Let That Good Feeling Linger

Sunflowers are my absolute favourite flower – they are strong yet fragile, bend to the sun, and keep facing upwards. I also love their cheery colour and reminder of hot summer days. I went with my family recently to a sunflower farm, where we were about to walk among hundreds and hundreds of rows of them. I took in the felt sense of this experience and it lingers in my body in a happy way (kind of like that smiling flower in the photo here). I’ve been practicing this a lot lately.

Since summer break is coming to a close this week (for many of us it feels like the end of summer as a whole), I want to share this experience with you as it may come in handy when you need to hold on to the good feelings in your body.

It was my anniversary this summer and my partner and I were able to have an extra long date. While it happened over the course of a seven-day long therapy training for me, we were still able to stay present in the date. It might be because I am immersing myself in somatic-based therapy work but we were able to put our good feelings from the date in an imaginary jar.

We love bike riding in the city, both with our kids but definitely without them as well. After a delicious meal at one of our favourite places, we took a long bike ride along the harborfront. It’s such a gift that the city I live in has a great lake connected to it. As an ocean lover, i know that it may not be an ocean persay, but a Great Lake is a close second. As a water loving person, I know I never spend enough time in its presence. So, we decided to bike along a new path that is right beside the lake. It just opened recently – that itself was such a nice gift as we may not have done it with our children.

I was able to use the bike ride as a way to share with my partner more about Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP) and how it works. There are 5 core organizers that are the main base of how SP therapy helps connect the body to the mind both in healing trauma but also in everyday mindfulness. It’s a great way to help good feelings linger in an intentional way, like an imaginary jar of a good date you want to hold on to.

The 5 core organizers are body sensation, five senses, movement, emotion, and cognition, and in that order. So on our date, we decided to blend all of them and this is what we came up with:

1) Body Sensation: My body felt like a warm glow in my heart and my core, and a freedom in my shoulders that experienced the wind
2) The Five Senses: The feel of air touching my arms, the smell of the lake, the beautiful skyline of the city, the sounds of life around us, the taste lingering from my delicious dinner
3) Movement: We brought awareness to our legs pedalling both up hills and around us. It was an incredibly hot day so we also noticed how the pedalling felt with our warm bodies
4) Emotion: I carry with me now such a deep sense of love and happiness both for that experience, to share with my partner, and to be with my partner in that moment
5) Cognition: I acknowledged how grateful I was that we had that time together, and shared this talk with him so that we could hold onto it together

Now when life gets in the way, and we are getting stuck in the grind of everyday life, all i need to do is to recall this date and my body will respond. I will embody the memory and not just think about it. When I’m forgetting a detail, all i need to do is to recall the smell of the lake, or the body sensation in my core. As i bike daily, i get a quick hint of the memory whenever i feel the breeze on me or grip my handlebars. I don’t need to recall a big part of the story, but rather a single moment and my body and mind are united in recalling the happy moment. It’s a lovely way to practice more intentional felt sense of positive moments – we are so prone to minimize them and rush through them. It’s like I’m peering into that jar of happy memories or giving myself a warm hug by recalling this night.

As summer is coming to a close, you can try this tool. What memory from these last 2 months do you want to cherish and hold on to?

How to Live a Balanced Life

It’s butterfly season right now, and this summer brings a happy supply of them where i live. As they are an anchor for me, I’ve been working on creating a tool with the butterfly as the inspiration. I love the quote from Rupi Kaur that reminds us that ‘growth is a process that takes time’ – indeed strength is necessary for a caterpillar to become a chrysalis and then to transform and push out of cocoon. The metamorphosis of the butterfly is the perfect display of the rite of passage we all go through.

I am my own wellness or resilience coach – I work hard to create my own version of a balanced life by making a point to bring joy in, taking care of myself, as well as keeping myself connected to others. With this in mind, i created this worksheet as a guide to help you.

I love the various Wheel of Life tools that highlight the various parts of us – this is similar and a bit unique as it breaks down the parts into the holistic trifecta of Mind, Body and Spirit.

Think of these butterfly parts as a way to create more balance in your own life. Each part is integral to living well. So, the Antenna symbolizes the Spirit; the Head is the mind and mental health realm, and of course the Body represents the physical self-care we need to stay well. The 4 wings around it are for family, friends, work, and community. Now, add what you do that nourishes this part, and what you wish to add in order to create more balance. See what comes up, what’s missing, and what you’d like to add moving forward. We are our own experts, so get to navigate the way we live our life – what do you chose? Use the butterflies you see in nature as a guide – take time to slow down and linger in one place.

what the caterpillar saw as the end, the rest of the world saw as the beginning. lao tzu

I’ve created a free 2-page PDF that you can print and work on yourself, Get a cup of tea, a nice pen and take some time to sit with this. Click here to get your own copy and see what comes up for you!

