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New Parenthood

For our second story from Elpizo Connect Magazine we introduce to you, New Parenthood.

Do you know that ole saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” well it’s not just an idiom. For new parents, parenthood is a whole new life and they need all the help that they can get. As a new parent, there are several changes you may notice such as you becoming more emotional than usual, getting mommy memory, physical and mental alterations, and your social relationship being tested.

More Emotions

Once you welcome your newborn baby in the world, it’s almost as if nothing else matters. Your brain begins to work overtime on your emotions as you notice your over-zealousness of the safety and concern of your new child. Your body releases hormones like hypothalamus which bonds you with your newborn and dopamine which is that pleasurable feeling of you enjoying parenthood.

Mommy Memory

What’s that? You misplace the breast pump for the 100th time, well sounds like you’ve got mommy brain. Some may say this as an excuse for being forgetful but this condition is covered by science. Caring for a newborn baby that does not know if they want to sleep, poo, or eat combined with sleep deprivation will no doubt lead to long-term effects on the brain.

Physical and Mental Changes

Recovering after giving birth is quite a quest. You mean to tell me after 9 months of carrying this baby, I still cannot have a glass of wine just yet?! After giving birth you do not get your life back immediately. You may have weighed 20 pounds less before the baby or remarkably got rid of all the weight, every woman is different and you should not force yourself to bounce back. An entire human just vacated your body and your first thought is to run to the gym? Do not let social media or others cloud your judgment and lower your self-esteem on what a new mom should look like, enjoy your new baby. You should take your time and lose the weight, whichever is best for you.

Social Relationships

Everyone loves a new baby. They smell like baby powder and milk and they have the chubbiest feet ever! You will notice friends and family coming over with gifts and offering help in any way that they can. However, not everyone’s experience is the same. You may notice friends that all of a sudden have no time for you and your baby but were around 24/7 before. Not to mention, co-parents that made high promises of always being there for you and your child suddenly unable to fulfill those promises. It is very important to have a good support system when you welcome a new baby into the world. Newborns are not a walk in the park and need all the care they can get, that’s why it’s important to have a village.

You can read more about parenting and mental health in our first issue of Elpizo Connect Magazine.

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The Movement for Mental Health: The Susan Jackson Story

One of the best things about Susan Jackson’s online gym: Island SWEAT FITNESS is that the classes are for anyone and everyone! There really are no restrictions or requirements. You can be at any fitness level and you don’t have to have your camera on if you don’t feel like it. Bringing the entire family is also highly encouraged. Susan offers a huge range of classes right now, like Tabata HIIT training, step fitness, dance fitness, spin and cycle, pro accessible chair yoga, traditional flow yoga, restorative yoga, yin yoga, breathwork, full-body stretching and meditation. The reason why Susan is so adamant about having this huge scope of classes is that emotions and feelings come at such a large spectrum, and depending on how you are feeling that week, she wanted to ensure she would be able to hit as many marks as possible. As emotions change, different types of movements are just needed, and she knows one type of exercise cannot do that for many people. These exercises create mindfulness and self-awareness that certain ways of working out can often hinder. Susan and other instructors at Island SWEAT FITNESS promote the idea that it’s not about being perfect, but about having a unique, motivational experience that feels fun and right for you!

Affordable Payment & Accessible Registry

On their official website, you can see each workout class description, the instructors, payment options and it is made easy to navigate by keeping all of this on one main landing page. Susan and the other instructors recognize that her classes and programs are a huge outlet for people’s mental health, which means she wants to keep it as affordable and accessible for as many people to be able to attend and better themselves. With that, she offers a promo of the first class for only $5, regular drop-ins at $10 and unlimited monthly passes at around $50-60. She knows that any other boutique gym like hers would charge way more than that, but because she is solely online, she knows she has less overhead costs and can keep everything very accessible. She will often find herself being charitable by offering random free classes or pay by donation to make it even more accessible. The pandemic has changed so many people’s income situations, and with mental health resource accessibility already being a problem for many, she changes that narrative at Island SWEAT FITNESS.

Instructors, Caribbean Focus & Community 

Despite featuring mainly all-female Caribbean heritage instructors and being adamant about only playing Caribbean cultural music in their classes, Island SWEAT FITNESS is for every gender, age and ethnicity of individuals. Susan’s goal is to properly represent the Caribbean culture through her online gym, and using her heritage music is a unique form of therapy and sense of identity that she believes should be widely shared in a proper way. Music and art forms as a means for bettering mental health is a primary focus for Susan and why she feels it unites her classes and community rather than promoting just one ideal.

By ensuring all of her instructors are adamant on intentional movement for bettering mental health through a mix of culture, music and education of her Caribbean roots, they have built an incredible online community. Throughout the month of February they saw all kinds of ethnicities when it came to clients, which just goes to show how inviting the atmosphere is. Susan’s hope is to just create a space that feels safe and inclusive for all. While only playing Caribbean music may come off as only representing one ethnicity, she actually feels the total opposite on this. The Caribbean is a melting pot of ethnicities, and she herself is mixed from multiple backgrounds, so her intent was to create a universal party that everyone could escape and feel like they belong. By doing so, Susan feels like she is making the right steps in ending mental health stigma, especially the way she grew up with it deeply rooted in her Caribbean culture and heritage.

