Articles by Professionals from the HC Community

  • Holiday Stress Busters

Holiday Stress Busters

The holidays. Such a wonderful time of year, right? A little louder, I can’t hear you. Parties, gifts, Christmas music and lights. Eating, drinking, decorating, and family get- togethers. This time of year offers a smorgasbord of opportunity for fun, comfort and delight. Yet there’s something else that’s bustling out there, and that’s counselling offices. This time of year is prime breeding ground for stress and this stress can trigger a series of chemical reactions in the brain that leads to all kinds of emotional and physical symptoms. It turns out that stress can be the biggest Scrooge of all, zapping the joy out of the season and leaving us feeling depleted, even empty. The good news is that there are many things within our control we can do to help make the holidays a pleasant, relaxing time of year. Holiday Stress Buster #1 Realistic Expectations Is ‘wonderful’ too much to strive for? Or is it enough to have a ‘nice’ or ‘pleasant’ holiday? Realistic expectations can help to take the pressure off, leaving less room for disappointment in ourselves and others. Holiday Stress Buster #2 Prioritize Which gatherings are most important to attend? Who must you buy presents for? How much baking is really necessary? How many people would you like to have over? Which charities or organizations do you want to donate your time or money to right now? Remember we have all year to make time for important people in our lives, get busy in the kitchen and be kind and giving. Holiday Stress Buster #3 Enjoying Family The family gathering is one of those rare events that brings a very different group of people together with the expectation that everyone will not only get along but have a wonderful (there’s that word again) time. Family gatherings can be nice. But they can also stir up not so nice feelings. In preparation, it can help to stay focused on the present moment while visiting with family, getting caught up, listening to their stories, sharing your own, and enjoying their company. Holiday Stress Buster # 4 Careful with the Dough Spending within our means significantly helps to minimize stress during the holidays. We can be our own worst enemy, thinking we have to spend more than we can afford to make other people happy with gifts. How would you feel if you knew someone spent more money on you than they can comfortably afford? How many gifts do kids need to find under the tree to have a good Christmas? What message are we giving them if we go overboard? Advertisements can mislead us into thinking we must purchase things but we have total control over what we choose to buy or not buy and how we view it. Holiday Stress Buster # 5 Say “ha, ha, ha” Laughing helps to relieve stress, lighten things up and enjoy the moment. It’s contagious, too! Humour can be found in almost any situation. Holiday Stress Buster # 6 Go with the Flow Accepting that everything won’t go as planned will help to avoid disappointment and adapt to new situations as they arise. Being gentle with ourselves and others will also help. Holiday Stress Buster # 7 Be Part of the Community Spirit Fill a thermos with hot chocolate and find the best Christmas light displays in town. Strap on some ice skates. Get outside for a nice long walk. Attend community events that look like fun. Participating in these kinds of activities can help us to feel grounded and relaxed over the holidays. Holiday Stress Buster # 8 Practice Self Care Even with all the challenges on time and energy (especially with all the challenges on time and energy) at this time of year, getting enough sleep, eating regular nourishing meals and exercising are important. So is taking breaks and making time to relax and do nothing. Holiday Stress Buster # 9 Give Give. Pay it forward. Buy coffee for the person behind you in the Tim Horton’s drive through. Buy lunch for a homeless person. Sponsor a family. Donate to a charity. Volunteer your time. Shovel your neighbour’s driveway. Leave an anonymous gift on a doorstep. Hope you enjoy the holidays! Donna Sales          Donna Sales is a Registered Psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. Her website is She is the founder of Hope Café.