The Makings of a Good Therapist

I love what I do. It may sound strange to think that I enjoy listening to people share their hard feelings, but what I also see is their healing process and transformation. I’m not so vain to think i made a difference, but rather I was there to bear witness to their own change. Going to therapy is still a taboo topic, as we have not accepted mental health needs support like any other forms of health does.There has been a lot of movement towards accepting therapy, both for people to go to someone for help, as well as a bigger societal shift in accepting that a therapist can help someone feel better, just like a dentist, doctor, or nutritionist can. Instagram has an amazing selection of therapists who use that tool as a way of sharing resources for free. While it’s not therapy persay, it is a great starting point for me. It’s a bit like feelings porn for me too. Have you seen this fabulous account, for instance?

I have a love-hate relationship with how therapists are depicted in pop culture. It’s no wonder people have misgivings about coming to see a stranger and unload secret feelings. Naomi Watts’ character on her show Gypsy (the name itself is problematic) really made me cringe. Anne in Working Moms is another example (though I love her new office). Gabriel Byrne’s character on In Treatment, or Toni Collette in Wanderlust, and more recently the therapist in Big Little Lies gives me hope that we are moving towards more positive portrayals. It helps to lessen the stigma – therapy is not just for extreme mental health needs after all.

While watching the second season of Big Little Lies recently (and no, that therapist is not perfect either), i brought me pause to think about what i think makes for a good therapist. Here’s my short working list.

I will bear witness to your process. I have had clients come to me and say point blank that they want me to ‘fix them.’ I so wish that was possible, but it truly doesn’t work that way. I don’t have a magic wand to do that sort of trick, and more importantly, therapy is not for someone else to fix you but rather you must do this work yourself. It is truly our own work that helps us heal.

I know that I hold a lot of power in my role as a therapist. As a feminist therapist, i make that awareness explicit in our work together. I also play a role in displaying a healthy relationship with the people I support. As an attachment-based therapist, I see how unhealthy relationships have been a great cause of suffering. While it’s important to me to build a trusting and respectful relationship with the people I support, I am not their friend. I do think that therapy works best when there is a reciprocal relationship (relational). One big difference between talking to your best friend about a problem and coming to me is that I am not just a positive cheerleader, but someone who will challenge you if you are wrong and also provide you options, not just agree with you. I am like an accountability partner to help you stay on your task and commitment to yourself.

Some of my favourite words as a therapist are vulnerability, feelingful, courage, curious, compassion, resilience, and reflection. I have a toolkit of resources, tools, worksheets, and exercises to guide you in this process. Therapy is goal-based and an opportunity to establish tools and resources, work on the painful memories, and integrating them into your everyday life now. The ultimate goal for therapy is that it helps you live the life you love so that you no longer need to come to therapy.

As a therapist I am a vault that holds your secrets. Therapy won’t work if you can’t trust that person with your deepest feelings, so much so that you don’t feel safe in sharing them. Building this relationship plays a key role in how therapy works best. It’s also hard for me to say goodbye when therapy is ending, and yet I know that the goal of therapy is to have it be short-term with a clearly structured beginning, middle and end. I get ghosted as a therapist and while I know that the relationship is not about me (and I yield a lot of power), it is still a feeling-based relationship that is built on compassion.

With the new Controlled Act of Psychotherapy in Ontario, changes are being made to what therapy looks like. For instance, some people seek counselling as a way to help them with some life goals on wellness, having a better life and get back on track. A life coach also does similar work on wellness work but their focus is more on helping you live your optimum self. Psychotherapy is a deeper dive to help someone who is struggling with something that leads to feeling stuck, and is based on a diagnosable mental health issue (like postpartum depression or post-traumatic stress from the impact of childhood abuse). I am not a life coach, but my work can straddle any of these three areas.

A good therapist, like anyone, sees the value of continuous professional development. I am always learning and am a better therapist because of this. Even seasoned therapists of over 30 years need to keep learning about modalities that are evidence-based and validly researched. I also believe that a good therapist does not only use one modality as each person is their own expert and one size does NOT fit all.

