The Vagus Nerve and 5 Ways to Tone It


Presented by Ashley Turner (source)

The Vagus Nerve

  • Also known as the “Wandering Nerve”
    • Connects to most vital organs
      • From the brain through the face and thorax to the abdomen
      • Carries information from the gut, liver, heart and lungs to the brain
    • Mediator of our parasympathetic (rest & digest) response 
    • Influences breathing, digestion and heart rate
      • Sends message to slow down heart rate
        • Releases: acetylcholine (a calming chemical) 
  • Listen to: Polyvagal Theory with Dr. Stephen Porges to learn more about the different branches of the vagus

5 Ways to Tone the Vagus Nerve

  1. Deep Belly Breathing: lengthen the inhale + exhale; calms, tones + soothes the vagus nerve
    • e.g., Meditation 🧘🏾‍♀️
photo of woman singing
Photo by White Gold Photography
  1. Chanting: singing or chanting are great ways to tone the vagus nerve
    • e.g., Singing songs from your favourite Spotify playlist 🎵
  2. Spinal Flexion: massages the vagus nerve
    • e.g., Yoga (cat/cow, seated spinal movements) 🌸
  3. Belly Laughing: increases circulation, blood flow, tones diagram + strengthens the vagus nerve
    • e.g., Watch comedies 😂
  4. Splash Face: tones your vagus nerve in the morning and resets/wakes up your nervous system
    • e.g., Splash face and eyes in the morning with cool water 💦

Why Tone the Vagus Nerve?

  • Decreases stress and anxiety (activates rest & digest system)
  • Deepens breathing
  • Lowers heart rate and increases circulation in the body
  • Opens emotional capacity (feeling grounded and lighter)

Ready to get started?

Vagus Nerve: Breathing for Relaxation
Spotify – Summer Hits Playlist
Cat-Cow Yoga Pose – Yoga With Adriene


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Five Stress Healing Solutions

Health & Lifestyle, Self-Regulation

Presented by Proven


  • Four major researched components of yoga:
    • Posture and Exercise 
    • Pranayama: breathing practices (long, slow, deep breathing)
    • Relaxation
    • Contemplative: meditative focus of attention
  • An effective way to boost mood and achieve emotional wellness
  • Yoga helps you to pay attention and become aware of your body and thoughts
  • See: The Science of Yoga

Herbs, Adaptogens & Supplements

  • Ashwagandha 
    • An adaptogens that helps the body “adapt” to stressors
    • Studies have shown:
      • Reduction in anxiety 
      • Reduction in cortisol levels
      • Helpful with weight
        • Increases feelings of satiety (feeling full)
        • Decrease in stress eating
    • See: Let’s Talk Adaptogens!

Mindfulness Practice

Jon Kabat-Zinn Teaches Mindfulness and Meditation
  • The practice of bringing full awareness to the present moment (e.g., meditation)
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
    • Consists of doing a body scan (brings you to the present) 
  • Mindfulness Self-Compassion 
    • How to be more compassionate, loving and kind towards self
    • Being a better human being starts with you!
  • See: The Foundation of Mindfulness Practice


  • An ancient Chinese exercise and healing technique
  • Qi = energy 
  • Internal & external energy work
  • Deep stances that build up quads and glutes 
  • Can increase the powerhouses of energy in the body 
  • Want more energy? Build up the big muscles in your body 
  • The coordination of eyes, mind, body, breath
    • Activates the brain 
    • Attention turns inward 
    • Awareness of what is happening inside the body
    • Can modulate and control the parasympathetic (rest & digest) nervous system

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

How to Tap – with Nick Ortner of The Tapping Solution
  • Originated by Nicolas Ortner (CEO of The Tapping Solution) 
  • Tapping on end points of meridian on the body to calm body and release stress and overwhelm (example)
    • Meridians on the body:
      • Pathways in which qi (our energy) flows 
      • When there’s pain there’s a blockage of qi
      • Meridians connect all of the organs and qi flow
  • Tapping on end points sends a calming signal to counteract fear responses from the amygdala

What are your stress healing solutions?


