Contributed by Brianne Holtkamp, M.A., LMHC-P
What would you do if your best friend said they were unlovable? Most likely, you would jump right in without hesitation and tell them all the reasons why you love them and why their belief is untrue. Oddly enough, you have most likely thought or felt this about yourself and have neglected to extend the same compassion that you have so readily provided to your friends for yourself. Maybe it is not the thought of being unlovable for you, rather it might sound something like, “I can’t ever get it right” or “I will never be good enough”. Unfortunately, most people are no stranger to these thoughts. Now the question stands, how do you begin to show the same compassion to yourself that you would for a friend?
Dr. Kristin Neff is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. In her book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, Dr. Neff states, “having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness.” When you accept imperfections and disappointments as part of the human experience, you learn to develop a gentle kindness toward yourself. Knowing and accepting this reality encourages you to appreciate and learn from your shortcomings, rather than criticize and place judgement on yourself. Ultimately, when you consistently engage in personal scrutiny, you begin to avoid experiences that could lend themselves to failure which deny you opportunities to develop resilience, personal growth, and your full potential.
There are four steps to take to begin practicing self-compassion. First, you must acknowledge and become aware of your suffering. Learn to check in with yourself and evaluate what you're feeling. However, when you open this door, you may feel as if your emotions have become more intense and overwhelming. This leads us to the next step of grounding. In the second step, it is important to practice deep breathing and mindfulness exercises to avoid becoming consumed by these emotions. There are a number of resources online if you simply search mindfulness activities! The third step involves checking in and becoming more aware of your own personal judgments and criticisms. What negative messages are you sending yourself? These judgments may have become such a natural part of your thought processes that you fail to notice their effects. In the fourth and final step, be a friend to yourself. Embrace your failures and show yourself the same compassion that you have shown to others. Remind yourself of your value and worth and give yourself what you need in that moment.
If you wish to learn more, use the link below to assess your own level of self-compassion and begin exploring the practice of being kind to yourself!
Test how self-compassionate you are | Kristin Neff
Contributed by Sarah Cammoun, LMHC
If you are one of the many people seeing a therapist, there might be a lot of talk about coping skills. Current events have made our ability to cope and access to our normal coping skills difficult. We are being told to stay inside and away from people. However, just because we are not able to go to stores and public areas does not mean we cannot spend some time outside. After all, it is good for our mental health and for some, it is as easy as stepping outside the front door.
Being outside gives us direct access to sunlight, which is the best natural source of Vitamin D and difficult to get purely from food. People that spend time outdoors may experience a more positive mood, better cognitive function, increased ability to focus and decreased anxiety.
Here are a few reasons why Vitamin D and sunshine can result in these changes!
Just make sure you do not forget your sunscreen!
*The contents of this blog are not meant to be medical advice, consult your physician if you have questions about this information.
Our world is changing and we are just getting started in our time of working at home. I know that many people are much more productive when working at home and some struggle to stay productive, depending on what you are doing. We are all trying to do our best in our situations.
Here at MFCC we are getting things up and running to help people feel comfortable with virtual and telephonic sessions and helping them deal with life's challenges.
We are so grateful we have the option of working from home to help meet our client's needs! Although we have provided telehealth for a long time, this change came so fast and mandated we had full capacity to provide this type of service. We had to be responsive to this need very quickly. Our team excelled with that!
We may be working from home for a while and self care is very important!
Taking care of yourself for work looks a bit different for everyone, but here are some ideas that may help.
1) Make sure you stick to a routine
Get up at same time, shower, eat at the same time and spend some 'happy' time in the morning before you start your day.
2) Fit unstructured time into your routine - Plan some time where you don't have to do anything unless you want to!
3) Hydrate hourly - tea, airborne, water, kombucha and other good for you liquids
4) Move your body hourly - it gets so easy to sit in one spot when we are in our 'flow', but it can also be a detriment to your work if you get too stiff or have headaches from too much screen time.
