Category Archives: Happiness

My Valentine to You

It is the month of love.

I remember as a young girl in elementary school, it was so exciting when Valentine’s Day arrived. Way back then (yes, I was in elementary school in the stone age!), we kids would carefully hang our folders around the classroom and then throughout the day, other kids would add valentines to them. I remember being so excited to see if the the cute boy that I liked at the time would add a valentine to my folder. If he did, it meant he loved me. If he didn’t…well, I told myself he was just too shy to show me he loved me! (I was blessed to have a mother who helped me constantly add a positive frame to things.)

Today, I think of Valentines Day in a different way. I think of love in a different way too. Love is bigger, broader, and bolder at this stage of life.

Now, love is about what I do every day; how I show up wherever I am; what I allow to take up residence in my mind. That is love to me.

So today, in this month of love, I am sending you this video ‘love letter’. It includes a message that I’d like to send out to the world…as an expression of love and connection to you all.

I hope you enjoy watching it, as much as I did creating it.

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com

We Need to Talk: Opening the Doors to a Dialogue about Mental Health in the Workplace

IMG_1662Every day I visit workplaces across this beautiful country (and beyond) and I hear stories of the challenges facing people as they conduct their lives. We all have a story. Many of us are unable or unwilling to share our story with others. We are afraid to truly let others see us and know our truth.

Whatever your views are about confidentiality and privacy; I believe that we need to open the doors – no, tear down the doors – to enable a full dialogue about mental health in the workplace. We are living in a time in which people are literally dying with their story still inside; and that can be changed.

At this delicate time of year, a struggle for many people who experience mental health challenges, it is particularly important to direct our attention to this topic.

I have had the opportunity to meet and work with a beautiful young woman this year. Her name is Jasmine Zyzniewski and she is a 4th year psychology student at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Jasmine is not only beautiful, she is smart, confident, and sociable; and Jasmine has a story. What impressed me most when I met her, was her willingness to be who she is, to share her truth and to demonstrate the strength of character it takes to be truly authentic.

Here is some of her story.

      I can remember waking up one morning and feeling the panic set in. It had been years since I had been diagnosed with my anxiety and panic disorder, so I knew what the day was going to bring. Severe hallucinations and blackouts were on the menu and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it through a day of work. I called my boss and was forced to make up an excuse for why I couldn’t come in. “Sorry, I have the flu” or “There has been a family emergency”, were two of my favorites. Sadly enough, after conversations with others who suffer from a mental illness, I realized I wasn’t alone in the “excuse-making” skills that I had developed.

     According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20 percent of our population will be directly affected by a mental illness in their lifetime. This means that one in five people that we casually walk past on the street are currently struggling with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or one of the many other mental illnesses that our society claims to understand and acknowledge. So why is it that most of our workplaces, where we spend a vast majority of our time, aren’t accepting or open to talk about mental health? Or better yet, why do those who suffer with mental illnesses feel as if a “mental health day” is not a good enough reason to miss work when it is necessary? If it is okay to miss work because I have a cold or a back ache, why is it not okay to miss work when I am experiencing a depressive episode or a particularly bad time with my anxiety?

     I know – maybe you think I will take advantage of your sick plan; that I will ‘fake it’. Well, trust me…I will no more fake a mental illness than I will lie about a physical illness. So, let’s just put that argument to rest.

     Consider, if you will, a few more relevant statistics. The Mental Health Commission of Canada states that mental health problems and illnesses account for approximately 30 percent of short and long term disability claims from employees. The financial impact to the Canadian economy is significant.  Of all claims placed, 47 percent of those that were approved were also mental health related. Therefore, I believe it is time to take action within our workplaces to ensure that employees feel safe enough to talk about mental health so that they can take early measures to maintain this area of their health and well-being.

     To do this, the Workplace Mental Health Promotion initiative of the Ontario CMHA believes that employers may need to address the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health in the workplace and be willing to make positive changes to adapt to those who suffer from them.  It has been my personal experience to feel embarrassed about my mental health. Because of this embarrassment, I isolated myself from society and avoided treatment options in fear of others finding out about my mental illness. Although I realize now that having both a support system at home and at work could have sped up my recovery process and put me on a path of healing and transformation.

     So, let’s not waste any more time. The Ontario CMHA has come up with a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” that employers should take note of in order to create a safe and open space for those suffering from mental health issues.

Don’t:

  • Portray successful people with disabilities as the exception
  • Use generic labels; many of the terms I hear on a daily basis are “retarded”, “crazy” and “psycho”
  • Use the term “insane”; this is strictly reserved for legal purposes
  • Allow others to use these terms in your presence (When these terms are used within a workplace, people will begin to feel isolated and ashamed of their mental health. The negative repercussions that I have observed can include everything from choosing to leave the workplace entirely, to experiencing an epic destruction to your self-esteem and sense of well-being.)