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

A Gratitude Exercise

Health & Lifestyle

Presented by Danielle LaPorte (Canadian author)

“Appreciation is a form of wellness. It’s also what keeps us moving through difficult times and what brings us back to love, time and again. More importantly, when we tie our gratitude to the ‘why’ of it, we develop new forms of appreciation and depths of connection for living.” (Commune)

Gratitude, Appreciation & Connection 

Photo by Created Stories
  • Consciously focusing on our blessings have emotional and interpersonal benefit
  • Appreciation is a form of wellness
  • “ I am grateful…. because.…”
    • Being specific increases the sensation of appreciation; gives you access to more positive, life affirming feelings
    • Allows you to go deeper into the meaning behind the circumstances and people in your life you are thankful for
    • Expands your awareness of gratitude; illuminating the positive feelings

5 Gratitude Life Areas

  • Livelihood + Lifestyle: career, work, money, home, possessions, fashion, travel
  • Body + Wellness: fitness, food, relaxation, healing modalities, mental health, sex, sensuality
  • Creativity + Learning: culture, creative expression, education, interests, hobbies
  • Relationships + Society: romantic relationships, partnership, friendships, family, children, community, social causes
  • Essence + Spirituality: soul, inner self, faith, devotional practices 

What are you grateful for?


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

The Science of Yoga

Health & Lifestyle

Produced by Uplift TV (source)

Four Components of Yoga

  • Physical
    • Postures, stretches, exercises, movements, breathing and relaxation techniques
    • Affects our body’s overall functioning 
  • Self-Regulation
    • Ability to control internal stress and emotional responses 
    • Leads to resilience to stress, self-efficacy and equanimity in the face of emotions
  • Mind-Body Awareness
    • Feeling and experiencing what’s going on in the body and mind (being able to observe the flow of thought)
    • Leads to increased mindfulness that can change behaviours in a positive way
  • Experiencing Deeper States
    • Spiritual, transformative, leads to positive lifestyle and goals, improves and enhances life meaning and purpose 
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

Benefits of Yoga

  • Research has shown measures of reduction in:
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Psychological distress
    • Frequency of negative experiences 
  • Increase in resiliency and the frequency of positive experiences
  • Improvement in mental health
  • Creates much needed space in the body and mind 
  • Establishes connections by moving energy through the body
  • Yoga stretches the body; meditation empties the mind 
  • Enables management of the stress response system 


  • Breath is the most powerful tool that everyone has to bring their stress response under their control 
  • It’s possible to reduce blood pressure by controlling breathing
  • Blood pressure is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system (the messenger of the stress response) 
  • Postures in yoga creates challenge that our mind is constantly dealing with; this can be controlled through breathing
  • Breathing + effort of regulating thought enhance parasympathetic nervous signal and brings sympathetic nervous signal down 
  • Breathing can be practiced within yoga and in daily life 

Mind & Brain

  • Yoga strengthens the power of the mind and how we connect with the world
  • The mind controls our health and biology 
  • 1% of illness is related to genes; 90% of illness is related to stress 
  • Yoga brings the mind into focus and can change brain activity and structure (such as plasticity, resulting in the brain becoming conducive to the benefits that come with yoga and meditation)
  • Can change and enhance gene activity that’s good for you (improved immune response); down-regulates negative gene activity when under chronic stress (inflammation) 
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

Barriers to Moving Yoga Forward 

  • Perception and misconceptions about yoga, often created by the media:
    • Yoga viewed as complex exercise forms and postures; requires you to be flexible, thin, young to practice; is difficult, specific and not adaptable to individual circumstances
      • Yoga practices can be adapted to any population, and still train the same properties (mind-body coordination, mindfulness, awareness) 
  • Chair yoga for elders
  • Can be done with young children

Global Benefits 

  • Survival requires the foundation of human behaviours and the way we respond to life and to change
  • Using our individual power for harmony, connection, union
    • First done by the individual through healing themselves, taking back power over their behaviour, becoming in harmony and good health  
    • Establishing awareness, self-regulation, immunity to stress, compassion, high-mindedness, clarity 
    • Our collective nature as individuals becomes stronger and harmonious, leading to a greater influence on the planet 
  • Engaging in yoga is a practice of evolution and transformation on society as a whole 

Ready to get started?