5) Exercise 2 - 3 times during your work day, 10-15 minutes each is enough
Dance, bike around the block, Yoga in the yard or your living room, walk or jog around the block, play with your pet, do some cartwheels in the yard, jump rope, do your favorite childhood exercise.
6) Laugh! Find something to laugh about. Watch a funny video, call someone who makes you laugh or read something funny. You can "fake it" - your brain doesn't care if it starts out fake because it moves to real after a min, you still get good endorphins from laughing!
7) Listen to music - low and soothing or upbeat and energizing depending on what you need at that time.
8) Pay attention to your connections - people who are important to you, make a call to check on someone who is fragile.
9) Boredom: do a project, clean your closet, donate things that don't bring you joy, soak your feet, read a book, do your own nails, color in a coloring book, take a bath, give yourself a facial, go for a run, clean up the yard, begin planting your seeds in the house, trim a tree, clean out the basement, dust of the exercise equipment and use it. ... what else can you think of doing that we never remember when we are bored.
10) Power naps are good! 10 - 15 min, set your alarm and concentrate on your breathing for deep relaxation! or use a meditation app - Calm or Head Space.
I sincerely hope you are staying safe and well in these uncertain times. We are here if you need us!
Contributed by Erin Carter, LMHC
How’s everybody feeling?
Things are a little scary out there right now. The World Health Organization has declared the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, a pandemic. The news is filled with stories about cancelled events, closed schools, stores sold out of toilet paper, and possible damaging effects to our economy. And the cause of all this disruption is sneaky, invisible, and could be anywhere.
For those already struggling with the symptoms of clinical anxiety, the news of COVID-19 can be overwhelming. Even those who don’t normally find themselves anxious might be noticing some anxiety symptoms in this environment. So what can we do to try to prevent or manage these symptoms so we can feel better and be more effective in our lives?
Anxiety at its Best
Let’s start by thinking about the function of anxiety: anxiety at its best. John Bowlby, a psychologist and psychiatrist whose theory on attachment between infants and parents has changed the way we see the development of many mental disorders, once wrote that, “clinical conditions can be best understood as a disordered version of a healthy response.” In other words, symptoms involved in anxiety, depression, and other problems that affect our mood and thinking can be normal, healthy, and helpful under the right circumstances. At its best, anxiety functions to warn us of danger and spur us to take actions that keep us safe.
Anxiety, really another word for ongoing fear, occurs when a small region of the brain called the hypothalamus detects a threat. The hypothalamus communicates with other parts of the brain and the endocrine system to release a cascade of physiological and cognitive responses, all geared toward helping us survive the threat. If we round a corner and find ourselves facing a lion, we might need to run away or fight it off. Toward that end, when our brain detects a threat, it releases chemicals that get our muscles ready for action, speeds up our heart rate and breathing, and sends our body’s resources away from our digestive system. So, we might experience a jittery feeling, racing heart, a feeling like we need to get more air, and upset stomach.
When our brain detects a threat, it wants us to focus intensely on surviving, and to take it seriously. So we might experience racing thoughts, find it difficult to control our worry, and have trouble thinking things through. When this goes on for a while, we may have trouble relaxing enough to get to sleep, or find that our bodies are waking us up in the night. Eventually, we might find ourselves avoiding places or activities that we really can’t afford to avoid, because our brain tells us that they’re dangerous.
We can see how all of this is very helpful if we’re facing down a lion. But when the threat is everyday life--financial concerns, family stress, or world events that are out of our control--these responses aren’t so helpful and can become problems in and of themselves. We can help ourselves by remembering what anxiety is at its best: a warning, and a spur to helpful action.
Taking Purposeful Action
For those of us noticing that we’re getting a warning about COVID-19 from our bodies and brains, let’s take a minute and be glad that we have a working alarm system. Good. We’re functioning the way we’re supposed to, more or less. Now let’s think about how to turn that warning into purposeful and useful actions that reduce our risk.
