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You, me, and counseling in 2016.

We’re nearing the end of 2016. About to make some major anxiety-invoking-political-decisions (the American Counseling Association is actually offering resources for folks dealing with election-anxiety this cycle). It’s been a leap year. And I think it’s safe to say we can blame Mercury in retrograde for some other off-kilter happenings.

2016 has brought about so many changes, including my transition to focusing on developing and growing my private practice and being able to help folks that otherwise have a hard time attaining it.

What does that mean to you?

Well, to be honest, it can mean a lot of things or a lot of nothing. One of my goals of counseling at my private practice is changing the stigma around mental health challenges. Reaching out for help doesn’t need to mean there is something blatantly awful going on in your life. It can mean you’re dealing with some difficult transitions and would benefit from some insight from an outsider’s perspective. It can mean you have a very concrete issue and you need some goal-directed action to overcome that specific obstacle. Or it could mean you’re not exactly sure what is going on in your world, but you know you don’t feel right and you know you deserve to be happier but don’t know how to go about getting to that more fulfilling phase of your life.

So many people report how nervous they are about taking the first steps- making the call to different therapists and then showing up to that first appointment. And while it can be nerve-wracking to meet someone new, especially someone you plan on baring your Self to, that’s okay and completely normal. Being open and vulnerable can be terrifying. But you should also be proud of yourself for overcoming those steps and reaching out. When you attend your first session, we’ll talk through your nerves and attempt to discern what the best mode of action for you is and what your options may be.

I receive several inquiries about whether I do *THIS* type of counseling or *THAT* other specific technique that is all the current rave. And while these are great questions and it’s awe-inspiring that you are taking an active role in your treatment,  I like to encourage folks to be open and willing to try different things. Sometimes you may come in for a very specific challenge and realize there are some other underlying thoughts causing some maladaptive feelings and behaviors.

I’ve also revamped my logo thanks to some common themes that have come up with clients. I like to use the tree analogy in our work together. You, the individual, are the tree trunk; it’s core. While anxiety or autism or schizophrenia are parts of your Being, branches if you will, they do not compromise your entire Self. They do not solely define you. They’re merely different facets of who you truly are. Sometimes we get caught up in a diagnosis or a specific barrier, but I like to remind clients that these aspects are a fraction of the whole; you are more than just your problems.

Since this post, I’ve officially been granted my PA license to practice as a Professional Counselor, moved, and had a little minion that wrecks havoc on the world.

Anyway. Drop me a line. Let’s have a conversation.

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16 Weeks and Pregnant: A Therapists Perspective on Pregnancy, Adulthood, and Community.

*Insert obligatory, “oh my goodness it has been so long since I last updated”*

Yes, it’s been two years since I’ve utilized this lovely blog. And in that timeframe I’ve:

  • Gotten married (and had an amazing ceremony with our family and closest friends)
  • Gone on some amazing vacations
  • Ran my first half-marathon
  • Paid off a ridiculous amount of debt
  • Had my client load triple, including starting up hours at a different office
  • Became a group leader for a Mental Health Association local support group
  • Trained my dog to become a certified therapy dog
  • Had to return to school for my PA licensure due to state discrepancies between NY

Oh, and I’m currently four months pregnant with our first (potentially only) child. Continue reading “16 Weeks and Pregnant: A Therapists Perspective on Pregnancy, Adulthood, and Community.”

A Mountain of Tissues…And How To Avoid It

I’m not sure why, but I have been sick more times this year than the cumulative of my whole life. And I’m tired of it. My early new years resolution? Start taking better care of my health. This may sound rather lofty, but when broken down into parts it also seems more reasonable. Are you dealing with a cruddy immune system? Read on to see if you can benefit from these. Or share your ideas as to how you stay healthy!

Step 1: Utilize Technology. I’ve had an app called, “pinkpad”* figuretively lying around on my phone. I used to use it religiously to track headaches. Once I discovered the reason behind said headaches, pinkpad seemed like a few wasted minutes. But now I have more reason to give it another go. (I believe the actual purpose of PinkPad is to track menstrual cycles and fertility, but it does not have to be!)

Step 2: Revamp Diet. My family generally jokes around that my partner and I are “too picky”. But as of recent months, our relatively healthy diet has gone down the gutter. It seems like it’s time to reopen our wallets and invest in quality food. Not to mention at this point, it might be helpful to start planning out meals to make the weekdays less stressful.

Step 3: Exercise! Both physically and mentally. This means getting up off that computer and stretching out, jumping around. anything to get the blood flowing! Play sudoko, do a crossword or even scrabble* will get those brain juices flowing!  This also means I have to stop blaming the weather and/or my pups as an excuse. Or time, that’s a good one.