I make people cry for a living. That means, while I follow your lead and have no agenda for my own, sometimes there is no emotional by-passing in therapy like there may be in everyday life. I will validate your experience and feelings, and hold space for you in a less biased way. My whole body is my instrument, especially as I use somatic-based therapies and mindfulness in my work. Going to supervision, therapy and peer consultation is a necessity, if not a requirement. I also practice what I preach as self-care is imperative so that I don’t burn-out or feel compassion fatigue. So don’t worry about me – I am a container that regularly gets my tune-up.

If you’d like to work with me, to live the life you love, contact me here. I’d be honoured to be that vault for you.

Summer Time Joys

In my last blog post, I shared how I had some mixed feelings about summer. It’s still a bit early to tell, but I am noticing how aware I am of the intentions I set out for myself and my family. This is helping me stay on task. Let me explain.

We start each summer break off with time away at a family cottage. I know that my privilege allows me access to this. I am so grateful for the opportunity to get out of the city, my work life, and keep things simple. It really can help me find the balance I need to get back on track. That doesn’t mean my kids are perfect, and there are no dishes to do – it’s got its own share of work and the kids still fight no matter the scene. The biggest argument my kids had with each other was who got the ‘better’ swing. Of course, both swings are the same but it’s like they have to fight for something. For the most part though, they played together, were in tune, and we all were attuned to each other.

We played board games, ate ice cream, swam in the freezing cold lake, read books, and slept well. Even our meals were simpler and we saw no one else for a few days at a time. At the end of the week, we were ready to come back to our real world so we shared our intentions for the summer.

This is something we do each year, but I changed it a bit this year as my children are getting older and have more agency in their goals. We added 3 areas to work on over the summer – something they want to do for fun, something they want to work on as a summer project, and a way to be a better citizen. While my kids’ answers weren’t exactly as I would have chosen, it is truly them to the core. For instance, my daughter decided to work on not picking nature and bringing it home (i.e. bugs, pulling flowers, rocks and more rocks) and my son wants to work on not swearing. I would have loved for them to work on eating better meals and not picking on each other. Good thing i made them my goals. Wink.

It also reminded me of my Word of the Year. I have one each year, and it’s moments like this that helps me steer back on track. I also appreciate the intention around breaking the year up into seasons, and having more short-term or specific goals with that. For instance, as my word of the year this year is Balance, i can think of ways to dig deeper during Spring (refreshing ways to give me balance with work and down time), Summer (moments of joy), Fall (things I can do to nurture myself that gives me nourishing balance) and Winter (ways i can be restful and cozy) so that I can ultimately get that balance i was working on all year.

As it’s summer, I can look at my goals to find JOY and bring in more pleasure to balance the fact that there is still a lot of work to do – both with my role as a therapist, as a mom, as a homeowner, as a gardener, and more. We set the intentions on the July New Moon, and put together our list of 20 things to do as a family this summer that bring us joy. This year that includes things like:

– Family bike ride to the lake
– Make and eat ice cream
– Sleepovers
– Camping
– Go-karting
– Climb trees
– Make movie with cousins
– Eat fresh fruit and veggies from our garden and local farmer’s markets
– Reading in backyard
– Regular visits to public pools
– Getting ready to being home alone (for my 10 yr old)
– S’mores and backyard fires
– Evening drinks in the backyard
– Playdates with friends
– Star gazing
– Paddle boarding alone
– Watch Lord of the Rings 2
– Cherry pit or watermelon seed spitting contest
– Create a summer song playlist
– Sell our homemade comic books

While we haven’t figured out how to stop the cat and dog fight, nor my own fight response to their conflict, i know that we can work on it as we are also having a joy-filled summer. And we created it ourselves. Call it an artisanal bespoke summer if you will.

My Own Cat and Dog Fight

It’s end of the school year, and while my logical brain is organized with the summer plans, another part of me is a bit more hesitant to start summer break. I’m talking about my somatic side, the ever-knowing inner body language that holds a more quiet space for me. I’m a bit worried for summer this year.

I love summer – the farmer’s markets, the sun, the outdoor swimming, the warm evenings, the freezies. Summer dresses and sandals are my perfect outfit of choice, and i love summer evening bike rides with my love.

Now, as a mom to two school-age children, summer also includes regular sibling arguments, sand in their shoes and on my floor, popsicle stains on their faces and t-shirts, epic meltdowns after a day at outdoor camp, and time mostly with just the 4 of us. Day in and day out.

I’m a bit worried about how much the sibling conflicts will get in the way of summer fun. Even as I coach my children to see that the ‘worst day ever’ was just one part bad + other parts okay, we hold the anger and resentment in our bodies for a bit too long. My daughter bounces back much more quickly, and she is ready to move on, though not with an apology at her end. My son needs more time alone to get back to his window of tolerance, and then he sees where he made mistakes so apologies.

