Admin 04 Aug , 2021

Information gathered and prepared by A. Balind MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker, Portage Medical Family Health Team


Self-esteem is the way we feel about ourselves, the words we use to talk to ourselves and the beliefs that you have about ourselves.  Our self-esteem can change depending on the moment and the situations that we find ourselves in.  The good news is, we can work to strengthen our self-esteem to help increase our mood and reduce any anxiety or insecurities that we may have.

Low Self-Esteem
Here are some ways that someone may notice or feel if their self-esteem is low:

How you might think How you might feel How you might act
  • Critical thoughts about yourself, your abilities, or your future.
  • Worries that you won’t be able to cope or fearing the worst.
  • Thoughts that you are not good enough.
  • An image of yourself as ‘worthless’ or ‘lesser’.
  • Negative self-talk, e.g. “I am ugly”“I am boring”“I am stupid”.
  • Low
  • Sad
  • Deflated
  • Hopeless
  • Picked-on
  • Un-confident
  • Anxious
  • Tired
  • Not try, for fear that you will fail.
  • Try too hard to prove yourself / overcompensate.
  • Avoid people, places, or situations.
  • Criticize yourself.
  • Dwell on your failings.

What changes our self-esteem?
May things can have an impact on our self-esteem over a period of time.  The following are just a few examples:

  • Early childhood experiences– this can be the praise or neglect a person may have had as a child.The words that parents/guardians/supportive persons have a strong impact.
  • Other’s expectations– do people expect things of us or put pressure on us that we do not like or want.
  • Peer groups– Do the people we spend time with lift us up or push us down?
  • The praise, encouragement, praise and/or attention we receive – is there anyone in your life, including yourself, that provides this? Or only in a negative way?

What keeps our self-esteem going strong?
The beliefs that we have about ourselves and what we continue to tell ourselves can either increase or decrease our self-esteem.  When one’s beliefs about themselves are challenged, we tend to resort to some safety measures as follows:

  • Self-talk: try to speak kindly and gently to yourself. “next time I need to pay more attention so I don’t mess up”, “I did my best and I am proud!”
  • Rules that you set for yourself: make sure that you are 70-90% confident that you are able to meet the rules and goals that you set for yourself. If your confidence is not that high, change the rules and goals to meet that percentage.
  • Future thinking: try to recognize only certain outcomes and not all of the potential things that could happen. Plan for the good and the bad outcome.
  • Facing situations: make your best effort to deal with problems as they come up, it will keep your motivation high and stop the problem from getting out of control.
  • Friends/family: Surround yourself, when possible, with like-minded, supportive, positive people that care for you in the way that you care for them.

Movement “Medicine”

Admin 07 Jul , 2021

Information gathered and prepared by A. Balind MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker, Portage Medical Family Health Team

Mental health is something that we all have and that we all have to work on.  It is a state of well-being.   A great way to make sure that you have good mental health is if you enjoy life, feel that your life has a purpose and that your life has ups and downs.  Some people think that having strong mental health means that you are happy all of the time.  This is not true and unrealistic.  Having control over your mental health means that you are able to experience all emotions, even the difficult ones from time to time.

Moving your body regularly can help to improve your mental health.  Many people have heard of “runner’s high”, which is a state of happiness people may feel after a long run.  The good news is, you do not have to run to get this good feeling. Going for a walk, doing jumping jacks, playing with a pet or taking the stairs can give you the same good feelings.  Any activity that is going to get your heart beating and increase your breathing will help to improve your mood if you are feeling sad, nervous, worried or just numb.

Science has shown that for people with Anxiety and/or depression exercise and movement can reduce your symptoms.  In fact, it can boost your mood after only 10-15minutes of activity! However, you don’t need to have depression or anxiety to find the benefit from this.  We all need to work on keeping well, both physically and mentally; some regular movement can make a big difference!

Why Stretch?