 Do:

  • Use respectful language at all times (It is okay to say that I have a mental illness; it is not contagious, it is like any other illness – cancer, heart disease, diabetes – it is simply something with which I have to learn to cope
  • Emphasize abilities, not limitations; I have far more gifts than I do limitations
  • Refer to the person, not their disability or mental illness
  • Stop stigmatizing attitudes in their tracks!

      A few small changes in language surrounding mental health in the workplace could extremely influence the positive support that is perceived and received by those with mental illnesses. Make your employees feel safe and welcome within the workplace, I promise everyone will benefit.

Isn’t she lovely…you can see why I like her. Not only is she an accomplished student who will surely go places in her career, she is a thoughtful young woman who has something important to say. I am grateful that she can say it here – with me – and to important people like you.

As you pass people in the malls, on the streets and in your workplaces; I invite you to pause, to take just a moment to see people, to hear them. You never know what will transpire. You never know what conversation might ensue. It might even be one that you did not know you needed to have.

Happy Holidays, one and all. Let’s go out and change the world!

Co-wrtitten by:

Jasmine Zyzniewski is a fourth and final year student completing her BA in Psychology with a minor in Peace and Conflict Transformation studies. She aims to normalize and contribute to mental health awareness through optimistic and positive reflections on herself and her surroundings. Alongside her studies, she loves DIY crafts, spending time with family and any good book she can get her hands on.

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com

Back to School 101

Jasmine Zyzniewski

Jasmine Zyzniewski

(Today’s Blog Post features Jasmine Zyzniewski {see her bio below}, who is working with me as an intern as part of her practicum at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba.)

September is always an exciting month for university students. Summer is winding to a close and the motivation to start learning finally kicks back into high gear. We go and buy all of our textbooks, find that one squeaky chair in the classroom that nobody likes and sit down in front of the teacher with eager minds and creative thoughts. The course outline is then distributed for all of our classes and all of a sudden “WHAM!” university just doesn’t seem that fun any more!

The buzz of excitement around the hallways begins to dwindle and you can find us university students wandering around like zombies to get to our classes. Assignments begin to pile up, we feel like we haven’t socialized in ages and the word sleep leaves our vocabulary for months at a time. Okay, I might be exaggerating just a little, but any student can tell you that school is fun, intriguing but also very stressful. Much of your time is dedicated to studying hard and trying to raise that GPA in hopes to continue our education or find a well-paying job in the future.

As a fourth (and final) year student completing my BA in Psychology, I feel – for the first time – I finally understand how to get a good firm grip on my university work load. I have managed to come up with three tips to help first year students or those already trooping through further years to manage and actually enjoy their time at university.

  • FIND A SOURCE OF MOTIVATION

It’s easy to get motivated come September. Everything is new and exciting for everyone. But what about October and November when those school commitments are screaming at you from every angle? I have found that when I keep my motivation up throughout the entire semester I am less likely to procrastinate on my work load. Motivation is different for everyone. Whether it be finding an inspirational quote to get your creative juices flowing, allowing yourself a piece of candy for every page your write in an essay or creating a collage of all your dreams for the future, motivation is key to getting you to classes and actually wanting to finish those 3000 pages of reading due for tomorrow.

  • LEARN TO LOVE ORGANIZATION

Due dates begin to pile up come October and especially November. The further along you get into your university semester, the harder and more time consuming the assignments become. I’m sure all of us university students out there have had the experience of lying down in bed and remembering that essay that is due at 9:00 tomorrow morning. We fly out of bed, make ourselves plenty of coffee and prepare for our third all-nighter to get that assignment finished. Agendas are like paper gold to me. At the beginning of a semester, I write down all the due dates for every course that I have. This ensures that I stay on top of these dates and allows me the opportunity to get ahead of them! Knowing which assignments are coming up and giving yourself ample time to complete them will reduce stress and increase grades, guaranteed! Our inner spell-check doesn’t work too well at 4:00 a.m.! So avoid those nightmares about school and get organized!

  • MAKE TIME FOR FRIENDS, FAMILY AND OVERALL FUN!

As much as school can overwhelm our schedule, too much study time can send students into a downward spiral. There comes a time where we have to put our books and laptops away, stop writing that major essay and just let loose! We need breaks from our school commitments to relax, rejuvenate and relaunch. So what does capital F.U.N. mean to you? For some it can be a night of dancing with friends, a Sunday dinner with the family or a relaxing evening with popcorn and a Netflix binge. For others it could be an exciting football game, curling up with a good book or just sleeping an afternoon away! Taking a break from responsibility and giving our brains the opportunity to go into shut down mode for a short period of time has always helped me to come back to my school assignments with a fresh set of eyes and a clear focused mind. Take the opportunity to have some fun and let’s help society avoid that zombie plague that everyone has been raving about. University students will be the first to turn!

You can do it university students! Get motivated, get organized and get loose! We have two more months to go until Christmas break, let’s get this semester rolling and off to a good start!

