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An Evening with Friends — Recap of Sound Mind: A Celebration of Mindfulness and Mental Health through Fiction, Memoir, and Music

By B.A. Tanner

A piece of paper with the word "mindfulness" on it leaning against a window

On the Thursday evening of March 28, room 1050 of the Earth Sciences Centre at University of Toronto (UofT) swelled with the comforting sounds of meditative gong notes, honest conversation, and an impressive cello performance.

Sharing the stage were Ranjini George, Rebecca Higgins, and Erika Nielsen, once again bringing together Editors Toronto, Canadian Authors–Toronto, and the Creative Writing Program at the School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto (SCS–UofT), to deliver an inspirational and informative panel discussion. These three talented women used their life experiences to tackle the tough subject matter of mental health and wellness as it applies to freelance artists.

The program started with an introduction by Lee Parpart, programs chair of Editors Toronto and co-president of Canadian Authors–Toronto, then moved to the first speaker of the night: Ranjini George, who teaches courses on mindfulness, meditation, and creative writing at the SCS–UofT.

Ranjini addressed the need for freelance writers, editors, and artists to foster mental and physical well-being while they manage numerous projects with various deadlines. Referencing the stories from her 2016 book Through My Mother’s Window: Emirati Women Tell their Stories and Recipes, she talked about her own experiences working in the field of mental wellness and encouraged everyone to practise mindfulness regularly. Ranjini explained how sound can be used to help centre the self and control our continuous wave of thoughts. Treating the crowd to the sounding of the gong, combined with several moments of meditation and deep breathing, she left us with the simple but powerful reminder to “Breathe. Be present.”

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Editors Unplugged: Get to know our panellists for Sound Mind: A Celebration of Mindfulness and Mental Health through Fiction, Memoir, and Music

Interviews conducted by Catherine Dorton.

Our popular monthly program meetings often feature a jam-packed agenda. We like to keep our introductions short, so you can hear more from our panellists and less from us! It’s hard to do justice to the incredible wealth of experience these guests bring to the table, so we are offering you a preview with this short Q&A beforehand. 

This month, we are honoured to be joined by Ranjini George, Rebecca Higgins, and Erika Nielsen.

Photo of Ranjini George by Fred Loek for Mississauga News

Photo of Ranjini George by Fred Loek for Mississauga News

Ranjini George 

We hear you use a gong. What’s that for?

Sound is a wonderful way to centre oneself and move beyond the carousel of non-stop thoughts. It is a way to be present to the Now, the Present Moment. The gong is a way of coming home to oneself. I love the words of Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh regarding the bell/gong: “Listen, listen to the sound of the bell that calls you back to your true home.”

Try this: If you walk by the lake, listen to the sound of the waves. If you’re taking a neighbourhood walk (yes, spring is here!), listen to the sound of the birds. Notice your breath. Feel your feet on the earth. Breathe. Be present.

Listen to the lovely bell chant offered by the Plum Village community.

Why do writers and editors need mindfulness training?

I think it’s not just writers or editors who need mindfulness training. I think mindfulness is something that can help anyone. We enter this life with our first breath and transition from it with our last. So, we always have our breath.

Mindfulness is a way of using our breath—it is a way of being awake to our lives. Mindfulness is a practice: it is a simple and profound way of creating peace in our hearts. In our work as editors or writers, mindfulness helps create focus and clarity. We can bring the energy of mindfulness into our home, our workplace, and the world.

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Sound Mind: A Celebration of Mindfulness and Mental Health through Fiction, Memoir, and Music

When: Thursday, March 28, 7:30–9:30 PM

Where: Room 1050, Earth Sciences Centre, 33 Willcocks St., University of Toronto

Important notice: This month’s program meeting will take place on Thursday, March 28, not on our usual date of the fourth Tuesday of the month. Please mark your calendars. The location is also different this month as we’re meeting at the University of Toronto (UofT). We’ll return to the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) Spadina for our April 23 meeting on poetry editing.

