As seen in Today's Parent 

As seen in Flare Magazine

Click above to read a recent article with citations from Anu

Anu Sharma-Niwa,
M.A., R.Psych.
Registered Psychologist 

Phone: (403) 990-4159
(confidential voice mail)


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Mount Royal Village:
501, 1550 8th Street SW
(at 16th Avenue)
Calgary, AB 

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The Superwoman Syndrome

 Are you a woman who feels like you are constantly juggling balls in the air, always afraid of the chance that one might drop?

Do you find it near impossible to make time for yourself because you are so exhausted from meeting everyone else’s needs? 

Do you feel guilty because you feel like your efforts are never good enough?

Has anyone every referred to you as a being a Superwoman when all you feel like is a failure? 

Many contemporary women today were raised with the belief that the most appropriate roles for women were caretakers, nurturers, and emotional supporters of their partners, children, aging parents, etc. The term “Superwoman seems to have essentially become synonymous with the expectations placed on women who try to be the best mother, partner, daughter, sibling, friend, and employee in a single bound.  The reality is that the majority of women take on paid roles in addition to being the core provider of unpaid caregiving and support within their families.  Women tend to be constantly juggling multiple roles and responsibilities on a daily basis, continually trying to get more done in less time.  This juggling act makes it much harder to focus and be fully present in what they are doing and may also result in diminished feelings of satisfaction.  This relentless pace at which tasks are performed can also leave many women struggling to find any personal time, placing self-care on the “back-burner”, thus creating a slippery slope for stress and guilt to rear its ugly head and promote more symptoms of anxiety , depression, eating disorders,…and possibly even exacerbate other health problems.  

So what is a Superwoman to do in order to feel more human again? 


So the reality of it is that “self-care” has become a great new buzz-word…but what does that really look like??

I like to use the example of an automobile….we don’t think twice about taking our vehicle in for regular maintenance appointments and to keep it filled with fuel but we will let this happen to ourselves.  You must make a conscious effort to ensure that your tank does not run out of fuel and to keep up with regular self-care in order to be able to fulfill your roles and responsibilities with feeling more balance, confidence and peace. 

Part of self-care entails prioritizing your roles and responsibilities so that you can become more clear about what is truly most important to you at this particular stage of life.  Once you identify your real priorities, you can focus your energy where you need it most.  

One of the biggest barriers to self-care is perfectionism.  Perfectionism is when you feel compelled to be all things to all people, yet continue to feel inadequate regardless of how much you accomplish because your measure of self-worth now becomes things that you do, as opposed to who you are. Your fears of failure then drive you to produce more and do more…even when you are low on fuel.  When you try to take on more than your fuel tanks will allow, you become susceptible to feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy anxiety, and depression.  You become convinced that you are never good enough or that you are a failure and continue again to be all things to all people in an effort to fill this void.  This is what referred to as the Cycle of Over- Functioning.  

Part of healthy self-care involves maintaining healthy boundaries and learning to say “No” in a kind and respectful way.  A boundary is the invisible barrier protecting and enhancing the integrity of a person.  We need boundaries to protect and take care of ourselves. There are essentially three types of boundaries: 

1.    Rigid: characterized by strict rules and guidelines; very closed.

2.    Diffuse:  significant difficulty with saying “no”; fragile; others make decisions about entering this boundary.

3.   Healthy: when you are in charge but flexible about letting people in or out, depending on the situation at hand.  

 It is so important for you, as women, to give yourselves permission to ASK FOR HELP!! Noteworthy is that Superwomen rarely do this.  Assertiveness and consistency with boundary setting are both learned skills. We don’t come out of the womb communicating and setting healthy boundaries…. we LEARN to be good communicators.  We LEARN how to take care of ourselves.  

I often ask the Superwomen that I encounter to imagine that there is a loved one living inside of them and to consider how they would treat that person. Most often it is with much more care and compassion than they give themselves.  I then ask them to treat that person (themselves) with all the respect that they deserve in an effort to break this double standard. With a bit of practice, this can become a new and healthy learned habit!



Cleaning up the Fight

Ever wonder why it feels like the same fight keeps coming up, like a broken record? Do arguments get so heated that you say and do things you regret? Do you feel so angry that you feel like you might explode? Do you feel like you don’t know how you can stand to be in the same room with your partner, let alone in a committed long term relationship?

There will inevitably be times when feelings get hurt or mishaps occur in relationships. It is possible to use some concrete tools to ensure proper resolution occurs after an argument or regrettable incident so that you and your partner can dialogue collaboratively, rather than face off like injured adversaries. Trying to heal from an upsetting fight by returning hurt for hurt, blaming, criticizing, humiliating, name-calling, or resenting each other only creates more emotional upset, hurt and disconnect.  One of the most damaging things one can say in an argument is to use the “D-word”....to threaten DIVORCE in a “one-upping” fashion could actually increase the likelihood of divorce.  

The dialogue for processing what happened during the fight is critical in preventing it from coming up again.  To process is to be able to talk about what happened without getting back into the fight.  Figuring out what happened is the first step.  You know what you did and felt, but that is only half the story.  To figure out the full picture, you also need to hear your partner’s perspective.  Both are necessary to complete the puzzle.  The Gottman Model of Couples Therapy stresses that there is no absolute “reality” in a disagreement but rather, there are always two “subjective realities”….each person is right but trying to understand each other’s reality instead of arguing for your own reality is critical.   You also need to trust and accept what your partner is describing to be true.  Listen to learn and gain understanding.  

Perhaps one of the most important pieces to also consider is how to apologize effectively.  A full apology is so much more than the simple words “I’m sorry”.  An apology is actually a very involved and powerful phenomenon.   There are essentially six steps to making a full and effective apology:  

  1.  Express regret.
  2. Accept responsibility
  3. Clarify non-intentionality
  4. Explain the circumstances
  5. Repair damages and prevent reoccurrences
  6. Learn for the future.  


Full closure occurs when you have figured out how to prevent a repeat of the problem. In order to achieve this, it is important to:

  1.  Talk about and accept what each of you were feeling
  2. Discuss and validate each subjective reality.
  3. Admit your own role in the fight.
  4. Identify triggers for each of you that escalate the fight.
  5. Understand the triggers.
  6. Figure out how to make it better next time.

Counselling can help equip you with the right tools to clean up fights or regrettable incidents effectively, and repair any wounds to your relationship.





Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy Article in the Telegraph


This is a great article summarizing how Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy can be very effective in providing you with some concrete and simple tools to learn how to "be in the moment" and get mastery over depression, anxiety and your eating habits...and there is a way to integrate chocolate into the whole process!! What could be better than that?

I often get asked how Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy can help with binge eating or "emotional eating". Essentially, it can provide people with fantastic tools to become more aware of eating patterns and why they are eating. For example, mindless eating (i.e. out of boredom), is a major problem because it adds calories without providing much pleasure or satisfaction. This can be one of the easiest types of maladaptive eating patterns to get rid of because you really don't get much out of it...there are very few positives in engaging in this type of pattern. Eating mindfully means eating slowly and paying close attention to taste of food in your mouth, plus the feel of food in your stomach. Regardless of why you start eating, try starting to pay attention while you eat. By eating mindfully and monitoring fullness, you can prevent many eating episodes from turning into over-eating episodes that result from ignoring fullness. When you are more in touch with your body because of increased attention and awareness, you will be far more attuned to what it is telling you and better equipped to respond appropriately. Learning to listen to your body is vital to improving your health & wellness, your relationships, and the quality of your life.

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