You’re not alone in your fatigue

Getting used to our pre-pandemic schedule is going to take time

It’s not just the pre-midterm slumps that are getting you down this year. Since March 2020, strict pandemic lockdowns and health safety measures have kept us predominantly at home for both leisure and work over the course of this year and half. As we gradually return to our pre-COVID schedules, many are feeling more exhausted than usual. But it’s not just you: between July 2021 and September 2021 google searches for the phrase “Why am I tired all the time?” have hit historical highs.

Our muscles are getting used to backpacks and metro rides, we’re adapting to 8 a.m. class discussions, and dealing with the emotional drain from daily in-person events. As we approach almost our halfway point during the semester, and the days become shorter, many students may be affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD). All this includes the accumulated affliction from the past year. It’s important to be compassionate with yourself during this phase.

In early 2020, when we were first told to remain home, many felt grateful to stop and rest from the flurry of our daily lives, in a phenomenon named “lockdown relief.” It was short-lived. As the pandemic wore on, unemployment sky-rocketed, panic set in various ways, and to date, we have lost 28,186 Canadians to COVID-19, on top of the deaths from those that could not seek proper medical treatment because hospitals were overburdened with the aforementioned virus.

Don’t get us wrong — many are excited to be back to in-person activities. But nevertheless, we’re still reeling, and undergoing, the effects of a year full of changes and loss. Since the expectation that we would return to in-person learning, there have been mixed reactions.

Results from a poll in May 2021 found four in five Canadians don’t want to return to their pre-pandemic schedules, as some workplaces prepare for the likelihood of burnouts as workers  seat themselves at their long-abandoned desks in their company centres. Additionally, 35 per cent of Canadians said they would quit their job in the advent of being forced to return to their workplace by their employees.

Students also had mixed reactions about going back on campus.They felt weary about the logistics of in-person and hybrid learning, and of rules around vaccine mandates.The CSU released an open letter calling on the university to ameliorate the equitability and quality of the safety measures and accommodations for students. Almost 1,500 people have signed a petition to give themselves the choice over how they attend hybrid classes. The Concordian has also asked university to provide better support for the education of international students and those with health concerns.

Last week, Concordia responded by releasing a short-term absence form to offer better support for students with “unexpected physical or psychological health concerns.” And while that is a welcome resource, we wanted to remind students that you’re not alone, and that reaching out for help when you need it is important. Whether that be with professional help, or calling a friend — we all need support sometimes.

While we welcome students back from the (much needed) Thanksgiving break, we also want to let you know: you’re doing great, and it’s ok to seek out help if it’s getting too much.


Photograph by Alex Hutchins

Being a psychologist: not always a walk in the park… or is it?

Forget about lying down on a couch; it is time for walk-and-talk therapy

“I don’t have time for therapy.”

I wish I were able to convince myself otherwise. Actually, I wish everyone was able to make time for therapy.

I stopped seeing my psychologist five years ago, thinking I couldn’t afford to spend an hour of my time (and $100 of my mother’s salary) every week just to sit on a couch and complain about my life. It was too late when I realized that I should have kept going, but as someone who later sought and received urgent professional help, I can safely say that therapy is absolutely worth your time and money.

I am doing way better now (thank you for asking) but I still struggle with the idea of going back to therapy. I must admit that I have always had a teeny-tiny negative bias towards it, and to be quite honest, I am broke and busier than ever.

But I recently learned something that almost convinced me to go back …

Sticking to online therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic was not enough for two private psychologists from the Centre de Psychologie Behaviorale (CPB) in Ahuntsic. That is why they started offering outdoor consultations as an alternative.

One of those two psychologists, Serge Drolet, has been working at CPB for 30 years.

On April 17, 2020, the Quebec government issued an official document instructing mental health service providers to limit their in-person activities and opt for teleconsultation whenever possible. At the time, all of CPB’s operations had already shifted online.

Since March 2020, about 25 per cent of Drolet’s clients have consequently abandoned therapy because they were not interested in Zoom consultations.

“Some very good patients left, and sadly, I don’t know what they became,” Drolet explained.

This inspired him to experiment with “walk-and-talk therapy” instead.  Since June, about 15 per cent of Drolet’s patients have chosen to bring their therapy sessions outdoors.

During the winter, the Marcelin-Wilson park and the small woods near the clinic are often deserted. On March 2, it might have been -17 C outside, but the most courageous of Drolet’s patients were able to enjoy the calm and tranquility.

However, since the office is surrounded by many other primary care services like a drugstore, a radiology centre, and a dialysis clinic, there is a lot of traffic on the sidewalks despite the centre being located in a quiet neighbourhood.