Admin 02 Jun , 2021

Information gathered and prepared by A. Balind, MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker Portage Medical Family Health Team


            Do you stretch?  Often people forget to stretch, do not stretch properly, or do not understand when or why they should stretch.  Stretching daily along with before and after exercise is important for people for the following reasons:

  • to prevent getting hurt
  • recovery from injury
  • lower stress
  • increase flexibility
  • keep the range of motion in joints
  • keep muscles long and lose

It is also important to understand how to stretch properly.  Here are some helpful tips to make sure you are stretching properly:

  • move at a comfortable speed
  • do not tug or bounce
  • hold stretches for between 10-30 seconds each
  • stop your stretch once you feel tightness in that muscle
  • if it hurts, stop- it should feel good
  • do not hold your breath- counting out loud can help to make sure you’re breathing properly
  • stretch all muscles in the body- large and small

Knowing which stretches to do and what will be helpful for you can be tricky.  Speaking with your doctor or health care provider may be helpful.  They may give you stretches to try or refer you to a Physiotherapist.  The internet can help to show you stretches to try and how to do them safely as well.  Here are some helpful websites:


The Portage Medical Family Health Team staff will be happy to help you learn or find more information about stretching and exercise.  Just ask us!



Leading a Balanced Lifestyle for Self-Care

Admin 09 Apr , 2021

Information gathered and prepared by H. Wiens MSc., RP.
Registered Psychotherapist Portage Medical Family Health Team



What is self-care and why does it matter? Self-care includes all the things you do to take care of your well-being in four essential dimensions, which include emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual health. Each of these dimensions is achieved by making the addition of the following components to daily life: hobbies, career, partner, education, physical activity, children, community activity, reward system for the self, social structure, spirituality, support groups, and extended family. Self-care is essential for managing stress, emotions and preventing burnout.

Hobbies:  A hobby is an activity that explores our creative side as we learn to cook, bake, paint, take photographs, play a musical instrument, or engage in any other arts and crafts. This not only provides pleasure but also cultivates self-esteem as we discover ourselves in the type of activity we choose to pursue. It gives us something fun to do during our leisure time and allows us to learn new skills as well as relieve stress by keeping engaged in something we enjoy. The best way to cultivate a hobby is to try something new. The world is full of activities that we can explore and adopt as our own. Once we find a hobby that we truly enjoy and are passionate about, we become hooked. It becomes part of our lives and captivates us in a very personal way.

Career:  Choosing a satisfying career plays an important role in determining life satisfaction. Online resources such as interest inventories and aptitude tests assist with career exploration. Selecting the right career provides meaning and purpose when learning new skills, which lead to achievements that in turn build self-esteem and confidence.

Partner: Cultivating a nurturing relationship with a partner extends life by as much as eight years. Create satisfaction by planning quality time together, accept each other’s differences, cultivate an atmosphere of appreciation, do loving acts of kindness, and have realistic expectations.

Education: For personal or professional development, you may wish to learn something new regularly to nurture your intellect, which helps diminish the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s as new synapses within the brain are being created. You may choose from any topic that is of interest to you from history, to biographies, politics, keeping up with world events, learning a new recipe, a language, playing a musical instrument, do it yourself projects, or any type of arts and crafts.

Physical activity: Exercise is a main component of wellbeing, longevity, and mental health. Thirty minutes of daily activity acts as an antidepressant as the brain creates serotonin that makes you feel good, as well as dopamine that motivates you to complete your workout and any other tasks you may have planned for the day. Weight-bearing exercises diminish the risk for osteoporosis and build muscle mass, which is the furnace that burns calories to prevent weight gain. Cardiovascular exercises, which are exercises that are done at a pace in which you would have difficulty having a conversation, strengthen the heart muscle, and circulates blood and oxygen to all organs for optimum functioning. Research has shown that cardiovascular exercise diminishes the risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Children: As parents it is important to carve out time for family life, as well as scheduling time with each child, to develop individual relationships, and create secure attachments. For others that do not have children, mentorship and support may be provided to our extended families, neighbors, our friends’ children, or through community programs such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada.

Community activity: Volunteering provides a sense of purpose and meaning and provides perspective when donating one’s time, resources or contributing to an organization financially. This provides an opportunity to make meaningful connections with others, which counteracts stress, depression, and anxiety.

Reward system for the self: Eating a balanced diet of five to eight handfuls of fruit and vegetables, as well as the size of a deck of cards of protein daily provides the body with the nutrition it requires to maintain cell function, brain chemistry, as well as muscle mass and bone density for optimum physical and emotional health. Seven to nine hours of sleep allows the body to repair, rebuild and detoxify. Keeping the body hydrated with six to eight glasses per day provides the liquid needed to transport oxygen to cells, cleanse the vascular system, helps joints and muscles remain flexible, and increases concentration and overall energy. Planning fun daily allows the body and mind to take a break from the tasks of daily life, for an opportunity to become refreshed with a rewarding and pleasurable activity.

