Thought Patterns

Lately I have been dealing with some lethargy and negative thought patterns. The good thing is that I am able to recognize these changes and understand that this thinking is often not the truth. The unfortunate part is that it still affects mood and motivation in many parts of life: social, health and being proactive in work.

Today, after a good night’s sleep, my mental disposition and physical wellness felt rejuvenated. Encouraged to take advantage of this shift, I chose actions carefully so they would lead to the efficiency and productivity I have been seeking. I took a bit more care in getting ready and am now at a quiet coffee shop for a change of scenery and to be able to fully focus on my work.

I will stay here for quite a while in hopes that the actions and accomplishments of today and tonight will continue to uplift my spirits and improve attention…perhaps turning the persistent and rather annoying negative thoughts, that many of us deal with, into a more positive outlook!

Note: decided to take a photo before heading out because I am looking rather yogi/hippie today (true-self), as well as wearing this wooden parrot necklace for the first time! I got it on the beach at Blue Spirit Costa Rica for the Recovery 2.0 retreat back in in 2015. Think I will sport it more often!

F04BC9D7-739F-44AB-A6B7-7D503622BBE5.jpg
FF4D6E16-8751-4883-A4C9-33CD7FCC1AA2.jpg

International Youth Day

It’s International Youth Day! Thought I’d share a photo from the Concurrent Youth Unit at the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health. An inpatient treatment service dedicated to the clinical care of youth, ages 14 to 18 years, with "concurrent disorders": a moderate to severe addiction to substances and accompanying mental health challenges. In this enclosed patio, overlooking the CN Tower, each week we practice trauma-informed yoga.

Below is a list of 23 benefits of yoga that can assist teenagers and youth in everyday life, during stressful adolescent times and for improved mental wellness.

fullsizeoutput_9040.jpeg
  1. Improves energy levels & moods

  2. Reduces anxiety, tension & stress

  3. Provides calmness & relaxation 

  4. Reduces depression & fatigue

  5. Reduces anger & frustration 

  6. Improves emotional awareness & regulation

  7. Improves body awareness & body image

  8. Promotes self-care & self-respect

  9. Creates empathy & compassion 

  10. Improves outlook on life & optimism

  11. Promotes self-esteem, self-confidence & empowerment

  12. Develops discipline & self-regulation

  13. Reduces cravings & addictive behaviours

  14. Provides an activity away from technology: social media, internet, gaming

  15. Creates an understanding of the mind-body connection

  16. Improves fitness & physical health (including flexibility, strength & posture)

  17. Improves breathing (for physical & emotional well-being)

  18. Teaches components of meditation & mindfulness

  19. Improves attention, focus & concentration 

  20. Improves cognitive functioning  

  21. Improves academic performance

  22. Builds support & community 

  23. Fun!

Click here for more information on the Concurrent Youth Unit program at CAMH. Click here for an article from Psychology Today on the benefits of yoga for youth.

Mind-Body Health

A different sort of mind-body health post today. I absolutely love these photos taken at the very special Gifts of Light Barbecue at The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

I have a tendency to get a bit overwhelmed at big events with so much going on. As a result, the image I had created in my head of what these photos would look like was one of wild hair and perhaps messy make-up (not that this really matters). What I was doing was transferring my inner world, based on emotions and sensations created in my body and brain, on to my external appearance.

When I saw these lovely photos I was quite thrilled! It’s kind of like the opposite of judging a book by its cover...or the now common term ‘invisible illness’. Thank you to the photographer who also helped me choose which 7-day temporary tattoo to get as I could not decide…decisions!

Visit giftsoflight.ca to learn more about how you can help this important program. Gifts of Light are practical, meaningful gifts that meet the unique needs of mental health and addiction patients at CAMH. When you purchase a Gifts of Light on behalf of your friends and family, you are helping people on their journey to recovery.

039A6793.JPG
039A6790.JPG
039A6792.JPG
Photo credits: Patrick Callan

Photo credits: Patrick Callan

'Gifts of Light' CAMH Yoga Event

Last month, we hosted a summer ‘Yoga for Wellness & Recovery’ event through Gifts of Light at The Centre for Addiction & Mental Health. This patient-centred event combined lived experience, information on the benefits of yoga for mental health and addiction recovery then a yoga practice focusing on mind-body health.

