What is Self Care and Why is the Right Kind of Self Care So Important?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

For some people, the idea of self care can seem self-indulgent or selfish. There is a significant difference between being self-absorbed or narcissistic versus considered and thoughtful self-care.

Self-care is about taking good care of ourselves and our overall well-being.

That way, we are able to minimize mental and physical health issues and not cause problems at home or work or in our relationships.

Which in the long run, is also about ensuring that we can be at our best for others.

Author Audre Lorde has said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.”

What is Self Care?

Over the past few years, there’s a wider acceptance that it’s not possible to do things very well, if you don’t take care of yourself first.

And it shouldn’t necessarily be considered to be a reward, rather, part of an overall balanced lifestyle.

There is a difference between avoidance and impulsive self soothing versus considered and strategic self-care.

And the difference can most often be made between a short term relief versus actions that contributes toward long term well-being.
The key here is that it’s ultimately about balance.

Why Self Care is Important.

As human beings, we have a finite amount of energy at any given time.

Self care, then, is about fuelling ourselves.

Because it’s one thing to practice self-care, but it’s also important to put that energy out into the world.

Taking time to eat nutritiously, moving regularly, and spending time with friends and loved ones can feel like “wasting time” or being unproductive. 

In fact, studies have shown that taking breaks correlates to being more productive by getting refocused and being more energized.

Additionally, self care can:

• Help to manage stress more effectively.
• Reduce the possibility of burnout.
• Help to recharge and re-engage.

Self Care Can Look Like Different Things for Different People 

Sure, vacations and nice nights out can be thought of as self-care, but not everyone has access to be able to do those things. 

Nor, is it possible to do for everyone all the time. 

It can be very basic: 30 minutes playing an online game, video game, or playing a musical instrument.  Or reading, cooking, creative writing or journalling.

The key is to finding right type of self-care that works for you.

Think About Self Care as Part of a Routine

When establishing a self care routine, it’s best if it’s:
• Simple
• Something that’s do-able on a daily basis

Essential Ways of Practicing Self Care

Finding balance is key and practicing self care might mean that there are a number of things that are a part of your specific routine.

They might include:

Nutrition, movement & sleep.
These are three essential areas that can get compromised especially when things are so full and busy, but without these fundamental building blocks, we can find ourselves unbalanced in our overall well-being.

Carving out dedicated time for personal self-care.
This is something that’s going to unique for everyone. Again, think about something for you that’s simple and repeatable on a daily basis.

For some people it might be a daily walk with a loved one, while for others, it can be sports or working out, or for others, it can be a daily meditation practice. It might also be a combination of things.

The important thing here is that everyone find something that’s do-able on a regular basis.

Engage in meaningful relationships. There are some experts that are calling loneliness a public health crisis. Feeling isolated and alone can increase the risk of overall health issues including more rapid cognitive decline to cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure and heart attacks.

Practicing self care doesn’t necessarily mean doing things or having to be alone.

What is the Mind Body Connection?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Why the Mind Body Connection is Important to Understand for Better Mental Health

As a helping professional, those of us who work using a holistic approach, believe that overall health means having health and that there is a connection in all the area of our lives, including the mental and the physical.

This is often referred to as Mind Body Connection.

And while I work from the basis of this belief, I do want to be sure to clarify that I am not a somatic or body-based trained practitioner, but I will be providing some suggestions to gain more body awareness and therapies.

Mental Health is Not Just Noticeable By Differences in Mood and Behaviours

We often think about our emotions and mental health specifically in relation to mood or behaviours, but based on the Mind Body Connection philosophy, it can be valuable to also consider the impact our emotions can have on our physical selves as well.

Some people might think of the idea of the Mind Body Connection as ‘woo-woo’, but the National Institute of Health a government agency in the US, publicly acknowledges that overall health has a connection with physical and emotional well-being and uses the term “mind body connection” in their literature

In the US, it has been reported that over 75% of primary care visits were considered to be stress-related.

There may be people who don’t realize that they are having emotional difficulties until its noticeable in the physical body. Even then, they may not realize that it is emotionally connected.

Many people who consult their family doctor for a physical concern, such as issues with sleep, lack of energy, higher blood pressure, heart palpitations and so on, may find that many of those issues can also be connected to an emotionally-related concern, as well.

Chicken or the Egg?

There is so much inter-connection between emotional and physical health, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which came first: the mental distress or the physical ones?

