Joanna Salit MSW, RSW
Counselling for Life's Transitions.
BIPOC Lives Matter, Social Work and Social Justice
|Posted on September 1, 2020 at 11:24 AM||comments (95)|
It is time for me to speak up. I feel compelled to use my voice to stand up to the injustice that has been a part of our society and continues to be perpetuated and experienced.
As a Caucasian person, though, I feel uneasy about writing about this subject; I want to give space to the voices and experiences of BIPOC people. I want to listen and understand. I want those voices to be heard. But, I can no longer hold back and will not be a bystander. I have written and rewritten blog posts about the inequality in our society but I have yet to publish any. This is my humble attempt.
I am a Social Worker. At the core of this profession is the premise that we see the person in the context of their environment. While my work over the past 25 years has been trauma informed (looking at the nervous system and its triggers), Social Work always considers race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and socioeconomic status. We cannot see a person as separate from the context of their own family history or current and historical societal realities. Racism, homophobia, sexism and financial barriers become part of the story of trauma, oppression, as well as resilience. Social Workers continue to be part of supporting social justice and social change whether we are working at the policy level or at the 'micro' level such as working one on one with individuals and families.
I see the client as the "expert" and this informs my practice. The client is the expert on their history, their relationship with the problems they face, the obstacles they are up against and the tools they have used to stand up to difficulties. It is my job to be curious and to create a safe space to unpack these. It is my job to consider the individual in the context of their personal and social history. I aim to meet people with empathy and understanding. Everyone deserves to be heard and understood to create change for themselves and hopefully to create social change. The current climate of this global pandemic has served as a pause that has highlighted pervasive inequality. We all must work harder toward social justice.
This article resonated deeply for me and speaks to the some of the depth of oppression as related to trauma.
Workplace Wellness During COVID: Missing the Water Cooler / Unexpected is an Understatement
|Posted on May 25, 2020 at 4:57 PM||comments (138)|
Workplace Wellness During COVID: Missing the Workplace Water Cooler
Unexpected is an Understatement
The sudden plunge into working from home was quick and unexpected. It required creativity and flexibility. We scrambled to figure out wifi strength, access to computers, and set up workspaces in corners of our homes. We learned quickly about platforms for communication, how to share files, how to structure our days to account for home schooling, grocery shopping, meal preparation, etc. We rose to the occasion to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe, in order to flatten the curve. For those of us that managed to continue to work, we tell ourselves that we are grateful. Others are struggling more. But we still feel unsettled. There is an underlying threat of financial and workplace uncertainty. Colleagues were let go, some industries have shut down completely, some face the constant threat of cutbacks or no income … overnight. Unexpected is an understatement.
What is happening? Why are we feeling this way?
When a crisis happens, our nervous system goes into high alert; it is telling us that there is danger. Like other animals, we go into fight/flight or freeze in the face of threat. Our nervous system is trying to keep us safe. This reaction, though, channels energy away from our ability to focus, think clearly and plan. It can interfere with our ability to work as well as we used to. We may find ourselves shutting down emotionally, feeling foggy and/or feeling heightened and anxious.
People are home and people are struggling. And yet, we continue to put on our workplace ‘masks’ and pretend we are ok. We try to focus. We try to be productive. People are having a hard time. They are burning out. They are lonely in their empty homes. They are overwhelmed with toddlers climbing all over them. They worry that their teens are sneaking out to have contact with friends. There is little physical and temporal distinction between personal and work life. Then there is the overwhelming grief. The loss of the things that used to bring us joy and anticipation, the loss of human contact and touch, the worry about health and, for some, the deep grief about people that have passed away.
We tell ourselves that we are grateful for still being able to work. We tell ourselves that others have it harder and we ‘shouldn’t’ feel this way. But ‘holding things together’ is just getting to be too much. People are starting to crack. Trying to keep our professional mask securely fastened can feel like a daily struggle.
What can employers do?
Workers are facing COVID fatigue and it is wearing people down. Even though people are working from home, there continues to be a role for Workplace Wellness. These programs have been shown to improve morale, increase productivity, foster employee engagement, reduce stress, decrease absenteeism, improve employee retention and reduce the risk of health issues.