Yoga with Adriene

Arianna Elizabeth

Black Yogi Nico Marie

Breathe and Flow

The Bare Female

Mady Morrison

Yoga With Bird

Alo Yoga


Yoga for Kids

Yoga for Elders


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Gut Health 101

Health & Lifestyle

Presented by Rhiannon Lytle, RHN with Organika (source)

Photo by Needpix

Gut Microbiome

  • Gut: everything from the mouth to rectum 
  • Microbiome: bacteria, viruses that live on and in the body
    • Everything has a microbiome (even the skin)
  • Gut microbiome is like a “little rainforest” in your body that is made up of cells and organisms
    • Everything works in conjunction (you need good and bad; problems can arise when off balance)
    • Medication or illness can disrupt microbiome and cause an imbalance 


  • An imbalance of too much bad or not enough good organisms composed in the gut
    • Candida (yeast overgrowth) 
    • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Disease (IBS/IBD)
  • Indicators: uncontrollable sugar cravings, bloating after meals, constipation 

Leaky Gut

  • Formally known as Intestinal Permeability 
  • Our intestinal wall has small gaps (called tight junctions) to let water and nutrients that our body needs daily to pass through 
  • Due to inflammatory factors (e.g., foods, medication, illness), small gaps can grow larger in the lining of our gut, allowing toxins and undigested food particles through 

Gut Disruptors

  • Refined sugar intake
    • Processed foods, white sugar; can lead to candida (yeast overgrowth)
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Advil
  • Excessive alcohol
    • Depletes good bacteria 
  • Nutrient deficiencies
    • Vitamin A, E, Zinc
  • Inflammation
    • Leaky gut causing irritation/dysbiosis
  • Stress
    • Causes hormone imbalances
  • Antibiotics
    • Pulls out good gut bacteria
    • Taking probiotics after or alongside antibiotics helps create good bacteria
  • Certain medication

Gut-Brain Connection 

Photo by Pixabay
  • There are 500 million neurons in our gut that connect to our brain
  • The gut (also referred to as our “second brain”) communicates with our actual brain through our nervous system, hormones and immune system
  • Is also known as our “gut-brain axis”
  • The vagus nerve is a major nerve connecting our gut and brain
    • Critical for digestion, heart rate, blood, sleep
    • Important to rest and digestion; slowing down breathing supports digestion and nutrient absorption (engages stomach acid preparing us to eat)
  • Our gut is a hub for neurotransmitter production of:
    • Serotonin: the happy hormone
      • Impacts our mood and how we digest food
    • Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA): controls fear and anxiety
  • How we feel impacts gut; gut can impact how we feel

Gut-Immunity Connection 

  • Gut consists of  70% of the cells that make up our immune system
  • Intestinal lining is our first line of defense in our immune health
    • If our lining isn’t working optimally, our immune system may jump in to support
  • Poor gut health can lead to increased inflammation 

Foods to Consume 👍

close up shot of delicious kimchi on white ceramic plate
Photo of kimchi by makafood
  • Foods to reduce inflammation:
    • Fatty fish
    • Leafy greens
    • Nuts
  • Foods high in probiotics:
    • Sauerkraut 
    • Kimchi
    • Kombucha
    • Kefir
    • Tempeh
  • Foods high in fibre:
    • Fruits & vegetables 
    • Oats
    • Quinoa
    • Beans
  • Foods that increase neurotransmitters:
    • Tryptophan (an amino acid that is important for the production of serotonin)-rich foods like poultry, eggs, spinach, seeds
    • GABA-increasing foods like bone broth, whole grains, fermented foods, oolong tea

Foods to (consider) Avoiding 🙅

  • Refined sugars
  • Alcohol 
  • Dairy
  • Gluten 
  • Caffeine

Organika Recipes

More from Organika
More from Rhiannon Lytle, RHN


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

5 Ways to Support Early Literacy Skills

Early Childhood

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” – Emilie Buchwald

Earlier this year, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a Right to Read document on issues affecting students with reading disabilities. While thinking about how schools are opening back next week for children in Ontario, I wanted to share 5 ways that parents/caregivers can begin supporting early literacy skills at home and from an early age.

