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5 Exercises for Checking-in and Slowing Down

We all know life can get busy at times. All of us lead different lives consisting of a variety of stressors. As a result, one person’s busyness is not always the same as someone else’s, and being busy can be both positive and negative. It could look like getting a promotion at work, a hectic time socially, a lot going on in your head, family or work drama, etc. It’s common to hear yourself saying phrases like “I don’t have enough time,” “I can’t, my schedule’s packed,” “I don’t have the capacity right now,” or “I need more hours in a day.” When life feels restless, sometimes we can forget about ourselves in the process. We may find that we’re checking in on the ones around us but often neglecting how we feel. How are you? How’s your day going? How are you feeling? Such simple questions, but our own needs can easily slip through the cracks. 

So let’s try slowing down for a moment. Unclench your jaw, soften your forehead, relax your shoulders, take a big inhale and exhale. Nice work. 

Checking in with yourself is a healthy emotional act that can improve your mood and strengthen your relationship with yourself and the people around you. It is important to remember that checking in on yourself will allow you to be the support you want to be for others. 

Here are five exercises you can try to slow down and touch base with yourself. 


Exercise 1: Simple, honest check-in

How are you doing? What’s good right now? What’s unsettling or uncomfortable? Ask and answer yourself, whether you do it out loud, in your head, or write it down. This can be as short or as long as you’d like. This may help answer some questions about varying moods or feelings and can potentially push you to take action steps or ask for support in certain areas of your life where it’s needed.

Exercise 2: Tuning in with your breath

Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. This exercise works best while you’re sitting, lying down, or standing while leaning against something.  With your eyes closed or focused on an object, take a minimum of 10 long inhales and exhales.

Exercise 3: Reflection

Try playing ‘Peak, Valley, Future’ with yourself or out loud with someone else. This can be a reflection of one day or an entire week, whatever feels right for you. 

Exercise 4: Movement for the body and mind

You’ve checked in emotionally, but how is your body feeling physically? Are you tense and sore or loose and limber? What is your body craving right now? Try doing 5 minutes of yoga, going for a stroll down the street, or dance to your favourite song. Notice how your body feels. Endorphins are released in response to movement, which helps calm our body and mind, increases energy, and reduces stress.  

Exercise 5: Creating a ‘Feel Good’ List 

Checking in doesn’t solely include asking yourself how you are but also making time for yourself. Write down a list of at least five things you enjoy or make you feel good that you can refer to later for when you’re feeling overwhelmed, need a break, are bored, or need some quality solo time (i.e., cook your favourite meal, take yourself on a date, explore a new neighbourhood, read that book you never started, or whatever may tickle your fancy). Heck, do one of these activities now if it’s been a while!

If you would prefer an application to help you slow down and check in on a more regular basis you can try these options: 

It’s so important for your well-being to slow down, check-in and make time for yourself. Try and make a habit of it whether you start with once a day or once a week; the more you do it, the easier it will be and the more natural it will feel. Remember, there’s only one of you. You matter, and you deserve to be loved and cared for, especially by yourself. And by taking time for you, it’s not only benefiting yourself but the people you want to be there for as well.  

Written by: Jaime

What Is Rape Culture and How Does It Work?

We have come a long way since the “me too” movement began, but there’s still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done in eliminating rape culture. The phrase rape culture may be familiar to you, or you may have no clue what it means. To give you some context, rape culture was coined by feminists in the 1970s and it was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized sexual violence. It is a culture of  having sympathy for the abuser, rather than the violated individual. This can mean making excuses for the perpetrator’s actions, questioning the survivor on what they were wearing at the time, or questioning if substances were involved. No one goes out expecting to be sexually violated. Yet, rape culture has instilled the idea that women must go through extra precautions to avoid being violated. It can be just as challenging for men to report an assault as they too face a scrutinizing amount of victim-blaming. Toxic masculinity is partly to blame here, as men are often shamed or encouraged to stay silent if they’ve been assaulted. 

“All too often, when we see injustices, both great and small, we think, That’s terrible, but we do nothing. We say nothing. We let other people fight their own battles. We remain silent because silence is easier. Qui tacet consentire videtur is Latin for ‘Silence gives consent.’ When we say nothing, when we do nothing, we are consenting to these trespasses against us.”

