Chances are, if you know other human beings, you know someone who is queer. Since we still live in a heteronormative culture in the United States (aka a culture where it is assumed from birth that you will be heterosexual), many queer people go through the process of coming out. Coming out can be a complicated process – often, it’s ruled by fear and shame, but it can also be a celebratory time. Many people fear losing their loved ones if they tell the truth. It can be a weight off of a queer person’s shoulders to be able to tell the truth about who they are. It can be a surprise to learn something new about someone you know. Our culture is becoming more accepting of LGBTQ folks, but there is still a lot of unlearning we have to do before the stigma is gone.  

Having to hide something fundamental about yourself can lead to grief. Many queer folks experience some level of homophobia on an external level, but there is also internalized homophobia to deal with. When we grow up in a culture that tells us being straight is the norm, realizing you’re not straight can cause complicated feelings to come up internally as well. Even if we don’t believe it on a conscious level, the message we get in our culture is that being gay is weird or shameful, so it’s hard to completely avoid that, even for out + proud LGBTQ people.

Understanding that there are larger cultural forces at work than just an individual’s decision might help you come to terms with why coming out can be such a struggle. The pull between being your authentic self and risking the rejection of everyone you love is agonizing. 

If someone comes out to you, there are some important things to keep in mind to make sure the experience is a positive one and not traumatic. Here are some things to keep in mind when someone comes out to you: 

Remember it’s an honor

When someone comes out to you, they’re trusting you with their true self. Many queer folks have to make hard decisions about who it is safe to come out to. LGBTQ people run the risk of losing their relationships, being rejected, being discriminated against, and being misunderstood when they make the choice to come out. Even if this is not how you feel, it’s important to recognize that someone coming out to you is an honor. This means they feel safe enough around you to share this important information. 

Never ever out someone

There are absolutely zero circumstances where it is okay to out someone without their permission. Outing someone without permission is an act of violence. LGBTQ folks face a lot of discrimination and violence in the world, and sharing this fact about them with others can lead to more of it. They get to decide when to come out and to whom. Remember, someone who is out to you might not be out to others. Many queer folks are out in social spaces, but not at work or in their family lives. Coming out is a personal decision that should only be made by the person themselves.

Ask who knows (so you don’t accidentally out someone)

Related to the last point, when someone comes out to you, make sure to ask who knows. This is an important step to make sure that you don’t accidentally out someone. Ask if there are certain people who don’t know. Make sure you understand exactly who you can talk to about this. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and don’t say anything. 

Don’t make it about you

Sometimes to help us understand things, we relate them to situations we’ve experienced ourselves. This is not the time to do that. Someone’s coming out is not an opportunity for you to make the situation about yourself or your reaction. If you’re having a hard time with the news, wait until you’re no longer with them before you begin to process your feelings. It’s okay for you to have your own reaction, but don’t add your reaction to their to-do list. 

Remember they haven’t changed

Even after someone has come out, they are still the same person. They are just able to stop hiding their true selves. Instead of feeling as though you’ve lost something, remind yourself that you’ve gained something more precious: their trust. 

Be polite

Just because someone has come out to you doesn’t mean that you can let all social graces fly out the window. It’s still inappropriate to ask people invasive questions about their sex life, their body, their medical history, their plans for having children, or other private matters. Even if they’re choosing to share one aspect of their lives with you, that doesn’t mean that you have unlimited access to everything. Remember your manners! 

Celebrate them

Too often coming out is seen as a bad thing, and that’s because of our largely homophobic culture. While the tide does seem to be turning and LGBTQ folks are more accepted these days, many people still see coming out as losing something rather than fully stepping into who you are. Coming out doesn’t need to be a devastating experience but it is way too often because people see being queer as a bad thing (even if it’s subconscious). Let’s celebrate people who come out instead of seeing it as something taboo. Throw them a party! Take them out for a special dinner, or write them a card about how excited you are to know them even better. A positive loving response to coming out can go a long way to making an LGBTQ person feel affirmed and safe. 

If you or someone you know is questioning their sexuality or in the process of coming out, our LGBTQ+ affirming therapists can help support you during this process of self-discovery. Get in touch today to find a therapist that fits your needs. 

Have you been working on your affirmation practice?

Last time we talked about affirmations, we went over what they are and how they help us. Here’s a quick review if you’re new to affirmations:

Affirmations are positive statements we affirm to ourselves (or others). This can be about any area of your life: work, self love, relationships, etc. These positive statements, when repeated regularly, can actually start to change your thinking. While before negative thoughts might have been repeated and affirmed in your mind, intentionally affirming those positive thoughts will help them take root! Affirmations help to: 

When you use affirmations, don’t just say them once. And if you can, watch yourself saying them. Sit in front of a mirror and watch yourself as you affirm those positive thoughts. What does it feel like to see someone tell you these positive thoughts? How true do they feel? 

So why affirmations for vulnerability?

Being vulnerable takes an enormous amount of bravery. It is hard for everyone to be vulnerable, especially those who have some sort of relationship trauma. If you are not used to your vulnerability being met with respect and care, then the mere idea of allowing yourself to be emotionally vulnerable might make you anxious. 

But being vulnerable (being honest about how you’re feeling when you’re feeling it, asking for help, letting others know what care you need, being freely yourself without protective “walls,” etc.) is how we form strong relationships. Allowing others to see us for who we are, as well as letting them know what we need and want from them is scary but it’s what makes relationships strong. 

So today, we have 13 affirmations for welcoming vulnerability in those moments where it feels scary: 

  1. I have the courage to be vulnerable.
  2. Sharing my true self is brave and I’m proud of myself for my courage.
  3. I am not needy, I have needs like everyone else. 
  4. My needs deserve to be met as much as anyone else’s. 
  5. My feelings matter, and those who care about me want to hear what they are. 
  6. People love me even when I’m struggling, they won’t love me less for asking for help. 
  7. I am proud of myself for sharing my true feelings even when it feels scary. 
  8. I do not have to try to be perfect all of the time. 
  9. If it’s important to me it’s worth sharing. 
  10. I will find the love that is right for me by being my true self, not the version I think others want me to be. 
  11. My discomfort deserves acknowledgement.
  12. Sharing my feelings allows others to know me better, and in turn love me better. 
  13. I am allowed to be flawed and worthy of care. 

If you work with other people, chances are you work with someone who identifies as LGBTQ (and probably more than one someone). Even though acceptance of LGBTQ people has been steadily increasing in recent years, we still live in a generally homophobic society. Our culture is designed around the idea that people are straight – that’s why coming out is even necessary for LGBTQ folks. Even if you’re not LGBTQ, you can care about these issues as an ally. 

When you’re an ally to a marginalized community, you give your support and use your privilege to support that community. There’s a common misconception out there that you can call yourself an ally and the work is done, but that’s not the case. Being an ally requires action. There are a lot of ways to be a good ally, but for today we’re going to focus on how to be an LGBTQ ally in the workplace. Everyone deserves to feel comfortable at work, and as an ally, you can help make that true for the LGBTQ folks you work with.

You might be wondering how to start showing your support for the LGBTQ community in the workplace. Here are some suggestions for how to practice allyship at work:

Use your voice

As a straight person in the workplace, you have a voice that your LGBTQ coworkers may not  have. You can make sure that even when there isn’t an LGBTQ person in the room that folks are still being respectful and inclusive. Being an ally doesn’t stop when you’re no longer around a queer person. As a straight person in an office, your voice has privilege. Use it! If someone misgenders a coworker around you, remind them of the correct pronouns to use. If someone uses derogatory terms for LGBTQ folks in front of you, tell them to stop. Queer folks are constantly having to defend themselves for being who they are, so having an ally step in can go a long way. 

Educate yourself

The burden of educating you about LGBTQ issues shouldn’t fall on LGBTQ people. With the internet and millions of reliable sources a click away, ignorance is a choice. It can be tempting to ask the queer people you know to teach you what you want to know, but that is asking for a lot of free labor from an already marginalized person. If you want to learn more, take the time to educate yourself. Once you’ve learned what you need to know, you’ll be in a better position to educate others, so it doesn’t end up on the shoulders of your queer coworkers. 

Shift your language

One easy way to make LGBTQ people feel welcome is to shift your language. Switch from gendered terms to gender neutral terms. This can feel tough at first, but it gets so much easier with practice. Instead of addressing a meeting as “Ladies and gentlemen,” try saying something like “Welcome, everyone!”. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when shifting your language away from gendered terms. Instead of saying “men and women”, say “people”. Instead of “he or she” say “they”. Little shifts can go a long way. 

Put your pronouns in your email signature

We often think that only queer people need to clarify their pronouns, but that’s not the case. It’s actually incredibly helpful for straight allies to state which pronouns they use so that asking someone’s pronouns becomes more normalized. This is a quick and easy way to help shift our cultural thinking. Don’t limit it just to email either – include your pronouns in your bio on the website, and offer them up freely when you speak face to face. Introduce yourself with your name and your pronouns, and it will become a habit. 

Use your privilege

If you’re in a managerial position, use your power in the workplace to advocate for LGBTQ coworkers. Reconsider dress codes that enforce gender norms and punish nontraditional presentation. Advocate for policies that are inclusive of LGBTQ employees, like expansive benefits that cover nontraditional families. If you have coworkers who are not being respectful of their LGBTQ colleagues, speak up or speak to HR. Show that you’re not afraid to use your voice to stick up for others. 

 

If you need help supporting LGBTQ workplace wellness, our Wellbeing At Work program can help. 

Journal Prompts to Explore Your Anger

Anger can be a scary emotion. It’s not something we usually like to feel by any means, but does that mean it’s bad?

Short answer: no! Anger isn’t bad to feel. In fact, no emotions are bad to feel. They’re just feelings.

They give us information about ourselves (our needs, our wounds, our desires, our likes, etc) but they don’t define who we are. So having an emotion like anger doesn’t mean anything about what kind of person you are. 

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have a positive relationship with our anger. It’s seen as a big scary thing. It can make us feel out of control or mean. It can lead us to emotional outbursts that make us feel fragile or embarrassed. But anger doesn’t have to be a threat or our enemy. It, like our other intense feelings, can be a tool we use to discover more about ourselves. 

To help you with that, we’ve listed four journal prompts to get you started exploring your relationship with anger below:

Journal Prompt 1: Why does the idea of being angry seem scary to you?

There are as many reasons to be uncomfortable with anger as there are people, so you really have to be specific to yourself here. Don’t think about anger in general, think about the experiences you’ve had with anger throughout your life. That can be experiences you’ve had feeling angry, or perhaps experiences you’ve had being on the receiving end of someone else’s anger. What happened then? How does your anger feel when it comes up? What about that is frightening? Do you feel like it will cause you to lose control or lash out? How have you experienced other people’s anger? Has someone else’s poor anger management made anger seem scary to you? Explore the root of your fear of anger, safely, in your journal.

Journal Prompt 2: When do you notice your anger the most?

What triggers this feeling? If you can start to explore when you’re feeling angry the most, you can start to learn what it is your anger is trying to communicate with you. For example, if you frequently find yourself getting angry at work, think about what specific instances caused that angry feeling to flare up. There might be a pattern that can help you address your currently unaddressed needs. 

Journal Prompt 3: If your anger could speak, what would it be saying?

Once you’ve noticed those patterns, it’s time to try to understand them. Imagine your anger is trying to say something to you. (Or, possibly, yell something at you). What is it it’s trying to yell? It’s probably trying to point out something important

Journal Prompt 4: Imagine your anger is someone watching over you, acting out when you are mistreated. How does that change your view of your anger? 

For example: You’ve noticed yourself getting angry every time you speak on the phone to a certain friend. Now that you’ve started to pay attention to it, you realize that that anger flares up every time they speak over you or minimize what you’re saying. When you feel yourself getting angry in that situation, imagine your anger is actually there to watch over you. What it’s trying to get you to acknowledge is “I deserve to be listened to! What I have to say matters!”

This reframing can help shift your relationship with your anger from something frightening and uncomfortable, to something positive. Then you can find healthy ways to manage your anger when it comes up. 

If you need support managing your anger, our clinicians can help you through this journey. Get in touch to find the perfect clinician for your needs. 

6 Signs You’re Dealing With Impostor Syndrome

Have you ever experienced success in the workplace, but felt like you didn’t deserve it? You’re not alone. That feeling has a name – it’s called imposter syndrome, although some psychologists prefer the term impostor experience. Impostor syndrome is the sense of psychological discomfort some people experience when acknowledging their role in their success. Initially, researchers studied imposter syndrome to explain why women in leadership positions were less likely to attribute their success to their own achievements.  Instead, they credited luck, timing, or other external factors. We now understand that impostor syndrome is experienced by people of all genders. Imposter syndrome can make you feel as though you don’t deserve the success you’ve achieved, and this can be really unsettling.  

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Have you ever felt like you got where you are at work by accident? Often, this feeling arises after an accomplishment: a promotion, an award, a raise. However, it can also crop up anytime you’re faced with promoting yourself (during a job interview, annual review, performance evaluation, or even a casual chat about progress with your boss). You may second guess your qualifications or feel like you’re only getting an interview or promotion out of obligation or as a favor. If you’ve noticed these feelings before, you were probably experiencing impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is that nasty little voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough. 

Here are some more signs that you may be dealing with impostor syndrome:

Minor mistakes make you melt down

Humans make mistakes, and you’re no exception. If you’re making small mistakes here and there, that’s a part of life. Nothing in life is perfect and you can’t hold yourself to a standard of perfection for everything. It will just exhaust you and make you feel even more anxious that you’ll mess something up. It’s also okay to ask for support if you need it! 

You work constantly

Do you feel like you have to work yourself to the bone to earn your place at work? Often impostor syndrome tells you that you didn’t do enough to earn your success so it can make you feel like you need to work harder to make up for it. Remember that impostor syndrome is not based on what’s really true – it’s just the story you’re telling yourself. Take a step back and remind yourself of the facts – you work hard, you have experience, you are teachable, you are personable, you know how to do the work! 

You think you’re the only one struggling

That little voice in the back of your mind may also tell you that you’re the only one having a hard time. You might feel like everyone else has everything together and is handling it all perfectly all the time, but that’s next to impossible. The people around you might also feel like they’re not good enough. They might be struggling the same way that you are. The only way to know what’s going on in someone else’s head is to talk about it with them, so don’t struggle in silence. You’ll find that you’re not alone.  

You feel like you’re not good enough for your role

Do you feel like you’re only in your position because of timing or good luck? Maybe you don’t feel qualified to lead a project and feel like you were only asked to do so because your schedule worked out or some other coincidence. When these feelings of inadequacy come up, remind yourself of the tangible success you’ve had in the past. Keep a file on your devices where you save screenshots of positive feedback + anything else that reminds you that you are capable of doing what you do, and doing it well. 

You tend to define yourself by your work

Work can be an important part of our lives – after all, it’s what keeps a roof over most of our heads. However, it’s important to remember that your sole purpose in life is not to work. You are a person who deserves to have a balanced life outside of the office, and if you feel like work is sucking up all of your time and energy, it might be time to address that. If you feel like your role at work defines you, try to think of some other things that are important to you. What do you value? How can you work toward enacting those values outside of work? That might give you some ideas to start exploring. 

You feel like your success was not earned

Another sign of impostor syndrome is repeated negative thoughts that you did not earn your success. Repeated negative thoughts like these can also be called cognitive distortions. A cognitive distortion is a habitual way of thinking that is often negative and not based on facts. If you have repeated negative thoughts that your success was not earned, these thoughts are probably not based on reality. After all, you know how hard you work. If you feel these negative thoughts coming up when you think about your role at work or in a leadership position, remind yourself that they’re not based on facts. Slow your thoughts down and compare them to what you actually know to be true, not what impostor syndrome is telling you. 

Feeling like you don’t deserve your success is an awful feeling. When it comes up, remember to slow down, take a breath, and remind yourself of what’s true. Does your workplace need support in centering mental health and wellbeing? Is your team struggling to cope, but you’re not sure what to do or how to address it?  We can help. 

Who’s feeling more stress than usual these days? We’re nearly a full year into this pandemic and still we see so many people feeling frustrated, burned out, stressed, and overwhelmed by their “normal”  workload. Let’s talk about this. 

First: if you’re experiencing high stress or struggling right now, know that you’re not the only one.

I’m sure you’re tired of hearing that, but we need the reminder sometimes! Most of us are not comfortable with public vulnerability, so we don’t see the truth of others’ struggles, but right now we are all struggling. While you might not always be able to see it, know that we all need more than we can provide for ourselves or for each other right now. You are not broken. 

Now, why are we struggling with productivity?

Well, mainly because there are a lot of extremely stressful things happening in the world right now. 

While there is new hope as the vaccine is being rolled out, we are still living through a pandemic. This means you might be remaining more isolated in order to keep to CDC guidelines (only seeing people in your “pod”, social distancing when in public, working remotely, etc.) or you might be an essential worker having to face working conditions which feel dangerous or risky. These are not our “normal” ways of working and  either condition is a lot for your brain to process. 

On top of that, we’re also living through an incredibly high stress political moment, where we turn on the news and see things like an armed mob of white supremacists storming the Capitol building to overthrow an election. We struggle to cope with the division and hatred in our communities, and to understand the struggles of others.   

And, amidst all of this, your own life doesn’t stop. All of the personal and professional challenges, relationship issues, and mental health struggles, and reasons for stress in your life have not gone away, but are layered on top of all of our national struggles. 

Is it any wonder you’re feeling overwhelmed? Even just reading all of that at once makes us weary.  Of course you can’t achieve the same levels of productivity as you do in  “normal” times! So much of your mental energy is being pulled in a hundred different high-stress directions, there is no reasonable way you can balance that and the jam-packed workload you might be used to. 

The simple truth is you can’t apply pre-pandemic, non-crisis standards to yourself or your productivity during these unprecedented times.

You CAN be honest, kind and gentle with yourself, and start adjusting your expectations towards goals that are more realistic, attainable and clear. Some strategies to start out on this path:

Make rest a priority in your schedule, and PROTECT that time.

Instead of looking at those blank spaces on your calendar and thinking “what can I squeeze in here?” We’re going to urge you to protect that time for rest and recovery. We all need at least half an hour of time for ourselves every day.  Unless you’re incredibly busy.  In that case, you need an hour. Instead of seeing it as a luxury, see it as an essential foundation for what you’ll need tomorrow. 

Take advantage of autoresponders to reduce extraneous stress.

We all need to slow down a little. Pushing ourselves as hard as we can for as long as we can is a one way track to burnout. And these days that track is hyper-speed. When your plate is full, consider putting an autoresponder on your email to let people know that you might be a little slower getting back to them. Maybe provide a window of when they can expect a reply! This empowers you to both step away from your inbox so you aren’t overwhelmed by a hundred new emails as you’re trying to get your work done, and also shows respect for your colleagues because it doesn’t just leave them wondering if you got their message or if you’re planning on responding. 

Determine your new “project capacity”.

What would you consider to be a full plate in “normal” times? Knock a bit off of that, and consider that your new normal. If you can get done more than that, then great! If not, it’s okay. There is no shame in having to let someone know that you’re managing all you can at the moment. Be realistic and kind with yourself when determining how much you can take on. 

Be extra kind when things are extra hard.

Check out our post from last week on 8 ways to cope after a hard week for more specifics on this, but making sure to be honest about the way current events are affecting you is crucial to caring for yourself emotionally. 

In that same vein, processing hard times like the ones we’re currently living through and finding ways to cope is something we do all the time in therapy. If you’re interested in adding therapy to your coping skills, our clinicians can help. 

Even though we knew turning the calendar to 2021 wouldn’t change everything, it’s still been difficult to reckon with what’s going on in the United States over the past week. We have witnessed a lot in the last year and change, and the unimaginable just keeps coming. If you’re feeling unsure of how to take care of yourself after the events of the past week, where an armed mob of white supremacists stormed the Capitol building to overthrow an election, you’re not alone. How do you practice self-care in a time like this? How can we cope when every week, it feels like the ground shifts beneath us again? 

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions because we all have different ways to cope.

Sometimes, though, it can be hard to even come up with effective ways to cope, especially when we’re in the midst of something intense, like an attempted coup.

If that’s the case for you, here are some ideas for ways to cope after a hard week: 

Marginalized folks: Rest + recharge

While many people were stunned watching the violence unfold at the Capitol on Wednesday, it is hardly a surprise in this country when law enforcement polices white and Black/brown bodies differently. What we all witnessed on Wednesday will undoubtedly have a larger impact on folks of marginalized identities, like BIPOC people, LGBTQ+ folks, Jewish people, undocumented people, and Muslim folks to name a few.  

Remember – you don’t owe anyone any explanation of how you’re coping with the events from this past week. If you’re taking a social media break or drawing firmer boundaries about what you’re allowing right now, that’s totally fine. You don’t need to make yourself available to non-marginalized folks to process their feelings on this. You’re allowed to step back and do what you need to do to feel safe at this moment. 

Don’t separate yourself from this version of whiteness

If you are white, now is the time to reckon with what that whiteness means. Even if you think you’re not one of “those” white people, all white folks need to recognize the problem of white supremacy and actually do something about it. What are the ways that privilege has helped you? Who in your community can you call in and educate on these topics? It is not the job of BIPOC folks to solve the problems white supremacy has created in the US, it’s the job of other white people.

Radically accept reality

Radical acceptance is a DBT skill that is taught to help alleviate mental suffering. Often, when there is something we are struggling with, we fight against it. We wish it weren’t true. We keep fighting to change the reality of the situation, even if that’s not within our power. However, the constant battle to change what’s happening can actually lead to more suffering than just recognizing that reality is reality. This is called radical acceptance. Radical acceptance means accepting the situation exactly as it is right now, which can be helpful when you’re trying to cope.

If you’re feeling shocked by what happened in our country this week, that’s a normal response. However, we can’t let our shock prevent us from seeing this reality and understanding what it means. This could be a helpful time to write some thoughts out in a note on your phone or in a journal. What happened this past week? How did you feel about it? What emotions did you feel? Where did those emotions gather in your body? How did the reactions you saw in the media make you feel? What is something that would be comforting to you right now? It can be hard to process things when you’re shocked so take some time to explore that in writing a bit. 

Try not to shame yourself

Remember, we aren’t meant to deal with this amount of trauma. We weren’t designed for being able to contemplate suffering on a global scale. If your brain is feeling overwhelmed, don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you. We’re all trying to make sense of a lot of confusing information right now, and shaming ourselves for being overwhelmed only adds to the struggle. Your feelings, whatever they may be, are valid.

Relax your muscles

You might find yourself more tense than usual this week. Many people carry their tension in different places in their bodies – some in their jaw, some in their neck or shoulders, some in their back, etc. Try to pay attention to where tension collects in your body. Put a little sticky note on your mirror or on your computer to relax that area every once in a while. A lot of times we tense up and don’t even realize it, so you may need an external reminder to release that tension. 

Ways to release the tension include stretching, massage, gentle movement, body scan meditations, and breathing exercises. What feels good for your body to release the tension? Try a few different things and find what works best for you. 

Make sure the basics are covered

Are you making sure to stay hydrated and nourished? Have you changed your clothes or washed your face? Even though we’re still stuck at home during all of this, make sure you’re taking care of your basic needs. It can be easy to forget to eat meals when it seems like days just bleed into one another. If that’s the case for you try to give yourself some reminders to eat and drink. It can also be comforting to bathe and put on a fresh pair of clothes. You deserve to be taken care of, even by yourself. 

Do something away from screens

The news will be there when you get back. Social media will still have posts for you to look at in an hour. Do your best to give yourself screen-free time. Go for a walk outside (with your mask on, please!), read a book, take a long shower, roll around on your floor and stretch, bake something comforting, cook a meal you love, doodle in a notebook – anything you can think of that will keep you distracted for a bit. It can be tempting to give in to the pull of the 24-hour news cycle, so try to build some boundaries around it. Maybe only check the news once or twice a day. You can also limit the screentime for certain apps on your phone to help remind you. 

Talk to someone you care about

This is especially important since most of us are feeling separated from a lot of the people we care about right now. When shocking events happen like what happened at the Capitol this week, it can make us feel unsafe. When we look for ways to cope, we want things that will make us feel safe again. One way to help yourself feel safe again is to check in on the people you care about. Take some time to talk to someone and process your feelings together. It can help to talk out your feelings with someone you trust. 

In that same vein, processing hard times like the ones we’re currently living through and finding ways to cope is something we do all the time in therapy. If you’re interested in adding therapy to your coping skills, our clinicians can help. 

Effective communication is crucial to a well functioning workplace. 

But so often, we’re not taught how to communicate effectively, or how the communication rules can change from setting to setting. How can you make sure your workplace communicates well? In what ways can boundaries be communicated firmly but kindly? How can misunderstandings be addressed? Is conflict something we engage with  or ignore?

All of these are questions we should consider in our workplace. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize when communication isn’t effective until we’ve already bumped into a conflict. 

So to help, we’ve put together this list of ways to improve workplace communication. 

1). Lead by example: 

When conflict or miscommunication comes up, respond the way you would want someone to respond if they were unhappy with you. This will probably be awkward, but it signifies respect for your colleagues which will be appreciated and remembered–just as a passive aggressive (or just aggressive) attempt at addressing the conflict would be remembered. 

For example: You have clear boundaries on when you’ll check email and when you won’t. You only check email in work hours or if you know to be looking out for something you need.

 However, a colleague has begun texting you about emails they’ve sent to you, even though none of them are urgent and can be answered when you’re back in the office in the morning. Instead of just ignoring the messages, or maybe even snapping at your coworker, model the boundaries and communication methods you’d like them to follow. 

Respond and say, “I appreciate you wanting to keep me updated, but I don’t like to keep up with work emails when I’m home for the night unless it’s a special circumstance. I’ll definitely get back to you on all of this in the morning.” 

2). Check in: 

If communication with a colleague seems off–maybe they aren’t responding to emails, or not finishing projects, or seem less reliable or reachable, check in. They might be overwhelmed and not sure how to bring it up, or even afraid or ashamed to ask for help. You can let them know you notice they’ve seemed less communicative lately, and ask them if there is an issue that you can help with. Opening those lines of communication make it easier for others to also address problems and needs in the workplace. 

3). Establish preferred communication styles (if possible)

One person might be better at communicating with written communication like email or text. Other people might need to talk things through, with a voice memo or a voxer, or even a loom video. If you’re able to make accommodations for people’s preferred communication style, you will be able to meet them where they are and communicate more effectively. 

4). Assume everyone is trying their best: 

Especially as we’re living through a pandemic right now, we might not be as “on top” of everything as we usually are–including communication. This might mean things are forgotten or extra reminders are needed to be given. Sometimes this can be really frustrating, because it can feel like someone is needlessly making our lives harder. But the truth is probably that they are doing the best they can in a really hard time, and something fell through the cracks. 

Being understanding doesn’t mean you have to just do their work for them, but staying kind and open minded  when reminding colleagues of what you need from them makes communicating with each other easier and far less stressful. 

Does your workplace need help  with communication skills? Our Wellbeing at Work team can help. 

A few years ago, there was a viral article on Buzzfeed about how millennials have become the burnout generation. To clarify, the article didn’t say that millennials are “burnouts”, it just asserted what many of us already know: the pace of modern life is setting us up to feel like failures. Between soaring debt, job insecurity, and productivity demands that aren’t in line with reality, even before 2020 happened, many folks were feeling the pinch and speeding toward burnout. 

What is burnout, though? 

According to HelpGuide.org, “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.” Some definitions of burnout suggest that burnout is mainly experienced in work contexts, but burnout can be the result of overwhelm and stress in any area of life. 

Here are some symptoms of burnout to look out for:

In the years since that article, burnout has become a popular topic in wellness spaces, which is promising because it means we’re starting to see a shift in the way people think about burnout. There are more scientists studying burnout and its effects on mental and physical health, and the more they study, the more we learn. 

In past generations, people certainly felt burned out. Probably often! They also probably had fewer resources to deal with it, and there was less understanding of how burnout can be harmful in many areas of life. There has been a slow but steady decrease in mental health stigma over the last few decades, and even though there is still a long way to go toward eliminating the stigma altogether, this shift has led to less shame around admitting when you need help. 

And then 2020 happened!

This year has been a textbook recipe for burnout.

Loneliness. Too much work and too little play. Tough conversations with loved ones. Little to no outside connection with people outside of your household. Limited options for activities that rejuvenate you. The constant fear of getting sick or getting someone else sick. The shock and horror of watching over a quarter of a million people die in 10 months. A stressful election cycle. Natural disasters. Police brutality and citizen uprisings. This year has been extremely difficult from start to finish, and if you’re feeling burned out as a result, you are in good company. 

It might seem like being stuck at home for 10 months is not enough cause for burnout, but think about it: we haven’t just been stuck at home. We’ve been living through a global trauma for 10 months, and many of us are still expected to work as if life is “normal.”  We’ve also had to deal with increased virtual demands for our time, which means that many of us end up staring at a screen for hours and hours on end, even when the workday is done. 

Technology has certainly led to incredible advances for humanity, but it has also created a culture where everyone is always on.

We are constantly connected, not only to our friends and families, but to everyone around the world with an internet connection. Whether we like it or not, especially with the rise of working from home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more folks are finding it hard to draw the line between work time and personal time. Just because you have the option to check your email at any time doesn’t mean you should be expected to work at any time. 

The thing about burnout is that it’s always going to come around once in a while.

However, there are things that we can do to prevent burnout from happening regularly. The best thing you can do to prevent burnout is to radically change your relationship to rest and self-care. You are your own best advocate when it comes to burnout – what can you do that will leave you feeling well-rested and refreshed? Everyone is different, so everyone will have a different approach to dealing with burnout. 

Here are some common strategies people use to prevent burnout:

Movement

The gym might be closed right now, but there are still opportunities to move when we’re stuck at home. Exercise doesn’t need to be a punishment, it can be a way that you honor your needs and care for your mental health. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with changing the shape of your body or punishing it for not looking the way you think it should. If you find exercise triggering, or you are having a hard time finding the energy, think about where you can start small.  Can you walk around your block? Can you turn on your favorite playlist and dance around a little? Even cleaning your space can get your blood pumping enough to provide endorphins, which can go a long way toward reducing stress in the moment. 

Rest, rest, then rest some more. 

Burnout is a result of too much stress and not enough rest. One way to prevent and treat burnout is to get the amount of rest that you actually need, not the amount you think you need. And mindless scrolling sadly does not count as rest – rest needs to be something where you are fully able to disconnect. Humans need a lot of rest. We’ve been made to feel like we only have time to get a few hours of sleep a night, but that is a recipe for disaster. Sleep is one of the most important biological functions we have, as it gives our minds and bodies time to recover and repair. What has your sleep schedule been like? Are there ways you can clean up your sleep hygiene? This means things like no screen time before bed, going to sleep at the same time every night, and making your sleep environment conducive to restful sleep. 

Also, it’s important to note that you don’t need to rest solely to make you feel more productive. In their book “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle”, scientists Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski write,

“It’s true that rest makes us more productive, ultimately, and if that’s an argument that helps you persuade your boss to give you more flexibility, awesome. But we think rest matters not because it makes you more productive, but because it makes you happier and healthier, less grumpy, and more creative. We think rest matters because you matter. You are not here to be “productive.” You are here to be you, to engage with your Something Larger, to move through the world with confidence and joy. And to do that, you require rest.”

Set boundaries

We’ve talked about boundaries before, but if there’s anything 2020 has taught us, it’s that boundaries are essential for relationships. Setting boundaries is a way to keep relationships going and to care for yourself at the same time. Some people don’t like when others set boundaries, but remember that you’re not doing it for them – you’re doing it for you. It feels terrible to disappoint people we care about, but boundary setting is an important life skill. If you have no boundaries, you may start feeling resentful of people and that can be damaging to your relationships. Do some research and decide what your boundaries are about COVID-19 and how you will be protecting yourself and others. It might also be worthwhile to set some boundaries about how and when you will communicate with others, if you’ve been feeling pressure from people. If it helps, write out some scripts for when you have those conversations. 

Focus on “good enough”

This year has been so hard, and you don’t need to make it harder by putting pressure on yourself to be perfect. No one is perfect, and trying to be is a losing battle. It’s okay to just be getting through right now. Things can be “good enough” instead of “perfect”. You don’t need to hold yourself to your old standards when the reality of life right now is different. 

If you’re feeling burned out after this year, know that there are ways for you to start feeling like your old self again. Our clinicians can help you figure out ways to feel less overwhelmed and exhausted.

Boundaries are a crucial life skill in all areas of life; whether that be our social life,  our family interactions, our workplace, our home, etc. Boundaries are what help us protect our energy, establish our values, and not overextend ourselves. A few example of what boundaries can look like include: 

Boundaries, basically, are there for you to say: “For my own wellness, this is what I’m comfortable with, and this is what I’m not comfortable with.”

So, why do workplace boundaries matter?

Well, mainly because we spend a lot of time at work! It’s a big part of our daily routines, so making sure our wellness is prioritized in the workplace is necessary for overall wellbeing. When our wellness in the workplace is overlooked it can lead to burnout, which can show up as: 

Establishing and communicating boundaries in the workplace can help prevent burnout before it starts, or help you right your course again when you’ve become too overloaded. While it is uncomfortable for many of us (work is a place we tend to feel helpful and productive, so saying that your plate is full or that you need support can be new and frightening while we learn to do it), being clear about your own boundaries in the workplace opens up the environment for your colleagues to respond in kind, which can help to foster a sense of communication and support amongst all colleagues. 

A few examples of office workplace boundaries include: 

A few examples of work-from-home workplace boundaries include: 

If you’re new to setting workplace boundaries, here are a few tips on how to establish and communicate them in a professional environment: 

Consider your feelings: 

Are you nearing burnout? Are you struggling to manage your stress at work? What were the stressors that took you from busy to overwhelmed? Are there any issues with communication in your workplace? (Being contacted at inappropriate times, inappropriate conversations, etc.) 

Taking time to consider how we’re feeling (and the roots of those feelings) can help show us where we need clearer boundaries in the workplace. 

Don’t hint, be clear: 

While it would be great if the people we worked with could read our minds when we’re unhappy about something, the reality is they probably can’t tell you’re upset unless you tell them. So when a boundary is violated, don’t hint around your discomfort. For example, if you don’t want to be contacted out of office hours but have never communicated that to your team, it’s likely you’ll be contacted outside of work hours! Instead, address the need directly. Say “I won’t be available for work (barring an emergency) outside of X hours. In my absence you can contact X, or wait for me to get back to you when I’m back in the office.” 

Take advantage of office tools: 

If you’re going to be out of the office and unavailable, set up an autoresponder reminding people of who they should contact or when you’ll be back in the office and available. This is a super easy way to reinforce that boundary without leaving anyone without the resources or support that they need. 

If you need support in setting boundaries, our therapists can help.

Have you ever wondered what “counts” as trauma? Maybe you have experienced something in your life that felt traumatic to you but didn’t line up with what you understood about trauma. Maybe you’re looking to understand what trauma encompasses because of someone you love. Maybe you’re just curious! Whatever the reason, it can be helpful to learn about the vastness of what trauma can be.

When we think about trauma, we typically think of a big, scary event: a terrorist attack, a car or plane accident, a natural disaster, a sexual assault, or military combat. We might think that trauma is reserved only for life-threatening events, but that’s not actually the case. Scary or threatening events can certainly be traumatic, but other events that leave people feeling distressed, hopeless, or alone can also leave a person feeling traumatized. Here are some examples of the different causes of trauma: 

Commonly understood causes of trauma: 

Lesser-known causes of trauma: 

Trauma can come from any number of experiences, including ones that we don’t think of as traumatic. Trauma is defined as “a psychological, emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing.” In reality, trauma can come from any experience that makes us feel unsafe, physically or emotionally, and that disrupts the way we cope or function. Your life doesn’t need to be in danger to feel traumatized. You may also find that you have a different reaction to an event that someone else also went through. Remember, everyone reacts differently to situations, and your reaction is valid, even if it looks different from someone else’s.

These are some symptoms to look out for: 

Not only is trauma difficult in the moment, but the effects of trauma can add up. If someone experiences a decade of emotional abuse while also dealing with bankruptcy, those two “smaller” traumas are compounded. They build off of each other, making it more difficult to cope. 

Your trauma is valid.