After a recent argument about which bike route to take, and my kids using their bikes as weapons to hurt each other, I reflected on how it all came to a head so quickly. And then I saw it: My son’s conflict instinct is to Fight /island /attack and my daughter’s is to Fawn/wave/pursue. In therapist language, my children have outright presented me with their conflict cycles and attachment style. As a therapist, I know how to support couples with this, so when i saw this dynamic in front of my own eyes, it was a light bulb moment.

My son’s sense of justice is so strong that he has a hard time seeing how his reaction can exacerbate conflict. It’s a beautiful thing to witness him wanting to hold the line around rules, order, and safety. And yet, that can mean other people have a hard time being heard by him. My daughter’s constant chatter and social butterfly-ism means she does not allow space for others to be heard. They are my own life size perpetual cat and dog fight.

So, this summer’s plan is still filled with pool trips, strawberry picking, camping, and reading. It will also contain some work on coaching my kids to help them with their relationship. For better or worse.

Wish me luck!

My Body My Choice

I’m not exactly sure when i became an activist for gender rights, but it was definitely in high school, if not earlier. I got my period earlier than the vast majority of girls in my class. I was 9 (nine!) – take that in. I was the same age as my eldest child is now. There is nothing like being in grade 5 and other girls wondering what the strange noise was coming from a bathroom stall. In fact, it was me tearing off the sticky part of my maxi pad. Talk about stigma and being embarrassed for something so normal. I also got breasts pretty early too, and of course that brought on attention from much older boys and men even. I noticed that for sure, and yet didn’t have the skills to put them in their place (the boys i mean), or more importantly, the support and guidance from others to help me with this.

So i started dating younger than i might have otherwise, and my body has been a sexual object for a long time. I remember being in middle school and walking on the beach in Florida, while on vacation. A boy i did not know came up to me and asked me point blank if i “put out.” I didn’t even know what the term meant. Luckily, it didn’t go farther than that, but the memory still stays with me.

When i was in high school, a pro-choice rally was held and i recall my mom urging me not to go. She was afraid of me being an activist in a rally and getting hurt or in trouble. While i obeyed her request (rule), i did learn more about what abortions are and what being pro-choice is for me. A friend of mine had to get one when we were in high school. I remember helping her get the phone number for a clinic in Toronto and being part of a team of teenage friends helping her navigate the system to get it done. I grew up in a smaller city 1 ½ hours from the big city and it was my job to hold on to the card with the clinic’s phone number. I still remember where i hid it.

About ten years ago, i worked at a reproductive health clinic where medical terminations of pregnancies happened. My role as a counsellor was to be a guide to people during the procedure. I literally would hold their hand and help them with breathe work, distraction tools and self-compassion. I loved this work and it brought me closer to the work i do now, so i am so grateful for what i learned there.

One thing i learned is that many of us that choose to get an abortion do it for a number of reasons. As we are our own experts, it is up to no one else to govern or decide what’s best for our bodies. And yet, we are hearing otherwise again in the news as some states are changing a sacred and human rights law that passed many moons ago.

I can only assume that people who have had to make a difficult choice are feeling triggered all over again. Some of the people i support come to help heal from the shame, remorse, and grief from making this decision. They don’t need lawmakers and politicians (mostly old white men) to make them feel worse for their decision. It was a hard decision to make, and it was their’s to do so and the right decision at the time.

Abortion is not just for rape, and yet it’s ironic that this backlash to our rights over our bodies is happening during May which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I can’t help to think of this as another form of systemic sexual abuse. While it’s not a sexual assault persay, it is a violation and abuse of someone over someone else’s body, in a sexual manner. The removal of abortion access is not about the unborn babies and fetuses – it’s about power. Just like rape is not about pleasure via sex: it is also about power.

I am now teaching both my children that they are the boss of their body. My daughter still asks who saw me naked when i delivered her earthside. Even last night, i overheard her asking my partner who saw my vagina when she was coming out, if i was naked with my consent, and if being naked was necessary. We talk about body autonomy a lot, and i still ask them if I can kiss and hug them good night.

In response to the latest backlash to women and reproductive choice, someone in my neighbourhood filled blocks and blocks of sidewalks with chalk-written slogans that remind us that we are the boss of our bodies. When walking over this simple and powerful display, i had an interesting chat with my children on what abortion is – i had to balance what it means to be pro-choice and that abortion is an absolutely acceptable and valid choice, with how to explain the process in an age-appropriate way.