Experts such as the Center for Disease Control (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html) are recommending actions that, for the most part, are easy for us all to take:
Additionally, experts are indicating that those most at risk of serious symptoms of novel coronavirus are those that are medically fragile, and have health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. So one helpful action that our anxiety can spur us toward is to improve our health as much as possible right now:
Put COVID-19 on Mute
We can do these things to make use of the function of our anxiety, but we can also take some steps to try to keep it from misbehaving. Anxiety has a tendency to keep us thinking about whatever we’re scared of, going over and over it in our mind, letting our fears about what could happen grow and grow. Let’s stop that. Television and social media are offering nonstop coronavirus information right now, and while some of it is from good, reliable, measured sources, some of it is misleading, sensationalistic, and seems designed to exploit our fears for clicks or airtime. Let’s be discerning, get the information we need from sources we know are reliable, and then let’s take a news break. If social media is constantly putting articles in front of you that keep your anxiety high, step away from social media.
Next, take some time to figure out exactly what you’re feeling; give your emotions a name. Are you feeling nervous, frustrated, scared, angry, or confused? More than one thing at a time? Where do you notice those things in your body? Upset stomach, headache, tension in your back? Then think about what might be the meaning of these emotions? Are you feeling unsettled because you’re out of your routine? Are you frustrated because the kids have questions you don’t have the answers to? Identifying these emotions, how you’re feeling them physically, and what they signify can make them easier to tolerate.
In addition, find ways to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness refers to being present in the moment, in the here and now, noticing what you notice, and it is a research-backed practice that can be effective in managing anxiety. When you’re feeling panicked, take a minute to get quiet and notice what you hear, what you see, what you feel on your skin, how the sun or wind feels, how the breath feels going in and out of your body, and how the ground feels beneath your feet. Mindfulness exercises are as simple as this, and you can easily find others online.
Improve your social support. While we should be avoiding the physical presence of others who are sick or who we could make sick, isolating ourselves with our worries won’t do us any good. Reach out to trusted others who are a source of support. Additionally, this is a good time to think of others around us who might be vulnerable to the loss of certain institutions that are closing their doors temporarily, such as kids who count on school lunches or home-bound folks whose Meals-On-Wheels are no longer coming. Let’s take the precautions that are advised by the experts, but let’s also take care of one another.
Finally, if you’ve taken steps such as these and found that those persistent worries remain and are making it difficult to function, remember that there is professional help. Clinical anxiety can be successfully treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Licensed psychotherapists, clinical social workers, and psychologists specialize in therapy to help bring anxiety symptoms under control. Psychiatrists, primary care physicians, and psychiatric nurse practitioners can provide effective medication management.
Let’s take care of ourselves and stay healthy out there!
Manejando el miedo en los días de COVID-19: Cómo mantener la ansiedad en su mejor momento
¿Cómo se sienten todos?
Las cosas dan un poco de miedo en este momento. La Organización Mundial de la Salud ha declarado que el nuevo coronavirus, también conocido como COVID-19, es una pandemia. La noticia está llena de historias sobre eventos cancelados, escuelas cerradas, tiendas agotadas de papel higiénico y posibles efectos perjudiciales para nuestra economía. Y la causa de toda esta interrupción es astuta, invisible y podría estar en cualquier parte.
Para aquellos que ya luchan con los síntomas de ansiedad clínica, la noticia de COVID-19 puede ser abrumadora. Incluso aquellos que normalmente no se sienten ansiosos pueden notar algunos síntomas de ansiedad en este entorno. Entonces, ¿qué podemos hacer para tratar de prevenir o controlar estos síntomas para que podamos sentirnos mejor y ser más efectivos en nuestras vidas?