Step 4: Make time. Specifically to get out and run. Sure, we can’t literally create more minutes in a day, but we sure as heck can try to maximize it! Read here for more info.

Step 5: SLEEP! I love sleeping. And naps. But for some reason, my  bedtime keeps getting pushed later these days. In my case, I know I need at least 8-9 hours of sleep a night to function the next day. Do you know what you need? Use the weekend to experiment what sleep ratio works best for you!

And on that note, I’m going to go off and utilize the rest of my time to get some sleep. 🙂

Note: Michelle is not being paid to endorse any products mentioned in this post.

Everything Happens for a Reason

Love and Marriage

Note: the following post is a departure from the usual content of michellekanhelp. Instead of the usual mental health tips, I’d love to gain your insight into “the situation”.

I told myself I would keep this blog relatively unbiased. As in, I wouldn’t self-disclose too much. But over the weekend, something happened. Something most people consider big. Something many people spend there whole lives waiting for. Something I’m expected to jump up and down with a certain kind of joy about.

But to be honest, I’m not that person.

My partner and I have been together for several years. We’ve lived together for about 90% of that time. We are well acquainted with each others families. We go on vacations together. We split the bills down the middle and help each other out if a paycheck is a bit on the short side that week. We’ve discussed having children in the future. We’ve said we are committed, life-long partners. And most importantly, we adopted two puppies together.

But apparently, this is not enough for society.

We became engaged over the weekend. We made a subtle announcement on Facebook (because nothing is official unless it is on Facebook). And we have received an outpour of congratulatory compliments from friends and long-lost acquaintances.

Don’t misunderstand me, I genuinely appreciate the loving comments we have received from all. And my partner and I are no more or less committed than we have been over the years.

But in today’s society, when many no longer respect “old-fashioned” traditions, where people still say and do hateful acts towards their fellow-man, and worst of all, people barely appreciate Thanksgiving and are rushing to put Christmas decor on sale before Halloween has even happened.What’s the big deal with marriage?

Why is it despite the staggering divorce rates and broken homes, people still feel the need to have the legality of a piece of paper to validate their relationship? Instead of making a big deal about an engagement, why do people fail to recognize the fact that our already stable relationship has lasted longer than most marriage’s today?

I’m not trying to stand on a soapbox and preach feminists philosophies. And don’t get me wrong, there have been a few fleeting moments where excitement stirs (as in, “YES! We can get the animals to walk down the aisle with the rings!“)

I’m a believer in the fact everyone is entitled to their own opinion, their own beliefs. And for personal reasons, I agreed to make the socially expected committment.

But I’m genuinely interested in the thought process of others when it comes to marriage. What are your ideas on commitment and marriage? Please, drop me a line and share your thoughts! Help me gain some insight into this wild tradition! And if you don’t feel comfortable disclosing on the interwebs, please email me at Michelle@michellekanhelp.com !

-Dr. Seuss
-Dr. Seuss

Hopscotch Your Way to Happiness

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.- Plato

Do you have time to be silly? Most will say no. Time to be professional! Time to be an adult! Time to pay bills, but no time to have some fun.

One of the main reasons I enjoy working with kids is because of their willingness to play. They don’t really need that new talking Furby* or the latest Beyblade*. Sure, they’ll kick and whine about it but give them a few regular Lego*, or whatever trinket is hanging out in the impulse buy section of a check-out line and magic will happen.

It truly is amazing. Often times in play, individuals will feel more free to express themselves. Yes this is true for little ones. But once you get an adult to sit down and play, they’ll typically use it as a means to express how they really feel instead of trying to hide behind a facade of what they think they should feel!

Ask any grade schooler what their favorite subject in school is and most will say recess. Next time consider joining them out there. Absorb all the giggles. And most importantly, enjoy your Self!

Source: unknown
Source: unknown

*Michelle does not endorse any of the products mentioned in this post nor is she being paid to mention them in the post.

The Art of Scheduling

I just had four days off for Thanksgiving break. And now, I look at the minutes as I’m  drowning through the demands I placed on myself before this break and I’m frantically crossing my fingers for time to slow down.

Where did the last four days go? Between family time, being gluttonous, and checking off the to do list, here I am on Sunday night feeling as if nothing was accomplished.

Do you ever feel like that? You schedule yourself a day off but when you get ready for bed, you realize your to do list is as long as it was when you submitted the time off to your boss?

Well. I have an idea: schedules. Yes, that’s right. Even pseudo-vacations should run on a somewhat planned schedule.

