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Strategize for Success

We have all had times where our best plans get thrown off course. Things outside of our control – pandemics, inflation, layoffs, you name it – change our outlook from one moment to the next. It can be overwhelming and even disheartening when new hurdles make our dreams seem that much farther away. But when life presents setbacks and challenges multiply, it becomes more important than ever to strategize for success – in health, in relationships, in work, and in life.

Strategizing for success is more than repeating positive affirmations while waiting for a storm to pass. It is a decision we make to acknowledge the storm and plan a way through it. We do it when we sort things out in a journal before bed, examine our problems in therapy sessions, and find shared aspirations in conversations with those close to us. Moments like these are opportunities to step outside of our daily cycles and obtain a broader perspective on where we’ve been, where we’re at, and where we’re going.

Strategizing takes focus, concentration, and brutal honesty. Often it requires that we willingly confront the things troubling us most. Taking stock of where we’re at, courageously envisioning where we desire to be, and charting a course to get there is how we renew our motivation to forge ahead when things get rough. Also, it has been said that a person traveling alone will go fast, but people travelling together will go far. Strategizing for success can solidify plans for personal wellbeing, but it is even more powerful when we include the wellbeing of those around us.

Success is an experience, not a material possession. It is a journey, not a destination. It is an inner change that we pursue in hopes of improving the outer world. It is not about getting one up on someone else. It is about becoming more today than we were yesterday. Whether we are pursuing better health through exercise and food choice, better mental health through therapy and self-care, better relationships through communication and action, or better contributions to the world through skill learning and meaningful work, success comes when we recognize how our intentions and efforts can lead to growth we never imagined possible.

What does success look like in the coming day, week, or year? How can the inevitable challenges ahead be overcome? How can we work alongside others to achieve success beyond ourselves? These are questions that require us to set aside our social media, our news, our work, and our duties for just a moment as we grab a pen and paper, enter a therapy session, or sit down with a close friend, and strategize for success.

Written by Louis Nicholas, Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

When Positivity Becomes Toxic

Have you ever heard the following phrases?

  • “Positive vibes only.”

  • “Everything happens for a reason.”

  • “Failure is not an option.”

  • “Why are you so upset? So-and-so has it much worse.”

  • “Look on the bright side.”

 

If these sound familiar, it’s because this type of mindset is glorified in mainstream culture. Toxic positivity is the belief that one should focus on the bright side of things and keep moving forward while ignoring or neglecting the negative aspects of life. While the intention is seemingly optimistic and positive, the impact is nothing short of harmful. Imagine having to be objectively strong, ambitious, successful, level-minded, in control, unaffected, emotionally stable, invincible, and perfect all the time. What an exhausting way to live! Toxic positivity essentially tells us that it’s not okay to be human because being human is messy and difficult. This is why so many people suffer in silence and feel like they’re failing in life. But what if we began looking at these positive attributes through a realistic and empowering lens rather than a dismissive one? What if we acknowledged that part of being “strong” is learning how to grow through moments of weakness? What if we believed that part of remaining “in control” is recognizing that there are things outside of our control and focusing on the things we can help? What if we accepted that part of being “emotionally stable” is becoming familiar with the emotions that hurt and feel uncomfortable and learning how to process these emotions in healthy ways? I believe we can normalize the real human experience and allow others to feel more comfortable and free to admit they aren’t doing well, ask for help, and receive support! No one should have to suffer alone or in silence.

 

Here are some healthier phrases to replace toxic positivity:

  • “I’m here for you.”

  • “I am so sorry that happened to you.”

  • “You have every reason to feel that way.”

  • “Do you want to talk about it?”

  • “How can I support you right now?

Written by Cindy-Joy Rosado, Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