La Ansiedad en su Mejor Momento
Comencemos por pensar en la función de la ansiedad: ansiedad en su mejor momento. John Bowlby, un psicólogo y psiquiatra cuya teoría sobre el apego entre los bebés y los padres ha cambiado la forma en que vemos el desarrollo de muchos trastornos mentales, una vez escribió que "las condiciones clínicas pueden entenderse mejor como una versión desordenada de una respuesta saludable". En otras palabras, los síntomas relacionados con la ansiedad, la depresión y otros problemas que afectan nuestro estado de ánimo y nuestro pensamiento pueden ser normales, saludables y útiles en las circunstancias adecuadas. En el mejor de los casos, la ansiedad funciona para advertirnos del peligro y estimularnos a tomar medidas que nos mantengan a salvo.
La ansiedad, realmente otra palabra para el miedo continuo, ocurre cuando una pequeña región del cerebro llamada hipotálamo detecta una amenaza. El hipotálamo se comunica con otras partes del cerebro y el sistema endocrino para liberar una cascada de respuestas fisiológicas y cognitivas, todas orientadas a ayudarnos a sobrevivir a la amenaza. Si doblamos una esquina y nos encontramos frente a un león, es posible que tengamos que huir o luchar contra él. Con ese fin, cuando nuestro cerebro detecta una amenaza, libera sustancias químicas que preparan nuestros músculos para la acción, aceleran nuestro ritmo cardíaco y la respiración, y alejan los recursos de nuestro cuerpo de nuestro sistema digestivo. Por lo tanto, podríamos experimentar una sensación de nerviosismo, un corazón acelerado, una sensación de que necesitamos tomar más aire y malestar estomacal.
Cuando nuestro cerebro detecta una amenaza, quiere que nos enfoquemos intensamente en sobrevivir y que nos la tomemos en serio. Por lo tanto, podríamos experimentar pensamientos acelerados, tener dificultades para controlar nuestra preocupación y tener problemas para pensar detenidamente. Cuando esto continúa por un tiempo, es posible que tengamos problemas para relajarnos lo suficiente como para dormir, o descubramos que nuestros cuerpos nos están despertando en la noche. Eventualmente, podríamos encontrarnos evitando lugares o actividades que realmente no podemos permitirnos evitar, porque nuestro cerebro nos dice que son peligrosos.
Podemos ver cómo todo esto es muy útil si estamos frente a un león. Pero cuando la amenaza es la vida cotidiana (preocupaciones financieras, estrés familiar o eventos mundiales que están fuera de nuestro control), estas respuestas no son tan útiles y pueden convertirse en problemas en sí mismas. Podemos ayudarnos recordando qué ansiedad es mejor: una advertencia y un estímulo para la acción útil.
Tomando Acción Decidida
Para aquellos de nosotros que nos damos cuenta de que recibimos una advertencia sobre COVID-19 de nuestros cuerpos y cerebros, tomemos un minuto y nos alegra que tengamos un sistema de alarma en funcionamiento. Bueno. Estamos funcionando como se supone que debemos hacerlo, más o menos. Ahora pensemos cómo convertir esa advertencia en acciones útiles y útiles que reduzcan nuestro riesgo.
Expertos como el Centro para el Control de Enfermedades (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html) recomiendan acciones que, en su mayor parte, son fáciles de tomar para todos:
Además, los expertos indican que las personas con mayor riesgo de sufrir síntomas graves de nuevos coronavirus son las que son médicamente frágiles y tienen afecciones de salud como enfermedades cardíacas, presión arterial alta o diabetes. Entonces, una acción útil que nuestra ansiedad puede impulsarnos es mejorar nuestra salud tanto como sea posible en este momento:
Ponga COVID-19 en Silencio
Podemos hacer estas cosas para aprovechar la función de nuestra ansiedad, pero también podemos tomar algunas medidas para evitar que se comporte mal. La ansiedad tiende a mantenernos pensando en lo que sea que tengamos miedo, repitiéndolo una y otra vez en nuestra mente, dejando que nuestros temores sobre lo que podría suceder crezcan y crezcan. Detengamos eso. La televisión y las redes sociales están ofreciendo información ininterrumpida sobre el coronavirus en este momento, y aunque parte de ella proviene de fuentes buenas, confiables y medidas, otra parte es engañosa, sensacionalista y parece diseñada para explotar nuestros temores por clics o tiempo aire. Seamos exigentes, obtengamos la información que necesitamos de fuentes que sabemos que son confiables, y luego tomemos un descanso. Si las redes sociales constantemente ponen artículos frente a ti que mantienen tu ansiedad alta, aléjate de las redes sociales.