Clients from various units attended such as outpatient, mood and anxiety inpatient, concurrent addiction inpatient and a number of other areas. We were fortunate to have gathered support with product donations and contributions prior to the event, which went towards snacks, drinks, yoga mats and water bottles for participants. As well as MindYourMind.ca, a national youth mental health organization, providing stress balls and gift bags for the day.

The event began with me sharing about my own recovery journey; living with concurrent disorders, how yoga has been helpful and some of my current work. I touched upon the benefits of yoga for mental health, addiction, trauma and overall health and wellness.

With about 25 clients and 15 staff in attendance, we then moved on to practice yoga. When teaching I incorporate breathwork, movements, postures, mindfulness and meditation (all components of yoga) that focus on mind-body heath, mood-management and relaxation. Individuals were taken through practices to assist with anxiety, stress, depression and low moods. These skills and take-away tools can be helpful ongoing and when future challenges arise.

It was very special to be a part of this day and facilitate. There are many different types of activities and skills that one can incorporate into their recovery plan for health and healing. Not everyone has the opportunity or resources for these types of learning experiences. That is why organizations like CAMH who support a wide range of recovery initiatives, including trauma-informed yoga, are making a difference for the future of mental health and addition treatment! Thank you to Gifts of Light of CAMH Foundation for making this happen! 🙏🏽 #mentalhealthishealth

Mental Health Is Health

A year ago today, I began an amazing journey, the opportunity to teach yoga with the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital.

Thank you so much to Gifts of Light of CAMH Foundation who oversees this initiative, as well as the clinicians and staff at CAMH who are incredibly supportive of the yoga program and my work.

I have learned a great deal over the past year, mostly from the hundreds of wonderful individuals I have been able to meet and teach for…who despite struggles and adversities, show up each week to learn and practice yoga.

This is a true gift, connecting with students focused on recovery, as I am able to share resources and tools that were and continue to be helpful for my own challenges and healing. Thank you for the ongoing support… #MentalHealthIsHealth!

4DD0F31A-39F8-44D3-AEB5-0DAC98D913AD.jpg

Event Support

Looking for some support! I am very excited to share that we will be hosting a summer yoga event at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health! Through the Gifts of Light program of CAMH Foundation, this event is for patients in treatment at CAMH. We are currently searching for in-kind gifts or product donations to provide attendees (e.g. yoga mats, clothing, health items, food or beverage).

If you or your company are able to assist, contact me via info@evonnesullivan.com. Please consider supporting this health and wellness event that assists individuals during their recovery journey.

Many patients arrive with only the clothes on their backs, may not have support from family or friends and sometimes, they have no home to go back to. The kindness and generosity of others can go a long way!

Yoga for Fun

E326F192-BBC6-4508-8760-8BF54FE5179C.jpg

When I came into recovery, I started practicing yoga for two reasons, the first I mention a lot - mental health, but the other was because I needed to find healthy activities that I enjoyed…that made me feel free. As a child I was a gymnast, so the transition to yoga was quite natural.

However, yoga is accessible to all. Various postures, movements or breathwork can be fun and relaxing for most people, experience or not. Often it only takes a few times of practicing to learn new postures and modifications are offered for differing levels. I recently started teaching for youth again and this posture, shoulderstand, seems to be one of the favourites!

Benefits of Shoulderstand (sarvangasana)
~ Increases strength & flexibility
~ Soothes nervous system (reduces anxiety)
~ Aids in restful sleep
~ Strengthens heart & respiratory system (cardiovascular fitness)
~ Supports thyroid health
~ Improves digestion
~ Strengthens immune system
~ Reduces headaches & nasal congestions (common cold)
~ Relaxes the mind
~ Helps with leg pain or swollen legs
~ Circulation to upper body & brain
~ Energizes & reduces fatigue
~ Increases self-confidence

*Please note this posture may not be safe for all, here are a couple resources for further information: 
7 Benefits of Shoulderstand, How to Do Supported Shoulderstand Pose


Medical Sciences at Western University

As a community partner with Western University, 4th year Medical Science students at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentristry created a pitch video last fall for our work together on yoga, mental health and addiction recovery.

Focusing on healthcare, science, research, communications and outreach, this fun and informative video displays the vision of the project - summing it up wonderfully! In the upcoming weeks on social media I will be sharing infographics created from their work, which outline the mental and physical benefits of specific yoga postures. Hope you enjoy!

Thank you videographer Ryan J. Wong, Priscilla Matthews, Victoria Forcina, Natalie Mercuri, Nick Tang and Erin Biggar.