We are living through a period of prolonged stress and crisis. Employers know that people are at the core of their business and investing in the wellbeing of human resources is crucial, especially now.
The Virtual Water Cooler as a solution for your business
Introducing a Virtual Water Cooler for your organization can be helpful. Employees used to be able to connect informally with colleagues to share personal successes and difficulties. We no longer have access to the office break room. We are feeling its loss.
In addition to individual support, I facilitate groups for management and employee teams virtually during this period of COVID. Single session or ongoing virtual groups allow employees to connect and share perspectives on the changes they are noticing and the challenges they are facing. I then provide realistic achievable evidence based strategies to cope and improve wellbeing.
Programs such as these are effective at improving focus, mental clarity and productivity. They allow for people to increase resilience, as well as lessen the feelings of isolation and anxiety. Working directly with employees, as well supporting management teams, has shown to bolster overall wellbeing.
Employees have commented that when these programs are delivered, they feel valued by their organization. Implementing these kinds of programs can send an important message to employees about their value and the loyalty of the company to its greatest asset, people. The Virtual Water Cooler groups can lessen the feelings of isolation and increase the ability to cope and function during this uncertain time.
Feel free to reach out for a complementary phone consultation on how I can tailor services to the needs of your organization. I can be reached at 416 795 8006 / [email protected] I look forward to connecting with you.
Ways to Cope in the time of COVID: Activate Things in Your Control
|Posted on May 19, 2020 at 1:27 PM||comments (177)|
Coping Strategies in the Period of COVID
Activate Things that are in Your Control
Joanna Salit, MSW RSW
· Look for ways settle your nervous system (it is on high alert!)
· Move your body daily: gentle stretching such as child’s pose, cat/cow or neck stretches, yoga, aerobic exercise, walking
· Get outside daily and get fresh air
· Try to ingest nourishing foods and limit salt and sugar intake
· Drink water
· Create a sleep ritual that tells your body and mind that it is time to rest: no screens ½ hour before bed, drink herbal tea, take a warm shower or bath, use sleep meditations (eg: apps such as Insight Timer, Calm or Headspace)
· If you wake up in the middle of the night do not look at screens. Try 4-7-8 breathing until you fall asleep (inhale for 4, hold breath for 7, exhale slowly for 8)
· Connect socially with friends /family in a safe manner and talk about things that you enjoy
· Minimize use of alcohol, drugs or nicotine
· Try to create some structure in your day
· Give yourself permission to not be as productive as usual
· Practice box breathing – inhale for a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4 and hold lungs empty for 4
· Engage in altruism (eg: check in with a neighbour, donate to charity)
· Limit exposure to the news
· Name and acknowledge your feelings
· Use grounding strategies such as the Five Sense: Name five things you see, four things you feel on your skin, three things you hear, two things you can smell, one thing you taste
· Talk to your family doctor and/or a therapist – create space just for you
· It is ok to not be ok!
Listen to your body and make choices that are healthy for you
Grounding yourself in the period of COVID-19
|Posted on March 21, 2020 at 2:39 PM||comments (107)|
Anxiety and worry are understandable reactions to what we are collectively going through. They can relate to feelings of lack of control and the unknown. Be gentle with yourself. Look for things that are in your control on a daily basis. Make choices for yourself to keep your body and mind active and healthy.
Move your body, take regular breaks from media, engage in something creative and nourish your body with healthy food and water. Social connection through technology is also important to lessen feelings of isolation.
If you feel anxiety coming up, here is a great grounding exercise that is accessible at anytime.
Facing anxiety in the age of COVID-19
|Posted on March 19, 2020 at 5:06 PM||comments (2)|
During uncertain or unpredictable times, anxiety or other strong feelings can come up and take over. This is the nervous system warning us of real or perceived danger. As we are fundamentally animals, these signals have served to keep us safe in many situations.
But what happens when your logical mind knows that you are safe, yet your nervous system continues to fire warning signals of danger?
In order to settle our nervous system, we can look at what is in our control and focus upon a 'bottom up' approach of working with the body. "Breathing in" helps to activate our body while a deep thorough "breath out" helps to settle the nervous system.
This is my favourite breathing technique: it is simple and portable. Personally, I use it when I cannot fall asleep or have ruminating thoughts.
