May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental Health Awareness month was started all the way back in 1949, as a way to increase awareness about the significance of mental health. Originally it started out as just a week, but eventually expanded into an entire month of raising awareness. You can see a timeline of  the history of the organization that established it (Mental Health America) here

Every year, Mental Health Month has a theme, and this year that theme is “Tools 2 Thrive” which is all about providing practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental wellness. When you go to their home page, you’ll see their pop up which says that while 1 in 5 people live with mental illness, it is still 5 out of 5 people who deserve care and tools to manage their mental wellness! By making tools for mental health openly available and discussed for everyone, the shame or stigma that can come with seeking support lessen. If it’s something everyone can relate to, then what’s shameful about that?

Mental Health America, in alignment with this theme, has a free Mental Health Toolkit available for download on their website. 

However, it’s important to recognize that historically the wellness  industry–including mental health care professionals–have not prioritized mental health issues specific to Black, Indigenous, or clients of color. Officially, July is recognized as BIPOC Mental Health Awareness month–and while it should definitely be recognized then, it should also be a priority perspective in May for Mental Health Awareness month. Especially as the social and political conditions we currently live under put more extreme stress on Black, Indigenous and people of color, making them more vulnerable to stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. It is also much harder for BIPOC to access care due to structural barriers

This article includes a list of mental health resources (inclusive therapists, community organizations, educational resources, etc.) that are specific to Black, Indigenous & clients of color. 

To go along with this theme, Urban Wellness has put together this list of 3 practices you can pick and choose from to try out this month to help support your own mental health: 

Wellness Reflection Journal: 

Do you have a practice to check in with your mental health regularly? If you go to therapy regularly, that might be your habitual check-in. But what about the other 6 days a week, where you don’t have that one hour devoted to your mental health? Having a journal you can use a few minutes every day can help keep you in tune with your own emotions, and help you notice patterns or signs that you’re needing more support. Some journal prompts to start with could be: 

Meditation: 

We’ve talked about meditation quite a bit on our blog before! That’s because meditation is a great way to incorporate mindfulness practices in your life, which can help reduce stress, anxiety, spiraling thoughts, etc. It sounds like an intimidating practice, but there are actually a lot of beginner friendly ways to dip your toes into meditation.  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! 

Wellness Reminders: 

We’re all on our phones all day anyway, so you might as well start using them for your own wellness! Take some time to think about when in your day you are usually the most stressed or overwhelmed–then set a recurring alarm for sometime around then. When that alarm goes off, as soon as you’re able, take a short break! This can include things like: 

When you start to make wellness (emotional + physical) check-ins a regular practice, it starts to become second nature to you. You’ll strengthen your ability to recognize when you need support, rest, etc. and in doing so make your own wellness a bigger priority in your life! 

If you’re looking for more support this month, we can help! Come talk to our counselors today for more support. 

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. 

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!

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!

*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!

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:

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!

With the new year lurking around the corner, it is only a matter of time before we start thinking about new year’s resolutions. And with resolutions comes the quick realization that follow through is harder than we imagined. Most of us don’t follow through on our resolutions, no matter how well intentioned we are. Why is that? Are we unable to change our habits? Are those habits, like smoking, overeating, disorganization, tardiness, etc. that we’ve engaged in for 5, 10, 20+ years just too hard to change? Why does it seem like its only possible for the rare few to add new habits like exercising, keeping organized, or thinking positively?

There’s a slew of new research showing that certain areas of our brains play a pivotal role in our habit formation and the difficulty in ignoring, replacing, or changing habits. What’s important is that is is ENTIRELY possible to replace, change, or ignore habits once you understand the basics of habits and the role our brain plays. At every moment, our brains are processing what we see, feel, think, hear, smell, and taste. As I sit here typing, my sensory receptors are processing the feel of the keys on my fingers, the sound of the airplane passing by, the murmur of the TV, the light waves of my computer screen and various items within my vision, the things I am thinking as I type, and the smell of dinner that is lingering, just to name the obvious, then sending that information to my brain for further processing. In order for our brain to not overload, it focuses less on things that are labeled unimportant (like the TV, anything in my vision scope that is not the computer screen, and the random sounds that don’t contribute to my writing of this blog). When we engage in a habit, our brain stops fully engaging in the decision making process and puts its attention on more important tasks. This explains why it is so hard to stop a habit-we don’t fully focus on our habits.

Some habits are required in order to not drive ourselves crazy. Think about your day. Did you think about whether to shower before brushing your teeth or vice versa? Did you decide on putting your left or right shoe on first, or did you just do it? If you paid attention, you’ll see that you have tons of habits that keep you running efficiently.

But what about those habits that are getting in the way of living the life you want or the ones that you want to add? Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, suggests that the secret to habits is craving the reward of engaging in a behavior. This means, for example, that if you want to add the habit of exercising, to form that habit you would come up with a reward, like a gift for yourself at the end of each month of consistent workouts or the reward of a small chocolate or tv show at the end of the night. The key is that the reward needs to be something of value to you, because how behaviors become habits is through the craving of the reward. Interesting, right?! We focus so hard on the habit itself, when research shows that when we focus only on changing, adding, or modifying our habits it is easy to become unmotivated. Instead, focus on the reward you set for yourself for engaging in a habit, and reap the rewards (1. the reward itself 2. the success of forming a habit!).

So what habits are you ready to focus on?

Suggested reading: The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business by Charles Duhigg