One of the best things about Susan Jackson’s online gym: Island SWEAT FITNESS is that the classes are for anyone and everyone! There really are no restrictions or requirements. You can be at any fitness level and you don’t have to have your camera on if you don’t feel like it. Bringing the entire family is also highly encouraged. Susan offers a huge range of classes right now, like Tabata HIIT training, step fitness, dance fitness, spin and cycle, pro accessible chair yoga, traditional flow yoga, restorative yoga, yin yoga, breathwork, full-body stretching and meditation. The reason why Susan is so adamant about having this huge scope of classes is that emotions and feelings come at such a large spectrum, and depending on how you are feeling that week, she wanted to ensure she would be able to hit as many marks as possible. As emotions change, different types of movements are just needed, and she knows one type of exercise cannot do that for many people. These exercises create mindfulness and self-awareness that certain ways of working out can often hinder. Susan and other instructors at Island SWEAT FITNESS promote the idea that it’s not about being perfect, but about having a unique, motivational experience that feels fun and right for you!
Affordable Payment & Accessible Registry
On their official website, you can see each workout class description, the instructors, payment options and it is made easy to navigate by keeping all of this on one main landing page. Susan and the other instructors recognize that her classes and programs are a huge outlet for people’s mental health, which means she wants to keep it as affordable and accessible for as many people to be able to attend and better themselves. With that, she offers a promo of the first class for only $5, regular drop-ins at $10 and unlimited monthly passes at around $50-60. She knows that any other boutique gym like hers would charge way more than that, but because she is solely online, she knows she has less overhead costs and can keep everything very accessible. She will often find herself being charitable by offering random free classes or pay by donation to make it even more accessible. The pandemic has changed so many people’s income situations, and with mental health resource accessibility already being a problem for many, she changes that narrative at Island SWEAT FITNESS.
Instructors, Caribbean Focus & Community
Despite featuring mainly all-female Caribbean heritage instructors and being adamant about only playing Caribbean cultural music in their classes, Island SWEAT FITNESS is for every gender, age and ethnicity of individuals. Susan’s goal is to properly represent the Caribbean culture through her online gym, and using her heritage music is a unique form of therapy and sense of identity that she believes should be widely shared in a proper way. Music and art forms as a means for bettering mental health is a primary focus for Susan and why she feels it unites her classes and community rather than promoting just one ideal.
By ensuring all of her instructors are adamant on intentional movement for bettering mental health through a mix of culture, music and education of her Caribbean roots, they have built an incredible online community. Throughout the month of February they saw all kinds of ethnicities when it came to clients, which just goes to show how inviting the atmosphere is. Susan’s hope is to just create a space that feels safe and inclusive for all. While only playing Caribbean music may come off as only representing one ethnicity, she actually feels the total opposite on this. The Caribbean is a melting pot of ethnicities, and she herself is mixed from multiple backgrounds, so her intent was to create a universal party that everyone could escape and feel like they belong. By doing so, Susan feels like she is making the right steps in ending mental health stigma, especially the way she grew up with it deeply rooted in her Caribbean culture and heritage.
How Susan Maintains Her Own Wellness Right Now
Susan is incredibly busy, and despite Island SWEAT FITNESS being her passion project, she also has a full-time job where she works from home and has a seventeen-year-old son to look after. With mental health being her main priority in all of this, Susan is adamant about prioritizing herself when it is necessary; setting her boundaries and knowing her capacity. Learning to say no has been her biggest saving grace, and knowing that saying no does not mean she will be losing out on any great and important opportunities has helped. When self-care comes first, she can better maintain her space and manage her deadlines. A lot of people don’t realize how much these factors can impact one’s mental health either. Having the capacity to say ‘no’ and ‘I can’t’ is totally okay, and creates a much better dynamic in her family when she does this. Her son is always helping her set up her classes and in turn, she makes sure he is getting exercise so that both of them are prioritizing their health and needs.