You don’t have to prove your trauma to anyone, and anyone who is asking you to is way out of line. Your experiences and feelings about them are real, and you are entitled to whatever reaction you have. Going through a traumatic event is already hard enough without beating yourself up over your reaction. Mental health is still very stigmatized in the US, so if you have dealt with any of these experiences and are just now realizing that you may be experiencing a trauma response, that’s okay. Even if you didn’t recognize it at the time, it’s not uncommon to recognize it as such later. 

The effects of trauma can last for a long time, especially without treatment. Luckily, for as common as trauma unfortunately is, there are a number of treatment options that can be helpful. Trauma can be treated using talk therapy, medications, and EMDR, among other things. These treatments can help lower your level of distress, decrease the number of symptoms you experience, and help you get back to your everyday functioning. If you’re interested in talking to a therapist about your experience with trauma, our therapists can help

According to the American Psychological Association, work is one of the top three causes of stress for Americans.  

Many of us are spending 40+ hours a week at work (or working from home). Our jobs are a substantial piece of how we spend our time.  Work is often accompanied by stress, which makes sense given how much space work takes up in our lives.  The problem is, when stress isn’t acknowledged and tended to, it can grow into burnout, it can manifest as physical symptoms or illness, or both! 

In the same study, the APA found that while stress levels of Americans on average hadn’t changed significantly between 2016 and 2017, Americans were more likely to report feeling symptoms (anxiety, anger, fatigue) of stress.

 Other symptoms of stress can include: 

In  2020  we’re facing all kinds of new stress, and many of us are conducting our work in ways we never have before–remotely, away from coworkers, possibly limited by the tools available and constraints of virtual connections.  

So what can you do?

Here are some of our favorite strategies  to help manage stress levels in the workplace. It’s important to think about prevention as well as responses to stress at work!

Tips to get ahead of stress: 

Set standards for clear communication:

Did you know that in 2019 80% of workers reported their stress as coming from ineffective company communication?

While you can’t control how everyone communicates with you, you can demonstrate through your own behavior and then–the hardest part–communicating with your colleagues clearly when you need something else from them. 

Be clear about boundaries:

Part of clear communication is deciding on what your workplace boundaries are, and communicating them to your colleagues. Will you not answer emails on weekends? Put up an out of office message that lets them know when you’ll get back to them. Are you going out of town and will only be available for emergencies? Make sure you let everyone know that. If there is something you’re not able or willing to be flexible on, don’t waffle around it–be clear. 

Setting boundaries with coworkers can be uncomfortable. We have worked hard to create positive relationships, either in person or virtually, and there can be fear of damaging those relationships if we don’t live up to expectations.   This fear can stop us from setting and communicating our boundaries. But remember that letting someone know your own boundaries can also be an opportunity to open the conversation up to them in return. And remember that respecting your colleagues’ boundaries is just as important as them respecting yours. 

Consider your environment: 

Humans aren’t meant to be inside all of the time. And when you add on top of that the fact that many of us are not only indoors, but indoors staring at screens all day, it’s easy to see how that can impact our mood, energy levels, and productivity.  Unfortunately, many of us can’t just pull our desk outside and work there. But you could bring a little nature into your workplace. One study reports workers who cared for a small desk plant felt less stressed and anxious than those without one. It also said: 

The participants in the study gazed at their own plant for 3 min when they felt fatigue. This behavior provided the time to divert their attention away from office tasks and toward the living plant. Cited in the literature review are studies documenting a reduction of perceived stress during periods of soft fascination nature viewing. Our findings in the workplace support, and are supported by, these studies. The results suggest that if employers would provide active encouragement for workers to take 3-min “nature breaks,” the mental health of their employees would improve.”

If you don’t have a natural green thumb, don’t write this one off just yet! Today.com put together a list of 15 easiest indoor house (or office!) plants to take care of

Tips to deal with stress as it comes up: 

Deep breathing:

Sometimes stress becomes so overwhelming that we feel like our emotions are just about to spin out of our control. If you find yourself this stressed, it’s time to take some immediate action to ground yourself and calm yourself down! Here are ten deep breathing exercises to try. While it won’t remove all of your stress, it will help calm down that feeling of being overwhelmed and ground you back into the present before your stress spirals out of control. 

Get moving: 

Another technique to release that tension of built-up stress is to just move your body. Working from home you might have a few more options for this than working in an office, but you can keep it as simple as you want. Whether you walk around the block, roll out a yoga mat, or turn on some music and dance around your living room, moving your body around is a great stress reliever. 

Express the stress: 

Stress can get out of control fast if we don’t acknowledge it. One minute you’re stressed that one thing is taking you slightly longer than expected, and the next you’re spiraling out of control, worried that you don’t have enough time to do anything you need to, spiraling further into “I can’t do this, I can’t do anything, I’m bad at my job, I’m going to lose my job” etc. 

So before it gets out of control, take some time to face it head on. Try journaling about your stress. What’s causing you stress? How is it making you feel? Give yourself space first just to vent (or vent to a friend) before you try to problem solve. Does it feel like the end of the world? Say that! Once you get it out you can start to focus on the reality of the situation, instead of the emotional reaction to the situation. 

Ask for help: 

You might be stressed because you just have too much on your plate. It can be hard, but asking for support can be the best solution to unmanageable stress. The people you work with might even have some ideas for workplace support, or tips on how they deal with stress. Opening up that line of communication can help you manage your stress not only in the moment, but also with the support of a team in the future. 

Self-Care vs. Self-Soothing: What You Need To Know

As we’ve discussed before, self-care is an important part of your wellness toolbox. Especially this year, when we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, a stressful election, and a social uprising, it’s important to figure out sustainable ways to care for ourselves that actually work. Self-care is often simplified down to ‘do what feels good’ or ‘treat yourself’, but those ideas aren’t always in line with what self-care is really about. That’s because people often confuse self-care and self-soothing. 

Self-care should make you feel better when you’re done.

You should feel filled up or rejuvenated in some way. Self-care is about taking care of yourself not only right now, but in the future. Self-care keeps you going. Even if it’s a task that is objectively boring, like refilling your prescriptions, you will still feel a sense of accomplishment for doing something proactive to tend to your health. By filling your prescriptions, you are taking care of yourself, even if it’s not fun to put on social media.  

Self-soothing, on the other hand, is more focused on feeling good right now.

Self-soothing is about finding comfort or distraction from what’s going on in the moment. There isn’t anything wrong with self-soothing or wanting to feel good in the moment, but self-soothing isn’t an exact replacement for self-care. Self-soothing gets you through the moment, whereas self-care is a longer-term strategy focused on helping you meet your needs. You can make self-soothing and self-care a regular part of your wellness practice, but make sure you’re using them in the right context and not completely substituting one for the other. 

Here are some examples of self-soothing behaviors:

Here are some examples of self-caring behaviors:

As you can see, there are some items that appear on both lists. (Keep in mind that neither of these lists are exhaustive, of course!) That’s because sometimes an action can be self-care and sometimes it can be self-soothing.

The difference is the goal: are you doing this to feel better right now or are you doing it to contribute to feeling good in the future?

Self-care is not an exact science, since everyone is different. What is self-care to you might not be self-care to your best friend, and vice versa. Self-soothing is also very individualized – it is about what makes that person feel better.

Another important note is that sometimes the things you do to soothe yourself will make self-care harder. If an important part of your self-care routine is setting a budget to follow, but you soothe yourself by shopping when you’re upset, you might find that your go-to way to feel better is interfering with your ability to care for yourself. It’s okay if you find yourself needing to be soothed, but make sure that what you’re reaching for will actually make you feel better instead of making your life harder down the line.

Take some time to make a list of the ways you soothe yourself in the moment. What are your go-to self-soothing behaviors? Do any of them interfere with your self-care practice?

Self-soothing and self-care can both be valuable. In fact, they have both probably helped you out more times than you can count! Sometimes we just need to make ourselves feel better, or we experience a crisis (hello, 2020!) and we need cope however we can. Once we’re through the crisis, and have the mental and physical resources to deal with what’s going on, we can step back and make more room for self-care. 

Are you spending a lot of time self-soothing these days? You’re not alone. If you’re looking for support while you work out the balance between self-soothing and self-care, our clinicians can support you. 

While the internet  in many ways allows us to be more easily connected than ever before, there is also a sharp  sense of isolation that develops when all of our work is remote. We no longer have a desk buddy to chat with, we aren’t running into our coworkers in the break room, and we can’t just pop into someone’s office when we think of something to tell them. The culture of connection that we work so hard to cultivate in our workplace has no place to thrive in the disconnect of remote work. 

Part of having a connected workplace culture is having that sense of community between colleagues, which is hard to achieve when working remotely. 

So how can you foster that culture now, when so many of us are working remotely?

Decide when a quick message works and when it doesn’t

In non-COVID times, this tip would sound like “decide when a quick message works, and when in-person is better” but, unfortunately, that’s not an option for many of us at the present time. But it doesn’t mean that every work related conversation has to stick to Slack or email. 

While working remotely, it’s important to think about the nature of the work you’re doing–and what the needs of that work are. If you’re trying to get something done on your own and just have a quick question, sure,  shoot over an email or drop a message in the Slack channel. But if you’re working on something more complex, something more creative or challenging, it will probably be more productive (and enjoyable) to work on that with someone else. 

You can do something as simple as a Zoom call  to connect to your colleagues face to face. Or, if you’re all local, see if there’s a spot you can meet up in person! (While following social distancing guidelines of course.) Even if you’re just on a bench outside the office for half an hour, having that opportunity to engage “IRL” can help you feel more personally connected to your work, and your workplace. 

Find new ways for regular check ins

This doesn’t have to be an elaborate, formal meeting, but having a time set aside regularly–maybe weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly–for everyone to hop on a Zoom call to touch base about where they are and where they need support can help everyone learn and grow into a virtual culture that feels just as connected as your in-person culture. Ask what difficulties people are having and if they have suggestions for what would help. Again, if possible, see if there’s a way to get your team together in person (safely) even if just for a socially distanced monthly check in. 

Find a way to connect that isn’t mandatory

When you’re only connecting quickly about work questions, project details, etc, that feeling of community can evaporate quickly. That culture of connection in a workplace isn’t just about work–it’s about valuing the people you’re with and the environment you all create together (which, unfortunately, can’t really be replicated over email). Take time to brainstorm other ways to connect with your colleagues. Maybe suggest a book club–everyone could take a turn recommending an industry-related book to read, and those who’d like to can participate. You could have a Slack channel just for book of the month thoughts, where people can pop in things they’re thinking as they read it, and then you can all get together to discuss the book! 

Or, if you’re a community focused business, look out for community events being held. Are there ones that would add value to your team members? Ones that would offer a new way to connect with your team? Send info to your colleagues and see who would be interested in attending! Encourage them to send along events they find as well. 

Related: Make some fun Slack channels (if your team uses slack) 

To get that sense of chatting by the water cooler, your team needs a virtual place to gather. And Slack is great option for that! Since you can have channels designated for specific topics, you can keep all work talk to work channels and then have a spot for things like: 

Or whatever sort of things your team tends to share and connect about. 

You can also keep it simple: ask your team what would make them feel more connected to their colleagues & provide them the community culture as best as possible while working remotely. They might have ideas you wouldn’t have thought of!

And taking the time to ask them about their needs and ideas will help remind them that this culture of connection is a priority for your business, and that each member of the team is valued and important. 

If you need help in creating this culture of connection, we can help.

What does your daily routine look like?

These days especially, you might not have a normal routine. While still adjusting to a world amidst COVID, and all of the changes that brings, many of your normal social routines still are probably not back to normal. 

It also means that self care right now is crucial. In order to help ourselves live as fully as we can in a world of COVID restrictions, taking care of ourselves is the key. And though we might not be used to setting aside significant parts of our days to take care of ourselves, it is actually what will help us get through these difficult times. 

But it’s hard to build a routine that prioritizes caring for yourself. The culture we live in tends to value those of us who work non-stop, have no free time, or who spend more time giving time and energy to others than themselves. It a lot of intentionality to craft a routine that is there not only to get you through the day, but to help you thrive.

First, what does self care mean to you?

What are the important ways in which you take care of yourself? What are things you wish would be regular self care practices for you? These can be things like: 

When you’ve decided that, think about your daily routine. Which parts excite you? 

Maybe you love your morning routine. Ask yourself, what about this routine do I love? What parts of it make me excited to start my day? It’s likely that the routines you’re fond of are ones that meet one or more of those self care needs above. Finding out where you already do these things, how they make you feel, why you like them is a great way to brainstorm new ideas to reinvigorate other parts of your routine. 

Now think about the opposite end. What parts do you dread? What parts are necessary but seem to put a drain on you?

These parts of your day might not be able to be totally transformed into something exciting (ex. If you hate washing dishes, there’s probably not a way to make them exciting, but there are things we can do while washing dishes–listening to music/podcast/audiobook, calling a friend, etc). to nourish other needs we have. 

Then look at the gaps. What parts of your routine are you just not sure what to do with yourself? 

While you absolutely need time for rest, it can also help energize you to give your rest time some variation. 

Maybe one day your body is sore, so your rest time is better spent taking a bath. Or one day, if you have a lot of excess energy or are feeling anxious, your rest time could be time to craft or make art. You’re letting your mind disengage from other responsibilities, while still giving it much needed creative time. 

Figuring out what you need from one day to the next is more important than sticking strictly to a routine, even if it is one chock full of self care. Because the way we cared for ourselves yesterday might not be the way we need to care for ourselves today! 

Having the building blocks for a nourishing, self care filled routine can help us figure out what our needs actually are, and have built in space in our routine to address them. 

What You Should Know About Nonmonogamy (Even If You’re Monogamous)

When you hear the term “nonmonogamy” what do you think? Does it make you feel tense or threatened? Does it make you curious? Do you feel confused? Don’t worry – there are no wrong answers. Nonmonogamy is something that is starting to become more mainstream, but many folks don’t really understand what nonmonogamy can mean other than infidelity. Obviously, infidelity is a huge betrayal, but all nonmonogamy isn’t necessarily cheating. Nonmonogamy can cover a wide variety of relationship structures.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll be talking about ethical nonmonogamy – a nonmonogamous relationship structure where all parties involved are informed and consenting (rather than someone who is cheating, where not all parties are informed).

Nonmonogamy isn’t right for everyone, but there are things everyone, including monogamous folks, can learn from relationship structures unlike theirs. 

You may have also heard the word “polyamory” used in addition to or in place of nonmonogamy. While they are similar concepts, there is a difference between nonmonogamy and polyamory. Nonmonogamy is a type of relationship structure that allows for participants to have more than one intimate relationship at a time. This is an umbrella term that can include polyamory, but it can also include things like swinging or more casual encounters where there is less emotional intimacy. Polyamory, on the other hand, is the ability to fall in love or be emotionally intimate with multiple people at the same time. Just as some folks are more comfortable in a monogamous relationship with one partner, some people prefer having multiple partners. It’s just a preference!

Nonmonogamy has become a more popular topic, perhaps because as a society we’re becoming more accepting of people loving who they want to love in the wake of LGBTQ+ marriage equality in the US. With this increased popularity is more easily available information about nonmonogamy. Even if you’re monogamous, there are still helpful things that we can learn from nonmonogamy and apply to our relationships, whatever form they take. 

Here are some important things that anyone can learn from nonmonogamy:

Attraction is human

Just because you’re in a monogamous relationship with someone doesn’t mean that you’ll never find anyone attractive again. Although there can be a feeling of security that comes from thinking your partner only has eyes for you, it’s not really realistic that you or your partner will never find yourself attracted to anyone else. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to experience attraction – it’s human nature. If experiencing attraction to someone outside of your relationship is uncomfortable for you, that can be a good jumping-off point to explore why.

What feelings does the situation bring up? What are you feeling in your body? Where are those sensations? How can you soothe yourself? What do you want your partner to know about what you’re feeling?

Communication is essential

Many people wonder to themselves how nonmonogamous relationship structures work, and a big part of the answer is communication. Nonmonogamy is something that will naturally bring up a lot of intense emotions – jealousy, joy, shame, curiosity, freedom, fear, overwhelm, loneliness,  etc – and it’s important to be able to talk about those feelings with your partner. However, nonmonogamy isn’t the only relationship structure that brings up those kinds of emotions – many monogamous relationships and even platonic relationships can bring up these feelings. It’s helpful to any kind of relationship to improve your communication skills. Learning how to communicate effectively can help build a sense of trust in your relationship, whatever the structure is. 

People aren’t possessions

One big aspect of monogamy is the idea that you “belong” to your partner and vice versa. While this isn’t representative of every monogamous relationship, it’s common enough that it’s seen as relatively normal. However, even if you’re in a monogamous relationship, your partner isn’t “yours” – they are their own person with their own agency and own ability to set their boundaries. Feeling possessive over someone you care about isn’t something to be ashamed of, but it is important to recognize that feeling something and acting on it are different. When these feelings come up, it’s a great opportunity to bring it up in your relationship. 

One person can’t meet all your needs

Do you know how you have friends that you hang out with for different reasons? You might have a friend that is more adventurous, or a friend that is a great listener, or a friend who knows your whole backstory so you don’t have to explain it. The point is, different relationships meet different needs. The same can be true of romantic relationships. You might have a romantic relationship that is built around sharing a home or raising kids together, but there are other needs that you have that your partner just won’t be able to meet. That’s not a knock on your partner, but it’s impossible for one person to meet every single need of their partner. Expecting them to sets them up to fail and it sets you up to feel disappointed or resentful. 

Even though nonmonogamy isn’t for everyone, it’s a relationship structure that can teach us a lot. If you want to work on any of these areas, our clinicians can help you apply them to your relationships. 

Anger is a very complicated, uncomfortable emotion. We don’t like to feel it because it can make us feel out of control, even afraid of ourselves. Often it comes paired with shame and anxiety. 

But anger is just a feeling!

And like all other feelings, there is nothing inherently wrong about feeling it. Many of us tend to view our experiences of getting angry as weakness, something to be embarrassed about or to hide away. With uncomfortable feelings, it can be easy at first to decide to just bury them away and not think about them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t actually make the feeling go away. While it may dissipate for a period of time, the underlying reasons for that anger have still gone unaddressed, which means they are going to come up again. And the longer we put off dealing with them, the harder they become to deal with. 

So why are many of us so afraid to acknowledge what we’re angry about?

Why does getting angry so frequently make us feel shame? There are many reasons why this can happen. And of course, the reasons for you are going to be completely different than the reasons for someone else. Taking time to explore your own feelings is the only true way to get to the root of it. But it’s hard to jump in without guidance, so I’ve listed a few possible explanations below: 

But anger isn’t your enemy! Just like any other emotion, anger can give you useful information about your needs, desires and circumstances.

Many reasons we feel anger are often facilitated by our mind trying to inform us of some sort of mistreatment. In that way, when you listen to it, your anger is actually trying to take care of you! Your anger might show up when you feel:

So how can you start to manage your anger with care, rather than bury it with shame?

Explore how the anger showed up:

Ask yourself questions like; 

Explore what the anger means:

You can explore all of this in your head, out loud to a therapist, written down in a journal, etc. But taking time to explore what is behind the anger is the key to understanding how to move forward without just burying or exasperating that feeling. Then, when you have explored why, how, and for what purpose your anger showed up, you can decide on what next steps are right to take in order to move forward. 

If you need support managing your anger, our clinicians can help you through this journey. Get in touch to find the perfect clinician for your needs. 

September in the United States is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, although really every month should be suicide prevention month. We can all take actions in our everyday lives to normalize mental health and to support people who are considering suicide. Mental health is already a stigmatized topic, and suicide in particular is seen as a taboo topic that we shouldn’t talk about. Unfortunately, this line of thinking means that there is a lot of misinformation out there about suicide, and these myths do a lot of harm.

We are particularly afraid of what we don’t understand, and suicidality is baffling to many people and it is a uniquely painful subject to think about. It is okay if thinking or talking about suicide makes you uncomfortable. It’s important for us to have these conversations where we feel uncomfortable because that is how we can make changes. Taking the time to educate yourself on what is true and what is a myth about suicide can help take away some of the fear associated with the subject. It can also help you feel more prepared for talking about suicidality with others, which is an important part of prevention.

Here are myths about suicide that we need to clear up:

Myth 1: Asking someone if they’re considering suicide plants the idea

It makes sense that this would be a worry because it’s coming from a place of caring. You don’t want this person to harm themselves. However, it is untrue that asking someone if they’re considering suicide will give them the idea. Unfortunately, they probably have considered it before you brought it up. Speaking about suicide doesn’t have the power to harm people, but staying silent about mental health and the conditions that lead to suicide does have the power to do harm. 

Myth 2: Someone who says they’re suicidal is just seeking attention.

This is a particularly distressing myth, because some people don’t take threats of suicide seriously because they see it as attention-seeking. Instead of looking for attention, someone who is speaking about ending their life or showing warning signs is really giving out a cry for help. Many people who are considering suicide are in an unbelievable amount of pain, and speaking up about it is very brave. Many people keep their thoughts of ending their lives to themselves because they’re worried about being seen as a burden or upsetting others, and this myth directly feeds into that idea. 

Myth 3: Suicidal ideation and being actively suicidal are the same thing.

This post does a good job of explaining, but thoughts of suicide actually work kind of like a spectrum. There are lower level thoughts of suicide, like intrusive thoughts about self-harm or mortality. Someone can also have thoughts of suicide without intent or a plan, which is called suicidal ideation. Someone who is actively suicidal, on the other hand has an intent, a plan, or both to carry out the act. Someone who is actively suicidal is at immediate risk for harm, while someone who is experiencing suicidal ideation is in less immediate danger. 

Myth 4: Suicide is unpredictable.

While it may be true that some folks end their lives with no warning, for many folks there are clear and persistent warning signs. It’s important for us to learn what the warning signs for suicide are. They include: 

*These are suicidal behaviors, and they are an emergency. If someone you know is tying up their loose ends and seemingly making preparations to say goodbye, please get them help. Many cities have emergency mental health crisis services, so you can make sure to get them appropriate help without putting them in further danger. 

Myth 5: Suicide is selfish.

It can be unbearably painful to survive the suicide of a loved one, but it’s important to remember that suicide isn’t a selfish act. People don’t end their lives because they want to be dead. People end their lives because they want to end the suffering they feel. 

Myth 6: Being suicidal is a permanent state.

Some people think that if someone is suicidal, they will always be that way. Thankfully, that isn’t the case. In many cases, suicidality is situational and specific. Someone may have experienced suicidal thoughts before, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t go on to live a normal and happy life after experiencing suicidal ideation. It’s also important to note that just because someone is suicidal doesn’t mean that they will always find a way to harm themselves – as stated above, many people who attempt or complete suicide don’t actually want to be dead, they want to be free of pain. 

If you or someone you know is considering ending their life, please get help from a mental health professional immediately. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. To learn more about the signs of suicidality or ways to help someone who is suicidal, get in touch with one of our clinicians.

Therapy is a wonderful tool for our mental wellness, but it’s not the only tool out there! 

And in fact, even if you are in therapy, that shouldn’t be the only way you check in with yourself. As valuable as that one hour a week is, leaving your mental wellness unattended all the other hours of the week, might actually make progress in therapy more difficult. 

In order to truly progress, changes need to happen around the board. Therapy will help give you the tools you need to understand what areas of yourself and your life need more care, and ideas on how to provide that care for yourself. But forming habits and routines to continue with that care outside of your therapy is crucial. 

So what are ways you can tend to yourself between and outside of sessions?

Set reminders to check in with yourself

It’s important to keep giving yourself space and time to check in with how you’re feeling outside of the one hour a week you have in therapy. While that one hour is wonderful, it’s not enough to maintain the entirety of your mental wellness by itself! It can be easy to push uncomfortable feelings aside and tell ourselves that we will “deal with them in therapy” but pushing them down doesn’t get rid of them, and doesn’t actually help us manage them any better. It can even make you feel tense and overwhelmed by the time you get to therapy, because you won’t even know what to talk about!

Setting daily reminders on your phone (or multiple daily reminders, perhaps one for morning, one for afternoon, one for evening, etc.) is a quick and easy way to make sure you’re checking in with yourself. When the alarm goes off, ask yourself: 

Journaling

Just like we said above, having an outlet for your feelings is crucial for mental wellness. Sometimes that outlet is therapy, sometimes it’s art or music, or venting to a friend. Another simple way to add it into your routine is to try journaling. Think of the questions in the above point–you can use them as journaling prompts! Or you can introduce a brain-dump journaling practice into your daily routine. Each evening, give yourself a few minutes to dump everything you’re feeling into your journal. Don’t worry about how it sounds or if it makes sense, just let your mind flow and release anything you’re feeling into the journal. 

Mindfulness & Meditation

If you find your thoughts tend to run away without you, that you are constantly overthinking, or trapped in anxiety thought-spirals, mindfulness and meditation can be wonderful tools to help you manage that outside of therapy. The whole point of mindfulness is to be fully present in the current moment–meaning all of those stray thoughts that would usually drag you into an endless cycle of overthinking, are acknowledged and released instead of latched onto. Check out our post here on five simple ways to begin adding mindfulness into your life. You can also find beginner friendly guided meditations on youtube, or download a mindfulness app to help get you started! 

Learn to identify stress triggers 

When you know how stress shows up in your life, you can plan better stress management. Ask yourself: 

When you know the types of things that cause stress, as well as the ways in which it manifests itself in your body, you can be more proactive about your stress management. When you know stressful events are coming up, plan in stress relief that has worked for you in the past. And when you feel those stress symptoms showing up in your body (headaches, stomach aches, lack of sleep, digestion issues, etc.) you will know “Hey I must be stressed! What can I do to help relieve it?”

Get enough sleep 

A simple, but often overlooked part of both physical and mental wellness. Some symptoms of not getting proper sleep include

Figure out a nighttime routine that helps you get ready for bed. This can be setting a time to be done with screens, tidying up your space, having a designated nighttime book to read, meditating, journaling, etc. Establishing a routine can help signal to your body that it is time to sleep, which will help you fall asleep more easily and naturally. 

Try affirmations

Affirmations are a great example of “fake it ‘til you make it.” Repeating positive affirmations to ourselves helps to rewire the way we think about & speak to ourselves. If you are constantly saying negative things to or about yourself, they get wired into how you perceive yourself–no matter if they are really true or not. Using affirmations and positive self talk is a simple way to help to start to reverse that negativity. If every day you wake up and look in the mirror and say “I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to” that message starts to take root in your subconscious mind. You can find some sample affirmations to try here

As much as we wish it wasn’t, grief is something that’s inevitable for all of us. We all have people and things we care about, and unfortunately, that means we are all capable of feeling grief when we lose them. Grief, and other intense emotions, are still seen as somewhat taboo in everyday life, and we often feel uncomfortable when we are around someone else feeling them. Part of this is because there are things we still don’t understand as a culture about intense emotions. Even though we all feel grief at some point in our lives, there is still a lot of misinformation out there about grief and the grieving process. Myths about grief led to misunderstandings, loneliness, and a more difficult emotional experience, so it’s helpful to understand what is and isn’t true about grief. 

First of all: what is grief?

According to dictionary.com, grief is: “something that causes keen distress or suffering.”  This is a pretty good baseline definition for grief. Another good one is the Grief Recovery definition of grief: “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” 

Most of us have felt grief at some point in our lives, and for those that haven’t they will at some point. Even though we all feel grief, we don’t all understand it.

Here are some myths bout grief that we need to stop believing:

Grief is a sign of weakness

Grief is an absolutely normal human emotion. It is devastating and hard to deal with, but it is a normal part of being a person who cares about people and things. Feeling intense emotions is not a sign of weakness, and anyone who says that it is is frankly not worth talking to when you’re grieving. Other people judging you for your grief says more about them than about you, and it is okay to set boundaries for people who aren’t kind or understanding to you in your grief process. 

Grief is only caused by loss of life

Death isn’t the only thing that can cause grief. You can feel grief about a lot of things including:

As Grief Recovery defines grief, anything that causes a change in a pattern in your life can cause grief. Your grief is valid. 

Grief lasts a year

Grief has no timeline, sadly. While a lot of people can’t comprehend feeling grief for over a year, that probably just means they have never felt grief before. Grief is intense. It might stay with you for your entire life in some way. Moving through grief is about learning how to live with your grief in a way that lets you live your life. 

Everyone grieves the same way

While grief is a completely normal emotion, there is no ‘right way’ to feel grief. You may have heard of the five stages of grief, developed by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. These stages are: 

While folks who are grieving do go through these stages of grief, there isn’t a correct way to move through these stages. You might feel more than one. You might move back and forth between a few stages and move quickly through others. It might take months, weeks, or years. There is no timeline, as we said above. The process of grief isn’t linear. 

Your level of grief says something about you

Some people think that the intensity of your grief reflects how much you loved the person you lost, or that it somehow speaks to your character. This is not only not true, but it can add a whole new layer of grief for people who are worried they aren’t grieving “properly”. As we said above, there is no right way to grieve. There are stages to grief, but moving the stages of grief is not a linear process. You can move back and forth between stages and skip stages and that is perfectly normal. Grief is different for everyone and just because you grieve a certain way doesn’t say anything about what you are grieving. 

If you’re grieving and need support, our clinicians can help you through this journey. Get in touch to find the perfect clinician for your needs. 

When was the last time you took stock of the relationships in your life?

Any kind of relationship, not just romantic. Think friends, coworkers, family members, neighbors – the list can go on and on. Some relationships we don’t have much control over. We might work with people we ordinarily wouldn’t spend time with, and we certainly can’t choose what family we are born into. However, there are relationships where you can decide what you’re willing to give, even if you’ve never considered that an option before. Some friendships wax and wane in intensity over the years. Some romances are lifelong and committed, and others are more casual. We all have an idea of the relationships we currently have in our lives, but it’s helpful to regularly take a step back to consider our relationships and if they’re serving us. Journaling can be a great way to do this!

Why is this important right now?

We’re in a period of uncertainty right now on a number of fronts, but one thing you can control is who you give access to you. Taking the time to carefully consider the relationships we have in our lives gives us a chance to set boundaries. Boundaries are always important, they are especially important right now in 2020 so you can help manage and protect your energy and your mental health. 

Boundaries are there to help us protect the relationships that are important to us while also giving us space to be honest about what we need. Instead of starting a fight or creating awkwardness, boundaries should be a sign that the relationship is treasured.

Since we typically don’t understand what boundaries actually are, we might think they’re too harsh, or that they’re putting restrictions on us. In reality, boundaries are just another way to practice self-care. Remember: self-care is about doing things that will actually take care of you, and that can sometimes mean you have to have an uncomfortable conversation or stick up for yourself once in a while. Boundaries are there to help prevent us from burning out and they allow us some kind of control on where we spend our emotional and social energy. 

Isn’t that a little harsh?

It might sound harsh to talk about considering relationships in this way, but you do yourself a disservice by not digging deeper into your feelings on your relationships. Going with the flow and never questioning anything can lead to resentment, discomfort, and arguments, among other things.

When you think about your relationships, consider:

Relationships involve people, so of course, they can get complicated. However, it’s normal for relationships to change over time. We tend to think of a relationship as being over if there is a decrease in closeness or connection, but it’s okay to realize that sometimes the best way to serve yourself and your relationship is to step back. Realizing that a relationship needs to change is hard to swallow, but it can be a way forward where you thought there was a dead end. Asking for what you want and need in your relationships shows that you care enough to make changes and communicate with the other person. It’s really a compliment, when you think about it!

Think about it like this: someone cares enough about your relationship to come to you and figure out a plan to keep the relationship going, even if it has to take a new form. That’s pretty amazing!

If you’re interested in examining your closest relationships, journaling is a great place to start. It’s cheap, it’s simple, and it can get you in touch with your emotions and help you notice patterns that you wouldn’t normally see. 

Here are some journal prompts to examine the relationships in your life:

  1. What does love mean to you? 
  2. What does intimacy mean to you?
  3. What relationships make me feel seen?
  4. What actions can someone take to make me feel seen? 
  5. What are three things I admire about ?
  6. I feel drained after spending time with
  7. I feel energized after spending time with
  8. I feel like I can be myself around
  9. How satisfied are you with your social life? 
  10. What is something special about ?
  11. How would I describe this relationship to my best friend? 
  12. How do I feel about asking for help? 
  13. What are three important qualities you look for in a friend? 
  14. When we spend time together, who initiates it? 
  15. Is this person reliable?
  16. How do you like to communicate hard things? 
  17. How do you like people to communicate hard things to you? 
  18. Do you tend to hold grudges, or do you forgive and move on? 
  19. What is the ideal size of your social circle?
  20. What am I grateful for about ? 
  21. Does inspire me to be a better person? 
  22. Does take an interest in my life? 
  23. Do I take an interest in life?
  24. What is my Love Language? 
  25. What are my deal breakers in a friendship?
  26. What are my deal breakers in a romantic relationship?
  27. What does good communication look like to you? 
  28. What qualities do I bring to a relationship? 
  29. Who do I rely on most for support? Why? 
  30. Who do I dread seeing? 
  31. Who is the last person I said “I love you” to?
  32. What frightens me about relationships? 
  33. Have you been hurt in past relationships? How? 
  34. Describe your ideal friendship.
  35. Describe your ideal partnership. 

Journaling isn’t the answer to everything, but it can be a nice place to start while you work out what you need from the relationships in your life. Realizing relationships need to change can make you feel guilty or sad, but remember that setting boundaries with someone can actually make the relationship stronger than it was before. If you need help examining the relationships in your life, our clinicians can help. 

What is anxiety?

A simple way of explaining anxiety is that it is your body’s response to having too many worries. What makes anxiety different from everyday stress is that it interferes with your daily functioning. One way anxiety can manifest in your body is through lack of sleep. 

Health effects of insomnia

Lack of sleep can impact you a lot more than you might realize. The main effect, of course, is fatigue or lack of energy. But over time, long term insomnia can impact your health much more than that! Some of the health effects of insomnia include: 

In other words, when our sleep starts to suffer, our overall health starts to suffer. That period of rest is necessary for your body to stay at top functioning. 

So we’ve put together this list of things to try to help manage anxiety related sleep problems: 

Therapy

One of the best long term solutions to anxiety management is therapy. Having a space reserved for your own inner work, with an objective outside party there to help guide you through it. A therapist can help you identify the way anxiety shows up in your life, how it manifests in your body, and help you come up with more personalized methods of managing in in your own life.

Meditation & Mindfulness Practices 

Meditation and mindfulness practices as a part of a nighttime routine can help slow your mind down so it’s not racing or spiraling as you go to sleep. As you get ready for bed, try to be mindful of your whole routine. When your mind starts to wander (fixating on fears or hypotheticals, or things that you cannot control in the moment) redirect your thoughts to the present moment. Are you brushing your teeth? Focus on the movement, the smells, the taste. Are you laying in bed? Focus on the feeling of your body against your mattress, the way the sheets feel against your body, the sounds you hear, your breathing, etc.  

Movement

A nighttime movement routine can be a great way to both return to your body (getting out of your own head) and tire yourself out! It doesn’t have to be a lengthy routine either–something as simple as ten minutes of yoga can make a huge difference. Do some easy movement and stretches right before you want to sleep, and then hop in bed once you’re done. As you rest from the movement, you’ll slow down and be able to fall into sleep much more naturally. 

Screen + Caffeine Restrictions

Many things we use in our daily lives can make both anxiety and insomnia worse. Caffeine and being “plugged in” are two of the biggest one! To help with this, set a time of day to be done with things like caffeine and screens. Enjoy your coffee in the morning, but in the afternoon, maybe switch to decaf, or tea! Setting a time to stop scrolling through your phone or computer can also help you to relax. Instead of being constantly stimulated (or getting constant updates from every part of the world, which can trigger anxiety) set your phone aside and do something that requires no screens at all (journaling, reading, drawing, etc.)

Do a Full Body Scan

If you’re laying in bed unable to fall asleep, take a few moments to check in with your body. Start at your toes and work your way up to your head. Are you feeling any aches or pains? Are you holding tension? Tend to those needs!

Do a Room Scan

Having a good environment for sleep is so important for sleep hygiene. Are noises from outside of your room keeping you up? Consider a white noise machine. Is there too much light in your room? Maybe it’s time for some different curtains! Even something as simple as moving your bed to a different part of your room can make a huge difference. 

If you’re currently living with anxiety, know that you’re not alone. There are a lot of ways to manage anxiety, and if you need help finding one that works for you, checking in with a therapist is always a good place to start. 