  • Ronna - Tree of Hope

This Thing Called Hope

Photo by Ronna Jevne When Hope Cafe officially launched in December, 2011, I asked Dr. Ronna Jevne if she would consider writing the first feature article and was thrilled when she agreed. Ronna is the most ambitious ambassador of hope I have ever known. Her extraordinary work as a professor, author, psychologist, researcher, group facilitator, and more, has benefitted not only countless ordinary people and health care professionals but also the field of psychology. Ronna is also a terrific photographer (see one of her photos above) and Hope Cafe's 'hope photos from around the world' initiative was inspired by her. I am deeply grateful to Ronna for her ongoing support of Hope Cafe! Donna By Dr. Ronna Jevne  Welcome to Hope Café. It is a daunting task to write the inaugural feature article. What might best be offered as a starting place for sharing thoughts and resources about “this thing called hope”? The temptation is to share stories and moments that I have observed in three decades of counselling that attest to the power of hope. There is the woman sentenced to life for murder who described herself as locked in the “bowels of existence”in solitary confinement only to discover that scratched into a corner of her cell were the words, “Where there is hope, there’s life”. That was a turning point for her taking baby steps back to the life she had lost. There was the young mother who, knowing that she was dying, left a legacy for her two small children on a video. There are the Stephen Lewis grandmothers who creatively and practically assist the grandmothers of Africa. In each of us there is a story of hope. In 1992, we opened the doors of the Hope Foundation of Alberta, a research center affiliated with the University of Alberta, dedicated to understanding and enhancing hope in individuals, families and institutions. The Foundation offers counselling to the hope deficit, trains professional in hope-focused practice and pursues a variety of research projects related to hope.  For two decades, we have had the priviledge of witnessing firsthand the power that hope has in the daily lives of ordinary people. When I began to study hope, I read passionately across numerous disciplines only to discover there were a wide range of views about hope. Since the myth of Pandora, scholars have argued whether hope is a blessing or a curse. The views have ranged from German philosopher and poet Nietzsche who declared it “The worst of evils for it prolongs the torment of man” to American psychiatrist Menninger who was adamant it was “an indispensible factor in treatment”. We ridicule those with too much of it and we hospitalize those with too little.  It is dependent on so many things, yet  indisputably necessary to most. Words can destroy it. Science has neglected it. A day without it is horrible. A day with an abundance of it guarantees little. Those with it live longer. Hope is not only a concept. It is a “lived experience.” So often we only notice hope by its absence, when we are living in uncertain times. This summer, in a period of six weeks, my husband required emergency life threatening surgery, my only surviving sibling who might be described as Mr. Fit had a surprise heart attack, my son-in-law was in intensive care, my best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, my maid of honor of thirty years ago who has remained so special in our lives died of lung cancer and a serious storm did $40,000 worth of damage to our home. Without hope, I am not sure how I would have navigated these emotional landscapes. I must not only understand hope, I must practice it. When hope becomes a practice, something we take care of as routinely as we do dental care, the likelihood of being present in constructive ways for ourselves and others goes up exponentially. Reflecting on hope one day, I wrote: “Tell me of hope.” So the scholars mused and the theologians struggled. The linguists quibbled and the philosophers argued. And all were puzzled. She said again of others, “Tell me of hope”. So the nurse said it with compassion, and the dying grandmother sang it with her eyes. The mother cried it with her tears and the brother tied it to the tree. The cancer patient knew it with his soul And none were puzzled. As I grew increasingly more familiar with the existing literature about hope, I wrote “I have a dream…” as my personal vision statement. Perhaps this dream will stimulate discussion at Hope Café as visitors reflect on their own thoughts about hope. I have a dream that one day we would understand hope well enough to reach those with the deepest of despair, well enough that each child and parent, each student and teacher, each patient and doctor, each person -rich or poor, wounded or well, would envision a future in which they are willing to participate. That despite hardship and uncertainty that they would say “yes” to life. Not “yes” only if they are employed, well, loved or educated but “yes” to the very condition of being human.  For this we need a commitment to hope. I have a dream that every child would know hope as a companion throughout life. That every person would know where to look for hope when it fades. That each person who stands at the edge of hopelessness can step back intentionally. That we will be part of encouraging  those moments when it is unquestionable that someone has taken a step towards hope. Albeit a small one.  I dream of places  where young and old, employed and impoverished, well and ill, join in a search for hope. Where wounded bodies, heavy hearts and weary souls exchange their despair for hope, their fear for courage.  For this we need a practice of hope. I have a dream that the three h’s- hope, health and happiness, would take their place beside reading, writing [...]