Bell Let's Talk

To everyone in recovery, to everyone trying their best, to everyone creating awareness, to everyone supporting others, to everyone asking for help, to everyone working in the field, to everyone contributing to Bell Let’s Talk ~ thank you. Speaking openly about the commonality of mental illness and addiction creates understanding and compassion, which improves the environment and access to resources for those struggling; today and future generations. Let’s keep talking…

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

It has been 6 months since I began working with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. I continue to be incredibly grateful for this life-changing opportunity and the ability to teach and connect with wonderful patients and clinicians. As some of struggles I have faced in life are similar to those in treatment, each day is truly special as I am able to share with others a resource that has been fundamental in my own recovery journey.

Many of the patients are trying out yoga for the first time. To hear after class about their experience; that the practice was calming, that their spirits have been uplifted or that they hope to include yoga as part of their ongoing healing…warms my heart every time!

This photo is from the Community Centre on Queen Street., where a large screen display rotates between nature scenes and this image about the Yoga for Wellness & Recovery groups. I was quite taken back when I saw it last month - so very special. Thank you to the CAMH Foundation program Gifts of Light for supporting this initiative. Looking forward to 2019!

IMG_4732.JPG

Toronto Yoga Conference and Show

Thrilled to be teaching in the Toronto Yoga Show and Conference again! I will be hosting two workshops which combine lived and professional experience with specialized training and teachings: Mind-Body Health and Addictions Recovery: A Holistic Health Approach.

To learn more and register follow this link. The conference this year takes place March 28 - 31, 2019 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. 4 days, 300 exhibitors, 62 instructors, and 30,000+ people!

Look forward to seeing you there. Any questions specific about the sessions feel free to contact me via email at: info@evonnesullivan.com

Success

The elevator in my condo building has a sign posted wishing us a ‘peaceful and prosperous new year’...but what really is prosperous? When I was 2 years sober and still very much learning how to manage mental health and life challenges without alcohol, I fell into a deep depression. During these times, my mother would visit; helping me eat or to get out of bed and walk a bit…basically anything for nutrition or body movement. It was a horrible time, depression is not unfamiliar to me, but this time it was paralyzing. One day she arrived with a poem printed from the internet and pasted it on the fridge.

“Success” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. “To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

I take these words with me for personal and professional goals this coming year. I resist urges to compare and compete, stay true to myself, hush negative self-talk, search for more light and know that we must try to make the most of the cards dealt because this friends, is the only life we get. 

#HappyNewYear #Prosperity #Success #Life 

Photo credit: Ryan J. Wong

Photo credit: Ryan J. Wong

Toronto Life

It’s official! I am a resident of the city of #Toronto again. It’s been a long journey working towards this but I am thrilled to begin new adventures. I left the city 7 years ago as a result of mental health and addiction challenges…needing to get better. Now, a person in long-term recovery and with a whole new lease on life, I am truly grateful that I am returning; healthy, with support from family and friends, work that I hold dear to my heart, and of course, hopes and dreams.

Thank you to all who have been on this journey with me. I will always love London, Ontario, my hometown and the place that guided me back to health, but the path of life is taking me somewhere else now. Looking forward… ~ from the #tdot

IMG_2441.JPG

6 Years Sober

I will keep this short and sweet. As of October 23rd, I am proudly 6 years sober. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

A few of the many gifts I have been granted since coming into recovery: 

IMG_2234.JPG

• Family love 
• Community 
• Mental health 
• Physical health 
• Improved decision making 
• Knowing when to ask for help 
• A rewarding career and my own business 
• Learning yoga & becoming a teacher 
• A new smile (literally & figuratively) 
• The ability to speak publicly 
• Sleeping through the night 
• Following my dreams 
• Emotional stability 
• Self-respect 
• Confidence 
• Self-trust 
• Life

 
DM-Edited LogoWS.png
 

mindyourmind

Excited to share this collaboration with the wonderful folks at mindyourmind, a national youth mental health organization here in Canada. One Sunday morning not too long ago we sat down to chat about my ‘Yoga for Wellness & Recovery’ program and the benefits of mind-body work for mental health and addiction recovery. We also touched upon my lived experience and how the inclusion of yoga and mindfulness practices into your recovery plan is effective in balancing moods and long-term health improvements. Hope you enjoy! 

