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Summer Loving ❤️

Summer… Even the word brings on a sweet smile!

This spectacular time of year comes after spring and before fall. Many agree that it’s the best season of all. A time where we can all use a splash of replenishment as the days grow longer and the soul longs for sunshine and the sea.

Traditionally, this special season suspends the 3 R’s of reading writing and arithmetic and sets the stage for 2 R’s that are far more gratifying and satisfying to our mental health, rest, and relaxation.

Have you put much thought into making this summer sizzle? If not, it may be time to turn up the heat and consider the following FUN and affordable activities:

stargazing
exercising
gardening
pleasure reading
dancing/movement
yoga/pilates/tai chi
visiting a park/ zoo/ museum/ planetarium
building a treehouse
creating/sketching/ drawing/ painting/sidewalk chalk
praying/ meditating
collecting seashells
building a sand castle
hiking
writing/ sharing your story
kissing
playing board games
playing cards
playing hopscotch
playing sports
serving others
volunteering
baking
floating/ splashing in the sea
cycling/skating/roller blading
caking an ice cream sundae
other

Can you think of ten additions to begin your Summer Bucket List?
FUN things to do that lift your spirits and make your eyes sparkle!
If so, add them to create your unique summer bucket list! Check off as you complete and add other activists as you discover all of the pleasures of summer.
Let’s make the most of this awesome season!
Summer… I’m loving it!!

written by: Ria Ruane, MA, RMHCI art work by: Alexa Ruane

FORGIVENESS IS ESSENTIAL FOR HEALING

Forgiveness is a tool that we all possess as humans, but if you choose not to utilize your tool it becomes something that is foreign and many times it leads to something that we feel we no longer possess.
The truth is that forgiveness is a necessary tool to utilize in your daily life because it a tool that kick starts healing in your life both mentally and physically. According to Kirsten Weir, Research has shown that forgiveness is linked to mental health outcomes such as reduced anxiety, depression and major psychiatric disorders, as well as with fewer physical health symptoms and lower mortality rates.
In life, energy is something that we definitely utilize everyday, but if the energy you contain is contaminated with a lot of ongoing pain that you choose to not relieve yourself of it leads to various developments of mental and or physical conditions. This is why forgiveness is meant for the survivor rather than the offender that inflicted the pain.
Many may assume that forgiveness means that you are letting someone off the hook, but this is false evidence appearing real because forgiveness really means that a person is choosing to forgive the experience that they had and is choosing to relieve their-self of the negative emotions that has had a hold on them for years because of the choice to hold on to the constant pain and torment that is familiar to them.
When you choose to not forgive it is as if you are drinking a toxic drink and expecting those that hurt you to reap the consequences of it.
Forgiveness is a process and in that process the first step is to be willing to allow yourself to be open to forgiving. Then acknowledge all hurt and pain rather than consuming it as something you can never overcome. Once this is done identify how not forgiving is helping or not helping you. In addition, identify how forgiveness could help you and what your life could be like if you chose to forgive. After going over all of this review everything that you identified and based upon your realizations choose what will serve your life for the better because your life is yours and nobody else can live it but you.

Written by Bria Young, Registered Mental Health Counseling Intern

Reference

Weir, Kirsten. (2017). Forgiveness can improve mental and physical health. American Psychological Association. Vol. 48 (1). Pg. 30

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

Gut Health & Mental Health: The Stomach as a Second Brain

The stomach is sometimes referred to, in mental health circles, as the “second brain.” A healthy gut has been linked, in recent research, to healthy brain function. According to an article from Clinics and Practice, “Healthy gut function has been linked to normal central nervous system (CNS) function. Hormones, neurotransmitters, and immunological factors released from the gut are known to send signals to the brain either directly or via autonomic neurons.” These neurons are at their best when levels of healthy bacteria are elevated in the stomach and intestines. Clinics and Practice also states that “studies have emerged focusing on variations in the microbiome and the effect on various central nervous system disorders, including, but not limited to anxiety, depressive disorders, schizophrenia, and autism.” Disturbance in the gut biome correlates to the worsening of symptoms of mental health disorders. Combatting microbiome disturbances can be as simple as making minor lifestyle changes. These changes can include taking a probiotic supplement, eating healthy portions of live cultures, including yogurt, kefir, etc., and staying hydrated with sufficient water. Gut health may not be the sole cause or component of one’s mental health in its totality. However, there are clear impacts of a healthy diet, live cultures, and healthy bacteria in the body.

Written by: Victoria Baker, Mental Health Counseling Clinician

Supervisor: Dr. April Brown

 

Reference:

Clapp, M., Aurora, N., Herrera, L., Bhatia, M., Wilen, E., & Wakefield, S. (2017). Gut

microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clinics and Practice, 7(4), 987.

https://doi.org/10.4081/cp.2017.987

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