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Ask a Therapist: On Getting Started

Q: I know that I am struggling mentally and emotionally but I don’t know what to do about it! Can you offer me some tips to help me get moving in the right direction?

A: I think we can all relate to that stuck feeling of overwhelm. I would encourage you to simply do the next right thing! Taking one step at a time feels manageable and that step will lead to another one on the pathway to greater mental health.  Here are some first step suggestions:


  1. Start to pay attention and attend to what you are noticing. So often we are sleepwalking through our lives and not fully present to ourselves. So, a great first step is to begin to create more awareness about what is happening in your mind, heart, and body.  Pause regularly to check in with yourself and take stock of what you notice.  If you can activate that curiosity and mindful observation about what is going on and name some of the things you are facing you can then take a step to do something to alleviate pain or pressure and begin to heal. Do you have an elevated heart rate? Take some controlled deep belly breaths. Is there tension in your neck? Bring your shoulders down and do some stretches or apply some heat or cold. Is everyone around you seemingly irritating? Give yourself permission to take a break and walk around the block. Are the tears close to the surface? Give them an outlet – a good cry is cathartic! Do you have intrusive negative or critical thoughts? Write them down in a journal and try to counter each thought with something more compassionate and true. Are you feeling exhausted? Take a nap. Once you notice and name it  you can begin to take specific action to help.
  2. Do something small that is just outside your comfort zone. Sometimes there are things we can do to stretch ourselves a little that can really make a difference to our mental health. Perhaps even reading this article is something you wouldn’t normally do but it is giving you a chance to think about things differently, to learn something new, or to provide a next step. Consider risking some vulnerability and open up to a trusted friend or family member to garner some social support. Try a yoga, mindfulness, or fitness class for the first time. Reach out to a spiritual mentor for a conversation or prayer. Perhaps try to journal to explore and process your thoughts or feelings. Talk to your doctor about your mental health challenges. Start by doing one simple thing that pushes you into new territory.
  3. Seek resources and/or professional help. There are so many great books, videos, and podcasts out there that can provide resources to help support you in this journey. There are an increasing number of apps that offer guidance through mental health tools or topics – like mindfulness, gratitude, and journaling – that you can download and start using right away to feel better. Talking to a therapist can be an integral step to get you on the right track with your mental health, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed, stuck, or isolated. You don’t have to do it alone.

Start with one simple action in the direction of your health and take the journey from there.  It is possible to start to feel better one small step at a time.

Covey Wellness Centre is located at 12 B Stone Street (behind Elmvale Dental Care) and our wellness bookshop is open to the public every day except Sundays.

Please visit CoveyWellnessCentre.com and submit the form on our Contact page to book an appointment or to inquire about our products and services. Be sure to follow us on Instagram (and Facebook) @coveywellnesscentre for the latest updates!

Stepparents and Stepchildren

The blended family is one of the most complicated set of relationships. Two people fall in love and eventually want to live together. One or both may have children, as well as exes. While every situation is different, much of what follows will be applicable.

It’s true that children should respect their elders and appreciate their parents. This is an area where parents may occasionally run into difficulty with their biological children, but the issue seems to become even more intense in the case of stepparents.

It is a touchy area, because most stepparents want to be liked and respected by their partner’s children. However, the step-parenting relationship is different than being a biological parent. You cannot demand to be treated in a particular way, because that will only exacerbate an already difficult situation.

If the children instinctively like you, respect and appreciation are generally not issues. Usually when they are, it is because of underlying tension between the stepparent and the stepchildren. Sometimes an ex-partner is resentful of the new spouse, and the children show their loyalty by being cool to the new partner.

Alternatively, the children may resent the newcomer, especially if they have had a period of time when they had Mom or Dad all to themselves. Sometimes the stepparent tries too hard to be a parent, to be accepted, or to have some control over the stepchild. This will create resistance in the child, who already has a Mom and a Dad, and does not want a second of either! It is so important to try to view the situation from the child’s perspective.

Most children want their parents to be together, and unless a parent is deceased, they do not necessarily want their parent to find a new partner. When the new person is introduced to the children, it is usually as Mommy or Daddy’s ‘friend’. They seem to be able to handle the idea of a friend. I think if stepparents thought of themselves as friends of the stepchildren, and acted that way, that a mutually respectful parenting relationship might evolve.