Social structure: Having plans to get together with a friend or a group of friends provides that sense of anticipation as we have something to look forward to. Having fun, sharing hardships, and having individuals that have been a part of your life creates community and a chosen family. Research has indicated that this is significant in reducing the risk for heart disease, as being in the presence of friends diminishes stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in the bloodstream. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we can maintain these friendships via social media platforms or meeting with safety protocols in place.

Spirituality: Research indicates that those that believe in something greater than themselves have fewer incidences and shorter bouts of depression and anxiety. It provides a sense of community and assists in providing support in life’s most difficult moments, as well as answering existential questions such as the purpose and meaning of life and the process of transitioning into the afterlife. Having a relationship with a higher power via prayer or meditation, reading books that nurture your faith, and joining a faith community will connect you with your essence and provide you with purpose and meaning.

Support groups: During life’s most difficult moments such as when we have encountered the loss of a loved one, a job, or transitioning into a new phase of life, it is helpful to seek out the assistance from a group of people that are also going through similar life experiences. Listings of specific types of groups can be located by contacting In Communities (211) or online at

Extended family: Staying in touch with relatives does not mean we have to agree with their religious or political views but instead allows for a sense of belonging and stability by discovering our cultural identities and histories, to find a sense of appreciation, not only for others but how we came to be who we are.

Developing each of these categories is a life’s journey into self-discovery towards a balanced lifestyle for physical and emotional wellbeing. Have fun developing each of these categories into something meaningful and beneficial to you, that allows for individuality and self-expression, and that is flexible to ever-evolving and changing needs. Enjoy the process of creating the life that you envision for yourself!


Additional Resources:

How to Reduce Your Screen Time

Admin 01 Apr , 2021

Information gathered and prepared by A. Balind MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker, Portage Medical Family Health Team

How much time reading or watching the news is too much? How do you know when you have been properly informed?

These questions are often asked and there are no simple solutions; no “one size fits all” exists in this area.  A good way to recognize you have been spending too much time focusing on the media or social media is your anxiety levels.  Typically, experiencing difficulties and of the following can identify increased anxiety:

  • Uncontrollable worry
  • No longer taking part in hobbies, work or activities with family/friends
  • Difficulties with sleep
  • Changes to eating habits
  • Feelings of panic

It is best to speak with your health care provider if you are experiencing these symptoms.  With so much happening in the world right now and news changing rapidly it is important to stay informed.  However, it is also necessary to know how much exposure is too much for you. If you believe these warning signs are related to the amount of time you spend on social media or reading/watching the media here are a few tips to help slow down your use:

  1. Set a time for media sources: outline an hour or less once to three time each day to review media sources. It may be beneficial to set a time to make sure you do not go past the time you have designated to this.  Having specific time carved out each day to revie media sources will allow you to be informed without becoming overwhelmed.
  2. Lock Apps on your phone: there are many different apps that will allow you to choose when you want to be able to access media sources during the day and when it is best that they are kept out of reach. Some of these have a charge for their use while others are free.  Searching “lock apps” wherever you buy/download your apps will give you all of your options.
  3. Turn off notifications: by going into the settings on your phone or computer, you are able to select which apps send you notifications. Turning off the notifications from social media and other media outlets may help to divert your attention to other things.
  4. Practice a hobby: finding another way to occupy your time can help to limit your media use. It is common that people grow in and out of their interests; having many different activities that you enjoy can help to distract you and hold your attention.  Examples are: puzzles, paint by numbers, woodworking, photography, baking/cooking, reading, video games, listening to/playing music, etc.
  5. Lean on a family or friend: accountability is important when starting or breaking a habit. Asking someone you trust to ask you about or point out when you have been spending a great deal of time watching or reading the news or social media may help to change the time you spend.
  6. Find more balance in your life: make sure you are eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly. Often times we find ourselves using large periods of time on things that are not healthy for us when our life is out of balance.  Make a healthy routine for yourself and do your best to stick to it.
  7. Reward yourself: this may seem childish and silly, but there is a reason why it works. Treating yourself for finding other ways to spend your time will result in positive feelings, which is something that we all enjoy.  As a result, we will associate positive emotions with time away from social media and news sources making it more likely that it will continue to be avoided in the future.  Rewards or treats can be anything that you enjoy and contributes to your mental and physical health. It can have a cost associated with it or it can be free.  Examples are: taking a bath, having a special snack, putting on a face mask, buying a new item for a hobby, enjoying a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate, taking some time for yourself to relax, etc.

