Holiday Tips to De-Stress

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Ah, the festive holiday season…for all the glitter & cheery music, staff parties & family events, gifts to get (or make) & give, it can all feel overwhelming! The holidays can feel full of should dos or should haves, obligations….and instead of being celebratory it feels like something you have to just grit your teeth  & get through. So, here are some tips that may help you relax, ‘ungrit’ your teeth and find some ease in your holiday ho, ho, ho…

  1. Avoid multi-tasking. There is lots of research that shows us humans are not as good at multi-tasking as we think we are…Try to do one thing at a time. Focus and attend to what you are doing in that moment. Getting ahead of yourself or overly focusing on the past can throw you off balance.
  2. Exhale. Intentional breathing allows you to connect with your body & the present moment. Often when we are stressing, we are holding our breath. When we hold our breath, it is simply much more difficult to think straight and make better decisions.
  3. Help someonewho is having a hard time through this holiday season. Make a care package for a neighbour or babysit your sister’s kids so she can have a bubble bath in peace! A small thing to you can mean a lot to someone else and it can be a great way to refocus your holiday.
  4. Rest. Many of us think rest is something you earn when you have worked ‘hard enough’. Consider that rest can be the very thing that supports you in your endeavours. Rest nurtures and rejuvenates. Rest can be much more than taking naps…though that is recommended…consider what may be rest-full for you. Maybe reading a novel for a bit, standing outside and taking a few deep breaths of cool air, savouring a cup of herbal tea, sitting in silence for a few minutes or dancing to your favourite tune…I think you get the idea. They ALL cab be considered rest.
  5. Nourish Yourself. I don’t mean just yummy food though sometimes when we are busy we can forget to deeply care for our bodies. Just like all living things we need to be fed & watered!! But we also require emotional nourishment. This can come from connecting with people you care about, hanging out with your dog or cat, or walking in nature. What feels nourishing to you?


Mercedes Baines is a psychotherapist in private practice. Mercedes believes that the embodied experience is central to deepening self-awareness, healing and insight. She views our minds/bodies/spirits as an interconnected whole and encourages fully embodied living. Her areas of focus in her psychotherapy practice include: grief & loss; anxiety; depression; trauma; body image; relationships; living with a life altering/life threatening illness; family of origin issues; identity issues; sexuality & issues related to race & culture. You can email her at [email protected]  or check out her website


The Story of a Lie…

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by Mercedes Baines

A memory I have of myself as a little girl maybe 4 or 5 years old, is walking in my grandparent’s garden. There were lots of rose bushes, it was the summer and I remember pulling a petal from a rose, putting it in my mouth, chewing and discovering that it was sweet…I was curious about the world — tasting the sweetness. I was just myself unencumbered by any shoulds of how be in the world…

By the time I was 10 years old, I went on my first diet. It was a protein diet. Me & my mom – counting grams…and it all was very normal. Normal that dieting was a solution to the problem of my body. At 10 years old, I got the idea that something was wrong with my body. I will repeat because I think it is worth repeating that: When I was 10 years old, I got the idea that there was something wrong with my body. Something is wrong, something is wrong tap, tapping on my mind, something is wrong, something is wrong something is wrong with me, not right, something is not right.  And I got the idea and did not question it, that I needed to right the wrong by going on a diet and losing weight.

{Now, some of you may remember when you were 10. And some of you may have 10 year daughters, nieces, granddaughters, students…just hold in your mind your 10 year old self or the 10 year old that is in your life and imagine telling her that there is something wrong with her and that she must right that wrong, that she must make her body right…}

Not that I was not told directly that there was something wrong, but I sure got the idea that losing weight, and sticking to the diet was praiseworthy. That righting my body was praiseworthy. And I remember feeling good, powerful, like I now had ownership and CONTROL over my body…. and the clothes!!! Oh, the clothes…But that came a bit later…It began with that very first diet and my initiation into the story of the lie…the lie that something is wrong with me, the lie that fat is a feeling, the lie that allowed me to view  my body as a series of parts like a cut up chicken. The lie that grew as I disavowed and become at odds with parts of myself….the lie that spread as I commiserated with friends about “if only…20 lbs this or skinny that…THEN life would be…” what exactly? I don’t know, but it seemed to be more desirable, that what I had…the lie that generated dichotomous thinking of “good” or “bad” based on what I ate or did not eat for the day, week, my whole life…which seemed to equate whether, I, as a human being was good or bad…the story of the lie that I will be validated if I fit, literally, fit…

But there is no way, I discovered to actually fit, ever…at least not in the story of the lie anyway…the lie perpetuates a continuous dissatisfaction with self, sometimes a body part, sometimes an attribute (I’m not talented enough, smart enough, fill–in- the-blank enough)…my worth got translated into a reduced in size version of myself…

And that reduced self, became a metaphor for other aspects of my life, making myself smaller symbolically in my professional life and in my intimate relationships…and the thing is, I KNOW, my story is far from unique, it is a common as grass and grows just as quickly!