Why am I acting this way???? Triggers and Fight/Flight/Freeze
|Posted on February 19, 2020 at 2:43 PM||comments (2)|
“When my partner and I get into an argument I just shut down and then they get more and more angry; we never seem to resolve things.”
“When faced with a controlling boss I can’t seem to think straight and I feel overwhelmed.”
“I find myself yelling at my children when I don’t want to and then I feel terrible about it.”
Some of these scenarios might seem familiar to you.
Often these situations don’t make us feel good. It can bring up shame or guilt. Also, sometimes we can be hard on ourselves that we cannot make different choices. Sometimes we are blamed by others for not being able to ‘control’ ourselves.
However, these responses are not always conscious choices. Sometimes, these behaviours are in fact our nervous system reacting to what we see as danger and we go into fight, flight or freeze.
Like other animals, our brain and our nervous system respond to danger – whether it is real or perceived. When we are triggered and are tired, hungry, stressed and/or have a history of trauma, we can get thrown into fight, flight or freeze. It is in these spaces that we ‘react’.
What we want to aim for, however, is to ‘respond’. When we are able to respond, our brain is able to filter our raw feelings and make decisions. We are grounded and we are able to listen without blame and defensiveness to our partners, stay present in the moment with our children and we do our best work in the workplace.
Therapy can be helpful to retrain our brain and nervous system to respond differently to triggers.
While talk therapy is useful to an extent, other strategies such as Tapping or Brainspotting, can access the nervous system so that we don’t go into fight, flight or freeze.
If you are interested in meeting with me, feel free to reach out (without financial or other obligation) and we can talk about whether this is a good initial match. I can be reached at 416-795
Life Transitions: From Adolescence to Adulthood
|Posted on February 4, 2020 at 8:21 PM||comments (105)|
We all know that puberty and the teenage years are times of uncertainty and growth. The emergence from adolescence toward adulthood, however, can also feel uncertain. For the majority of our lives, we are told where to be and what to do. The expectations are clear. We go to school and we play with friends. Usually, our financial, emotional and health needs are taken care of by our village.
However, when teens finish high school, it can be a time of rising anxiety. Who am I? Who do I want to be? How will I support myself? Who are the people in my support system? Will I be ok if I try something and it doesn’t work out? There are more choices than ever before, which is exciting. However, the emergence from a highly structured family and school life to one in which we are responsible for our own path can also be unsettling and daunting.
This place of launching can bring on worry or other strong feelings, such as grief at the ‘end of childhood’. For instance, the fear of failure can loom big and the number of pathways to take can be overwhelming. As well, factors like social media and hook up culture can lead to worry about relationships or the inability to connect meaningfully and deeply to others. For some people at this stage, the move toward independence is very scary. People in this place may not have had the opportunity to build skills and strategies to cope and build resilience.
The therapy office can be a place for emerging adults to continue to find their support and unpack their concerns. It can be a place of safety to name the issues and remember who they are separate from the problems they are up against. The therapy room can be a place in which they can remember the tools and strategies they already have or learn new skills to add to their toolbox. It can be a place to explore identity and look toward a future with confidence.
Feel free to reach out if you or a loved one would benefit from this exploration.
I can be reached at 416 795 8006, joannasalit.com, or on the Facebook Page: Joanna Salit Counselling for Life’s Transitions.
Women at Midlife: The Midlife Rumbling
|Posted on January 28, 2020 at 12:11 PM||comments (0)|
There is a growing whisper among women in their 40s and 50s. Women who feel an agitation, something stirring. There are questions. There is uncertainty. There is worry. There is also a deep rumbling that needs to be named.
Our bodies are changing once again. Again!!!
We’ve all heard about the physical things that start to happen; the sleepless nights, the hot flashes seemingly out of the blue, the heavy unpredictable periods and on and on. Our bodies have gone through so many changes in our lives. At the mercy of hormones through puberty or perhaps growing a child, we know that our bodies are amazing but can also be frustrating. We can feel powerless in the face of these changes. There’s a lot of discussion about the physical, but what about the rest?
When we were girls, we were told that we can do it all. The world is open to us. In fact, as ‘good feminists’, many feel some sort of duty to be able to do it all, to have it all. Women at this age, though, are starting to confront these expectations and its challenges. There is shame, guilt, self-loathing, anxiety, anger, but also so much joy and pride.
