hard time in your life.  There are all sorts of problems and difficulties, and just about everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong.  Now as you’re going through this, what kind of friend would you like by your side?  

“Would you like the sort of friend who says ‘Ah, shut up.  Stop your whinging and whining.  I don’t want to hear about it.  What do you have to complain about…Suck it up and get on with it.'”

“Or would you like the sort of friend who says, ‘This is really rough.  What you are going through right now, anyone would be struggling.  I want you to know I am here for you.  I’ve got your back.  We’re in this together.  I’m with you ever step of the way.'”

I know which friend I’m picking.  You?

Neff has found that increased self-compassion carries all the benefits of self-esteem (happiness, less depression, etc.) but without any of the down sides (not sustainable and can lead to narcissistic qualities).   Social Researcher Brene Brown notes that self-compassion helps increase our likelihood of being more vulnerable and able to connect with others.  Here are some interesting clips of Kristen and Brene talking together about self -esteem and self-compassion 

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably curious about how you can begin to develop greater self-compassion.  

If you’re looking to do this work on your own, here are some resources that I encourage you to check out. 

1. Brene Brown has an amazing documentary on Netflix 

2. Kristen Neff’s book on Self-Compassion

3. Kristen Neff & Christopher Germer’s Workbook on Self-Compassion

3. Russ Harris’s book Called the Reality Slap which focus on self-compassion amidst grief and loss

Often as people are working to step out of their old ways of doing things, it is helpful for them to work 1:1 with a therapist who can really help them to apply new perspectives and new learning to their situation so that growth and transformation can occur.  

If after checking out this blog post you realize you’d like to talk to someone  how to use self-compassion to  change how you feel about yourself, let’s connect.  You can book a free 15 minute consultation call  online at or call Stephanie at (902) 702-7722 to book an appointment. 

I look forward to hearing from you.





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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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