Luego, tómate un tiempo para descubrir exactamente lo que sientes; Dale un nombre a tus emociones. ¿Te sientes nervioso, frustrado, asustado, enojado o confundido? ¿Más de una cosa a la vez? ¿Dónde notas esas cosas en tu cuerpo? ¿Malestar estomacal, dolor de cabeza, tensión en la espalda? Entonces, ¿cuál podría ser el significado de estas emociones? ¿Te sientes inquieto porque estás fuera de tu rutina? ¿Estás frustrado porque los niños tienen preguntas para las que no tienes las respuestas? Identificar estas emociones, cómo las siente físicamente y lo que significan puede hacer que sean más fáciles de tolerar.
Además, encuentre formas de practicar la atención plena. La atención plena se refiere a estar presente en el momento, en el aquí y ahora, notando lo que notas, y es una práctica respaldada por investigaciones que puede ser efectiva para controlar la ansiedad. Cuando sienta pánico, tómese un minuto para callarse y observe lo que escucha, lo que ve, lo que siente en su piel, cómo se siente el sol o el viento, cómo se siente la respiración entrando y saliendo de su cuerpo, y cómo se siente el suelo debajo de tus pies. Los ejercicios de atención plena son tan simples como esto, y puede encontrar fácilmente otros en línea.
Mejora tu apoyo social. Si bien deberíamos evitar la presencia física de otros que están enfermos o a quienes podríamos enfermar, aislarnos de nuestras preocupaciones no nos hará ningún bien. Póngase en contacto con otras personas de confianza que son una fuente de apoyo. Además, este es un buen momento para pensar en otras personas que nos rodean que podrían ser vulnerables a la pérdida de ciertas instituciones que están cerrando sus puertas temporalmente, como los niños que cuentan con almuerzos escolares o personas encerradas en el hogar cuyas comidas son Ya no viene. Tomemos las precauciones recomendadas por los expertos, pero también cuidemos los unos de los otros.
Finalmente, si has tomado medidas como estas y descubriste que esas preocupaciones persistentes persisten y dificultan su funcionamiento, recuerde que hay ayuda profesional. La ansiedad clínica se puede tratar con éxito con psicoterapia, medicamentos o una combinación de ambos. Psicoterapeutas con licencia, trabajadores sociales clínicos y psicólogos se especializan en terapia para ayudar a controlar los síntomas de ansiedad. Los psiquiatras, los médicos de atención primaria y las enfermeras practicantes psiquiátricas pueden proporcionar un manejo efectivo de los medicamentos.
¡Cuidemos nosotros mismos y mantengámonos saludables!
Contributed by Marriage and Family Therapy Intern, Angela Fisher
The weather is finally warming. We get to think about all the things we want to do: spring cleaning, preparing for a garden, and enjoying the outdoors. We start to create this to do list that might grow legs of its own! I wonder how many of us are intentional about nurturing the supportive relationships in our lives?
How do you nurture those relationships? Great question!
1. Be present. With technology so convenient and frequently at our fingertips, distractions have become a norm. Try setting aside a period of time every day that is free from technology or cell phone free. Eat dinner with others, play a game, or cook something else together and enjoy the conversation.
