Monthly Archive: October 2013

Health – Body Spirit and Soul

Our overall health is a combination of four things – physical health, spiritual strength (however you wish to define that), mental clarity, and emotional balance.  According to most holistic practitioners today, each aspect of our being is intricately linked to every other aspect, and when we are out of balance in one area we are out of balance in all areas.  Think of it:  when you are feeling a cold coming on, are you emotionally OK?  Thinking clearly?body-mind-soul-spirit-on-blackboard

Change, loss, gain … all of these can make us feel out of balance.  For me personally, it is giving up my home of 20 years, moving into a new office, and saying goodbye to my beloved pets.  It has filled me with sadness, gratitude for having them in my life, and also wonder in anticipating what new things may now enter my life.  But while I go through the emotional adjustment, I have dropped my physical routine and no longer take the long walks in nature that I generally do every day.  Nor am I caring for my diet, opting instead for the no-so-good-for-me comfort foods that distract me from myself so well.  And mentally I am getting foggy.

How do you deal with change?  In what ways do you become typically out of balance during these times.  What kinds of events trigger you?  And finally, the topic of my next blog, what have you learned to do to take care of yourself that helps bring you back into balance?

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.




This set of blogs for October is about change — change of seasons, getting older, moving.  I am moving, both my office and my

Change of Seasons

Change of Seasons

home.  After living in my current home for 20 years, I decided to sell it – it is beautiful and loved and I am already grieving its loss.  My choice of career has a lot to do with my decision:  being a psychotherapist is less lucrative (thought endlessly rewarding) than being a senior manager, and maintaining my home needs the wages of the latter.  I bought my house, with my ex, and fell in love with it even then, because it was unspoiled Victorian – original walls, trim, windows, cornices.  It was covered in layers of pink and green paint, both inside and out, and we eventually removed all of that.  Over the years, I have lovingly restored it to its original beauty, adding a glorious bathroom and kitchen, and summer room; adding a huge man-loved garage and a wonderful back and front yard.  I uncovered the decorative brick and deep blue slate, and I dug a wonderful, 8-foot ceilinged basement.  I added antique fixtures and hardware everywhere it was needed, and polished the original wood floors to a soft sheen.  My best buddies, Monty and Seamus, are buried there – it was the only home they knew after being born, and they very much made it their own.  I have experienced both joy and grief, and contentment there.  It was my sanctuary.

And now it is going to a young couple who also love my house.  I am happy for them and also very sad for me.  To me, my house is priceless.

The other night I watched a documentary on the elderly.  While I am not yet in my 80’s (an age I would consider “elderly” these days), I noted over and over how critically important home is for us when we become octogenarians.  Is it surprising that I am so distressed?  I have already found a new place to live – it doesn’t have everything I was looking for, but it has a lot, and it in it’s own way is beautiful.  I am sure I will like my neighbors and the neighborhood.  I am, indeed, very grateful to have found a place so nice and so quickly.

Like so many of us, change is difficult for me, especially major change.  And yet, as with the never-ending change of seasons, I think it is very necessary for us if we want to continue to evolve and grow.  I remember my grandmother deciding to sell her home and move, first into an apartment that was nearby, and then into an assisted living complex that she chose because her apartment overlooked the house she raised her family in once they moved to town.  I didn’t know to ask her how it felt and how she managed.  I wish I had had the wisdom to do that then because her courage and vision could no doubt help me now.

Nana was eminently practical (the opposite of my grandfather – a romantic dreamer), never suffering fools.  She knew that maintaining her house was an either/or – either do that or do what she wanted to do after retirement, travel.  Then she planned for her later declining years well ahead of time, and moved once more when she felt the time was right.  She died a day or two after suffering a massive stroke while playing bridge.  She loved life fully and gently.  I remember one time watching her get impatiently fed up with an elderly friend who was depressed and wouldn’t care for herself.  While Nana had her bouts of depression, she never spent any more time there than she had to.  She was someone who never stopped growing and loving life, and among so many other things, that is why I loved her and love her memory still.

It’s autumn.  The trees are golden and red and green.  The air is crisp and the sun is gentle –  more distant than it was a month ago.  Days are shorter.  Nature is preparing for a long sleep, reaping what it had sewn during the abundance of summer. Nature knows how to transition and grow – gently turning off the lights, putting things away, gathering nourishment for the long nights.  Slowing down.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

Change of Seasons – Change of Pace


“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence. Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”
Yoko Ono

In my part of the country, the trees are beginning to change colour; it’s mostly bright, crisp and sunny, and I can feel the sun’s rays reaching me from a different angle.  It’s a time of harvesting and preparing for winter.  Now is when many of us of settle in, move into a new routine.  Some of us love the Fall, and some of us prepare for Winter depression. Here are a few tips on moving with the change of seasons.