The Effects of Dating Apps on Mental Wellbeing

We live in a world of technology, social media and dating apps, a world where meeting someone
organically feels like something from history books. In an effort to quell one’s loneliness or to
feel proactive in the search for a partner, online dating has become commonplace. However,
studies have shown that dating apps can have a negative impact on mental health, causing users
to experience higher stress than those who do not use the apps. There is the potential for a
significant increase in anxiety, depression and poor body image. Some users have admitted to
using dating apps solely for the external validation, perpetuating the superficiality of online
dating. Users who have preexisting disorders need to be extra vigilant in navigating triggers
aroused by the impersonal swiping and the seemingly endless rejection. The use of online dating
apps increased substantially during the Covid pandemic and has not decreased even as things
have normalized. People have grown accustomed to the ease of serial swiping and the large pool
of potential options these apps offer. But users report a dating app phenomenon called
“ghosting”, ignoring or disregarding a person after mutual interest, interaction and/ or after
meeting in person. The consequences of this behavior in the real world have not translated to the
online world and it is becoming rampant. It understandably takes a toll on a person’s mental
wellness.
Some suggestions for maneuvering online dating while preserving your mental health:
1. Avoid logging into a dating app when you’re in an especially vulnerable or emotional
state.
2. Try to abstain from mindless swiping. Be intentional when you are engaging on the app
and limit the time you spend swiping through potential candidates.
3. Continue to cultivate your passions and relationships in real life. It’s easy to get caught
up in the online social world.
4. Be conscious and aware of when you’re feeling negatively affected by online dating and
give yourself breaks when you need them.

Written by Nicole Geddie, Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

The Future Isn’t Real and Neither Are Your Problems

“I am an old man now, I have known a great many troubles. Most of them never happened.” – Mark Twain

 

The concept of the future can seem like an inevitable, inescapable idea. The future is always coming, and if a problem appears in the future, it can feel like an encroaching threat that you just can’t get out of the way of. This is where anxiety enters. 500 years ago if I was anxious about catching enough fish to feed my family, I would receive a physiological response from my body to give me anxiety and stress. This would provide me with enough (albeit unpleasant) motivation to continue fishing the extra 1-2 hours in order to get what I need. If I stress about making a fire that lasts for the whole night and doesn’t get out of control and swallow me in my sleep, I will experience stress and anxiety as a motivation to make absolute sure that I place rocks around the fire to keep it contained, and give it plenty of wood to keep it burning as long as I need it to. This is where stress and anxiety make sense. They give immediate signals to the body that something needs to be accomplished right now. 

 

Where things get warped and miscommunicated is when you observe a human being in the 21st century experiencing anxiety about office politics and a manager or boss that they just don’t get along with. When you focus on this problem, your body still gives you the same outdated physiological response that kept your ancestors alive. Something is wrong! Here are motivational chemicals to solve this problem right now. The problem here is that the anxiety serves no purpose. The problem cannot be solved. It is out of this person’s control, and yet his brain is still flooding his body with the stress chemicals to solve it right now. This person will then feel the effects of anxiety where they begin to dread the future and curse the present out of frustration for not being able to solve this problem. 

 

The stoics tell us “do not suffer imagined pain”. This statement can tell you two things about the world. Firstly, that the stoics do not recognize the future is a real and tangible idea. In reality, the future actually does not exist. All that exists is the present. The future exists only in the mind of humans as an estimation for what we think may happen at some point. But it is important to remember and maintain that none of it is actually real. The second is that the brain is actually quite bad at differentiating time. It’s why we are able to remember things that happened years prior and still feel the pain of the situation, or likewise if we imagine something stressful in the future, we feel the anxiousness of the situation. This is what the stoics mean when they tell you not to imagine your pain. The pain is in the future, an imaginary place. Seneca also tells us “we suffer more in imagination than reality”. 

 

So all of that sounds excellent in practice, but how exactly are we supposed to tell ourselves this information when our brains are in full panic mode about the rent due in 2 weeks? The answer is to practice another core tenant of stoic philosophy. Stoicism focuses very heavily on the idea of control. What is under your control is your responsibility. What is NOT under your control is not your responsibility. The more time you spend pondering this concept, the more you will come to realize that the only thing that is absolutely, positively, without a doubt under your total control is your mind, and to some extent your body. Everything else is not. And so, knowing this information we can now come to see the world from the lens of things you can control contrasted to the things you cannot. You cannot control outside factors, you cannot control how people treat you, and you most certainly cannot control the outcome of events. What you can absolutely control is how you react to each of these situations. How you conduct yourself. According to the stoics, this is the only thing you should ever concern yourself with. 

 

So our short answer we arrive at is quite simple: if you cannot control it, refuse responsibility for it. Is there a problem happening on Thursday? Today is Monday. I cannot control this problem, at the moment it is not my responsibility. I’m off the hook. What you should absolutely not do is suffer the problems of Thursday on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then finally Thursday. Remind yourself, the future isn’t real and neither are my problems. 

By: Bryce Miller, M.S.,Ed.S.

The Importance of Community for Your Mental Health

Our mental health significantly impacts our quality of life, so it makes sense that we would want
to do all we can to improve it. This may include things like eating healthy foods, exercising, and
getting enough quality sleep each night.

