In the March Issue:
If there was a prescription I wish I could write for my patients, it would be the one of perception. I often tell my patients that “You are not your thoughts, you are not your feelings, but perhaps, just perhaps, you are your perceptions”.
Ironically, in order to better frame our perceptions we must understand our emotions, feelings and thoughts by being aware of them.
We live in a society where the words “mental health”, “stress”, ‘anxiety” and “burnout” have become common-place in the lexicon. Undoubtedly each word carries its own weight, however, what remains nebulous is “emotional health”.
The bedrock of emotional health is formed from this awareness, self awareness to be exact, but at times this too can remain effervescent.
Here are several specific steps you can take to improve your self awareness using the acronym N2S2
N1 = Notice:
We all have an inner roommate, an inner narrator that critiques, compares and cautions you. At times, this narrator is a whisper and at other times it is so deafening we believe it in all its entirety. It can be hard for some to even notice their thoughts, and if this is too much, start to notice how you feel. Use tempo like your heart rate or breathing; is it fast or slow, deep or shallow. Use temperature; often times when we feel agitated or uptight our bodies feel warm and heated. Use colours;times of stress might call in fiery oranges and reds while times of relaxation might foster calming blues and greens.
N2 = Name
Give your emotion a name. This is often called “name it to tame it”. You might think you are an angry person or a sad person but perhaps you are feeling frustrated, resentful, disappointed or hurt. The more specific you can be with how you feel, the better able you will be to understand the thought pattern leading to the emotion.
S1 = Story
What is the story you are telling yourself right now? The dialogue we ‘sell’ to ourselves in our heads is the story we are convincing ourselves of. It might be that you are the overworked mother, the unsupported entrepreneur or the employee who always goes above and beyond. Regardless of the situation, there might be elements of truth to your story, but ask yourself “How does this story serve me in the short term AND in the long term?”
S2 = Shift:
It is easy to think you can just change your emotions like you change your clothes, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case. If you want to shift your emotional state you must acknowledge your emotion instead of suppressing it, denying it or blaming. We change our emotions through softening them like a slab of creamy butter; the easiest way to do this is through grounding techniques. This can include breathing, using touch such as tapping (ie. the butterfly hug), using changes in temperature (ie. holding a warm heating bag or cold ice cube) or through paying attention to nostalgic sounds or scents.
MEET SHAHANA ALIBHAI
TEDX SPEAKER, FAMILY PHYSICIAN AND MENTAL HEALTH EXPERT
She has worked with a multitude of organizations including the University of British Columbia, Scotiabank and Remax to help the audience gain more clarity into their mental health. Her podcasts are heard internationally and she has volunteered her time through speaking to improve the mental health in developing countries such as Let's Talk Nepal.
As a lead physician at one of British Columbia’s largest youth health centres, much of Dr. Shahana’s career is focused on those struggling with their mental health. She has created an innovative program entitled "Think Like a Doc", where Dr. Shahana volunteers her time to perform outreach in various schools to allow them to play the role of a doctor, and in turn, learn about their physical and mental health.
Her insights are highly sought after and she’s been featured in multiple major media including CTV and Global. She is best known for her “Emotional Literacy for Better Mental Health” TEDx talk and as a panelist at International Women’s Day.
She has served on the UBC Faculty of Medicine Residency training program and is currently a National accreditor for the College of Canadian Family Physicians.
Connect with Shahana HERE!