My children have not yet reached puberty but they are on the near cusp of it. We have good books and chats about it a lot, and they know what it means when i have my monthly blood cycle. While i have had my period for over 30 years (*wow*), it was when i became pregnant that i really learned how my reproductive parts work, and when i can get pregnant each month. I want my children to learn how their bodies work before then. That is one way they can be truly informed when needing to give consent. Knowledge is power, right?

This upcoming Tuesday May 28 is the second annual Menstrual Hygiene Day in Toronto. I’m so excited that gender activists in the city have championed the path to lessen the stigma of menstruation and making pads and tampons accessible to all bleeders. I also love that Dr. Morgentaler, a renowned doctor who has been a forerunner in reproductive health and performing abortions for decades, received an Order of Canada for his work. Maybe we need to send invites to period party to those old white men in power to our south.

Or not, they might be party poopers.

Rainbow Jar for Feelings


Recently, my kids and I were having a tough time and i was reminded me of co-regulation tol, the rainbow jar. I made it when my son was little many moons ago . It’s the tool to help with feelings as a way to process them and hold space for them. When we opened up the jar recently we noticed we needed to update it. There’s nothing like jumping on the bed to make us feel better

My son wears his heart on his sleeve. Since his sense of justice systems, sometimes it can harbour some conflict with his peers. He holds on to this anger and it’s hard for him to come back to neutral. While i can appreciate his sense of fairness, it can get in the way of accepting the reality of a moment. He goes into fight mode pretty quick and is hard to get back into his calm window.

My daughter hates to be wrong, or in the wrong. If i am every angry at her (and of course, i am allowed to be as her mom), she holds on to this and then creates a grudge herself. She also really struggles when things are less than perfect.

Both of these examples are great ones because when we can learn emotion regulation and staying with a feeling, then we are able to also foster some self-reflection and a more healthy mindset of acceptance. In our family, we are working to allow space for all the feelings, not just the easy and positive ones. That is hard to do sometimes.

Gordon Neufeld’s latest work on resilience in children (and adults truly) focuses on the importance of Play, Rest, and Feeling. Having access to all three is an integral part to establishing resilience and bouncing back after a challenge of adversity. I love the intention of noticing a full range of feelings in this process. If you want to learn more about how to take care of your kid’s feelings, Sarah Rosensweet also has a great article on how to help children with their emotional backpacks.

With this in mind, i created this tool to help my kids notice and honour their feelings. And of course, i use it as well – both as a model and knowing i can benefit from it as well. We keep it right in the dining room where any of us can access it easily. The agreement is if one of us needs help with their feelings, and asks for company, we join them. I want my kids to know i am there for any of the feelings, so we carve out space. I help them set it up, and if i am prepping dinner or something like that, we negotiate the timing to honour everyone’s needs.

Here are some of our activities:

– Jump on the bed
– Eat some chocolate
– Read a book
– Rip up some paper
– Cuddle together and get some tears out
– Dance party!
– Listen to a favourite song
– Colour
– Play outside
– Talk to someone about it
– Find a pet rock
– Build a lego fort for my feelings
– Have a cup of tea
– Play by myself
– I spy with colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet
– 5 Senses game: 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things to touch, 2 things to smell (get out some calming essential oils, 1 thing to taste)

That pouch you see in the photo has some Worry Dolls from a trip to Guatemala from years ago. I love this sweet tool to help hold space for feelings with kids. Both my kids have one that they keep close, as a reminder. What are some fun and effective ways you help co-regulate those hard feelings?

I Was That Mom

I was that mom recently, in the grocery story. You know the one, where her kids are out of control and you don’t want to make eye contact with anyone. I should have known better; what was i thinking bringing 2 kids to the grocery store to get supplies for supper. Egads, i even bargained with them to get their own stash of candy and snacks for the week.

My kids are not toddlers anymore, so either I should lower my expectation to hope that we can we get errands done after school, or they will never be able to get their beloved snacks. Right now, I’m leaning on the no snacks for a while.

Let me back up and explain myself, as i am usually the one to tell others to not take kids grocery shopping if they can help it. It was April Fool’s Day and as a nice surprise, i thought it would be more fun to play hookie from school and go hang out with my sister and kids for the day. My son was all over that – he hates Mondays and school (what a terrible combo, I’ll give him that) but my daughter was upset to miss school, or at least the jokes she was planning to make on friends at school. After a bit of work getting her onboard, we went to visit my parents. It’s a quick road trip away, and yet it always seems to bring with it some baggage – in this case, my son has outgrown the toys that remain at my parent’s home from my own childhood. He gets bored quickly when there isn’t a book to read. His boredom quickly turns to irritability which can spiral down pretty rapidly. This leads to sibling conflict that is so triggering for me – they get mean and uncooperative, and downright aggressive, to me and each other.