Not exercising regularly, nor eating nutritionally, or practicing self-care may mean that there could be other less desirable behaviours like using alcohol, tobacco or other substances for self-soothing.  These can lead to poor emotional health. 

But then, feelings of anxiety and stress can make it difficult to practice consistent overall self-care.  It’s important to consider the on-going need to balance both the necessity for care of physical and mental health.

Compromised emotional health can lead to a weakened immune system, which can leave you more susceptible to colds, flus and infections.

Many people may not realize that their physical symptoms may also be a sign of emotional distress. 
They can include, but not limited to:
• Chest tightness or pain
• High blood pressure
• Shoulder, neck and back pain
• Headaches
• Heart palpitations
• Decreased energy levels and tiredness
•Upset stomach

Importance of Deep Breathing Properly

Something I learned a few years ago that was a total light bulb moment for me was that many of us don’t know how to breathe properly or at the very least, don’t know how to really take deep breaths.

Here’s something that totally illustrates the mind body connection: When we continually take shortened or shallow breaths, it keeps signalling to the brain and nervous system that there’s something stressful happening.

The shortened breath is the body’s way of getting access to do something quickly, like running away.

But when we continually breathe in this shallow way, we can habitually feel stressed or in some kind of danger.

Deep breathing practices are important because it’s an immediate way to signal to the brain and body that it’s safe to relax, and often the mood and physical symptoms of hyperarousal will turn itself down.

Tips to understand the connection between emotional and physical health better

(Especially some of the symptoms above are present.)

  • Speak to your family doctor. Consider asking your doctor, “I don’t think my physical concerns are emotionally related, but is it possible that they may be?”
  • Consider starting a mindfulness, yoga practice or other physical practices like martial arts. These practices can help with developing body awareness.
  • Seek out Somatic Therapies. A combination of talk therapy and specific training in understanding physical responses to emotions such as Sensory Awareness, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Traumatic Release Exercises.
  • Check out meditation and deep breathing apps. Like Headspace, Calm, Breathe or apps for that would guide through deep breathing.

We’ve only scratched the surface of the Mind Body Connection today, but to truly think about what’s required for overall health, it’s necessary to be aware of the health-related connections between the mental and physical.

Understanding Anger as an Emotion and Learning to Manage it More Productively

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

*** As an additional note in relation to this post, the discussion is about understanding anger from the standpoint that every one of us as human beings experience anger. But if there are concerns about yourself in relation to anger or the anger of someone else in your life, please do seek help from an anger management or mental healthcare provider. ***

For many people anger is… Road rage or losing your temper at a drop of a hat, or yelling during conflict or maybe even violence.  But what exactly is anger anyway?

So the reality is this: We all get angry. Anger is often considered to be “bad” and most of us get the message from an early age that we shouldn’t feel angry.

We’re often told: “Don’t be angry” or that it’s unacceptable to feel or express anger.

While in actuality, anger is neither good nor bad, what you choose to do with the emotion of anger can make a huge difference in your life.

Anger is Often Misunderstood

The emotion itself isn’t either positive or negative.  It’s what can happen as a result of someone being angry that can have a negative impact.

On the other hand, if there is anger due to an injustice or some kind of wrongdoing, and actions are taken to improve things, it can be considered to have a positive impact.

Having a better understanding about anger and what might be the cause of it, can be the first step to addressing it more effectively and managing things better when you’re feeling anger.

All Emotions Have a Purpose

Emotions exists to help us survive, avoid danger and can motivate us to be more thoughtful or to make changes.

If all emotions have a purpose then, anger as an emotion is a signal that something is requiring our attention in some way. 

It usually doesn’t feel great to be angry. 

But feeling badly and maybe feeling out of control or doing something destructive or hurtful when there’s anger, is what makes anger as an emotion complicated and maybe also misunderstood.

Anger Itself is a Secondary Emotion 

Anger is usually felt as a defense from more vulnerable feelings like, sadness, disappointment, hurt or fear. 

It can be really challenging for many of us to allow ourselves to feel these vulnerable feelings.

Whereas feeling angry can feel less scary, than maybe feeling sad or fearful.

It’s the defensiveness interconnected to anger that can manifest in undesirable or regrettable ways.

Tips on What to Do When You’re Angry:

Take a Break

Take a time-out and even better, go and get some exercise or go for a walk.