 
DM-Edited Logo.png
 

Choices & Change

I have been thinking a lot about choices lately. The last few weeks have been quite busy and without realizing it, I lost my ‘creative’ time. The key for me is to recognize idiosyncrasies in my mood and then evaluate what is missing or needs to be changed. So last week I made some alterations in my schedule and almost immediately the heaviness in my shoulders lessened and I became inspired again!

Took this photo a few weeks ago in West Toronto on my way to Marilyn Bell Park to practice some yoga by the water. It was a beautiful evening and this image captures how life can get away from you. What is important for me at these times is awareness plus the ability or willingness to make choices for change. Perhaps take a few moments without distraction and just breathe. Check in with your physical body and emotions to take notice of how you are really feeling about a situation or decision. Always remember that asking for help or talking with others can also be a great means of support. 

fullsizeoutput_557c.jpeg
 
DM-Edited Logo.png
 

Regular Posts to Come!

Happy to share that I will be writing more regularly on the Yoga for Wellness & Recovery blog. I am frequently posting information on other social medias but had the thought (while updating the content and design of my webpage) that it would helpful to group this in one area. Very much looking forward to touching base more often - expect tips regarding yoga, mindfulness, meditation, mental health and addiction recovery. First one below...

Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured...Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to ~ Susan Cain, Quiet

IMG_0946.JPG
 
DM-Edited Logo.png
 

Yoga for Wellness & Recovery

Hello Friends! 

Thanks for checking in. I have been quite busy from the end of 2017 into 2018. Happy New Year! Thank you all for the support - community members, class attendees, Western UniversityCMHA National, Recovery Week London, HealthAchieve, CBC London and the yoga world who is embracing Yoga for Wellness & Recovery with open arms. 

A new venture I have begun is to expand teaching locations and provide Yoga for Wellness & Recovery workshops around Ontario. In doing this, I have the wonderful experience of meeting many lovely souls on similar paths and am able to share mind-body tools for health and healing with a greater audience. To learn more about available workshops check out events or contact for more information. I created 'Yoga for Wellness & Recovery' as a short form: Yoga for (mental) Wellness and/or (addiction) Recovery. This is based on personal struggles and to be able to share resources and practices that were, and continue to be, fundamental in my own journey.

Coming up in April I am absolutely honoured to be one of the 72 instructors invited to teach at Canada’s largest yoga event, the Toronto Yoga Conference and Show! Over 4 days, April 12 - 15, this event welcomes 30,000 plus attendees. I will be hosting 2 sessions: Mind-Body Health and Yoga for Wellness & Recovery both of which combine specialized teachings and trainings alongside lived experience in mental health and addictions recovery. I am thrilled for the opportunity to share my true passion and much needed resources at this scale with so many others.

It becomes more evident everyday to the public, media and the yoga community with the tragic passing of well-known Buddhist and yoga teacher Michael Stone, that we all are affected by mental illness and addiction directly or indirectly and that addiction is a mental health issue. As a result, my work addresses mental health and addiction recovery concurrently and is for those dealing with their own challenges, family or friends supporting others or individuals wishing to learn more about yoga for healing. For more information and registration on the Toronto Yoga Show click here.

I will check in again soon! In the meantime, Instagram is updated daily with posts from life and work...yoga, teachings, trainings, speaking, community classes, reflections, events and some fun! 

medium.png

Namaste. Evonne 

Instagram's Top 9 of 2017

5 Years Sober

Today I am 5 years sober.  I smile in this photo because I know I am lucky. Even with its anxieties and pain, life is a precious opportunity. The background of my laptop remains unchanged for years now… “She said she couldn’t survive and never realized that’s what she had been doing the entire time.”  These are your roses Roger. I know this photo would have made you smile too.

A big thanks to everyone who has supported ‘Yoga for Wellness & Recovery’ and my vision for EvonneSullivan.com. I am beyond grateful to be able to share my true passion with others: mind-body tools for mental health and addiction recovery.

Much love to my family, friends, friends who became family, my home group, the rooms, recovery yogis everywhere, my long-time psychotherapist the late Neil Campbell, the World Wide Web, Bellwood Health Services, London Health Sciences Centre and my two favourite cities, London and Toronto. I merged together information, resources, places and people to create a custom healing environment. It was not easy or cheap.  

I support and believe in the recovery movement. So we may work towards achieving fear-free and barrier-free access to addiction recovery resources. So the reach for health becomes attainable and not shamed or punished. For the many we’ve lost and to the countless trying to find their way – you deserve compassion, openness and community. Look hard enough and you will find it.