Then over time, something started to shift… the thing about trying to believe a lie and live a lie is that there is a niggling doubt, a vague unrest with the message that becomes a whisper that perhaps the lie IS a lie…

…for me it started with body hair, in particular under arm hair. I remember just out of university beginning to feel quite irate that I felt I HAD to shave my arms and legs…particularly when most men do not…and I just stopped shaving…it was an odd experience to find that folks would get distracted by my armpit hair …it would draw their focus mid conversation…

…then next came a decision not to engage with negative body talk when a woman friend or colleague would begin a long lament about the quality and quantity of her cellulite for example…I decided not to feed the lie (pun intended) anymore…and then weight loss was no longer something I admired in a person. I shifted my focus to who the person was and how I felt in their presence…

…and then I began to see a much bigger picture…that this oppressive lie that I and many women like me ate whole was a way to keep me and other women from living full embodied lives…it was a huge distraction,  detrimental drain on creative resources and a soul sucking path…

So yes, I got angry and yes I am doing something about it through the work I do in my psychotherapy practice…but the thing is…this paradigm shift, particularly one that moves against the tide of the dominate discourse is really hard to maintain…and I DO falter and fail at times to maintain my own feminist standards of body acceptance. And that for me is how self-compassion makes its entrance: for those times where I have fallen back into the rabbit hole of dissatisfaction with my body, for those times when it is hard to love my changing middle aged body, I say to myself: “it’s okay Mercedes, you are enough as you are right here and now”. And I try to believe it, some days I do and other days I do not…but I DO know that the lie is still a lie and going back to pretending it is true is not an option…

And that little girl that came to understand that who she was not wholly acceptable: I say to her now: You are perfect as you are. Your body is an amazing feat of wonder!!! Your beating heart, your creative mind, your capacity to love, your curiosity, your sense of humour are cherished and valued.  There is nothing WRONG with you. You are YOU. And you are loved as you are…go ahead and taste the sweetness of life…it there for you to savour…

This was first read at a Crave Event March 2015 celebrating self love & self compassion

 Mercedes Baines is a psychotherapist in private practice. She is offering workshops on body image & radical self acceptance through body awareness and creative expression. For workshops information click here.

To book a counselling appointment click here.

Or contact Mercedes: [email protected]/ 604-721-5399

The body is not an apology

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photo (12)The body is not an apology is a website and a facebook page that promotes radical self love. It is a refreshing tonic to the barrage of confusing and contradictory messages embedded into our culture about our bodies. It promotes valuing of one’s whole self in the present moment – not at some future time when things may be different. I am glad that the website exists, but I am also sad that I am glad. Sad because of the punitive self talk we use on ourselves to keep us from living life to the fullest and we therefore need websites like this to help us reverse the brainwashing. Sad that some folks who critique posts from The body is not an apology Facebook page, accuse the writers of promoting poor health and obesity while completely missing what that critique’s underlying message is: Unless you are a certain, size, shape, weight, colour, gender etc, then you should not celebrate the gloriousness of your existence. The critique implies that someone who may be viewed as overweight, should not be happy- that something must be wrong.

Conversely, other critiques of the website and facebook page state that people who happen to be thin are rejected.  It is true that sometimes when a group feels oppressed and vilified that there can be a reactionary rejection of people who are viewed as  the source of the oppression….. But folks this is not what it’s about. It’s not us versus them, fat versus thin….this idea of radical self love is for everyone and extends beyond ourselves to the acceptance of others as they are.

How will you engage in radical self love today?

Mercedes Baines is a clincical counsellor and runs Mind In Body, a private practice based in Vancouver, BC. Click Here to contact her

Good Grief? When will I ‘get over’ it?

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photo (7)I am sure many of you are familiar with the idea that grief happens in stages and that a person has to get through all the stages or may never “get over” the death of a loved one. The thing is, what actually happens for people when someone dies is as unique as the griever. How to get over grieving process? It depends on many things like the relationship you had with the deceased, your own attitude about death and dying, what role that person played in your life, the expectations of others, cultural or religious practices, and how the person died, to name a few things that that have an effect on the grieving process. For example, while many people find the death of a loved one difficult, for some there may be a sense of relief that the person died perhaps due to a lengthy illness or because the relationship was toxic.

Secondly, the idea that you have to move on and get over the loss, does not work for everyone. And, in fact,  it can put an additional stress and burden on the griever, that they must somehow grieve “correctly”.

Grieving is a process, not a task that one must complete. While the feelings are less intense over time, there may be times (like the deceased’s birthday) or certain places that bring that person to mind and you may find yourself having feelings of grief again.

This brings me to the third thing that many people experience: Your relationship with the deceased still continues on. Just because you don’t see them every day does not mean they stop being part of your life. Some people find that an ongoing relationship with the deceased is comforting. Some people are more formal about the relationship and go to a grave site and have a talk with the deceased. Some people create events or ceremonies that honour the deceased either as something that happens on a specified date or as they need to. Some people just have a memory that pops into their minds.

So, grief is a experience that is unique to you. Grieve as you need to. Reach out to others as you need to. Sit alone as you need to. Do what feels right for you.

When should I worry about my grieving?

If you feel like harming yourself or someone else, if you find that over a long period of time it is difficult for you to reconnect to the world (relationships, hobbies, work), then you might find reaching out to someone you trust or seeing a helping professional may provide the support you need to help you bring balance back into your life.

Mercedes Baines is a clincical counsellor and runs Mind In Body, a private practice based in Vancouver, BC. Click Here to contact her