How Susan Maintains Her Own Wellness Right Now

Susan is incredibly busy, and despite Island SWEAT FITNESS being her passion project, she also has a full-time job where she works from home and has a seventeen-year-old son to look after. With mental health being her main priority in all of this, Susan is adamant about prioritizing herself when it is necessary; setting her boundaries and knowing her capacity. Learning to say no has been her biggest saving grace, and knowing that saying no does not mean she will be losing out on any great and important opportunities has helped. When self-care comes first, she can better maintain her space and manage her deadlines. A lot of people don’t realize how much these factors can impact one’s mental health either. Having the capacity to say ‘no’ and ‘I can’t’ is totally okay, and creates a much better dynamic in her family when she does this. Her son is always helping her set up her classes and in turn, she makes sure he is getting exercise so that both of them are prioritizing their health and needs.

Susan’s Role Model For Motivation & Inspiration 

When it comes down to someone that inspires and motivates Susan, she said she does not have just a single one. What has really helped her most is the surge of plus size and body positive trainers making their mark on social media and in the fitness industry. It’s these individuals that Susan finds she can resonate with most. When it comes to one influencer, she is really inspired by Camilla Greene. She does not let her size prevent her from pushing through and doing the kinds of exercises she loves. Camilla owns her body and her movement, which is Susan’s ultimate goal as well. She resonates with the idea of using movement to feel happy, strong and not for obtaining one ideal body type. Susan feels that more people need to be promoting this kind of well-being for bettering mental health through exercise. Camilla ultimately promotes an essence of happiness that is very relatable to Susan and hopes to embody her mentality when it comes to her online gym and bettering herself.

Final Words of Encouragement 

Susan is adamant about the fact that you do not have to be perfect or have it all together to be happy. No matter where you are mentally, physically and emotionally, you are worthy of having happiness in your life and access to great mental health resources. Everyone has good and bad days, and really that’s a part of life. Ultimately if you do what makes you happy and keep chasing it, you don’t have to apologize to anyone about who you are and the positivity of your self-worth will come through.

At Elpizo Counselling Services we wanted to say a big congratulations to Susan on her efforts with Island SWEAT FITNESS and how grateful we are to her for sharing her inspiring story. We can’t wait to see where her journey with health and wellness for mental health takes her, and we are so proud of all the unique achievements her online gym has done for others as a mental health resource. Susan’s community, focus and drive for changing the stigmas around mental health are so important, and we know she is going to do some great things with her project.

Read more about Susan’s own journey with mental health issues in Elpizo Connect Magazine.

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Understanding Fight-or-Flight & How to Manage in Stressful situations

The body is designed to automatically react to danger. By simply thinking of a stressful situation the body can trigger a “fight-or-flight” response. Fight-or-flight is an instinctual/sudden surge in strength providing an individual with the ability to either powerfully engage (fight) or to quickly flee (flight) from a threat. Just as you would jump upon hearing a sudden loud noise, the instant that your brain detects apparent danger your heart rate will involuntarily increase; pumping blood to your muscles. Muscle tension will boost strength, while heavy breathing will allow for greater oxygen intake, enabling endurance. This is essentially what anxiety is. It is the body reacting to a perceived threat.

The brain in fight-or-flight mode can be compared to a parent telling a child to run out of a burning house. When the child tries to understand what is happening and questions the parent, the parent says, “Run now, ask later.” Similarly, your ability to logically assess and to respond to a situation is severely compromised when a threat is sensed, as your body immediately responds to ensure survival, before your mind does. Hence, it may not always be possible to think your way out of an intense emotional reaction in the moment, even if you know that the threat is in your mind. So what can you do to calm down and to help get your nerves under control when experiencing anxiety?

When you are feeling anxious you should conduct yourself as if you are not anxious – even when alone. Any outward action signifying that you are not in mortal danger will send signals to the brain that the threat has past. Which in turn will elicit the body’s natural ability to settle down and to self-regulate. The logic is simple; if a bear where to be running after you, you would not sit down to have a picnic. In other words, anything that you do, that you would not do when faced with mortal danger will help to calm you down.

It’s important to figure out what specific action calms you down and raises your state of mind when you are feeling anxious. For some exercise works, for others it’s gardening, cooking, cleaning or getting into a daily routine. Many find that fresh air and consciously slowing down their breathing is helpful, while others feel that listening to music is particularly soothing. Alternative ways to help relax your nerves include reading, writing or unwinding in your favorite chair with a warm drink or a snack. 

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Keeping Fit – It’s Not Only Physical

It is natural for feelings of anxiety to increase during this challenging time – no-one likes uncertainty.  Fitness and self-care is important at the best of times, so it becomes even more important when we are under higher than normal levels of stress.

Here’s some things that might help:

  • Create a list of things that make you feel good and keep it handy.  Sometimes it’s hard to think of ideas in the moment.
  • Put together a ‘coping box’ that addresses all of your senses, it may include things like: a scented candle, some chocolate or herbal tea, some calming music, something soft and cuddly, photos of loved ones… Then it will be ready for whenever you need it.
  • Share self-care/keep fit ideas with friends and family, or your Facebook groups and social networks; someone may have a great idea that you haven’t thought of.
  • Keep a gratitude journal.  There are always things to be grateful for, even if it is just the smell of bread baking (which is all the rage in quarantine I hear).

Do you have ideas and suggestions you’d like to share?  Please add them in the comments below.  You may just help someone find a new joy.

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Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Teens

Sometimes it’s difficult to maintain an emotional balance and self-regulation when overwhelmed by emotions in various situations. The DBT skills group consists of four skills modules that have been developed to assist individuals in managing behaviour, emotions, and cognition.

The aim is to support people who feel any range of intense emotions such as depressed mood, anxious feelings, impulsivity, self-harm, or stress.

The group will run weekly for an hour and half on Mondays for 7 weeks.

Attached is the flyer for the skills group. I believe this will be a great skills group for you as you…complete as you see fit for your client.