If you’re noticing that your heart is racing and your mind feels “sped up”, these are cues that taking a break, taking some deep breaths and letting out some physical energy could be helpful to be able to think things through more clearly.

Don’t Suppress Your Feelings of Anger

BUT be aware that anger does not need to be expressed through overly physical or verbally aggressive means.

Trying to ignore it or compartmentalizing feelings of anger can lead to passive aggressiveness, depression, anxiety and lowered self esteem.

Try to understand the underlying reason for your anger.

Remember, anger is a secondary emotion and there are other feeling or feelings that you’re protecting. 

As discussed above, take a break, some deep breaths and try to think or journal it out. 

If you find that you’re stuck with the same thoughts and feelings, it can be helpful to talk it out with someone your trust who can help navigate you through it.

Know When to Seek Help

Everyone experiences losing their temper at different times. 

But if it’s a regular occurrence of if your anger feels out of control, and you’re getting feedback from others that there may be a problem, seeking an anger management program or psychotherapy can be part of the solution.

Dealing with Anger is a Part of Life 

Just because you might have learned unhealthy ways of dealing with your feelings of anger up to this point, doesn’t preclude the possibility of learning new strategies.

Resources to Learn More About and Understanding Anger Better

Books about emotional intelligence like The Subtle Art of Not Giving an F*ck by Mark Manson can be helpful as it discusses the importance of seeing things from a different perspective.

For men, there’s a book I highly recommend called I Don’t Want to Talk About It by therapist Terry Real.

For women, Harriet Lerner’s book The Dance of Anger is a helpful resource.

What are the 5 Love Languages? And How Can It Help You and Your Relationships?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

The 5 Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages is a relationship model and concept conceived by Dr. Gary Chapman, who is a couples therapist in the US.

After working for many years with couples in counselling, he identified that there was a pattern in the ways couples described dissatisfaction in their relationships. 

He came up with the concept that there are different ways that individuals express love and they can sometimes not align (or be speaking the same “Love Language”).

Before getting into the Love Languages, here’s ONE BIG IDEA to understand when it comes to relationships:

"No two people are likely to have EXACTLY the same way they prefer to give and receive love."

Your idea of love is not necessarily your partner or loved one’s idea of love.

No two people are likely to have EXACTLY the same way they prefer to give and receive love. 

Another way of putting it is, how we show love is also usually how we expect to receive love.

Understanding this one idea can make a big difference in the quality of a relationship.

There are Different Love Languages?

Right now, if you and I were trying to communicate in two different languages, we may get by being able to understand the simple things.

But eventually, there are going to be limits to the clarity and depth of trying to understand each other more fully. This may lead to only having a vague understanding to getting frustrated.

The same idea applies to being in a relationship where you and your loved one might have a very different way of expressing love, affection, and appreciation.

Especially in a romantic connection, the first few months to two years, the chemistry or the initial “in love” feelings might either mean that you don’t see or ignore things that you might have thought were quirks, which ends up becoming irritations or frustrations later in the relationship.

It’s at this point or even from the beginning, that understanding how you and your partner receive and express love can be helpful for the continued growth and lasting ability of the relationship.

What are the Five Love Languages?

A reminder that many of us are a combination of the five love languages, which again, is a demonstration of how unique and individual we can each be.

This post is meant to be a summary of the concept behind the Love Languages.

If you have been feeling that there are gaps in your relationships (romantic or other loved ones), it’s possible that by integrating these concepts into your understanding of relationships can be valuable.

1) Words of Affirmation – Verbal compliments and meaningful, kind words, while negative or critical feedback can potentially be especially painful.

2) Acts of Service – Express caring through actions, such as planning time or an outing, doing chores or taking responsibility to do things for the relationship is seen as meaningful. In other words, doing thing you know that your partner would find meaningful. Unfollowed through commitments and lack of action may have negative impacts.

3) Receiving Gifts – It’s not so much about big, lavish gifts (although those who like receiving gifts, may in fact, also likes these kinds of gifts). But it’s more the thought and effort that’s appreciated. Little surprises or a personal handwritten note can hold deep meaning. Forgotten special occasions or gifts lacking meaning may feel difficult for those whose love language is Receiving Gifts.

4) Quality Time – What’s most meaningful for these individuals is to have the full, undivided and one-on-one attention of their partner. No cell phone and any other distractions. Cancelling, not paying attention or being distracted may be perceived as uncaring. In a nutshell, these those who crave quality time are looking to experience time together without distractions.