It can be hard to shift after big conflicts, and yet i knew i had to find a solution (aka distraction) quickly. When i suggested to play hide-and-seek, they had no idea of what amazing options were at their disposal. Living in a 100-year old house in Toronto means no closets, so our hiding spaces are limited. Not so in a newer house.

Luckily, we found a way to enjoy the rest of the day. That is, until we drove home and got stuck in traffic on the highway, and it slowed our commute down considerably. My kids were fine. I had some foresight, so I pre-planned and brought their tablets to play with while i drove. Since i don’t drive often on the highway, i feel a bit anxious, so i knew that i needed any help i could get.

It was during this drive that i was able to reflect on what i needed to regroup. I had thought that i could just drive while listening to my favourite playlist, and i would be back to the city. I was still irritable from the kids’ conflict at my parents, slightly stressed to drive on the highway, and i was so thirsty. It’s one thing to do a checklist and see how i’m feeling, but a whole other activity to take care of that need when stuck in a car with your kids, and you are the one that’s driving.

Once we got to the city, i knew i had to get groceries or we wouldn’t have food for dinner or lunches. My kids shared that they were onboard with going, and we made a deal to get things quickly. But once inside, it’s like my son realized that he could have more fun by being silly. Sure, that can help boring things go by more quickly, but at what expense? He put all sorts of things in the grocery cart (dog food, but we don’t have a dog, meat but we’re vegetarian, you get the idea). By the end of our 20 minute excursion, i was so done. I contemplated just ditching our groceries and going home empty-handed, but i knew that would mean more work for me ultimately.

I’ve been noticing that my anger (hyperaroused state in the great Window of Tolerance tool) has been escalating quickly lately, and the logical side of my brain knows the tools to do to help calm down. I am trying to catch it a bit sooner. I knew that the anger (dare i say rage even) was brewing inside when while i was bagging the goods at the cashier. I felt eyes and judgement on me but i kept breathing and reminding myself that I would be home in minutes. I just had to get home.

Our family practices non-violent communication instead of discipline. Sure, that means we are a talking-it-out family, and yet i know that taking their candy (that i did buy) wouldn’t tell them how they acted was inappropriate – it would just tell them that i took something away that they wanted and i had promised them. Of course, they didn’t EAT any of this said candy when we got home, but we sure did talk about expectations, being a better team, and how to honour the agreements we made.

As a therapist, i know what i should be doing to regulate my emotions. As an attachment-based parent, I know that my kids’ behaviour was telling me something, and as a feminist i know that i have a right to be angry when there is more work on my plate just by going to the store with my kids. It’s a lot to balance.

So, i choose self-compassion – while i couldn’t make eye contact with the other customers at the store (a few with kids in tow themselves), i still knew that i was not the only mom in the world who was having a hard time taking her kids to the grocery store. That common humanity helped me. So did the time i took to myself when we did get home.

And so did the candy that we bought, that i snuck in for myself before making dinner that evening.

Tips to Help Keep Your Relationship Resilient


Whether you are in a new stage of life with a newborn, or you’ve been with your partner for 10 years and you’re feeling a lull, or your family has experienced another major transition in your life, it can be hard to stay attuned with your partner. All relationships take work and a commitment to that work. Sometimes crisis or change in our lives can steer us in a different direction and it can be overwhelming to try and figure out how to come back. When you know the love is still there, and you want this relationship to continue working for you, it might be helpful to learn some new tools.

As a therapist who works with couples to notice their emotions and their partner’s, I see firsthand what tools and practices can be effective with staying on track in the relationship you want. As someone who’s been with my partner for just shy of 20 years myself, I can also speak from personal experience. With this in mind, I’ve put together some tips and ideas that can be helpful for you.

1) Attachment Styles for Adults: I may have a bias as i am trained in attachment based developmental psychology and i incorporate it into my own life as a parent. Did you know that our attachment to our parents shapes how we attach to others once we are adults ourselves? We learn a lot from our parents, some of those things are not necessarily intentional. Children need to attach to their adult caregivers in order to feel safe. When that’s not always the case, it can impact how we build relationships as an adult. TIP: Check out this book: Stan Tatkin shares more about these styles in his book Wired for Love: He shares 3 main styles – Anchor (feel secure in relationship), Island (avoidant), or Wave (anxious/ambivalent). There is also a 4th style (disorganized) that is based on a history of trauma – like a Hurricane. Knowing what our attachment style is helps as it can give so much perspective and insight to our reactions when our partner does something that confronts our confidence in the relationship.