1. Develop an early love for books: Books can be introduced to little ones, even while they are in the womb! Did you know that in the final trimester of pregnancy, babies become better able at hearing a range of tones, and might even react to the sounds and voices that they hear outside of the womb? If a fetus hears the same melody over and over again, they will likely recognize this sound as a newborn later on. Check out Annie Murphy Paul’s TedTalk on What we learn before we’re born. Instilling a reading routine from a young age and continuing as your child gets older will contribute to strengthening and building their imagination, curiosity and interest in books.

woman reading book to toddler

2. Have books available in the home: Have books that you love to read and a selection of children’s books available. Did you know that children love to imitate the actions of adults? If they witness your love and interest for reading, they too will start to build that interest themselves. The library is also a wonderful place to explore a wide selection of books on shapes, letters, colours, emotions, and so much more. Sometimes I like to put eBooks and eAudiobooks on hold from the Toronto Public Library. Whether you live in Toronto or not, their amazing Ready for Reading program is worth checking out, as it’s filled with lots of great information about children’s early literacy. If you do live in or near Toronto, make sure to check out one of their KidsStop early literacy centres near to you, and get a free library card if you don’t already have one!

books on rack

3. Teach the alphabet: What better way of learning the letters A-Z than through the alphabet song. Talk with your child about the different shape or symbol formation of the upper and lower case letters of the alphabet. Fun ways to explore this can also be from an alphabet puzzle, poster, and especially books. There are many books about the alphabet and lots that are written in more than one language. One of my favourite alphabet books is ABC Mindful Me by Christiane Engel.

white red green and yellow letter letter letter letter letter letter letter letter letter letter

4. Talk often and teach new vocabulary: Long gone are the days when “goo-goo, ga-ga” was used to communicate back to a baby. Young children develop their expressive language, what they say and communicate, both verbally or non-verbally, from their receptive language, what they hear, see and understand from the people around them. Expose your child to a range of new vocabulary and explain to them what complex words in books mean. This will support them when they begin to talk, read and write.

photo of woman and girl talking while lying on bed

5. Play together: Children learn and understand so much about themselves and the world around them through play. With and alongside you, and even through their own independent exploration. Sing rhyming songs, listen to music, play games and activities with letters and words, create your own stories, or simply play pretend. Play materials such as blocks, toys and manipulatives help to develop the muscles in their hands that they will soon need for holding writing tools.

a mother playing ukulele while singing to her daughter

Ever wonder what goes on in a child’s brain while you’re reading together? Check out this video 👇

Additional Resources:

About the Right to Read Inquiry

Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development – Language Development and Literacy

Zero to Three – Reading Resources

Toronto Public Library – Ready for Reading

Toronto Public Library – Resources for Teachers & Parents

Toronto Public Library – Children’s Books List

Sunnyseed – Book Club

Reading with Littles: Free Tips, Milestones, and Foundational Early Literacy Skills for Babies & Beyond (Thank you for allowing us to share your resources, Sunnyseed!)

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Resources for Children with Hearing and/or Vision Needs:

Literacy for Children with Combined Vision and Hearing Loss

Paths to Literacy – Overview of Literacy for Children and Youth Who Are Deafblind

The Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness – Language and Literacy Resources

National Center on Deaf-Blindness – Literacy


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Self-Care is Never Selfish

Health & Lifestyle

“When you put your needs last, you’re like a plant without water that’s worried about providing enough shade for others.”

– Alexis Jones (activist and motivational speaker)

I’m sure we’ve all heard these words before: “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. In other words, if you aren’t taking good care of yourself, you can’t effectively take care of others. It’s so important that you find the time for self-care and attention.

Here are 7 ways you can practice self-care:

Stay Nourished 🥗

They say you are what you eat. Care for your body by fueling it with healthy and nourishing meals and snacks. Be mindful of certain foods that don’t make you feel good and consider eliminating them from your diet. Especially during warmer weather, remember to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water throughout the day and everyday.

Learn more: Brain-Gut Connection / 7 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating

Sleep Well 💤

This is not only about how many hours of sleep you get, but also about the quality of your sleep. You work hard throughout the day, so take the time needed to restore. While it’s ideal to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep, make sure you feel comfortable while you are and that you’re waking up feeling well-rested.