Busyness is Not a Long-Term Health Plan

By Joan Friedlander "I'm really busy right now, but it's better than the alternative." I hear these words spoken quite often by those who feel fortunate to have a steady paycheck - or enough clients - to pay the rent and enjoy a few nice things in their lives. It amazes me how easily and frequently such statements are made, like a cultural mantra no one questions. Although I know that I am happier with a more relaxed schedule than most people tolerate, it’s not always easy to ignore these words when they are uttered with frequency by friends, colleagues and folks in the media. Maybe they’re right and I am wrong. Should I be busier now in case it all falls apart next year? Am I naïve to think that I can live on less now and not pay for it later? In divine order, I was given a chance to experience increased busyness last summer. I didn't like it. After dinner, instead of going outside to enjoy the summer evenings, I would often close the draperies and collapse in front of the TV for a few hours, only to become plagued by worry-thoughts around bed time. When I did go to sleep I might wake up later, thinking about what I’d not gotten a chance to do, or what needed to get done the next day. As a writer and an Introvert, being overly scheduled with client meetings robbed me of two critical needs: 1) creative writing time; and 2) longer periods of unscheduled, uncommitted time in my work day. I'm pretty sure my busyness was a "good busy," as I gather "good busy" means that I was making plenty of money.  Why wasn’t it fun for me, then? Is it because I was busy doing things I didn't thoroughly enjoy, working on projects that no longer suited my purpose and my goals? Or, am I the kind of person who doesn't thrive on busyness, no matter how “good” it may be? I would say it is a little bit of both. I vouched not to accept more clients than my ideal schedule would allow, nor accept work that I was not delighted to do. Busyness is Not a Long-Term Health Plan Adrenaline production is a symptom of busyness. It creates a false sense of energy where there is none. Adrenalin, along with cortisol, is pumped into your body when you get caught up in the pressure of back-to-back deadlines. Adrenaline is addictive. Without a steady flow of adrenalin, some people actually become bored. When the pressures associated with an overly full schedule disappear, the sudden reduction in adrenalin leaves people feeling lethargic. Mistaking this for depression or lack of motivation, adrenalin addicts create “emergencies” to feel better again. Responsible for the fight or flight response, adrenalin gives you much needed boosts of energy and strength in true emergencies. Unfortunately, we create mythological emergencies every time our thoughts project danger where there is none. "I'm really busy right now, but it's better than the alternative" is one of those thoughts. If you never stop to ask yourself, “Am I OK today?” you are likely to project danger into an unknown future, often unnecessarily. "Bursts of adrenaline give us a buzz or feeling of excitement. But when you don't get a chance to unwind from stress, when the battering of adrenaline and other stress hormones continues without a break, the body goes into overdrive. The result is a drain on your body's vital systems." The Hidden Link between Adrenaline and Stress by Archibald D. Hart, PhD. (1995, USA) Making Changes In today's busy, high-pressured world, self-care habits are the first to go. If you talk to anyone who has said that an otherwise inconvenient illness or ridiculous accident turned out to be the best thing that happened to them, you have met someone who will also admit he or she ignored earlier warning signals. I once met a man who told me about an accident he had over Labor Day weekend. He slipped and fell at a pool party, which laid him up for a several weeks due to a resulting back injury. I asked what he learned from this experience. He said one word, "patience." He is now more patient on the freeways, with his children and family, and with life in general. Often, when I start coaching a busy entrepreneur who is attempting to bring more order to their life - the very person who is supposed to have the most freedom to choose how they spend their time - exercise and self-care routines are the most frequently named missing practices. Next on the list of neglect is a spending a sufficient amount of time with friends and family. Their first assignment? Take at least one completely business-free 24-hour period off each and every week. That means no email, no catch-up project and no phone calls, nothing associated with their business. If you recognize some of the symptoms, thoughts or behaviors mentioned in this article, here are a few things you can do now to reduce stress associated with busyness. 1. Identify one thing you can do, just one thing that will eliminate one ounce of busyness from your life. Eliminate it now. Just stop doing it. 2. Identify the most prominent fear-based thought, the one that is creating the greatest amount of pressure and stress in your life. a. First, give into it completely. What is the very worst thing that could happen? What could you do if it did? b. Now, argue for the other side and see if you can’t find some evidence that it may, in fact, be an exaggerated thought or entirely untrue in the moment. 3. Educate yourself. Do some research to gain a clearer understanding of the role excess adrenalin plays in reduced health and well-being. Start with these three keywords in your favorite search engine: adrenaline health problems. Be well! References:
 Stress Can Rot Your Brain by Dr. Trisha [...]