2. Listen to listen, rather than listening to respond. Many times, when we listen, the things going through our head are the things we want to say in regards to the information we are receiving. Try listening, and instead of responding, paraphrase back to them what you heard them say. This builds connections, lets people know you are really listening to them, and verifies that you accurately heard what they were saying.
3. Pay attention to the emotions behind the words. Think about what the other person is feeling when they are saying something. Rather than focus on the content of what they are saying, sometimes focusing on what they are feeling is more important in the moment. This helps to create an environment of being attune to others.
4. Turn off the fixer. There is a part of many people that wants to fix a problem someone has just told us about. Instead of thinking of solutions to their problems, empathize by responding with something like, “Wow, that must be really tough”. Phrases like this let the other person know that we are really listening to what they are going through. Sometimes people just need to vent. If you have an idea for them, it really helps to ask the other person if they are open to some ideas or if they just needed to vent.
5. Lastly turn off storyteller mode. We all have a story. There is space for everyone’s story, it’s just probably not at the same time. When someone shares a story, there can sometimes be a moment where some would say they have a better story, or try to one up each other. Part of life is sharing experiences not being in competition with each other’s experiences. Enjoy their story with them. They are inviting you into their life, accept the invitation.
Contributed by Nicole Binney, tLMFT
We are nearly to the end of January already, a time when many people consider the highs and lows of the past year and determine what changes they would like to make for the new year. You may have engaged in conversations about New Year’s resolutions, developed a personal or professional goal for yourself, and you may have already started to work toward meeting some short-term goals. Whether or not you create New Year’s resolutions you can make progress in your life by having a growth mindset.
What is a growth mindset? A growth mindset is a person’s belief that they have the ability to develop through determination and effort, and that intellect and talent are a place to start. A growth mindset also includes a positive believe that growth and change is possible. This way of thinking does not require you to have all of the answers, and it provides no reduction in the possibility of failure. A growth mindset builds on the strengths and abilities you already have.
What happens when you have a growth mindset. When you choose to begin working toward an accomplishment with a growth mindset, you understand that progress takes time. You ask for help when needed. You find others with similar goals to encourage and learn from each other. You understand that you may fail; however, you learn from feedback received and begin again in a new way.
While working toward the invention of the light bulb, Thomas Edison was quoted saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” As you begin this year as someone who sets goals or as someone considering some change, keep a growth mindset. Make one small change toward growth. Learn what works and what doesn’t work. Surround yourself with those who support you. You may not be inventing the light bulb, but your success may be found in the reinventing of your thoughts about growth.
Yoga is a big trend in our culture today. All we hear or read about is hot yoga, aerial yoga, power yoga, yoga with puppies, and even yoga with goats! What is the big deal?
Yoga is a Sanskrit word which refers to the combination of breath and movement. In truth, you have already been practicing yoga from the day you were born! How? Because the first movement we make as a baby is taking a big breath. By practicing yoga, you become aware of your breath and intentionally align it with movement.
Has anyone ever told you to “calm down take a deep breath?” Why do we say this? As the popularity of yoga has grown, so has the study of what it does to the body physically and neurologically. We now know that taking that breath begins a cascade of good things to our body.
The breath, or respiratory system, is the one body system that is unconsciously controlled (you will continue to breathe even when you aren’t trying to) and consciously controlled (you can deepen or hold your breath at will). This means that breath is the one action that connects our conscious with the subconscious.
Why is this important? If you are an adult in America there is a 99.99% chance that you have experienced trauma or stress, whether it is something you are aware of or not. This stress can be obvious and known to you, for example: a car accident, a divorce, or as subtle and common as being late for a meeting or having a busy schedule. Whatever the cause, our body’s automatic reaction is to initiate the fight/flight/freeze response when we experience stress. This is what keeps us alive and safe in dangerous situations. With repetition over time, this system keeps running on auto pilot even when we are not in a dangerous or stressful situation and it continues in our subconscious. This can be damaging to our physical and mental health.
