Strategies to calm the anxious brain.

This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2017 winners of the award at

Does your mind sometimes create thoughts – ones that make you anxious or worried – that you’d rather not have?

When our unconscious brain provides a random thought like this – if we’re not aware – we can become overly focused on these thoughts that can negatively impact our mental health.

This micro skill introduces a concept called cognitive defusion – a strategy we can use when we need to become untangled from our thoughts.

By learning how to defuse unwanted thoughts we can remove their power over us. Those thoughts can be as simple as our mind telling us there’s a difference between what we have and what we want. The thought is nothing more than a warning light. What we do with this thought defines our thinking and emotions.


When an automatic, unwanted, negative thought comes to the top of your mind, doesn’t feel good, and is distracting, the first step is not to fight it or hide from it. Acknowledge it as being present and a source of information. By “thanking our mind” for this thought without fighting it or judging we position ourselves to defuse its intensity, allowing us to use the information for some healthy action.


Dr. William Glasser, author of choice theory, suggested that we may not have 100 per cent control over our thinking, but we have 100 per cent control over our actions. Where our body goes, our mind follows. By changing our focus from troublesome thoughts to an action we enjoy, or by giving our mind an opportunity to engage in something we find interesting, we can leave the negative thought at the curb and take control of our thinking. This is not hiding from the negative thought; it’s moving past it. There may be nothing to do now, and there’s no value in focusing on negativity that’s distracting.


Persistent, negative thoughts that refocused attention doesn’t curb may require more action. Negative thoughts can be like weeds; they can multiply and take over our mind.

Cognitive defusing is about helping gain perspective so that we don’t give negative thoughts power to grow. “See thoughts as what they are, not what they say they are,” advises Steven Hayes, a professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Nevada. Meaning a thought is just a thought – nothing more less.

Accept thoughts by name without any judgment – If negative thoughts are hanging around after you’ve engaged in an activity to re-direct them, this is fine. Stop for a moment and acknowledge the thought by name, like you would when meeting a new person. For example, “So it seems there’s anxiety, because I’m having thoughts that are due to my concerns about money and work.”

Redirect your mind – Take charge of your mind. Unhelpful thoughts are projections of some past or future concern that aren’t happening right now, so re-direct your mind in a non-judgmental way to something more positive. For example, “I get that this thought is providing me information and isn’t as helpful as it could be. Thanks for the anxiety, but I think I’d rather be calm.”

Focus on the now – We live in the now, not the future. Take a deep breath, focus on the now, and recognize that the unhealthy thought has no connection with what’s happening in the present; it’s just a thought. Practice focusing on the now, accept the thought and redirect your focus “since this isn’t happening now and there’s no danger, I’ll focus on getting my planned work done, then get to the gym for a good workout.”

By practicing cognitive defusion you can learn to look at negative thoughts as not being bad, just words and images in your mind that you can shape, process and release. The benefit is that this micro skill can teach you how to accept negative thoughts as information only; they don’t need to dictate your actions or feelings.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto and creator of an online Pathway to Coping course offered through the University of New Brunswick.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell’s Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this

Spotting Addiction.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A former Ohio State University football player whose NFL career fell apart because of a painkiller addiction says he wants to become a college coach and help others avoid similar pitfalls now that he’s clean and has a degree.

Shane Olivea told The Columbus Dispatch he was high every day following his rookie year with the San Diego Chargers.

“At my height on Vicodin, I would take 125 a day,” said Olivea, who was briefly a Giant in 2008. “It got to the point I would take a pile of 15 Vicodin and would have to take them with chocolate milk. If I did it with water or Gatorade, I’d throw it up.”

Olivea said he obtained the pills from his own sources, including one in Mexico. He parked at an Arby’s restaurant and paid a cab driver he knew $100 to go to a Tijuana “pharmacy.”

“You could buy anything you want if you had cash,” Olivea said. “I’d go buy a couple hundred Vicodin, or by then I’d progressed to Oxycontin.”

Olivea said he spent nearly $584,000 on painkillers. He began to withdraw from teammates and his relationship with coaches and management suffered. He was benched late in the 2007 season and his weight rose to nearly 390 pounds.

Olivea’s parents worried after he became reluctant to respond to them, too. His mother organized an intervention, and the Long Island native in April 2008 checked into a drug addiction treatment center in California. He said doctors there told him he was lucky to be alive.

“They both looked at me and said, ‘We’ve never seen anybody living with that amount of opioids in you. You’re literally a walking miracle,’” Olivea said. “That was a punch to the gut.”

After being released by the Chargers, Olivea signed with the Giants while in rehab. He was released again after hurting his back.

Olivea re-enrolled in Ohio State in 2015, and graduated in December, at age 35, with a degree in sport industry.

He said he has a couple of job leads. And though he hasn’t coached before, he said his playing experience makes him think he’d do well on and off the field, including helping others thinking of turning to pain pills.

“If you got it, you can spot it,” Olivea said. “I can spot an addict in a public setting. I know the behavior. I know the tendencies. I know what he’s going to do. I’ll be able to notice somebody going down that slippery path and maybe catch them.”