Susan’s Role Model For Motivation & Inspiration
When it comes down to someone that inspires and motivates Susan, she said she does not have just a single one. What has really helped her most is the surge of plus size and body positive trainers making their mark on social media and in the fitness industry. It’s these individuals that Susan finds she can resonate with most. When it comes to one influencer, she is really inspired by Camilla Greene. She does not let her size prevent her from pushing through and doing the kinds of exercises she loves. Camilla owns her body and her movement, which is Susan’s ultimate goal as well. She resonates with the idea of using movement to feel happy, strong and not for obtaining one ideal body type. Susan feels that more people need to be promoting this kind of well-being for bettering mental health through exercise. Camilla ultimately promotes an essence of happiness that is very relatable to Susan and hopes to embody her mentality when it comes to her online gym and bettering herself.
Final Words of Encouragement
Susan is adamant about the fact that you do not have to be perfect or have it all together to be happy. No matter where you are mentally, physically and emotionally, you are worthy of having happiness in your life and access to great mental health resources. Everyone has good and bad days, and really that’s a part of life. Ultimately if you do what makes you happy and keep chasing it, you don’t have to apologize to anyone about who you are and the positivity of your self-worth will come through.
At Elpizo Counselling Services we wanted to say a big congratulations to Susan on her efforts with Island SWEAT FITNESS and how grateful we are to her for sharing her inspiring story. We can’t wait to see where her journey with health and wellness for mental health takes her, and we are so proud of all the unique achievements her online gym has done for others as a mental health resource. Susan’s community, focus and drive for changing the stigmas around mental health are so important, and we know she is going to do some great things with her project.
Read more about Susan’s own journey with mental health issues in Elpizo Connect Magazine.
The body is designed to automatically react to danger. By simply thinking of a stressful situation the body can trigger a “fight-or-flight” response. Fight-or-flight is an instinctual/sudden surge in strength providing an individual with the ability to either powerfully engage (fight) or to quickly flee (flight) from a threat. Just as you would jump upon hearing a sudden loud noise, the instant that your brain detects apparent danger your heart rate will involuntarily increase; pumping blood to your muscles. Muscle tension will boost strength, while heavy breathing will allow for greater oxygen intake, enabling endurance. This is essentially what anxiety is. It is the body reacting to a perceived threat.
The brain in fight-or-flight mode can be compared to a parent telling a child to run out of a burning house. When the child tries to understand what is happening and questions the parent, the parent says, “Run now, ask later.” Similarly, your ability to logically assess and to respond to a situation is severely compromised when a threat is sensed, as your body immediately responds to ensure survival, before your mind does. Hence, it may not always be possible to think your way out of an intense emotional reaction in the moment, even if you know that the threat is in your mind. So what can you do to calm down and to help get your nerves under control when experiencing anxiety?
When you are feeling anxious you should conduct yourself as if you are not anxious – even when alone. Any outward action signifying that you are not in mortal danger will send signals to the brain that the threat has past. Which in turn will elicit the body’s natural ability to settle down and to self-regulate. The logic is simple; if a bear where to be running after you, you would not sit down to have a picnic. In other words, anything that you do, that you would not do when faced with mortal danger will help to calm you down.
It’s important to figure out what specific action calms you down and raises your state of mind when you are feeling anxious. For some exercise works, for others it’s gardening, cooking, cleaning or getting into a daily routine. Many find that fresh air and consciously slowing down their breathing is helpful, while others feel that listening to music is particularly soothing. Alternative ways to help relax your nerves include reading, writing or unwinding in your favorite chair with a warm drink or a snack.
Our Grief & Loss Sessions were sold out, but we wanted to provide a summary of the key takeaways for those who were not able to attend. We recognize why this is currently our most popular session right now with COVID-19, and it’s why we started our Community Connect program in the first place. The amount of grief and loss people are experiencing is definitely overwhelming, so we hope this blog can be a way for you to still gain valuable experience from our important sessions.