When times are tough, like they are in 2020, it can be natural to look at your life and decide things need to change. This year has been so much more complicated than most of us expected, and if you’re out there questioning a lot of things, just know that you’re not alone and you’re not overreacting. If this period of chaos has made you want to reevaluate what is important to you, that’s okay. When life is uncertain or scary, it can make us take a look at our values and decide what’s really important to us. Our values aren’t static – they don’t stay the same throughout our lives. And they shouldn’t! As humans, it is natural that we grow and change as the world changes around us. Many of us have gone through our lives without paying attention to why we do the things that we do. We just do them. There are lots of factors that go into behavior, like genetics and environment and racial injustice and socioeconomic status, but one part of it is the values that we hold. Getting clear on your values is a great first step in starting to live a more authentic life.

What Are Values?

Values are beliefs that everyone has, that motivate us to act a certain way. Our principles guide our decisions and our behavior because they are a foundational part of who we are. We all have values, whether you realize it or not. Most of us grow up with the same principles as our parents until we are old enough to start to come up with our own. Some people don’t really question their values – they just keep going through the motions based on their same old values without ever questioning if those values represent the anymore. 

Instead of going through the motions, when you’re in touch with your values, you can make choices from a balanced and thoughtful place. When you understand what your principles are and why you feel that way, you feel less need to justify yourself for every little choice you make. You know that you’re doing what is right for you because you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about your values! 

When your actions are in line with your principles you will feel more balanced, and you may feel more at ease. This is because you know what is important to you, you know why it’s important, and you know how to incorporate those values into your everyday life. You know that even when things are hard, you are backing up your values with your actions and vice versa. You can feel confident knowing that you are doing the right thing for you. When you are connected to what you really want and what you really prioritize, you will make choices that are better for you in the long run because they’re serving your values, not a passing interest or trend or peer pressure. You are listening to the wisdom within, instead of listening to the pressure of everyone around you. 

How to find your values

One place to start is to think of what makes you feel happy, proud of yourself, and/or fulfilled. It can also be enlightening to think of what made you happy as a child – what did you used to do that made you feel good? Who were you with? You can also go through a list of common principles and circle the ones that speak to you. You don’t want to have five million values you want to uphold, so it’s best to just pick 5-6 to work on. Your values don’t all have to be prioritized the same way, and remember, they can always change if they’re no longer serving you.

Here’s a list of common values to consider:

If you’re looking for more ideas for values, here’s a good list.

Okay, I Know What I Value, Now What?

Once you decide on your principles, think of a few things for each that you can fit into your life. Come up with a list of practical ways you could actually fit this value into your life. For example, if you value self respect you can make it a habit to gently correct negative self-talk when it comes up. If you prioritize honesty, you can make it a practice to be honest, even when it’s hard or awkward. 

It’s also valuable to think of times when you didn’t live in alignment with your values. One way we know something isn’t in line with our principles is how we feel about it. When we do something that isn’t in line with our values, we usually feel rotten – full of shame or indecision or guilt or regret. Think about times when you didn’t follow through on your principles. How did you feel after? Remembering the negative way we feel when we don’t follow our values is a good way to motivate us to follow them in the future. We’ve all had times where we didn’t live our values. The good thing is that in the future, we can choose to live our values every time. 

It’s easy to live your values when no one is challenging you on them or giving you a hard time. Think about situations that might come up where you have trouble living your principles. Are there people who will push your boundaries? Are there situations where you feel at odds with your values? What are they? The more you can prepare yourself, the easier it will be to stick to your values. 

When you know your principles you can understand the meaning behind your behavior and you can get intentional about your actions. That’s why regularly taking the time to reflect on your principles is a valuable practice.

Values tell us who we are, but they can also tell us who we want to be in the future. Your values won’t stay the same for your whole life because you grow and change and so do your priorities and that’s a good thing! You can’t change the past and the values you used to prioritize, but you can work on what you value in the here and now and in the future. If you need support in deciding what your values are, our clinicians can help. 

We’ve talked about the importance of self-care many times before. But one thing to remember about taking care of yourself is that it’s not always fun! Some important ways we take care of ourselves are actually really boring. Boring self-care isn’t fun to put on Instagram, and it usually feels more like a chore than like an extravagance. But it can help improve our relationships with ourselves, which can help us show up fully in other areas of our lives. 

If you haven’t considered the un-fun ways to take care of yourself, now’s the time! Here are 4 easy ways to get started thinking about boring self-care: 

Take stock of what’s in your kitchen

Part of boring self-care is staying organized. One of the most important ways we can take care of ourselves is by making sure we’re providing ourselves with lots of nourishment. Take a look at what’s in your kitchen. Do you have food you like to eat? Do you have ingredients for recipes you like to make? 

When we’re struggling, with mental health, social conflicts, community unrest, etc, sometimes feeding ourselves takes a back seat. Especially with so many delivery options readily available. But take a look at what you have on hand. Ask yourself: 

Refill your prescriptions

Not usually what we think of when we think of self-care, but it’s important! Take a look at your prescription medications if you have them. Are you running low? You can even call your pharmacy and ask to have your prescriptions mailed to you when they need to be refilled–that way there’s no lag time between when you run out of your prescription and when you find time to pick the refill up from the pharmacy. 

Consider your routine

Think about what you do each day. What serves you and what doesn’t? This doesn’t have to mean “what is productive and what isn’t” but consider what you value in your day. Do you have habits that don’t serve you? These would be habits that don’t help your growth, help you take care of yourself, or that don’t add enjoyment to your day. 

Do you order out every night instead of cooking? Instead, maybe pick one or two nights a week to order out from your favorite places. That way ordering can be something special that you look forward to, instead of a habit you fall into accidentally. 

Do you go running because you want an easy way to get some exercise into your day? Think about other things you like to do. How can you fit movement into those things? Do you like music? Put on your favorite album and dance around! Do you live in a vibrant neighborhood? Throw your sneakers on and walk around, really taking time to enjoy your surroundings! 

Look over your budget

Money is a huge stressor for many people. Sometimes, it can feel so stressful that we even avoid looking over our bank accounts and budgets! And then it gets longer and longer between when we revisit our budget and that adds even more stress. 

Pick one day a month where you have your only commitment to look over your budget. The rest of the day can be spent however you like–as long as you check in on your finances first. Doing it regularly will help you get a better idea of what your finances really are, and will help to decrease the stress of not knowing how you’re doing. 

Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to work for you. Even if everything on your list seems like it’s just boring self-care, it’s still an important aspect of the practice. Luckily, there’s no self-care judge, and there’s not really a wrong way to do it. Just be honest with yourself about how you feel and what you need, and build from there.

If you need assistance figuring out your goals or values or brainstorming ways to practice self-care, we can help!

Journaling prompts to work through anxiety 

Do you ever find yourself wanting to write down your thoughts, but you’re not sure where to begin? When you have a million and one thoughts floating around in your brain, it can be intimidating to even think about starting to write them down. Journaling is a valuable practice, both for self-care and for supporting your overall mental health, but it’s tricky to journal when you can’t figure out what to write. It’s also hard to sift through the thoughts in your head and focus on one thought when you deal with anxiety. When you’re feeling anxious, it might feel like your mind is racing and that you can’t distinguish between different thoughts. Each time you think you get a glimpse of a feeling, it’s gone, replaced by the next one. 

Asing a journal is particularly helpful for anxiety for a few reasons.

For one, you can only write one thing at a time, so the process of journaling naturally forces you to slow down and work through your thoughts one at a time. Journaling gives you a place to explore the why behind your feelings instead of just feeling that swirl of dread when you’re stuck in an anxious spiral. Finally, keeping a journal can help you identify patterns in your thoughts, which can help you find new ways to cope. 

Remember, your journal is for you, and not for anyone else. You can journal by hand or keep a digital journal. You don’t have to follow any specific format or stick to any rules. Your journal can just be a private space for you to write down what you’re feeling. Your entries will probably cover a range of things, just like your brain! Some folks find it valuable to explore and release emotions. Others use a journal to brainstorm ways to cope or keep track of triggers and reactions. Journaling is a cheap and infinitely flexible way to get in touch with your emotions – it gives you an opportunity to engage with them without getting overpowered. 

Here are some journal prompts to help you work through anxiety: 

  1. Describe a time when you felt fulfilled. Where were you? What were you doing? What about that moment felt so satisfying?
  2. If I could make one promise to myself it would be…
  3. Write a letter to your body. 
  4. What does my anxiety sound, look and feel like to me? 
  5. What is my first thought in the mornings? Keep a list. 
  6. I’m so sick of…
  7. Today, I’m grateful for…
  8. What is one thing I wish I could change? 
  9. What’s a quality I love about myself? 
  10. Make a list of 10 affirmations to repeat when your anxiety spikes.
  11. What’s a way my anxiety has held me back recently? 
  12. Write a letter to your past self. 
  13. Brainstorm a list of activities to do to soothe anxiety. Reach for the list when you’re anxious!
  14. What would it feel like to forgive myself? 
  15. What does my perfect day look like? 
  16. What is something I need to let go of?
  17. What are some self-care ideas for when I’m feeling overwhelmed?
  18. Keep a list of anxiety triggers.
  19. When was the last time I said no to something? When was the last time I wish I said no to something? 
  20. List three things that scare you and why. 
  21. What is something I look forward to every single day?
  22. What signs do I notice before an anxiety attack? 
  23. Think of a time when you failed at something. What did that experience teach you? 
  24. Keep a list of nice things people say about you. 
  25. Keep an ongoing list of worries that you want to let go of. 
  26. Do I notice signs of anxiety, stress, or worries in others? How?
  27. What activities make me calm? 
  28. Think of the last time you let negative thoughts spiral out of control. What were some of those thoughts?  
  29. Write a letter to someone from your childhood. You don’t have to send it!
  30. Write about a time that you made someone’s day better.

The most important tip for journaling is to just start – you don’t have to write anything profound or perfect. Write what comes and withhold your judgment. After all, you’re trying to make yourself feel better, so don’t make yourself feel worse during the process. 

If you need more specific ideas to manage your anxiety, our therapists can help you come up with a plan that works for you. 

A Message From Urban Wellness Founder, Maureen Werrbach, LCPC

The past few weeks have been very hard and very heavy.⁣ We’re seeing the culmination of COVID and quarantining and the mental health effects of that building up, along with the growing unrest, awakening, learning and unlearning our country (and the world) is experiencing around racism in reaction to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans. 

Where We Stand

At Urban Wellness we stand against racism, hate and intolerance. As therapists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors, our work is strongly guided by our social justice values. Our values of equity and inclusion are woven into the work we do, how we carry ourselves, and how we show up in our community. It’s woven into our graduate curriculum, is a part of our ethics, and is a big reason most of us get into the field of helping people. In our 8 years, we have built an office of diverse and talented therapists and we work daily to support our community, erase the stigma around mental health, and make wellness something that is accessible to every member of our community. 

About the Owner of Urban Wellness

As a long time resident of the Northwest Side of Chicago, having gown up in Norwood Park (former Onahan, St. Thecla, and Resurrection student) and now living in Sauganash, and having built a mental health business with 3 locations in the Northwest Side of Chicago that provides over 24,000 counseling sessions a year to help this neighborhood thrive, my heart beats for the NW Side to be healthy in home and in life. My roots are in this neighborhood. My family, my friends, my business and my life are here. But we have work to do, NW Side. And I’m here to say, it’s time for this neighborhood to embrace the work that needs to be done. 

Our Country’s History

There is a dangerous double standard in this country when it comes to who gets to be afraid, and it’s time for us to reflect on that. Protests and riots don’t happen in a vacuum – usually they are a last resort after other avenues have failed. Looking at the long, inarguable history of the treatment of Black folks in the United States and the continued murdering of Black folks by law enforcement, people are done allowing the system to continue as is. Even though we think of slavery as a long-ago national shame, the ripple effects are very present. Combine that with the other ways the United States as a government has tried to disenfranchise and control Black people, and you can start to see just how unfairly the cards have been stacked for people in our community who are not white and cis. 

First Responders Call Our Community Home

The far Northwest Side of Chicago has a well-regarded and protected reputation as a predominantly white area where many Chicago first responders and city workers (including my household) call home. 

At Urban Wellness, we specialize in working with first responders, many of whom are Chicago law enforcement and their families. We understand the hard work, trauma, and danger our City’s first responders take each day and are honored to provide that safe space to help them be their best selves, both at work and in their personal lives. We also acknowledge that it is our ethical duty as a both a business deeply invested on the Northwest side and a mental health provider to reduce stigma, discrimination, racism, microaggression, and bias for our clients of color who also live in this neighborhood and to help dismantle this either/or thinking our community overwhelmingly has.

We know many NW Siders have been particularly unwilling to call out racism in America. Many residents in this community inherently feel that calling out racism and police brutality towards Black Americans means that you’re anti-cop and that standing against racism means standing against your partners, parents, friends, family or neighbors who are in law enforcement. Or if you’re a first responder yourself, it may feel like it means that you are abandoning your profession, your second family. This is not the case, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

This fear and unwillingness to acknowledge systemic racism are the barriers our neighborhood has to face in order to accept responsibility for our own actions, reexamine the roles we play in systemic racism, and work together as a community to make our part of the world safer for people of color who live here.

Dialectics: AND, not BUT

As a licensed clinical therapist, I understand that people have a hard time holding space for two things to be true at the same time. People may acknowledge that the way Black people are treated by law enforcement is driven by systemic racism, but they might also have loved ones in law enforcement who are kind and caring people. In mental health spaces, this is called dialectics. Dialectics is where you focus on “AND” instead of “BUT”. 

Let me give an example. Let’s say you love your partner who drives you up the wall when they don’t return your messages. Your love for them is there AND your annoyance is there at the same time, even though they seem like opposing feelings. They both exist, and one doesn’t negate the other. 

Similarly, we need to embrace the “AND” when we consider Black lives in America.

You can be sure that the cops in your life (or you, police officer) would never treat anyone brutally, AND you can also acknowledge the fact that Black Americans are disproportionately likely to be killed by police. You can also recognize that you might not consider yourself actively racist, AND be aware of the implicit bias that we all internalize growing up in the same culture and the need to be anti-racist. Even our industry of mental health counseling is acknowledging that white therapists are causing harm to people of color because of lack of diversity training and anti-racism work. Our profession isn’t immune to causing harm to people of color and so many of us are acknowledging that we have work to do. 

As you can imagine from our history, growing up in the US means being exposed to a culture that values whiteness over non-whiteness, and that idea is internalized by all of us who are white. If you feel ashamed that you have implicit bias, remember that literally everyone else does. It’s important to acknowledge our biases and work to override the ones we grew up with. 

When we experience protests and dissent as a country, it can be tempting to fall into an “us versus them” mentality. Ya’ll, I am seeing this big time in our neighborhoods. Whatever our feelings, they are probably drawn from our life experiences, the people we value and hold dear, and our own personal values. Instead of doubling down on our first instincts though, it’s important to think critically about racism in our community, the power of privilege, and the legacy of racial injustice in this country, and the ways in which we can do better, collectively and individually. Take some time to explore where you can focus on AND instead of BUT. 

The social justice movement Black Lives Matter is not focused on discrediting other lives. It’s not either/or. Saying “Black Lives Matter” does not mean other people don’t matter. There is space for everyone. Yet, our community needs to understand that until Black lives are actually valued as much as everyone else’s, the focus should not be on anyone else. The burning house analogy comes to mind. If someone’s house is burning and the fire department comes, no one would argue that their house that’s not on fire needs to be hosed down too, just because someone else’s is being taken care of. Right now, we need to focus on the fact that Black lives matter and do the work to end racism, and not center ourselves as white people and our white needs.

What can we do right now as a neighborhood?

We can use this pivotal moment to come together and move forward to make our NW side neighborhoods safe for everyone who lives here.

We can’t dig our heels into the ground and stay aligned to a system that only benefits our white residents. We can embrace change, big change, so that racism is dismantled and equity is established.

As a long-time resident and business owner with three NW-side locations, I am committed to putting my money where my mouth is too. Urban Wellness prioritizes its financial support for anti-racist organizations supporting Black residents, businesses, and communities. We value creating an anti-racist culture in our practice, prioritize inclusiveness and diversity in our teams, and do our own individual work. You can do this too. Advocate for diversity in your workplace. Commit to learning and unlearning what you’ve been taught about racism. Look at where you spend your money.

There are so many local businesses and families also stepping up and standing up against racism, (re)committing to do their part to do anti-racism work and support Black residents, businesses, and communities while teaching their children about oppression and systematic racism. I hope you’ll join us!

It’s time to dismantle racism and white supremacy in our NW side neighborhoods. Let’s do this work together.

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC

Founder + CEO of Urban Wellness

30+ year Northwest Side Chicago Resident

Northwest Side business owner (Edison Park, Sauganash, Old Irving Park)

If you’re having trouble practicing self-care right now, in the midst of a national crisis, you are not alone.

There is so much happening in the world that feels out of our control, and the constant exposure to tragedy can make you feel overwhelmed, burned out, and emotionally exhausted. And when we feel those things, it gets much, much harder to take care of ourselves. 

What you can do to practice self-care amidst a crisis:

Take stock:

How are you caring for yourself already? What do you do each day to care for your mind, your body, your environment, and your emotions? Set aside time each morning to set self-care goals for the day. They don’t have to be big! They can be as simple as “today I will take care of my space by washing my dishes and taking the garbage out.”

Each day before you go to bed, make a list of ways you cared for yourself that day. Have this list be ongoing each day, so you can turn to it when you are struggling to find ways to care for yourself down the line. When your energy is depleted and you can’t think of what you need, take a look at the different ways you’ve cared for yourself before. 

Get in touch with your needs and values:

When our needs aren’t being met, we can feel lost and untethered. And when we’re in crisis mode, it’s easy to neglect needs that aren’t immediate (food, shelter, water, etc). 

But our emotional needs are important in a crisis too. Figuring out what exactly those needs are and how you can meet them comes first from getting in touch with your values. What is it that you value in your life? Are connection and community values in your life? What are ways you can incorporate community into your life? How can you get plugged into the people and the culture around you

Focus on “bite-sized” care in times of crisis:

You don’t have to do a complete overhaul of your life. And trying to do too much at once can actually hinder your ability to form new, healthy habits. Especially in the midst of a crisis! Things are hard enough without putting so much pressure on yourself. Start small. 

When taking care of your body you can do things like:

When taking care of your environment you can do things like:

When taking care of your emotions you can do things like:

Remember the importance of community in a crisis:

These past few months have made it more clear than ever: humans are social creatures. 

We feel better when we’re connected to others, we feel a greater sense of belonging when we live in strong communities. Ask yourself, what are small ways you can strengthen your connection to your community, even in times of crisis? This could include things like: 

Remember to start small!

You don’t have to force yourself to do everything all at once. But choosing one item from each type of self-care can help you feel more empowered, in control, and fulfilled in times of crisis. 

What’s an affirmation?

Have you ever used an affirmation? Affirmations just are short, positive statements. We use them to affirm positive feelings within ourselves–about ourselves, our talents, our capabilities, our jobs, our relationships, anything. 

And while that may seem a little silly–saying something positive to yourself in the hopes that you will eventually believe it–research has shown that there is power in positive thinking

It’s just like self talk: if you are constantly saying negative things to or about yourself, they get wired into how you perceive yourself–no matter if they are really true or not. Using affirmations and positive self talk is a simple way to help to start to reverse that negativity. If every day you wake up and look in the mirror and say “I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to” that message starts to take root in your subconscious mind. 

While affirmations of course can’t change what you think overnight, they help to change the way you’re thinking slowly and steadily. And instead of surrounding yourself with negative thoughts, you’re surrounding yourself with positive ones, which both helps to motivate you better than negative ones, but also helps you to create a space where self-hate is not the default. Affirmations help you to be gentle to yourself. They tell you “I can try this and fail, but that doesn’t change my worth!” 

Why use affirmations?

As we said above, affirmations help to slowly change the way you think about and talk to yourself. They help to: 

So how do you even use affirmations? 

Affirmations are your tool to use however works best for you. It’s suggested that you find a few different times throughout the day (between one and three different instances) where you focus your attention on the act of affirming yourself. 

That could be in the morning when you wake up, sometime midday, and before you go to sleep. Or any spots in your day where it makes sense for you. 

When you use the affirmations, don’t just say them quickly to run through them as fast as possible. Pick one (or two, or three!) to repeat to yourself. Say them slowly. Really think about the words you’re saying as you say them. Consider what they mean, how you can apply them throughout your day, what it would feel like to believe them. Maybe even watch yourself in the mirror while you say them. Repeat each affirmation five times. 

15 affirmations to use: 

If you are having trouble thinking of affirmations to use, we made this list of 15 to get you started. Feel free to take what helps you and leave what doesn’t!

  1. I am capable of doing whatever I set my mind to
  2. I’m allowed to ask for help
  3. I am allowed to try and fail without damaging my worth 
  4. I’m going to have a good day
  5. I will find at least one thing to be happy about today!
  6. I am a good friend/sibling/coworker
  7. I’m wonderfully creative
  8. I believe in my convictions and will stick to them even when it’s hard
  9. I will ask for what I deserve
  10. I’ll let people know when I need something else from them
  11. I will let myself ask for what I want without guilt
  12. I’m enriched by everything I do–even my mistakes. Mistakes allow me to learn from them and grow. 
  13. I’ll show myself the kindness I show to my friends
  14. I will show others the kindness and respect I want them to show to me
  15. I have a lot to offer

Although many of us don’t get much of an education on mental health in the United States, a lot of folks understand that mental health issues are part of adult life for many people. One thing many people don’t know, though, is that mental health conditions don’t necessarily discriminate by age. Though many folks believe that children can’t be diagnosed with a mental health condition, that’s actually just a myth. It’s entirely possible for children to struggle with mental health issues, including things like depression, stress, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, OCD, and more. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 7.1 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 have diagnosed anxiety, and this number is probably higher because many cases go unreported. Parents don’t always see the signs that their child is experiencing anxiety, and children can sometimes hide their symptoms and feelings from their caregivers, leaving them in the dark. 

Children tend to be busy, moody little things sometimes, so it might be hard for you to spot the difference between an age-appropriate outburst and a warning sign of anxiety. The important thing to remember is to talk openly about mental health with your child, so they know from an early age that they can talk to you about their mental state. In addition, children don’t always have the vocabulary to tell you what’s going on in their inner worlds, so talking about your own mental health can be a helpful way to help your child learn and find new words for things they’re experiencing. 

When is child anxiety an issue?

When it comes to anxiety, the general rule of thumb is that it’s considered an issue when it interferes with everyday functioning. The same is true for child anxiety. It may be easy to miss because anxiety doesn’t necessarily prevent a child from functioning, but anxiety might make it harder to function in certain situations. There are plenty of kids out there who are naturally timid and worry a lot. That doesn’t always mean that they meet the criteria for an anxiety diagnosis, though. If your child’s worries start to interfere with their school performance, social activities, playtime, or home life, then there might be more than just regular worrying going on. 

Since children don’t always know how to talk about what they’re feeling, they might seem angry, frustrated, or irritable, which is another sign you can watch out for. Here are a few more common symptoms of children with anxiety: 

Physical Signs of Child Anxiety

Emotional Signs of Anxiety in Children

Behavioral Signs of Anxiety in Children

As stated above, it can be really tricky to spot child anxiety. There’s a lot of overlap with anxiety and other disorders, like ADHD, so it might be worthwhile to seek out the services of a professional to get your child the support they need. In addition, it can be exhausting and upsetting to try to adapt your parenting style to what your child is going through. It might be valuable to seek out support for yourself during this time as well. 

When was the last time you were gentle with yourself?

Most of us don’t make a habit of being gentle with ourselves. We set ourselves lots of goals, put ourselves under lots of pressure, and feel the need to go go go until we burn out. Many of us don’t even consider our own needs until we are burned out and we are realizing what care we have neglected ourselves. 

So today, I challenge you to be gentle with yourself! But, since that is easier said than done, I have put together this list of seven small ways you can be gentle with yourself today. Pick and choose, or do all of them, it doesn’t matter. But find some small way to be gentle with yourself today. These are stressful times, and you deserve it! 

Cook yourself something delicious 

What’s your favorite meal? Or your favorite snack? If you have what you need to make it, spend some time in the kitchen making something that brings you comfort! Tune into what you desire and then give yourself permission to do something that is specifically for your own enjoyment. 

Read an old favorite book 

Or watch an old favorite movie, or listen to old favorite music. Connecting with things that used to bring us joy can help bring us back to that joyful moment. What was your favorite book as a kid? Do you have a copy of it? (Or can you borrow the ebook from your local library?) Let yourself be immersed in the story that brought you comfort as a kid. This can help you tune into that inner child, and give them something loving and comforting. Remind yourself that it’s not silly to take care of that inner child–they are part of you! Be gentle with them. 

Give yourself some credit

Even if you don’t feel like you’ve accomplished much lately, what can you give yourself some credit for? What can you be proud of? Have you finished a book recently? Done the dishes? Called a friend to catch up? Even if all you’ve done is decide to take today to be gentle with yourself, be proud of yourself for that! It’s hard to set aside our need for productivity and take care of ourselves. So even if it feels small, remind yourself that you are doing something important. Be proud of yourself! 

Tune into your body 

Take a few moments to tune into whatever it is your body is feeling. Start at your toes and work your way up. What’s happening in your body? Are you sore? Or tired? Do you feel restless? Take some time to consider what it is your body is trying to tell you. If you’re sore, maybe pull up a yoga video for stretching or draw yourself a bath to soak your sore muscles. If you’re feeling restless, maybe it’s time to take a walk or put some music on and dance around! Set aside how you think you “should” manage your body today, and just listen to what it needs. 

Give yourself thanks 

You have carried yourself this far in life! Take time today to thank yourself. Thank yourself for taking the time to consider your own needs, for making yourself a nice meal, for putting in all of the effort you have done so far, each day. Even if it doesn’t feel like a lot! 

Stop when you’re tired 

So often we push ourselves far past our own limits just because we feel like we “should.” Today, I challenge you to set those “shoulds” aside. Today, when you feel yourself getting tired, give yourself permission to stop. Take a break. Get some rest. Do something that allows you to rest like a nap, reading a book, taking a bath. Or do something that rejuvenates you: taking a walk, doing some yoga, journaling, a creative outlet, etc. It seems simple but giving yourself permission to stop when you are tired instead of continuing on until you achieve what you “should” is one of the best ways to be gentle with and take care of yourself. 

Turn off your phone notifications

For ten minutes, for an hour, for the whole afternoon! However long you need to take a break from the constant need to be “on.” Let yourself exist in your own space without the pressure of being in constant contact with everyone else, or the stress that comes with seeing your phone light up with new notifications every few minutes. You don’t have to be reachable 100% of the time–you are allowed to take time for yourself to rest, recharge, and prioritize your own needs. If it stresses you out to think that people may be trying to contact you, shoot off a text first! Let them know you’re taking some time for yourself and if they reach out to you, you’re not ignoring them but you’ll get back to them later. 

If you need help with being gentle with yourself, or you’re looking for more support in this time, contact us and ask us about our online therapy option! 

Even in 2020, mental health is still a very stigmatized topic in the United States. People might not know exactly why they feel this way, but it’s common for folks to have negative attitudes and beliefs about mental illness. Some of this comes from our lack of standardized education on mental health topics and some of it comes from being socialized to think people are either “normal” or “crazy”. Even though many of us understand rationally that people don’t necessarily fall into those categories, the lessons we learn growing up in a culture that is not friendly to people with mental illness stick with us. 

Thanks to technology and expanded access to healthcare, more and more folks are able to access mental healthcare and therapy is becoming more mainstream (if it has it’s own meme category, it’s mainstream, right?).

However, many of us don’t grow up talking about our mental health openly, so we don’t understand how to care for our mental health until well into adulthood.

According to the CDC, 7.1% of children age 3-17 have diagnosed anxiety and 3.2% of children in the same age group have diagnosed depression. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate by age, for the most part, so it’s especially crucial to equip our children with accurate information because you never know when they might need it.

Fortunately, there are more resources out there than ever to make therapy accessible and to learn about mental health from a young age. Children are especially malleable, and they pick up on so much more than what we explicitly tell them. This gives caretakers the perfect opportunity to educate the children in their care on mental health in a non-stigmatizing way from early childhood. One of the best ways to fight mental health stigma is to learn more about mental health. Teaching children accurate and age-appropriate information is not only helpful to their well-being, but it also helps to make the future a little more friendly to folks with mental illness. 

If there’s a child in your life, you have the opportunity to change the narrative around mental health. You don’t necessarily need to do this in a pushy way, but wait for opportunities to come up naturally to use as teachable moments. 

Educate yourself first.

Make sure you’re up to date on what you’re talking about. Reliable sources include psychological associations, the CDC, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, academic journals, and articles published by real news sources. Steer clear of info found in blogs or non-educational websites unless you can verify the credibility of the writer. It’s always easier to talk to someone when you understand what you’re talking about. 

Find out what your child already knows.

Kids pick up on so much more than we give them credit for, so they may have already learned about some aspects of mental health. Ask your child what they know – it may surprise you. 

Model healthy behavior.

Your kids learn from the behavior you teach them. Talk openly about your feelings. Name what you’re experiencing – this will help them name it in the future if they experience it. If you make talking about your mental health no big deal, they will grow up seeing it as no big deal, either. 

Talk matter of factly about your own mental health in front of your child.

Children pick up on more than just the words we say – they understand more about tone, body language, and nonverbal communication than we give them credit for.  When you talk to your child about mental health, do it in a matter of fact way. Don’t make mental illness out to be a catastrophe or tragedy, because that might make them feel afraid and shut down. You can always be honest with them and tell them you don’t know something if you aren’t sure. If you make time regularly for therapy, explain that to them. Say something like, “Mommy goes to therapy every week to help her stop feeling so sad and worried. Therapy helps me feel better.” Adjust as needed for age appropriateness, of course, but stick to the facts. 

Stay curious.

Children might not always be in the midst of crisis, but it’s important to check in with them regularly to see how they’re feeling. Don’t wait until something goes wrong to take an interest. Talk to them every day and ask them questions about their lives. 

Be open to different expressions of emotion.

Some children might be more verbal than others and some might not be interested in talking for a long time. Use the tools at your disposal to help your child express what they’re feeling. Try letting them make some sort of art or play with their toys while you chat with them, or ask them to show you using emojis how they feel. 

Validate your child’s feelings.

Everyone likes to feel validated and seen, especially children. We sometimes brush them off as being ‘just kids’, but their feelings are very real and it’s important to treat them as such. Even just telling them you’re here to listen or by helping them name how they feel can go a long way. 

Explain in terms your child can understand.

Mental illness can be hard for people to understand because it’s not as visible as physical illness sometimes is. Try explaining it to them in terms of something they understand – like how getting a cold or a stomach bug means your body is unwell, mental illness means you feel unwell but in your brain. Use an experience your child has had as a jumping off point. 

Practice coping strategies.

Lots of times, fear comes from not knowing what’s going to happen. If you and your child can make a plan for how to cope when they’re not feeling well mentally or when a caregiver is struggling with mental illness can make them feel less anxious. Make sure they know who they can call in an emergency or if they need support. Help them make a list of things they can do when they feel sad or anxious. Make sure they have an adult who isn’t you to turn to who you trust, so your child has another option to turn to. 

Kids are incredibly curious and they absorb information like little sponges, which makes childhood the perfect time to start talking about mental health and its importance. If you need more support in talking to your child about mental health, our counselors can help come up with a plan that works for you and your family.

Relationships take a lot of work.

While the good times feel easy and wonderful, there are times of conflict in every relationship. And, there are a lot of things about relationships, boundaries, compromising, and communicating effectively, that most of us just don’t learn. (Until we have to learn them the hard way.)

Sometimes we need outside help. Whether that’s seeing a therapist with your partner, or seeking advice elsewhere, there is nothing wrong with asking for help when your relationship needs it! So we’ve put together this list of books on relationship conflict, communication and intimacy to help. 

For self reflection to improve your relationships:

Relationships thrive when we are able to show up, 100%. This means that to have healthy relationships, part of the work has to be on ourselves first.

Deal Breakers: When to Work On a Relationship and When to Walk Away by Bethany Marshall:

A deal breaker is a boundary that smart people set for themselves because they know that falling in love can make them do stupid things. Through case studies, deal breaker scenarios, and suggested courses of action, Deal Breakers expertly guides frustrated women. By defining your deal breaker, you hold all the power to create the happiness you deserve.”

When the Past Is Present: Healing the Emotional Wounds that Sabotage our Relationships by David Richo:

In this book, psychotherapist David Richo explores how we replay the past in our present-day relationships—and how we can free ourselves from this destructive pattern. We all have a tendency to transfer potent feelings, needs, expectations, and beliefs from childhood or from former relationships onto the people in our daily lives. Whether they are our intimate partners, friends, or acquaintances. When the Past Is Present  helps us to become more aware of the ways we slip into the past so that we can identify our emotional baggage and take steps to unpack it and put it where it belongs.”

Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship by Mira Kirshenbaum:

Mira Kirshenbaum provides expert guidelines that are the key to making all your choices, concrete steps that you can implement right now, and the ultimate way to determine your personal bottom line—what you need to be happy.”

For increasing connection & strengthening intimacy:

It’s normal for passion in a relationship to fluctuate: when you first get together it’s probably very strong. After a while, you may know each other better and surprise each other less. But that doesn’t mean that connection and intimacy are less. Learning to recognize how connection and intimacy show up in all stages of a relationship (and how you & your partner feel intimate and loved) can help keep your connection strong, no matter what stage you’re at in your relationship.

The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships by John Gottman:

In The Relationship Cure, Dr. Gottman: Reveals the key elements of healthy relationships, emphasizing the importance of what he calls “emotional connection”; introduces the powerful new concept of the emotional “bid,” the fundamental unit of emotional connection; provides remarkably empowering tools for improving the way you bid for emotional connection and how you respond to others’ bids; and more!”

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman:

In the #1 New York Times international bestseller The 5 Love Languages, you’ll discover the secret that has transformed millions of relationships worldwide. Whether your relationship is flourishing or failing, Dr. Gary Chapman’s proven approach to showing and receiving love will help you experience deeper and richer levels of intimacy with your partner—starting today.”

Mindful Relationship Habits: 25 Practices for Couples to Enhance Intimacy, Nurture Closeness, and Grow a Deeper Connection by SJ Scott:

With the relationship advice outlined in this book, you will get insights and lessons learned from a variety of relationship and mindfulness experts — all backed by scientific research. Each habit presented offers a clear explanation of why it’s valuable to the health of your relationship and instructions on how to make the habit a natural part of your interactions with your partner.”

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find–and Keep– Love by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller:

Attached guides readers in determining what attachment style they and their mate (or potential mates) follow. It also offers readers a wealth of advice on how to navigate their relationships more wisely given their attachment style and that of their partner. An insightful look at the science behind love, Attached offers readers a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections.”

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman:

Packed with practical questionnaires and exercises, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is the definitive guide for anyone who wants their relationship to attain its highest potential.”

Couple Skills: Making Your Relationship Work by Matthew McKay:

Couple Skills, Second Edition, revised and updated from the therapist-recommended classic, will show you how to work smarter in your relationship. You’ll learn to improve communication, cope better with problems, and resolve conflicts with the one you love in healthy and creative ways. Each chapter teaches you an essential skill that supports greater relationship satisfaction and deeper intimacy.”

Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel:

Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a couples therapist, Perel examines the complexities of sustaining desire. Through case studies and lively discussion, Perel demonstrates how more exciting, playful, and even poetic sex is possible in long-term relationships. Wise, witty, and as revelatory as it is straightforward, Mating in Captivity is a sensational book that will transform the way you live and love.”

For handling & resolving conflicts:

Avoiding conflict often means ignoring feelings, neglecting needs, and being dishonest. Instead, couples can learn to “fight fair” and handle conflicts productively in their relationships, to honor their own needs, and the needs of the relationship. 

Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstanding by Aaron T Beck:

With eloquence and accessibility, Dr. Aaron T. Beck analyzes the actual dialogue of troubled couples to illuminate the most common problems in marriage–the power of negative thinking, disillusionment, rigid rules and expectations, and miscommunication.”

Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In by Laurie Puhn:

In Fight Less, Love More, readers will learn how to identify the bad verbal habits, instinctive responses, and emotional reasoning that can cloud judgment and ultimately lead to the deterioration of otherwise healthy relationships. With exercises, examples, and sample scripts, Puhn’s modern voice presents simple 5-minute strategies create immediate, positive changes and provide long-lasting communication skills that couples can continually employ when faced with conflict.”

Talk to Me Like I’m Someone You Love by Nancy Dreyfus:

This revised edition features two new sections—one on making love and another on deepening trust—containing over 25 new “flash cards for real life,” written statements that hold the power to express what we wish we could say to the person we love but for which we can’t find either the right words or the right tone in which to say them. Each of the statements in this book is accompanied by “field notes” from the author that explain when, why, and how to use the statement, as well as real-life stories from the author’s practice.”

Ask for help when your relationship needs it: 

If you can’t find common ground or resolve the conflict on your own, that doesn’t mean that hope is lost. Sometimes we need an outside perspective to help us get to a more honest and natural understanding of our relationship and our partners. If working on the issue on your own isn’t working, consider taking the conversation to couples therapy

Now that we’re a little over a month into the COVID-19 shutdown of regular life, we can start to see what our new normal is, at least for the foreseeable future. It is more important than ever to tend to your mental health right now. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world at the moment. How long this will last, how we’re going to pay our bills or keep our businesses afloat, whether the people we love will get sick, worrying about loved ones working on the front lines – and the stressors only increase with each passing day. Usually, home is a place where we can go to relax from the stresses of the world. However, being stuck at home takes away that option, especially for folks who are also working from home. 

Working from home is the reality for millions of people at the moment. Even though working at home sounds like an ideal situation (meetings in PAJAMA PANTS!), it is actually trickier in practice than in theory. 

When you work at home, it can be hard to separate your personal time from your work time. It can be tricky to motivate yourself without the hustle and bustle of your workplace around you. You might have a hard time focusing on work while there’s so much else going on right now. Remember, we’re not just working at home right now, we’re working at home through a global pandemic. There’s a lot going on, so it’s natural if you’ve been overwhelmed. Here are some tips to help you tend to your mental health while you’re working from home: 

Give your day structure

Working from home can mean that there’s less of a boundary than ever between your home life and your work life. Give yourself some structure so you know what to expect day to day. Decide when you’ll be available for work. Just because you’re working at home doesn’t mean you’re expected to work all of the time. Make it clear to your coworkers when you are available and then stick to it! 

Breaking up the day can also be helpful when working from home. It can be easy to get up and jump right into work for the day, but give yourself time to ease into it. If you normally have a commute, why not spend that same amount of time listening to music to pump yourself up for the day? You could take a walk around the block before sitting down to work to signal to yourself that it’s time to buckle down and get to work. You can do the same at the end of the day – give yourself some buffer time between work and personal time so you can decompress and get out of work mode. 

Take regular breaks

It seems obvious, but it’s important to step away from work every once in a while. If you have a hard time taking breaks, try setting recurring reminders on your phone to go off during your work day to signal that it’s time to rest for a minute. Make sure to nourish and hydrate yourself properly. You can use meal times as a natural stopping point to structure your day around, if that works for you.

Try working from home productivity hacks

If you’re not used to working at home, it can be hard to get motivated to work in your personal environment. There are a million and one ‘hacks’ out there designed to promote productivity. One popular ‘hack’ is called the Pomodoro Technique. You set a timer for 25 minutes, work until it goes off, and then give yourself a five-minute break to reset before starting your next 25 minute stretch of work. Other productivity advice talks about “eating the frog”, or doing the most dreaded task on your to-do list first. Since people all have different working styles, some (or all) of the productivity advice you find might not work for you and that’s okay. What works for someone else might not be the answer for you, but it’s worth exploring while you adjust. 

Follow some good news sources

As we discussed above, there’s a lot to worry about right now. That’s not to say that there is no hope to be found in the world, though. If you’re working from home, you’re probably on the computer or in front of a screen a lot, so give yourself opportunities to be pleasantly surprised by the state of the world. Follow social media accounts designed to share good news only. Subscribe to an email newsletter that sends out recaps of what’s good in the world every week. Make your home page a website that shares positive content. There is good news out there, even if it’s hard to find right now. 

Don’t expect too much from yourself when working from home

It’s okay to not be productive right now. You might have high expectations for what you can get done during this pandemic, but don’t feel pressure to hold yourself to them. We’re going through what amounts to a collective trauma right now. You don’t need to feel pressure to finally tackle a bunch of projects you’ve been meaning to work on. You might find you need more rest right now than you normally do, and it’s okay to honor that. There is more to life than productivity at work. Don’t be afraid to honor your needs. 

Working from home sounds like it would be pretty effortless, but it’s actually trickier than it sounds sometimes. You’re only human, so it’s okay if you’re struggling with this transition. Remember to be gentle with yourself and ask for help when you need it. If you’re struggling with the transition to work from home life, our counselors can help you find what works best for you personally. 

Setting boundaries in the best of times can feel hard an unfamiliar.

But now, in the midst of COVID-19, as we’re all trying to remain as social as possible while still social distancing, setting boundaries seems even trickier. 

How can we balance the need for our own space with the need to remain connected in these hard times?

If you’re new to boundary setting altogether, check out our post on 8 Ways Setting Boundaries Can Transform Your Relationships to learn how setting boundaries actually enriches our relationships.  

But why should we be prioritizing boundaries now?

Boundaries are there to protect your energy. The purpose of setting a boundary is to help protect your sense of self and give you time to rest, reflect, and take care of your own needs without having to worry about someone else’s. 

Right now there are a lot more worries in the world. We are worried for our own health, the health of our loved ones, of our neighbors. We’re worried about job security. We’re stressed about having to stay inside most of the time. We miss our friends, our coworkers, our regular routines. This is stress and strain on a massive scale, which means acts of self care (like setting boundaries) are more important than ever. 

So how can we go about setting (+ communicating) our boundaries while social distancing?

Setting boundaries while social distancing will probably feel a little counterintuitive. You may even feel guilty for it (that’s normal to feel!). But even though you miss your friends and loved ones, you still need to prioritize your own health and wellness. Which means, you can’t be expected to be “on” all of the time just in case someone wants to chat. 

The first thing you need to do is: figure out where your energy cap is. How long can you stay on the phone before you need some time to recharge? What’s your limit on reading/watching news before it starts to feel heavy and unmanageable? How much work can you do before you’re too burned out to do something you enjoy? These are questions you should ask yourself as you figure out exactly what your boundaries are. 

Other questions to consider can include:

These kinds of questions will help you to figure out exactly where your boundaries should be. 

If you’re making yourself anxious by checking the news every hour, set a limit. Let yourself check the news once a day. Maybe when you check your email, or at lunch. Set aside a few minutes to get yourself informed, but then make yourself step away once that designated time is over. 

If you’re constantly being distracted from your own needs by your phone, or trying to squeeze in your own self care when you have a spare moment between skyping with friends & family, then it might be time to set a limit on how long you can spend on the phone each day. 

Communicating this need can feel uncomfortable. There’s not really an excuse we can give anymore for “having to run!” but that doesn’t mean we should be expected to be available all the time. And while it can feel uncomfortable, it doesn’t have to be a negative conversation. 

Here are some examples of how to go about that conversation:

When you’re feeling burned out:

Instead of saying: “I’m tired, leave me alone.”

Try saying: I’m glad to hear from you, and I want to make sure we save space for each other. But this is a weird time and I’m finding my energy is more drained than usual. I need to take some time to rest and process on my own tonight.  Let’s plan for . 

Why: Clear communication will help to let the person know that you do still value them, but that you need to prioritize your own wellbeing. And suggesting a different time lets them know that your relationship and connection is still important to you. 

When constant communication is making your daily routine harder:

Instead of saying: Stop texting me every five minutes, I’m working and don’t have time for this.

Try saying: Hey! I miss you and would love to chat. My attention is divided right now, since I’m trying to get some work done. Can we save up all these conversations for after when I have the mental space to give you all my attention?

Why: We’re all forming new routines! Some people might not realize that they’re distracting you from something you need to be doing. Give them the benefit of the doubt while still being clear about what you need. 

When you’re just spending too much time with whoever you’re quarantined with:

Instead of saying: You’re ALWAYS around, can you just leave me alone?

Try saying: Being quarantined has made me realize how much alone time I actually need! Can we set aside some time each day to be alone in separate rooms, so we can enjoy it more when we come together? 

Why: We’re not meant to be around each other 100% of the time. But snapping out of frustration is just going to make everyone feel bad. Instead, say what you need, and end it by giving another idea for being together that shows that it’s not them you’re frustrated with, but the situation. 

These of course are not all of the situations you may find yourself in. But the basic principle of:

  1. Explain your need
  2. Offer a solution
  3. Reaffirm appreciation for the relationship 

Is a good roadmap to follow when learning how to navigate boundaries in this weird time. For more ideas, check out our post on How to Talk About Boundaries Firmly But Kindly. And remember, we’re all going through this together! 

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for HuffPost.

“For someone who has recently gone through a loss, understand that “one of the best things you can do as a friend, family member or support person, is to hold space for them,” said Maureen Werrbach, owner of Urban Wellness Counseling in Chicago.

All too often, we offer quick fixes or minimize a person’s feelings because of our own discomfort in watching them grieve, she said. “But the best thing we can do is actually be a witness to their pain, acknowledge it and hold that space with them.””

Read the whole article here.

Part of adjusting to the new “normal” of life during the coronavirus pandemic is learning how to connect digitally instead of in person. There are lots of social activities that have transferred to a digital space – exercise classes, seminars, book clubs, happy hours – humans are pretty resourceful! It can feel a bit strange to interact with someone on a webcam instead of face to face though, so if you’re feeling uncomfortable remember that’s to be expected. It takes a little adjustment to get used to life changes normally, and life right now is anything but normal. For example, if you’ve only ever attended (or thought about attending) therapy sessions in person, you may be wondering what it’s like to have an online therapy session. 

Of course, online therapy was around before coronavirus, and it will be around when the pandemic is over. In fact, you might find that online therapy works better for your lifestyle than in person therapy anyway! Online therapy is convenient, often covered by insurance, and once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty smooth sailing! 

There’s a lot of things to be stressed about right now, but worrying about your online therapy session doesn’t have to be one of them. If you like to know what you’re getting into before you get into it, this guide to prepping for online therapy can give you some ways to prepare for your session. 

Buffer time

Even though you don’t have to get in the car and drive to therapy, still give yourself some buffer time before and after your appointment. Make sure you have enough time to get your device set up before your appointment so you feel more relaxed. It can also be hard to transition out of therapy back into whatever you’re doing, especially if you’ve been in the same setting the whole time, so building in a little buffer time can give you a chance to reset a little. 

Get your space set up

You don’t want to start your session and find out that the wifi sucks where you are. If you get your space set up in advance, you can work out all those little kinks in advance. Try out the webcam and the microphone on your computer to make sure both are working so there are no surprises in session. If there’s software you need to use to meet with your therapist, make sure to familiarize yourself with it first so you’re not frazzled trying to get into your session. Make sure you have a comfortable place to sit, too! 

Privacy

Of course, therapy is a space where you can be super real and vulnerable, so you want to make sure you have a private area for your session. Even though many folks are living in close quarters, if you’re not in a private space you might not be able to focus on your session so it won’t be as helpful to you. If you don’t have a room with a door you can close in your living space, try sitting in your car (if your wifi reaches!) or your garage, or even bring a chair into the bathroom and set up there. For more privacy, wear headphones during your session. You can also download white noise apps for free on your phone (RelaxMelodies is a great one) and play white noise to drown out the noise from your session (or from your household into your session). 

Feeling comfy on screen

Remember, we’re here for therapy, so you don’t need to get all fancy for a screen if you don’t want to. If you’re uncomfortable with seeing your own face on camera, see if you can turn off that feature on your end, or bring a sticky note to cover that part of your screen. If there’s anything moving in the room (like a ceiling fan) turn it off before your session so the movement doesn’t mess with your camera. Instead of putting your computer on your lap, put it on a flat surface in front of you so there’s less movement on the other end. 

Internet connection

Make sure you have a strong internet connection before an online session. You may need to ask other folks in your home to stop streaming things for an hour during your session to keep the connection strong. If you don’t have a stable internet connection, some phones can be used as a wireless hotspot using your data. Make sure your internet is up and running before your session, so you don’t need to reset anything once you’ve started. 

Prepare for issues

Tech is always tricky, and there might be some bumps on the road. Lots of video conferencing services are experiencing delays right now because of COVID-19,  so there might be an issue with video quality or sound or something else. Prepare for there to be some hiccups, and have an idea of what you + your therapist will do when they come up. You can even talk to your therapist about this beforehand so you have a plan for what to do in case the technology fails. 

Online therapy, like all things, might take some time to adjust to but overall it is a very similar experience to in person therapy – you might be surprised! Follow these tips to prepare yourself for your session and don’t be afraid to ask your therapist questions if you have any. 

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Thrive Global.

“Modeling, showing your kids how to manage their emotions, thoughts, feelings and behaviors with how you manage those things yourself, is such an important action we can take as parents right now. With increased time together and a need for kids to learn how to adapt to a new normal, parents may see an increase in unhealthy behaviors or increased anxiety or depression. Parents have the opportunity to model how to manage our emotions or deal with stress so that our kids can use that to better manage their own.”

Read the whole article here.

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Thrive Global.

“It’s more important than ever now that therapists find ways to pivot in order to self care while continuing to care for clients via teletherapy. One simple way to do this is by setting longer breaks between client sessions (ie 10-15 minutes) to get up and move around or stretch. Another is to host virtual case consultations or virtual lunches with other therapists. Connection is key to self care, and social distancing doesn’t mean we need to isolate. Host that virtual coffee break or midday lunch and connect with others.”

Read the whole article here.

Last week we talked about why now is the perfect time to talk to a therapist. But that’s not the only way to take care of yourself while self quarantining and practicing social distancing!

With the shift to working from home and enforcing social distancing, all of our routines need to change. And it’s going to be a difficult change for people who have never worked from home before, or who are used to being able to spend all of their free time out and about. 

As we said last week, the uncertainty in the world regarding the spread of COVID-19, the status of the economy, and managing our day to day needs and responsibilities, managing self care can seem like small potatoes. 

But it’s actually more important than ever to take care of your mental health. 

When our environments and routines change so drastically, we experience increased feelings of anxiety, stress, depression, frustration, boredom, resentment, loneliness, and a whole slew of other emotions. Finding ways to care for ourselves can help to reduce these unpleasant feelings, and give us a new structure around which to manage our days. 

So what should we be paying attention to when forming a new self-quarantine-self-care routine?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How am I taking care of my body today?
  2. What am I doing to take care of my mind today?
  3. How am I keeping myself connected today?

Self care is about more than just pampering yourself. It’s about  improving the relationship you have with yourself, and making sure your essential needs are met. 

Let’s start with: How am I taking care of my body in self-quarantine today?

Taking care of your body while in self-quarantine can be boiled down to: move, nourish & rest. 

Self quarantine and social distancing has thrown a wrench in many people’s movement routines–particularly those who spend much of their time outside and active. But going to the gym or taking a dance class aren’t the only ways you can tend to your body health. 

If you’re stuck at home–even a small home–you can still move your body! Take that time you would normally hit the gym and do some yoga in your living room. Put your favorite album on and dance around your bedroom. Take a walk around your neighborhood (just stay 6 feet away from anyone else you encounter!) 

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be active 24/7 during this time. Lots of things are changing, and your body will likely be one of them. Finding time and ways to move your body should first and foremost be a way you take care of your body, rather than something you use to control it. 

To nurture your body, make sure you have foods that make you feel good. Both physically and emotionally. Having foods that give you nutrients you need is important to keep your health & energy up, but fuel isn’t the only reason we eat food. We enjoy it! And with all this time at home, you might even want to start experimenting in the kitchen. Get foods that make you feel good because they’re healthy, and foods that make you feel good because they taste good. 

And rest. 

While it might seem in contradiction to the first point, rest is still of great importance in this time. Listen to your body when it tells you that it’s tired, that it needs a break. Let yourself take a nap if you need one, spend some time stretching sore muscles, and get plenty of sleep and water. 

How am I taking care of my mind in self-quarantine today?

Your mind and emotions need the same intentional care that your body does! 

This time at home can feel overwhelming or boring (or both!) so it’s important to find ways to stimulate your mind, give yourself an outlet for how you’re feeling, and give your head some rest. 

Stimulating your mind can be: 

Your entire day, every day,  doesn’t need to be something stimulating, but it’s important to incorporate these types of things regularly. Just as it’s important to give your emotions an outlet. Of course a wonderful outlet is engaging in telehealth, but giving yourself an outlet between sessions is just as important. 

Things you can do to tend to your emotions include: 

And of course, rest. Give yourself time to disengage from the rest of the world. Get off social media, turn your phone off, and just let yourself relax. 

How am I keeping myself connected today?

And, finally, remember that even if you’re social distancing, you don’t need to completely isolate yourself. In fact (especially if you live alone) it is more important now than ever to nurture your social connections. Just because you can’t meet up in person, doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected. 

Ways you can stay connected in this time of self-quarantine: 

While this pandemic is devastating in a number of ways, one silver lining is that we can find new ways to support our well being while still doing our part to keep the community healthy. If you’re looking for more support in this time, contact us and ask us about our online therapy option! 

The world seems like a scary, uncertain place right now. With the current coronavirus outbreak, it kind of feels like we’re stuck in quarantine quicksand, and we’re not sure what day to day life is going to look like for the foreseeable future. 

As much as we’d like to act like it’s business as usual, that is a pretty tall order these days. And with the current uncertainty in the world regarding the spread of COVID-19, the status of the economy, and meeting our day to day needs while social distancing, it’s never been a better time to tend to your mental health. Whether you’re already in therapy or not, now may seem like the time to pause self-care in lieu of scrambling to care for family, googling COVID-19 news, mindlessly scrolling through social media while in quarantine, and anxiously waiting for things to go back to normal. But there are a slew of indicators that tell us that now is the exact time to self-care and take an hour a week to focus on how life right now is impacting your mental health.

This pandemic has shown us a lot of ways that the systems we rely on are failing – but therapy doesn’t have to be one of them. 

Therapy is an incredibly valuable practice, and studies have shown therapy delivered online or in-person are equally effective. Win!

Luckily, we live in a time where we don’t have to be in the same room as our therapist to receive quality mental health care. As much as life is changing right now, the way we tend to our mental health has never been more important. Teletherapy, or therapy that’s done via video chat online or by phone, is an excellent option to continue therapy services while still following public health guidelines to practice social distance or self quarantine. 

A global pandemic isn’t the only time teletherapy can come in handy either – have you ever had to cancel or reschedule an appointment because of a transportation or childcare issue? 

With teletherapy, many of the barriers to traditional therapy are removed so you can focus solely on the therapeutic experience. 

The idea of teletherapy might seem weird at first. You’ve probably used video chat in the past to check in on friends and family, but not to talk to a therapist about your thoughts and feelings in depth. The idea of opening up to a computer screen might feel less tempting than talking to your therapist in person. Even though it might seem odd, I urge you to try it out. I’m betting you’ll find it to be a pleasantly comforting experience.

So why is now the perfect time to talk to a therapist?

Heightened anxiety and fear

Even if you’re not feeling it all of the time, the heightened sense of anxiety and fear that this virus has brought is exhausting. Anxiety and fear are already tricky emotions to process when we aren’t in a global crisis, but therapists are already seeing the impact our current state of affairs is having on peoples’ mental health. Talking to a therapist can help you manage the “new normal” turn life has taken, as well as continuing to work on the things that were concerns for you before the crisis happened. 

Processing this whirlwind of emotions

With everything changing so quickly, it probably feels like you’ve experienced some sort of emotional whiplash. It’s really tiring, mentally and physically, to cycle through so many emotions. People are feeling confused, afraid, hopeless, untrusting, paranoid, grief, resentment, boredom, etc. The list goes on. We’re in uncharted territory right now, and you can never have too much support. 

Reducing the effects of social isolation

Not everyone is lucky enough to have company while they practice social distancing or quarantine. Spending extended time alone can feel isolating, especially when there’s no end in sight, and you’re cut off from your normal social activities. Many therapy practices are offering groups in an online format so you can interact with folks outside of your therapist, and one on one video sessions can be a nice way to check in on how you’re feeling, especially while quarantined. It can also be a much needed time for yourself if you’re isolated in your home with your family. 

Establishing a human connection 

Possibly the weirdest part of this whole experience is the lack of human connection that a quarantine requires. While we are lucky to be able to keep up with our friends and family via social media, there’s nothing like having a real conversation with someone, one where your concerns are the focus. Even if that conversation happens over a webcam, having a designated space where you can open up, be vulnerable, and feel heard can make the difference between a good day and a bad day. We’re all going to have to adjust our routines as this continues, but making time for therapy can help you feel connected to the world in more than just a superficial way. 

Helping local businesses stay afloat

This pandemic has obviously had an effect on every part of life in the United States (and elsewhere too, of course), and we’re all going to have to pitch in to help our favorite small businesses make it to the other side. If you’re struggling (or your kids or relationships are), or any of the points above resonate with you, finding a therapist for teletherapy services is a great way of getting the support you need while also supporting a local business. 

Of course, online therapy isn’t right for everyone, but it is a fantastic option for folks who are a good fit. It can be hard to do teletherapy with young children, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no support available. Parent coaching can be done online and offers parents direct support practices to use with their kids, especially during tough times like a quarantine. Did you know therapists can do play therapy online? Or that therapists can work on trauma using EMDR on video? Or that therapists can do therapy over the phone if technology isn’t your jam?

Therapy is no longer reserved for people who can take time out of their schedules to attend sessions in person. While this pandemic is devastating in a number of ways, one silver lining is that we can find new ways to support our well being while still doing our part to keep the community healthy. To learn more about what to expect in an online therapy session, get in touch with us today!

3 Tips for a More Peaceful Roommate Relationship

Living with a roommate can be great!

It can help take off the financial pressure of handling everything on your own, and it can be fun (if you get along). But when two people, no matter how friendly and compatible they are, start living together, there can be a pretty big learning curve. 

What if they have a totally different expectation of how roommates should live together than you do? Or if they do something to upset you? What if, no matter how much you personally get along, your living styles just seem to clash?

How can you come together and make your home a safe and relaxing space for both of you? While part of it is simply finding a roommate who is compatible with you, there are ways you can go about brokering peace with a roommate who’s lifestyle clashes with yours: 

Establishing Boundaries

Before moving in with someone else, you should have a general idea of what type of home environment works best for you. Think back to previous living situations. What worked? What didn’t? 

Think about what’s important to you at home. Do you need lots of personal space? Do you have expectations for how chores will work? What are your feelings on overnight guests? Can you share each other’s groceries? Is your bedroom off limits? 

Keep these boundaries in mind as you look for a roommate.  

Communicating Boundaries

Boundaries are hugely important in any relationship, but it can be tricky to figure out how to make them clear to someone you live with. Establishing exactly what your boundaries are is only the first step. Your roommate is not a mind reader, and subtle hints aren’t enough to communicate your needs clearly.  

What not to do: 

Don’t just send them a text that says “House Rules” and then lists out how you want your home to be, without ever consulting them. 

A better approach: 

Prioritize time for you and your roommate to come together and talk about expectations and boundaries. Make a list of your hard boundaries–things you are absolutely not willing to compromise on–and a list of things you would prefer but that have some wiggle room. 

Right when you move in, say something like: “Hey! I’m so excited to be living here, and you seem like a great roommate. I think it’s important we start off on the right foot. Can we set aside a night to talk about house rules and personal boundaries?” 

You can make regular roommate meetings part of your schedule–especially as you’re first living together. Get together now and then, have a cup of coffee and mention what’s working well about living together, and what still needs work. 

Then, if a boundary is crossed, it will probably be time for a difficult conversation. 

Having Hard Conversations with Your Roommate

Living with someone, whether you’re close friends, friendly acquaintances, or something else entirely requires the same intentional care as any other relationship. This means, at some point you will have to have some sort of difficult conversation (probably more than once!). 

There are a lot of ways to approach difficult conversations with roommates. (Unsure how to get started? Check out our guide Should I Text It or Say It In Person?) What is important is that you take time to think of exactly what you want to discuss and make sure it’s an open space for both of you. 

Having difficult conversations with a roommate will probably feel uncomfortable–that’s okay! But keep in mind that you are roommates–you’re sharing a home that you both want to be comfortable and happy in. And the only way to do that is to make it clear what will make you feel comfortable and happy and open the conversation up for them to do the same. 

What not to do: 

Texting your roommate out of the blue with a laundry list of things you’re upset about and demanding an apology is probably not going to get you anywhere. Likely, it will just upset them. 

When you don’t give the other person in the conversation the opportunity to understand where your feelings are coming from, you aren’t actually giving them all the information they need. If all they know is that you’ve sent them an angry text, how will either of you know that the core problem has truly been addressed? What’s not to say it will all happen again? 

A better approach: 

If you still feel the urge to write out that angry text, do it. But don’t send it. Let yourself get it all out–sometimes we need that release before we’re able to approach something calmly. When it’s all written out, go back and delete the whole thing. 

Replace it with something simpler that allows them to engage in the conversation. Say something like, “Hey I’ve been thinking a lot about X. I have some roommate concerns about it, can we find a time to chat?” 

Telling them what you want to talk about will help them feel less blindsided, and give them a chance to figure out their own needs and priorities around the issue to discuss with you as well. It also lets them know in a clear and calm manner that things need to change, but it doesn’t place blame or point fingers. 

Remember that likely your roommate is not setting out to upset you with their behavior. You are two different people who have your own specific needs and preferences. And when two people with different needs and preferences come together, it can create conflict. When having those difficult conversations remember you’re trying to find a middle ground where both of your needs are met and you are able to compromise so that you are both comfortable in your home. 

We’ve all been there.

You need to say something to someone. Set a boundary. Air your grievances. Communicate your needs. But the idea of saying something difficult to someone’s face can be unthinkable for some folks. Not everyone is taught to communicate in the same way. There may be very legitimate reasons for your dislike of face to face conversations including past bad experiences sharing and social anxiety, just to name a couple. While we are moving toward a culture that’s more accepting of casual forms of communication, there are still some things that are best discussed in person. The tricky part, sometimes, is deciding what method of communication is appropriate. 

So, what are your options for communicating with other people? In general, our choices are texting or other written communication, voice messages, and in-person chats. These options range from not super intimate (texting) to potentially very intimate (in-person), so keep that in mind when choosing your method of communication. 

There are definite benefits to communicating via text instead of face to face.

With texting, you can remove some of the awkwardness of having a hard conversation face to face. You can also think carefully about your words before you send them to the other person. Having a serious conversation over text can also be helpful to the other person – it gives them time to compose themselves if they’re upset and to reply in a thoughtful way instead of having to respond instantly in person.

However, there are also reasons why texting might not be the most appropriate method of conversation. When you have a talk over text, you have to wait for the other person to respond. Waiting for a message back after you’ve texted something serious can heighten the anxiety of the situation. It’s also nice to keep in mind that not everyone communicates well through the written word, so texting isn’t always the way to go. Finally, texting offers the least information of any of the above communication styles, so misunderstandings are more common via text message. Without the benefit of tone and nonverbal communication like body language, your message might not get through at first. 

One way to decide what method of communication to use is to decide what message you want to send.

There are different aspects of communication to consider. Of course, words are a part of conversing, whether they’re spoken or typed. There’s also tone to take into consideration – the way someone says something can be as important as what they say. Another aspect of communication is body language – this can be an important source of information during a conversation. 

When you think about the methods of communication that you use, consider which aspects of communication they provide.

You can kind of think of these options as a spectrum. The first option, texting, offers the fewest aspects of communication, while in-person talks offer the most. However, sending a text is generally less involved than talking to someone in person. As the available information increases (tone, body language), the task becomes harder. 

Trying to decide which type of communication is right for you is probably going to depend on the situation. What works for talking to your best friend about canceling plans probably won’t work for talking to your boss about getting a raise. 

In general, a good rule of thumb is that the more serious the conversation is, the more clear the communication should be.

Since texting is the simplest and least clear method, a serious conversation might not be appropriate in a text-only format. Talking in person can be uncomfortable, sure, but it can also lead to fewer misunderstandings and can be less time consuming than a long text thread. 

Another option is to directly ask the other person how they communicate best. You might be nervous to have a serious talk via texting and then find out that that’s how they’d prefer to talk too. Everyone communicates differently, so what works for you might not work for someone else and vice versa. If you feel safe enough to do so, get in touch with the other person and ask how they like to have serious conversations. 

Finally, some folks have intense anxiety about talking to other people. If the only way you can communicate effectively is through text message, then it’s probably better to communicate that way than not at all.

You deserve to communicate your needs in whatever way works for you. Just know that sometimes you might have to clarify further or explain yourself when you communicate over text.

Our options for communicating are only growing by the day. Because of this, it’s nice to find your boundaries for different types of communication. Remember, your communication method of choice will probably vary from situation to situation, and that’s okay! Think carefully about what message you want to send. Then choose the communication method that matches up with that AND lets you communicate confidently. If you need help deciding how to communicate best with other people, our therapists can help you come up with a plan that works for you. 

Conflict, in any relationship, is inevitable. 

No matter how perfect you and your partner are for one another, no matter how much you love each other, and no matter how much you usually bring out the best in each other–it’s just a fact of life. You are different people. And the differences that make you unique and special will, at some point, cause a bit of conflict. But conflict isn’t the end of the world–or the end of the relationship.

When handled well, it can be a mirror on just how strong you and your partner are as a team. Because partners who are too afraid to be vulnerable, too scared to offer up how they’re really feeling in the fear that it will cause conflict–they aren’t being honest with one another. 

Conflict, when handled well between partners, shows you that you trust one another enough to be honest with each other. 

(This doesn’t mean you should be screaming at your partner any time they disagree with you. Just that removing the pressure to agree and be in harmony all the time is actually a sign of strength in your team, rather than weakness. We’ll get to how to best handle conflict below). 

If you’re struggling to find resolution to your relationship conflicts, remember that it is not you vs. your partner, but rather the both of you vs. the conflict

Learning to reframe arguments and relationship tensions in this way can help remind you that you are a team–and most often, you’re a team that works well. The disagreement between you won’t be solved by playing the blame game. So take a step back and ask yourself, how can we, as a team, find a way to resolve this? 

There are a few key guidelines to fighting fair in your relationship. Along with reframing the conflict as we did above, these guidelines include: 

Not reacting in the heat of the moment:

It’s very easy to say something you don’t really mean in the heat of the moment. When you feel vulnerable and hurt, there can be an instinct to lash out, to try to hurt the other person back. But reacting in anger probably won’t help you find a resolution. Instead take some time to calm down, to release your feelings on your own (in a journal, vent to a friend, talk about it in therapy, etc.) before confronting your partner. Then when you’ve both had a chance to cool down, come back together and work from a place of wanting to solve the problem instead of wanting to react to it. 

You can say something like, “I’m very upset right now and I know that it’s important that we talk about this. But I’m feeling too hurt to work through this right now. Let’s each take some time to cool down before coming back together to figure this out.” Make it clear that solving this problem is a priority to you–but that you need some space to work through your own feelings first. 

Reminding yourself that you’re both trying your best:

Just as you are trying your best, so is your partner. They likely didn’t set out to hurt you (just as you wouldn’t set out to hurt them). But we all react differently to things. Remind yourself that you’re both on the same team. And if you both commit to understanding one another, you probably can solve whatever problem you are facing. 

Being as honest as possible: 

Your partner can’t read your mind. Even if it feels like they understand you better than anyone else, they can only respond to what you tell them. When something upsets you, tell them. Remind yourself that they didn’t set out to upset you, but that they need to know about it going forward. Keeping things in to avoid conflict isn’t actually avoiding the conflict after all–it’s just keeping it within yourself. 

Give them a chance to be a part of the conversation: 

Just like they can’t read your mind, you can’t read theirs. So, don’t work out what you’re going to say based on how you want them to react. Be truthful and honest, and trust that they also want to resolve the conflict. And ask them to be truthful with you too. You might say, “I know we both want to work through this. The only way that will happen is if we allow ourselves to be open and honest, no matter how scary it might feel. I trust that you don’t want to hurt me on purpose, so I’m going to tell you the truth about how I’m feeling and why, and I hope that you will do the same for me.” 

Giving your full attention to the issue at hand: 

Problem solving shouldn’t be happening in the in-between moments. You shouldn’t be watching a movie or scrolling on your phone while you and your partner are having a serious conversation. Set aside time specifically for the two of you to come together and discuss the issue at hand. 

Speaking from the self: 

This means talk about what you’re feeling and what you think would help it, instead of accusing your partner of something. If you constantly fight over one of you not doing the dishes, instead of saying “you don’t ever do the dishes, you don’t care about our home!” explain the feelings behind the anger. You could say something like “I feel sad when I come home to a sink full of dishes. I want our home to be a nice space for the two of us to spend time together. I would feel loved and appreciated if you would help me out in maintaining that.” 

Ask for help when your relationship needs it: 

If you can’t find common ground or resolve the conflict on your own, that doesn’t mean that hope is lost. Sometimes we need an outside perspective to help us get to a more honest and natural understanding of our relationship and our partners. If working on the issue on your own isn’t working, consider taking the conversation to couples therapy

If you’ve ever lived with anxiety, you know that it’s a daily struggle. We all feel stressed out from time to time, sure, but stress and chronic anxiety are not one and the same. A simple way of explaining anxiety is that it is your body’s response to having too many worries. What makes anxiety different from everyday stress is that it interferes with your daily functioning. If your feelings of anxiety change the way you behave and interfere with your life, it might be time to seek help. You can also think about updating some of your daily habits to help you manage your anxiety.

There are lots of ways to manage anxiety. Some of the popular ones are therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Mental health and medications are still very stigmatized in the US, so know that there’s nothing wrong with taking medicine to manage your anxiety. Lots of folks find relief that they couldn’t find elsewhere due to medication.

Since anxiety is a daily struggle, it makes sense to adopt daily habits to help manage it. Even if you’re already treating your anxiety through other means, mixing up your daily habits to support your mental health is an important act of self-care.

Most people think it takes 28 days to build a habit, but it actually varies from person to person. It could take you a couple of weeks to adopt a habit and it could take a few months. The important thing to remember is not to compare yourself to others.

You probably already have a few habits established.

What do you do every day? You use your current habits to support your new ones. Try stacking habits together to make them easier to remember. For example, you can journal every day as soon as you finish brushing your teeth. You probably brush your teeth habitually, right? Instead of building the habit from scratch, tack it onto one you’ve already done the work for. 

A lot of times, our habits reflect a need we need to meet.

Do you have a hard time controlling your anxious thoughts? Are you always worrying over the future? Maybe those feelings are more about a need to be in control than actually worrying about the small details. If that’s the case, you could practice mindfulness regularly and journal about the idea that you can’t control everything. On the other hand, if you experience social anxiety, you might experience that because of a sense of otherness and a need to belong. In that situation, you can look for a sense of community somewhere (online support groups, interest groups, local meetups) or journal on the relationships you have in your life. Are there needs you have that aren’t being met? Try to figure out what habits you have that actually support the way you want to feel, and build from there. 

Here are some ideas for habits to try out to help manage your anxiety:

Movement

Develop a sleep routine

Mindfulness

    • Anxiety usually involves worry about one of two things – what happened in the past, and what’s coming up next. Mindfulness helps you unplug from the past and future focus and teaches you how to tune into the present moment. 

Change up your feeds

    • Does your social media make you feel better or worse after you use it? If you feel worse after scrolling through social media, it may be time to revamp your feeds. Unfollow or mute anyone who no longer makes you feel good about yourself. Do some research and follow some feel-good accounts that align with your interests. Sometimes just switching up what we scroll through can make a big difference. 

Journal regularly

    • There’s something about writing down what you think and feel that helps process things. You don’t have to write anything profound or even write in full sentences (if you want to lose a few hours, look up #bulletjournal on any social media platform – you’ll see the limits are endless!). You can write out lists of what you’re thinking, make notes for yourself, and have a safe, private space to work out your thoughts. 

If you’re currently living with anxiety, know that you’re not alone. There are a lot of ways to manage anxiety, and if you need help finding one that works for you, checking in with a therapist is always a good place to start. 