Consciously taking that deep breath to calm down is the “switch” that begins to regulate our stress response. You may not even recognize that you need to flip this switch. Try it right now: take a deep slow breath and let your shoulders relax. Unless you are already aware of your breath, you probably were holding some tension and felt it release with that breath. Practicing breathing with gentle movement will allow your body to reset and recover from being in an over stressed and stimulated state.
How do you find out what kind of yoga is best for you? The answer is simple. Try one!
Yoga teachers (or “yogis”), such as myself, are happy to talk with you about what to expect in their class, especially if you are a beginner. If you have experienced trauma, I highly recommend finding a class with a trauma-informed yoga teacher or TIYT. If the class doesn’t specify, ask the teacher if they practice trauma-informed or trauma-sensitive yoga. Finding a TIYT will provide a safe foundation for your practice and then you can branch out in tree pose with puppies or goats!
Want to learn more? You can reach me by phone at 515-724-8920 or email@example.com
Contributed by Bari Lloyd, RYT200, TIYT
Contributed by Tonya Jansen, LMHCP
Within my practice, I often have clients who minimize their traumatic experiences when comparing themselves to people they read about in the news headlines. It is always dangerous to compare ourselves to others because we will never be the best or the worst in a subjective category, but it is particularly detrimental when it comes to trauma. And there are two reasons why:
Research has demonstrated that trauma is cumulative. This means that repeated exposures to “Little T” traumas can have significantly greater symptoms over a person’s lifetime. Any trauma as a single incident is less likely to cause chronic mental health issues than repeated negative experiences. In short, one “Big T” may have the same mental health impact as multiple “Little Ts”. A “Little T” trauma may have more impact upon an individual than a trauma that occurred years earlier. Failing to address the emotional suffering of any traumatic event may lead to cumulative damage over time. Older people are naturally more likely to have a history of “Little T” trauma because they have lived longer, therefore creating more vulnerability to trauma-related symptoms. Trauma exposure has a cumulative effect on anxiety, depression, suicidality, psychosis, dissociation and other trauma symptoms.
Let’s put together an example of this. If you have experienced an absent parent, bullying at work or school, and serious illness in life, it is valid to connect your mental illness struggles with your life experiences. You cannot set your experiences beside another person’s trauma and determine which person is more “worthy” of trauma-related symptoms or therapy. Minimizing the emotional suffering of any event does not remove the cumulative damage that occurs over time. Your story matters.
One of the most memorable classes that I took as an undergrad was about grief and loss. Every week, a guest speaker came to class to share a personal story of a time they were impacted by the death of a loved one. The story that stuck with me was that of a mother who lost her son, Ben. It was the kindness from those around her, even complete strangers, that helped her through such a heavy loss. The kindness she received motivated her to start a non-profit, Ben’s Bells, dedicated to teaching individuals and communities about the positive impacts of intentional kindness and to inspire people to practice kindness as a way of life. Ben’s Bells motto, “be kind,” is scattered around Tucson, AZ where the non-profit began, and I’ve kept that with me ever since I first heard Jeannette tell her story. You can read all about Ben’s Bells here: https://bensbells.org/
As one of MOSAIC FAMILY’s administrative assistants, I strive to be kind to every single person that calls and to every single client that walks in our door. Why? Unfortunately, I’d like to say that people need our services during the best days of their lives but that is just not the case. The person on the other line may have been trying to call to schedule an appointment for weeks but were having anxiety about doing so or just didn’t have the energy to. The person walking into our office for the first may have just lost their mother, their spouse, or their son. Now a days, all we hear about on the news, radio, social media, are stories of people hurting one another. Recently, I decided to step back from social media applications because of this. I decided to be kind to myself. Now, that I am not staring at my phone so often, I can focus on being kind to others in the smallest of ways. How? I can say “good morning” to others in the elevator and hallway as I head to the office, I can help an elderly couple understand how to use the pop machine if they are struggling while I’m out to lunch, I can send a funny picture to a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while.