Understanding Grief in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Admin 08 Feb , 2021

Resources gathered by Wendy Bulthuis MSW, RSW, Clinical Social Worker
Portage Medical Family Health Team

Understanding Grief in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Covid 19 Pandemic has been and continues to be a period of time that is marked by both collective and individual loss.  It can be hard and a little scary to turn toward our own experiences of loss, as well as acknowledging the losses of people that we care about.  The following resources provide some guidance in paying attention to this important human experience.  When we are able to name the feelings and reactions associated with loss we can begin to understand the steps we can take to heal ourselves and each other.

Grief in the Age of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Grief can be a reaction to events other than death.

Types of losses:
Loss of a job
Loss of social connection
Loss of or harm to relationships
Academic loss
Loss experienced by health care providers
Loss of rituals and routines
Loss of mental health support



Understanding Grief Reactions to Guide Healing

Grief reactions can include:

  • shock, disbelief and confusion
  • anger
  • trouble concentrating and focusing on tasks
  • altered patterns of eating and sleeping
  • physical changes such as dizziness, headaches or upset stomach
  • sadness and yearning
  • memories and thoughts about who or what has been lost
  • withdrawing from usual activities.

Only by acknowledging the grief we’re going through can we take steps to heal

Center for Mindful Self-Compassion:

Self-Compassion Practices for COVID 19:
Guided Meditations and Exercises:

Relaxation Strategies

Admin 20 Jan , 2021

Information gathered and prepared by H. Wiens MSc., RP.
Registered Psychotherapist Portage Medical Family Health Team


Taking just a few moments each day to practice some deep breathing exercises, coupled with mantras and imagery, relaxes the mind and body in the following ways:

Increases energy level: As the body is being oxygenated, this provides additional energy and improves the function of every gland, muscle and organ.

Improves posture: As the lungs are filled to full capacity the spine is lengthened.

Activates the parasympathetic nervous system: Deep breathing signals to the nervous system that all is well, which decreases heart and respiration rate and stabilizes blood pressure, which rests and repairs the body and decreases anxiety and depression.

Improves concentration, memory and decision-making: In a state of calmness, the blood to the brain reaches its optimal supply, which improves concentration and the encoding of memory.

Natural painkiller: When you breathe deeply, the body releases endorphins, which relaxes muscles

Improves digestion: Breathing deeply increases the blood flow to the intestines to improve digestion.

Stimulates lymphatic and circulatory system: Deep breathing allows the lymphatic and circulatory system to work more efficiently in detoxifying the body.

Reduces inflammation: Deep breathing reduces the acidity in the body making it more alkaline thereby decreasing inflammation.

Oxygenates and detoxifies the body: Deep breathing detoxifies as the exhalation releases carbon dioxide, while the inhalation oxygenates glands and organs.

Websites for additional information:


Emotional Wellness Throughout the Holiday Season

Admin 10 Dec , 2020

Information gathered and prepared by A. Balind MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker, Portage Medical Family Health Team

Emotional Wellness Throughout the Holiday Season

There is so much to do at this time of year, that it’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed by it and let anger, frustration, and stress begin to build.  This season looking very different does not help. Making use of and practicing coping skills is essential at this time of year.  Here are a few suggestions that you may wish to try in the coming days and weeks in order to have a meaningful, joyous, and manageable holiday season.

1. Learn to say “No” to others and yourself

  • Prepare a budget for your holiday spending and do not go over it. You don’t have to overspend on gifts, trying to buy the perfect one for each person. Try a card with a special message or something homemade.
  • We often feel a lot of pressure to spend the holidays loved ones but, making sure everyone is healthy and safe. When it is time to attend gatherings and parties, set a definite number to attend and be sure to maintain social distancing and wear a mask when possible. Send out sincere apologies for any events that will have to be missed.
  • Listen and give empathy to each family/friend you speak to about their needs and concerns about the holidays. Everyone is in a different place right now and that is okay. Try and find solutions that everyone is comfortable with and validate how someone is feeling before you give suggestions or solutions.
  • Forget traditions and take a serious look at the holiday practices that you may struggle to maintain. Decide which are not worth the mental, emotional, and physical effort they require. Perhaps begin new and more manageable traditions that surround the most important things and people in your life.

