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Back to School

It is the most wonderful time of the year for parents; kids went back to school.  Unfortunately, this new school year may not have seemed so wonderful.  Instead of the usual calm that comes with having someone keep track of the kiddos for a few hours every day, there were increasing concerns about reports of a nearly nationwide serge of COVID-19, which was worse than all previous surges.  Despite this, there is debate about whether masks should be required in school.  Many parents fear that their children will spread the virus or even become sick.  Children are also facing challenges with this return to in person schooling.  Upon recognizing that children may be anxious because of masks, lack of social skills, and/or fear of infection, parents can help them cope to maintain their mental health.

. . . cause for concern.  Specifically, if your child is isolating him or herself, showing disinterest in activities that he or she would normally enjoy, or showing more extremes in their emotional state.

-Kristen Nardolillo, LCSW

Masks create challenges in and of themselves.  Prior to the pandemic there was a stigma that “bad guys” wore masks to hide their identity and avoid the repercussions of their anti-social actions, so seeing everyone seemingly trying to conceal their identity may have frightened some children.  While most people have become somewhat accustomed to interacting with masked people, children who have been kept at home may not have been accustomed to seeing masked people all day because wearing masks was not required at home and in the open the air environments that parents frequently allow their children to visit.  Another problem may have been that the masks cover a great deal of the facial features generally used to interpret emotions.  After a year and a half of video chats where the face is usually the only body part visible, children may have found it difficult to judge the emotional state of those they encountered at school.  Reacting to the wrong emotion could be frustrating to the person experiencing the emotion as well as the guesser.

Lack of ability to correctly determine the emotions of others leads to poor socialization skills.  After all, for the last year and a half, these children only socialized with a small group of well-known, and therefore predictable, people.  Some kids had never been in a classroom before in their lives.  Most years, this is only true for kindergarteners, but this year, many first graders experienced a classroom environment for the first time as well.  However, those two-age group were not the only ones affected.  Some social skills previously learned by all age groups may have been forgotten or become less proficient after not seeing a classroom in over a year and a half and only communicating face to face with select family members and close friends.  There were already concerns before the pandemic about the younger generations’ lack of knowledge about in person socialization skills because children and young adults gravitated toward interacting through text messages rather than physically.  Back then, school classroom situations forced children to learn the socialization skills necessary to interact face to face.  This opportunity to learn in-person socialization skills has been absent for the past year and a half.  Moreover, referring to the “New Normal” may have led some children to believe that face-to-face interaction skills may not be needed or normal in the future.  Due to all this, children may feel confused about or inadequate to deal with the return to in-person classes.

Finally, there is the very real possibility of contracting the virus, especially for children under 12 years of age who are not eligible for vaccines.  With all the theories and misinformation that have been floating around, children have a wide range of ideas about how to stay safe.  One child may have shown up at school covered from head to toe and distrusting everyone.  Another extreme would be a child who came dressed in revealing attire and hugged others, but secretly maintained constant vigilance to avoid contact with anyone displaying symptoms of illness, leaving little mental capacity to dedicate toward concentrating on class and learning.  Still others may have behaved in a similar way because they thought that nothing bad would happen to someone their age who is exposed to the virus.  Most children likely fell somewhere between these extremes.

Upon recognizing the effects of masks, lack of social skills, fear of infection, etc., parents can encourage the development of coping strategies.  Cornerstone Children’s Bereavement Counselor, Kristen Nardolillo, LCSW, recently spoke to the president of the Orlando Mom Collective and discussed that children can counteract the stresses caused by the pandemic through the practice of mindfulness, by listening for as many sounds as possible with closed eyes, walking through nature to get fresh air and decompress or even if just around the neighborhood where they live.   For older children, she recommended that parents start a “frequent open dialogue that allows the teen to feel comfortable, knowing they have a trusted adult they can share things with.”  I would add that for such a relationship to exist, children must know that they will not be punished if they admit to thinking, feeling, or doing something with which the parents disapprove.  Punishing children for what they disclose will only prevent them from being honest in the future.  The important thing is to intervene somehow if your kids or you show signs of anxiety from this unstable abnormal time.  Were you bothered by the lack of masks in the photo at the beginning of this article?  If you or your children ages 3 and up are having difficulty adapting to the reopening of schools, call Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing at 1-866-280-WELL (9355).  We offer face to face and virtual sessions with licensed professionals.  We set aside time for new clients to offer availability as soon as the next day, or sooner.

As of last month, the ability to leave comments was added for those reading these blogs.  Please comment below with your ideas about the return of classroom education and how to help kids cope.

Live your best life, Jared W. Chantrill, LCSW

Find Your Center. Achieve Wellbeing.

Which of the two black lines shown below is longer?

They are actually the same length.  However, even after knowing that, the top line appears to be longer.  This illusion demonstrates automatic bias, or prejudice.  Acting based on an automatic bias can lead to poor results and even derail one’s life.  Such results can be avoided by realizing that biases sometimes occur automatically, by challenging automatic biases, and by focusing life on a productive belief.

Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing acts on the mantra, “Find your Center. Achieve Wellbeing.” It is a play on the double meaning of the word “center.”  In one sense, the motto promises that if one finds and takes advantage of the closest physical office or center  of Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing, then one will achieve wellbeing.

There is a popular children’s film that hints at another possible meaning of our motto.  In the movie, the five characters living in the child’s mind represent different biases, or core beliefs as follows: “The world can be a happy and safe place,” “the world has miserable aspects,” “caution is necessary to avoid the dangers in the world,” “consuming some aspects of the world can kill,” and “loud, exaggerated behavior can make the world fair.”  The first belief mentioned appears to be the “center” of this child’s life focus.  In reality, everyone has different beliefs as centers.  The meanings of everything one experiences and does is filtered through that center.  Therefore, a second meaning of our motto could be that finding one’s center will allow one to achieve wellbeing.

Oh No! These Facts And Opinions Look So Similar!

The search for an effective center involves challenging different core beliefs through questions such as, “What is the evidence that supports this belief?”, “Why is this belief better than or different from other beliefs?”, “What are the consequences of having this belief?”, “How does focusing my life on this core belief help me achieve well-being?”, “If I continue to have this core belief as my center, what will my life look like in 10 years?”, and “Is this belief based on facts or opinions?”  You need to be careful with this last question.  The Kenny Rogers song “The Greatest” comes to mind.  The fact was that the little boy couldn’t hit the ball, but whose to say that the fact is not also that the pitcher was not to blame rather than lack of hitting skill.  Further, the five core beliefs I listed from Inside Out are all factual, but imagine how different a person would live with each alternative one as a center.

As one discovers and challenges core beliefs, one may realize that having another core belief as one’s center would produce more desirable results.  Regularly asking oneself questions similar to the above, can slowly lead to replacing an ineffective center with one that will produce wellbeing.  Like most people, I had to go through this process.  I realized that I could choose my own center.  When that happened, I went from feeling discouraged to feeling hopeful.  It is still a struggle when outside forces indicate that I make a mistake, but we all make mistakes sometimes.  They do not have to define us.

Wellbeing can be achieved by recognizing biases and challenging core beliefs to determine which ones will lead to wellbeing.  I have seen many people, change their centers to one that encourages wellbeing by following the above steps.  The top line in the above illusion does not have to be longer.

Don’t get discouraged if wellbeing does not happen right away.  It is a challenging process.  Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing counselors are here to help find your or a loved one’s center (both the most convenient physical location for you and your core belief) in order to achieve wellbeing.  Reach out to us or call 1-866-280-WELL (9355) to get started today. We offer face to face and virtual sessions.

Live your best life,

Jared Chantrill, LCSW

Better Than Independence

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!
July is frequently considered the month when we celebrate independence on July 4th each year. Most people claim to value independence. Despite this, some people remain dependent on parents, government, charitable organizations, substances, even the television line-up, etc. This seems like the easy way. They let someone or something else take care of their wellbeing. However, what happens when these factors which are beyond their direct control become unavailable for some reason. Independent people maintain their wellbeing when things go wrong, even if all is lost. Walt Disney is an example of someone who bounced back after the failure of his first successful business. Oprah Winfrey suffered horribly as a youth, but you would never know it from looking at her today. You can probably think of many others who have suffered and managed to live a happy successful life. Their success and happiness came independent of the circumstances around them, but something else that we celebrate in July probably contributed to their continued wellbeing. July is Social Wellness Month. Social wellness involves interdependence and leads to improved emotional, health, and community wellbeing.

Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence.  We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.
-Joan Erickson

Interdependence is a big part of social wellness. Stephen R. Covey stated that “effective interdependence can only be built on a foundation of true independence.”-The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. How can dependence be unstable and interdependence be desirable when they both indicate reliance on something outside of the individual’s control? The answer is that interdependence leads to greater degrees of accomplishment. Let me attempt to explain the difference between the three levels of interaction. When someone is dependent, effort results in little or no achievement (e.g., I spent the whole day asking people to move an object for me and at the end of the day, the object stayed put). When someone is independent, effort results in achievement reasonable for a single person (e.g., I spent the whole day moving an object ten feet by myself). When interdependence is practiced, effort results in more being achieved than the individuals involved in the effort could have achieved in isolation from each other through a phenomenon known as synergy (e.g., Stacy, Chris, and I spent the whole day moving an object forty-five feet, rather than the thirty feet it would have moved if we had worked independently).

Similarly, how does your emotional wellbeing differ if you are dancing at a party versus dancing alone in private? The effects of the pandemic demonstrate the importance of interdependence on social wellness. Some people threw social distancing aside whenever there was the least downturn in the number of cases because they felt so unwell being separated from others.

Health can also be affected. Let’s say you want to go on a hike through the mountains or go play in the Ocean. It is safer to bring a buddy. If you do not practice interdependence, you may not be able to find someone to go with you and lose out on the healthy exercise, or you go alone and suffer the possible consequence of getting lost, injured, and/or even dying.

Interdependence also improves the social wellbeing of the community. I spent a quarter century in Hawaii. One thing that makes Hawaii unique is the selfless generosity of the native people, a value known as Kokua (pronounced: koh-koo-ah), which is a verb meaning to help others with no expectation of personal gain in return. Though unintentional, the interdependent relationship between the giver and the receiver improves through each act of Kokua. Selfless service is also common in Florida. When we first moved to Orlando, neighbors offered furniture, assistance, and recommendations, making our adjustment to the new area almost instantaneous.

Take the I out of Illness, add W and E, and you have wellness.
-Charles Roppel

Social wellness involves interdependence and leads to improved emotional, health, and community wellbeing. If there is one thing that the pandemic has shown us it is that Joan Erikson was right. We need each other. Though independence is a noble goal, social wellness requires interdependence. Some people have been able to maintain interdependence even while social distancing during the pandemic. You can do it too. If you, or people you know, are struggling with achieving or maintaining interdependence, come see me or one of my fellow Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing counselors. You too can improve your interdependence and increase your social wellness. Go out and kokua. Celebrate Social Wellness Month and enjoy the synergy of social wellbeing.

Live your best life,
Jared W. Chantrill, LCSW

You Can’t Spell Mental Health Without ‘Men’

June is Men’s Health Month.  Physical health is important, but I want to talk about a far less commonly discussed health issue, men’s mental health.  Depression affects more than 16 million people in this country and there are treatments that can help.  For anyone living with mental health problems, talking about it with anyone may seem scary and difficult, even intimidating.  For men in particular, who’ve been told all their lives to “man up” and “be strong,” accessing mental health resources can seem to go against expectations.

Why is it so difficult for men to consider their mental health and seek help?

Society tells men that it is simply not acceptable to have too many feelings.

Men are taught from an early age to be tough, not to cry, and to “just deal with it.”  We train soldiers to be tough and then expect them to be emotionally intelligent enough to open up when they need help. Worse, we expect them never to need help. We must bring vulnerability, as a core principle of emotional strength, into the framework of masculinity.  Many men do not want to ask for help because they are afraid of looking weak or stupid or being teased by their friends and family.   Men need to know that their internal struggles are just as valid as any other struggle, and these do not make them less of a man.

It can be very difficult to admit you are struggling, regardless of gender, but even more so as a man. Logically, we know that everyone gets down, has a problem from time to time, or finds it difficult to cope, but it often feels like you are the only person who can’t seem to handle it. You lie awake at night alone, wondering why you can’t be as in control as you should be and desperately trying not to let anyone else see how you’re really doing.  Essentially, the messages men receive as children and up through adulthood discourage them from ever letting anyone know they need help.  Thankfully, this is starting to change.

Why is it so important for men to address mental health issues?

Considering that 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience a mental health condition in any given year, it is crucial that these issues get normalized — and that’s exactly why Phelps made it a point to share his experience with others.

 “You know, for me, I basically carried just about every negative emotion you can possibly carry along for 15-20 years and I never talked about it. And I don’t know why that one day I decided to just open up. But since that day, it’s just been so much easier to live and so much easier to enjoy life and it’s something I’m very thankful for.” Michael Phelps, professional athlete

There is hope!

The fact that celebrities seem to be more and more comfortable talking about their mental health is also encouraging, sometimes even putting a humorous spin on what living with a mental illness is like.  As more men speak out about their struggles and experience with mental health difficulties, other men can see that the struggle is real, and you are not alone.

We can continue to spread awareness and normalize the fact that it can be difficult to manage stress and everyday demands.  Most importantly, we need to continue to get out the message of hope.  There are effective psychotherapy treatments and medications that can help with managing stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.  So, please seek help and know that you are not alone.  It takes courage to ask for help and you are the most courageous person in the room.

Peace and grace to you,
Janelle Carbone-Rodriguez, LCSW

If you, or any man in your life, are struggling to find your best mental health, please contact us to schedule an appointment at:
Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing
Appointment & Information number: 1-866-280-WELL (9355)
All referrals and appointments are strictly confidential.

You Are Not Alone

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) has adopted the theme of “You Are Not Alone” to continue amplifying the message and overcome the stigma of mental illness. I would like to use this time and space to focus on the healing value of connecting in safe ways, prioritizing mental health and acknowledging that it’s okay to not be okay! Allowing this opportunity to discuss the prevalence, need and importance of mental health, we can realize a shared vision where anyone affected by mental illness can get the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives — a place where no one feels alone in their struggle.

Let’s talk facts! Millions of people are affected by mental illness each year. Across the country, many people just like you and me work, perform, create, compete, laugh, love and inspire every day. Who are these individuals? You may be surprised to learn the following statistics which show you or someone you love, are affected by or struggle with mental illness.

  • 1 in 5 US adults will experience mental illness; 19% of these adults will struggle with an anxiety disorder
  • 1 in every 20 adults is living with a serious mental health condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or long-term recurring major depression
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14; 75% by age 24
  • 17% of youth (6-17 yrs) will experience a mental health disorder

Diagnosing mental illness isn’t a straightforward science. We can’t test for it the same way we can test blood sugar levels for diabetes. Each condition has its own set of unique symptoms, though symptoms often overlap. Common signs and/or symptoms can include:

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
  • Trying to harm or end one’s life or making plans to do so
  • Severe, out-of-control, risk-taking behavior that causes harm to self or others
  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart, physical discomfort or di­fficulty breathing
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Seeing, hearing or believing things that aren’t real
  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
  • Drastic changes in mood, behavior, personality or sleeping habits
  • Extreme di­fficulty concentrating or staying still
  • Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to ask questions and try to understand how daily life is impacted as a result.  At Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing, we can help answer these questions and work with you to set a course of treatment that works for you!

If you or someone you know is struggling, you are not alone. There are many supports, services and treatment options that may help. A change in behavior or mood may be the early warning signs of a mental health condition and should never be ignored.

As with other serious illnesses, mental illness is not your fault or that of the people around you, but widespread misunderstandings about mental illness remain. Many people don’t seek treatment or remain unaware that their symptoms could be connected to a mental health condition. People may expect a person with serious mental illness to look visibly different from others, and they may tell someone who doesn’t “look ill” to “get over it” through willpower. These misperceptions add to the challenges of living with a mental health condition.

Every year people overcome the challenges of mental illness to do the things they enjoy. Mental illness can slow us down, but we don’t need to let it stop us! Let us come along side your healing journey to mental health, because you are not alone!

Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Carl Jung

Be and remain well,

Deidre McLeod, MS LMHC

NEW BEGINNINGS

Spring is said to be the time of year for ‘out with the old and in with the new’. Anyone else with me in feeling more than ready for that fresh start and new beginning we were all hoping for at the New Year? We have certainly had a ‘breath of fresh air’ with our weather recently and hopefully you have been able to open up some windows and allow some of that into your living space! Although we are experiencing the Spring weather (and pollen!!) we may still feel as if we have a little way to go to really enjoy the warmth and light that Spring brings. Experiencing the refreshment in the weather is only the external knowledge of this season, but what about our internal understanding of what Spring can represent to us individually? The symbolism of rebirth and new life that is synonymous with the beginning of Spring can help us think about what we can do to renew ourselves and better balance our lives. Take time to assess where you are in your day-to-day routines and mindsets and decide what’s working and what’s not. Once you create this awareness, you can replace the routines and habits that no longer serve you with ones that support a refreshed version of yourself. Let go of old mindsets and make room for new ones that will support positive changes in your life. What better time than Spring to re-group, re-prioritize, and even re-invent ourselves and the lives we find ourselves living?! Here are some Spring “rituals” to help you get started.

Make time and space for yourself. Time and space doesn’t just mean to make time for yourself and the things you love to do. In order to get into a deeper state of self-awareness, you’ll want to set aside time without distractions- detach from the nonstop electronic and social demands on daily life. This means to carve out the time away from your smart phone, social media and steady stream of texts, calls and emails. When you are at the mercy of notifications, it means you are living according to someone else’s agenda. When you detach from these things, YOU are in charge of your time. Along with dedicating the time, find a space where you feel comfortable, motivated, or inspired. The start of Spring is a great time to use the outdoors as that space. Being in nature has the added bonus of allowing you to ground yourself and reconnect with the naturally occurring renewal around you.

Take Inventory. Once you have the time and space for yourself, start to take inventory of where you are in life. Ask yourself: What’s working in my life and what’s not? What could be improved? What do I really want? What may be holding me back from that which I really want? As you go through these questions, consider any roadblocks that are keeping you from being where you want to be. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself in identifying where those roadblocks are coming from- whether externally or within your own state of mind. Often the things that hold us back are our own fears or doubts, such as: lack of self-worth, confidence or motivation; feeling overwhelmed; fear of failure or commitment to yourself; rejection; asking for help; lack of patience.

De-clutter your space. Our physical living space is traditionally what we begin to focus on with ‘Spring cleaning’. Getting rid of anything you no longer need or haven’t used in the past two years, is a great place to start! More importantly (and much less focused on with ‘Spring cleaning’) is clearing out mental and emotional clutter as well! When we think of spring renewal, we often think of rebirth; something old dies and something new is born. Why not use this season of renewal as a reminder to get rid of things that are weighing you down and draining your energy?

Stay positive. During your progress, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed or unmotivated. Remember not to beat yourself up when this happens. Instead, take a deep breath, relax and give yourself an honest assessment of all the progress you have made and the things that you are grateful for. When you highlight the things you appreciate in life, it allows you to gain perspective and create positive energy.

Take care of your body. It is so important not to overlook the physical dynamic of our holistic being. Any personal endeavor requires a balance between nurturing your mind and engaging your body. How you accomplish the physical activity is not as important as simply making sure to get consistent activity on a daily basis- whether by walking, swimming, running, dancing, or practicing tai chi or yoga.

As you refresh your mindset for Spring, remember that the most important thing you can do is to start your practice! Even if it is just one small step and keep it ‘one day at a time’.
(https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-flux/201303/7-rituals-spring-renewal)

“Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.” — Charles Dickens

“The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?” — Jack Kornfield

Be and remain well,
Deidre McLeod, MS LMHC

Gratitude

Wellbeing Corner – Vol. 6 March 2021

What is gratitude? According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratitude is a way to recognize the good in our lives instead of focusing on the negative. Why should we be thankful? What are we thankful for? How can we be thankful during these trying times? At a time such as this we are very aware of all the stressors and challenges and it is sometimes difficult to see the positives through the chaos.

What we can be thankful for. We all have something we can be thankful for whether it is a roof over our heads, a warm bed to sleep in, food to eat, another day of life, our family and friends, our cherished pets, a warm, sunny day, rain to nourish the environment, etc. I can go on and on but I think you get the idea. We only need to shift our perspective from the negative to the positive.

Why we should have an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude has positive benefits on our physical, emotional, mental and social well-being. Studies have shown that grateful people have physical benefits such as reduced symptoms of depression, lower blood pressure and improves sleep. Mental health benefits include increasing self-esteem and improved decision-making processes. Emotional benefits include increase in life-satisfaction, increase in long term happiness, lowers feelings of depression, increases optimism and decreases selfishness. Social benefits include improved relationships, more liked by others, increases social support and a better work and life fulfillment.

How we can have an attitude of gratitude. Take a moment to just stop and appreciate life. You can try deep breathing exercises, going outside and breath in the fresh air. Rely on your spiritual beliefs and read a passage from scripture. Take a few minutes and read a poem or read a book you enjoy for a half hour. Listen to or watch positive affirmations on YouTube or the radio. Say thank you out loud as you appreciate the beauty of the day. Write at least 2 things that you are thankful for each day.

Having an attitude of gratitude does not mean you deny the challenges you may be facing. It means that you are making a choice to be present in the moment, appreciate what you do have and allows us to move toward the possibilities of life. Gratitude is the opposite of being selfish. We can take even the simple things for granted such as going to lunch with a friend or hugging our children and grandchildren but having gratitude means that we appreciate what we have.

So choose an attitude of gratitude and see how it can reframe how we think about ourselves and the world. We can all use a positive perspective to help us get through the day.

Peace and grace to you,
Janelle Carbone-Rodriguez, LCSW

If your loved ones, friends, or maybe even yourself, are struggling to find your best mental health and GRATITUDE, please contact us for an appointment.

Discovering Love

Wellbeing Corner – Vol. 5 February 2021

Ahhhh February…. The month of love! John Lennon and the Beatles wrote and sang “All you need is love” and “Can’t Buy me Love”. Elvis crooned about it… “Love me tender, Love me true…” James Taylor encouraged us to “Shower the people you love with love”. I could go on and on, and as you are reading this, I’m sure at least a dozen more songs came to mind for you! Love. The emotion that has been the catalyst of more songs, movies and writings than any other topic or feeling. We seek after this mysterious human emotion in many ways, and for all of its vast qualities- from ‘heartbreak’ to ‘lovesick’. But what is love, really? As I searched Miriam-Websters definition, I was a bit surprised to find over 10 entry lines explaining this complicated emotion. Among some of these were the following: affection based on admiration, benevolence; an assurance of affection; strong affection for another; the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration; concern for the good of another.

All of this to focus on others, the interpersonal aspect of love. But what about the love we have for ourselves? Not much any genre of music has to lyricize, or many a movie has attempted to dramatize on that aspect of love! The intrapersonal aspect of love can be a far more foreign and complicated subject in many ways. It has been said that ‘if we don’t love ourselves first, we can not love others’. I say, not quite so. I would rephrase that as: ‘If we don’t love ourselves, we cannot accept love from others.’ One of my favorite lines: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” –The Perks of Being a Wallflower

To love yourself means to accept yourself as you are and to come to terms with those aspects of yourself that you cannot change. It means to have self-respect, a positive self-image, and unconditional self-acceptance. One aspect of this pandemic crisis we have been under is that human beings connect via their imperfections and socialization with others. Not through the social media highlight reel of their life which sends each of us into a state of an emotional and isolating abyss. Or the ‘virtual’ formats we have been forced into, creating a new sense of isolation. Personally, as a therapist, I see the great need for face-to-face interaction and personal touch. How much a hug, holding a hand, and just sitting presently with someone can do therapeutically! I believe our culture has become starved for this interaction we are designed for, and video calls can only fill that void to a certain extent.

So how do we love ourselves and ‘embrace’ others during these times of isolation and detachment?

1. Mindfulness: Having an open, curious, non-judging attitude; not over-identifying with negative stories about the self. Right now it is easy to become stuck in a negative thought loop. We tend to be our own worst critics, especially when we are isolated in our own personal space. Choose to focus on the positive aspects we can find in each day.

2. Self-kindness: Treating yourself kindly, rather than harshly. Extending the same care and support to yourself that you would to a good friend or loved one. Bringing that love to yourself and then extending it to others in creative ways.

3. Common humanity: Allowing yourself to be human, to make mistakes and learn from them. Knowing that as humans we are not perfect, nor should we be expected to act flawlessly. ESPECIALLY in these un-charted and uncertain times! Self-compassion is much more effective in changing behavior than trying to motivate yourself with shame and self-criticism. Shame and self-criticism lead to inner rebellion and giving up, while self-compassion gives you hope and helps you trust the process of change. Love yourself for the uniqueness you are gifted with as an individual.

So this month, give yourself the gift of self-love first! You can’t accept anyone else’s love if you don’t believe you’re worthy of it! Stop seeking outside of yourself for any changes to occur in order to be able to love yourself during this pandemic and through these volatile times. You are worthy! Never forget, that everything you are looking for is inside of you already! It’s your job to tap into that hope and happiness and allow it to bubble up and overflow.

“To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness.” Robert Morely

Be and remain well,
Deidre McLeod, MS LMHC

If your loved ones, friends, or maybe even yourself, are struggling to find your best mental health and SELF-LOVE, please contact us to schedule an appointment at:
Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing
Appointment & Information number: 1-866-280-WELL (9355)
All referrals and appointments are strictly confidential.

FINDING THE ‘HAPPY’ IN THE NEW YEAR

Wellbeing Corner – Vol. 4 January 2021

As the clock chimed at midnight relinquishing the past year of 2020, I’m certain many of us raised our glasses to gladly bid it ado and welcome in the newness of 2021. Every New Year brings with it the hope of new beginnings, possibilities and a ‘breath of fresh air’.  2020 left us clinging to these hopes with a whole new understanding and sense of desperation for a ‘Happy New Year’!  As I anxiously awaited the ringing in of 2021, I found myself posing this joyous exclamation of “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” as more of a question… “Happy New Year?”  Although the calendar flipped pages and a new beginning is upon us, many uncertainties still linger into this year.  I realized “Happy” is a concept that can seem so foreign recently, and I paused for a moment to reflect on the emotion of ‘happiness’.

Happiness is an electrifying and elusive state that philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and even economists have long sought to define.  Since the 1990s, a whole branch of psychology (Positive psychology) has been dedicated to pinning it down. Happiness is said to be a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life with a sense of meaning and deep contentment. This is much more than simply having a positive mood.  A growing body of research also suggests that happiness can improve physical health, cardiovascular health, the immune system, inflammation levels, and blood pressure, among other things. Happiness has even been linked to a longer lifespan as well as a higher quality of life and well-being (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/happiness).  Excellent! Happiness = Health (physical and emotional).  We all strive for this with each new year, but grasping this ‘elusive state’ of happiness seems even more difficult in the reality of so many uncertainties.

This became ever more true to me this Christmas as my family suffered the loss of a dear loved one; my mother-in-law.  I struggled to grasp the happy feelings that usually accompany the festive season and hopefulness of the New Year.  We all have been profoundly impacted with losses throughout this past year; pandemic and political stressors, financial strain, separation from loved ones… and the list goes on.  What I learned in the short two months I was blessed to call her my mother-in-law, is that happiness is within our control.  Even when everything outside of us feels so out of control.  She exemplified the definition of ‘happy’ and made a choice to grasp happiness within a life that was filled with tragic losses and trauma.  I reflect on the happiness that I have a choice to grasp daily.  This does not mean I necessarily ‘feel’ happy in the daily moments, but I choose to focus on the happiness in the present gift of today.

How, you may ask, does one find this state of happiness?  It is not the result of bouncing from one joy to the next; researchers find that achieving happiness typically involves times of considerable discomfort.  Genetic makeup, life circumstances, loss, achievements, marital status, social relationships, even your neighbors—all influence how happy you are. Or can be. So do individual ways of thinking and expressing feelings. Research shows that much of happiness is under personal control.

Regularly indulging in small pleasures, getting absorbed in challenging activities, setting and meeting goals, maintaining close social ties, and finding purpose beyond oneself all increase life satisfaction. It isn’t happiness per se that promotes well-being, it’s the actual pursuit that’s key.

Seeking it.  Choosing it.  Finding the happiness that has been, and will be within the hope of the New Year of 2021. This IS what we have control of.  Choose your happiness at the center of yourself.  Is it possible to find lasting happiness?  I say YES!  The key to lifelong happiness is taking time to cultivate small changes on a regular basis.  Incorporating habits into your daily routine such as keeping a gratitude journal, practicing kindness, nurturing optimism, learning to forgive, investing in relationships, avoiding overthinking, savoring life’s joys, and committing to goals can make happiness a permanent fixture.

I wish you all the true happiness this New Year can hold, as we press forward into 2021!  Change around us is constant and certainly needed!  However, remember, our personal happiness is what we CAN control.  Embracing 2021 with all of you!

Be and remain well,

Deidre McLeod, MS LPC

If your loved ones, friends, or maybe even yourself, are struggling to find your best mental health and HAPPINESS, please contact us to schedule an appointment at:

Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing

Appointment & Information number: 1-866-280-WELL (9355)

All referrals and appointments are strictly confidential.

Wellbeing Corner – Vol.3, Dec. 2020 – Holiday Edition

Wellbeing Corner - Vol.3, Dec. 2020 - Holiday Edition

The holiday season is upon us!

As we embark upon this time in which families traditionally come together and celebrations are abundant, the thought of planning for them during the pandemic is weighing heavily on people’s minds. As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, many people are shunning their holiday traditions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, but are now experiencing a different type of stress… replacing the hustle and bustle of having too much to do during the holiday season with uncertainty, isolation and the loss of routine and tradition.

This disruption and shift in our holiday expectations can heighten emotions of loss, loneliness, anxiety, tension, sadness, and much more. Everywhere we turn, we are reminded that it is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.” While for some that may be true, yet for others the holiday season is wrought with powerful triggers such as songs, scents, and rituals. The holidays may also serve as a reminder of what does not exist—a time in which to celebrate, cook, decorate, and rejoice with loved ones that may not be present this year.

As a trauma informed therapist, I will be the first to say this year’s holiday season has its own compounded needs that we need to address with care and mindfulness. What can we do within ourselves, our families, and our social circles to embrace these upcoming weeks into the new year?

First, think about how the holiday season impacts you and your loved ones personally. Acknowledge this year will be different in many ways and notice the feelings you have in response to this fact. Let yourself be sad. Let yourself be angry. Let yourself mourn the loss of what the holidays are ‘supposed to be’. Ask yourself, “What helps and what hurts?” When you give yourself a moment to recognize these feelings, your mind will feel freer to let go and find hope in the present. Allowing yourself to grieve the loss of all that 2020 may have robbed us of this year, can give space for new opportunities within this season and into the new year.

Second, create meaningful rituals and be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect and may not be like last year. As we face transitional times, traditions and rituals may need to transition as well. Choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your family, friends and loved ones can’t come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos. Or meet virtually on a video call. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate. Remain connected to the idea and meaning behind the traditions so that kids (and adults) feel like that normalcy is still there.

Third, and most importantly, take time for you! Be kind to yourself! Breathe! Taking a break and walking away from what you’re doing for a minute or two allows you to reflect on what you are feeling. Take some deep slow breaths in a quiet space. If you can address the source of stress at that moment, deal with it. If not, write it down and prioritize what needs to be done first. In essence, practicing mindfulness! Bringing our attention to the present moment with an element of nonjudgement and acceptance; noticing when we get caught up in thoughts about the past or the future and returning our attention to the present.

We have all had a tough year. We have had to figure out new ways of living. Don’t beat yourself up over things you can’t control. Do the best you can to the best of your ability and give yourself credit for making it through. Let us release all that 2020 has unfolded and embrace the HOPE that awaits us in the present and into the new year!

Wishing you all the warmest blessings this holiday season and HOPE for the New Year.

“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.” Samuel Smiles

Be and remain well,

Deidre McLeod, MS LPC

If your loved ones, friends, or maybe even yourself, are struggling to find your best mental health and HOPEFULNESS, please contact us to schedule an appointment at:

Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing

Appointment & Information number: 1-866-280-WELL (9355)

All referrals and appointments are strictly confidential.