Reposted from:


I’m actually really excited for this new website layout. I feel like it looks much more professional, clean, and relaxing compared to my old layout. I also really like the logo in the top corner. I think as my blog continues to expand and gain more views I want to learn how to code, design my own layouts, and possibly move to an actual domain one day. Not now though, got way too much on my plate to learn, but any tips on where to start would be greatly appreciated if anyone has anything to share :).

The picture i chose is from last summer when I was up near Sault Ste Marie and around Lake Superior trying to catch some fish (aka Salmon) in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Every time I see this picture it makes me smile inside and brings me a lot of happy memories. It makes me think back to what I was feeling at the time, how excited, sad, and nervous I was to leave behind those I love to pursue graduate studies overseas and better my future prospects. Then here we are today, as I sit here at the airport ready to leave for Taiwan to see my family and take a break before I start my next adventure with Nursing.  Crazy to think that one year ago, I was spontaneously flying to Sault Ste Marie for the weekend to cheer up someone who was feeling sick. It makes me excited, but also sad to think about all the changes that have occurred over the past few months, and what I had envisioned things would be like.

Tis is life though, the ups and downs of what to expect. I’ve started to appreciate the little things in life more. It’s comforting to have a morning coffee every morning before work, or to relax in bed and curl up with a good book. How quickly things can change in the blink of an eye. Even though my depression crept back up throughout the summer, I must say I am starting to feel a lot better about things and learning to take things one step at a time again. One day I hope I can look back and feel like my depression is completely gone and all the anxieties I once had will disappear into the distant past. Maybe I should add that to my bucket list for when I hopefully look back in 6 years time.

I’m excited for what lays ahead. I’m excited for the challenges of balancing work and school, setting the bar high for myself because I know I am more than capable. I’m lucky I have awesome people all around me who look to protect and care for me when I need it most. I can’t wait to see what the next 2 weeks bring me in Taiwan and i’m so lucky I had an unexpected opportunity to get to go. Life is full of amazing things and I must say I am quite lucky and fortunate to have been given the opportunity to take such a big trip. After having not seen my mom’s side of the family for close to eight years, i’m excited to see all the changes and sight see….and of course eat!

Here’s to new adventures!


– M

Life with Depression.

How many times in my life I have heard people say “but you’re always smiling” or “you’re just using it as an excuse to get out of doing something” or “everybody gets sad, so you need to get over it.”.  Why would I want to live a life purposefully where I feel like crap for weeks on end? Yes, I do get sad like a normal person. It’s normal to be sad going through a break up, failing an exam, or losing someone you love. What is NOT normal is feeling sad and empty for weeks on end and not having the energy or motivation to get on with living.

I’ve always been motivated, hardworking, and ambitious. Losing these qualities when I hit my bouts of depression makes me even more depressed, like i’m not good enough. It’s hard enough to be criticized by other people, but I think the toughest critic is myself. I don’t pick and choose what I want to do or don’t want to do and I am by no means lazy. It’s actually upsetting to hear someone I love tell me “you don’t have any priorities to worry about”, implying I get to be sad all day and have nothing to worry about. I hate that feeling of being judged as weak, I am not weak and I work my ass off when I need to get things done. I’m also not afraid to speak out when I feel like I can’t handle something, a task not many people are able to admit. I have priorities, I have a dissertation to complete and a Master’s to obtain. I worked my butt off for a whole year pulling off great marks and yeah I did have a set back, but the best thing someone can  say is “How can I help?”. I don’t need an opinion or judgement and I know other people struggling with mental illness would feel the same way. I don’t need to be told that I am “pathetically weak”, when I know I am more than capable of making a path of my own in this world. I’ve built great track records with being employed, within my community, and in academics.

I’m not afraid to admit I have issues or openly support a stranger with warmth and kindness. What we need is compassion and support, the same qualities you need when you’re feeling down or stressed.

I would say most people will have bouts of depression, some people can get over it on their own very quickly, while others like me when we hit the ground hard, need that support from others or medication or other forms of therapy. Life isn’t easy and it’s scary to think how much more competition there is to make a sustainable living. Depression isn’t something people should be ashamed of, and I shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable talking about it. Just like people who get migraines or sore limbs can talk about how they are feeling, I should be able to do the same.

I think what is important to take out of things is not only being able to practice self-love, but also to learn to be an empathetic human being. We all go through struggles, but yet many are so quick to judge other people’s situation and offer their own criticisms. It’s time we change this mentality and take time to understand what people are going through. You don’t need to know someone’s story, but you can be kind and understanding towards other people. At the end of the day we are all different, we all have our own struggles, and the least we can do is offer our respect and support for the battles people are facing. Just because you can’t see whats beneath the surface, doesn’t mean it’s not real or happening.

Below is a picture of Depression Bingo. The most common things people who suffer from depression hear from those around them.

Can you relate to the image?


– M

Stress Analyst

Feeling a tad bit stressed today?

Check out this website I came upon today that I thought I would share with everyone.

This interactive page will walk you through the steps of how to calm down and get over the anxious/worried feelings you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed with.

Take it as an analyzation of your thoughts and stressors.

Whats even better is that it is completely anonymous and your use of the website helps research in the sense they can track your stress levels to see how effective the program really is.

You don’t even have to be experiencing stress right now, the website allows you to pick whether you would like help to deal with a stressful event or whether you want to just browse the website and have a look.