5) Physical Touch – Holding hands, hugs and cuddling goes a long way. And while sexual intimacy is also important, it’s generally not just about sex.

In fact, when it comes to physical touch as a love language it can be helpful to ask, “Does non-sexual touches make you feel love?”

I do want to mention an important caveat here, which is true for all the love languages, but especially for Physical Touch, if there is any trauma that an individual has experienced, there may be some challenges for someone to be able to be able to “speak your love language”.

This is where more ongoing discussions with your partner or work with a couples therapist can help to navigate having both safety and individual needs met.

What’s Your Love Language?

"Childhood experiences of how love was expressed by parents or adult caregivers often translates to what love language preference we have as adults."

Often childhood experiences of how love was expressed by parents or adult caregivers often translates to what love language preference we have as adults.

It can also be helpful to think about how you like to prefer to express care for those you love and care for.

And because the internet has pretty much everything, Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages website has free tests you can take to get a better idea of your love language.

What’s Your Loved One’s Love Language?

Just as it’s valuable to know your own love language, for a more fulfilling relationship, find out your loved one’s love language.

While you can be attentive and be curious about your partner or loved one’s love language by noticing how they appear to express love, it can be much more direct to start an ongoing discussion about your individual love languages.

You can start by asking, “What can I do that feels loving to you?”

While we’re mostly discussing romantic partners here, love languages can be applied to family members and friends, too.

It can be especially powerful to have an understanding of your child’s love language.

Fill Up the “Love Tank”

Gary Chapman, who originated the idea of Five Love Languages, also offers the concept of the “Love Tank.”

When I work with clients, I have sometimes used the idea of making deposits into a relationship “savings account,” of sorts.

The “Love Tank” is a similar idea where you and your loved one can use it as a way of communicating about your love language and needs. For instance, if the two of you are on board with the idea, you can ask each other something like, “What can I do to help fill your love tank right now?”

Or if you’re looking to see how you can start improving a specific relationship, you can conceptualize the other person’s Love Tank and genuinely work toward speaking their language.

More Knowledge, More Self Awareness, More Personal Resilience

Just like the other personality models we’ve been discussing, understanding your love language is just a little more information that can provide you with details and insights about bettering all areas of your life.

While you and your loved one’s languages might differ, working together to improve your relationship through understanding each other’s needs can move toward a stronger and deeper relationship.

What are the Results from Wellness Wednesday Hosts Taking the Big Five Personality Test?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

A couple of weeks ago on Wellness Wednesday, along with The Spin’s hosts Michelle Sturino and Barry Davis, we discussed what the Big Five Personality Model is and some of the details around it.

Broadly speaking, it’s a way to measure and get a better understanding of the unique differences each of have in our personalities. This is done through getting a measurement of five specific personality traits, which is why it’s called the “Big Five Personality Model”.

At the time, I know that all three of us expressed an interest in learning more about our specific personality traits. To satisfy our collective curiosity, we went ahead and completed the Big Five Personality Test and we’re going to be talking about our individual results today.

And as mentioned previously, these personality models and tests can provide insights about our individual tendencies and if we choose, give us some ideas around specific areas of improvement. Or they can simply be something fun to talk about with friends, family and co-workers.

Let’s do a quick recap regarding each of the individual personality traits which can be remembered by the acronym: OCEAN

It stands for: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

Each of these traits is measured between a scale of 1 to 100%. To keep our test results consistent, we all took it at Truity.com.

Openness to Experience (inventive or curious versus consistent or cautious)

Openness describes an individual’s tendency to think in complex, abstract ways.  People high in Openness are creative, unconventional and artistic. Whereas those who are low are more practical, conservative and conventional.

Average is around 58%
Michelle: 62.5%
Barry: 81%
Mio: 100%

Conscientiousness (efficient or organized versus easy-going or careless)

Conscientiousness describes a person’s tendency to be persistent and determined in achieving their goals. People high in Conscientiousness are orderly, ambitious and dependable.  Those who are low are spontaneous, impulsive and disorganized.

Average is around 55%
Michelle: 75%
Barry: 73%
Mio: 69%

Extraversion (seeking outside stimulation versus preferring internalized introspection)

Extraversion describes a person’s tendency to be energized by being around other people versus being by oneself. Those who score high are energetic, enthusiastic and excitable. Those who score low are more reserved, calm and introspective.