“Stuff happens when we find ourselves in these kinds of situations,” Drolet said. “[A patient and I] were walking and an old man tried to shove us aside because we were not walking fast enough for him. There was a lesson of self-assertion management, and that’s great because [this patient] is a person who, when alone, is submissive when it comes to confrontations. I gave this man a piece of my mind — while remaining professional, of course — and I was glad that she [the patient] could see that I, myself, do [what I usually advise her to do].”

According to Drolet, this new type of consultation also adds a dynamic component to the therapy.

“There’s a small wood not too far away and there are three directions we can take,” Drolet said. “On the right, we can see perfectly well; on the left there are a couple of young people that seem rough; and in the middle, it’s the woods. I don’t decide which way to go. You choose where we go. Just the fact that the person makes decisions like that during the session, somewhere along the way, it helps them make decisions in life,” Drolet said.

Being stuck alone with ourselves can be challenging, and many people’s mental health problems were exacerbated because of the pandemic. However, Drolet noticed that his patients had become more invested in their therapy; they have more free time to self-examine and to reflect on their patterns. Moreover, now that psychologists are being exposed to the same worries and deprivations as their patients, they can now empathize rather than sympathize with them. In fact, Drolet said that being on an equal footing with his clients in such a way has allowed him to help them better.

In the end, with all of COVID’s difficulties, it has also opened the door for new possibilities for how mental health service providers can treat their patients. Now that many people have more free time to focus on themselves and that it somewhat became easier to find a psychologist we can relate to, combining therapy to the health benefits of getting more fresh air gives us one more reason to consider going to therapy.


 Photo by Christine Beaudoin


Science can help reduce stress following traumatic events, breakups

Montreal-based clinical psychologist reprograms memories

A Montreal-based clinical psychologist expanded his treatment from PTSD patients to those who have experienced terrible betrayals in romantic relationships. The innovative treatment can reprogram traumatic memories with the help of a beta blocker drug and therapy.

In 2008, Dr. Alain Brunet created a treatment called the “reconsolidation therapy,” or the “Brunet Method,” which treats patients with PTSD or victims of crime or terror attacks, such as the one in Paris in 2016.

In short, reconsolidation therapy involves therapy sessions in conjunction with a blood pressure drug that alleviates the negative surge of emotions when remembering a traumatic memory.

Brunet was a student at the University of Montreal in 1989, when the Polytechnique shooting occurred. What he interpreted as a lack of care for those affected with psychotraumatic disorders after the attack inspired him to find a cure for people suffering from PTSD.

In 2015, Brunet turned to treating romantic heartbreaks and betrayals, with one of his former graduate students, Michelle Lonergan. Lonergan worked on the project as her PhD at McGill University. She said this method is “based on this idea that the trauma memory was really at the root of the disorder.”

For six weeks, participants in the study took propranolol––a drug normally used for treating high blood pressure––one hour before a weekly therapy session, where they read their personal handwritten account of the traumatic event. They would re-read the account every session and speak about the event itself with Brunet. Lonergan said at the end of the study, two-thirds of the participants experienced an overall reduction “in the severity of people’s symptoms and reactions.”

While the method may be reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for some––a movie where a couple erases the memory of their terrible relationship together. Lonergan said no memory is lost, only updated––comparing the process to editing an essay.“Let’s say we have an essay on a computer and the essay is written, it’s saved to our hard drive, well when we open the essay and make changes to it and re-save it, then it’s updated with that new information,” Lonergan said.

The memory we store is saved in two different parts of the brain: the dry element––the factual, visual occurrence––in the hippocampus, and the emotional portion of the experience in the amygdala. When a traumatic event occurs, it activates the adrenergic system––our stress system––pumping adrenaline into our brain, and the memory registers with a stressful, heightened emotional response.

When an affected individual recollects the event, or experiences a trigger, such as what they ate, saw, were wearing, or even smelled in those moments, it activates their adrenaline to the amygdala and the memory re-creates a surge of uncontrollable negative emotions. This tolls the person’s mental health and wellbeing.

“For some people, that system can become overactivated, and that would result in putting an emotional stance on the

memory that is just extremely powerful,” Lonergan said.

The drug for the treatment isn’t new. Propranolol is popularly used to reduce high blood pressure and heart rhythm disorders, but it has another quality that makes the treatment possible. It’s an adrenergic beta-blocker, meaning that it works by blocking the surge of adrenaline to the amygdala when re

membering the traumatic memory.

According to testimonials on Brunet’s website, patients described the initial version of their traumatic memory as so emotionally discharged, it feels like someone else wrote it.

Kanica Saphan, a sexologist counsellor who works with individuals and couples in Montreal, said that a lot of the baggage people carry from bad breakups is from negative stories they create from their experience. “It will become like a story of how we were either ugly, unworthy or valuable, that we had something to do with it,” she said, adding that such stories are created for many reasons, including misunderstanding the causes of a breakup.