Before moving in together, it is important for both parents in the blended family to discuss how parenting will be handled. Accept that there will be different rules and expectations at the bio parent’s home. Do not try to “compensate” for what you feel is lacking. Changing what the child has grown up with because of a stepparent’s view is unfair to the children. If changes are introduced it should happen gradually, and quite a while after the blending. Otherwise, the stepparent will be blamed.

It is also important that children be involved in discussions about the role the new adult is to play

in their lives. Really listen to their concerns; this is a big change. If they are involved and have input in these discussions, they are more likely to co-operate. Blending a new family is an extremely delicate process, and so it is best to proceed slowly, gently, and with a willingness to be flexible.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit  www.gwen.ca. Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration. 

 Gwen Randall-Young Psychological Services Ltd. | Website: https://gwen.ca/

(780) 464-7005 | gwendall@shaw.ca

Gwen Randall-Young Psychological Services Ltd. | 439 Village Drive, Sherwood Park, AB T8A 4K1 Canada


Jo Knows Nutrition

Cherry Chocolate Loaf

Dark chocolate and sweet cherries make a great flavor combo, but add coffee (yes, coffee!) and this healthy loaf tastes even more delish. If you’re not a fan of almond flavouring in your baking, skip it and substitute with more vanilla extract instead.



  • 2 cups (500 ml) whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
  • 3/4 cup (188 ml) pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil or melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup (250 ml) brewed or instant coffee, cooled
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) almond extract or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract and no almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 eggs or 2 vegan chia eggs (i.e., mix 2 tablespoons (30 ml) chia seeds with 6 tablespoons (90ml) of water and let sit for 5 minutes before adding to the other ingredients)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) dairy milk or vegan milk (i.e., soy, almond, oat or coconut milk)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) dark chocolate chunks or chips
  • 3 cups (750 ml) fresh, pitted cherries or frozen cherries



  1. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).
  2. If using fresh, remove the pits from the cherries with a paring knife or cherry pitter.
  3. Grease a large loaf pan or 2 smaller loaf pans with vegetable oil, non-stick spray or line with parchment paper. The batter should only fill 3/4 of the pan for even cooking and to prevent spills when baking in the oven.
  4. If using chia eggs, prepare them now in a bowl and set aside.
  5. Blend together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.
  6. In another bowl combine the maple syrup, oil, coffee, vanilla and almond extract (if    using), lemon juice or vinegar, eggs or chia eggs, milk and dark chocolate.
  7. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a fork or whisk.
  8. Add the fresh or frozen cherries to the batter with minimal stirring.
  9. Pour the batter into your loaf pan(s) and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  10. Cool before serving.

Did You Know?

Cherries are low in calories and chock full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other good-for-you ingredients. Cherry season is coming so get ready for fresh, local, and affordable produce.

Although dark chocolate is high in calories and sugar, it does have some redeeming qualities. Dark chocolate contains vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants that are beneficial to heart health. Read your labels as you want to consume bars and chips with at least 70% dark chocolate. Just 1 ounce (30 grams) of dark chocolate per day will be nutritionally beneficial.


Submitted by: Joanne Nijhuis MSc, RD, a consulting and culinary dietitian in Simcoe Grey Bruce.

          www.joknowsnutrition.com                                           Instagram: jo_knows_nutrition


GBGH Expands Urology Services to Align With Community Needs

To further improve access to care closer to home, Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH) has expanded the urology services offered within its surgical and ambulatory care programs. This urology service expansion is part of the hospital’s surgical optimization plan to align its services with community needs and provide opportunities for patients to receive care in their home hospital.

Urology services at GBGH are provided by Dr. Tyler Gray and Dr. Derek Bos of Near North Urology (Orillia), who are performing urology procedures in the operating room once per month and the ambulatory care department on a weekly basis.

“It is very important local patients are able to receive their care within their home community whenever possible,” says Dr. Tyler Gray, urologist, GBGH. “By having urology services available at GBGH it means less travel, fewer logistics and it increases the likelihood that patients will follow-through with evaluation and treatment. An additional benefit for patients at GBGH is low wait times for surgical procedures. Patients’ urological procedures can be performed sooner while also having the comfort and ease of staying closer to home.”