Learn more: Sleep & Stress Management / How to Sleep for Peak Mental Performance

Get and Stay Active 💪

Physical activity is great for your body and mind. Your brain releases endorphins, a feel-good brain chemical that helps to reduce stress. You deserve to feel good! Plus, it boosts your energy, immune system and improves sleep. So, strap on your running shoes. A nice 30-minute walk is all it takes.

Connect with Others 📞

Whether it’s a family member, friend or colleague, connect and spend time with people you know and trust. Know when to ask for help when you need it. That is a form of self-care.

Take a Pause

Stop, slow down, and make time for pause. Listen to calming music, journal, pray, meditate, go for a walk in nature, take a few deep breaths or stretch. Taking a pause is a great way to pace yourself and reset.

Learn more: Meditation Tools & Tips

Be Kind to Yourself 🥰

Never be so hard on yourself! Embrace yourself fully – all your mistakes and accomplishments. We are human after all. Know that you are doing the best you can. Try this: Look in the mirror and say something kind to yourself each day.

Stay Committed 📆

Build a self-care routine and try your very best to stay committed to it. Without a doubt, the demands of life can be stressful. Now more than ever, remember to first fill up your own cup. Find what feels good to you, stick to it, and keep going!

Learn more: Your Mental Health Matters: Extra Brain-Love During Times of Stress

What are other ways you practice self-care? Share them in the comments section! 👇

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This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

Mindful Communication

Health & Lifestyle

“Great communication begins with connection.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

man wearing brown jacket using smartphone while using smartphone

How would you describe the way you communicate with others? Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way people communicate. The way that I communicate. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the way we had to communicate and the new ways that we do now.

Every single day we communicate. Whether it’s through our words, lack thereof, body language and/or actions, we are engaged in some form of communication. There are many different ways we can communicate with others. Face-to-face, over the phone, virtually/remotely, or in writing. Such as through text messages or written letters. Just to list a few. Compared to years ago, we have so many more methods of communication available to us.

Because of just how important communication is in our personal and professional relationships, I believe it’s important that we take time to reflect more deeply about how we communicate with others, and about ways we can do so mindfully and effectively. One of those ways can be through mindful communication.

What is Mindful Communication?

Mindful communication is the way in which we can bring awareness, attention and compassion to how we communicate with others. When we become aware of how we communicate with others through our words, body language and/or actions, we can start to pay close attention to how it influences the nature of our conversations and relationships. While there are many different methods that can be used in mindful communication, I’m going to share one I discovered by Gregory Kramer, author of Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom. He shares 6 meditation instruction steps (Insight Dialogue Guidelines) that can be used in interpersonal relationships.

1. Pause: Mindfulness

This consists of stepping out of the daily rush and letting go of whatever the mind may be attached to at the moment. It is a movement of the mind towards being more awake and present to a moment of dialogue. This can happen through paying attention to the breath and having a sense of body awareness to ground you. It includes noticing where you are externally (e.g., anything outside and around you), and internally (e.g., thoughts and feelings). In this way, you can enter communication with the whole mind, body and heart.

2. Relax: Tranquility & Receptivity

woman meeting with client

This step consists of relaxing muscles that are tense and paying attention to the feelings that come with relaxing, such as ease, allowing, and letting go. This can be tested in places that are not usually attended to such as the muscles below the eyes. Relaxation of other parts of the body such as the jaw and shoulders allows the mind and emotions to follow. This step helps to bring about mental tranquility and serenity, and can be explored as you speak and listen to others.

3. Open: Relationality

This step is about how we relate to others and invites an open inquiry into our internal and external experiences. It allows us to look at how mindfulness is resting, whether it be internally, externally or both. This is an intimate experience which allows us to notice where the mind is in each moment and what is being received (e.g., voice, face, eyes, pain, love, beauty, horror, tragedy, potential).

4. Trust Emergence: Attunement

This step is about having the flexibility to trust what will emerge in conversation.

5. Listen Deeply: Meditate

This is all about showing up and paying full attention. It includes a steady quality of listening which matures and develops through concentration. Through this step, you can begin to notice how you make sense and attend to something, while also observing and listening to the phasing, pauses, pitch and changes in loudness in another person’s voice. This also includes noticing beyond one’s language and words and actually hearing the person.