Average is around 51%
Michelle: 94%
Barry: 96%
Mio: 65%

As an aside specifically regarding the Extraversion personality trait: there were quite a few people who visited the SolidWellness blog following our discussion on Wellness Wednesday about the differences between Introverts and Extroverts, so it’s my feeling that this is an area of interest for folks.

I was also extremely grateful to get some feedback that it was helpful for folks to hear that having needs as an introvert and to take the time for self-care was a valuable reminder.

Agreeableness (friendly or compassionate versus challenging or detached)

Agreeableness describes an individual’s tendency to put the needs of others ahead of their own needs. Those who score high are accommodating, helpful and selfless.  Those who score lower are competitive, argumentative and brash.

Average score is around 63%
Michelle: 71%
Barry: 69%
Mio: 60%

Neuroticism (sensitive or nervous versus secure or confident)

Neuroticism describes an individual’s response to stress. Those who score high are more anxious, moody and self-conscious. Those who score lower are more stable, resilient, optimistic and self-confident.

Average score is around 54%
Michelle: 23%
Barry: 56%
Mio: 23%

What Did These Results Mean to Michelle and Barry?

We were short on time and unfortunately, we didn’t have a whole lot of time to discuss their thoughts on their results.

However, what I feel I learned from Barry and Michelle sharing their results and getting a little slice of their take on them, was that I was given a sneak peak at some of the challenges that come with engaging in work that is consistently open to other people’s opinions, and the potential impact this can have.

I am not only thankful for this opportunity to speak to more people through my contribution to The Spin’s Wellness Wednesday, but I am also grateful for Barry and Michelle who do what they do, day in and day out, for the benefit of those of us who are looking to maybe have some company during the drive home or to learn something new by listening to their podcast episodes.

Core Personality Pattern Tendencies for Michelle, Barry and Mio

The one result we didn’t share on air was one of other results that Truity provides after taking the Big Five Personality test, which is called the “Core Personality Pattern

Michelle’s Core Personality Pattern
Barry’s Core Personality Pattern
Mio’s Core Personality Patter

In reference to what I mentioned above about Michelle and Barry doing the broadcasting work they do… putting themselves out there as they do.

From the results shown here from both of their Core Personality Patterns, they skew very heavily toward Empathic Idealist. In other words, they’re not just doing it for the glory, but because they empathically genuinely care about others.

Again, I would really like to thank them both for allowing me to share their results here.

As previously discussed, it is possible to use these test results for self improvement.

A couple of examples:

If you score low in Conscientiousness, you may find that you are having some difficulties with staying consistent with responsibilities and being reliable, which may have some undesirable impacts at work, school or in relationships.

Or if there is a lower score in Agreeableness, it can be reflective of having more tensions and conflicts in various relationships, which again can impact many areas of your life.

Because these tendencies are not set in stone, having an understanding of your tendencies can help you identify possible areas you would like to see have change and growth.

Interested in Taking the Test Yourself?

If you’re interested in taking the same test we took, head on over to Truity.com. You can take the test for free, but there is also an option to pay for more details regarding your results.

What’s Your Attachment Style and How Can It Help to Improve You and Your Relationships?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

What are Attachment Styles?

In the past few posts, we have been discussing personality traits that are more nature, than nurture. In other words, we have been primarily discussing personality traits we are born with, as opposed to having been influenced by our environment.

Today, we are talking about Attachment Styles which is a theory based on the belief that much of who we are especially in relationships, both strengths and challenges, we have as adults can be connected back to some aspect of our childhood.

“Attachment” refers to the specific way in which we relate to other people.

Attachment Styles are based on research that have shown that the type of relationship we had with our caretakers or primary adult influencers as children have a very strong effect on the kinds of connections and relationships we have adults.

How Can Understanding Your Attachment Style Help You?

Understanding your attachment style is helpful because it can offer insights into why you feel how you feel in relationships now, based on how you felt and developed during your childhood.

It can help you to understand where your emotionally limitations may be and what can be changed to improve all kinds of relationships, including romantic relationships, relationships with friends, children, family, authority figures and so on.

An individual’s attachment style can also be closely connected to self-esteem. Using what you can understand from your attachment style, it’s possible to address certain deficits which can also help with a better sense of self confidence overall.