A few weeks ago, we talked about helping your kids understand and manage their anger. But anger isn’t the only big emotion kids need help with sometimes! 

Learning to navigate their own complex feelings, new friendships and relationships, and discovering themselves all at the same time can be overwhelming. And often, because it is such a complicated subject, mental health goes undiscussed with kids. 

Whether it’s because the topic seems too “grown up” to talk about with them, or because we simply don’t know where to start, there is the need for some sort of roadmap to help us communicate the importance of mental health with our kids. 

One great way to start the necessary conversations is through storytelling! Children love stories, and engaging with complex issues in a fun and accessible way is a great way to teach them important lessons, without making it feel like they’re being taught. To help with this, we’ve put together a list of books to add to your rotation of stories with your child. 

BOOKS FOR TEACHING KIDS ABOUT UNPLEASANT EMOTIONS: 

The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland

Woken by a well meaning group of animals seeking shelter in his cave, the very cranky bear roars at them that he is trying to sleep. In their many attempts to cheer him up, the other animals can’t understand why he is so cranky. Only when they are able to change their thinking to see things through Bear’s perspective, are the animals able to help him with his mood. 

Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ed Emberley and Anne Miranda

“Monsters have all kinds of feelings!” This book is about teaching kids to recognize what their different feelings are. Without shame or judgment, Glad Monster, Sad Monster, explores all types of different emotions, and how we see them show up in our own lives. 

Taking a Bath with a Dog and Other Things that Make Me Happy by Scott Menchin

This book is all about finding things that make you happy when you’re feeling down! Taking a Bath With a Dog helps kids to understand that even when they are stuck in a funk, we can still find love & joy in our ordinary lives. 

Mouse was Mad by Linda Urban

This book is about a mouse who can’t seem to figure out how to express their anger. Mouse observes other animals (“Bear stomps. Hare hops. Bobcat screams.”) but just can’t seem to express anger in the same way. Mouse was Mad teaches kids that understanding and expressing your emotions doesn’t look the same for everybody–and that it’s better to find the ways that work for you instead of trying to copy someone else. 

My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss

Using colors and animals, Dr. Seuss in My Many Colored Days, takes kids through the broad spectrum of feelings and experiences that we all go through in our day to day lives, and is a great tool for parents to use when talking to kids about their feelings. 

BOOKS FOR TEACHING KIDS ABOUT DEPRESSION & ANXIETY: 

When My Worries Get Too Big by Karl Dunn Buron

Stress and anxiety levels are increasing in young children. When My Worries Get Too Big is a wonderful exploration of what to do when anxiety makes you feel like you can’t accomplish anything. 

The Princess & the Fog by Lloyd Jones

Once upon a time there was a Princess. She had everything a little girl could ever want, and she was happy. That is, until the fog came…” The Princess and the Fog is a great story & guide for young children with depression. It helps to explain to them what’s happening, and give them ideas for support & coping mechanisms. 

Don’t Feed the Worry Bug by Andi Green

If you have an anxious child, Don’t Feed the Worry Bug is a must read! The main character, Wince, worries about everything, and when he does, his WorryBug gets bigger and bigger. Don’t feed the Worry Bug is a story about learning to cope with anxiety, without feeding it or letting it spiral out of control. 

When Sadness is At Your Door by Eva Eland

When Sadness is At Your Door helps teach kids that sadness is not a feeling to be feared or ashamed of, but instead it is an emotion we should treat as a guest–something temporary we can learn from. This book can help demystify sadness for your child by giving it a name. 

BOOK FOR TEACHING KIDS ABOUT SELF ESTEEM: 

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum is named after a flower, and she loves her name! That is, until she starts school and the other classmates start to tease her about it. Chrysanthemum teaches readers about how to deal with bullying, and the importance of self love & self esteem. 

BOOK FOR TEACHING KIDS ABOUT MIND-BODY CONNECTION: 

Listening to My Body by Gabi Garcia

Bodily sensations or expressions of emotions are tough to understand, even for many adults! Listening to My Body helps to teach kids how to recognize what is happening in their mind and how that relates to what is happening in their body.

BOOK FOR TEACHING KDIS ABOUT DEALING WITH TRAUMA: 

A Terrible Thing Happened by Maragret M Holmes

Our main character, Sheriman, witnessed a horrible thing. He tries to forget about it, but soon it starts affecting his everyday life. From feeling nervous, to getting stomach aches, to feeling angry, to having bad dreams, the terrible thing keeps showing up in Sheriman’s life. A Terrible Thing Happened teaches readers that finding support and talking through trauma can help you heal. 

BOOKS FOR TEACHING KIDS ABOUT BOUNDARIES: 

You Should, You Should by Ginny Tilby

In You Should, You Should, Hippo’s friends tell him all the things he “should” do. But Hippo doesn’t want to do any of them–he wants to decide what is right for himself. You Should, You Should is a story about dealing with peer pressure and learning to establish boundaries. 

I Said No by Zach & Kimberly King

This book deals with setting boundaries over one’s body–a conversation that can seem difficult for many parents to navigate. Using child-friendly language, I Said No helps to teach kids about recognizing red flags and where to go for help when your boundaries are violated. 

A few weeks ago, we talked a little bit about boundaries and how they can help transform your relationships. Sounds pretty great, right? It’s one thing to know that boundaries are important, but how do you actually go about talking about your boundaries once you’ve decided what they are? It’s one thing to sort through your own personal values and decide on what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s another entirely to communicate your boundaries to the people who need to know. Luckily, there are some strategies you can use to talk about boundaries kindly but firmly. 

In case you need a refresher, a boundary is just a limit that you set in a relationship. It’s also important to note that you can have a boundary in any kind of relationship, not just romantic. Boundaries allow you to protect your sense of self, practice assertiveness, learn to communicate, and maintain your relationships. 

We all have different limits, which is why boundaries are so personal. It can feel really uncomfortable to decide on a boundary and to communicate it to the people who need to know. Your boundary exists to protect you and your relationships. Since we all have different boundaries, we need to figure out how to talk about boundaries to other people. Here are some of our favorite tips: 

Try the sandwich method.

This is a kind of goofy name for some actually practical advice. When you’re talking to someone about something hard, try to sandwich the hard thing in between two easier things. For example, let’s say your boundary is that you need to make time for self-care, which means prioritizing events around your energy level. If you need to turn someone’s invitation down, you can say something like, “I’m so flattered that you want me to come! (something easier) I’ve had to really get serious about making time for myself every week to recharge mentally, so I can’t make it. 

Explain the boundary

Sometimes boundaries need a little more explanation. If it’s not something you can easily sandwich between two lighter statements, you might need to go a little deeper. Try to be as specific as possible so it’s clear both what the boundary and what the consequence will be for violating that boundary. Use examples if you have to to make your message clear. 

Use “I” statements as much as possible when you talk about boundaries

One big fear people have when they talk about boundaries is that people will get defensive and take it personally. One way to defuse this response is to talk about the situation using “I” statements. Talk about why this is important to you, instead of making it about them. Instead of saying “You always come home late without calling,” say “I worry when I don’t hear from you after 9 pm. I would feel less anxious if we could check in with each other more regularly.” See how that shifts the focus from their action to how it makes you feel? 

Clearly outline the consequence for violating a boundary. 

What happens when the boundary is violated? Part of setting boundaries is letting someone know the consequence of crossing it. Let’s say your boundary relates to body and weight-related talk with your family. You can say something like “Mom, I feel uncomfortable when my body is the topic of conversation. Please refrain from commenting on my physical appearance or weight. If that’s not something you can agree to, I’ll have to cut this visit short.” 

Follow through when your boundary is violated

This part can be the hard part. Once you’ve communicated your boundary, it’s important to stick to it. This shows people that you’re serious about your boundaries. It might feel weird or hard or overly harsh to follow through, but it sends a clear message that your boundaries are non-negotiable. Some people naturally like to test boundaries, so it’s important to stick to what you say. 

With practice, the entire process will get easier. It can be a terrifying experience to establish a boundary with someone in your life, especially if you haven’t had to put up boundaries with that person before. 

Remember, though, that boundaries are actually a good thing.

We all experience frustration and anger with people in our lives. Boundaries help work through those feelings while maintaining your relationship. Without boundaries, many people feel overwhelmed, taken advantage of, and uncomfortable. Establishing a clear boundary can help lessen those feelings and leave you feeling better about the relationship. If you need help talking about boundaries, don’t worry about it – it’s okay to ask for help! Our therapists can help you find a way that works for you. 

Is your child angry all the time? Are they lashing out?

They might be throwing tantrums, having outbursts at school, fighting with friends, resisting authority both in and out of the home. 

Anger is a complicated emotion, even for adults. It’s common to find ourselves feeling lost and overwhelmed by it–and for a child that feeling can be even more overpowering. They don’t have the life experience teaching them how to handle it. All they know is how overwhelming their anger feels. And without our help and guidance, they probably won’t know how to cope with those feelings without lashing out. 

For children, anger feels instinctive. 

It’s a coping mechanism they’ve learned to tune into when things feel out of control. At their young age, they aren’t able to distinguish between a physical threat and a negative emotion. Because of this, the fight or flight instinct kicks in. And the fight portion of that expresses itself the only way it knows how at that stage: yelling, crying, and other such emotional outbursts. 

“Humans mobilize against any perceived threat (even our own upset feelings) by attacking.” (Aha! Parenting). 

Unlike adults, who have the experience and context to know what is a “big dea;” and what is not, anything that threatens the emotional equilibrium for a child is likely to trigger that rage response. We see this when they lash out at teachers, parents, or friends; when they feel they are being treated unfairly, when they’re embarrassed, when they are sad, etc. In being unable to balance extreme or sudden emotions, they fall into defense mode. And often, the defense mode that makes the most sense to them is anger.

So how can you teach them to manage it?

In order to help them manage their anger, first we need to help them understand it.

Rather than telling your child to stop crying, or that there’s “nothing to be upset about”, take a few moments to help them understand where this feeling is coming from. First, try to calm them as best as you can, without diminishing the validity of their feelings. Give them a glass of water to drink (they will have to calm themselves enough to steady their breathing while they drink it), walk them through a few deep breaths, etc. 

Be sure to let them know that you’re trying to calm them in order to explore what they’re feeling, not to push that feeling aside.

You can say something like, “I see that you are upset. I want to know more about what you’re feeling so we can find a solution. Let’s take a few deep breaths to slow ourselves down so that we can talk about it.”

It’s important to teach them that their feelings of anger aren’t wrong–anger like every other emotion we experience can teach us something about ourselves. Addressing their anger without shaming them for being upset will help teach them that emotions aren’t right or wrong, they just are. There are no rules against being angry–they just need to learn what to do when they feel that anger. 

Help them learn that anger is a secondary emotion.

Primary emotions are the first emotions we feel in relation to an event. A secondary emotion is a learned response we have in reaction to that first emotion. 

For example, if your child is reprimanded by their teacher in front of their friends, the primary emotion might be embarrassment. And then, because they are uncomfortable being embarrassed or vulnerable in front of their friends, they’ll likely react in anger. So they aren’t angry about what their teacher said to them, they are angry about being made to feel embarrassed.

While teaching this won’t stop your child from getting angry, it will help them understand their anger better. 

Ask them:

Guide them to find the root of their anger. 

And when you find the root of it, offer them some empathy.

Validate their feelings. Tell them, “I understand why you’re upset. That would make me sad too.”

Offering empathy and understanding, you teach your child that it is okay to have whatever feelings they have. And you create a space in which it is always safe for them to come to you and talk about them. When they have that space to discuss and explore their feelings, big emotions feel less scary, and when they feel less scary, they are less likely to make your child lose control. And then: 

Guide them through a healthier way to handle their anger.

It’s important to teach your child that all emotions are acceptable, but that not all reactions to those emotions are appropriate. 

For example: it’s okay to feel upset when your teacher reprimands you, but it is not okay to lash out at the teacher, to yell at them, to get physical, to take those feelings out on others, etc. 

It’s our job to help teach them a better way to react to anger. Say things like: “I know you’re upset. I would be too. But did yelling at your friends make you feel better?” Remind them that when they lash out, they aren’t solving the problem. Give them some examples of what they could do next time. Say something like, “Next time you feel like this, what if you tried X? Do you think that would make you feel better?”

And help them learn to find those alternate options on their own! Ask them what they think would make them feel better. Say, “Okay, we know that yelling at our teacher, or being mean to our friends when we’re upset doesn’t actually make us feel better. What do you think would make you feel better?” 

The key is to open the space up for them to explore their feelings without shame, and to guide them to a thought process that will help them navigate those big emotions in the future. 

When was the last time you spent significant time away from a screen? Do you have any screen-free hobbies? Most of us need to look at screens for work or school, but many of us also unwind by looking at our phones or tablets in our free time. This is true year-round for lots of folks, but it can be especially tempting in the winter months. In the winter, it can feel like you do nothing but stare into the digital abyss because it’s too miserable outside to do much of anything else.

Instead, it can actually be an act of self-care to cultivate some screen-free hobbies to give yourself a break. 

Not to sound like a cliche, but remember the good old days before we all had a phone to stare at all day long? Obviously, technology has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few decades, and we’ve had to keep up the best that we can. One place that many folks find themselves lost is trying to find hobbies that make them feel fulfilled, without resorting to even more time in front of a screen. The default for many (including us, sometimes!) is to just flip through apps mindlessly until we move onto something else, but that doesn’t tend to leave people feeling rejuvenated or relaxed. In fact, constant screen time can lead to headaches, eye strain, sleep issues, neck and shoulder pain, and even tendonitis. 

Remember, screen time is pretty much unavoidable for most of us at this point, so it’s not a bad thing if you find yourself in front of a screen regularly.

However, in order to minimize the negative effects of screentime and to expand your interests, developing some screen-free hobbies can be helpful. 

One way to rediscover screen-free hobbies is to think back on what you liked when you were a child. What kind of activities did you enjoy? Were you always working on an art project? Did you play sports outside with your friends? Did you spend all day curled up with a book? Use your memories of what made you happy as a child to guide you now. You might find that you have similar interests as an adult as you did when you were a child! This can also be a great way to tend to your inner child. 

Take stock of what your current lifestyle is like. What hobbies do you make space for in your life? How many of these did you consciously decide on? Or are you just following your routine, even though you don’t really like any of the things you do to keep busy? 

Here are some ideas for scree-free hobbies that you can try:

Print your photos

You can do tons of things with physical prints of your photos. You can make a gallery wall in your home, hang some snapshots on the fridge, fill up some frames, or make a scrapbook of your memories, just to name a few. There’s something so satisfying about holding a physical photo in your hands, and it can make your camera roll feel a little more meaningful when you 

Explore nature

Do you like to hike? See if your city has any cool trails that you haven’t explored yet. This is a great activity to do solo or with other folks. If you’re not big on the woods or hiking, see if you can find a local park or walking path that works for you. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with exploring nature by sitting outside with a good book and nothing else to do. 

Join Meetup

Okay this seems like cheating, because Meetup is a website/app. However, Meetup is a social networking service where folks with similar interests can form groups and do activities together, so the end result is still less screentime! There are probably lots of other places to find local events (Facebook, the local chamber of commerce, and community centers come to mind) so do some exploring and find one that works for you. 

Catch up with a friend

In person or on the phone. If you’re having a phone conversation with someone, you don’t need to stare at the screen the whole time. Catching up with a friend might not seem like much of a hobby, but cultivating and maintaining your relationships can be fulfilling and keep them strong at the same time. 

Try a new craft

Even if you’re not a big crafter, spend an evening exploring a creative activity that you’ve never tried before. You might find something you’re good at or interested in, and worst case scenario, you will learn what doesn’t work for you. Some crafts to try: embroidery, crochet, knitting, calligraphy, drawing, watercolors, origami, macrame, painting, and collage art. 

Learn to take care of plants

Whether you have the space for a garden or not, a new plant to take care of can be a great break from screen time. If you like working with your hands, gardening might be a nice way to do something productive and satisfying, and plus you’ll have tons of pretty plants to look at! 

Volunteer

Sure, some volunteer gigs are data entry or screen-focused, but there are also a lot of charitable activities that don’t require any screen time. Try serving food at a shelter, helping collect food for a food bank, walk dogs at a humane society, spend some time with elderly folks who could use a friend. It’s a cliche for a reason – volunteering really does feel rewarding! 

Journaling

Keeping a journal is a nice way to intentionally reflect on your life. Journals can be as fancy or as simple as you want. You can use it like a bullet journal, and keep lots of lists, or you can free write page after page (or somewhere in the middle). Developing a journaling practice gives you a built in opportunity to check in with yourself and it can give you space to process your thoughts and feelings. 

Remember, it’s not realistic to expect yourself to eliminate screen time cold turkey. And that’s probably not necessary, anyway! Life is about finding balance, and consciously developing some screen-free hobbies can be a nice way to balance out any screen time you do get. If you need guidance in developing some screen-free hobbies, our therapists at Urban Wellness can assist you! Reach out today. 

What is procrastination? 

Procrastination, simply, is the process of habitually putting things off. 

When we procrastinate, instead of doing what should be done in the moment, we find other ways to fill our time. We might start doing other helpful things (ex: washing our dishes instead of completing an assignment). Or we might just distract ourselves so we don’t have to think about what we should be doing (ex: watching TV instead of completing an assignment). Either way, the end result is the same. 

Why do we procrastinate?

There is this idea that procrastination is simply due to a lack of willpower, but that’s not actually true. While it definitely can influence some procrastination habits, procrastination is often more about the feelings a certain task brings up for us, than it is about simply not wanting to do a thing. 

A few reasons people procrastinate include:

Lack of energy/burnout:

If you’re looking at your to-do list for the day and you see something that is going to take a lot of time and energy, and you’re already worn out from everything else you’ve had to do, how are you going to be able to convince yourself to keep working?  When we’re burned out it’s already hard enough to motivate ourselves to do little things, so a big project can seem insurmountable. And instead of trying to tackle it bit by bit, we put it off & put it off, hoping that our energy will be renewed enough to tackle it the next day or the day after that. 

Difficulty focusing:

Another big reason people procrastinate–especially larger tasks & projects–is because they simply don’t have the mental bandwidth to focus on something like that in one sitting. If you’re overwhelmed or anxious or exhausted, your attention span starts to decrease, and getting things done gets harder and harder. And so sometimes, when we can’t seem to make ourselves focus on anything, it seems like the best move is to just put it off and try again another time. 

Anxiety:

Why is it that we always seem to procrastinate things that are really important? Well, probably because we’re afraid we’re going to mess them up. If something is a big deal, it comes with a lot of pressure. And instead of facing that pressure, many of us choose to just avoid it. If you have a week until your final paper is due, and it counts for 50% of your grade, the best thing to do would be to work on it a little bit each day. The pressure that comes with knowing a paper could tip your final grade one way or the other, however, is extremely daunting. And rather than deal with that fear, you might just push it out of your mind until you absolutely have to deal with it. 

Perfectionism:

Hand in hand with anxiety, perfectionism is often at the root of procrastination. The pressure to make sure everything you do is perfect can make even small, regular tasks seem daunting. Everything then requires a huge investment of energy. There is also the idea that it’s better to not do something at all, unless you are going to do it perfectly. This kind of pressure makes perfectionists avoid or procrastinate things regularly. 

Lack of interest in task: 

And, of course, sometimes it really is just that we don’t want to do something. Motivating ourselves to complete a task that isn’t enjoyable, or doesn’t immediately benefit us in some way can be extremely difficult, so sometimes we just put it off instead of rallying that effort. 

Effects of procrastination: 

More than just messing with our time management skills, procrastination can have a huge impact on our day to day lives. Even when we distract ourselves from what it is we should be doing, there is still that stress & pressure hanging overhead which can lead to things like: 

Managing procrastination

So how can we learn to resist, or at least manage, our procrastination?

Break things into small chunks:

If you’re procrastinating because the thing you need to be working on just seems too big: don’t do it all at once! Break up big, intimidating tasks into smaller chunks, and spread them out so that there isn’t the pressure to get everything done all at once. 

Redefine failure:

There is an idea that goes along with both procrastination and perfectionism that it is better to not do something at all than to do it poorly. If this is a reason you find yourself procrastinating, really explore that idea the next time it comes up. Is that really true? Is it better for you to avoid it forever? Or would it be better to get it done–even poorly–so you can move on and release that stress from your mind? Ask yourself: what will happen if I don’t do a good job? (And: what will happen if I don’t do this at all?) If you don’t do a good job, you can build off of that. You can try again, improve & grow. But you can’t improve if you don’t give yourself a starting point. 

Work regular breaks into your day:

Learn to prioritize regular self care. That includes taking breaks throughout your day! Don’t work endlessly until you’re too tired to think. Learn to notice the signs of burnout, and take preventative measures. Sometimes your brain just needs a break to reset. If you find yourself mindlessly avoiding whatever task it is you should be doing–pause. Go get some water, grab a snack, take a walk. Give your mind a reprieve from the go go go of the work day. Then, when you’re settled, come back and try again. 

If you need help managing your procrastination, get in touch with one of our therapists today for support!

When you hear the word, “boundaries,” what do you think of? In a relationship context, boundaries are both necessary and helpful. Even though boundaries are a part of every relationship we have, folks tend to think of setting a boundary as something that means the relationship is unhealthy. However, establishing a boundary in a relationship can actually improve your interactions with the other person. Setting a boundary can actually be a sign of a healthy relationship. 

Boundary setting might be foreign to you and that’s okay. Many of us grow up as people-pleasers, so the idea of actively sticking up for our own needs feels strange and even difficult. As with most things though, it gets easier with practice. However, there are so many benefits to setting boundaries in your relationships. Even though it’s intimidating, it’s a valuable practice. 

What’s a Boundary?

First of all, what even is a boundary? A boundary is just a limit that you set in a relationship. You can have a boundary in any kind of relationship, not just romantic. In fact, you probably have more non-romantic boundaries than romantic ones! The purpose of setting a boundry is to help protect your sense of self and is an advanced form of assertiveness. Setting a boundary in your relationships can even be a form of self-care.

A person with no boundaries in their relationships might get pushed around by others and feel like they have no control over their life. This loss of control can feel really overwhelming, and it can even lead to putting up emotional walls to protect yourself. Establishing boundaries in relationships can help balance that feeling of overwhelm. When you feel less overwhelmed, you can be more present in your relationships on a day to day basis. However, boundaries are not nagging, attacking, threatening, blaming, or criticizing. 

Some Examples of Boundaries:

There is an infinite number of boundaries you can set – all that matters is that it works for you and that you can communicate it to others. 

Why Are Boundaries Important?

Boundaries can improve the emotional health for both parties

Instead of feeling distressed or unsure when you’re around this person, knowing what you expect of each other can take off some of that pressure. 

Setting a boundary allows you to feel enjoyment over resentment

It can be wildly frustrating to feel misunderstood by or resentful of someone, especially someone close to you. Before setting a boundary, you might feel bitter at the idea of interacting with this person because you aren’t sure if you’ll be respected or heard. After talking about a boundary though, it’s easier to let go of that resentment and enjoy the moment because you’re on the same page. 

Boundaries let you feel more present + mindful in interactions

Sometimes we get so in our heads about an interaction that we kind of miss it completely while worrying about it. Has that ever happened to you? The idea of interacting with someone with no boundaries might make you nervous, leading you to stress out the entire time and focus on how they’re going to treat you instead of on the actual topic. When you talk about your needs, though, it’s easier to relax into the interaction because you have established the trust beforehand. 

Setting a boundary can help increase confidence

It feels pretty great to ask for what you need and then get it. Boundary setting takes practice, and you can build that practice over time. Start with something small – maybe say, “Actually, I’m not done speaking,” the next time someone interrupts you. It might feel super aggressive to you at first to ask for what you want, but after seeing people respect your wishes, you’ll feel more confident the next time you need to establish a boundary.  

Boundaries lead to intentional interactions

How many of our interactions happen on autopilot? We tend to follow the same scripts for interacting with people until we decide otherwise. Sometimes, we just let interactions happen to us, instead of going into them with purpose and intention. Setting boundaries is one way to make your interactions more mindful and intentional. Both parties can lay out what they want and need with respect, and use that respect to improve their interactions. 

Boundaries give you a script to follow – if x happens, my response will be y.

Another great thing about boundaries? They give you a script to follow. For example, let’s say that your boundary is that you don’t want to speak about your weight or your body. You can let people know that bringing up that topic means the end of the conversation. Then, if your boundary is crossed, follow through on what your boundary says. 

Setting boundaries let you feel more in control

You are in charge of you – no one else is. You have to be the one to make and enforce your boundaries because no one is going to do it for you. Like we said earlier about building up confidence, setting boundaries successfully can help you feel more in control of your relationships.  Setting boundaries helps you go from being passive in a situation to being an active participant, and it is totally in your control. 

Boundaries help improve communication overall

One of the most frustrating things about relationships with other people is that sometimes you just don’t understand each other. Instead of wondering what’s going on in someone’s mind during an interaction, talking about your boundaries beforehand can help you understand their perspective. Clear, up-front boundaries can help cut down on misunderstandings that come from trying to read someone’s mind or expecting them to read yours. 

Can you think of a boundary of yours off the top of your head?

What do they look like? Are they spoken or unspoken? Do your boundaries support your relationships (including the one you have with yourself)?  Which ones are working for you, and which ones do you need to tweak? 

Your boundaries can evolve over time, so make sure to check in with yourself regularly to see if your feelings about a boundary have changed. Once you put in some practice sticking up for yourself and your needs, setting boundaries in the future will be a lot less intimidating. 

If you need help figuring out what your boundaries are, get in touch with one of our therapists today for support!

Last we covered  the importance of prioritizing self care, but one thing we didn’t touch on is the way our own space can have a huge impact on our mental health. 

Our homes can act as a safe space for us, a place where we are able to rest, relax, and recharge. And because of that, we want them to be not only comfortable for us, but ideally a space that works intentionally with our mental health in mind. 

First: how does decorating your home help your mental health?

The act of decorating or organizing your home in itself can be a practice in mindfulness. 

What do you want your space to look like? Where do you want to spend the most time in your home? What purposes do your possessions serve? Taking time to consider these things helps to ground you in your space, makes you more attuned to your own needs and desires, and overall brings a greater sense of welcoming and mindfulness to your space. 

It helps you call attention to your own growth. 

In each new stage of life, the needs in our homes changes. Reflect on your space and how it provides for the stage of life you are in. Do you live alone? How does that affect the way your space is set up? Do you work from home? Is there a designated space to work and to relax if that’s the case? 

Taking time to donate or discard things that were useful in an old stage of life but don’t provide what you need now is a great way to take time to express appreciation for your own growth and make space for your future at the same time. 

So how can you prioritize your own mental health when considering your space?

Decide on your personal priorities for your space. 

While decluttering as much as possible can help alleviate stress, it’s not possible for everyone to live as a minimalist. And, we may not even want to! Instead of trying to clear your space of everything that isn’t completely necessary for living, take time to consider what brings happiness and fulfilment to your life. Do you like to read? Then having a lot of books in your home probably makes you comfortable and happy! If not, they may just be making you feel out of place in your own space.

Have you heard of Marie Kondo? She has a cleaning and organizing method all about considering what sparks joy. Basically, if something has personal significance to you or brings you happiness then it’s worth keeping around! It all boils down to being intentional in your space. 

Maximize the light. 

Especially in the winter months, this point can make all the difference in your home! Having lots of natural light is great (it can help increase your intake of Vitamin D, boost your mood, your energy, etc.) but lots of natural light isn’t always a possibility. So if your space doesn’t have access to natural light, invest in lots of other lights to brighten your space. Keeping spaces dark can lead to lower energy, fatigue, worsening moods, etc. So adding lights (bonus if you have a happy light around!) can help combat those negative mental health effects. 

Add some plants. 

Whether you have a naturally green thumb or not, adding plants to your home can help improve mental health. They help to purify the air in your home, and because plants typically need lots of light, they help to force you to open your blinds and bring that light into your home! Plus, having a routine where you go around and tend to your plants can help you develop your own wellness ritual–when you check in on your plants, check in on yourself too. As you water them, consider yourself. Do you need water? Have you gotten enough light?

And, it turns out, research shows that spending time tending to natural things actually has links to decreasing symptoms of depression. 

Consider practicality. 

What are your biggest mental health struggles? Take time to consider the biggest obstacles you face with your own mental health. For example, if depression makes it difficult for you to nourish yourself properly, consider that as you design your kitchen and eating space. Make them spaces you want to spend time in.  As you organize your pantry, put quick easy meal staples in the easiest spot to reach. Likely when you are in a depressive episode, you won’t have the energy to search through your cupboards to find something to eat, so keep the easy staples right where you can see them. Other things that are less used can be in harder to reach places, as you’ll likely only use them when you’re feeling more high energy anyway. 

If you need assistance figuring out your goals or values or brainstorming ways to practice self-care, we can help! 

Self-care: you’ve heard of it. It’s everywhere. It is an idea commonly used to sell you millennial pink bath products, but it is actually so much more than that. Self-care is basically just improving the relationship you have with yourself. How often do you think about the relationship you have with yourself? What do you put into the relationship? What do you get out of it? Are you kind to yourself? Do you reflect on your feelings and behaviors regularly? Do you take care of your own needs – mentally, physically, spiritually, financially, emotionally? A dedicated self-care routine can help you level up from a person just living their life to a person in charge of their life. 

It might feel weird to make yourself a priority, and that’s the tricky part of self-care. We’re used to labeling people who think about themselves as selfish, but that’s not actually the case. In fact, tending to yourself can leave you feeling stronger and more capable of helping others than if you ignored your needs completely. On airplanes, the flight attendant always has a little speech about putting on your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. The idea for self-care is the same. You are no help to anyone if you don’t help yourself. Instead of thinking of self-care as selfish, consider it a way to put the best of yourself into everything you do. 

Here are 6 of our favorite ways to prioritize self-care in your everyday life:

Take your time

Remember, you can’t transform your whole life overnight. You probably aren’t going to go from regular person to self-care wizard right away, and that’s okay! Don’t expect too much of yourself right away. Build up new self-care habits over time, and you will find it easier to stick to them and add new ones in the future. 

Start with something simple

What is one simple thing that will help you feel better? Is it giving yourself a daily allowance to rein in your spending? Is it waking up a little earlier? Do you want to spend more time reading? Pick one small thing, and start there. If you want to spend more time with your nose in a book, set a recurring event or reminder on your calendar to spend ten minutes reading. 

Check your language

The way you talk to yourself can be a good way to ease into self-care. Do you speak kindly to yourself? Or are you constantly beating yourself up? Instead of passively allowing negative self-talk, try to interrupt it as you notice it. When you notice a negative or guilt-ridden thought, try to reframe it. Instead of saying “I should be doing this,” say “I get to do this,” or “I have the opportunity to do this.” The word ‘should’ is one that we use all the time but we don’t really consider the burden that word puts on us mentally. 

Consider what self-care means for you

What works for someone else might not work for you. This is especially true for self-care. You are the expert of your own self, so take some time to think about what will make you feel taken care of. Do you need more time alone to recharge? Do you need to get your finances figured out? If you’re stuck on what kind of self-care will work for you, try out a few different things and see what sticks. You can also write down a list of how you want to feel when you take care of yourself. Do you want to feel calm, at ease, grounded, joyful, amused? What are some things that give you those feelings now? Take some time to brainstorm. 

Don’t sabotage yourself in the name of self-care

Self-care is a buzzword lately, and with good reason. The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important one we have in our lives, and taking care of ourselves is part of that. However, it’s pretty easy to label everything that feels good as ‘self-care’, even when that might not be the case. Watching Netflix for hours on end might feel great (and sometimes, that is what you need!) but it also might be a way to avoid doing things. Sometimes self-care means doing boring or hard things, like cleaning out your refrigerator or setting a budget. Sometimes it means drawing a boundary in a relationship. It’s easy to overlook these aspects of self-care because they aren’t fun or pampering in some way, but they’re still important. The next time you find yourself justifying something in the name of self-care, consider if that’s actually the truth.

Reconsider social media

Social media can feel draining sometimes. The endless scroll of perfectly curated lives is an impossible standard to live up to, and it can be hard to stop comparing yourself to the people you see online. It’s probably not realistic for everyone to delete their social accounts entirely, but try to make the experience as pleasant as possible for yourself. Who can you mute or unfollow? Try to follow accounts that make you feel better about yourself and your life – bodies that look like yours, causes you support, artists who make you smile. You can also set reminders on your phone to limit your screen time, if you’re worried you’re spending too much time mindlessly scrolling. You can always override the limits, but it can be nice to have the reminder to exit social media and re-enter real life. 

Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to work for you. Luckily, there’s no self-care judge, and there’s not really a wrong way to do it. Just be honest with yourself about how you feel and what you need, and build from there. If you need assistance figuring out your goals or values or brainstorming ways to practice self-care, we can help! 

We have all been there. Things could be going great, we feel that we have it figured out, and we have it all together. Then suddenly something happens. It could be an argument with a significant other, it could be criticism from a boss, it be feeling blown off by a friend, or we may not even know the origin. But there is a shift. Suddenly, we are hit with this overwhelming, overpowering feeling of “Wow, I really suck”.

In an ideal world, we would run to our therapist’s office and talk it through. She would ask us what triggered this feeling. She would ask us to challenge our thought process. We would probably leave feeling somewhat better. But unfortunately that is often not an option. Usually, we have to stick it out until our next appointment, which usually means suffering with this feeling on our own, and if we remember, telling her about it after the fact.

Hopefully, these tips can serve almost as a rescue remedy for those in between therapy times that we feel we really just… simply put… suck.

  1. You have felt that you suck before, and it has passed.

This is simple, but profound. Right now you may feel that your world is crumbling down. But think back. You have felt this way before, and you have moved past it and gotten back to the point of feeling that you have it all under control. This is temporary. Think of it like waves that ebb and flow. Sometimes they will be rough, sometimes they will be calm, but it is not permanent. This is not just a nice sentiment, but it is factually based as history has shown that these feelings do pass.

  1. Take a blank piece of paper and fold it in half horizontally.

On the first half write “What I feel happened,” on the second half write “What actually happened.” In the first column you can write whatever you want. But in the second column, I want you to write only exactly what had happened, as if you were a video recorder recording the incident at face value. Often our interpretation of events are not entirely accurate. The problem with this is that our entire day could be ruined based simply on an interpretation, and not actual fact. An example of this exercise could look like this:

Points to Remember When you Feel that You Suck

While this may not help us  immediately, if we get into the habit of documenting these incidences we can see how much time we waste on interpretations. Luckily, with practice, we can learn to adjust our interpretations of events. 

  1. Remember that it is ok to not be ok sometimes.

Again, simple, yet profound. Read that again and really let it sink in. It is ok to not be ok sometimes. How often do we feel like crap and then spiral into a thought s-storm about why we feel like crap? Will I always feel like crap? How will I live if this feeling never goes away? What if it gets worse? These questions can become meaningless if we can simply accept and internalize that it is ok to not be ok sometimes.  And then, refer back to point 1 and remember that this feeling will pass.

  1. Lastly, make a concerted effort to do something kind for yourself.

When you are thinking you suck, it is very easy to treat yourself badly. But make a concerted effort to treat yourself the way you would a dear friend. If she came to you and told you how horrible she felt about herself you certainly would not say “wow, yeah, you really do suck”. You would try to do something nice for her to brighten her day. Please please, even if it feels unnatural, do the same for yourself. Maybe indulge in a piece of chocolate, go get a massage, or even give yourself some time to guiltlessly binge watch a few episodes of your favorite show. Whatever it is that makes you happy. Just try to be kind to yourself.


As I was writing this piece, the old Hair Club for Men commercial kept going through my head… “I am not only the president, but I am also a client”. What I mean is, I don’t only help others through these times of sucking, but I have also been there myself. I know how hard it can be, and I know how sometimes it feels that nothing can help, and self pity seems like the best option. But, these points are designed to be utilized even when your emotional mind is telling you that nothing can help. I challenge you to challenge the emotional mind, and give this a try.

What would you advise your dear friend to do?

As a therapist I have sat face to face with people during some of the darkest and most painful moments of their lives. When I was just starting out, I have to be honest, grief used to make me uncomfortable. I always wondered what can I possibly say that could help? What can I do to lessen the pain? To put it bluntly, I felt completely and utterly inadequate.