For her counselling, Saphan works by developing a therapeutic relationship with her clients. She

uses “talk therapy,” meaning she develops a human connection with clients to work through issues and heal over time. She said she does not prescribe medication, and that while reconsolidation therapy can work for traumatic experiences, she suggested that using propranolol pills could restrain people from learning to use their own internal coping tools.

While Saphan hopes the treatment will not add to “pill culture,” where medication is used to treat an excessive range of emotional afflictions, Lonergan said the pill does not mask symp

toms. It can provide a significant change, and the treatment is short––roughly four to six weeks. Patients are not medicated long term, Lonergan said.

Lonergan suggested that the treatment could be expanded in the future, to other areas where people suffer psychological strain from emotionally-charged events.

Graphic by Jad Abukasm


The power of music therapy

Music as an avenue for recovery, a tool for personal betterment

Music is much more than just the content of a song or album; it has the potential to empower people and help improve their lives.

Music therapy is different from traditional therapy, where people talk to a therapist about their problems. “Music, because it affects you in a complicated fashion physically, emotionally, psychologically and cognitively all at the same time, sometimes helps break through these barriers of getting past that [problem],” said Sandi Curtis, a long-time music therapist and a professor at Concordia.

Sometimes people are not ready to talk about their traumatic experiences, so music can help them express themselves. When Curtis works with women who have survived psychological, physical or sexual abuse, music is an important tool that fosters the conversation. “It’s not me talking to them or them even talking to me,” Curtis explained. “Music makes that opening where, they might not be prepared yet to talk […], but they can put it into music.”

Curtis recounted the case of a woman who had been sexually abused by her uncle as a child. “The family was fractured. Half the family believed her, and the other half didn’t.”

Some music therapy programs encourage participants to write songs as a cathartic release. “When she finished writing and recording the song, she took the recording and gave it to her abuser, and she said: ‘You know the truth, and I know the truth,’” Curtis said. “That was a powerful moment for her, to get over the fact that half of her family was never going to believe her.”

Music is an outlet for deeply personal feelings and thoughts. Yet, before I spoke with Curtis, I didn’t know the impact music therapy could have. It was extraordinary to hear about the power of music in traumatic situations.

Although Curtis studied music at McGill, she knew performing and, at the time, teaching were not for her. “Back in the day, there wasn’t that much understanding or awareness of music therapy, but I did some exploration,” she said. “There were no programs in Canada at all.” Instead, she decided to study music therapy in the United States.

Curtis’s experience ranges from working in palliative care and the deaf community to working with people with disabilities, survivors of violence and domestic abuse, and even prison inmates in the United States. “I got an opportunity to work at a maximum security correctional facility for women in Georgia. That was quite interesting—I thought, at the time, that I was too much of a Canadian to handle it,” Curtis said with a laugh.

At the correctional facility, Curtis met women who had survived domestic abuse, women who used had violence to escape their abuser. “I began to see how much of an impact that male violence against women has in their lives,” Curtis said. “And that was way back in the day, before the #MeToo movement where we are beginning to understand that it’s in almost every woman’s life.”

During that time, she began to realize the power of music as therapy. “It’s a wonderful creative tool, but it also gives a voice,” Curtis said. “Survivors are so often silenced by their abuser. Music gives them a voice, a physical voice expressing how they’re feeling and a very powerful way of recovering from incredible trauma.”

Therapy sessions typically begin with listening to artists who sing about violence, which helps enforce the idea that survivors are not to blame for the violence enacted on them. “So often,” Curtis said, “survivors of violence think it’s their problem. They’re isolated purposely by the abuser; they are told it’s their fault.”

Curtis aims to integrate music that will resonate with the person when they listen to it. She noted that hearing artists like Beyonce and Lady Gaga sing about how they don’t deserve abuse can empower the patient to feel the same. “They could begin to think: ‘Oh, maybe I don’t deserve it too.’”

Next comes music creation, working together to make music and discussing the experience. People who attend music therapy sessions do not need any experience or background to participate in the music process. “In music therapy, all of you can be singing the same thing [in group sessions], and maybe sharing a common experience or maybe having completely different meaning of the experience,” Curtis said.

For her, the most important part of being a music therapist is using her musical talents to help people. “So, rather than being the audience far-removed and just applauding, you are working very intimately with somebody,” she said. “You’re helping them improve their quality of life.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Student Life

My personal experience with counselling

How one Concordian got through anxiety and self-confidence issues with the help of a psychologist

I guess I would say it started about halfway through secondary three.  I always seemed to be plagued by this idea that no one really liked me. It wasn’t the unsettling feeling of having an off day or not being my usual self—it was an ongoing feeling of anxiety based on this worry that no one in my circle of friends really wanted anything to do with me.