What are the Main Attachment Styles?

I consider the main four Attachment Styles to be: Secure, Anxious, Avoidant, and Disorganized.

• Secure attachment (approximately 60% of the population) is connected to feeling confident and generally have healthy, close relationships.

Anxious attachment (approximately 15%) may be the source of the need to people-please and at times, being too possessive.

Avoidant attachment (approximately 20%) is associated with being isolated and emotionally distant.

Disorganized attachment (approximately 5%) is associated with being detached and conflicted in relationships, often as a result of having traumatic experiences during childhood.

What Tendencies are Associated with Each Attachment Style?

If you suspect that you might have some anxious, avoidant or disorganized attachment tendencies, some difficulties you might encounter are:

Someone with anxious attachment tendencies can be known to have a Preoccupied Personality. Where they can be insecure and critical of themselves, often looking for approval from others. These individuals often are worried that they will ultimately rejected, so even when receiving reassurance, there can still be a deep lack of trust of others.

Those who are avoidant can have dismissive patterns in relationships as adults. They tend to be loners and might consider emotions and relationships to not be as important. They can also be more cognitively-dominant and suppress feelings.

Individuals with disorganized attachment may exhibit tendencies of what’s described as a Fearful-Avoidant Personality. Those with disorganized attachment may have disconnected from their feelings as children, and have likely continued to do the same as adults. It can be a challenge for these individuals to feel a sense of balance within themselves and likely also have difficulty having close and trusting relationship with others.

What can be Done to Develop a More Secure Attachment Style?

As I often say, self-knowledge can be empowering and provide you with a starting point so that you can make better sense of what’s possible for self-improvement.

Moving toward more of a secure attachment style, can not only enhance your romantic relationship, you may also get along better with friends, family, and those you work with.

Some things to keep in mind:

Conduct an inventory. Do you avoid getting close to people? Do you worry about being left out? Most of us have an intuitive sense of areas where we can improve, but it can also be helpful to take a test like the one available on Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s website, she is an attachment and trauma expert.

It’s possible to move toward having a more Secure Attachment style.

While adjusting your attachment style will require some effort, it can be helpful to intentionally make sense of your childhood experiences to be able to rewire your brain to feel more secure with yourself and others.

Books that are helpful resources include: Daniel Siegel’s Mindsight or Attached, by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller.

Counselling or therapy with a psychodynamic (a style of therapy where childhood experiences are included in the therapeutic process) therapist can also be helpful if you see troubling patterns in your relationships or you have childhood issues that you want to sort out.

What is the Big Five Personality Inventory?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

With a name like The Big 5, I know that it can pique people’s curiosity, so I thought it’d be interesting to discuss here in more details about the Five Factor Personality Model.

Many people are familiar with Myers Briggs Type Indicator tests, but The Five Factor Model of Personality or the Big Five is another model that can help you have a better understanding of yourself by understanding your personality traits.

At the very least, it’s a fun discussion point to be had with friends, but it can also be a self-assessment tool to help you understand deeper patterns in your life.

Personality traits are natural tendencies, but they can be improved upon by understanding and possibly working on emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain traits.

I think it’s important to note that traits does not mean that our ultimate potential is set in stone, but it can give you a sense of where your baseline is at the moment.


While there are other personality trait models, the Five Factor Model emerged as one that is widely accepted as describing the more essential personality traits. 


Not only can it be interesting to learn more specifically about your traits, it can also pinpoint strengths, as well as areas of improvements if you are finding gaps in certain areas of your life.

For instance, if your score is very low in conscientiousness, it could be that you have a tendency to be disorganized and not meet deadlines at work. Having it come up in a test like this can give you an insight that it could be an area of improvement to work on.


The Big Five Personality Traits can be summed up the acronym: OCEAN and each trait is measured between a scale of 1 to 100%.

Openness to experience (inventive or curious versus consistent or cautious).

Openness describes an individual’s tendency to think in complex, abstract ways. 
People high in Openness are creative, unconventional and artistic.
Whereas those who are low are more practical, conservative and conventional. Average score is approximately 58%.

Conscientiousness (efficient or organized versus easy-going or careless).

Conscientiousness describes a person’s tendency to be persistent and determined in achieving their goals.
People high in Conscientiousness are orderly, ambitious and dependable. 
Those who are low are spontaneous, impulsive and disorganized.
Average is around 55%

Extraversion (seeking outside stimulation versus preferring internalized introspection).