2) Love Languages: When i first started dating my partner it was a long-distance relationship for the first year or so. I needed validation and gestures of affection in order to help me feel secure in this new relationship, especially as it was long-distance. This was before the days of Instagram and social media, where i used dial-up free internet access to send emails, and long distance calls were expensive. It was when i learned about the 5 Love Languages did i realize that i was not needy or insecure, but in fact had a different language that told my partner i was into him. There are 5 languages – acts of service (think mowing your lawn), words of affirmation (you look great tonight!), gifts of affection (flowers), loving touch (holding hands), quality time (booking a table at a new restaurant). So, when i learned that I’m a Gifts of Affection gal and my partner is an Act of Service dude, i realized that we needed to interpret our various languages and they could indeed compatible. TIP: Take the Love Languages quiz!

“Remember, love is what brought you here. And if you’ve trusted love this far, don’t panic now. Trust it all the way.” – James Baldwin

3) Plan Monthly Dates: This doesn’t have to be a big night out, let alone a weekend get-away, but having planned and defined time as a couple can really help build confidence in the relationship. TIP: plan an date each month – it can be a movie you picked out for Saturday Night at the Movies on the Couch. Make a special drink and stock up on adults-only snacks. This reminds us why we love our partner in the first place. It also helps us stay attuned to our desire for our partner, a key component to a lasting relationship.

Did you know that we have have individualized pleasure, arousal, and desire blueprints? To take it further, we also have different types of sexual satisfaction styles. Knowing what yours is can help understand how your sexual needs are not met as often as they were, or that you are feeling like you are in a sexual rut. TIP: Take this quiz to see which type of Erotic Blueprint speaks to you! Similar to Love Languages and Attachment styles, when we know what our sexual desires are, and that of our partners, it can help break down the walls in the bedroom and help to more sustainable and thriving sex lives.

4) Plan Time Apart: You are not just a partner or parent, but also an adult in your own right. Being able to have other interests creates a balance in your life. It may seem counter-intuitive but it’s really another key ingredient in building resiliency in relationships. When you want to be seen by your partner, you need to see yourself and become more visible. TIP: Share your pride in your work, acknowledge something you did that was a new challenge, add more of your in your home – the special feminine touches that linger. Think of your favouite flowers in the bedroom AND dining room, photos of you and your lover by the bed, have a book you are reading by the couch. Don’t hide those pieces of you away. When we are practicing a wholehearted approach to life, our interests in life shine through and our partners want to be with us.

5) Conflict Cycle: This comes straight out of Emotionally-focused Therapy but YOU don’t have to be trained as a couple counsellor to know how to work on conflict in a effective way. Did you know that each relationship dyad falls into a conflict cycle or pattern? It might help to see what yours is so that you can work past them. TIP: Check out Sue Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight. It is a wonderful resource that shares more real-life stories of couples who have learned to recognize their conflict cycle.

I love Esther Perel’s work with couples, and one of her most poignant quotes is “do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” We have to truly understand that we can’t control or change anyone else, so when we want to change someone, we have to change ourselves. One part that is key is learning how to take care of your own emotion first, so that it doesn’t impact the repair work. We need to learn how to repair, and that comes with learning helpful self-soothing anger management tools. Learning healthy ways to communicate these needs is especially necessary.

6) Aligned Values and Priorities: It’s interesting how we can feel so comfortable at home that we get into a habit of putting on our comfy clothes when we get home from work, and present our best self for work but not at home with our loved ones. Yes they love us, for better or worse, and yet why is it we present our messiest side for the people we love the most? I saw an episode of The Fabulous Mrs. Maisel once and she had a habit of taking off all her make-up and putting on the face cream only after her husband fell asleep. I think a happy medium on these 2 extremes is much more healthy and sustainable.

As we are constantly evolving and learning, our relationships need to follow the same course. While we don’t necessarily want carbon copies of ourselves, having key values that are shared by both partners can lessen any longstanding tension or conflict. TIP Have weekly meetings with your partner to discuss goals for the week, highlights, plan some time together and hear from them their plans. When we intentionally sit down together and ask each other these questions, we are not surprised when it comes up. Put it in a Google Calendar (i love this program, it really is a relationship tool!). This may help you carve out space not just for a date, but a chance to take a class together, or read a book together. Moments like this serve us as they help us get back to centre.

What are some ways you have noticed you get back on track with your love partner? If you are struggling with this, contact me and i’d love to help you do this!