Roxane Gay

So, essentially when someone uses the phrase “rape culture,” it involves victim-blaming, supporting the perpetrator, and not recognizing how huge and systemic an issue sexual violence really is. We see this happen a lot within the news. For example, when a young and academically successful person has been found guilty of sexual assault, they are often given a lighter sentence due to their “bright future.” Judges instead probe and grill survivors during court cases, which makes it incredibly difficult to come forward. The justice system is notorious for victim-blaming. Our society believes that only certain people can be rapists, which is far from the truth. There has been a failure to understand that just because someone appears “nice” doesn’t mean that they can’t assault someone. There are so many myths around how sexual assault works, which contributes to rape culture. For example, saying “yes” does not automatically mean someone wants to participate in any form of sexual activity. A “yes” said out of coercion is not consent.

Here are a few more examples of how rape culture works: 

Line drawing of a woman

For a more in-depth look at everyday examples of rape culture, this article shares some more insights. 

To eliminate rape culture, we must become more self-aware of our own attitudes and biases surrounding it. It would be beneficial to self-reflect and understand why you may hold certain beliefs and educate yourself on improving and becoming more of an advocate in ending rape culture. In fact, reading this blog is already a start. You can also educate others, and if you see someone using derogatory language or jokes surrounding sexual assault, call them out and let them know why it’s wrong. In other cases, when talking to a friend who has been sexually assaulted, it’s important you support them and not excuse the abuser’s behaviour just because they seemed “nice.”

Remembering that the stereotypes for who can be a rapist are not always accurate. In reality, it can be someone you don’t expect. To end rape culture, our society must stop putting survivors in a pool of shame and guilt because they chose to do an extremely brave thing; coming forward and seeking justice. 

For more information, these websites share some great ways we can eliminate rape culture: 

Written by: Taryn Herlich

Resources:
https://www.marshall.edu/wcenter/sexual-assault/rape-culture/
https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/rape-culture-sex-assault_ca_5e6660f5c5b605572808dab0

Safety Planning For Those Living With Abuse

If you’re living in an abusive situation both your safety and your children’s safety is of utmost importance. We recognize that it’s not always simple to understand what to do next, and how you should go about dealing with this difficult situation. Living with abuse can create immense stress, and is something no one should have to face. While you want to leave, we realize that it’s not as easy as many imagine it to be. Your safety and well-being always comes first which is why we’ve created a comprehensive safety plan for you to read. 


Planning

You should begin this process by having a plan in mind. This can include speaking with family, friends or a professional who can help support and assist you in the steps you need to take to break away. Ensure that there’s at least one person within your life that’s aware of the abuse. Gaining advice on your legal rights if there are children or property involved is also beneficial, or if you plan to get a restraining order and want to press charges against your abuser. If you don’t have a steady flow of income or home you can live in once leaving, it would be advised that you look into nearby shelters, as well as the financial aid within your local area. We recognize that it can be challenging to search these things on your cell phone or computer as your abuser may look through the search history. It’s recommended that you have a friend or family member make these searches, use a public computer or choose the times you do this research very carefully (i.e when your abuser isn’t home). Once you find the information you need, delete your search history, and keep private browsing on when making these searches. Below are links to legal, financial, and housing resources, as well as instructions on how to delete your search history. 


Important Points to Remember


When Leaving… 


Packing Checklist

Do your packing ahead of time and take whichever items are easiest for you to get. We know that your abuser may keep tabs on certain items, and understand that it can look suspicious if they notice things beginning to go missing. If possible, leave important items with a trusted friend or family member ahead of time, as your partner could find the bag where you’re hiding these things. If you have a pet, have a friend or family member take them temporarily in order for you to leave in a swift manner. Below are the items to take with you:


Things to Consider After You’ve Left 

We hope this plan helps give you an idea of where to start during this process. Remember, the abuse is never your fault and you shouldn’t feel guilty for not leaving sooner. You will get through this.


Resources:
https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/stop-family-violence/plan-your-safety.html

Written by: Taryn Herlich

Signs Of A Sexually Abusive Relationship

It can be a confusing process to notice signs of sexual abuse in a relationship. The lack of information and discussion around this topic is scarce, making many survivors feel isolated and ashamed to seek help. It can be upsetting to realize that your relationship is abusive and doesn’t make the process of leaving any more straightforward. We want you to know that there are resources available, and you deserve to be supported. Recognizing the signs is the first step, which is what we’re going to talk about. 