But there is something else that greatly influences our mental health and that is a community and
a sense of belonging. Human beings are wired for connection. When we feel connected to others,
we feel loved and supported. Friends can often help alleviate the stress in our life because our
friends are there for us to lean on.

If you have been feeling alone and isolated, here are some ways you can find your own
community and begin to connect with others:

Go with What Interests You

What activities and hobbies do you have? You may want to join a book club or take a painting
lesson. If you’re athletic or used to playing a sport in school, maybe you could join a local team.
You’ll no doubt find it easier to connect with others who enjoy doing the same things you do.

Volunteer

Being of service to others is highly rewarding, and volunteering is also a great way to connect
with others who share similar values. What causes do you feel passionate about? What charities
do you support? Check out their website or give them a call to see what volunteering
opportunities they may have available.

Connect with Something Bigger Than Yourself

Do you have a particular religion or spiritual practice you connect with? Maybe it’s time to get
back to your church or try taking that meditation class you’ve been thinking about. Is there a
political cause that speaks to your heart? Helping others reach a meaningful goal can be a great
way to find purpose in your own life.

Humans are not meant to be alone. We need to socialize. If you have been feeling down, now’s
the time to go out and make some new connections.

And if you’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety for some time and could use someone to
talk to, please give me a call.

Written by Sherline Herard, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

SOURCES:
 https://nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2019/The-Importance-of-Community-and-
Mental-Health
 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-mild-cognitive-impairment/201606/the-health-
benefits-socializing

 https://dailylife.com/article/7-ways-your-friendships-improve-your-mental-health
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Believe Beyond What You See

Every negative has a positive if you are willing to seek beyond those things that stand in the way of your vision to be able to see clearly. Believing according to some standard definition means to accept something as true and in order for the acceptance to occur faith has to ignite it, which means that if you can believe the air you breath is oxygen without actually seeing it then you can have faith in yourself.

Today you get to choose to have faith in yourself and in the fact that you have a purpose even though you may not see it, just as you believe in oxygen and its purpose of being able to serve you without ever having seen it.

As a therapist I have been a witness to a common symptom that occurs in this field and that is the negative beliefs that many fall subject to and it is due to these negative core beliefs that dysfunction becomes a way of living causing it to be normalized. This is why being able to recognize your own cognitive distortions is imperative. The following are some tips on ways to recognize your own cognitive distortions to be able to pave the way for newer healthy ways of thinking.

  1. Acknowledge your thoughts by observing them rather than judging them
  2. Embrace the feeling that you may have that is associated with the thought
  3. Identify the feeling that you would like to have to replace the negative feelings that were triggered by having the thought
  4. Engage in activities, such as listening to music, to allow the new feeling to become your reality

By taking these steps you will have allowed your thought to remain as a thought instead of becoming your reality.

Written by Bria Young, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

Toxic Has No Gender

Toxic Traits

A toxic relationship can leave you feeling mentally or physically exhausted and insecure. It is usually the topic that men are the toxic ones, but toxicity has no gender. Being the one in the toxic relationship makes it difficult to view the red flags. We get fixated on the months and years spent together and wanting to be the one to help heal your partner, but it takes a toll on our mental health. Family and friends are the first to see how negative a relationship can be to your health. A toxic partner can display the following traits:

  1. Gaslighting
  2. Manipulation
  3. Anger Issues
  4. Controlling
  5. Selfishness
  6. Arrogant

A toxic partner has actions and behaviors that will hurt, drain, and impact your life negatively. Constant pressure for perfection, it’ll feel as though nothing done is good enough. They will get angry when things don’t go their way, doesn’t matter if it is out of your control or not. You will slowly start changing, fall into depression, insecurities grow, anxiety, irritability, and experience irrational behavior. If you leave the relationship, you are left in shambles with self-loathing, self-doubt, and avoidance.

Detoxify

Acknowledging the toxic relationship is the first step, what follows after is up to you. Setting boundaries, asking for help, going to relationship/marriage counseling, or reinforcing positive social groups. It is important you find out what your boundaries are, what you want and don’t want in a relationship. A new life without them can be the answer to creating a better mental and physical state for yourself.

Written by Rachel Gonzalez

Bringing Intimacy Back Podcast Becomes Non-Profit

Bringing Intimacy Back, a podcast that is dedicated to inspire, enlighten, and encourage intimate connections, is officially registered as a non-profit. Visit Bringing Intimacy Back for more information and watch previous shows or follow their social media (Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, & Twitter).