  1. What did you nurture during the summer months, and are now harvesting?  A vegetable or flower garden?  A family connection? A secure home? Summer is a time of productivity… we have all been active in our own way and have brought something important to us into existence.  What is that for you?
  2. The Fall season is a time of change from external growth and renewal to inner contemplation and self-care.  Appreciate what you have harvested and discover how you are going to bring that with you into Winter.  It could be as simple as your garden harvest, or as meaningful as mended relations.
  3. Attitude is itself a great changer.  We are natural beings and as such must follow the Laws of Nature.  Paraphrasing Yoko Ono, Fall is a time of reverence.  Slow down, enjoy this time of gentle transition, grateful for the things you have created and nurtured.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.

What happens when Flamenco, Shamanism and Gestalt come together? An exciting new workshop!

I would like to invite you all to this unique event: The Unbroken Spirit, a workshop that blends the passion and fire of Flamenco dance with wisdom from the traditions of shamanism and Gestalt psychotherapy. The purpose of this day-long workshop is to shatter the beliefs that no longer serve us, so we can uncover the light within, and dance!
Our Flamenco teacher will be the renowned Esmeralda Enrique.

Read all about it below, and sign up for it here.
the unbroken spirit

Location: The Institute for Contemporary Shamanic Studies – 1173 Davenport Rd., Toronto

Date: January 25, 2014

Time: 10 am -5 pm

Cost: $175 (plus HST)

Your beliefs can be allies or enemies…
What do you truly believe about yourself?

Do you believe …
… that you are beautiful just as you are, inside and out?
… that you have dreams and aspirations you know you can achieve?

Or perhaps you doubt yourself, unsure you have what it takes to be truly happy.
Make your worldview work for you!

This one-day experiential workshop introduces Flamenco dance as a way to explore your beliefs about yourself and your world. Combined with the tools of Shamanism and Gestalt psychotherapy, you will be able to differentiate your real beliefs – your own inner truth – from what you have taken on from others and the world. The purpose is to help you clarify and wear the beliefs that make you shine.

The key is in the body! By engaging in the dance you will embody and claim your essence, making an active change within your being.

You will be supported in a safe and welcoming space, where you will have a chance to see how beliefs truly help and hinder, and to begin the process of strengthening what works for you and shedding what no longer works.
What to Bring:
Come prepared to enjoy the day. Wear comfortable clothes that you feel good in, as well as comfortable shoes (no rubber soles please – bring shoes with leather soles if possible).
A light lunch is provided.

Awareness – the first essential step to de-stressing our lives

For those that are just joining, this is the continuation of posts exploring the topic of drugs versus therapy. To catch up you can read “The soul of psychotherapy – is it in danger?”, and “Danger signs – heading down the path to stress”.

In my previous blog “Danger signs – heading down the path to over stress”, I introduced my friend Betty,  who discovered her own unique indicators of over-stress.  She decided to track three of them:  her inability to sit down, her constant business, her lack of patience, and her inability to deal with surprises –  becoming emotional and feeling overwhelmed.Awareness

Being generally super-organized, she began by developing a simple chart that she was able to carry around with her.  At first, she would stop at specific times during the day – before work in the morning, at coffee break, after lunch and dinner, and before bed — and note if any of these indicators were present, or had been present during the previous interval period.  She would also note what physical sensations she recalled feeling at the time the indicators were present; such feelings as a tension in her chest, a stiff neck, back-pain, tingling finger-tips, etc..

After a while, she began to notice physically when these indicators were present.  And at this time, something very interesting happened:  Sometimes simply being aware that she was stressed diminished the stress!  By becoming aware of what she was experiencing, she was able to make a choice:  was she going to continue to be impatient, or emotional, or busy – or was she going to take some alternative action that was more supportive.  From her new awareness, she began to develop effective coping strategies that truly supported her during stressful times, and these continue to support her today.  One of these strategies, the first one, was awareness:  becoming aware of her particular stress indicators and making them her allies.

Sometimes we need more than simply becoming aware of stress, and even here the first step is awareness, without which we would not be able to change and grow.

How have you developed an awareness of your own stress?  What have you discovered helps you when you are stressed?  Is some of the stress in your life positive?  What do you notice is the difference between “good” and “bad” stress?

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.