Extraversion describes a person’s tendency to be energized by being around other people versus being by oneself.
Those who score high are energetic, enthusiastic and excitable.
Those who score low are more reserved, calm and introspective.
Average is around 51%.

Agreeableness (friendly or compassionate versus challenging or detached).

Agreeableness describes an individual’s tendency to put the needs of others ahead of their own needs.
Those who score high are accommodating, helpful and selfless. 
Those who score lower are competitive, argumentative and brash.
Average score is around 63%.

Neuroticism (sensitive or nervous versus secure or confident).

Neuroticism describes an individual’s response to stress.
Those who score high are more anxious, moody and self-conscious. Those who score lower are more stable, resilient, optimistic and self-confident.
Average score is around 54%.


How can the results of the test be used for personal development?

There is a lot of different take-aways from these kinds of personality test results.

But using the test results to identify areas of improvement can be be helpful for overall well-being.

One example is that if someone scores lower on Neuroticism which would mean that working on emotional resilience or fitness to maintain more inner balance and sense of self, can improve quality of life by feeling more stable in general.  


Free test can be taken at the Open Source Psychometrics Project website.

Or a paid one that provides a lot more personalized test results can be found at a website called Truity.com

What are Introverts and Extroverts? What are the Differences Between Them?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Extroversion and Introversion are Innate Personality Traits

We all have specific personality traits (this would be more of the “nature” parts of who we are when we think about “the nature vs nurture” influences) and we all fall somewhere on the spectrum between being more of an extrovert or an introvert.

But they are exactly that: Personality traits.  Traits are something that are innately true of who we are.

I think about the difference between extroversion and introversion as measured by the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or The Big 5 Personality Traits, which was developed by psychologist Lewis Goldberg, a personality model most commonly accepted in use today.

For what it’s worth, to understand the differences between extroverts and introverts provides us with the opportunity to understand ourselves, as well as others, a little bit better.

The Main Difference between Extroverts and Introverts

Again, it’s important to remember that we all fall within a spectrum.  But we can talk about the main differences to better understand and identify the differences. 

THE MAIN THING is that extroverts get energy from being social and being around others, while introverts refuel by solitary time, away from people.

Or another way of putting it is, do you have more of a tendency toward focusing on the outer world or the inner world?

Here’s what to know about the two polar ends of the continuum and determining where you fall:

Extroverts are commonly described as gaining energy from the external world and socializing, may seem “always on the go”, get tired after spending too much alone, and often have the ability to think while speaking.

Introverts are frequently introspective, have fewer and deeper connections, and often prefers to think first and talk later.

Being introverted and being shy are two different things. (No, they aren’t the same thing.)

Everyone regardless of being an introvert or an extrovert can experience shyness, which can be described to be more of a social-related stress or anxiety.

So shyness can feel uncomfortable, which can have a negative component to it.

On the other hand, fulfilling the need for an introvert to be alone is a relief, as opposed to it being a negative in anyway.

Of course, introverts CAN also be shy, but ultimately they are two different qualities.

Emphasis on Extroverted Qualities in Western Culture can Create Difficulties for Both Extroverts and Introverts

Expectations for extroverts to be leaders and always being “on”, while introverts are often encouraged to have more extroverted qualities socially and professionally

There is more understanding about the differences between introverts and extroverts and as they say, “knowledge is power.”

And with a better understanding that we are all unique individuals and talking more about it as we are today, allows us to embrace ourselves and other people’s differences.

With that said, it’s helpful to have a good understanding of whether your traits lean more toward introversion or extroversion, which can help with choosing a line of work more suited for you, the same can be true for relationships, too

For instance, as we talked about on the Spin with Barry Davis and Michelle Sturino on Wellness Wednesdays, there’s a reason why the the two of them, as extroverts, chose broadcasting, while I, as an introvert, has mostly been working more one-on-one with people in our respective lines of work.

Relationships and Connections Between Extroverts and Introverts Can be Challenging Due to Differences in Traits and Needs

It’s helpful to understand the differences of others and it’s a good reminder to cultivate empathy and compassion for all of our individual uniqueness

This can especially be true with partners and family members.

It’s possible for introverts and extroverts in families and relationships to find a happy place and it’s all about respecting one another’s unique needs.

