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. 

As much as we wish it weren’t the case sometimes, change is a guarantee in life. In a lot of ways, change can be good. It forces us to grow, to try new things, to expand. It makes us deal with our fears and when things go well it can make us feel more capable. However, even if we understand intellectually that change is unavoidable and often a good thing, it can be really tricky to accept change when it comes up. We are creatures of habit, and when our routine gets disrupted it can be jarring. Big changes can bring up a lot of complicated feelings. In fact, some experts define grief as “the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” So, it makes sense that big changes can often leave you feeling upset. Fortunately, there are ways to help you adjust to big life changes so they’re not so distressing. 

Big life changes are complicated.

Sometimes, you might feel excited for what’s to come. You might feel intense grief for the way things used to be. Whatever you’re feeling in the wake of big life changes is normal. Here are some big life changes that people often have a hard time dealing with: 

Part of the reason that adjusting to change is so tricky is that your brain has to learn your new patterns. When you do something over and over, your brain develops a neural pathway, or a mental shortcut, to help us process the familiar quickly. When change happens, your brain has to learn a new pattern. Even if the change is related to something good, your brain still has to adjust, and that can be upsetting. 

If you’re struggling to adjust to big life changes, here are some suggestions for how to get through this time: 

Name it

Denial is powerful. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re denying something because it’s happening on an unconscious level. It can be a turning point to name what you’re going through. When you stop fighting against what’s happening, you will experience less discomfort. Some things are out of your control, and it’s important to accept that. When you experience resistance to change, know that it’s your brain’s way of trying to protect you and keep you in the familiar. It can help to notice that resistance when it comes up and move forward anyway. 

Change your self-talk

The way you talk to yourself matters. Even if you don’t notice how you talk to yourself, you internalize the messages you send, so it can be game-changing to send yourself a new message. Try using affirmations, even if it feels silly, to help reprogram some of that language in your head. Affirmations can also help you deal with the uncertainty of change, which can be particularly distressing. Remind yourself that uncertainty isn’t always bad. Even if you have a hard time turning your self-talk from negative to positive, aim for neutral self-talk instead. For example, instead of saying to yourself, “Change is scary. I’m not going to be able to deal with this.” try saying, “Change is complicated, but it doesn’t always have to be bad.” See what you can shift from negative to a more neutral stance. 

Keep a routine

As we discussed above, your brain thrives on the familiar. To keep the new and scary stuff to a minimum, try to come up with a routine that you can stick to as much as possible during this transition. If it’s tricky to stick to a routine every day, try to come up with some things that you do every day, and build a routine off of those. Even if you don’t always work in the same place, you probably eat a few times a day, right? Try setting aside some time before or after a meal to practice some self-care, like a guided meditation or deep breathing. Give your brain something familiar to cling to so you’re not completely overwhelmed by new things. 

Practice self-care like it’s your job

Make sure you’re taking extra time for self-care during big life changes. Changes can be exhausting mentally and physically, so make sure you’re hitting the basics like getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating nourishing meals, and moving your body regularly. You might even be extra tired, so make sure to get lots of rest. Don’t look at it as a punishment to take care of yourself, view it as a privilege. You are taking the time to give yourself comfort during a tough time, and you are deserving of that comfort. If you have a hard time making space for self-care, try scheduling it into your day like a meeting you can’t miss. 

Know that this too shall pass

Every tough time eventually passes. It seems like we’re caught in a never-ending tough time right now, but eventually life will go back to normal again. You will become comfortable in your new situation, and it won’t always feel upsetting or scary. Remind yourself that you’ve gotten through every tough time you’ve ever dealt with up until now, and you can get through this too.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Times of transition are intense. You don’t need to go it alone. Make sure to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Hearing another person’s take on what you’re experiencing might help you feel less alone during big life changes, and asking for help is okay! Don’t be afraid to ask for the support you need from the people in your life. Therapy can also be a great option for big life changes. Therapists are trained in ways to cope with tough times. They can help you find specific-to-you ways to deal with your situation that will leave you feeling more empowered to deal with whatever comes your way.

If you’re looking for more support as you deal with big life changes, our clinicians can help. Get in touch with our office today to find a therapist that fits your needs + goals. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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!

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

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! 

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. 

*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!

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. 

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?

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!

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 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!