This blog helps define grief and what it may look like for individuals during this pandemic, and provides some useful tips on how one can manage their grief or loss. Let’s get started!
The first thing to understand about grief is that it’s a response to loss. We often associate grief primarily to the loss of a loved one, however, it can be triggered by any loss of something that is meaningful to an individual, such as a relationship, a job, loss of health, loss of environment due to a move. This global pandemic has especially impacted individuals with unexpected losses that were meaningful to one’s life. It’s okay to still be grieving this type of loss.
Grief is a highly individual experience and as such, the process and the ways to cope must also be individual. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, however, there are some helpful ways to deal with grief. Certain ways will resonate more with some than others. It’s about implementing those you feel will help you through the process.
Here are six helpful tips on how to manage your grief and loss:
- Be kind to yourself and acknowledge your pain. There is no time limit on this but things do get better.
- Know that you are not alone. The people who care about you want to be there and help. They may not know how. Tell them.
- Understand that many different and sometimes unexpected emotions will emerge during your grief journey. Accept these as they are a healthy part of the process.
- Continue to take care of yourself physically. A healthy body is better equipped to deal with emotional upset.
- Engage in spiritual activities and draw support from your faith.
- Seek out ways to honour that which you are grieving. For example, if you’ve lost a loved one, write them a love letter. If you’ve lost your job, write in a journal what you loved about it and what you hope for your next job.
While this may not be the virtual session you were wanting to attend, we hope this blog can still provide you with some important insights and understandings on these difficult emotions that so many people are experiencing right now. This blog is a great starter point, and you can always book an individual session with one of our professionals to manage your grief and loss. We are still offering lots of dates for our Beyond the Blues and Stress Balance sessions, so be sure to register in advance to reserve your spot!
It’s almost Valentine’s Day, which means you may be feeling some pressure to make the day memorable or work on improving your relationship this month. If you are single, you may be feeling extra lonely without as much connection and interactions with the people you care about in your daily life. With this global pandemic, we know how much our individual and partner relationships may be struggling with these challenges. Trying to balance these feelings around the holiday dedicated to appreciating your relationship or yourself may be hard, but we have some tips we want to share to help aid the overwhelming feelings so you can focus on growing whether you are in a relationship or single!
For The Singles
First, here are the five best things about being single right now:
- Opportunity to know yourself, recognize your personal strengths and celebrate your independence.
- Time and freedom to accomplish the things in life you want without having to consider someone else’s schedule, hopes and dreams. Use it wisely.
- The positive outlook that you still have the opportunity to choose your mate. The world is your love oyster.
- You can cultivate your friendships and build these to have life-long lasting power.
- You learn to love yourself first and only then can you love someone else and receive their love effectively.
February is a great time to learn about love languages, whether you are with someone or working on improving yourself!
Do you ever think about how you show love and how you like to receive love? Most people show their love and affection for their partner in the same way they like to receive it as we make an inherent assumption that everybody wants to be shown love in the same way we do. In his book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman (2015) identified five key ways that people like to be shown love. Take this love languages quiz and ask your partner to do the same! You can share the quiz with your friends or family if you are currently single to feel more connected during the holiday Discuss your results so that each of you knows how best to show your love for the other!
And remember…hold on when you get love, and let go when you give it (Millan, Seligman, Cranley, McGee, Campbell, 2012).
For The Couples
This pandemic has definitely changed the way quality time can be spent with a person. This Valentine’s Day is no different, but we have some tips that may help spark some inspiration and ease on how to connect with your partner and grow in your new situations!
Here are some tips for relationships struggling with distance:
- Plan a romantic phone call or video chat with your favourite dessert and drink nearby
- Share three things you love and appreciate about your significant other
- Talk about something you both would be excited to do once you reunite
- Share your favourite memory together
- Let them know you miss them, and that you can’t wait to see them when it’s safe to do so!