2. Learn to say “Yes”- Do not hesitate to accept help

  • Lean on others for support. A network of close friends and family can help you keep things in perspective. Accept help as it is offered and do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
  • One good way to put things into perspective is to volunteer some of you time and energy into a worthy cause. It takes the focus off of you and any holiday anxieties. You can benefit from knowing you are making a difference and doing something that matters.

3. Assign one hour for yourself

  • Treat yourself to something special. It does not have to be anything that cost a great deal of money, but it should be something that includes relaxation and enjoyment. Schedule this time in your calendar and stick to it.  Your mind and body will thank you.

4. Think of different ways to safely spend time with family and friends

  • Connect over social media (Facebook, Zoom, FaceTime, etc.) and play games, decorate a tree or have an ugly sweater party.
  • Send/safely deliver packages to family/friends with cookies to decorate or a craft to make. This can also be done over a video chat together!

5. Talk with family and friends about delaying the holidays

  • It may not be traditional but, making the decision to delay get together and visits until it is safe to do so. It may be exciting and fun to have a summer Christmas! Warm weather is not something we get at Christmas in Canada!
  • Prepare family members of changes to traditions early. Give everyone time to understand their feelings and plan their holidays. This is very important for children so they can realize that it is not their fault that the holidays will be different this year and that they will still be fun!

Change your thoughts to transform your life!

Admin 24 Nov , 2020

Information gathered and prepared by H. Wiens, MSc., RP.
Registered Psychotherapist, Portage Medical Family Health Team

Change your thoughts to transform your life!

What are cognitive distortions and how can I change these thought patterns?

I just know I didn’t do well with my job interview, so no one will hire me”
I didn’t get invited. No one likes me.
I have a headache, it must be cancer.

These are all prime examples of cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are biased perspectives we may have about ourselves and the world around us. They are irrational thoughts and beliefs that we unknowingly reinforce over time. But if they’re reinforced often enough, they can increase anxiety, deepen depression, cause relationship difficulties, and lead to a host of other complications.

Research suggests that cognitive distortions originate as a means of the brain trying to make sense of stressful life events. In the distant past, when we resided within hunter and gather societies, it was adaptive at that time to be hypervigilant to threat. Thank goodness we no longer have to be on the lookout for predators but the brain may continue to have a negative bias. To alleviate this negative bias, it is helpful to become conscious of the thought process to identify the thought distortions. Thought distortions are tendencies of thinking or believing that are false or inaccurate and have the potential to cause psychological harm.

There are fourteen thought distortions that we can alter by first becoming conscious of the thought process to then find alternative explanations and counter evidence to the presenting scenario, worry or concern.

  • All or nothing: Viewing situations in extremes, as being all white or black.
  • Overgeneralization: Utilizing the words “always or never” to suggest a never ending pattern of defeat.
  • Mental filter: Dwelling on the negatives and ignoring the positives of the situation.
  • Disqualifying the positive: So focused upon the negative that we can no longer perceive positive qualities or accomplishments.
  • Jumping to conclusions: Making a negative assumption about a situation.
  • Magnifying and Minimizing: Blowing things out of proportion by magnifying the negatives of the situation and minimizing what is going well.
  • Emotional reasoning: Believing thoughts to be true based upon how one feels but feelings are not a fact.
  • Should and must statements: Statements that indicate an unrealistic expectation of ourselves or others.
  • Labeling: Labels occur when we fail to examine the context of a situation thereby believing that the label is a complete representation of the self or others.
  • Personalization: Assuming responsibility for others’ behaviours or circumstances outside of one’s control.
  • Catastrophizing: Imagining the worst case scenario.
  • Mind reading: Assuming that others are making negative evaluations of you.
  • Tunnel vision: Only focusing on the negative aspect of a situation instead of stepping back and looking at the bigger picture.
  • Fortune telling: Predicting doom and gloom in the future.

Steps to changing your thoughts:

  • Become conscious of the thought process to identify troubling situations in your life.
  • Identifying the thought distortions.
  • Identify rationale thoughts by examining alternative explanations. To illustrate, instead of believing the person is ignoring you, consider that instead they may not have seen you or are not feeling well.
  • Identify counter evidence. For example: “I am stupid” is replaced with counter evidence, “I am intelligent and creative.”
  • Counter evidence can become positive self-affirmations reviewed daily by writing down the names of those within your support system, achievements, compliments, and things that you are grateful for.
  • Writing three things that you are grateful for nightly amplifies the positive changes to brain chemistry and its neural circuitry.
  • For lasting results, get into the practice of monitoring and challenging your thoughts.

Helpful website links: