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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

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

Speak Your Mind In Therapy

There are many issues that arise over a lifetime for which we may need assistance from a mental health counselor in working through. We are social creatures, but we can get lost or trapped in our own thoughts. This is when we need a trusted someone to help us see ourselves in a new way. Typically, we only share portions of our thinking, or depending on the listener, we share very edited versions of our thoughts. Depending on your situation, you feel your friends or loved ones don’t want or need to hear all that is going on in your head. This is where mental health counseling can help.

A mental health counselor assists others by listening and identifying areas of change. But something else is also happening during therapy sessions. You are speaking your mostly unedited thoughts aloud for someone else to better understand you. Focusing on yourself in therapy and without editing for the listener’s needs or wants allows you to better understand your own thoughts through this clarification process.

This happens with couples as well. In relationships, we may fall into communication styles that become frustrating cycles. These can become predictable enough for one person in the relationship to recite both sides of an entire argument routinely experienced with their significant other. The therapist can assist in recognizing and changing these cycles of communication. Here again, speaking these thoughts aloud is helpful because the couple works to identify how they are thinking and feeling in a clear way for themselves, for one another and for the therapist.

Families benefit from therapy through these same processes with the added benefit of shared insight within the family. When parents, separated or divorced co-parents, and/or stepparents and their children of all ages are included in sessions, there is opportunity for shared understanding and change. For example, parents may benefit from learning their fears or concerns for their children aren’t their children’s concerns. Children also see their parents making a healthy choice to seek assistance for issues that arise and watch as they model healthy coping skills for these issues within the family. What better way to change generational communication cycles that keep families stuck and repeating destructive patterns of behavior?

Whether you are interested in individual, couples, or family therapy seeking the services of a mental health counselor to discuss your needs provides an opportunity for sharing one’s most unedited thoughts and concerns. This new way of sharing and learning is the perfect opportunity to change yourself and your relationships.

Written by April Daniel

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

You Are Not Alone

Suicidal ideation is a medical term used to describe when someone has begun having thoughts about committing suicide. Sometimes these thoughts might be fleeting in nature, and other times the thoughts may persist until the individual begins to formulate a plan.

According to recent data, suicide is the third leading cause of death among people aged 15 and 24 years. And suicide accounts for 1% of deaths in America.

Suicide has a ripple effect. In fact, the American Association of Suicidology estimates that each suicide intimately affects at least six other people.

Thoughts of suicide are usually a result of prolonged depression, severe anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, and feelings of hopelessness. Not all people diagnosed with these conditions become suicidal; however, many people who experience suicidal ideation do not die by suicide, though they may exhibit suicidal behavior and even make an attempt.

What is a Crisis Intervention?

Crisis intervention is a short-term emergency response to someone who is experiencing intense emotional or mental distress. This form of therapy is an effective way of restoring the person’s equilibrium and biopsychosocial functioning. Doing so reduces the potential for long-term trauma.

Crisis interventions are typically conducted by trained and certified crisis intervention counselors that work at hospitals, drug rehab centers, and mental health clinics. These trained mental health workers do not provide typical cognitive-behavioral treatments or anything on a long-term basis. Instead, they offer short-term interventions to help their clients become stable.

Therapy After Crisis Intervention 

People don’t become suicidal overnight. There were days, weeks, and months of struggling with stress, depression, trauma, and/or anxiety to get to that place. Once and only when the initial crisis has been fully remediated, and once the initial crisis therapy has occurred, it will be important for the individual to receive continued mental health care. This will help the individual identify the underlying causes of their suicidal ideation.

 

If you or someone you love is thinking about suicide, please seek immediate attention.

Written by Sherline Herard

About the writer: Sherline graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Nova Southeastern University. Sherline’s therapeutic approach is catered to each individual client’s needs. Sherline enjoys assisting clients in finding their strengths which reside within, in order to set achievable goals for their lives.

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