Perfectly Imperfect in Every Way


This week, my son went skiing for the first time. He went twice this week alone. The first time was cross-country skiing with our family, and the second was downhill with a school trip. I went with him both times, upon his request (and secretly i would have gone anyway). Full disclosure, we are not a skiing family or even sporty. But i grew up cross-country skiing and loved it. Mainly because it was a way to embrace the outdoors during the cold, long winter months. And it is so beautifully peaceful in a forest in the wintertime.

The first ski adventure, we didn’t get lessons because we didn’t think we needed them. His first frustration was putting on the skis. His second was falling and not being able to get up. His third was the first slight hill. So within 10 minutes, he was full of frustration and internalized shame about not being able to do something his sister and cousins were doing. And more so, he was angry at his body for not holding him up. Once this side of him comes out, he can be hard to get him back on track – no pun intended.

Between my partner and i, we took turns and deep breaths to help him. By the end of the day, he was skiing better, and made the right decision to walk down the last hill. Side note: i went down that hill and had the best epic Funniest Home Videos fall. I went right over my face into the snow and came up laughing. And not hurt. Luckily, my kids saw my fall and my reaction and i think it helped them see that it’s okay to fall.

When we went with his school this week, my son embraced the challenge. Maybe it was partly due to being with his peers and the lovely support and connection his has with his classmates. Maybe it was because he’s been skiing once before and remembers what his body can do. Maybe because downhill is easier (that’s what he said). I don’t know. But he did amazing – he loved the hills and he only fell once. At the beginning, when he was going down the very first hill for the first time to learn how to do the ‘pizza’ move to slow down. After that, he was hooked and now wants to ski on the regular. I’d like to take some credit, but i know it’s about his more positive sense of self that day.

Go figure.


Let me backup and bit and give you some context: My son has had 4 broken bones and stitches twice, all from living life in distraction. Besides the healing process and permanent scars (both visible and emotional), my son has carried with him trauma from the various injuries. He goes quickly into freeze mode when he gets hurt, be it a small bump or a bigger fall. As a trauma therapist, i would hope my work and years of training would be able to help him when he is in distress or needing support to self-regulate the hard feelings.

I was pretty wrong about this.

He comes to me for cuddles and connection when he is sad, or lonely. But the anger and frustration feelings are harder for me to support and him to manage. That’s why they are called hard feelings after all. After his initial fear has subsided, and he sees that he’s okay, he goes into fight mode when he’s frustrated. That is his trigger response, whereas I’m a freezer – so an interesting combo to say the least. I also get triggered by his anger as it’s can get quite feral and aggressive. That’s from my own history trauma and fear of intense conflict with others.

My children both know the work i do, relatively speaking. They know i work with women who have been hurt by someone in their lives as well as the parents i support who have just had babies. My son has been learning more about self-regulation, mindfulness, the downstairs/upstairs brain (thanks Dan Siegal), and we both know it’s a work in progress still. So when he recently confronted my attempts to help him he blasted at me this poignant line: “Mom, what works on your clients won’t work on me, I’m your kid”

Mic drop.

So, after a bit of an initial reaction, i processed this and realized maybe a bit too late that i need to be his mom first, and therapist second. And i need to be my partner’s friend first and therapist second. And i am human first. Therapist second even for me. We are all works in progress, learning as we go after all. When i am in therapist mode, i am a bit removed and put up the necessary boundaries i need, and yet it may not be what my injured child needs at the time. I am also still learning how to manage my reactions to his injuries, my daughter’s stubbornness, and my own need for quiet. As all therapists, i’m perfectly imperfect with this work too. I know my friends look to me for advice and assume i know what i’m doing. Let me tell you now, i don’t always know. I’m just my best at the time like all of us. One thing i know is to give myself self-compassion and self-care treats on the regular. I have also learned how to sit with the pain of others because i too am a work in progress, who recognizes my own inner work: I can sit more comfortably with other’s pain as i can see the other side of pain. This is a big part of being able to be a container for others. I know healing can happen.

Last night, my kids were excited to tell me about their day. I had a long day of listening to people’s stories and sadness all day. Like most days, i love my work, and i maybe shouldn’t have listened to a powerful podcast about stillborn loss on my walk home. I probably should have listened to my fun music therapy playlist instead. When i got home, i didn’t know i was done listening, until my son was talking AT me for 20 minutes through dinner. We had a good chat about asking first to chat, and also my need to make sure that i was present for my family when i cross the threshold of my door. Back to mom, wife, woman mode. My work day is done.

And yet it never is.