A sexually abusive relationship can happen to anyone, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. Signs of this abuse can range from being forced to take oral contraceptives, or on the other hand, a partner refusing to wear protection. If STDs are knowingly and continuously transmitted, this is a form of sexual abuse and a serious crime. These examples all put your safety and emotional well-being at risk and often come with some form of coercion, manipulation, gaslighting, and in some cases, physical abuse if you choose to challenge the behaviours.  

Other forms of sexual abuse in a relationship can mean coercing a partner to engage in sexual activities they are not comfortable doing and forcing them to add additional people to participate and watch. This person may retaliate with physical or emotional abuse if their partner says no. An abuser may also get their partner intoxicated, and in some cases, unconscious to have a greater chance of engaging in sexual behaviours. This is non-consensual and never okay. Your partner should never use substances with the intent of taking advantage and assaulting you. 

Abusers have tactics that manipulate and gaslight their partners’ minds, making them believe that the abuse is their fault or not as bad as they imagine it to be (a significant reason why many survivors stay quiet). Abusers tarnish their partner’s self-esteem, making it appear even more dangerous to leave the relationship than stay. Some deny, or shower with gifts, act as though they changed until a new issue arises and what’s known as the cycle of abuse continues. It’s exhausting for survivors to endure and can sometimes take months, if not years, to recognize sexual abuse in their relationships. 

Cycle of abuse diagram
The Cycle of Abuse

If you suspect that you are in a sexually abusive relationship, leave as soon as you can. Abusive relationships will only get worse, even if your partner has apologized and promised that they will change. Vesta has two guides that can help you through the process of leaving while also ensuring your utmost safety. We have listed them here and here

Talking to a professional can also be highly beneficial during this process. If you have access to a therapist, confide in them about what has taken place. We also wanted to include a free helpline that focuses on domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Resources:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
24-Hour Crisis Line

Written by: Taryn Herlich

Movement & Yoga Room

About VESTA Healing Rooms

Our individually-themed rooms are designed to provide online mental health and healing resources through an interactive digital painting. Whether you’re looking to relieve tension, seek mental health advice, stimulate your mind, or even discover a new pastime, we have a room suited to your needs. Explore our room here, or download it for later.

Enjoy exploring! (view the room guide here)

10 Minute Yoga/Stretch Box Breathing 10 Minute Guided Meditation 1 Minute Yoga Challenge Morning Stretches 4-7-8 Breathing Technique Powerwalk Playlist 25 Ways to Get Moving at Home Mindful Movement Exercises 10 Minute Meditation for Sleep

Room Guide

From left to right:

Artwork by Katie

Music Healing Room

About VESTA Healing Rooms

Our individually-themed rooms are designed to provide online mental health and healing resources through an interactive digital painting. Whether you’re looking to relieve tension, seek mental health advice, stimulate your mind, or even discover a new pastime, we have a room suited to your needs. Explore our room here, or download it for later.

Enjoy exploring! (view the room guide here)

Sound therapy Creatability keyboard Touch pianist Chrome music lab Music therapy TEDx talk NPR Music Weightless by Marconi Union Calm vibes playlist

Room Guide

From left to right:

Artwork by Rui

Mindfulness Room

About VESTA Healing Rooms

Our individually-themed rooms are designed to provide online mental health and healing resources through an interactive digital painting. Whether you’re looking to relieve tension, seek mental health advice, stimulate your mind, or even discover a new pastime, we have a room suited to your needs. Explore our room here, or download it for later.

Enjoy exploring! (view the room guide here)

Do nothing for 2 minutes 2048 Sudoku Simon BrainGymmer Weave Silk Rubiks Cube Colouring book Jigsaw puzzle Bomomo art generator

Room Guide

From left to right:

Artwork by Katie

Sexual Consent is Hot.