Here are some tips for relationships struggling with being in close proximity:
- Plan a relaxing alone time activity for your significant other to show your appreciation
- This could be a candlelit bath, grabbing them their favourite book and meal, or giving them time to wind down in the comfiest part of your living area
- You can find a way to get out of your space by spending time outside together on a walk, in the park or supporting any local spots that are open right now
- Doing this small gesture of allowing them to relax and recharge with their favourite things is an excellent way to show you care and love them!
Do you fight with your partner to win? Or do you fight to seek understanding and resolve the issue?
When someone is addressing a problem, it can be easy to hear the language they are using as a direct attack or criticism. In those moments, we often stop hearing what they are saying and jump into “defensive” mode whereby we’re formulating our response in our head and not listening. Our defensive mode can additionally lead to offensive responses all of which creates a negative communication cycle. Nobody feels heard or understood, leading to added frustration and no resolution.
Effective conflict resolution begins with effective communication. We must listen to each other attentively, ensure we’ve understood correctly, and respond with honesty and kindness. Doing so will allow each other to be vulnerable in a safe environment where collaboration can occur to resolve the issue.
“Communication leads to understanding leads to collaboration.” (L. B. Pearson).
It can be easy to get caught up in the issues, anxieties and pressures of Valentine’s Day whether you are in a relationship or single. However, during this global pandemic, the most important test has demonstrated that showing love and care for your partner or yourself is what matters most! Prioritizing these relationships right now might seem daunting, but it’s more manageable than you think, and it can start with something as simple as these tips we’ve laid out!
Every person can benefit from some form of support in their lives, but a lot of people lose out on the opportunity by not knowing the full potential and values that come along with taking that first step.
At Elpizo Counselling Services, our Community Connect virtual programs are dedicated to providing accessible services that can bring comfort and ease to any person, and more importantly, add value to overall well being. Group support meetings are the perfect way to introduce a no strings attached method of seeking help and relief for tons of issues that are more common than you think!
Here are 5 valuable reasons to consider trying one of our support groups:
- Group atmosphere is laid back, comfortable and a no pressure commitment
- Connect, listen, and exchange with others who are experiencing the same struggles
- Free opportunity to test out counselling services and methods
- No anxiety or fear of sharing your struggles with people in your personal life
- Judgement free zone with realistic and manageable ways to incorporate support
Our support groups are relevant and applicable to all kinds of situations, homes and lives that have been negatively disrupted by COVID-19. The goal of these sessions is to provide guidance and support during these uncertain times and to demonstrate how harmless it is to seek and find the help you need.
There is so much to gain from our Community Connect support groups than just these 5 reasons. Just know that whatever struggle you are going through matters, and that you aren’t alone.
Take that first step in seeking support by checking out our Stress Balance and Beyond the Blues Community Connect sessions happening throughout February and March!
It is natural for feelings of anxiety to increase during this challenging time – no-one likes uncertainty. Fitness and self-care is important at the best of times, so it becomes even more important when we are under higher than normal levels of stress.
Here’s some things that might help:
- Create a list of things that make you feel good and keep it handy. Sometimes it’s hard to think of ideas in the moment.
- Put together a ‘coping box’ that addresses all of your senses, it may include things like: a scented candle, some chocolate or herbal tea, some calming music, something soft and cuddly, photos of loved ones… Then it will be ready for whenever you need it.
- Share self-care/keep fit ideas with friends and family, or your Facebook groups and social networks; someone may have a great idea that you haven’t thought of.
- Keep a gratitude journal. There are always things to be grateful for, even if it is just the smell of bread baking (which is all the rage in quarantine I hear).
Do you have ideas and suggestions you’d like to share? Please add them in the comments below. You may just help someone find a new joy.
Earlier this month our very own Ruth Bahh-Gyebi was welcomed onto the The Good Health Cafe podcast hosted by Nikita Boston-Fisher to talk about how COVID-19 has impacted mental health, how to offer support and what the therapy experience is like.
The Good Health Cafe podcast’s goal is to give you tips on how to navigate the healthcare system and easily understand other matters of public health. As we know, the healthcare systems and public health can be pretty confusing with different terminology used and The Good Health Cafe podcast aims to bridge that gap.