As time went on, and I unfortunately sat with more and more people, I came to realize that it is absolutely true. There is nothing I can say or do to make it better. I am completely inadequate when someone is stuck in the thoroughs of pain. But, while I cannot fix the problem and end the pain, I can bear witness to it, I can sit with a person and let them know that they are not alone, I can help support people through the complicated process of grief.

Grief can take on many forms. It could be the death of a loved one, it could be the ending of an important relationship, or it could be the loss of one’s previously conceived identity. Regardless of the form of grief, these ideas have been useful for those traveling through it.

1) Grief is not a straight and constant path.

Because the pain is so intense, people like to believe that each day they will get better and better. While sometimes that happens, often it could go more like this:
  • Horrible
  • Terrible
  • Ok
  • Good
  • Great
  • Horrible

People often feel discouraged and will say things like “This is even worse, because I thought I was better and now I’m right back to where I started!” It may feel like that, but that is not the reality. If you can accept that the process can zig and zag a bit, and anticipate that it could be horrible again, it can soften the blow. Understanding that the way through grief is not a straight and constant line is useful.

2) There is no wrong way to grieve.

Many clients have asked me if I think that they are grieving appropriately. The fact that they are asking this question tells me that they are. The truth is, there is really no wrong way to grieve. People are going to need different things. Some may find it helpful to stay busy, while some may feel it is best to take some time off. Some people want to be alone, while others would like to be surrounded by friends. Some people cry, some people don’t.

As a therapist I can offer you suggestions that have been useful for others, but ultimately grief is an individual process. If you are cognizant of the fact that you need to grieve, and questioning whether or not you are doing it right, you are doing exactly what you should be doing.

3) Think of grief as a road trip.

Imagine you are taking a cross country road trip. You have to be somewhere but timing is not important. Imagine you are heading from Illinois to California. Some days you may cover a lot of ground. You will drive miles and miles even though you want to stop, you will just keep going. Some days you may travel a little, but get the rest and break that you need. Some days you may not travel at all, and spend the night at a hotel. Ultimately, none of these choices are wrong, and all serve a purpose in helping you get to where you need to be. Grief is very much the same.

Some days will be really hard, and you will feel a great deal of pain and that day will feel like an eternity. Some days you may push through and push thoughts of sadness to the back of your mind and try to focus on other things. Some days you may even not process your grief at all, and simply enjoy the moment. None of these are bad, and eventually you will get to where you need to be. But, you may just cover a bit more ground if you allow yourself to really feel. I mean really feel. Lean into that sadness, lean into that hopelessness, lean into that pain. While it hurts, it also allows you to feel what you ultimately need to feel.

Therapy can be useful, because it can give a person the space that they need in order to grieve. Often people feel that their friends and family are just “done” with them. Or maybe they feel that no one understands, or that they don’t want to be a burden. Knowing that weekly they need to go and are expected to talk to someone about what they are experiencing can be reassuring. While I SO wish that there was something I could actually do to make the pain go away, I am honored and humbled when someone trusts me enough to allow me to accompany them on at least some part of the journey. I dedicate this article to my clients who have allowed me to do just that.

Dear twentysomethings,

Have you read The Defining Decade by Meg Jay?

No? You should! I always thought that 30 was the new 20. My twenties were supposed to be about traveling, exploring and finding myself. Thought that too? Well, according to psychologist Meg Jay, that’s not exactly 100% true. The twenties are supposed to set you up for your thirties and forties and so forth.

There are some things I wish I knew in my twenties, and hopefully sharing helps in yours.

1. Finances

Start a savings account for literally anything. Start saving in your twenties for a house, for a vacation, for anything you think you might want in your thirties. Trying to save for those things, later on, is really hard! I have an emergency saving and a vacation. Just in case I want or need either of those things.  Have a retirement plan and put in as much as you think you can 3% or higher if possible. I was not in a position in my early twenties to put a lot of money towards retirement. And it’s biting me in the butt now. I wish I had at least put in a small bit consistently so it saves you from putting in 10-15%, later on, to catch up. Also, check your credit score, it might not mean a lot when you are 21 but it will when you want that house, car or another big-ticket item.

2. Relationships

What about love? Dating in your twenties may seem like it’s about just meeting a lot of people and going on dates. That might be true. But dating should be to look at what you would want in an ideal partner. The partner whose tardiness might be endearing at 25 might make your blood boil at 35. Getting married is not the switch that puts people into gear for change. That really happens in your twenties when your mind is in the best place to grow and change. It’s hard to be surprised about our love life at 30 if we were making poor dating situations in our twenties.

3. Work

Work in a place that invests in your future. Working an office job at a company you believe in will create a network for you when you are looking for other jobs vs being a barista waiting for that dream job to appear. It’s called identity capital. Identity capital which is “the currency we use to metaphorically purchase jobs and relationships.” Instead of throwing our twenties away in jobs that don’t move us forward, find jobs that will help get you where you want to go. You don’t want to be starting your career at 30, you want to be taking steps that make your career at 30 thrive. Be intentional in your twenties.

4. Invest in your friendships

Quality over quantity. Really take the time to find the people who bring out the best in you. The ones who invest in your friendship as much as you do. This isn’t about having the most friends but finding the ones that are supportive and inspiring. They should be people who want you to be the best version of you but also accept you. It’s important to have a strong support network and building that in your twenties will help tremendously later on.

5. Health

We all know we should be working out and eating better. The longer you take to work on this, the harder it will be later. Over time, our bodies will take more time to recover from an injury (and even hangovers). Things that used to be super easy like losing weight, become even harder as your metabolism slows down. Create healthy habits when you are younger and then you can maintain them as you get older. We need our bodies to last longer than ever before so there’s no time like the present to work on our health.

What we do in our 20s really outlines what the rest of our lives look like. The twenties should be about investing in yourself. In work, in love, in your friendships. Building these things in your twenties will help you create meaning in your thirties and beyond.

Sincerely,

Your thirties

Avoid the quarter-life crisis, get the book here!

About the Author

Fariha Newaz, LCPC, CADC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Fariha works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Fariha’s specialties include depression, anxiety, substance use, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, multicultural concerns, and South Asians specific concerns. If you are interested in working with Fariha, send an email today!

It’s important to keep growing and we grow in so many ways. Whether it’s interpersonally, professionally, or sometimes even physically.  As I continue to grow and learn more about myself, these are the things that continuously come up that people should know about themselves. I cannot take any credit for these ideas but I can tell you why they are important for your own growth.

When we know these 3 things about ourselves, we can adjust our expectations accordingly. It helps us be better workers, friends, and partners.

1. Love Language

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman explores how we give and receive love. This is important to know because it impacts our relationships. How we communicate our love to our partners and how they communicate it can at times cause miscommunication.

The 5 Love Languages are:

  • Quality time: this language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention.
  • Words of affirmation: this language is about using words to affirm other people
  • Gifts: what makes a person feel most loved is to receive a gift.
  • Acts of service: for these people, actions speak louder than words.
  • Physical touch: for this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch.

If I feel loved by spending quality time together but my partner feels loved with gifts, we have to make an effort to show them love based on how THEY feel loved not by how we do. So, it’s important to know how you feel loved but also how your partner, friends or children feel loved so you can make sure needs are being met.

Take the quiz here!

2. Tendency

The Four Tendencies is a book by Gretchen Rubin. It discusses the way that we manage internal and external expectations. I am a classic upholder which means that I meet internal and external expectations pretty well. If you know your tendency, you can create habits or change habits based on knowing your strengths and where you struggle. I listed the tendencies and linked them with one of my favorite shows (Parks and Recreation) to show you what it can look like.

They are:

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations ( think Leslie Knope)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations (Think Ron Swanson)
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves (Think Jerry, Larry, Terry or Gary based on which season of Parks and Rec you are on)
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike (Think April Ludgate)

This is good for your relationships but also very helpful at work. Let’s say you are a manager who readily meets expectations but your employee is a questioner. Learning how to get that person to reach an expectation is going to be beneficial to both of you. If you are an obliger, having external accountability is going to be important for you to stick to expectations. On the other hand, a questioner needs to know why they should meet an expectation. If you learn to adjust how to approach these types of tendencies it can really help the way you live and interact with others. It can help create better habits for yourself and for others.

Take the quiz here!

3. Introvert vs Extrovert

Being an introvert or extrovert is not about how you interact socially, which is a common misconception. It’s about where you get your energy or how you recharge. People often think I am 100% an extrovert, but I am actually an ambivert.

  • Introverts (or those of us with introverted tendencies) tend to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds.
  • Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from other people. Extroverts actually find their energy is sapped when they spend too much time alone. They recharge by being social.
  • Ambiverts have both extroverted and introverted tendencies. This means that they generally enjoy being around people, but after a long time, this will start to drain them. Similarly, they enjoy solitude and quiet, but not for too long. Ambiverts recharge their energy levels with a mixture of social interaction and alone time. (This is 100% me! I get stir crazy if I am alone too long but can also get burned out if I am too social. It’s important for me to have balance.)

It’s important to know if you are introverted or extraverted because it tells you how you need to recharge. For example: if your partner is an introvert where you are extraverted they might need alone time which has nothing to do with how much they like you. They just need to recharge alone and that’s okay. If you are the extrovert, you need to be more social to get recharged. It’s good to know this so you can adjust expectations accordingly. Leaving someone alone isn’t a sign that you don’t love them, to an introvert it can be a huge gift to have that alone time.

Think of it as more of a spectrum more than just one or the other. Knowing where you are on the spectrum can give you an idea of what your needs are as well as the needs of others.

Take a quiz here!

3 things to know about yourself for personal growth

Hopefully, these 3 things help you figure out how to create habits, feel more loved, and figure out how to recharge!

About the Author

Fariha Newaz

Fariha Newaz, LCPC, CADC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Fariha works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Fariha’s specialties include depression, anxiety, substance use, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, multicultural concerns, and South Asians specific concerns. If you are interested in working with Fariha, send an email today!

Setting boundaries is an important life skill.

We all need boundaries because they help protect us, but they help out the other people in our life too.  A boundary marks a limit and we all have limits. Boundaries come in many forms in our lives and it’s important to know what your boundary is, so you know when you are over your own limit.

We have to let people know what is and is not okay to do. It’s not fair to always expect someone else to do something all of the time. It’s healthy to set expectations and know the limit.  For example, A parent might set the expectation of a curfew going past the boundary means there is a consequence.

Boundaries can be

Material:

things you lend or buy

Physical:

how you want to be touched or not touched, personal space

Mental:

thoughts, values, opinions (including expectations)

Emotional:

how you feel about something, identity, choices

Time:

what you want to spend your time or energy on

Social:

who you want to spend time with

Sometimes when we do not set these boundaries, it can leave us open to feel taken advantage of. If we continue to do everything for other people in our lives without them doing the same for us, it can create resentment, frustration, and create enabling behaviors.

It’s not fair for one parent, friend, person, self to take 100% of the responsibility of a situation. When we also give people the chance to solve their own problem at times, we give them the opportunity to use their own critical thinking skills. If we continue to do the things other people in our life do not want to do, then how will they learn that skill set?

Here are some of the boundaries I have set for myself:

  • I will not bring work home with me on an emotional level
  • I will take time for myself every day
  • I will not pick up the phone when I am with my friends or with my partner
  • I will not buy something from someone whose values I disagree with.
  • What are some of your boundaries? Or what boundaries can you do better with?

Side note: I saw this on social media and thought it was fantastic and true.

What do boundaries feel like:

  • It is not my job to fix others
  • It’s okay if others get upset
  • It’s okay to say no
  • It is not my job to take responsibility for others
  • I don’t have to anticipate the needs of everyone
  • My responsibility is to make me happy
  • Nobody has to agree with me all of the time
  • I have a right to my own feelings
  • I am enough

About the Author

Fariha Newaz

Fariha Newaz, LCPC, CADC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Fariha works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Fariha’s specialties include depression, anxiety, substance use, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, multicultural concerns, and South Asians specific concerns. If you are interested in working with Fariha, send an email today!

Knowing what to do when your child or teen is having a difficult time managing their emotional responses and behavior is stressful and challenging.  Having a pocket full of tools is beneficial for you and for your child. It is always important to remember that there is a reason for the behavior and to try not to take what they say and do personally.  Typically your child is trying to avoid something, want control of a situation, want attention, want something, or are having difficulty managing their sensory system.

In my experience working as a school social worker and as a therapist, I found a number of strategies very helpful in de-escalating the situation.

References:

https://www.heysigmund.com/how-to-respond-to-tantrums/
https://www.bradleyhospital.org/tantrums-meltdowns-and-kids-acting-out-what-do
http://blog.optimus-education.com/using-de-escalation-techniques-effectively

About the Author

Denise Gulotta, LCSW, is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Denise works with children, adolescents, and parents. Denise’s specialties include stress & anxiety, mood disorders, behavior problems, self-esteem, school issues, and family changes + life transitions. If you’re interested in working with Denise, send an email today!

As an outpatient therapist, I love every opportunity to connect with schools’ staff.  When I was a school social worker, I valued the opportunity to coordinate and speak with my student’s private therapist.  Many parents ask if there are pros and cons of telling the school that their child is working with a therapist. In my experience, there are many benefits of collaborating with student support personnel such as a school social worker, counselor or psychologist.

Here are some important tips:

What is a release of information?

A release of information must be signed by parents and by the student if the student is 12 years old and older before any communication between therapist and school personnel can take place.  The information shared between a therapist and school social worker, counselor or psychologist is confidential. School mental health providers hold the same ethical and legal standards when it comes to confidentiality.

Why is the direct contact between therapist and school beneficial?

It is helpful to speak directly to school personnel in order to get a better understanding of your child’s academic performance, behavior and relationships with adults and peers in various settings.

The school can share information that parents and therapist do not see regarding academic performance and relationships with peers.

Two heads are always better than one!

Collaboration and continuity of care, working on the same issues and focus, is beneficial to connect the link between home, school, and therapy sessions.  Your child’s therapist and school service personnel can brainstorm options and resources that can help your child at school if they are struggling. As an example, creating an informal or formal plan that can help your child feel more comfortable at school if they are refusing to go in the mornings.  School staff can also identify specific areas that can be focused on during therapy sessions.

Why recreate the wheel?

If your therapist is working on an effective coping strategy it can be shared with the school mental health provider and reinforced at school or vise versa.

Advocacy.

Your child’s therapist can help advocate for your child’s needs and suggest specific strategies that can help your child’s social and emotional needs in the classroom and school environment.

IEP and Section 504 Plans.

 If your child has special education services through an Individualized Education Plan or accommodations through a Section 504 Plan, your therapist can provide suggestions for services, accommodations or modifications based on work that had been done during individual sessions.  You are allowed to invite your child’s therapist to these meetings.

About the Author

Denise Gulotta, LCSW, is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Denise works with children, adolescents, and parents. Denise’s specialties include stress & anxiety, mood disorders, behavior problems, self-esteem, school issues, and family changes + life transitions. If you’re interested in working with Denise, send an email today!

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

You may have heard someone saying things like, “my OCD is kicking in”, or “I’m so OCD”, but does that person really have OCD?

Being particular about where you like things placed in your house or being picky about your appearance or food etc. are preferences, generally not OCD. Significant disruption to your life is key to the characterization of OCD. It involves a cycle of obsessions and compulsions that cause intense anxiety and distress. The obsessions are thoughts or images that occur and the person feels these are out of their control to do anything about, the compulsion then kicks in to help the person make the obsessions “go away” or counteract them.

There are common obsessions, such as harm, perfectionism, religious, losing control and others.

Some common compulsions include washing/cleaning, checking, mentally going over things, repeating patterns. There can be many other themes as well. Some people may experience more mental compulsions and not outwardly engage in behavioral compulsions.

A common question people want to know is what causes OCD? The short answer…many factors! It can be inherited, or can involve disruptions in brain communication, or a number of other factors.  Adults and children can develop OCD but it is NOT caused by something the person did or didn’t do.

Many people can find help through medication and therapy.

Therapy for OCD involves many behavioral and cognitive techniques, such as Exposure Response Prevention, and can improve the lives of people who have OCD.

(Source: International OCD Foundation)

About the Author

Jill Patano, LCPC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Jill works with adults. Jill’s specialties include anxiety, OCD, panic and phobias, stress management, perfectionism, CBT, ERP, coping skills, and life transitions. If you are interested in working with Jill, send an email today!

What is Exposure Response Prevention (ERP)?

This is a behavioral technique used to treat anxiety, OCD and other related disorders. Simply put it involves doing the thing that’s being avoided or the situation you fear. It may sound scary at first, but it is done with the guidance and expertise of a therapist.

It works like this: You purposely engage in the thoughts, mental images or situations that cause anxiety. While doing this, you then choose not to engage in the response that you normally would to take away the anxious feelings. For example, someone who has contamination fears may feel the need to wash their hands 10 times after they touched a doorknob. During an exposure they would touch the doorknob and make the choice to only wash their hands 7 times. During repeated exposures the person would continue to reduce the amount of handwashing.  The goal of all this is to reduce the anxiety levels by not giving in to the compulsions.

This isn’t just being told to go face your fears, a therapist will help you develop a hierarchy of fears or a list of behaviors to tackle. You will work together on this and do some exposures at home as well. ERP is not meant to put you in danger and it’s important to speak up and tell your therapist if you feel an exposure is causing extreme stress. Remember though, you will feel some anxiety during the exposures, you are doing the thing you’ve been avoiding after all!  But after repeated times, the anxiety levels will drop.

(Source: International OCD Foundation)

 

About the Author

Jill Patano, LCPC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Jill works with adults. Jill’s specialties include anxiety, OCD, panic and phobias, stress management, perfectionism, CBT, ERP, coping skills, and life transitions. If you are interested in working with Jill, send an email today!

108 years passed until the Cubs won the World Series in 2016. That’s a long time. More than a lifetime of waiting for most. Years of struggles, crushed hopes, and many transitions all match what each and every one of us go through during day to day living. A few standouts are:

Dealing with disappointment

Everyday something generally doesn’t go right. As many Cubs players and fans had to deal with another losing season, the range of disappointment was paramount and frustrating. Learning to pick yourself up when all bets are off is a skill in itself and takes a lifetime of practice.

Possible results of not dealing with disappointment: Anger and rigid thinking can develop. Depression.

Changing the way you think tip:  

Say to yourself, this won’t last forever! Look at the bigger picture. Live less on the spectrum ends of all or nothing thinking and reach more of a middle ground.

Happiness for others

Some teams are just better than others. Sharing in another person’s joy is so important. Curb your negative and judgmental thoughts about others’ and instead revel in their successes, accomplished goals, and awesome sunglasses they got on sale. Look on the bright side, or at least be able to see another perspective.

Possible results of not sharing in others’ happiness: Resentment and jealousy can take over your mindset.

Changing the way you think tip:

Tell yourself, what an inspiration this person is, I can reach my goals too! Challenge yourself to not compare yourself to others but be inspired instead. More gratitude less spite.

Role model

Looking up to someone can help carve a path for ourselves that we didn’t know existed. Inspiration alone can fuel mindset in a positive direction and create movement. Sports figures are often looked up to for their insane talent and rise to the top. The challenge for us every day folk, is to think on less of an extreme, meaning, find a way to share your strengths and kindness with others on an everyday basis. Be a good person.

Possible result of finding no one to look up to: Remain uninspired and stuck. Think you’re the only top dog around.

Changing the way you think tip:

Ask yourself, how can I take a healthy risk? How can I share my strengths with others? Challenge yourself to learn something from someone else.

Perseverance

Continued effort and hard work are needed in all aspects of life. One foot in front of the other, and repeat.

Possible result of not sticking with something: Give up easily on goals, no follow through, fear of failure.

Changing the way you think tip:

Ask yourself, What’s important to me? Set a plan with small steps to work toward a chosen goal or dream. Do this often.

Tradition and ritual

Popcorn and peanuts at the game? Or a hotdog and nachos? Memories are built upon this stuff, and values are the foundation for character and integrity. Take The 7th inning stretch and the National Anthem, it wouldn’t be the same without these traditional highlights.

Possible results of not engaging in or building traditions: Lack of established values. Loss of identity.

Changing the way you think tip:

Ask yourself, What’s important to me? Try new things, learn about stuff, step out of your comfort zone.

Patience

You have to ask yourself, how does someone stay a Cubs fan after 108 years of unpredictable seasons, let downs, and maddening almost wins? Most certainly a combination of many things, including understanding what is in, and outside of your control.

Possible result of overreacting: Fuming anger, and way too much energy put into trying to control everything.

Changing the way you think tip:

Think about how you can stay present in the moment. Not getting too far ahead of yourself or drifting too far back. Challenge yourself to make the best of the situation.

Community

There’s no better feeling than to cheer on those you love, with people you love. Sharing a common interest with others intensifies a sense of belonging and connecting with others. It can really give you the warm and fuzzies.

Possible results of never getting to know your “neighbors”: You become trapped inside your own bubble.

Changing the way you think tip:

Think to yourself, I am part of something greater, outside of myself. Volunteer, offer compliments, smile, hold the door open for someone.

Sense of humor

Laughter. The best medicine a person can ask for. How else could the Cub’s survive so many “curses.”

Possible results of never cracking a smile: Overthinking. Frequently absorbing everything on a way too personal level. Breathing negativity.

Changing the way you think tip:

Practice not taking everything so seriously. Remind yourself that the world does not revolve around you alone!

Passion

Dedication, devotion, fervor, hurrah, intensity, spirit. Find it! A pro athlete needs all of these qualities to excel and enhance their talent. What’s good for them, is good for us.

Possible results of lacking passion: No dreams. Frequently thinking you’re not capable of being good at anything. Fearful of taking a risk.

Changing the way you think tip:

Start small. Get to know yourself better and take mini steps toward reorganizing and/or organizing your space. Think about what makes you tick!

Hope

Without hope there’s little left. Hold the belief that something can be changed, and work toward that change. The Cubs kept building the team over time and came back every year with new motivation and inspiration.

Possible results of giving up hope: Depression, never making necessary changes, feeling as if the world is against you.

Changing the way you think tip:

Create and establish a personal “empathy bank” to share with others. Building a united front with others will make you stronger. Challenge yourself to become a problem solver and find a solution.

FYI fun fact:

A few pro teams that are still awaiting a championship:

68 long years and running for the Cleveland Indians, The Detroit Tigers 32 years, The Chicago Bears 31 years, The Indiana Pacers 43 years, The Kansas City Chiefs 47 years, The Milwaukee Brewers 48 years, The Minnesota Vikings 56 years.

About the Author
Andrea Picard

Andrea Picard, LCPC, ATR is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Andrea works with adults, families, teens, children, and moms/caregivers. Andrea’s specialties include art therapy, parent + child relationships, anger, addiction, and anxiety. If you’re interested in working with Andrea, send an email today!

3 Ways to Stop Anger in its Tracks.

Anger is often very prevalent in our lives, even though we may not initially recognize anger’s emotional patterns and how they exist in our daily activities. It’s helpful to identify what may precipitate anger, in order to help manage its strength.

Things that may contribute to feeling angry:

You may have had very little sleep, or no restful sleep.

Feelings of sadness, frustration, and/or overwhelming thoughts.

Bad luck.

Pessimistic perspective.

Trying to care for children, coupled with thoughts of failing as a parent, i.e. Will my child continue to disagree with me forever, how will they follow rules, hold a job, not live with me forever?!

Unanticipated changes in your daily routine.

Traffic.

The increasing price of everything on the planet.

Loss.

Overthinking everything.

Feeling vulnerable.

Rejection.

Comparing yourself to others.

Feeling stuck.

Miscommunication.

Baggage from the past that mixes with new baggage.

And a plethora of other things.

Thing is, life can get pretty frustrating at times and that’s certainly not going to change. Think of anger as a natural and healthy part of life. It holds the same value, as say happiness or joy and it’s temporary, just like fleeting moments of embarrassment. I think the key to understanding anger and gaining control over it, is to recognize that it’s not some kind of beast that swoops down and steals you from yourself, although that certainly may be what it feels like at times. Maybe it’s easier to think about what is making you happy than what’s upsetting you, but they are both important discoveries.

What to do with your anger:

One way to develop more structure and control over anger is to recognize that you don’t have to take orders from it. One of the things that separates this emotion from several other feelings is often times it doesn’t feel good to be angry. Your body, mind, and spirit are all effected in ways that feel disrupted. Like something hijacked your whole system. A tactic to help regulate this disruption is to remember the phrase, “Stop, think, and choose.”

Stop!

Literally stop yourself in your tracks when you’re starting to feel a bit agitated. Why? Because have you ever tried to distract yourself by listening to music, paging through a magazine, or playing cards, when you’ve reached a “10” on the anger scale? For the most part your out of luck and will run the course of a tantrum of sorts. The idea is to catch yourself before the explosion happens. Stop, breath, Evaluate. Pay attention to what’s happening to your thoughts and your bodily physical reactions.

Side Note: Thoughts that can contribute to anger.

Nobody likes me.

People are trying to take advantage of me.

Life is always unfair, I’ll never catch a break.

Nobody wants to hear what I have to say.

Often times when we’re angry we can find ANYTHING to reinforce our angry thoughts further.

Think!

What are the consequences of my actions? Take time to breathe to help slow down your brain so you can actually think. Acknowledge what’s happening, so you’re not stuffing and avoiding feelings. Think about how you can shift gears. Maybe a change in environment is needed. The key here is to make every effort to slow down, so you can think and make positive choices.

Choose!

Will my actions make the situation better or worse? What will make the situation better? When you choose a new approach, you are practicing and rewiring your brain to respond differently to anger. Focus on making non-reactive choices. Remember, the goal is to acknowledge anger and identify the thoughts and feelings that precede the anger to reduce its strength and intensity. Talking it out, obtaining some personal space, forgiveness, doing jumping jacks are all ways to express anger in a healthy way.

Additional important ways that can help you navigate and develop healthy anger:

Take care of yourself.

Remember that you can start your day over at any time, and as many times as needed.

Be kind to others.

Try and stay somewhat organized.

Ask for help.

Practice, practice, practice. It takes time and patience.

About the Author
Andrea Picard

Andrea Picard, LCPC, ATR is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Andrea works with adults, families, teens, children, and moms/caregivers. Andrea’s specialties include art therapy, parent + child relationships, anger, addiction, and anxiety. If you’re interested in working with Andrea, send an email today!

Everyone uses cliches.

We all hear them probably since we were little: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Don’t cry over spilled milk. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure what this one even means. It’s easy to dismiss these cliches as we get older. Not all cliches are bad and these are a few that are really words to live by. (See what I did there?)
You can’t please everyone
Really you can’t and trying is only going be worse for you. When we try to please everyone to try to control everything, what we normally feel is anxious, frustrated and overwhelmed. Sometimes we just have to make the best decision that works for us and in that moment. Not everyone else, because you can’t please everyone. It’s better and healthier for you to explore what you can do and adjust expectations accordingly. Trust this, you will be much happier for it. I’m not saying don’t take others into consideration but that know that you just can’t make everyone happy. And it’s not your sole responsibility to do so.

There’s no time like the present

Which is true, unless you are planning some super fantastic vacation for the future. Then that looks pretty great too. But in all honesty, living in the present is good for you. If you do things now, in the moment when you are able to, it makes us feel better and more accomplished. I know I feel better when the sink is clean and laundry is folded now then when I put it off and have to come back to it. If it gets done now that means you can have fun or relax sooner. The future is not set in stone for any of us and studies show that people who are more present and engaged are more content in their lives. So if there is something you have been wanting to do, whether it’s a vacation, work out class, a new hobby or all those chores. Tell yourself to do it now, because later…you might want to be doing something else or might have missed out on some cool opportunity because you are catching up on the things you originally put off.

You are the company you keep

This one is important because as we grow and develop, who we spend our time with becomes a reflection of who we are. I sat down with a few of my friends as they told me they were launching their new business, booking their next trip, starting an MBA program and I thought to myself how inspiring these people are. And they inspire me to do better, try harder, reach for more of what can make me happy. I am proud of the company I keep which I hope is a reflection of me. When I was surrounded by less inspiring people, I was also not inspired in my own life and I was unhappy. Once I started being around people who challenged me to grow in different ways, I was so much happier.  So I encourage you to look around and see what your company says about you.

Fake it til you make it

We all have heard this one. And I think it’s pretty accurate. Some days, we all feel like we have no idea what is going on. This is just when we have to fake it. There are many days when I feel like I am a big faker. And then someone will tell me how helpful I was or how much they learned. Sometimes you have to fake that things are good or that you know what you are doing. It’s impossible to be right all the time. And I don’t suggest you try to be right all the time either. Some days you just have to fib your way through the day and hope that you faked it good enough. You will figure it out and some days you won’t have to fake it at all. Anyone I have ever talked to talks about this cliche, which makes it less a cliche and just true.

Lastly here is one that I will adjust:

The grass is (not actually) greener on the other side

I really like this one because in the world of social media and constantly being connected with everyone you know and people you wish you knew or maybe didn’t know. It’s hard not to compare what you have with what you don’t have. Or avoid looking at what someone else is doing. Social media is not an accurate portrayal of someone’s life. It’s just the highlight reel. I am 100% guilty of this. No one is looking at my social media when I am in PJs watching Netflix. Not only that, but generally when we get to that aforementioned greener grass, something else will just look even more green. Comparing ourselves to others is a great way to feel bad about ourselves. So take a step back, breathe, be grateful for what you do have at this moment because someone might be looking at your grass thinking about how green it is.

About the Author

Fariha Newaz

Fariha Newaz, LCPC, CADC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Fariha works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Fariha’s specialties include depression, anxiety, substance use, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, multicultural concerns, and South Asians specific concerns. If you are interested in working with Fariha, send an email today!

Hey guys!

It’s February and for some (all?) of us the whole “new year, new you” mentality has already faded away. Perhaps it’s because the lack of discipline we have created for ourselves. We have this expectation that just because we have a clean slate means that everything that was hard for us last year will all of a sudden be totally easy this year. And surprise surprise, that really is not the case! So here are 5 ways to create a little bit more self discipline in your life that might really help you reach those goals you set for yourself every year.
  1. Have a schedule or outline for your day

A big mistake that people can make is that they try to keep everything that needs to get done in their head. I personally have found that this is a really good way to drop the ball on something I wanted to accomplish. Writing something down helps in 3 ways. First it helps you stay accountable to what you wanted to get accomplished. Second, it gives you more organization when things are feeling chaotic so being more organized will help you reach those goals. Thirdly, it feels so good to cross out those things you had to do for the day, which then makes you feel motivated to do other things.
  1. Say you will do it for 5 minutes.

This is one that I recently read about and I love it. One of the biggest challenges is actually doing the thing you said you wanted to do. Going from 1-100 isn’t always easy. Sitting down to commit to an hour of work or all those dishes sounds like the worst thing ever. But if you tell yourself you will do it for 5 minutes, you have already created some momentum for yourself. What people have found is that starting is the hardest part, but once you get going, it’s easy to keep going. Momentum! So, next time a task seems difficult to start up, just do it for 5 minutes. I mean, five minutes sounds much less scary than anything else.

  1. Don’t give yourself an out.

We can easily talk ourselves out of doing something. So, don’t give yourself an out. Get rid of language that tells you “I’ll do it later” Or “After one more episode” Those give ourselves an out and then we don’t have to what we said we wanted to do. Maybe reframe the activity and then sit down for those next episodes. Know your weaknesses, I for one cannot turn on the TV because then I lose that momentum so I try to do all my tasks first then turn on Netflix. Do the thing that needed to get done, then play.  Maybe try out the 5 minute thing and see how it goes.

  1. Set yourself up to Succeed

Ask yourself , are you setting yourself up to succeed? Are you giving yourself the right amount of time to complete a task? A lot of times when I talk to people about their goal setting, they are not setting themselves up to succeed. Their goals are unrealistic and then it makes them unmotivated when they are not reaching those goals. Set goals that are SMART Specific (simple, sensible, significant). Measurable (meaningful, motivating). Achievable (attainable). Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based) Time bound (time-based,time-sensitive) If trying to eat healthy is a goal, start small by substituting one unhealthy snack for a healthy one. Switch one sugary drink to water. As you continue to make easy and small positive changes, you will continue to feel more disciplined and motivated to reach those goals. At times we set ourselves up to fail by setting those unrealistic expectations. Give yourself more time to complete tasks rather than the bare minimim, and when you finish early, you got some unexpectedly pleasant free time on your hands and who doesn’t love that.
  1. Don’t let mistakes derail you

Everyone makes mistakes! Everyone will slip up once in awhile. The biggest thing to remember is that even if you made a mistake, don’t let it be a reason not to keep trying. Just because you had that pizza at lunch doesn’t mean that everything is ruined. It’s about challenging yourself to just do better next time. Being disciplined doesn’t mean that you can’t mess up, it just means that you get another try to succeed. No matter what happens, keep trying to do better. We all make mistakes, its about what we do next that determines the rest.
Hopefully these 5 tips help you be more self disciplined, reach your goals and overall make you feel better about yourself. Because better mental health leads to better overall health!

About the Author

Fariha Newaz

Fariha Newaz, LCPC, CADC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Fariha works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Fariha’s specialties include depression, anxiety, substance use, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, multicultural concerns, and South Asians specific concerns. If you are interested in working with Fariha, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Bustle.

“‘Anticipatory anxiety is when someone experiences a high level of anxiety when they think about a future situation,’ psychotherapist Maureen Werrbach, LCPC tells Bustle. Stress triggered by a flight-or-flight response will occur in situations where we are in danger, but ‘anticipatory anxiety comes up when we are in no real danger, when we think about something that may or may not happen in the future,’ says Werrbach.”

Read the whole article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

Stuck in a relationship rut?

Do you seem to be “off” from your partner, no matter how much you try to connect? You, like many, may be struggling to improve the bonds in your relationship and feel like your efforts are futile. Many couples come to therapy and say that they need to communicate better. But what exactly does that mean?

The truth is, communication means different things to different people. It is important to decipher what parts of the communication pattern need to shift. There are several components that make up how we communicate. It is important to understand them and to identify where the misalignment is happening.

Let’s look at how we perceive giving and receiving love, relationship pitfalls, and the most significant (but silent!) part of how we communicate–non-verbal communication.

Sometimes it is a matter of having different expectations and needs.

The 5 Love Languages

Gary Chapman’s ever popular–and really useful 5 Love Languages explore the theory that each person has a different love language, or a combination thereof, including Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Physical Touch, and Quality Time. These “languages” are how we express our love to others, and how we most feel loved by others. When couples determine their own preferred languages, they can use this information to help better meet their partners where they are.

If you and your partner have different preferred languages, you can work on incorporating more of your partner’s love language into your efforts. This can strengthen your connection.  You are someone who prefers physical touch? Then you likely express your love by showing physical affection and probably feel most loved when others show their affection for you physically. Your partner’s language is quality time? Try to carve out space and prioritize time with each other (a bonus if you share what you define as quality time—this can vary greatly from person to person). The takeaway is that you and your partner can learn more about giving and receiving love, and use this information to better interact with each other.

The Four Horsemen

The Gottman Institute is one of the leading research-based practices for relationship concerns. They have identified the Four Horsemen, which can be indicative of maladaptive ways that conflict rears its ugly head in relationships. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not the presence of conflict or arguments in a relationship that is harmful, but rather how the conflict is addressed and/or attempted to be resolved. The Four Horseman are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. The presence of any of these blocks any healthy way of resolving conflict. This can prevent effective and successful ways of addressing conflict in your relationship with your partner. You can read more about the Four Horsemen and how to rework your patterns to communicate more effectively here.

Speaking of communicating effectively…did you know that only 7% of communication is verbal?

The other 93% is a combination of body language and tone of voice. So much of what we say isn’t actually WHAT we say, but how it is said. That leaves plenty of room for misinterpretation. By identifying movement preferences, non-verbal expression cues, and body language, couples can become aware of their unspoken intentions. This assists with exploring new ways to say what they mean, and mean what they say.

Our facial expressions, eye contact, and postures have a way of communicating before words ever leave our mouths. Having our arms crossed with tense upper body can indicate being or feeling closed off. Frequent eye rolls or vocalized sighs can signify irritation or frustration. Couples can feel out of sync because they have different movement patterns. Movement patterns are the way we inherently interact with our space and environment and the people in it. One half of a couple may be gradual or decelerating. They may cautiously approaching how they move about the day and make decisions and choices. The other half may be more abrupt and accelerating—more apt to making quick decisions without much of a second thought. Neither approach is right or wrong, they are just DIFFERENT. But when partners approach things differently, it can cause strife or frustration simply because their movement preferences are varied.