Consent is an ongoing process that involves voluntarily, actively agreeing and giving permission for sexual activity with partners to ensure everyone involved is comfortable, safe, on the same page and respectful of one another’s boundaries. It’s important to note that consent doesn’t have to be sexual. People should be learning about consent and the autonomy of their bodies from a young age, understanding that your body is yours, and you have the power of making choices for your body. Asking for consent starts as early as childhood. For example, “Can I give you a hug?”, “Would you like to talk about this?”, “Can I help you with that?.” However, for this piece, we will be focusing on sexual consent. 


7 must-haves that make up sexual consent:

  1. Freely given – it’s autonomous, aligns with your wants, and it’s your choice. No one else is making this decision for you. 
  2. Enthusiastic – can be expressed through verbal or non-verbal cues, whether you’re excited and talking about it or using positive body language such as smiling, maintaining eye contact, or nodding yes.
  3. Well-informed – partners are aware of each others’ STI status, agree with methods of birth control being used, and are comfortable with the environment they are in.
  4. Specific – Just because someone consents to one set of actions and activities does not mean consent has been given for other sexual acts. Communicate with your partner(s) what it is you are consenting to. 
  5. An ongoing conversation – it is not a one-time question and answer. Keep checking in on each other. Just because someone was interested and consensual sex, last weekend does not mean they will consent for all future encounters. 
  6. Reversible  – you are allowed to withdraw your consent at ANY time. Your body, your choice.
  7. ALWAYS needed – if it’s a one-night stand with a stranger, a third date, or your lifelong partner…no matter the setting, you need each other’s consent. 

In movies, TV shows, and porn, it’s pretty common to see sexual interactions happen quickly; no lead-up and no communication. They seem to be missing those realistic aspects – the awkwardness, the laughter, the fumbling, the sweat, and lastly, consent. You may be thinking: “Well, I’ve been with my partner for ten years, we don’t need to ask for consent.” 

or “Asking for consent is sort of a buzz kill.” 

or “How the heck do I work consent into my sexual relationships?!” 

Asking for consent doesn’t need to “ruin the mood.” Communication around consent can be fun, flirty, and empowering. Try getting comfortable asking questions, checking in and making it ongoing through your sexual experiences: 

What IS NOT consent 

Someone not giving consent can look or sound a lot more than just  “no.” It is common for people to refrain from using the phrase “no” out of fear of sounding blunt and receiving backlash from refusal. Instead, people may try a different phrase in the hope of softening the rejection. Remember, sexual activity without consent is sexual assault, which is a crime. 

Verbally not consenting may sound like: 

Non-verbal cues when not consenting may look like:

Other factors where consent cannot be freely given may look like:

“Note: Physiological responses like an erection, lubrication, arousal, or orgasm are involuntary, meaning your body might react one way even when you are not consenting to the activity. Sometimes perpetrators will use the fact that these physiological responses occur to maintain secrecy or minimize a survivor’s experience by using phrases such as, “You know you liked it.” In no way does a physiological response mean that you consented to what happened. If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, it is not your fault.” – RAINN

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or is experiencing sexual violence, please reach out now: 

Sources:
https://www.instagram.com/p/CPV43JfDMlv/
https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/amber-amour/35-sexy-ways-to-ask-for-consent_b_9789458.html
https://www.rainn.org/articles/what-is-consent
https://www.healthline.com/health/guide-to-consent#consent-under-the-influence
https://www.ted.com/talks/cheryl_bradshaw_how_consent_is_more_than_just_a_question_and_an_answer/up-next

Written by: Jaime

Self-Care Healing Room

About VESTA Healing Rooms

Our individually-themed rooms are designed to provide online mental health and healing resources through an interactive digital painting. Whether you’re looking to relieve tension, seek mental health advice, stimulate your mind, or even discover a new pastime, we have a room suited to your needs. Explore our room here, or download it for later.

Enjoy exploring! (view the room guide here)

VESTA self-care healing room illustration of a sunny living room

Room Guide

From left to right:

Artwork by Rui

Nature Healing Room

About VESTA Healing Rooms

Our individually-themed rooms are designed to provide online mental health and healing resources through an interactive digital painting. Whether you’re looking to relieve tension, seek mental health advice, stimulate your mind, or even discover a new pastime, we have a room suited to your needs. Explore our room here, or download it for later.

Enjoy exploring! (view the room guide here)

VESTA nature healing room illustration of a backyard camping scene

Room Guide

From left to right:

Artwork by Katie