And to be hoenst, my lack of personal scheduling is the reason this blog has fallen by the wayside. “I’ll get to it during my lunch break” turned into “I’ll write something before bed” which fell apart with “I’ll do it over the weekend” until now. This weekend I’ve set a schedule for myself to make it through the hectic next few weeks.

Because you can’t deny it. No matter what faith you are, December always ends up feeling like you’re on The GravitronYou know, one of those rides at cheap carnivals where you stand against a wall and the gravitational force keeps you stuck against the wall as the speed increases. You know what I’m talking about.

So I propose the idea of scheduling your “down-time”. It doesn’t have to be minute by minute. Think of it more like the cable company does: give yourself blocks of time to get a category done. For example, from 8am-12 pm I plan on starting my day with taking care of myself and the dogs. Vague enough to give me some leeway, but specific enough to feel like something has been accomplished once 12:01 rolls around. And if you are the type of person that is stuck on the cusp between both “type a & b personality” you can take it a step further: breakfast by 9, walk dogs until 9:30, run until 11:30, and get ready to leave.

See, I feel better just having wrote this. Yay for productive spontaneity.

Source: Dr. Seuss

Fall Equinox

I’m a bit late, but Fall is too great of a season to not acknowledge. And I felt it’d be appropriate to mention the change since I started this venture on the summer cusp.

Time is speeding up. This seems to be the general consensus among most of those I ask.
“Is it just me, or is time gong faster?” Is how the conversation starts. “I remember growing up it seemed like each season lasted forever.” And on it goes, until we realize we sound like the stereotypical grandparent who “had to walk two miles in the snow”.

Now, it seems as if within a blink I’m getting ready for the next change. I still didn’t even move all my winter clothes into storage when it warmed up and now it seems like that was a good idea.

My last month of summer has been incredibly busy. Full of fighting injustices in the legal system and outrageous doctors fees. I’m not exactly trying to make an excuse for my lack of writing (read: i was legitimately too tired to try to write a complete post). After all, I did feel guilty so many weeks have lapsed and had started several posts without seeing them through to frutition. (Note- this post was first drafted on 9/17!)

Which led me to feel guilty.

But thankfully, things have normalized. Work hours are relatively stable. I’ve restarted running to keep some sense of balance.

My tip for times like these? Try to find something in your life you can rely on when stress hits the fan. Maybe it’s exercise. Or art. Or sky diving. But even when it seems impossible to take 5 minutes out of an insane day for yourself and you feel guilty just thinking about taking time for yourself, do it.

If you don’t take a few moments for your Self, the result will likely be burnout. Which can lead to depression and other serious health issues. Reexamine your to-do list and make the time to have some time.

Source- unknown

Back to School Specials Should Be an Everyday Special

I never liked going back to school, but I did love the school shopping: specifically when it involved office supplies.

While I might not have been ecstatic about having to sludge behind the actual work of everything school entails, I did enjoy the sense of a new beginning.  It was always a chance to make my way through first impressions and day planners. I had already blown through the semblance of new year’s plans and would be getting bored with how my year was panning out.

Now, I’m a bit older and no longer have these start-of-school-year’s to use as an excuse to revamp myself. This gives me one less excuse to try forcing myself to make promises revolving around my narcissistic betterment. It was a vain attempt to erase the version of me I had been living with up until that point.

But since I am on a path to constantly enhance my current state of being while enjoying the moment, I’ve taken a new perspective on all of these chances at “new me’s”.

I try to think about it as an update. Computer software needs updated every once in a while. And if virtual reality mimics reality, why can’t we upgrade ourselves as needed?

I’m trying to steer clear of words such as “improvement” and “modify”. Even “resolution” seems insultingly dramatic. These words suggest I’m not satisfied with where I currently am. And for once, I can say I am happy with who I am and where I am going. But it doesn’t hurt to maximize my current capabilities!

Over the last couple of months, I’ve picked up the habit of examining how the month went as a whole. What were activities I was able to accomplish? What did I punish myself through doing? Are there any patterns here I should notice?

Sure, certain situations can be circumstantial. But over all I have found this a good way to examine where I’m at both mentally and physically.

My point is this: don’t feel like you need the excuse of the start of a school year to update how you’re living. Feel free to live every day as that new beginning you’re waiting for.

Source- Unknown

Olympic Fever

Now that the Olympics are over, I have a confession: the past few weeks I have been unnecessarily preoccupied with the Olympics.Why? Sure the athletes are ridiculously amazing and have the ability to make me analyze my own abilities. But my minor obsession with the games goes beyond the superficial layer of athletic glory.