In fact, they all probably hated me. And why not, right? I was annoying, I always complained, I never did anything fun, I never laughed enough, I never went out enough—or so I thought.

I went on living this way for almost a year, and the bad thoughts and insecurities got perpetually worse.

To add to my rapidly depleting self-confidence, one of my classmates decided to make me the target of her bullying. I hated every day I had to get out of bed, because I had to face the people my anxieties and behaviour had ultimately pushed away: my best friends.

It got so bad that I couldn’t say anything to them without feeling this intense wave of anxiety and self-hatred. I would start telling myself, “Shut up Gab, nobody cares about what you have to say. You’re ugly, you’re stupid, you’re dumb and you have no friends. They all just hang out with you because they feel bad that you’re such a fucking loser.”

I knew I couldn’t go on like this. I will always remember the day when—in the midst of silent car ride with my mother, without even looking at her, I told her I needed to see a psychologist.

She handled it beautifully and gave me the card of a psychologist she’d heard many good things about.

Today, I can say without a doubt that seeing a psychologist changed my life. I am not the same person who walked into that office four years ago. Seeing a psychologist helped me face my demons, become confident in the person I am and believe that I am worth all the love and respect in the world.

It’s definitely not easy to overcome self-hatred. Taking control of your life, when you’ve been so used to sitting back and letting it take control of you, is extremely difficult. You are forced to dig up aspects of your life you buried ages ago because they were just too hard to deal with. I promise you though, it’s worth it.

Thanks to counselling, I was able to tell my bully I wouldn’t stand for how she was treating me anymore. I was able to have an open, honest dialogue with my friends about my anxieties.

This is why  I’m writing this—to encourage you to seek help if you think you need it. Self-love is hard, and I still have a long way to go before I can fully appreciate my uniqueness.  But now I know how to disassociate my hateful thoughts from the person I actually am.

I now know how to take a step back before becoming overwhelmed by anxiety and self-deprecation.  I analyze the situation that is making me feel this way and determine how I can resolve it.

Counselling gave me the tools to work on self-love, a little bit at a time.


Zentangle your way to better mental health

An attempt at a Zentagle creation. Photo (and Zentage masterpiece, pictured) by Sara Baron-Goodman.

At first glance, Zentangle looks exactly like the DoodleArt that every child born between 1970 and 2000 surely spent hours toiling over. Zentangle, however, claims to be much more than simple doodling. It is an easy and relaxing way to create images through drawing structured patterns. It is, in fact, a school of art, a sensation that is sweeping the nation. There are hundreds of Certified Zentangle Teachers (CZTs) in more than 10 countries worldwide.

Apparently, Zentangle can bring one to a state of religious experience and deep meditation. Zentangle is like the tantric sex of the art world – the goal is to achieve a spiritual awakening, it’s not about the end results. For tanglers, the pretty art is just an incidental bonus. Because aesthetics are not important to Zentangle, even the most artistically handicapped among us can become tanglers.

Tangles, as the patterns are called, are meant to represent life’s problems, helping to deconstruct them into zigs and zags, dots and squiggles so that they are easier to overcome. As the Zentangle mantra states, “anything is possible, one stroke at a time.” Disclaimer: compulsively drawing lines and shapes will not help you erase your debt, mend a broken heart or pass an exam.

Armed with a copy of The Joy of Zentangle, a black fine-tip Sharpie, a pencil, and a small sketchpad, I was ready. It should be noted that “true” tanglers are supposed to use special tiles to draw on, made from fine Italian paper. I, however, had no desire to spend $20 on said tiles when my highschool sketching paper would suffice. For beginners, it is recommended to only use black ink and a pencil, so that our feeble minds aren’t distracted by too many colour options.

The cardinal rule of Zentangle is never to erase – there are no mistakes in tangling. Already this made me anxious. The thought that there was nothing I could do if I messed up my pattern had me in a cold sweat before I even put pen to paper.

Finally, I took the plunge. Following the guidelines in my book, I marked off each corner of the paper with a dot. The next step was to connect the dots to make a frame in which to tangle. Then, tracing an imaginary string with a pencil, I followed the instructions to divide my frame into sections. Each section is meant to represent an aspect of life.

The next part was the fun part, where I got to doodle (sorry, tangle) for an hour under the pretence of self-betterment. After meticulously drawing filigrees and shapes in the first section, I was starting to feel exasperated rather than zen. I can only employ acute concentration for so long, I am a millennial after all. Like a trooper, I persevered and filled the rest of my sections with intricate-ish tangles.

The end result is no Picasso but it is interesting-looking. Was my mind clear and focused on the task at hand? Yes, for about an hour, my raison-d’être was trying to make paisleys fit together like a puzzle. Did this help me to achieve spiritual awakening and solve my problems? Not so much.

The Joy of Zentangle retails for $15.74 at


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