In an interview before the podcast, Gyebi and Fisher discussed how to prioritize your mental health during the pandemic. Below are some fantastic tips that Gyebi gave to help your mental health this year, that you can try while stuck at home during the lockdown.
- Try new things – candle making, arts and crafts from the dollar store and podcasting are all things that I tried for the first time this year.
- Take breaks – take a pause to go for a walk. If you have some vacation time, use it. Do what you can to give yourself a chance to rest and recharge.
- Reconnect with old friends and make new ones – call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while to see how they are doing.
Gyebi also gave a couple of great tips you can try out for the current holiday season. One of those great tips is to gift a visit to a mental health professional to yourself or a loved one. If you’re interested in giving such a gift, Elpizo Counselling has experienced therapists and counsellors that are willing to work with you to get the best help, feel free to call 877-355-7496.
If you are interested in listening to the full podcast and learning more about mental health and the therapy experience, click here.
New Year’s Eve has become more than just a holiday or a time to party for many of us. We look at it as not only a celebration of the past year, or in the case of 2020, a celebration that it is finally over, but also as a chance for a fresh start. So while we go into the new year with resolutions and the best of intentions to keep them, it doesn’t take most of us very long to give up. In fact, about 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. One possible explanation for this is that many people tend to be hoping for a quick fix instead of realistic, achievable, and lasting change, and therefore lack the necessary motivation and commitment to keep their resolutions.
When making resolutions simply in the spirit of celebration without any real thought into what it takes to achieve them, the enthusiasm and effort felt at the beginning of the year begin to quickly wane. With our inevitable lack of progress towards achieving our resolutions, we soon end up reverting back to old habits. This can be very discouraging and lead many people to believe that they simply do not possess the necessary skills and abilities to achieve positive and lasting change, but maybe the reality is that most new year’s resolutions are flawed to begin with. By setting a specific future date to implement changes implies that we will only begin to make changes once that date arrives rather than doing it now, and there is simply no logic in that. All of us are works in progress so we should strive to implement change into our lives on a regular basis, not just once a year.
So instead of making resolutions this new year, incorporate healthy behaviour into your everyday life by setting goals along with strategies for achieving them. The difference between a goal and a resolution is that a resolution is a decision to (not) do a specific behaviour while a goal is a series of planned out steps designed to help you achieve the end result you are aiming for. In this respect, creating specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART) goals, instead of new year’s resolutions, is the key to long-term success and growth. Below are some guidelines for how you change your life for the better starting today:
- Decide and commit to making a change.
- Start immediately, do not wait for new year’s day to come around. There is no better time than the present moment.
- Set realistic goals and when necessary, break them down into smaller, more easily achievable goals. Once you start achieving these smaller goals, you will be motivated to keep moving towards your bigger, seemingly hard to reach goals.
- Document what you want to achieve.
- Have a strategy or system in place for achieving your goals and identify possible obstacles or areas for potential set-backs. Your enthusiasm and motivation may wane over time but you can mitigate their effect by having a plan in place to push through.
- Be as specific as possible when setting goals and make sure that they are specific, measurable, and have a deadline.
- Understand that true purpose of what you want to achieve.
- Do not overshoot! Select the 1 or 2 goals that are most important to you and focus on them. Once you see that you are able to achieve these, you will be more motivated to continue setting goals and working towards improving your life – throughout the year.
- Adopt a mindset of absolute belief and faith that you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to.
Starting 2021 with no New Year’s resolutions can be a liberating experience of getting what you really want. By setting goals throughout the year, you are giving yourself permission to make incremental progress and enjoy the process instead of getting wrapped up in the outcomes. Small steps become enjoyable and you adopt a growth mindset instead of judging yourself for perceived failures. Real change comes when you know your desired outcome and commit to making your goals a reality. Get everything you want this year and every year, by deciding to set and achieve goals that truly matter to you.