6. Speak the Truth: Language

This step pairs together with the former step – listen deeply, since speaking begins with listening. This step also flows out of the first 4 steps. Kramer says, “It rests on the mindfulness of the pause. It stabilizes with relax. It engages relationally with open. It gains flexibility with trust emergence. To speak the truth, we have to first know what the truth is”. It also includes discerning what gets spoken and what is left unspoken, and giving language to the moment of awareness.

How might you begin to integrate any of these steps into your communication with others?

To learn more about Gregory Kramer’s Insight Dialogue Guidelines

Are you interested in sharing a post on a topic or adding to our resources page? Let’s connect!


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

The Day I Met Dr. Bruce Perry

Early Childhood

There is no way that I can share my passion and interest around studying, learning about, and understanding child and brain development without mentioning Dr. Bruce Perry, how I met him, and how this journey all began for me. This article is all about the events that led up to the day that I met Dr. Bruce Perry, exactly 6 years ago today.

Read About Me, and one important moment you will learn about my story is that I spent 2 years studying in a program that I eventually came to discover was not for me. Coming from a high school that focused on technology, computer science and business, a significant selection of the courses I was enrolled in at the time were computer/business related, such as accounting, marketing and business leadership. With all of those courses already under my belt, I naturally assumed I would be best suited towards (and most likely to be accepted to) an academic career within the field of business. As a result, it was towards a Bachelors in Human Resources Management (BHRM) that I ventured. By the end of my second year, my marks had taken a further dip. I found myself at the Academic Advising Office with an appointment to discuss my academic pathway options. I shuffled through some old emails and managed to find the original email that was send to me:

Dear Samantha Yarde,

This is a friendly reminder that your appointment to meet with an Academic Advisor
is scheduled for May 25, 2012, 9:00am
Location: Central Square, 103

After my appointment with an advisor, the only option I was left with was that I would be withdrawn from the BHRM program, but could enroll into a different business program and re-take a few of the core courses I needed in order to re-enter and continue in the BHRM program. The email that followed 5 days later stated:

Dear student;

Your grade report for the Fall/Winter 2011 academic session indicates that you are ineligible to proceed in your program. As a result, you have been exited from your (BAS, BDEM, BHRM, BPA or BSW) degree program.

And just like that, I was no longer enrolled in the BHRM program and faced with 2 decisions to make:

  1. Continue in another program, bring up my marks, and re-enter the BHRM program at some point. I had already started the program anyways. Or,
  2. Withdraw from the program altogether and reflect on the direction of my future.

I’m sure you know by now the choice I decided to make.

Initially, my plan was to take a year off, do some volunteering, and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. However, it didn’t take long for me to come to terms with exactly what it was I needed to do; which was to follow the passion I had as a child of becoming a teacher. By September 2012, the same year I had withdrawn from the BHRM program, I was already beginning the next chapter of my life. I applied and was accepted into a four-year Bachelor of Early Childhood Leadership program; but, within a couple of days, quickly decided that I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice to end up exactly where I had started. By the second week, I was transferred into a two-year Early Childhood Education program. While those were two really great years of my academic career, I knew that I wanted to continue my studies. In January of 2014, I was nearing graduation. I started thinking about what I wanted to do next and where I wanted to go. The easiest option for me was to stay at George Brown College, and take the bridging courses I needed to transition back into the Early Childhood Leadership program, which I had initially applied to. By this point in my life, I was confident that I wanted to continue pursuing a career within the field of early childhood. So, I thought to myself, why not just continue on, at this school, and with this program? And I probably would have, if it wasn’t for the Career & Education Fair:

“The Career & Education Fair provides opportunities to meet potential employers, explore educational pathways, learn about professional organizations and attend workshops supporting professional development.” (GBC Newsletter, 2014)

The day of the fair, I learned of 2 new paths I could take: I could go on to obtain a Bachelor in Early Childhood Education, or I could apply to the Honours Bachelor of Child Development (BCD) program; which, of course, was the direction I ended up going. Thinking back now, there was something about my course on Infant and Child Development (PSYC1075), and learning all about developmental health, the architecture of the brain, early brain development, neural and sensory pathways, self-regulation, genes and environment, developmental milestones, and so much more that struck my interest. By September of 2014, not only was I enrolled and ready to begin the BCD program, but I had also discovered Dr. Bruce Perry and of his work, while he was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, many years ago. I recall him mentioning a book he had published in 2006 titled, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing. Captivated to continue learning more, I decided to order a copy of this book.

