How Health Psychologists at CFIR Can Help You

Health psychologists at CFIR can help you to cope with a wide range of health concerns.  

Chronic Illness:

Individuals experiencing chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, HIV, hypertension, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), suffer from debilitating physical symptoms that influence how they function in everyday life. Management of these medical conditions requires medication and lifestyle modifications. A psychologist can support individuals to adapt to the lifestyle changes necessary to manage chronic illness, including adhering to treatment regimens as well as dealing with the psychological and emotional aspects of the debilitating side effects of treatment or the disease itself. Often overlooked is the importance of our mental and emotional well-being in dealing with a chronic illness. Depression and anxiety can emerge as we adapt to our new medical realities. Our psychological and emotional functioning can exacerbate or worsen our experience of a chronic, manageable illness.

Life-Threatening Illness:

Individuals experiencing life-threatening illnesses experience physical health issues associated with the disease process and treatment that can influence their emotional well-being and psychological functioning. Being calm and relaxed and maintaining a positive sense of emotional well-being during medical treatments, while challenging, can buffer clients from the distress associated with medical procedures and hospitalizations. Making sense of, and coping with, the adverse emotional reactions related to uncertainty can alleviate our emotional distress during these problematic life moments. Adapting to treatment regimens and medical appointments can create emotional distress. Treatments can also affect our psychological functioning, which alters our sense of self and the world around us. Anxiety and depression can also grow out of the uncertainties of our medical circumstances.

Terminal Illness: 

Facing a terminal illness precipitates a wide range of emotional reactions, including fear, anger, sadness, and grief. Moving toward acceptance is an internal journey. The disease process and treatment of the disease can bring about debilitating side-effects, and can also affect our emotional and mental health status, and our psychological functioning. Making sense of our circumstances and lives, and dealing with the emotions associated with a terminal diagnosis can be overwhelming.

Smoking Cessation, Weight Concerns, Healthier Lifestyle: 

Whether you’re looking to quit smoking, lose a few pounds, or make healthier lifestyle choices, there are several stages one goes through to change behaviours. Whether contemplating change or actively attempting to change, maintaining healthy practices requires us to be attentive and mindful to the self and environmental triggers that stimulate us to engage in these behaviours. Learning how to manage healthy behaviours, including adopting new coping strategies to address underlying stress and emotions, is an essential component of behavioural change. When motivation to change an unhealthy behaviour wanes, deeper issues associated with self-esteem, self-worth, trauma, and abuse may also be present. Sometimes unhealthy behaviours serve as a source of soothing the self and dealing with difficult emotions from our past and present-day life. 

How We Help You:

You don’t have to be alone while struggling with the physical and psychological aspects of your condition. A health psychologist at CFIR can meet with you for a free consultation to help you better understand how he or she may support you through your journey with a health-related or lifestyle adaption. We offer clients comprehensive assessment and psychological treatment to address the psychological aspects of managing chronic, life-threatening or terminal illnesses or promoting healthy behaviours. Clinical and health psychologists at CFIR work with clients to treat a wide range of psychological issues that may emerge as we encounter challenges in our efforts to manage our physical health concerns or face life-threatening or terminal illnesses. We provide you with knowledge and emotional support to diminish your sense of isolation and to assuage distress associated with fear and hopelessness as you face challenges related to health and illness. Regarding lifestyle adaptations, we can help you manage these stages of change, deal with underlying self and relationship, or past traumatic issues, and help you to find more adaptive coping mechanisms to allow you to live the healthier life you desire.

Read more about our Neuropsychology, Rehabilitation & Health Psychology Treatment Service.

Weight and Emotional Eating

Do you find that you turn to food when you feel stressed, guilty, angry, bored or some other emotion? We all eat in response to our emotions from time to time. 

When is emotional eating a problem? When eating becomes one of the main strategies you use to respond to your feelings, when you feel weight becomes a problem, and/or when parts of your life are affected by your eating. 

Managing weight is not as simple as eating healthier and exercising more. We know now that our emotional experience plays an important role in weight management. Psychological treatment for weight and emotional eating will often involve helping you set behaviourally-anchored goals and explore patterns of eating related to your thoughts, feelings, relationships, and environment.

Some areas to explore if you are concerned about weight and/or emotional eating. 

1. Get a sense of any patterns in your eating? You can do this by logging your eating behaviour across the day for a week or two. Do you tend to skip breakfast or earlier meals and then find yourself overeating later in the day? Are certain emotional experiences more likely connected to times when you overeat (e.g., anger, sadness)? Or, certain situations (e.g., after conflict with a family member, when alone, after the kids go to bed)?

2. We all experience urges to eat food that we would like to limit and are surrounded by temptation. Consider removing certain foods from your home and ask your family to support your efforts. Otherwise, we are putting ourselves at risk of overusing our ‘willpower muscle’.

3. Practice taking an observer stance to your internal experience (e.g., feelings, thoughts) when the urge to eat shows up. What do you notice? Take a few minutes to just observe what’s going on inside of you (e.g., thoughts, feelings, physical sensations), without following any judgments that come up, before choosing what action to take (e.g., continue to reach for the bag of chips or chocolate bar or go for a walk or call a friend)? 

4. When working to make changes to weight and/or eating habits, it is important to set goals that are:

  • Behaviourally-anchored (I will eat three meals a day is a behavioural goal; I will lose five pounds is NOT) 
  • Realistic – ask yourself, is the goal doable? 
  • Important – set goals that are important to you right now 
  • Specific – the most useful goals are specific and concrete (e.g., half of each meal will be vegetables NOT, I will eat more vegetables) 
  • Scheduled – schedule your goals. Write your goals down. Post your goals and tell others about them. 
  • Reviewed – Goals change. Review your goals often.

Clinicians at CFIR can support you in working with issues of weight and emotional eating.

Read more about CFIR’s Neuropsychology, Rehabilitation & Health Psychology Treatment Service.

CFIR OTTAWA is moving to its new home JULY 4TH, 2022. Click here for more details.