Jasmine Zyzniewski is a fourth and final year student completing her BA in Psychology with a minor in Peace and Conflict Transformation studies. She aims to normalize and contribute to mental health awareness through optimistic and positive reflections on herself and her surroundings. Alongside her studies, she loves DIY crafts, spending time with family and any good book she can get her hands on.

A Gratitude Letter to My Doctor

High Five!

Have you thanked your doctor lately? How about all those other really important people in your life, who truly contribute to your happiness and well-being.

My doctor just retired. It was a moment. She’s been my doctor since I moved to this city at the age of 27. She meant a great deal to me. I think I told her that in person, regularly. In posting it here, I am addressing it to doctors everywhere. I am also writing this here to inspire you to pause and appreciate those key people in your life.

 

Dear Doc:

Thank you. You make a difference.

I am sure your days are filled with people complaining, being impatient at having to wait, experiencing all kinds of anxiety at hearing a test result…and there you are, plugging away and greeting each of us like we are the first person you have seen that day.

I want you to know – in case I don’t say it often enough – you are very important to me. You are as valued as my friends are to me. You attend to me physically, and you also help me be better emotionally. Everything you say, and how you say it, makes a difference in my day. 

You greeted me as a new patient to you, who was also new to this city and to a brand new phase of my life. You gave me the news that I was expecting both of my children, and you cared for us through those pregnancies and all of the follow-up care. Even though you were no longer taking patients, you accepted my request to see my mother who was in the early stages of cognitive dementia and fearful of what was in store for her. You took on my daughter as a patient as she developed into womanhood, and you even allowed me to ask questions about her during my own appointments. You have allowed me to breathe easier when I found ‘something’, somewhere on my body, and you were able to put my mind to rest about that thing.

I hope you know – and always know – that you have added to my life in immeasurable ways. I will always remember you with fond thoughts.

You are not replaceable, but I hope I am able to find someone just like you. Someone who chose this career path because she or he had a passion for helping people continue to be better. Someone who is caring, kind, considerate and brutally honest when that is required! Someone who truly sees me, hears me. and values me as I will see, hear and value them.

Thank you, Doc! High Five to you!

Warm Regards, Deri

So, who can you send a letter to today?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com

The Gift of a Rainy Day

A Rainy Day Hangout

A Rainy Day Hangout

It can be a drag. You’ve been working hard all week and have been looking forward to a weekend of fun outdoors. After a week of commuting in blistering heat, you wake up on Saturday morning to cloud cover and a drizzly forecast. Groan.

It’s perfectly okay to be a bit bummed out. I mean, you had big plans for the day; sunbathing, gardening, going for a long walk in the park, a get-together with friends on a steamy deck enjoying great conversation over a cold drink or two.

Once you’ve given yourself permission to sulk a little, decide what opportunity this quick change in plans has provided to you. I think that sometimes the universe provides for us the very thing we need that we might not give to ourselves.

Here are a few ‘rainy day’ ideas:

  • Skip the shower and don your favourite ‘comfy’ clothes (no shaving, no make up, choose to go au natural!)
  • Enjoy your coffee and morning paper for an extra long time; read the sections you tend to skip when you are short on time.
  • Clean out those drawers that you have been thinking about for the last two (or ten) years. You may discover things long forgotten and thought long lost.
  • Pull out that craft/hobby/special project that you never get time to do on a ‘normal’ busy day off. Remember why you enjoy that activity.
  • Go through your photo albums and just enjoy the memory-filled ride. Pause and take yourself back to the time when the photo was taken. What emotions are attached to it? For what and whom are you grateful during that time in your life?
  • Snuggle under the afghan and watch movies – all day!
  • Sort the 1000+ photos still on your phone and send them off for processing or organize them into an on-line album. You’ll be so glad you did.
  • Play a board game (you still have some around, I bet!)
  • Write a gratitude letter to someone special in your life. Take your time.
  • Read a good book.
  • Phone your Mom (or Dad, or Aunt, or Sibling, or Good Buddy) – just to chat.
  • Meditate; you’ve always wanted to try it, right?
  • Play charades with the whole family; the kids, although hesitant at first (depending on their age) might just like it!
  • Take a nap – on the couch – or wherever you darn well feel like it!
  • Cook dinner together. Make everyone responsible for one part of the dinner. Make it a ‘no rules’ experience (i.e. start with dessert…in fact, it can be all dessert!!)
  • Cuddle with your partner; who knows what that might lead to… it’s all good for you at any stage of life!
  • Go outside! There is something vero relaxing about walking in the rain. If the temperature is warm, skip the umbrella!

I’d love to hear your rainy day ideas. What gift has a change in plans provided for you?

Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker and Author, Deri’s message reinforces that positive habits are the pathway to a happier and healthier life – at work, at home and at any age! www.derilatimer.com