Meeting Dr. Bruce Perry on May 11, 2015 at the Roots of Empathy Research Symposium

Over the following two and a half years in the BCD program, not only would I be required to read this same book for one of my courses, but I’d also be invited by one of my professors to an event that Dr. Perry would be speaking at. Fast forward to May 11, 2015, where I’d be sitting alongside my peers at the Roots of Empathy Research Symposium in Toronto, Canada. That day, exactly 6 years ago today, I had the chance to meet one of my greatest inspirations in the field. Back in 2014 when I finally had a clearer idea of what I wanted to do with my life and what I was most passionate about, Dr. Perry further opened the doors to my interest in child and brain development, neuroscience, trauma and the importance of early childhood experiences. This brings me to the 2 reasons why I wanted to write and share this article with you:

  1. The Roots of Empathy will be hosting their 2021 Research Symposium on May 11th (today! what a coincidence) & 12th from 1:00-3:00 PM ET. It is virtual, free and open to the public. This event will bring together neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and experts on empathy like Dr. Richard Davidson, Dr. Dan Siegel, and of course, Dr. Bruce Perry.
  2. Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey are co-authors of a new book titled, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, which was released on April 27th and is a #1 New York Times Bestseller.

While I won’t be able to attend the Roots of Empathy Research Symposium this year, I share it with the hopes that you might be able to attend and learn from it, as well as share it with others. I did, however, attend one of Perry and Winfrey’s virtual book tours and look forward to continuing reading What Happened to You? I can already see that it is making a significant impact on the world, and the ways that we view and understand early childhood experiences, brain science, trauma and healing. Have you gotten your copy yet? 📖

Interested in learning more about Roots of Empathy?

Interested in learning more about the What Happened to You?


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

5 Lessons 2020 Has Taught Me


As this year comes to an end, I wanted to reflect on and share with you all that this year has taught me. We can all agree that 2020 has been a year like no other that we will look back on and surely not forget. But despite the obvious reasons why, this year, in particular, I have experienced, embraced and learned many things that I know will impact how I carry out the new year and each day and moment within it that is yet to come, and I’m sure you have too. Here are the 5 lessons that 2020 has taught me.

1. Don’t Hesitate.

Earlier this year, I came to learn of the passing of someone who was like a second mom to me. Although I didn’t get to see her in the months prior as I had wanted to, I knew that I already held so many great memories with her that I would never forget. What I learned from this and all throughout this year as it unfolded, was that we shouldn’t hesitate; to tell the people in our lives how much they mean to us, to make the time to connect with someone we care about, or even to do something we’ve always wanted to for ourselves. While this year has made it harder for us to see and connect with some of our loved ones and friends, in person, as much as we would like to or used to, there are still so many ways we can express our love and appreciation to someone in our life, or even to give to someone in need. Something I took up doing this year was mailing hand-written letters to friends to express my appreciation for them. Maybe you might consider donating towards an organization that is doing great work in the community or supporting a local business. Maybe you take the time to do something for yourself. Whatever it is, don’t hesitate to do it.

2. Embrace Opportunities.

“Change is necessary. It is important, and it is also what makes life exciting. When we embrace change, we open ourselves to the understanding that anything is possible. Life is not supposed to stay the same. We are not supposed to stay the same. Our life, our communities, our world, are always in bloom. When we understand this, we see that change is growth; and growth is essential for each of us to reach our individual and collective potential.”

– Cleo Wade

This school year, I have been working with senior kindergarten after some time working with preschool students. At the time, SK was an age group I had little experience working with. The only experience I had working with SK students was through volunteer work and a placement opportunity in JK/SK classrooms. Despite all of this, an opportunity for change and growth had been presented to me. Oftentimes, the fear of change can hold us back from embracing and accepting new opportunities and experiences. We may fear that we may not be good enough, capable, or are just used to and comfortable with staying within our comfort zone. However, this can limit us from growing in personal and/or professional roles, learning new things, developing greater skills and capacities or even meeting new people. While opportunities for growth in my professional role began prior to this year, I am truly grateful for all of them. They have given me the confidence to continue trying new things and remind me to embrace change and new opportunities. I have had great achievements as a result, and that is something I’ll always be proud of. What opportunities have you embraced this year or are ready to for the new year?

