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.”

Freedom on the Fourth

The Fourth of July is technically Independence Day in the US. Freedom from Great Britain. Freedom for (select, privilleged) Americans.

And today, many of us continue to be able to enjoy this freedom that was signed into effect over 200 years ago. And while more citizens can enjoy the benefits of this elusive liberty, many Americans suffer from a lack-of-freedom in a different realm: mentally.

Mind over matter! You might say. But sometimes it’s not that easy. According to the Center for Disease Control, reportedly 1 in 10 Americans are depressed. Not to mention the 18% of American Adults that experience some kind of anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

And if you’ve ever had an anxiety attack (even a minor one), or you’ve ever experienced heartbreak, this emotional dysregulation grabs complete control of your life. Often times, causing a sense of temporary disability.

Not so free anymore, huh?

Some rely solely on medication to give them a false sense of freedom from their mental health concerns. Others live with these daily challenges thinking there is no other way to make it through life.

Luckily, that’s where mental health professionals come in. While good therapy can be your mirror, it can also help you release the hidden handcuffs you may have around your brain.

Want some ideas on how to get rid of some of that anxious energy? Or maybe some simple mood-boosters to lift you out of that slump? Below you’ll find some ideas. Remember, you should always consult with your mental health professional and/or doctor before incorporating ideas into your lifestyle.

  • Meditation: This can look different for everyone. Some may consider it praying. Essentially, you need to empty your head for a bit and concentrate on your breathing. If trying to pause your thoughts is too difficult for now, start by working on your breaths: inhale for about 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and repeat at least 10 times. Meditating can take as little as a deep breath to help restrain the clutches of an anxiety attack grabbing on to you, to a whole hour if you’re so inclined. Personally, I downloaded a free app for my phone by Andrew Johnson called “Relax Light” and listened to this every morning on my commute in NYC. (I in no way am paid to endorse this product nor am I affiliated with Andrew Johnson).
  • Soothe your Central Nervous System (CNS): This is aimed primarily at those sudden panic attacks some might get. The general gist is to start “combing” your arms with your fingertips, back and forth. This simple sensation sends vibes to your CNS telling it to calm down. Sound silly? Try it. You’ll be surprised!
  • Hug it out: When possible, hugging for at least 30 seconds also soothes your CNS by sending messages to your brain to calm down. Who would have thought a few simple touches could be so helpful?
  • Pet a Pet: Similar to the above two points, petting a (willing) animal helps send those important messages to your brain. The repetitive back and forth motion can also be relaxing for some.
  • Keep a Journal: Don’t have time you say? That’s fine. At the very least, keep a running list somewhere (I keep it on my phone) of triggers. What’s a trigger? A trigger is something that initiates something else, basically. For example, that guy that cut you off and almost made you crash? Yeah, he just triggered your already shortened temper into a full-blown road rage episode. The trigger: bad drivers/ inconsiderate people/ etc.
  • Rage it Out: This means, don’t hold back and let’er rip. Sometimes we are so tightly wound up by our emotions we don’t even realize what we have in us. Or we try to self-medicate with booze and other superficial substances in an effort to forget. This can mean cry until your eyes are puffy and red, yell into the air until you lose your voice, or get blisters on your hands from punching something (like a bag, pillow, mattress- definitely not a person). Emotions are a primal instinct and once they are freely released, a sense of catharsis tends to envelope the individual. Remember, don’t try to self-medicate! This should be done au-natural.
  • Get Up: I can say try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, but that might not seem possible to everyone. Plus, I’m sure you already know you’re “supposed” to do so. But at the very least, get up and move around for 1-3 minutes. Especially if much of your day is spent sedentary in an office or in classes. Doing so helps get your blood moving and pumps oxygen to all the right places. You might look a bit crazy doing jumping jacks around your cubicle, but you’ll feel significantly better.
  • Feed Your Belly: Too depressed to think about eating? Or too anxious to swallow past the lump in your throat? Sometimes, adjusting your diet can be a big help. A few years ago I experimented with mine and found the less I consumed processed foods, the better I emotionally felt. (And helped me manage a healthy weight without trying!) The trick to this is to make sure to read your food AND drink labels. I believe Michael Pollan mentioned it, but if you can’t read an ingredient or don’t know what it is, don’t put it in your body! Not to mention, the fewer the ingredients, the better.
  • Cook Your Heart Out: Or do something that requires you to follow directions and focus. Picking a hobby such as cooking helps you a) distract yourself from negative, obsessive thoughts that might be racing through your head, b) helps you feed your belly in a positive way and c) once you feel brave enough, invite friends over for a dinner party and socialize. (Note: this is not a free pass to repress your “stuff”, rather a way to give your brain a needed break.)
  • Put Your Party Pants On: Now this doesn’t mean spend all night at the club. But it does mean interact with your friends in-person (facebook and text messages do not count). Humans are social animals. We need contact. We need each other. By surrounding yourself with friends you are likely to a) realize what you are anxious and/or sad about is most likely not a big deal, b) have people to vent to and c) have their better-mood rub off on you!

Of course, there are thousands of other tips and tricks out there you can experiment with. And who knows, some of the ideas mentioned above might not work out for you. BUT it’s worth a try. And in some cases, seeking help from a medical professional in concerns to psychopharmacology is necessary. (Note: utilizing prescription anti-depressants/anti-anxiety meds correctly does not make you a weaker, less able person!)

After all, what good is living in a free country if you can’t even be free from your own thoughts?

(image source- unknown)