Bringing Intimacy Back, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, has provided an engaging environment to discuss how to enhance intimacy in one’s personal relationships with significant others, families, friends, Spirit, and oneself. Bringing Intimacy Back is always the place where intimacy comes alive, where intimacy has no limits; it is Where Intimacy is Real.

Dr. April Brown is a Licensed Mental Health Christian Counselor (LMHC), Certified School Counselor (CSC), Certified Relationship and Sex Therapist, Board Certified TeleMental Health Counselor (BC-TMHC), National Certified Counselor (NCC), and a Qualified Clinical Supervisor. Kanya Ford best known as Coach Kay is a clinical sexologist, master sexologist, Bedroom Kandi consultant, and owner of Love & Intimacy 101, LLC coaching practice.

Two strong, independent entrepreneur women with the education and dedication to educate and improve intimacy for viewers as a non-profit podcast. Hosts Dr. April Brown and Kanya Ford are on a mission to increase intimacy in a world that is so disconnected by asking the nitty, gritty questions you are all dying to ask. Bringing Intimacy Back is based on building intimate connections to empower us to live a more fulfilling, driven, and purposeful life. It is time we squash our fears and be comfortable with finding our true intimate selves and Bringing Intimacy Back is the podcast that does just that. Live shows every Thursday at 3:30 pm eastern time, new intimate topics alongside new guests, no topic is off-limits.

With the advancements in technology, staying communicated and reaching a lot more people has never been so easy, but it comes at a price. Technology has also caused distance, we are all guilty of staying glued to our phones, if we are being honest, any technology we can get our hands-on. Bringing Intimacy Back is here to close the gap, lack of intimacy is one of the top three reasons why relationships fail or face problems. The higher the intimacy level is, the lower there is of anxiety, depression, stress, relationships failing, and arguments within the relationship.

The podcast you didn’t know you needed, but you finally found. The first steps in building and establishing strong intimate connections start with you, what better place to do it than taking a plunge into Bringing Intimacy Back. The podcast with a purpose to inspire, educate, and encourage stronger intimate connections and now proudly so as a non-profit. Bringing Intimacy Back registered as a non-profit created for its viewers, reaching new heights and exploring intimacy. Tune in for LIVE shows every Thursday at 3:30 pm EST or visit Bringing Intimacy Back for more episodes.

Written by Rachel Gonzalez

 

Divine Connection Starts with Family

A strong, close, trusting, stable, and loving relationship is the goal in life. Our first source of love comes from our own families. We learn what love is by watching our parents and we take what we learn with us in life. When we start dating to marriage, our learned traits come into play with these relationships. Our first memories of love were not watching it on the TV screen, it was right in front of us all along. How we view ourselves, how we approach situations, and how we view life are all being formed from a young age through the family. Have you ever wondered what makes you, you?

You are who you are in part because of family. It has shaped your person; keep in mind that family is the building block for emotional development. It is the reasoning behind how we cope with our emotions and how we are able to express ourselves. Family has always been there for us when we needed them the most; we can all remember a time when we turned to family for support and comfort during tough moments. That divine connection between you and family is irreplaceable, it is the greatest treasure that should be kept close to your heart.

“So much of what is best in us is bound up in our love of family, that it remains the measure of our stability because it measures our sense of loyalty.”- Haniel Long

Written by Rachel Gonzalez

There is Still Hope

“There is hope even when your brain tells you there isn’t” – John Green

Hope is a beautiful feeling; it is having expectations for something out of life or love. Our hope as kids was so much bigger, the world was our oyster. We were optimistic about life, we would dream of becoming president, a doctor, a lawyer, and a veterinarian. We dreamt of finding true love or finding happiness in life without worry. Our dreams dwindled as the years came and went and with each changing season, we grew older.

Do not let the spark in your eyes dwindle. Keep that hope for life and love alive. Try to find the positive in life even when it seems like life keeps knocking you down. It is okay to want positive outcomes out of horrible situations. When things are not going our way, we feel bad about ourselves, and we focus on the negative. We worry about the future and what could happen causing our bodies to go through stress and anxiety when it hasn’t happened yet so we either go through it twice or unnecessarily. Try focusing on the positive things in life, big or small. Remind yourself, the sun always comes out after a storm. Hope is everywhere, hope is not lost, hope is the last thing that is lost in life.

Written by Rachel Gonzalez