What’s the next step?

Consulting with a therapist who specializes in body awareness and movement may be beneficial to help identify non-verbal language patterns to bring cohesiveness to the relationship. That therapist can observe and assess facial expressions, body posturing, and even rate and tone of speech to address whether the internal intention matches the outward expression. Consider meeting with a dance/movement therapist, or someone certified in movement analysis or movement patterning.

Like the 5 Love Languages and the Four Horsemen, any insight or awareness about movement preferences can help couples to become more attuned and aligned. Insight into these concepts can assist with fostering better overall communication and hopefully strengthening the partnership.

About the Author

Gail Gogliotti, LCPC, BC-DMT is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Gail works with adults and couples. Gail’s specialties include dance/movement therapy, body/mind integration, trauma, mood disorders, and stress management. If you are interested in working with Gail, send an email today.

So, you survived the holidays. The endless Christmas carols, flooding of your inbox with sales and last-minute deals, and the ever-present temptation of sweets everywhere you look. The end of the calendar year brings about the anticipation of a new year—an opportunity for a fresh start, making changes, ridding yourself of unhealthy habits, and maybe once and for all, creating and sticking to those New Year’s resolutions.

Why are resolutions so hard to keep?

For many, there is initial motivation after the new year begins, but as post-holiday life returns to the daily grind, we get back into our regular schedules and routines, and the changes that we are seeking haven’t become habitual enough to have a lasting impression. If 2018 is the year you are resolving to keep your resolutions, a shift in your perspective may help. Rather than thinking about the multitude of things you need to quit or do differently, it is important to evaluate where you are—recognize the parts of your life that are strong, healthy and positive. By focusing on your strengths, you can start from a place that feels more confident to achieve what you want.

Then, look at the changes you would like to make. Are they realistic? Do you have the means to accomplish them? Are there other steps involved in being successful in accomplishing what you have set out to do? From there, you can determine what your “resolutions” are, and perhaps instead of creating a resolution, think about creating goals that are focused, measurable, and have short-term positive gains. If not, the goals or changes may feel too large or overwhelming and may make it more difficult for you to feel like you are able to achieve them.

Many people set goals for themselves that are financial or health-based.

If your plan is to start saving, rather than trying to save $$$$/month, set up an meeting with a financial planner. A financial planner can help you get a grasp of where you are and what your long-term goals are. They can help you to create a plan that works with where you are currently and how to get to where you want to be. Or, challenge yourself to save a small amount per week or per paycheck. You will be able to see the benefit sooner, which will then motivate you to continue to work toward the longer term.

Want to become fit, or lose weight, or eat better? Completely overhauling your lifestyle just because the calendar changes from 2017 to 2018 can be a daunting task. Consider making daily changes. Try Meatless Mondays, walking 10-15 minutes each day, or joining a new class (bonus if you join with a friend-company is very motivating). Wellness also includes your mental health—if you are thinking about overall wellness, don’t forget about your mind! Make an appointment for a consultation with a mental health professional, or try meditation to recharge and refocus your brain.

Contemplating goals that have a greater good in mind?

Seek out local options for volunteering, or consider adding certain charities to your donation list. If you want to clear your space or environment, see if there are shelters, schools or non-profits that may benefit from your gently-used or unwanted items.

No matter what changes you hope for in the new year, think about keeping goals measurable, focused, and with options for positive short-term results. When you can accomplish smaller goals on the way to the “big goal,” the mini-successes create a cycle of motivational and positive feedback, encouraging you to want to continue. And if at first you don’t succeed, you can always try, try again.  Each day brings the opportunity to create positive change!

Warm wishes for wellness in the New Year!

About the Author

Gail Gogliotti, LCPC, BC-DMT is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Gail works with adults and couples. Gail’s specialties include dance/movement therapy, body/mind integration, trauma, mood disorders, and stress management. If you are interested in working with Gail, send an email today.

Stop and smell the roses

It seems as if children are just born to relish in their surroundings. The littlest things make them laugh and their wonder never ceases. The small things really are amazing and are incredibly important, yet as parents we dismiss them often. Too busy, stressed out, and exhausted. Losing sight of the beauty in the everyday can cloud our purpose and can cause you to feel like you’re always running in circles. In reality, there are less big things that we encounter in our lives than small things.

Taking notice of commonplace daily occurrences can fill our lives with memories that invoke a sense of nostalgia; like that longing to bottle up the feeling you get when you soak in that look on your kids face when they’re sleeping. You can’t help but smile and shed a sigh of relief. Relying only on the big things in life will prevent focus on the paths in between, and you’ll end up missing some good stuff.

Everything in moderation.

Kids these days! Remember when you would watch cartoons Saturday morning and be excited to see the toy commercials? It’s slightly different these days with social media, amazon prime, and Facebook ads popping up all the time. With more accessibility comes frequent cravings for a lot of stuff. The key is to instill values of patience and implement practice in less filling of instant gratification “needs.” Explaining the difference between needs, wants, wish lists, and goals, is a good starting point.

Agree to disagree

Your teen will thank you! Questions to ask yourself to approach this process. Think to yourself…1) Is my response going to make the situation worse or better? 2) Am I considering their perspective? What might my child be trying to convey? 3) Is this life changing? 4) What does my child need from me right now? Often times the need is to be heard, not lectured.

Make a long story short.

My daughter has recently started to roll her eyes, extremely frequently, and say, “Oh great, not another lecture.” Appalled and bewildered I pause to think, ‘I’m lecturing?’ I merely believe I am paving the way for my rolling eye child to make good choices. However, I quickly realize that she shuts down when my good intentions are perceived as ill attempts to control her life. Sometimes you have to swallow back the words. Not always, but sometimes defiantly yes.

Actions speak louder than words.

There’s a lesson here, a hard one. Kids sometimes act like their parents, and it’s not always pleasant. I shudder to think of the hard wiring I have already done. What’s important to remember here, is that it is never too late to start over, begin again, rewind, apologize, and try again, any time of the day, hour, or minute. Just keep trying to do the right thing.

Your guess is as good as mine.

No one really knows exactly what they’re doing, and every kid is different. Seriously. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that they’ve got this whole parenting thing figured out. Just. Isn’t. Possible. Truth be told that we’re all trying to do the best we can, and we might as well help each other out to make it a tad easier.

About the Author

Andrea Picard

Andrea Picard, LCPC, ATR is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Andrea works with adults, families, teens, children, and moms/caregivers. Andrea’s specialties include art therapy, parent + child relationships, anger, addiction, and anxiety. If you’re interested in working with Andrea, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for simplemost.

“‘I can’t tell busy moms this enough,’ says psychotherapist Maureen Werrbach, LCPC. Even if you only have five minutes, find some way to do something for yourself. ‘Have your kids with you? Turn the tv on for the kiddos and read a chapter of your book,’ she says. ‘Call a friend. Take a bath. Did you know kids need a break too? Give them that break to be alone and read or color.'”

Read the whole article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for The List.

“For many people, depression hits hard — they suddenly find themselves enveloped in a veil of tears and debilitating hopelessness that makes it difficult to get through a normal day. For others, however, the signs may not be quite as obvious. In fact, because depression is a such a complex condition, it’s possible to be depressed without even realizing it.

‘Most people think the only symptom of depression is intense or chronic sadness,’ Maureen Werrbach, licensed therapist and owner of Urban Wellness Counseling in Chicago, Illinois, told me in an interview. ‘So many people overlook physiological symptoms.'”

Read the whole article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Bustle.

“Finding humor in your relationship goes a long way. “Studies show that couples who laugh together often are more emotionally connected and enjoy being around each other,” says psychotherapist Maureen Werrbach, LCPC over email. “Having inside jokes and being able to laugh together is a surefire way to keep the excitement up in your relationship.” According to a study published in Personal Relationships, couples who share laughs together have longer, healthier, more vital relationships.

Read the whole article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Bustle.

“As psychotherapist Maureen Werrbach, LCPC tells me, you two should sit down, make eye contact, nod to show you’re listening, and ask questions. “Anything that lets your partner know you are actively listening and interested in them,” she says. It’ll make all the difference in the world.”

Read the whole article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

So often I hear these words from my clients: “I just cannot get past this”.

The “this” that they are trying to move past can take on many forms. It can be something as severe as childhood abuse/trauma. Or, it can be something seemingly minor, like an embarrassing incident at work. Struggling to move forward is frustrating.
I would like to give a very brief explanation of what EMDR is and I will include a link which can provide more information. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a technique used to help people “reprocess” traumatic events. It is done in the office, and the client is asked to either follow the clinicians hand to produce back and forth eye movements, or by listening to bilateral tone or feeling bilateral taps. The idea is stimulate both sides of the client’s brain. The client is very awake and very conscious, and this is not hypnosis.
As this post cannot possibly cover the scope of EMDR, Please use this link for more information: http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

In EMDR circles they talk about Big T and Little t.

Big T refers to trauma in the sense that most of us understand it:  major accidents, abuse, violent attacks, etc. Little t refers to trauma that we may not even think about. These include: being spoken to harshly, not having the support we need, arguments in important relationships, etc. It could be we suffer psychologically and do not even attribute our suffering to the little t, because it often gets much less attention than the big T.

Of course EMDR can help someone move through the Big T, but surprisingly it can also help with the little ts. If fact, it can even help identify little ts that the client may not even be aware of. In EMDR sessions clients have reported “making connections that they have never made before”. An example of this: A woman has a hard time at work taking orders from her female boss. Through EMDR sessions, the client realizes that how she feels at work reminds her of how she felt as a little girl when her mother would criticize her. Does this connection change her bosses attitude? Of course not. But, what it does do, is allows her to observe the issue more objectively, and not internalize the criticism as a total rejection.

EMDR can help with many different issues, and if you have any questions about the process, please do feel free to reach out to me. [email protected]

About the Author

Heidi Kalman, LCSW is a therapist at our Edison Park and Sauganash locations. Heidi works with adults, couples, and families. Heidi’s specialties include EMDR, anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms. If you are interested in working with Heidi, send an email today!

In life, no matter who you are, you sometimes are never prepared for the events life will throw your way. After 34 years of marriage, I never expected my parents to report the need for a divorce. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Upon realizing my own reactions to such unsettling news, I came across the concept of The Grey Divorce which is a phenomenon of the baby boomer generation (population 50 and older) divorcing after living some 30+ years together. In the US, the divorce rate was reported to be declining for younger adults, however, among adults 50 and older the divorce rate has nearly doubled since 1990 ( Stepler, R. March 9, 2017).
Upon further research, I came to the realization that there is less research and fewer resources available for adult children of divorce. There seems to be a common theme, “You are an adult and have your own life; this should not impact you.” Regardless of our age, they are still our parents, and the decision of divorce does impact us in a way that is very different from younger children of divorce. Through this article, I hope to help you find ways to cope with the difficult news of your parent’s divorce, as well as shed light on some of the common misperceptions of how we as adult children should be handling our emotions.

Steps for Adult Children to Make it Through the Grey Divorce:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings no matter what they may be.

    The theme I mentioned above encourages adult children to hide their feelings if they are anything other than understanding and ‘okay’ with what is going on. Hiding our feelings is not helpful; it will lead to suppression and at some point or another those feelings will emerge and we will be left with a level of confusion. So this is me giving you the okay to experience any range of emotions you may feel with this new news you have been given. Journaling is an extremely helpful way to process your feelings as they come. The news of divorce after so many years is shocking, and thus creates a roller coaster of emotions. Write out what you are thinking/feeling as a way to gain better understanding as to what you are internally going through.

  2. Set firm boundaries.

    Boundary setting, in general, can be difficult with the people we love the most. But during a divorce, as an adult, you will be inclined to pick a side; as parents will be overly forthcoming with information as to what has led to the divorce. This can put you in a situation where you have to hear one parent bad mouth the other, learn of deceit in a relationship, and so forth. Know your limitations. What are you comfortable with? What are you not? It is not your responsibility to take on the burdens of information or responsibilities such as logistics that you do not feel comfortable with. Identify your limits, communicate them to your loved ones, and hold firm.

  3. Seek help for yourself.

    Most therapists work with adult clients who are experiencing this situation the way they would someone grieving the loss of a loved one. And to some extent you are. You are grieving the life that you have known for years. Things will be different, it will take time to adjust, it may hurt. But through time, you will overcome this situation and adapt to your new norm. Just because something is new, does not mean it is bad. Just different. A therapist can help you to find acceptance of this and work through the storm of emotions you may be experiencing along the way.

  4. Prioritize self-care.

    Something I recognize in my own grief, was the diminished time for self-care due to feeling as though I had to be the parent to my parents. Having young children of my own, a career, a husband, and now the burden of divorce; I slowly stopped making time for me. I was consumed with everyone’s needs but my own. Remember, you cannot help others if you are not well yourself.

    I often in session remind my clients that line you hear before your plane takes off, “Parents, remember to put on your oxygen mask before you help your children put on theirs.” Why is this important? Because if you aren’t taking care of you, you will be unable to care for those around you. So make time for you! Spend time with friends, go to the gym, engage in your hobbies, take a walk…your options are endless just make sure that YOU are the center of what you are engaging in.

  5. Be kind to yourself.

    Self-compassion is something many of us lack. When I ask my clients, “What would you tell your friend if they were in your situation?” they often tell me something very different than what they are actually telling themselves. We never know how we are going to handle a situation until we actually are in that situation. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself the time you need, the love you need, and the support you need. You deserve it just as much as anyone else.

Reference:
Stepler, Renee.  March 9, 2017, Led by Baby Boomers, Divorce Rates Climb for Americans 50+ Population).

About the Author

Dana Rivera

Dana Rivera, LCPC is a Therapist at our Edison Park location. Dana works with children, teens, and adults. Dana’s specialties include self-esteem and personal growth, behavior modification, and anxiety. If you are interested in working with Dana, send an email today!

Sparkly lights, jingle bells, elves on shelves, ribbons and wrappings, all reveal holiday fanfare.

The dreams of perfection, good feels, and the carrying on of traditions…it can be a lot. What do you do when the spirit of the season isn’t always welcomed with the warm and fuzzys, but instead a, “wake me when it’s over” attitude. Feeling festive, and the notion of carrying on with a “tis the season” mentality can be difficult for many. The holidays can provoke feelings of disappointment, realities of separated families, the loss of loved ones, and reminders of past hurts. Here are a few Holiday First Aid suggestions to keep moving one foot in front of the other to hike through the season like a champ.

Give social media a rest.

When everyone looks like their having fun and you’re not, it can feel devastating and isolating. Don’t fall into the trap of “everyone is doing this better than me” attitude. On the flip side, stay true to yourself and don’t feel like you have to post things to keep up with The Smiths.

When unpleasant emotions sneak in.

Acknowledge them, honor them, and make efforts to let them pass. You can start your day over at any time, and multiple times a day, when needed.

Create new traditions.

Pay attention to what will make the holidays enjoyable for you. Steer clear of shoulds, musts, and have toos.

Remember that the holidays are temporary.

“This too shall pass.”

Unsettling memories.

Talk it out, draw it out, kick box it out. Gain the support of others. Schedule counseling as means to help.

When you’re not close with your family.

Make the best of it and seek out the good people in your life. Consider making amends, if possible and warranted.

Help others.

Volunteer time, organize donations, focus on the bigger picture.

Stay grounded. Take one day at a time. Try to not get too far ahead of yourself, or drift too far back. Maintain focus on the present day.

Check out our ABC’s of Holiday Health parts one and two for more tips!

 

About the Author

Andrea Picard Andrea Picard, LCPC, ATR is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Andrea works with adults, families, teens, children, and moms/caregivers. Andrea’s specialties include art therapy, parent + child relationships, anger, addiction, and anxiety. If you’re interested in working with Andrea, send an email today!

Welcome back!

Hope you enjoyed The ABCs of Holiday Health: Part One.  Keep reading to learn more strategies for a successful holiday season!

 

Make a plan!

Plan your time by creating a calendar of events and activities.  Create a budget to plan your finances for gifts, travel and activities. Plan for health.  Keep healthy snacks on hand to help satisfy your cravings and prevent impulsively indulging in less healthy foods.  Schedule your workout like an appointment.  Add exercise to your calendar so that other obligations don’t get in the way.

 

Notice when you’re full.

If you feel out of touch with your body’s natural cues, try using a Hunger Scale to become reacquainted.  Imagine a meter ranging from 0–10, with 0 being beyond hungry (headaches, dizziness, your body is totally out of energy) and 10 being beyond full (you feel physically miserable and feel like you never want to look at food again). Most people enjoy their food and eat comfortably when they are between 3-6 on the scale.

 

Opt out!

Learn to say no when your calendar is too full.  Consider your priorities. Focus on the high priority items first. If possible, remove low priority items from your list. Consider rescheduling commitments and appointments that can wait until after the holidays.

 

Prevent illness.

Colds and the flu are most prevalent in the winter. Prevent them by washing your hands regularly and urging others to do the same.

 

Quiet time.

We are biologically programmed to slow down during the winter months, which makes this the perfect time to reflect and turn inward.  During these quiet moments, consider freeing yourself from technology.

 

Relax.

It can be difficult to completely avoid the holiday stress, but you can learn healthier ways of responding to it. Learn how to elicit your relaxation response by using progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, or guided imagery.

 

Set realistic goals.

Be honest with yourself and acknowledge that it’s unrealistic not to indulge in some holiday treats.  The key is to eat mindfully and in moderation.  Also be … Consider a goal of weight maintenance instead of weight loss during the holidays.

 

There’s an app for that.

Apps can make your life easier, more organized, and even healthier during the holidays. Consider trying an app to help you focus on the positive like Attitudes of Gratitude or Happier, an app to help you stay on track with your eating and exercise like LoseIt or MyFitnessPal, an app to help you plan like Orderly or List Ease, an app to help you save money like Shopkick or Snip Snap, an app to help with gifting like Giftster, or an app to help you stay calm like Smiling Mind or Calm.

 

Understand your limits.

This season often demands a lot of us.  Share household responsibilities with your family. Consider planning holiday parties at a local restaurant, or organize a potluck dinner instead of doing all the food preparation.  Trying to do and be everything can lead to burnout.

 

Volunteer.

Consider the needs in your community, and find opportunities to give as well as receive this holiday season.

 

Watch your portions.

You don’t need to memorize a complete inventory of food serving sizes or carry measuring cups with you to monitor your portions at parties. You can use your hand to easily plan proper portions.  For example, your fist is approximately the size of one cup, your palm is approximately the size of a three-ounce portion of meat, and your thumb is approximately the size of a one-ounce portion of cheese.

 

Xerochilia.

It’s the medical name for having dry lips.  If your lips are chapped, find a good emollient-based lip balm and drink plenty of water.

 

Yams…

Spinach, squash, pumpkins, pomegranate, pears, dates, cranberries, chestnuts, cabbage, carrots, artichokes, apples… Eat seasonally!

 

Zzzzz.

Sleep affects your mood, your cognitive processing (attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, problem solving, and memory consolidation), your immune system, your skin, your sex drive, and your weight. For a better holiday season, make sleep a priority!

 

If you haven’t read it already, check out The ABCs of Holiday Health: Part One for more healthful tips!

 

The seasons are officially changing!

As the days get shorter and colder, signs of the holidays –Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, New Year’s—are all around us. During the busy holiday season, it can be difficult to maintain your health, but here are a few tips to stay happy and healthy while enjoying all the festivities.

 

Ask yourself:

“What do I need more of this season to feel happier and healthier?” Understanding what nourishes you and incorporating these activities into your life can help you to enjoy the season without becoming drained.

 

Be Active.

It’s important to stay active during the colder months.  If you had a workout schedule during the summer, keep the habit going!  If you’re looking to try something new, consider starting a gym membership, finding a workout video to use at home, or participating in winter sports like ice skating, sledding, or snow shoeing.

 

Clarify your values:

By clarifying and applying your values, you can be more self-aware and effective. Take a moment to consider what is most important in your life. Find your motivation. Remind yourself “why” you want to make changes in your life.

 

Deep breathing.

Learning to take deep, slow breaths can have a variety of health benefits: your muscles relax, oxygen delivery improves, heart rate slows, blood pressure lowers, and endorphins are released. Just breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Exhale completely and, as you exhale, release tension from your muscles. Continue to inhale and exhale deeply for several minutes.

 

Eat well.

Healthy eating during the holidays doesn’t have to be hard!  Try these simple tips.  Fill at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.  Eat small, healthy snacks between meals so that you don’t get too hungry before the main event. Limit desserts to approximately 10% of your diet. Drink alcohol in moderation.

 

Focus on the present moment.

Savor eating. Take time to admire the decorations. Appreciate those early snowy mornings when you’re the first one out and about. The more you concentrate on being present, the more you’re able to enjoy the spirit of the holiday season.

 

Gratitude.

Research shows that making gratitude a regular habit can help increase resilience and life satisfaction, lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety and depression, reduce burnout, and improve sleep quality. The holidays are a great time to begin a gratitude practice such as keeping a gratitude journal or writing down three positive things at the end of eat day.

 

Hydrate.

Your body needs water to function properly. The artificially hot environment we create during the winter months can cause dehydration in your body and skin. Drinking water helps your body maintain its fluid balance and helps keep your skin rejuvenated. Drinking water also helps you to stay full longer, and you end up eating fewer total calories.

 

Individual responsibility.

You can choose to be an active participant in your health.  Consider a self-empowerment approach to wellness.  You can develop a greater awareness of your body, you can become educated about positive health behaviors, and you can make choices that promote your overall well-being.

 

Just one pound?

The idea that the average person gains large amounts of weight during the holidays has been disproven. According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Americans see their weight increase 0.2% in November and 0.4% in December.  This means that the average person gains approximately one pound during the holiday season. Unfortunately, people don’t usually lose this pound once they’ve gained it.

 

Keep on track.

The holiday season lasts for months. People often discover that, at some point between Halloween and New Year’s Day, they got off track with their eating or exercise or finances or stress management. Check in with yourself periodically to see if you’re making healthy choices.

 

Love.

The holiday season is about more than food and presents! Giving holiday gifts can become bogged down in materialism. Holiday meals can become a source of stress for a variety of reasons. Stay active and people-focused rather than entirely dwelling on material things.

 

For more tips, please check out The ABCs of Holiday Health: Part Two!

As a therapist who often works with couples or individuals with relationship issues, it is fascinating to see the patterns that emerge. We all have them. It seems in every relationship we are in, varieties of the same issues come into play. Of course, depending on the intensity of the relationship the trait can vary from annoying to extremely painful. For example, it may be a slight annoyance if it seems like the sales person is not really listening to us. But when it seems like our significant other is not listening to us, it can become painful and isolating. The point of this article is not to take the blame for others insensitivity, but to better understand what “pressure points” are and how we can protect ourselves when it feels like ours are being pushed.

What is a “pressure point”?

According to the dictionary, one definition of a pressure point is “an area of the body that is sensitive to touch”. If someone has a sore back, when that specific area is touched that person may wince in pain. The same spot can be touched on someone else and they will not even feel it. When it comes to interpersonal relationships it can be helpful to apply this physiological concept of pressure points to emotional aches as well.
Consider our example of feeling like people don’t listen. One person may be able to laugh it off as the other person being a space cadette, while another person will feel deeply pained by it. What is fascinating, is that that same person who feels pained by being unheard might be totally ok with something like harsh insults. The point is, it cannot be concluded that someone is just hypersensitive. It seems that there are specific emotional pressure points that can be pushed by those we are in relationships with.

How Can we Identify Our Own Pressure Points?

Think back to your earliest relationships– your parents, your siblings, family members, childhood friends. Can you identify some of the conflicts you have had with them? It could be something extreme like childhood abuse or substance abuse issues. Or it could be more subtle like slight criticism or just a vague feeling of being uncared for emotionally. Our earliest relationships often create the patterns we are forced to understand and compensate for later on in adulthood. The intention is not to blame our parents for our issues, but to understand where our pressure points may be. Here are some common examples of pressure points and understanding their origin:
  1. A woman gets mad at her husband for drinking too much alcohol, even just occasionally. It turns out, she had to deal with her alcoholic father as child and felt quite embarrassed by it. When her husband drinks (even responsibly) that pressure point is pushed.
  2.  A man has a very hard time at his job. He was reprimanded by his boss that he is unable to accept criticism, even when it is simply just constructive criticism. It turns out, as a child he was very harshly criticized by his father. Criticism (even constructive) is his pressure point.
  3.  A woman is struggling to be in a long term relationship. She notices her past boyfriends report she can be “too needy” or “clingy”. It turns out, many years ago this woman’s father left her mother and went on to start a different family with a different woman. The woman on a conscious level feels that she has moved forward from this. However, the fear of people leaving has become her pressure point.

How Can We Use This Idea to Improve Our Relationships 

We cannot possibly expect our significant others to never push our pressure points. However, it can definitely be helpful to sit down and have a conversation about this concept. In the first example above, the woman can sit down and explain to her husband: “I know you are not an alcoholic. But I just want to explain to you why I react the way I do when you drink too much, even occasionally.” By doing this, you make it more about you and your own struggle and less about criticizing the other person. You are not ignoring or suppressing your feelings. Rather, you are addressing them in an open, honest and non confrontational way. Sometimes, just the understanding of one’s pressure points can diffuse the conflict.
One last idea that could be helpful:  It’s important to try to figure out what our partners’s pressure points may be. Some people may be less capable of expressing and exploring this concept than others. If we can try to figure it out and avoid pushing it when able, the whole relationship could dramatically improve.

About the Author

Heidi Kalman, LCSW is a therapist at our Edison Park and Sauganash locations. Heidi works with adults, couples, and families. Heidi’s specialties include EMDR, anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms. If you are interested in working with Heidi, send an email today!

5 Reasons People Avoid Therapy

We all have points in our lives where what we’re doing, how we’re experiencing the world, and the obstacles we are facing become overwhelming or daunting. From maintaining healthy relationships to the nagging negative thoughts that came from our childhoods, to balancing work, personal life, friendships, and family obligations, we have a lot on our plates. Not to mention, the ever-growing expectation to be “always available” on social media and technology. Our time is constantly being widdled down to barely-there moments of peace and time for ourselves. Therapy is finally becoming less of a stigma that keeps us away and more of a requirement for helping us lead the lives we want to live. Despite that, many people avoid therapy even if it means trying to struggle through all of the difficult events and emotions on their own.  Why, exactly, is this the case?

We believe it won’t help with our particular issue:

Sure, therapy could be helpful in a lot of situations, but there’s no way it’s going to help with my particular issue, right? Wrong. The reality of the situation is that none of us are quite as unique as we think we are, when it comes to the obstacles we’ve faced, the traumas we’ve endured. No matter how unique, odd, scary, traumatizing, or shameful we feel about our experiences, isolating ourselves from getting help because of these descriptors doesn’t help us move beyond them. And it’s a false statement. There’s a therapist out there for each and every issue that’s been experienced or lived. It just takes some work to find that therapist who meets our needs.

We believe vulnerability is unbearable:

A critical part of being successful in therapy is being vulnerable.  There’s a common idea that vulnerability is weak, scary. That if we open ourselves up we are leaving ourselves open to more hurt and being taken advantage of. That if we open the doors, our secrets, the parts of ourselves and our experiences are out in the world and not able to be taken back. And although there’s a risk involved in being vulnerable, therapy is the perfect place to practice the skill of opening up in a safe space. Just read any one of Brene Brown’s books to learn about the value of allowing vulnerability into our lives. As she puts it, it is the basis for all feelings and emotions, like joy, happiness, and contentment, not just those “negative” emotions like sadness, fear, and anger.

We think we aren’t important enough:

Life is busy and if you’re like most people, you have 1,000 other things to do, so therapy becomes that thing you will do when you have time.  The truth is, it should be as important – if not more so – than many of the other things we prioritize above our self care. Our health and happiness are critical to a fulfilling life. We are masters of caring for others above our own well being. Not only is this unhealthy, it actually doesn’t work. When we give to others when we ourselves are depleted, we can only give a depleted version of ourselves to others. Let that sink in. When we prioritize ourselves, our minds and our bodies, we set the tone for our outcomes. Remember, we can’t take care of others on an empty tank. We have to care for ourselves first.

Therapy didn’t work the first time:

If you’ve been in unsuccessful therapy sessions in the past, you may feel that it isn’t going to work now. It makes sense, given our culture here. We barely have time to prioritize ourselves, and the moment we take the time out to work on ourselves instead of doing some other (more important, in our minds) task, we expect it to be exactly what we needed. And sometimes that doesn’t happen. But that doesn’t mean all therapists are bad and that therapy should be written off. All it takes it the right connection at the right time.  Finding the right therapist is similar to finding the right friend or partner. It’s a relationship. You have to feel a connection to be able do the deep work involved in working through your obstacles. The antidote is understanding what didn’t work in the other therapeutic relationships, so you can find a better fit. There’s great therapists out there waiting to help you on your journey. The second piece is being ready to go on that journey.

We don’t know where to look for a good therapist:

Finding that “right” therapist might seem hard, and it may take a few tries to find your therapist.  The first step is to know what you’re looking for.  Do you want someone who specializes in something in particular? Do you want someone who is direct or lets you lead? The next step is to do some research. Take the information you have on what you’re looking for and start researching. Using Psychology Today is a great online tool. Word of mouth is even better. Talk to others, and ask for their experience.
Looking for a therapist to help you navigate your present or process your past? Urban Wellness has 20 therapists who specialize in working with kids, adults, families and couples. Each therapist has a specialty that can make it easy for you to find the right therapist at Urban Wellness, but also help you feel confident in their ability to be your partner on the journey to living the life you want. See their bios here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

Values + decision making = who we are (Identity!)

Welcome back to part 3 of the Identity Series. I am excited to help you figure out how your value system helps you make decisions.

Some examples of what we value and how it impacts our decision making:

  • Someone who values being on time will make a decision to reflect that
  • A person who values education decides to go to school
  • Someone who values being healthy might eat better and work out more

See where I’m going with this?

This is why it’s hard for some teenagers to want to sit down and do homework because, at this age in their life, their peers are more important. Therefore are more into being on Snapchat or watching Netflix than completing their homework. Their parents might then identify them as being lazy or care more about their friends than school. Which, might be true at that age! Teens and even adults can get lost in life because they have lost a sense of self or their values have not been set in stone which then impacts their decision making. It’s why some of us can get caught up in a bad decision sometimes.

It’s important to know who we are and why we do the things that we do.

When we lose that sense of self it can lead to depressive feelings or anxiety. Consequently, it can also lead to poor decision making which might not reflect who we are. Having a strong self of self will help guide us on this crazy journey called life.
We should check in with ourselves to challenge our thinking, and think about some of these identity questions: Does this choice reflect who I am?  Does this choice reflect what I want in life? How I see myself or want to be seen? Answering these questions and being honest will help us all get to make healthier decisions.

That’s it! Our identity is made up of our values and decisions.

It sounds simple enough but so many of us get lost along the way. Once we know who we are and make those decisions based on our own values and not on anyone else, we start the path toward being healthier and happier! Good luck everyone and remember,  you can always ask for help on the way!

About the Author

Fariha Newaz Fariha Newaz, LCPC, CADC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Fariha works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Fariha’s specialties include depression, anxiety, substance use, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, multicultural concerns, and South Asians specific concerns. If you are interested in working with Fariha, send an email today!

The Stigma of Therapy

Recently, I have been hearing more and more of the stigma people have towards therapy. We are brought up in a world that has high expectations but told we should never crumble or need help. I saw a 7 year old client that stated during our first session, “I don’t want to see a therapist.” Upon further questioning, he could not articulate reasons as to why but just felt ‘no one has a therapist.’ This reminded me that from a young age, the world conditions us to not admit our struggles, encourages us to continue to keep our masks on, and never discuss any perceived ‘weaknesses.’ In my very own family, I have experienced relatives mocking my profession making remarks such as, “I would give a therapist one session to ‘fix me!” Insinuating there is ‘something broken to begin with.’

So I began to think. What is the world afraid of when it comes to therapy?

There seems to be these overall themes I hear. People make remarks about such as, “Something must be wrong with me or them,” or “I don’t have a problem.”  Truth is, most people I work with are individuals whom are going through difficult transitions/adjustments to different life events-not ‘people needing ‘fixing’ or who are ‘broken.’ Instead, they are individuals whom have made the realization that they are finding it difficult to move through a period of their life. Some of the events that could be stress inducing or difficult transitions could be parental divorce, bullying, marital/relationship communication struggles, death of a loved one, work stressors, parenting struggles, family conflict, health concerns or diagnosis acceptance, working through ‘what do I want to do in my life?’ and the list could go on and on. All of these are issues that every human being will experience at some point in our life.

But we are conditioned to think we should be able to do it alone-not knowing how or when to ask for help.

I often discuss with clients the way modern day medicine is going. Through our employment we are often recommended or required to have yearly physicals or blood work to stay on top of our health. We as a society do not view this as negative. It is a way for us to stay on top of our health; not let things escalate to a point that we become unknowing ill or to a point where we must put in a lot of work to recover. Instead, we willingly go straight to the doctor for minor colds that may not subside within the expected amount of time.

It seems shocking to me that so many individuals do not have this same viewpoint when it comes to our emotional well being. Break-ups are hard, grief after a loved one sometimes feels unbearable, life after divorce seems strange and unfamiliar, bullying makes us question ourselves and our self worth…yet we don’t seek out help/guidance/assistance with moving through these difficult times.

Therapy is a safe place.

We are here not to ‘fix you.’ You are not broken. Our job is to hear you. Understand your struggles, help guide you to reach your personal self growth goals, equip you with new tools that you may have not tried that could better assist you during your unique challenging period of life. Our job is to be here. To see you; all of what makes you you. We help you to see your strengths and help provide you with support that you may not currently be feeling. Entering counseling is brave act especially in a world that sees it as shameful and wrong. Mental health affects every part of our being. Taking pride in working on you is a beautiful gift to yourself and to all those whom you know. I read a quote recently that I feel fits this article. “We do not fear the unknown. We fear what we think we know about the unknown.” – Teal Swan. Don’t let the world’s preconceived notion of what counseling is dictate if it is or is not for you.

About the Author

Dana Rivera

Dana Rivera, LCPC is a Therapist at our Edison Park location. Dana works with children, teens, and adults. Dana’s specialties include self-esteem and personal growth, behavior modification, and anxiety. If you are interested in working with Dana, send an email today!

5 Ways That Being Independent Can Lead to a Better You

Being independent can add an additional layer to being happy. There have been so many times in life that we make choices because of someone else. Sometimes we don’t trust our own judgment. We sometimes look for the approval of others before we make a decision. Getting feedback is great and very important, but solely looking for another person’s approval can be unhealthy. So, here are 5 ways being more independent can lead to a better you!
 1. Confidence Booster
  When you are more independent you make choices and take action based on what you think is best for you. You don’t have to wait for permission from someone else to make that choice. It leads you to be able to handle issues more effectively which means the more you do it, the more you have already tackled difficult tasks. You will try new things, learn to overcome challenges and it will help you grow which will then lead to more confidence!
2. Better decision making
Once you have gotten more confident handling difficult situations, you have learned that you can make a better decision. The choices you make impact you the most so you learn to make the best choices for you. Yes, these choices can impact your family or relationships but you gained that confidence to trust your instincts. You should think about how your choices impact others, but also you should not be afraid to make a healthy choice due to the fear of someone else’s response. Being more independent will help you learn to make choices that help you go forward not hold you back.
3. Emotional independence can reduces stress
When we’re emotionally independent and have gained some confidence, we know that we can better manage our emotions and problem solve. When we don’t have to wait for someone else to solve our problem for us, it decreases our own stress. Because let’s face it, life is stressful! But waiting for someone else to make a decision at times or to validate our choice can add additional stress. The better we are at addressing our own stresses can empower us, and being empowered gives us back that control. The more we can focus on the things we can control, the better we can handle our stress!
4. Going for what you want
By the time that you have figured out that how being independent has helped you, you can then go further than you thought possible. It opens up so many opportunities. Instead of asking why something won’t work, you are in a mind space that tells you all the reasons why something could work. It opens you up to new people, new places, new adventures, more creativity, more freedom…I could go on. But because you have already tackled the better decision making, reduced stress, and that confidence, you know you can do anything which means you will go for more of what you want! This is how you grow, by challenging yourself to go for those things that might have made you uncomfortable and accomplishing it.
5. It helps increase Self-esteem and Self-worth!
By the time that you have gained all this independence, it should come to no surprise that you have increased your self-esteem and self-worth. You have gone out there and tackled those tough things. You’ve tried new things and been successful. You have decreased your stress and made better decisions. All of these actions positively impact your self-worth and how you see yourself and how others view you.
So go out there, be a little more independent and see how you feel!