It’s the underlying message of the game that has me hooked. Be passionate. Be determined. Strive for your personal best. Don’t give up.

As cheesy as it may sound (especially to quote a breakfast cereal commercial), “why does the finish get all the glory? there is no destination, without the journey…”-Kellogg’s

Think about it:

  • How often do we examine our current circumstances and start planning for the next move?
  • Or maybe live in a bubble of nostalgia surrounding our past transgressions?
  • We  say we are living our lives fully, but are we?
  • Are we zooming past the nuisances of our daily lives to get to some ultimate goal?
  • What happens when that goal is attained? Do we feel disappointment or relief? Is there a new, more impossible goal to reach?

It’s easy to look at the Olympics and take on one of two perspectives: the pessimistic view (“Oh, I will never amount to anything like these athletes) versus the optimistic view ( “watch me be amazing). Which view are you going to take?

While the Olympics have been able to keep me distracted, thankfully those silly Kellogg’s commercials have reminded me of one thing: enjoy each moment by living the best way I can.

Oscar Wilde (source unknown)

Live Like a Dog

Winston Harvey

This is Winston aka Winston Harvey, our six month old Australian Shepard.  Three months ago, on a somewhat spontaneous whim, he became a member of our ohana.

Why am I showing you a picture of my pup? (Why not!) Yes, I like showing off his cute-ness. But Winston became a member of our family for three main reasons: to help in my quest for happiness, to be my running partner, and to be certified as a therapy dog.

Still wondering what my dog has to do with you? Well, after being a self-proclaimed cat-lady my entire life I decided to take the plunge and get a pup thinking all those negative things people say about puppy-raising was a bunch of bologna. I had heard about how the benefits of dog-ownership outweigh the bad, often frustrating aspects of raising a puppy. And while I am still a crazy cat-lady and love my almost-seven-year-old-MaineCoon-named-Oliver, I am a proud-often-tired-but-relearning-the-simple-things dog lady too.

Regardless, in the last three months Winston has taught me A LOT. Some of his insights are quintessentially simple, but easily overlooked in our regular everyday lives. Luckily, I now have him as a constant reminder. So what can you learn from Winston (or any pup)?

  • Life is Exciting: Dogs get excited over just about everything. Why? It doesn’t really matter! The point is, you are alive and that in itself is worth boosting your mood.
  • Use your Senses: Pups don’t just go through the motions of life. They devour it, they sniff it out, they listen to everything, they touch to understand. Their world, like ours, is sensory-based-except they don’t ignore them!
  • Enjoy the Moment: Dogs fully utilize their five senses to be in the moment. They’re not plotting their next move to get ahead at work, or thinking about what’s for dinner. They’re lavishing your affection and happily chewing on the new stick they just found.
  • Don’t Over Think It: Remember, a dog’s life is all about each existing minute. He’s not sitting there and making a pro/con list. He’s doing something if he likes it or running away from it if he doesn’t! Sometimes in life we need to just act!
  • Get Outside: Dogs thrive off of fresh air and daily walks. And as living creatures, we humans do too! We spend too much of our day cooped up in poorly ventilated, claustrophobic spaces while we turn a pasty shade of pale. Get some (safe, sun-screened) sunlight! Breathe the fresh air!
  • Learn From Your Mistakes And Move On: It might take a dog a few times while initially training, but once learned you can bet he won’t keep making the same mistake! Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Live, learn, and let go!
  • Smile: Yes, this kind of falls into all of the above categories but smiling deserves its own section! At the end of my long day, watching Winston trip over his own feet and not being able to stop himself from running into a wall gives me a big enough chuckle to help shake off the day’s stress. As an added bonus, smiling leads to laughing which is a natural, easy way to work out those abs!
  • Sleep: Take it from Winston, who manages to arrange himself on his pillow in the weirdest ways and has the capacity to pass out anywhere: it doesn’t matter how you accommodate yourself between your sheets and amongst your pillows. What matters is getting enough rest to energize you for your next day. And when the next morning comes, you remember just that- it is a new day! Yesterday’s drama should stay stuck in yesterday.

Am I advising you to go out and buy a dog? Definitely not! Bringing a dog into your home is a much bigger responsibility than I would have ever believed. And despite their cute faces, getting a puppy will not change you or your habits if you are naturally on the lazy side, having a dog will not necessarily motivate you to take that 30 minute power walk every day and you will be making empty promises to yourself and your dog. (Remember, motivation comes from within!)

But if you have any kind of pet, take a few moments each day and examine how they live their life. Watch their cues. And learn to live off of the “bare necessities”.

Bare Necesseties