In addition to the practice of Dr. Gray and Dr. Bos, the expansion of urology services has also been possible due to new equipment recently purchased by the hospital. New resectoscope trays and instrumentation has enabled the hospital to make one of the most significant changes in urology services – the addition of day surgery transurethral resections of the prostate (TURP). This procedure treats urinary issues caused by an enlarged prostate. TURP procedures are very common, but previously required an overnight stay in hospital due to GBGH’s aged equipment. This was problematic as GBGH usually runs overcapacity without vacant inpatient beds to accommodate these surgical patients. With the purchase of the new trays and instruments, the TURP can now be completed using different methods with less bleeding, fewer complications and no overnight stay required.

In addition to TURPs, GBGH offers a wide variety of other urological evaluations and procedures through its surgical and ambulatory care departments. These include evaluating and treating masses and pain, addressing urinary issues (retention, frequency, recurring infections), vasectomies, adult circumcision, erectile dysfunction, testicular removal (orchiectomy), and the consultation and management of prostate, bladder and kidney cancers.

To ensure other physicians in the community are aware of the urology services available to local patients at GBGH and how to refer patients, the hospital has contacted local family physicians and nurse practitioners (NP). Patients can ask their family physician or NP about the referral process to have their urology care completed at GBGH. In addition to urology, GBGH’s surgical and ambulatory care programs offer general surgery and specialty procedures, including orthopedic, ophthalmology, gynecology, urology and ear/nose/throat.

Data gathered by GBGH about patient patterns for surgical procedures indicates more than 3,700 local patients from Midland, Penetanguishene and the surrounding area are currently travelling elsewhere in Simcoe County, or outside the region, for procedures which could have been completed at GBGH. Specifically, only 22 per cent of local patients received their surgical care at GBGH with more than 40 per cent leaving Simcoe County entirely. This equates to more than 7,500 hours of time and 600,000 km in distance. Cutline: Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH) is improving access to care closer to home by expanding the urology services available at the hospital. Dr. Tyler Gray is one of two urologists practicing at GBGH on a weekly basis both in the surgical and ambulatory care programs. About GBGH: Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH) is a 113-bed acute care community hospital located in Midland, Ontario. The hospital offers emergency, ambulatory, acute, intensive and complex continuing care, as well as imaging, dialysis, obstetrical and rehabilitation services. GBGH serves the areas of Midland, Penetanguishene, Christian Island as well as Tay, Tiny, Springwater and Georgian Bay Townships.


SMDHU Provides Guidance on the Shortage of Some Hypoallergenic Infant Formulas

SIMCOE MUSKOKA – Due to supply issues in the United States, the availability of some hypoallergenic infant formulas in Canada is currently limited. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) has information about safe feeding alternatives for families impacted by the shortage.

Regular infant formulas are not impacted and only specialized hypoallergenic formulas (e.g., Alimentum, Pregestimil, Nutramigen, etc.) that are recommended for babies with severe or multiple allergies are affected by the shortage. Health Canada is working to reduce the effects of the situation and recommends that these specialized formulas only be used by babies and toddlers who require them.

Given the circumstances, some families may look for alternative sources of infant nutrition, and may benefit from the following information:

  • Homemade formulas are not recommended as they may not provide the proper balance of nutrients that infants need. They may also contain ingredients and allergens or be prepared in a manner that can result in contamination by harmful bacteria that cause serious illness.
  • Informal breastmilk sharing may have risks and infants who require hypoallergenic formulas may not be able to tolerate breastmilk. Sharing unprocessed breastmilk obtained from private sources is not recommended and has risks which can cause your baby to become ill, including contamination from allergens, viruses, bacteria, medications or drugs.
  • (Re)lactation may be an option for some families and parents should consult with their healthcare provider first about whether (re)lactation is an option and how to access help including intensive lactation consultation, including support from a nutritionist and/or registered dietitian.

If you use hypoallergenic infant formula and are unable to find it for purchase or have questions, contact your healthcare provider for information about alternative feeding solutions best suited to your child’s needs. Information about alternative feeding options is also available on the health unit website or by calling Health Connection weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520.

Additional resources may be found through Health Connect Ontario, which can be accessed online or by calling 811 to speak or chat online with a registered nurse or a lactation specialist. You can also call 211, a free helpline that connects you to community and social services in your area 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in over 150 languages.

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