  • woman on beach

Just Breathe

By Kimberly Pugh, B.Sc., D.C. As you are sitting in front of your computer right now, take a moment to check your posture. I imagine you are slouching slightly in your seat, your shoulders are rolled forward, and your head and neck are protruding. While you are sitting in this position, try this simple exercise: take a deep, long, ‘belly’ breath. Did you notice how much effort it took? Did it feel unnatural? Now, sit back in your chair, lower your shoulders from your ears, tuck in your chin, and repeat the breath. Notice how much more depth you were able to achieve, and how much more fulfilling the breath was! Most people agree that maintaining good posture is important, but they may not know the implications for their health. The simple exercise above demonstrates how poor posture can affect your breathing. People that sit at a desk for an extended period of time are particularly vulnerable. These people will gradually slouch, assuming the posture above, and eventually their breathing becomes shallow and quick. Shallow breathing utilizes accessory muscles in your neck and shoulders, which can lead to fatigue, neck pain, and tension-type headaches. Rolling the shoulders forward puts increased tension between the shoulder blades, which accentuates the natural curve in the upper spine. This leads to chest tightness, weakness of the shoulder girdle, and it often irritates the rib cage, again, leading to short and shallow breathing. It is essential that we retrain our posture and relearn how to breathe. I never understood the importance of ‘core-breathing’ until I began practising yoga. Many of the classes I attended focussed on breathing from the lower belly, sometimes even placing the hand near the diaphragm to emphasize where the breath should originate. Some difficult postures require slow and steady breaths. During Shavasana, or meditation, the body seems to demand long, deep, fulfilling breaths to clear the mind and relax the muscles. I don’t know about you, but I walk away from class feeling like a million dollars! Be aware of your breath and posture. Check yourself in the mirror. From the side, your ear should align with your shoulder, which should align with your hip, which should align with your knee, which should align with your ankle. Begin trying these simple habits, and incorporate them into your routine: Set an alarm for every 20 minutes while you are sitting at a desk to remind yourself to get up, stretch, and hydrate. Place your hand on your abdomen and practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Occasionally switch up your desk chair for a physio ball. While walking, imagine you are holding a 10lb weight in each hand to remind yourself to drop your shoulders down. Perform simple chin-tucks while you are sitting at a red light. Take in a yoga class, and concentrate more on your breath than on how awkward you look! Breathing is fundamental to life. Oxygen nourishes our tissues. We take our breath for granted. Become more aware of your posture, and just breathe… Dr. Kimberly Pugh B.Sc., D.C. Optimum Wellness Centres May, 2012 Dr. Kimberly Pugh employs a holistic approach to wellness, assessing diet, sleep, stress, and other lifestyle factors that contribute to health. She practices in SE Calgary. For more information, check out

Think Twice: Understanding Your Body’s Language

By Dr. Kimberly Pugh, B.Sc., D.C. The other morning, I woke up feeling stiff and sore from a workout the night before. When a hot shower didn’t improve matters, I convinced myself that I could carry on as I usually do, placing the feelings of pain at the back of my mind. I’m sure many of you have done this. It was the typical ‘grin and bear it’ scenario that so many of us are very good at. Perhaps you popped a pill and were able to forget about the pain for a while. Sometimes we dismiss the information our body is giving us and simply get on with our day, despite our better judgement. Pain signals are warning signs. Our body is trying to let us know that there is dysfunction present in one or more of our systems. In my case, it is an old sports injury that flares up from time to time. It affects the way I walk, how long I can sit comfortably, my ability to exercise effectively, and my mood. The longer we ignore the pain signals, the more problematic the dysfunction becomes. We eventually reach our ‘breaking point.’ This is the moment when we realize that pain is affecting our ability to function. Eventually, we have to modify our activities of daily living due to the pain, and this in turn can affect our disposition, our concentration, and how we respond to the people around us. Everyone’s threshold is different. Often it will only take a minor occurrence to set us back. Take ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back” analogy: we have been dealing with the pain for so long, that we’ve become accustomed to it, and a minor injury on top of that can seriously overthrow us. Anyone that is a caregiver knows how overwhelming this moment can be. If you cannot care for yourself, how will you be able to care for others? Patients often come in to my office reporting that their pain has been there off and on for many years, but they’ve never done anything about it. They have many excuses, and I have heard them all. At the top of the list is “I just didn’t have time,” or “I thought it would go away on it’s own.” Once dysfunction becomes chronic, correcting it becomes a challenge. It may take several treatments. There will most definitely be ups and downs during the course of therapy. It is important to be patient while the blood circulation improves, scar tissue breaks down, and tissues are able to heal. Most people become easily frustrated at this stage, as they want a quick fix, but it is not possible. The longer dysfunction has been present, the longer it will take to correct. Once care has been initiated, and the body is functioning better, it is essential to switch the focus to wellness care. Wellness care is centred on prevention. Most patients come in once every few weeks or so to prevent recurrence of their complaint. We all know, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” yet chances are, once the pain and symptoms are gone, I will not see the patient again until the next time he or she injures themselves, and so the cycle continues. We can take our bodies for granted and convince ourselves that we are okay when we are not. It is up to each of us to tune into our body’s signals to break the pain cycle. We must make ourselves a priority. Have regular relaxation or therapeutic massages. Practice yoga. Get regular physicals. Eat well and exercise. Visit the chiropractor for wellness care. If you are overwhelmed with any aspect of your life, speak with a professional. Taking action when your body needs it most will improve your overall quality of life, and the lives of those around you. Honour hints, signals, and warning signs. Listen to your inner voice, and think twice. Click here to share this article with a friend. Dr. Kimberly Pugh B.Sc., D.C. Optimum Wellness Centres June, 2012 Dr. Kimberly Pugh employs a holistic approach to wellness, assessing diet, sleep, stress, and other lifestyle factors that contribute to health. She practices in SE Calgary. For more information, check out

  • River of Life

Healing and Navigating Your River of Life

 By Dr. Robin Vinge, N.D. Healing is a journey. It isn’t always an easy path. There are no assured outcomes of any kind. It requires you to have a deep level of trust in the process. It requires the ability to surrender to the journey. To allow whatever needs to come up, without any thought of judgement; fully embracing yourself with love and acceptance. It is embracing what is, in all its entirety. Healing is like a river. The river has all sorts of variations. Sometimes the river is raging, with a currrent that makes it very difficult to navigate. It is in these cases, that you may require someone to assist you. You need to be able to trust that the right person is showing up at the right time to help you navigate these strong waters. In some cases, the river twists and turns, presenting you with new surroundings, requiring a degree of adaptability. You will have to be fearless.  You may come around the corner and be beset with a new set of rapids, perhaps even rocks, completely surprising you and knocking you off balance. You must navigate this territory with great care to ensure you aren’t thrown so off course, that you will be unable to recover. In this instance, it is important to be gentle with yourself and allow whatever needs to arise within you while you navigate these waters, whatever it is, fully embrace it. Embrace the emotions, embrace the fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, vulnerability whatever may arise in this river. There are moments when you will fight the current, when it will be very difficult in the river, in your life, when you will struggle, when you really need to let go and trust, knowing that the river is taking you in one direction, only one direction and the more you can surrender to the journey the easier it will be, that no matter what, you are safe in divine care. In more pleasant times, the river grows serene. You can float down the river, letting its stream carry you gently and assuredly. In these moments you are surrendering to the current. You are floating along, with nary a care in the world. Embrace these moments when you are clearly going with the flow. Remember these moments because life is full of them if you are awake and aware. The water will be clear and beautiful, everything will seem to be in perfect order, those moments of absolute clarity, where the stars seem to line up in perfect unison, revealing their universal plan. In these moments, you will experience a peace that passes all understanding. You will float along, embracing the journey and wondering in awe at its beauty. In other moments the river will become dark and murky. You will have no idea where you are going or if you will even get there, wherever “it is”. The journey will feel cold, ominous, and lonely. You will be frustrated, disheartened, and discouraged. You will feel that I can’t continue this. I would rather give up and let the river swallow me up. I might drown in this river. There is too much heaviness in this river. You may catch yourself on debris in the river; you may find yourself weighed down by things, making your journey even more difficult. You might ask yourself, if it is also important that you carry other debris with you, that it might in fact, be easier to let go of the debris that no longer serves a purpose in your life. You might see yourself letting go of relationships, friendships, jobs, cities, ways of being and anything else that no longer serves you or benefits you in a positive way. There is sadness but there is also hope that in performing this conscious act of self love that you will attract more joyful experiences into your life. The most important thing to remember is when you are traveling on your own healing journey, on your own river of life to not judge your experience of anything, rather embrace the beautiful being that you are free of any judgements, free of conditioning, free of shoulds and free of regrets; embrace the divine being of light that you are. You have had the courage to navigate the river of your life. If you look at the scope and depth of what you have been through, at what you have learned, what you have had the courage to face, the trials and tribulations on one pole and on the other pole, the joy, the insights, the love, the breakthroughs, and finally the hope that by going through all of this you have become more radiant in your own personal expression of divine light, love, compassion and have gained a greater understanding of yourself and your place in your own life’s journey. May, 2013 Dr. Robin Vinge obtained her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Victoria in 1993 before going on to complete a doctorate degree in Naturopathic Medicine in 1998 from Bastyr University in Seattle. As a naturopathic doctor, she uses a wide range of modalities to treat patients including biotherapeutic drainage, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and therapeutic nutrition. Viewing illness as a key to transformation, Robin helps patients uncover the root causes of why they are unwell so that their healing process can be a journey of self discovery and empowerment. Robin also works for oil and gas companies delivering various seminars on wellness related topics. She practices in downtown Calgary at Parallel Health and Wellness clinic. Her website is

An Exercise in Creating Exactly the Life You Want

By Liz Wiltzen Have you ever found yourself thinking: “If only x, y or z were different, then there would be nothing in the way of my perfect life.” Often when our lives are not the way we would like them to be, we get busy looking for the external cause. But since we have very limited control over outside circumstances, it’s not the most effective place to target our energies. On the journey toward creating the life we want, most of us eventually recognize that any changes we want must come from within - but perhaps you feel you have limited or no options to create a different situation. The good news is this is rarely, if ever, the truth. If there are areas in your life that are not matching your ideal vision for them, here is a powerful place to look: What beliefs are you buying into that are getting in your way? And what if changing those beliefs was completely within your control? I used to think that if we believed something, it was written in stone. Unchangeable, not open to a rebuild. For a long time, it never even occurred to me that transforming a belief was an option. In short, I thought our beliefs were who we are, that they came into the world with us and were an integral part of our identity. The day I realized this was not true was profoundly liberating. Life was a certain way before that day, and completely different after it. If we hold beliefs that are working for us in our lives - ones that are creating peace, joy and positive motion - naturally it's ideal to keep reinforcing them. This post is about the other kind of beliefs - the ones that keep us stuck, small, unhappy, fearful and limited. What Are You Ready to Let Go Of? I challenge you to pick one belief that's holding you back. We all have them, but they are often so close to home that we don't view them as beliefs - we think it is simply the way it is. It could be around any aspect of life - here are some examples: • money (I don't have enough; I can't figure out how to have more) • health (age = quality of health I can have; I’m too busy/tired to take better care of myself) • love (is complicated; hard to find; can’t be counted on) • opportunity (I would if only...) • time ( in short supply) • career (I can't change jobs, I need the security/income of my current one) Pick one thing you believe that is not uplifting, empowering, and resourceful in your life. Something that doesn't match what you actually want in that area. If you can't think of anything, look at the different aspects of your life that are not working optimally. What you see there is a reflection of what you currently believe. What If You Believed Something Else? Once you have settled on one, ask yourself this: If I could believe anything I wanted about this thing, what would it be? This can be an unsettling process; there's a reason we believe what we do (usually has to do with safety and/or comfort). What we believe, on some level, makes sense to us. The problem is we don't continually re-evaluate our beliefs to see if they make great sense. We rarely check in and ask ourselves: Is this the most advantageous belief I can hold? Or is it preventing me from living my life fully? Using the examples above, following are alternative beliefs that can help us to live the life we truly want: • money (I have enough; I can figure out how to make more) • health (I can be healthy and active at any age; taking care of myself is a priority) • love (doesn’t have to be complicated; can happen when you least expect it; can be safe) • opportunity (I can change my life at any time; I have endless opportunities in life) • time (I have enough time to do what I need to do) • career (I can change jobs; I can find work that is fulfilling and pays the bills) I encourage you to step into new territory for a few moments and think big. No holding back. Imagine there are no limits to what you believe to be true. If old, inhibiting voices try to creep in, notice them but do not allow them to take hold. Stay focused on connecting with your optimal vision. What is one new belief that would change the game for you? Inspire you to be open to life in a new way? Support you in doing something more healthy and rewarding? Help you to stop doing that counterproductive thing? Take It for a Spin For one week, act as if this new belief is 100% true. Write it on post-it notes and put it everywhere, say it 100 times over in your mind, look for evidence of it in the world. Really step into it. Honour this exercise with your whole heart – remember you are exploring how to create the life you truly want. And watch what happens next. May, 2012 Liz Wiltzen is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach who is passionate about connecting people with their inner wisdom, resources and creativity,enabling them to live their absolute best life. She received her professional training from The Coaches Training Institute, which is the world's leading International Coach Federation accredited coach-training program. Liz lives in Banff, Alberta. You can visit her website at

The Best Part of My Day…

By Cheryl Spence, R. Psych. The best part of my day is the time I spend every morning in a little coffee shop close to where I live.  I am typically the first patron of the day and have the place all to myself for at least the first half hour.  It is during this time that I collect my thoughts, record my dreams, and seek guidance for the day to come. This ritual came about quite by accident and began while I was doing my Masters degree in university.  As a mature student, I found it difficult to work on papers at home without becoming sidetracked by household stuff like laundry and vacuuming or less productive activities like surfing the internet or watching reruns on TV.  In an effort to rein myself in, I began taking my books and blank paper to coffee shops, promising myself to have a set number of pages written before leaving the establishment.  Fortunately for me, I did my best work early in the morning before the coffee places had too many customers and so never felt I was tying up space from other patrons. What I learned during these early morning outings was how much easier it was to hear my own thoughts and be able to articulate them to others through my writings.  I also discovered how much I enjoyed writing and, even more, how much I enjoyed the solitude and time to be with my own thoughts. Once University was done, I continued the practice, the writing topics changing from theories in psychology to how do I deal with this problem (person/predicament) today.  During this time, I discovered Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way”.  In this book, Julia writes about an exercise she calls “morning pages”.  She suggests first thing every morning getting up and writing three pages of whatever comes to mind – without censoring or rereading.  What happens, Julia suggests, is that we write our way to living a more authentic, creative, and honest life. In my experience of morning pages (I kept them up for about a year), I did feel more authentic in my life – at least theoretically - but I was not always strong enough or courageous enough to follow through on the wisdom presented back to me in the writings.  Even so, being honest with myself about what I really thought and wanted was a huge first step for me in recognizing what was true for me.  Being able to actually live this honesty came some time later. While the solitude of my early morning writings allow me the space and opportunity to become aware of how I really feel and think about things, it also creates an opening, of sorts, through which wisdom and a perspective not my own, are able to come through.  The overall effect is one of feeling grounded for the day, whatever the day may hold. I want to be upfront and share here, however, that not all morning solitudes are so neatly packaged.  There are some mornings where the pages before me are void of clarity, wisdom, or anything even resembling an answer.  What I have learned from these experiences is the importance of learning to live with ambiguity and uncertainty.  Sometimes we need to stop trying to fix something that may not need fixing or stop trying to make something happen that is not ready to happen.  I should also add here that writing is not always part of my morning solitude.  Sometimes, just perusing the morning paper or enjoying the light roast on brew is enough to set the tone for the day. I think the most important ingredient I have discovered is simply creating some sort of space or time in my life where it is possible for something larger than myself to manifest its guidance and support.  And then hope I have the courage and strength to listen to it and follow through on its guidance. Cameron, Julia (2002).  The Artist’s Way.  J.P. Tarcher/Putnam. December, 2011 Cheryl Spence is a Registered Psychologist in Calgary who works with adolescents on a psychiatric inpatient unit as well as with adolescents and adults in her private practice in SW Calgary.  For more information, please visit her website at

  • f.i. donna's post nature therapy

Nature Therapy at it’s Finest: Memories of my Visit to the Big Island, HI

Nature Therapy at it's Finest: Memories of my Visit to the Big Island View from our yoga studio by Donna Sales Imagine this. Rainforests, hundred year old mango groves, gorgeous black sand beaches, tropical birds and flowers, and lava formations everywhere - smooth sheets of it, rocky shores, caves and yes, even lava trees (where it oozed up through the ground and encased them). This part of the world is raw, wild and free. Warm and humid. Uncultivated. People here live a quiet, simple life in harmony with nature. It is beautiful beyond words. It's hard to believe as I sit here with my sweater and slippers scratching my dry skin looking out on the cold, winter day that I was there, on the east coast of the big island of Hawaii, only a few weeks ago. My daughter and I attended a yoga retreat/cleanse for five days at an extraordinary retreat centre called Kalani. We meditated daily with a wonderful group of women on a lava cliff at sunrise overlooking the ocean with the waves rolling up against the lava rocks below. Jessica, the nutritionist, prepared superfood smoothies, rejuvenation lunches, incredible soups, and other delicious meals made with the freshest of ingredients. Rachel, the yoga instructor, expertly led us through three hours of yoga practice each day (a little less on our 'juice only' day). Rachel and Jessica, two extraordinary women from Maui, facilitated a unique retreat experience they called Lunar Rejuvenation (it started on the first day of the new moon). I'll always remember with gratitude the learning and connection - with myself, my daughter, the lovely people there, and, of course, nature. p.s. One day Rachel and Jess asked one of the men who worked at Kalani for some coconuts so he climbed a tree, filled a sack, and left them on the step of the studio. After yoga class, Jess opened each of our coconuts with a special tool made for that purpose so we could drink from them to enjoy fresh (very nutritious!) coconut water (packed with electrolytes). Just one special memory from the trip. Ahhhh… can't help but take a deep breath remembering that one. Aloha! Donna November, 2012 Rachel's website: Jessica's website: Kalani Retreat Centre website: Jess, Donna and Rachel  

Hope and Illness

By Dr. Ronna Jevne Illness is an introduction to the fragility and sacredness of life. With illness we learn we are not immune. Nor are those we love. We learn our sense of invulnerability is an illusion. Illness is the great equalizer. We come to understand that life and death are intimately connected. For everyone. Illness comes with a formidable invitation to notice the sacredness of life. It is a wake up call to the preciousness. A call to notice the everyday, to be present "here" and "now". To place ourselves in perspective to others and to our universe. To accept the place we have in infinity and eternity. To ask the "big" questions and enjoy the "simple" answers. To do so we must find a rightful place for suffering. A perspective that allows room for hope. Serious illness is a journey, a hope filled journey, an unknown destination. In illness the dichotomies are vivid. Hope is the space between symptoms and diagnosis, between diagnosis and prognosis. It is the wrestling match between science and compassion; between body and spirit; between pain and relief. It is the dilemma between fearing to be alone and hungering for privacy. Hoping is waiting - for test results, waiting for appointments, waiting for the organism to heal and the spirit to rekindle. Hoping is walking the line between constant probing and invasions and declaring "No more", not now. The hope for survival is not the only hope; many days not even the overriding hope. The hope is not to be "in-valid". Hoping is knowing that someone is making an effort to help. That family is never far away. That the system cares. That what happens is the best of technology and the best of humanness. Hoping is being attended by people who understand caring makes a difference. An immeasurable difference. Hoping is being treated, not as another case of a particular disease, but as a person. By people who understand that this could happen to them. It is knowing that there are no secrets. Being a partner on the treatment team. Hoping is being encouraged to do as much as possible for one's self. Hoping is trying again. Moving against the odds. Knowing everything that can be done is being done. Knowing that caring will go on when the limits of science are reached. Hoping is denying the statistics. Reaching beyond the traditional. Keeping open the possibility of being the exception. Hoping is listening to the unconscious. Having dreams in the world of sleep and dreams in the world of consciousness. Of wondering if there are miracles. Of being fascinated with the little miracles: the words that heal, the memories that let us forget pain. Hoping is having passion for life. Noticing life. Wanting life. Inching towards life. Being willing to embrace life despite the risks. Hoping is recognizing death is not the enemy - never living is. Suffering humbles us. Hoping takes us forward. We come to understand that we are among many who become ill. Among many who hurt and fear. And who need. And who cannot explain the unusual experiences we come to trust. The experience for which we have no words. There is a knowing that accompanies suffering; a knowing that emerges from deep within us. That speaks from another dimension of life where hope resides. Excerpt from The Voice of Hope: Heard Across the Heart of Life by Ronna Jevne November, 2012 Ronna has a passion for people’s mental health. As a founding member of the Hope Foundation of Alberta and of the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology, she has provided leadership resulting in increased access to services for those struggling with issues of hope. As a teacher, psychologist, professor, inspirational speaker and author, Dr. Jevne, for decades, has touched the lives of students, patients, health care professionals, inmates and correctional officers. Her latest passion since leaving the University of Alberta is in promoting therapeutic writing as an accessible, affordable and effective way of becoming students of our own lives and therapists of our own souls. Her website is The website for the Hope Foundation of Alberta is