3. Be Vulnerable.

This year, one of the ways I have stepped outside of my comfort zone has been with creating and sharing the contents of this website. I realized that I could write as many great articles as I wanted to, but it wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t promoting and sharing them with others and writing content that would be meaningful and relatable. The most vulnerable article I wrote was one where I shared my experience being in lockdown. In deciding to write that article, I knew I wanted to do more than just share my experience. While it’s a longer read than most of the articles I have written, it was important for me to share the tools that enabled me to notice what I was going through, how I was able to overcome it, along with tips and strategies. It turned out to be one of my most viewed and favourite articles to write. If you haven’t already, check it out: How I Got Through Some of My Lowest Days in Lockdown.

4. Process Over Outcome.

Towards the end of last year, I was highly encouraged to apply to a master’s program. I still remember being told how it would open doors for me. I knew that it could, and the thought of that was always very appealing to me. Prior to that conversation, I knew that my passion for the field would be the reason why I’d go on to get a master’s degree. I had also been motivated to do so by other mentors along the way. It was something that was on my mind leading up to completing a bachelor’s degree in child development at the end of 2016. So, with that push of encouragement and support, I spent the first half of January getting my documents together and writing my letter of interest which was reviewed, edited countless times, and perfected. Whenever I read that letter, I am reminded that choosing not to immediately continue my studies after completing my degree left a lot of opportunity for me to grow personally and professionally. All of my experiences and growth in that 3-year timeframe (2017-2020) was the reason why I felt prepared for the program. In April, I was accepted to the Master of Arts in Early Childhood Studies program at Ryerson University. However, for various reasons, I decided to withdraw from the program days before even starting. It wasn’t an easy decision to make and I felt like I would be letting others down more than myself. I continue to wonder if my motivation to obtain a master’s was more about the outcome (the doors that would open for me and having the MA title), than the process (the experiences, learning, growth and character development I would have gained over the course of the program). Maybe now just wasn’t the right time, or there were other programs that I would have been more interested in pursuing and I had settled. Whatever the true reasons may be why I withdrew from the program, I’ve come to realize that for me, the process is more valuable than the final outcome, and I wanted to be sure that I could give my 100% towards it and embrace all of the opportunities that would have presented themselves along the way. But I didn’t feel I would have been able to. At least not now. Therefore, withdrawing from the program, I believe, was the better decision for me to have made, and I couldn’t have done it without my family, who continuously support me through all of the hard decisions I’ve had to make. I am endlessly grateful and blessed to have them. What hard decisions have you had to make this year?

5. Be Present.

“Being present is the only way to live a truly rich and full life.”

– Jay Shetty

I’m sure many could agree that this year has forced them to slow down, even if just for a little bit. While I don’t feel as though I needed to be forced to slow down in any way, I do feel that there was room for me to become more present to my day-to-day moments, experiences, and interactions with others. I got so used to the grind of waking up to be at work for 7:30 am and going about my usual day, up until lockdown in March when I had to work from home. The pace of my days naturally slowed down, and the extra time in the mornings and evenings which were consumed by commuting, I had for other things, such as reflection. This was when I began getting more seriously into yoga and meditation and understanding the science behind it. Turning inward and better understanding myself, allowed me to become more outwardly present to everything happening around me. This included being better at noticing anything in my external environment that may have been impacting me and what I could or needed to do to change it, as well as recognizing how I could be more present in each moment and to my relationships. Whether it’s washing the dishes, folding laundry, or talking with a friend, being present in these small moments has allowed me to have greater appreciation for the big ones. I get to wake up each morning feeling what I have found to be a rich and fulfilling life. Remember that each day is truly a blessing, so be present to every moment of it.

What lessons has 2020 taught you?

“If there’s anything 2020 has shown us, it’s that we desperately need more. More compassion. More peace. More love. More time. More togetherness.” – Ainsley Arment


Cheers to the new year and all that is to come for you in 2021!


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.