1 – Be curious with one another: Ask questions about each other’s preferences with a genuine curiosity for each other’s different needs and work toward finding a mutual area that can work for you both.

2 – Don’t avoid having these kinds of discussions. Your relationship will be stronger for having discussed and to have an understanding of each other’s differences than to try and sweep them under the rug. Understanding on all sides can go a long way.

Curious about where you might fall in the spectrum between extroversion and introversion?

There is a pretty comprehensive online test available on the Psychology Today website.

Men’s Mental and Emotional Health

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.

– Fred Rogers

During my psychotherapy training, I remember a distinct moment learning that 1 in 4 men are affected by a mental health issue in Canada.

And that approximately 11% of men will experience severe depression during their lifetime, while 9% of men are affected by anxiety.

Yet, men are less likely to seek help and support, and that male suicides have been on the rise and is one of the leading causes of death among males.

Numbers are even higher across the board among gay, bisexual and trans men.

Ever since learning these stats, it’s been my goal to be able to work with men in my practice and to do what I can to specifically help bring awareness to the importance of men’s mental health.

Changing the Script and Challenging Stereotypes

Emotions and mental health issues can unfortunately often be linked to the idea of being weak or lacking control.

As human beings, we are meant to have emotions, and difficult or challenging emotions are our system’s way of alerting us to something requiring our attention.

For instance, high levels of stress might often go unresolved for long periods of time due to denial or fear that acknowledging that there’s struggle means being weak somehow.

Not dealing with these struggles might result in a lack of sleep, losing or gaining appetite, aggression, increased substance use and so forth.

These are real and genuine health concerns, and I hope that we can keep having these discussions to help flip the script that whether it’s mental health or any other health-related concern, everyone deserves and should get help and support.

Solid Foundation in Overall Health Can Help

According to the Men’s Health Foundation of Canada, inactive men are 60% more likely to suffer from depression from those who are active.

I am a big advocate of building a solid foundation for overall health, which includes being active, taking care of nutrition and getting quality rest.

And something I don’t think we talk about enough which is: Maintaining good connections and relationships.

Ensuring that we have good, solid relationships makes it easier to be able to talk or ask for help.

But seeking mental health support is not only healthy, I believe it takes courage and strength.

Support and Asking for Help

It helps that there are more and more men openly talking about mental health.

I love the initiatives like the one Scooter Gennett of the Cincinatti Red’s have started to openly discuss the importance of talking about mental health.

The more and more it becomes a norm that we talk about caring for our mental health and the more it ultimately also becomes a strength.

Because not feeling down, worried, stressed, anxious and so forth, the more productive, successful and available we are for the important people and things in our lives.

Men tend to socialize focused around things like sports or music, which is a valuable form of social connection, sense of belonging and stress release.

However, it’s also good to have the opportunity to directly address specific issues.

In relation to women, men can sometimes get frustrated when women are looking to talk out what’s on their minds.

But talking things out, without necessarily looking for a concrete solution, can often be a source of stress relief.

Further having a professionally trained psychologist, therapist, counsellor, or coach in a confidential environment can be an important resource for taking care of and managing mental health.

In the past, men had little choice but to either stay silent, get to a breaking point for someone else to notice or perhaps talk to a family doctor, who may or may not be well versed in mental health treatment approaches.

Thankfully, online access has made it easier than ever to find the right resources and support.

Take advantage of the search engines, but do resist the temptation of self-diagnosing yourself using Dr. Google!

Additional Resources to Get Started

I Don’t Want to Talk About It” by therapist Terry Real is one of the resources that was most helpful for me during my training. “Hidden male depression is the focus of this clear, compelling book by a Massachusetts family psychotherapist who specializes in working with dysfunctional men. Because our culture socializes boys to mask feelings of vulnerability, he says, they bury deep within themselves damaging childhood trauma and its ensuing depressive effects when they become men.” (Description provided by Publisher’s Weekly.)

Heads Up Guys “is a resource for supporting men in their fight against depression by providing tips, tools, information about professional services, and stories of success.” (Description provided by the HeadUpGuys website.)

The Movember organization is dedicated to bringing awareness to men’s health and has an area of the website specific to men’s mental health.

There are also a few provincially publicly funded resources that can be found at Connex Ontario.

Of course, our talk here is just scratching the surface. But hopefully, we’ll bring more awareness and support the more we keep continuing the discussion.