About the Author

Fariha Newaz

Fariha Newaz, LCPC, CADC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Fariha works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Fariha’s specialties include depression, anxiety, substance use, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, multicultural concerns, and South Asians specific concerns. If you are interested in working with Fariha, send an email today!

Expressing to Connect: Dance/Movement Therapy for People with Dementia

As the population of older adults is increasing, it is relevant and necessary to find therapies that are effective in working with memory loss and other issues that older adults face. More and more research is being done regarding expressive therapies in older adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Dance/movement therapy has proven beneficial for many reasons, including increased self-esteem, enhanced creativity and self-expression, cognitive organization, emotional regulation, and increased socialization. Additionally, communicating with others is fostered, both verbally and non-verbally.

The American Dance Therapy Association defines dance/movement therapy as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement as a process which furthers the emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration of the individual” and is based on the belief that body and mind are interrelated.

Dance/Movement Therapy has shown both physiological and psychological benefits. When we engage in movement, our bodies release endorphins, our “feel good” chemicals–which help us to feel better overall. People who have participated in dance/movement therapy (DMT) have reported feeling less tense, more relaxed (or more energized, depending on the movement) and decreased pain. Psychologically, moods and emotions can be affected, interpersonal relationships can shift, and a person’s mental health may improve. The wonderful thing about DMT is that it can be recommended for anyone, regardless of diagnosis, age, or ability. A therapist can ‘meet the client where he or she is,’ meaning that the approach can and should be tailored to each individual persons’ needs.

When working with a person with dementia, goals can often include increasing expression, communication, interpersonal interaction, and socialization, and finding a way for the client to actively engage in the here-and-now experience. In keeping in the here-and-now experience, you can truly meet the client where he/she is–there isn’t any pressure to say or do the right thing, or to remember what you had for breakfast or where you grew up.  Just like we hold memories in our minds, we also have body (and sensory) memory–Certain sites, smells, tastes remind us of other things—so can movement. Movement can evoke memories long “forgotten” by the mind. It really is a testament to the body-mind connection. For people who have dementia, verbal communication and expression can become challenging, and DMT provides an outlet for them to be expressive non-verbally, too, through facial expressions, posture, gesture, and more expressive movement. Because of communication or memory difficulties, people can tend to isolate themselves, so it is important to be mindful of how they interact with others. DMT can encourage people to feel more comfortable in their bodies and environments, which may promote increased social interactions.

In thinking from a dance/movement therapy lens, the objective is not about whatever art form is presented–in this case, dance. The focus is the process, not product, and the experience, not education or training.

Resources:

www.adta.org

www.alz.org

About the Author

Gail Gogliotti, LCPC, BC-DMT is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Gail works with adults and couples. Gail’s specialties include dance/movement therapy, body/mind integration, trauma, mood disorders, and stress management. If you are interested in working with Gail, send an email today!

Why a Little Boredom is Healthy this Summer

A recent article from Microsoft Corporation found that people lose concentration faster than goldfish. The study proposes that goldfish will lose concentration after approximately nine seconds, while humans lose focus after just eight seconds. The study asserted that in the year 2000, the average attention span was 12 seconds for humans. The implication of the study is that we have lost four seconds on average in our ability to concentrate over the course of 17 years. The likely conclusion – technology.

These days children are bombarded with constant stimuli in our environment – smart phones, video games, television, ipads and much more.  Adults too are often found not far from their phones as we are constantly connected, communicating and moving from task to task.

We need to be reminded of the importance of slowing down and allowing ourselves time to to think and relax and be present and we can start by allowing our child(ren) a little more boredom in their lives.

But encouraging a little boredom does not mean condemning all of technology and moving toward a complete Luddite society.  Our brains are adaptable and naturally our attention spans will begin to change over time with or without technology.  In fact, studies have shown that technology has made people more efficient and better at multitasking.

So how do we encourage boredom in our children?  Part of the answer is breaking our addiction to technology. Limit the amount of time your child spends on their iPad or their phone.  Suggest other alternatives. Find ways to be bored.  Boredom allows children to be creative with their time and hear themselves think.  For example, reading a book, playing an instrument or sitting by the pool. All of which can be done without a phone in hand.  Don’t make plans and spend time enjoying eachother’s company. We can teach our kids how to explore, how to get dirty and how to enjoy nature without technology.

This may be a challenge but, remember, you as the parent are the boss.  We need to curb our screen time as well and teach our child(ren) by practicing what we preach.  Each family is different and just because other kids may have unlimited access to technology does not mean that your child has to.  Learn to inspire your child to be different. Challenge the culture of busy, and enjoy a little boredom from time to time!

About the Author

bonnieBonnie Trainor, LCSW is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Bonnie works with teens and adults. Bonnie’s specialties include loss, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and adoption and infertility. If you are interested in working with Bonnie, send an email today!

How to help a friend experiencing infertility.

For parents who are struggling to conceive, it may appear as if babies are everywhere: pregnancy announcements on Facebook, Instagram posts depicting a clever gender reveal, or even just talk amongst friends about how their little one is finally on solid foods.  And while this news is a genuine joy, for those struggling couples, it can hurt deeply.  Approximately 1 in 6 couples will experience infertility in the United States. If you yourself have not experienced infertility, you may have a friend or family member who is. Here are a few tips on the best ways to help:

1. Remember that your friend is dealing with a loss.

There is a loss of control associated with infertility, as well as a loss of the ability to parent.  As with any loss, there is grief and respecting your friend’s way of grieving will go a long way.  Everyone will cope in a different way; be a good listener and be available.

 2. Acknowledge the pain.

Do not make light of the situation. Telling a friend that “everything happens for a reason” or “it could be worse” is not helpful and can make a person feel like you are minimizing their suffering. Acknowledge that you may not know how they are feeling, but you do respect their pain and want to help.

3. Respect privacy.

Infertility is a very personal experience. Couples experiencing infertility endure a very invasive and challenging process and often feel exhausted. You can help by letting your friend know that you are available to talk when they are ready. It is important to be available but not pushy.

4. Be careful not to make assumptions and get rid of gossip.

This goes hand in hand with respecting privacy and it’s important to remember that each experience is unique. Even if you are familiar or have had some experience in the world of infertility, it is impossible to know what that particular couple is dealing with.  It’s also wise to not discuss your friend’s personal experience with others. If your friends trusts you enough to share their story or condition, it is your responsibility to keep that information to yourself.

5. Forget the alternatives.

Couples experiencing infertility are often asked, “have you thought about IVF or adoption?” I guarantee that IVF, adoption, other alternative methods have been researched and discussed.  People may not have the insurance or financial means to start the process and each alternative varies according to the couple.

6. Avoid giving out advice.

If your friend chooses to discuss her infertility with you, she may just want someone to listen. While most advice is helpful, be sure it’s warranted. Do not tell your friend the “one trick” to getting pregnant. For example, “if you just relax you will probably get pregnant in no time.” This statement implies to the couple that their inability to relax has hindered their ability to have children which is often not true and can be viewed as insulting.  Instead offer whatever support you can. Your friend knows you don’t have all the answers.

7. The grass is not always greener.

Don’t glorify being childless. Even if you have the best intentions, don’t tell a friend experiencing infertility how jealous you are that they can travel or go out on Friday nights without kids. Yes, kids change a person’s life for many reasons but that does not mean that a couple experiencing infertility is “lucky to be spared of the expense or responsibility of parenting.”  For couples actively seeking to become parents, reminding them they are not can be devastating.

 8. Plan activities.

Entertainment and distraction can be a helpful way to get get through a hard time. Plan new and fun things to do with your friend! Take a class or go on an adventure together.

9. When appropriate, encourage therapy.

There are therapists that specialize in working with men, women and couples experiencing infertility.

Remember, your friend or family member experiencing infertility is likely on an emotional roller coaster.  Communication is paramount in this situation so don’t be afraid to ask your friend directly what is the best way that you can be of support. They will be the best judge in directing you on how to help or what they may need to get through this very trying time.

For more information about support available in your area, visit resolve.org.

About the Author

bonnieBonnie Trainor, LCSW is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Bonnie works with teens and adults. Bonnie’s specialties include loss, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and adoption and infertility. If you are interested in working with Bonnie, send an email today!

Using Movement to Heal from Trauma

It appears every time we tune into the news, something catastrophic is happening. We are all exposed to trauma on many levels, multiple times a day. As traumatic events seem to be more and more prevalent (or perhaps just more publicized), there is a need to understand how to cope with traumatic experiences—whether first-hand or secondary. Trauma can affect us physically, change our behaviors, intensify our emotions, and transform our psyches.  Often, our reactions to trauma can include denial, anxiety, fear and helplessness. Beliefs, views and relationships can be challenged. Healing from trauma is possible, and this healing can be fostered by bringing the body into the therapeutic process.  As we know, processing feelings and emotions is central to the therapeutic process. Such expression can freely occur, or it can be blocked in the body. Such blocks often occur as the result of trauma, and working through the body can help to foster expression.

Why focus on the body and movement?

Using approaches like breath work, mindfulness, meditation, relaxation techniques, and dance/movement therapy can directly affect symptoms a person might experience following traumatic exposure, including hyperarousal, numbing, dissociation, isolation, depression, anxiety, and feeling out of control.

In a body-based therapy session, you might expect to learn the following:

Several additional therapies and approaches have also been successful in trauma treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), hypnosis, exposure therapy, group therapy, sensorimotor psychotherapy, and the creative arts therapies.

Additional resources:

References:

About the Author

Gail Gogliotti, LCPC, BC-DMT is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Gail works with adults and couples. Gail’s specialties include dance/movement therapy, body/mind integration, trauma, mood disorders, and stress management. If you are interested in working with Gail, send an email today!

Navigating and Understanding Your Child’s Anger

Have you ever wondered why your child seems so angry or feared that they might need anger management?  Does your child often seem irritated, agitated, moody or quickly seems as though they will turn into the Hulk? Well, you are not alone.  Parents often express their concern that their child appears too angry and that they appear to struggle with managing their anger. It is important to remember that Anger is a healthy and very normal emotion. This article aims to provide information about anger and tips to for parents to better assist your child with managing their anger.

Again, anger is a normal and healthy emotion. However, anger is known as a secondary emotion. This basically means that another emotion typically is present first. For example, your child is working on their homework and you ask if they need support and they respond to you with anger. They most likely could be feeling frustrated that they do not already know the answer which is also often accompanied by negative self talk. They might also feel embarrassed that they do not know the answer or they might simply be feeling drowsy or even anxious.  Anger tends to be a much easier emotion for children and even adults to express and identify. Have you ever felt inadequate at something? It tends to be much easier and more of a habit to respond with anger than to say ‘ I am feeling inadequate and do not know how to handle this issue ‘.

So what can you do to assist your child and minimize the chaos that anger tends to create? Talk to your child about feelings and emotions when they are in a calm state and able to engage. Informing them of all the different feelings that are out there also helps to normalize them. Also, when one is able to identify their emotion and feelings than they are more likely able to identify ways to cope with them.

Also, talk to them about your feelings. It can be very powerful for a child to know that their parents also feel worried, scared, embarrassed, frustrated and that they might express anger in healthy and unhealthy ways. If they are identifying anger and expressing anger try and assist them with figuring out what other emotion or emotions might be present.

Here are some quick tips to keep in mind:

-Teach your child about emotions and feelings to better assist them with identifying their own feelings

– If they are expressing anger assist them or encourage them to identify another emotion that might have been present before.

-Discuss coping skills. There are healthy coping skills and unhealthy coping skills. It is not healthy or safe to express your anger by hitting or other aggressive acts but it is okay to express your anger by taking a break, creating art, going for a walk or taking deep breath.

-Empathize with them and validate their feelings. Feelings are part of what makes us human and regardless of age, race, gender or culture we all experience both good and bad feelings. Even if they identify they are anger it is okay to validate the anger. We all want to feel heard, validated and connected.

Anger is a part of life and all humans feel anger along with many other emotions each day. Teaching children how to express their feelings and cope with their feelings can be powerful and minimize chaos in your home.

Below are a few websites and books that I often recommend that parents utilize to gain additional information about emotions and that can assist in educating their children about emotions and ways to cope. If you feel your child is uncomfortable talking to you about their feelings or if you feel uncertain about how to approach the subject therapy services can also be highly beneficial.

What to Do When Your Temper Flares: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Problems with Anger By: Dawn Huebner, PH.D

 

About the Author

Lauren Fontana, LCSW is a therapist and the Clinical Director at our Edison Park location. Lauren works with children, teens, families, adults. Lauren’s specialties include trauma, relationships, DBT, anxiety, behavioral issues, school issues, and mood disorders. If you are interested in working with Lauren, send an email today!

10 Ways to Improve Social Skills in Children and Teens

In today’s society, children and teens are faced with many obstacles that previous generations might not have experienced. In a world where social media and technology take over, it is important to look at the ways in which social interactions are changing.

In sessions I often hear statements such as, “It is weird to talk over the phone; no one ever does that,” or “I can’t tell what people are thinking about me.”

I have been putting lots of thought into the question, “How can we, as parents, clinicians, or educators, help to teach the younger generation appropriate social skills in a world that gives them every opportunity to reduce face to face interactions?” Below I have created a list of a few ways in which we can encourage and promote healthy social skills in younger generations.

In children:

In teens:

 

About the Author

Dana Rivera Dana Rivera, LCPC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Dana works with children, teens, and adults. Dana’s specialties include self-esteem and personal growth, behavior modification, and anxiety. If you are interested in working with Dana, send an email today!

Regaining Our Sense of Self

Often times we hit a bump in the road where we just do not feel like ourselves. Many different life events can trigger such a feeling. Some of those things may be a loss of a loved one, a break up, having limited time for ourselves, losing a job, and the list can go on and on. We tend to quickly find excuses as to the why we do not have time for the things we often need. There is no better time than right now, in this moment, to work on getting back to feeling like YOU again. I like to encourage my clients to create lists and this would be one of those times. First, we want to start thinking about the question, “What are some areas you want to begin focusing more attention on?” The only restriction you have for creating this list is that the focus has to be brought back to YOU and you alone!

Below I have provided you with a few possible suggestions just to get your wheels spinning! Being creative and customizing your list to YOU is the most important part.

      • We are often so busy in our day to day activities that we forget to stop and take in the beauty the world has to offer. Seriously, look outside your window. I am sure you can find one thing that is beautiful in your eyes. It is a great way to help you find a sense of peace. Try going for a walk, enjoy some time at the beach, or find a spot to watch the sun rise or set!
      • Cut yourself a break. We often hold ourselves to unrealistic expectations and tell ourselves we cannot make a mistake. But the truth is perfection is not a real thing. EVERYONE makes mistakes. Try not to dwell on the past. Remember, we cannot control everything, and preparation only helps so much. The more you worry about it, the less time you spend just living and enjoying this moment. Be present. Take what you have learned from any mistake, let go of what happened, and move forward.
      • Life is a ridiculous roller coaster. There are ups and downs; twists and turns. Practice just having fun. I mean pee your pants, I haven’t laughed this hard since I was a kid type of fun! When was the last time you laughed that way? Learn to laugh at yourself. I can name probably 10 funny (yet frustrating) things I have done just today. If we can laugh it off, life become easier…manageable…more fun!
      • Whether you decide you want to work out more, quit eating out as much or eat healthier choices, or give up a habit you have been trying to quit today should be the day. You decide what will help YOU feel healthier. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain that help you to feel happier. Choosing to eat better or give up a habit that has previously been a struggle will help you to feel more confident in yourself and proud of creating a healthier lifestyle.
      • Setting goals creates a positive thing you will be focusing your energy and focus on. This will not only help you to feel excitement surrounding achieving your goal, but will also be a motivating factor to remind you to stay on track. Remember, realistic obtainable goals should be the parameters when creating a goal you want to achieve. Nothing is too small to be a goal!
      • Trying something new is sometimes flat out scary. However, it can also be exciting, amazing, or exhilarating. Do something that you have maybe been interested in, have a fear of, think you may be embarrassed doing, or just something you thought you would never do. Live in the moment, say yes, travel, dance without caring who is watching. Try something new!
      • Holding onto things will often eat us up; it can consume us. We can feel an emotion causing tension in our shoulders, or maybe an overall agitated feeling. Sometimes we do not even realize we are holding on to things. Listen to yourself. Allow yourself the opportunity to cry, be sad or angry. Give yourself time (when needed) to experience your emotion, and then let it go. Feel it and move forward.
      • As we continue to be filled with obligations in our life, we often notice we may limit our social interactions. Making time to do fun activities with your friends could be rejuvenating. Make time to be you with the people who love you.
    • We all are unique individuals. This world would be a boring place if this was not true. Embrace what makes you, YOU. You are wonderful, special, unique, loved, and important. You have something to contribute to this world. You have a special way you share yourself with the world-whether that be your favorite choice of clothing, color of your hair, personality, and so much more. What do you like? What makes you you? Show us!! The world is special because each of us is unique…corny I know … but never the less true.

Find your way back to you. Listen to your needs, be creative. But most importantly have fun.

 

 

About the Author

Dana Rivera Dana Rivera, LCPC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Dana works with children, teens, and adults. Dana’s specialties include self-esteem and personal growth, behavior modification, and anxiety. If you are interested in working with Dana, send an email today!

Art Therapy Demystified and Explained

Art therapy is a form of counseling utilized in a therapeutic setting to begin a personal journey encompassing emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing through art. Art therapists are trained in counseling, art therapy, and art. Think counseling with the added bonus of having an additional specialty, say like someone that specializes in Addictions, EMDR, or Family Therapy. They have the knowledge of counseling with an added expertise, achieved through additional training and supervision.

Art therapy involves the use of art making as a unique expression of every individual, and therefore holds special meaning that can lead to insight into problem solving, emotional expression, conflict resolution, and self-awareness. It can enhance communication or be the sole form of communication. It can reduce stress, instill confidence, and provide an element of control over personal struggles.

There are different practices and integrations of art therapy. Art as therapy, defines the process of creating as therapeutic in itself, and art psychotherapy, in which the imagery created is used as a healing tool. The symbols and images that emerge through art making can be utilized by a trained professional to evoke meaning through the journey of the client, through their eyes and voice. Art as therapy evokes spontaneous art making which intertwines the entire mind body experience to allow the energy of making art to be healing. The creative process, symbolism, metaphors, and the communication between client and therapist can all be aspects of the art therapy process.

Myths about art therapy:

Myth: Art therapy is only for children.

Short answer: Art therapy can help anyone. Those of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.

Longer answer: Kids tend to communicate with less words and easily explore their senses and emotions through the art making materials. They let their creativity shine with spontaneous image and mark making. Their story radiates through the way they approach their art, their relationship with the art process, and what emerges in metaphor.

Adults tend to talk out their problems and seek relief in this manner. They sometimes find art making childish, which inhibits their perspective on how it can be useful. Adults often worry that they are not good at art and therefore cannot participate in this type of therapy. Often times this stems from an upsetting experience in a school art class that discouraged their creativity by shaming the art in some sort of way. Adults can benefit greatly from tapping into their creative souls, much like children, by using art as a form of communication to reduce stress and conquer struggles.

Myth: I have to be good at art.

Art therapy is not about making paintings to submit to an art gallery show, and no one is grading you on your artwork. One does not need to be good at art or know anything about art to engage in this practice. Instead this process involves your inner experience with no limitations. It involves you, and only you. For you, and only you.

Myth: An art therapist interprets art work. Not exactly.

An art therapists job is to elicit information from you the creator, to help make connections by understanding healthy patterns, and not so healthy patterns, similar to the goals of talk therapy. The difference lies in the use of creative energy used for healing, and the use of image and symbol as meaningful experience. The imagery created is unique because it emerges from the depths of the mind, a place where it is impossible to lie, make stuff up, or pretend. Unlike talk therapy, art therapy provides a tangible element to reflect on. Something created by you. Even if you set out initially to avoid confronting your personal struggle, the art and process can lend information to healing properties, regardless of your intent. The art therapy process taps into things hidden from our awareness. Repressed items that were filed under “do not enter.” That’s what makes this information so unique and pure. We store away images, memories, emotions, and experience, and art making can communicate with this part of the mind to bring it to the surface. Exploration of the content and/or how the art making process evolved is the structure to continue the journey for personal wellbeing.

Is art therapy right for me?

Art therapy can provide relief by giving form to thoughts and feelings. Self-expression through art making is a viable option to gather information and insight into the healing process and further self-discovery.

About the Author

Andrea Picard Andrea Picard, LCPC, ATR is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Andrea works with adults, families, teens, children, and moms/caregivers. Andrea’s specialties include art therapy, parent + child relationships, anger, addiction, and anxiety. If you’re interested in working with Andrea, send an email today!

Parenting A-Z: Keeping it simple.

Parenting is an indescribable job that changes at any moment, without permission or readiness. Here are a few friendly reminders that raising a human being can be tricky from time to time, but workable.

A-Argue less. Lots of stuff can be angering…if you let it be. It takes more energy to be angry, and you’re already tired. Acknowledge, and then try to let the emotion pass.

B-Blow bubbles. Bubbles are beautiful and will make you and the kids smile.

C-Clear the clutter. Whether it’s in your head or on the dining room table it needs to go.

D-Delegate. Give the kids chores. Help them recognize the importance of contributing to the family.

E-Elephant in the room. Don’t let uncomfortable topics disappear or avoid an opportunity to talk with your child.

F-Forgiveness. Every day, all the time. Don’t hold a grudge.

G-Give back. Do kind things for others with your kids.

H-Hugs. Always hug those little muffins and wrap them in your arms for no reason.

I-Independence. Kids need to learn how to butter toast and how to clean up the crumbs.

J-Juggler. Laundry, homework, work, laundry, dishes, dinner, bath, more laundry. Don’t try to solve everything in one day.

K-Ketchup. Kids seem to love ketchup on everything. This has always been a mystery to me. Tap into what makes your kid tick.

LLaugh. Kids can be absurdly funny, teens are witty and angst. Use this to your advantage and have a good laugh.

M-Mustard. Kids don’t like mustard, or foods you spend a whole lot of time making.

N-Noisy. Kids are loud. Sometimes it seems like you can’t think straight. Don’t forget to breathe, leave the room, consider buying earplugs.

O-Open minded. Your child may be someone different than you expected. Work with it, not against it.

P-Porcupines. Remember your child has feelings to, and sometimes they’re not pleasant.

Q-Quest. Set out on an adventure, even if it’s just taking a walk down the block.

R-Remember. Remember your friends? Go hang out with them!

S-Saying sorry. Let your kids know you make mistakes to, and are willing to admit your weaknesses.

T-Tickle. Tickling little ones can cure almost anything.

U-Underground. Mainstream hype can be overwhelming and pressuring. Trust your instinct.

V-Veggie Value. Bravery to try new things is a lifelong practice. Might as well start early with spinach.

W-Within reason. Kids need to know that everything has a respectable limit.

X-X-ray. What lies beneath is often over looked. Look beyond the surface.

Y-You. You are amazing.

Z-Zonked out. Sleep is good. Recharge your heart and spirit.

 

About the Author

Andrea Picard Andrea Picard, LCPC, ATR is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Andrea works with adults, families, teens, children, and moms/caregivers. Andrea’s specialties include art therapy, parent + child relationships, anger, addiction, and anxiety. If you’re interested in working with Andrea, send an email today!

As a therapist who primarily works with children and teens I often see issues of stress and anxiety. One of the things that I love about being a therapist is being able to assist my young clients with identifying their symptoms and learning ways to cope and also being able to work with parents on how to identify warning signs in their children and teach them ways to best assist their child. This article will provide some brief insight into what anxiety can look like for children and teens and how as a parent you can be helpful.

What is anxiety? A simple way of explaining anxiety is that it is your body’s response to having too many worries.

Again, it is normal to feel anxiety. For example, If your child is about to take the SATs anxiety is bound to be present or if they are preparing for their first day of high school or college.

So how can you tell if your child is struggling with anxiety?

What should you do as a parent?

 

About the Author

Lauren Fontana, LCSW is a therapist and the Clinical Director at our Edison Park location. Lauren works with children, teens, families, adults. Lauren’s specialties include trauma, relationships, DBT, anxiety, behavioral issues, school issues, and mood disorders. If you are interested in working with Lauren, send an email today!

6 Things Your Therapist Wishes She Could Tell You ( And Make You Really Believe) 

 
1) I’ve been there too.  As therapists, we are taught about the dangers of revealing too much of our own experiences. It is not that we are super secretive, it is that sharing too much may taint your experience and influence your feelings, which would be counter productive to good therapy. But, let me tell you, when you are in my office, crying, and your hurt is palpable, I so badly want to tell you that I have been there too.
 
2) You can do better. There are times I actually have said this to clients, but there are many times I have not, because I want you to get there yourself. So many people think so little of themselves that they put themselves into situations that reflect this belief. For example, they will stay in an unhealthy relationship where they are treated in the way in which they view themselves. Or, they will stay at a job that they hate, because they believe it is the best they can do. Our job is not to completely uproot your life, but please know that chances are good I truly believe you can do better.
 
3) Don’t Worry! Don’t worry is one of the most useless phrases in the English language. “I shouldn’t worry? Oh okay! thanks for that, I feel much better,” said no one ever. While this phrase is useless, there are times I wish I could somehow implant this idea into your brain. As the unbiased observer, I can often see so clearly that it is going to be okay, but I am also aware of how not okay it feels. I wish there were a way to say this, and make the listener truly feel it.
 
4) I worry too. Some of my clients have conveyed to me that they feel jealous that I seem to have it all together. Here is a secret, I don’t. Because of my profession I am very self aware and constantly working on self improvement, but I have my moments as well. We are in this thing called life together, as fellow journeyers.
 
5) I also sometimes wish we could be friends. Some clients have expressed to me that they feel had we met under different circumstances, we would totally be friends. The truth is, you are probably right. I am not asking to hang out not because I don’t want to, or would feel burdened by it, but because I value the work we are doing. Our therapeutic relationship would not be what it is, and your growth would be impacted if we didn’t keep our relationship therapeutic. (although our Code of Ethics prohibits this) I keep it professional for your benefit. But, you should know, the feelings are mutual. I agree, we probably would be friends in different circumstances.
 
6) I really value our relationship. I try to convey this to clients in some ways, but I never sense they truly believe it. Sometimes I feel clients think I say it to be nice. But I wish I could make my clients understand how true this is. Don’t apologize for reaching out to me between sessions if you need it. Don’t apologize for going a few minutes over, my job is to watch the clock, not yours. It is said that the most important component of good therapy is the relationship. Please know that I truly value ours.

About the Author

Heidi Kalman, LCSW is a therapist at our Edison Park and Sauganash locations. Heidi works with adults, couples, and families. Heidi’s specialties include EMDR, anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms. If you are interested in working with Heidi, send an email today!

 

By Fariha Newaz, LCPC

Welcome back to part 2 of the Identity Series. I am excited to continue to explore who you are.  I am sure you all sat down and thought about the parts of your identity! Today we will delve a little deeper into what makes up our identity. We are going to explore our values. We will define values as the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something. So essentially, what do we find important.

How do we come up with our value systems? These come from many different areas of our lives and our beginning set of values come from our families.  If you family is religious and they value going to church, then you also probably grew up doing that as well. As we get older our value systems change based on being able to think about what we find important. Some of these things also can stay the same, it just depends on the person. I’ll use religion again, a lot of people have grown up in religious families but as they get older they might not be as religious or not at all as they form their own opinions and complete their own research.  Think about the things that you thought were important when you were 5, 10 and 20 and so forth. The things that you feel are important changes as you get older. So your values change over time. Because our values change over time, it also changes our identities.

Our values are more than just religious beliefs or culture. It also comes into play when we think about the kind of people we want to be. For example, some of the things that I value are being a good friend, honesty, loyalty, being kind, and being a good listener. Because I value these things, I strive to grow in these areas. Sometimes I have to assess if I am upholding these values at different times in my life. If I want to be a good listener, maybe that means I have to work a little more in that area in my relationships. Someone who struggles with an addiction might have to remind themselves the value if sobriety.

Our values continually impact our identity. Values help us navigate the world and find more people who also value the same things. As we move through life, we find people that have the same values, whether its religion, culture, hobbies, political affiliations, etc . We tend to be drawn to people who share similar values. When we find ourselves on opposing views with people, its most likely because our value systems are different.

How are our values connected to our identity? Depending on what we value it helps us make our decisions. We will talk some more in the last part of the Identity Series next time.  Pro-tip: Write down some of the things that you value lets see how it shapes into our identity. I bet you have a  lot of people in your life that probably value you the same things! See you next time!

 

About the Author

Fariha Newaz Fariha Newaz, LCPC, CADC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Fariha works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Fariha’s specialties include depression, anxiety, substance use, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, multicultural concerns, and South Asians specific concerns. If you are interested in working with Fariha, send an email today!

Identity Series Part One

Identity: Who are you?

Join me in this 3 part series where we explore our identity. Part one will focus on what is identity, part two is about where our identity comes from and part three will go over how your identity impacts your life.

We often do not talk about identity, we are so busy living and fulfilling our roles that we don’t sit down to think about who we are or how we have changed. This is such a huge topic, yet there is no class on identity and no map to figuring it out. It’s this really important part of ourselves, it’s who we are. I have run numerous groups and had so many sessions with clients and when I ask them, how do you identify yourself or is this part of your identity.  They take a step back and they usually tell me “I haven’t really thought about it” Knowing who you are is important.

Our identities change over time and it happens sometimes without even knowing that it changed. Maybe you have been feeling sad recently and you don’t know why, this might be a good time to look at who you are and what’s different. You might notice a shift in your identity that is impacting the change in how you feel.  Identity changes over time impact our mental health and well being. Think back 10 years, 5 years are you the same person you were then? What’s different?

How you identify yourself shapes who you are in the world. If you are depressed or anxious, is that included in how you see yourself? If you are a mom or wife (husband or father) are you still holding on to any part of your identity before you were married and had kids? If you identify as an addict, is this view of yourself help you move forward, stay the same, or make you stronger?

What makes you, you? How do you identify yourself? This can be thought of in so many ways including gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, career choice, socioeconomic status, education level, role in your family as parents, siblings or even as kids, your DNA, religion, what plays into our identity is limitless. Numerous situations in our lives help identify who we are and what we stand for then they combine to make us who we are.

I encourage you to think about who you are so that next time, we can talk about how you came to be that way. Pro-tip: Spend some time writing all the things that are a part of your identity. Look at it over the next two weeks, adding to it as things come up! You can even think about how some of these things have changed over time.

 

About the Author

Fariha Newaz Fariha Newaz, LCPC, CADC is a therapist at our Edison Park location. Fariha works with adolescents, young adults, adults, and couples. Fariha’s specialties include depression, anxiety, substance use, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, multicultural concerns, and South Asians specific concerns. If you are interested in working with Fariha, send an email today!

Hey friends of Urban Wellness! Some exciting news…

Urban Wellness’ office was featured in FreshPractice.design’s blog on fresh office designs for therapists, by therapists. Read about our feature blog here. Read more about FreshPractice Design here.

In the blog article, learn about Urban Wellness from a design perspective. We talk about how the came to designing the decor, decisions about what we want clients to feel when they enter one of Urban Wellness’ offices, and our overall style.
sauganash office 3
Urban Wellness has two locations in Chicago, one in the Edison Park neighborhood and another in the Sauganash neighborhood. We offer counseling and psychological testing for children, teens, and adults, couples and families. To schedule an appointment, please call 773-774-4444 x0.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

5  Simple Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness Practice into Your Life

By: Heidi Kalman, LCSW

Life can be very chaotic and stressful at times. Mindfulness practice can help you use these difficult times to your advantage. It is like exercise for the mind. The more you practice, the stronger you become. Mindfulness is not about “living a stress free life” But it is about learning new skills to manage the challenges of daily living. Below are a few simple ways to incorporate mindfulness practice into your life.

1) Live in the moment: This may not mean what you think it means. In relation to mindfulness, living in the moment is not “partying like there is no tomorrow”. Living in the moment is making a conscious effort to be focused on that exact moment. For example, if you know that you have a presentation to give at work the next day, pretending like there is no tomorrow will not help you. However, worrying too much about the presentation may not be helpful either. Think to yourself: “This moment I will review my notes”, or “This moment I will concentrate on my breathing”. Living in the moment is being present in your life and not obsessing about the past or worrying about the future.
2) Accept things as they are: It is incredibly easy to pick apart our own lives. Often we will spend much time thinking about how we should be, or what we should be doing.  Mindfulness promotes an attitude of acceptance without judgment. Again, this may not mean what you think it means. This does not mean you should just accept everything and not strive for improvement. This type of acceptance is about letting go of how you believe things “should be” and accepting them the way that they are. For example, if you are unhappy with your current position it is possible that the first step in moving forward is accepting the situation as it is. There is a quote by Carl Jung that comes to mind: What we resist, persists” with this in mind, sometimes the best way to move forward is through genuine acceptance.
4) Try to not react immediately: This actually probably means exactly what you think it means. So often we react quickly to people or situations that are troubling. For example, if a significant other does something to upset us, our knee jerk reaction is to just fight back. Make a conscious effort to give yourself some time before you react. This is not to say you should just ignore the issue. But try to separate yourself from the situation and give yourself a little time before you react.
5) Learn to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable: This can be challenging to do, but can be incredibly liberating. We are trained to believe that it is  not okay to be uncomfortable. When we are faced with discomfort, be it emotional or physical, our gut reaction is often to fight it or resist it. Try accepting discomfort, and try going even further, and be okay with it. For example, next time you get a headache, instead of thinking to yourself “oh no! not a headache, I have so much to do, I can’t deal with this now…” Think to yourself “okay. so I have a headache, my head hurts a bit, but I can do this.” This can be applied to emotional discomfort too. For example, if you are feeling down, don’t think to yourself “I am so depressed, how am I ever going to continue with this…” Think to yourself “Yes, I am feeling a bit depressed right now. I have had this before and I got through it, I will get through it again. It’s okay to feel depressed sometimes”. Learning to be comfortable with discomfort will build your resistance and before you know it, things will bother you less.
While these suggestions are simple, that does not mean they are easy. But the good thing about mindfulness, even doing it just a little bit will have a positive impact on your life. I challenge you to take on these mindfulness skills, with an attitude of self acceptance and without judgment.

About the Author

Heidi Kalman, LCSW is a therapist at our Edison Park and Sauganash locations. Heidi works with adults, couples, and families. Heidi’s specialties include EMDR, anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms. If you are interested in working with Heidi, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for The Gottman Institute.

“Positive Sentiment Override (PSO) or the Positive Perspective is something that couples can work on every day. Having a Positive Perspective of your partner and your relationship helps to more effectively problem solve during conflict, make more repair attempts (an action or statement that aims at reducing escalating conflict), and generally see your partner in a more positive light.

Negative Sentiment Override (NSO) or the Negative Perspective, on the other hand, distorts your view of your partner to the point where positive or neutral experiences are perceived as negative. Couples in the Negative Perspective don’t give each other the benefit of the doubt.” –Maureen Werrbach, LCPC | Therapist at Urban Wellness

Read the whole article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!

*Article contribution by Maureen Werrbach, LCPC for Psych Central.

“It’s an inescapable truth that you and your partner will argue or fight. Often in therapy, I see that couples are unable to resolve a conflict, especially if it is regarding what renowned couples therapists Drs. John and Julie Gottman call “gridlock issues.” When this happens, couples often argue, then one partner or both exhausts the argument until someone walks away from the fight. Other times, couples resolve the fight they are having, but not the underlying problem. This means the fight will happen again when one partner’s underlying problem resurfaces in a different argument.” –Maureen Werrbach, LCPC | Therapist at Urban Wellness

Read the whole article here.

About the Author

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC is a therapist and the founder of Urban Wellness. Maureen sees patients at our Edison Park location. Maureen works with adults. Maureen’s specialties include EMDR, trauma, relationships, and entrepreneurs. If you are interested in working with Maureen, send an email today!