Graphic with photos of three speakers at March 28 program meeting titled "Sound Mind: A Celebration of Mindfulness and Mental Health through Fiction, Memoir, and Music"

Sound Mind: A Celebration of Mindfulness and Mental Health through Fiction, Memoir, and Music is geared to helping cultural producers across a variety of fields (including writers, editors, visual artists, and musicians) learn about mental health challenges and adopt new strategies for wellness, mindfulness, and creativity. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in a mindfulness session at the beginning and end of this event.

This special event is a joint production of Editors Toronto; Canadian Authors–Toronto; and the Creative Writing Program at the School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto.

Our featured guests this month are Ranjini George, Rebecca Higgins, and Erika Nielsen.

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Taming time

Lion tamer

A lion tamer at Bertram Mills Touring Circus, Ascot/Edward G Malindine/
Collection of National Media Museum/ CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION-NONCOMMERCIAL-SHAREALIKE (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

By Jaye Marsh

Time management was a popular topic to start off the year for Editors Toronto branch meetings.

A full house of approximately 40 people greeted the guest panellists at our new venue. Thanks to Greg Ioannou, lifetime member of Editors Canada, the Toronto branch now meets at the Centre for Social Innovation, a lovely multimedia-capable space on Spadina Avenue near Queen Street West.

The evening’s program, held on September 26, was about “Time-management for busy editors.” Program chair Lee Parpart invited four panellists: Jennifer D. Foster, Jeanne McKane, Dr. Nicole Lyon Roccas, and Jayne S. Huhtanen.

Jennifer gave us a list of practical tips and guiding principles that work for her: knowing your needs, discipline, attitude, and creating the right space in which to work. She reviewed her unsuccessful experience with the Pomodoro technique (setting tasks and using timers); making lists; using a hard-copy calendar; the importance of checklists to relieve the memory banks; taking regular breaks; exercising; setting rewards; and learning to say no. At the end, Jennifer stressed the importance of surrounding herself with positive, kind people who are supportive and respectful of her and her work. The end result? A favourable effect on productivity, motivation, and efficiency. (more…)

Book Review: Life without Envy by Camille DeAngelis

 

(St. Martin’s Press, 2016)

Life without Envy by Camille DeAngelis

By Michelle Waitzman

Camille DeAngelis is a novelist whose career has had its ups and downs. Like many writers, she often found herself battling self-doubt, jealousy, bitterness, and frustration. She decided that it was time to re-examine her beliefs about herself and her career and, most importantly, to examine her ego and how it was affecting her professional life.

Life without Envy: Ego Management for Creative People will resonate mainly with readers who consider themselves “creators” (authors, poets, visual artists, musicians, etc.). Although it is written from the point of view of a writer, and most of the examples in the book revolve around writing, it addresses common problems with working in any profession where success and failure are often subjective and where both praise and criticism are taken very personally.

Editors may find that this book is not really targeted to them unless they also have a writing career or aspire to have one. Nonetheless, some of the examples are likely to ring true. As an editor, it’s easy to feel envy or frustration after working for months to shape and improve a book, only to see all of the praise and credit for its success go to the author (whose work may not have succeeded without you). Also, many editors suffer from “imposter syndrome,” which is a feeling that you are only pretending to know how to do your job (despite the fact that you are actually well-qualified) and believe that you will be caught out and exposed. (more…)

Maintaining mental health while working in isolation

"Winter Isolation" by Carol Harrison

“Winter Isolation” by Carol Harrison

By Shara Love

There is little that I despise more than going out in crowds, especially at this time of year. With sub-zero temperatures, mounds of snow at every turn, and traffic everywhere, nothing sounds better to me than staying home and cozying up on a comfy sofa with a cup of coffee and a computer or a good book, while waiting for spring. Unfortunately, it behooves me to do otherwise. Winter may encourage my hermit-like behaviour, but I must not succumb to the negative side effects. My mental health and ability to function depend on it.

One of those negative side effects is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), up to 35 per cent of Canadians experience some level of seasonal depression. Of this percentage, seasonal depression affects roughly 80 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men. Knowing and raising awareness about this condition may help potential sufferers to take preventative action to dodge the blows of this debilitating mental disorder. (more…)