The smallest of gestures can go a long way. Research tells us that kindness benefits our physical and mental health, and that recognizing kindness in others increases a person's happiness and satisfaction. Focusing on being intentionally kind in our interactions can also improve our ability to connect with others. I believe that we need more of that now, personal connection, beyond a phone or laptop screen.
So go ahead, hold the door open for someone, let the person with one item go ahead of you at the check-out line, be kind to the barista who may not have gotten your order correct because it was her first day on the job.
Kindness is free, sprinkle it everywhere.
It’s a very simple question but oh how deep the effects of having a support system. Imagine taking the world on your shoulders and not having anyone else to share the load with. It can be the difference between positive mental health and negative mental health. When the stressors of daily life compound, a person needs an outlet or a place they can unload some of those stressors. While it is wonderful that many people meet with their therapists, all too often this is a one-hour meeting out of an entire week that consists of 168 hours. Take that and look at it on a grander scale and an average person that gets to meet with their therapist once a week, meets with that therapist for 4 – 5 hours a month that consists of 720 -744 hours. Out of a year, that person would meet with their therapist 52 hours, while the year would consist of 8,760 hours. That is far too much time to not have someplace else to lay one’s troubles and cares.
You might ask, how do I go about building a good support system. Members of your support system can come from all walks of life. They can be individuals with different races, ethnicities, religions, and much more diversity. A support system can consist of family members, friends, coworkers, or teachers, and can give a person a place where all the frustrations of the days, weeks, months, or even years, can be offloaded. A support system should consist of anyone that a person feels comfortable sharing very personal things with. Look for individuals with whom you feel you could discuss anything at all without the other person judging you. Have an open and honest conversation with that person about your need to be able to share very stressful and personal things. Having nonjudgmental people in your support system is of the utmost importance. These types of individuals can help you to offload the weight of the world in an environment where it feels safe to offload whatever stressors, difficulties, troubles, and traumas you have had to endure. Also look for shared interests and experiences. An example might be finding another mom who is also going through the stress of raising young children, or a coworker who has shared with you how difficult it has been to meet the current quota. Dig beneath the negative thinking, find the courage, and just reach out. You will be pleasantly surprised how many people want to be there for you and to help you through whatever difficulties you are going through.
Many people worry about sharing their troubles with another individual, as they worry that the other person might find them a burden. I invite you to think back to a time you had to care for a loved one who desperately needed your care, compassion, and helping hands, heart, and mind. There is a very big chance that you felt very good for getting to be there for another person who desperately needed your help, as they did not have the ability themselves to provide the comfort, caring, and compassion that you provided for themselves. Mental illness will often cause a person’s mind to send messages such as stay away from other people, they don’t know at all, what its like to be in your shoes. It is often at these times that a person can make the greatest progress in defeating negative thoughts like these by doing the opposite of what the thought is telling you. If the thought tells you to isolate, find some friends to hang out with. If the thoughts tell you not to talk to anyone else, find that nonjudgmental ear to tell your troubles too. If the thoughts tell you to stay in bed and sleep longer than is needed, get up and do something, make some goals and try to accomplish them. If thoughts tell you to draw the curtains and veg out in front of the TV, binge watching Netflix, get outside and take a walk with a friend or enjoy the sounds of nature by yourself.
The most important thing of all is finding the courage to reach out. There is a world of people out there just wanting to help you through the stresses and difficulties you experience. Use your best judgement and find people who you feel safe with. In today’s modern, technological world, a new friend and confidant can be just a phone call away. Look at yourself like a builder would look at a home. No good structure would feel safe and secure without proper supports in place. No good structure would be able to withstand harsh weather and stresses without proper supports in place. Do yourself a favor and decide today that you are going to put those proper supports in place.