Many midlife women in my therapy practice and in my personal life are questioning identity. Who am I truly right now? Who do I want to be? We have embraced the roles of partner, parent, daughter, colleague, professional, etc. But as our bodies change, once again, many women start to look at who they are as a person separate from these other identities we wear.
Who is the woman I am? Who is the woman I want to be? Who is the woman I “thought” I would be? What were the expectations for myself at this age as a younger person and did I meet those expectations? Do I feel like I failed my younger self for not meeting those expectations? Whose expectations were they truly? Did the expectations actually belong to others? Were they from our families of origin? Were they from our culture, religious upbringing or social norms for women? What are the things that are standing in my way of getting to where I want to go? Where is it, even, that I want to go????
There are so many questions.
It’s ok to name the questions.
It’s ok to ask the questions.
But how we start to unpack the answers is a different process for everyone.
Women at this age are generally used to caring for others. Maybe it comes naturally. Maybe we have been taught this. But who will care for the caregiver? We need to be our own best friend and focus upon ourselves first before we can give to others.
To women of this age, it can feel that they are supposed to stay in the roles they find themselves in. But why is there acceptance for us to have changed through puberty or through our 20s or perhaps through parenthood? We need to give ourselves permission to change through our 40s and 50s. The healthiest people I know are the ones who look at themselves from time to time and decide on what they want to keep and what skin they want to shed. They bring new energy into their lives and their relationships. They realize that change is normal and natural. Our bodies are physically changing. But so are other aspects of ourselves. We are organic beings that need change and new energy or else we will wilt.
The therapy space can be the place just for you to unpack these ideas. The journey is yours and you can make things happen for yourself. A therapist can be an important addition to your community of support.
If you are considering embarking on healthy growth in this stage of life, feel free to reach out to me. We can discuss whether this feels like a good fit on your journey during this Midlife Rumbling.
I can be reached at 416-795-8006, [email protected] or https://www.joannasalit.com.
I look forward to connecting with you.
How to Find a Therapist
|Posted on January 17, 2020 at 12:49 PM||comments (3)|
Joanna Salit, MSW RSW, Counselling for Life’s Transitions
How to find a therapist
We often don’t put ourselves first. It is for this reason that flight attendants remind us to put on our oxygen mask first before putting it on a child, in case of emergency. These days, we are getting pulled in so many different directions, that the feeling of stress and depletion is so common. We need to put on our own oxygen mask first.
The therapy office is a space for just you. It’s a slice of time in your week to stop, breathe, unpack, reflect and move forward. It’s my job as a therapist to create a safe space in those four walls, to walk with you on your journey toward your goals, to listen and be your ally to help get you where you want to go.
It can be a nerve-wracking thing, though, to try to find the right therapist. So where do you even start?
1. Ask friends or family for suggestions, if you’re comfortable doing this. Word of mouth referrals can be great.
2. Search online for therapists that work close to your home, work or school.
3. Read the biographies for therapists who specialize in what you would like to work on. Try to get a sense of the therapist through their listings.
4. If you have insurance coverage, reach out to them to see who they cover and how much.
5. Reach out to the therapist for an initial contact.
While profile pictures, credentials, fees, location, experience and therapeutic approaches all factor into the decision, it is ultimately the feeling you get from the initial contact that will set the stage for this important relationship. Does the therapist get back in a timely manner? Do they offer time to talk by phone or in person before you commit to a first appointment? Do they sound understanding? Are they really listening to you? Do they sound organized and can offer you some structure so that you feel psychologically safe walking into their office for the first time?
It takes a huge amount of courage to make a first call to a therapist! It takes even more courage to walk through the door to the office. You will be nervous. You will be uncertain. You may hope this is a good decision. It is my job to make you feel safe and heard and held. It is my job to facilitate a relationship. It is my job to be well trained and well informed to bring you to the place you want to go. It is my job to create a confidential, safe and trusting environment.
If you are interested in meeting with me, feel free to reach out (without financial or other obligation) and we can talk about whether this is a good initial match. I can be reached at 416-795-8006, [email protected], or joannasalit.com.
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