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Healing Through Creativity

Georges Braque, French 2oth century painter is credited through his collaboration with Pablo Picasso as being the father of cubism.  In 1914, at age 32, he was drafted to serve in World War I, where he fought in the trenches.  He suffered a serious head wound which left him temporally blind.  His vision recovered but his style and perception of the world forever changed.  He continued to paint after the war, but his work changed dramatically.  One of his famous quotes about his time in the war and the long journey in recovery is, “Art is a wound turned into light”.

As a young girl was haunted by Van Gogh’s struggle with mental illness after watching the 1956 movie Lust for Life. I became curious how creativity and mental health intersect.  Early in my career I came to understand the therapeutic benefits found within creative expressions.  The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) is dedicated to integrating creative processes while applying psychological theory to the human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.  Combat Veterans returning from home with acute psychological conditions have found expressive and creative arts help give voice to feeling of depression and anxiety.  Expressive and creative artistic expressions in conjunction with mental health counselling have reduced anxiety mood disorders, behaviors that interfere with emotional and cognitive functioning, aids in verbalizing traumatic events and reactivate a sense of purpose, self-worth, and self-esteem.

Loss and creativity are two essential parts of the human experience.  There are two types of creativity: innovative and expressive.  Innovative creativity is best suited as problem solving while expressive creativity can transform negative energy by channeling emotions into art, photography, crafting or writing.  Clinical psychologist Henry Seidan, PH.D. is quoted, “Creativity is the essential response to grief”.  Grief comes to the human experience in many ways: death, loss of identity, physical independence, and functioning, thinking of what might have been, could have been.

What does the brain look like “on grief”?  The left hemisphere specializes in positive emotions like joy and hope and the right hemisphere dispenses emotions like anxiety.  Unsurprisingly, the right hemisphere, is more active during periods of grief.  “The main problem during grieving seems to be the relative deactivation of the left hemisphere rather than an over-activation of the right hemisphere”, says Shelley Carson author of “Your Creative Brain, Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination”.    Tapping into our creative source after trauma and loss may be difficult.   Grief and acute response to trauma are natural and unavoidable.  Therapy encourages people to go deep, to tap into something lost or even undiscovered.  By channeling negative emotions that cause blockages and allowing the creative energy to flow the creative process unfolds.  Nurturing creativity can be a form of self-care, so carving time to solve puzzles, playing an instrument or grabbing brushes, paints, and a canvas to gives voice and outlet to the pain.

“Art making has the ability to move people along their journey of grief and loss into a more balanced place of healing and hope. In the face of tragedy, the creative process can help re-calibrate a mourner’s life.” ~ The Chandler Gallery at Maud Morgan Arts

Talk therapy that incorporates Cognitive Behavioral Therapy along with immersing oneself in creative endeavors can be transformative.  Practice self-care, give yourself permission to create and call Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing if your need to talk to a professional mental counselor, at 1-866-280-9355.

Be well and find your center, Wendy

Happy New Year!

January 1 calendarIf you constantly achieve new year resolutions and have improved your life through them, Congratulations, you can stop reading here, however, if you have difficulty making and keeping new year resolutions, this is the blog post for you.

New Year’s Day is seen as a new beginning. There seems to be something magical about the period of time between January 1st and December 31st. For one thing, it seems like the end of the calendar would be a great reminder to finish up the projects that one resolved to complete when beginning to use that particular calendar. Another benefit would seem to be that others are also trying to stay strong in keeping their resolutions by or until the same date. It stands to reason that people would encourage each other to “hold on” and “stay strong.”

January the first is an arbitrary date.
-Douglas Adams

However, that has not been my experience. I have rarely been asked or reminded about the status of new year resolutions as the end of December approaches. Therefore, I was not reminded to set new resolutions either. I used to feel bad on January second because I would hear people talk about new year resolutions and realize that I had none. I would tell people who inquired, “My new years resolution is to have new years resolutions next year.” I would even postpone making positive changes in my life because I did not want to be left with nothing to resolve on New Year’s Day. Then, I would either forget about the changes I wanted to make, or they would no longer be relevant by the time December 31st came around and I would feel bad all over again.

Today is where your book begins.
The rest is still unwritten.
-Natasha Bedingfield

As I matured, I realized that every day could be considered the beginning of a new year. I did not have to feel bad if I did not have something new to commit to improving on January first of each year. One does not have to wait to make changes. Changes and new resolutions can start now. Today! No matter what the date it is when you are reading this.

Making changes today is part of proactivity. The opposite of proactivity is reactivity. Thinking that I had to wait for January 1st to start all my resolutions was reactive. An arbitrary date on the calendar was controlling and limiting my behavior and potential to improve. Proactivity, on the other hand, involves taking control of one’s life and circumstances. Several examples of how to be proactive found in the Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing blogs posted here over the past year include the following: choosing to be happy even during unfortunate times, choosing to see one’s self as lovable, focusing on what one is grateful for (counting blessings), doing things that make one feel renewed, seeking out professionals to help where one may not have expertise, accepting support, offering support, challenging core beliefs, focusing on the present moment, writing a thank you note, keeping a gratitude journal, taking a break from the stresses of life, and, of course, calling Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing at 1-866-280-WELL (9355) to proactively schedule an appointment to meet with one of our talented counselors.

I encourage you to review the proactive advice from our 2021 blogs and look forward to many great blogs from Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing containing proactive steps to take to help you center your life on wellbeing in 2022. If you have not already done so, you may want to bookmark our blog page and follow us on social media so you can easily check back each month to learn proactive ways to improve your life.

Achieving resolutions during 2022 may work for some people and situations, but responding to challenges immediately is often more prudent and effective. Of course, if new year resolutions work for you, do not stop doing something beneficial. The rest of us can breathe easier knowing that any period of time that we set for ourselves can be motivating.

Live your best life,
Jared Chantrill, LCSW

HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS

The holiday season can be a magical time of the year. Festive lights and decorations brighten neighborhoods, special and delicious treats tempt our pallets, and the contagious excitement of children can fill us with a celebratory spirit. But for some, it may not always be the most wonderful time of the year. It can be a significant source of stress, anxiety and/or depression.   I think everyone can agree this has been a challenging year but there is still hope.  Here are some ways to help cope during this season and find some hope.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. Realize that whatever it is you are feeling, it is valid and real to you. It’s okay to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect as there is no such thing as perfect. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children or other relatives 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.
  3. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends and other activities. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for meal prep and cleanup. This will help to better manage your stress.
  4. It is okay to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity.
  5. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events or communities. Many may have websites, online support groups, social media sites or virtual events. They can offer support and companionship. If you’re feeling stress during the holidays, it also may help to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Try reaching out with a text, a call or a video chat.
  6. Volunteer your time to help others. Volunteering your time or doing something to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. For example, consider dropping off a meal and dessert at a friend’s home during the holidays. This gives us a sense of purpose.
  7. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself to engage in self-care. Find an activity you enjoy. Take a break by yourself. Take a walk, read a book, go to a park and enjoy nature, practice yoga, listen to music, etc. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
  8. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Even though this year has been challenging, there can always be hope.  The new year brings hope, excitement and a new adventure.  If you are struggling to find hope, 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.

Peace and grace to you this holiday season,
Janelle Carbone-Rodriguez, LCSW

THANKFULNESS AND GRATITUDE

Thanksgiving is a holiday dedicated to the focus of being thankful. This time of year can give us that warm, fuzzy feeling when we spend time feeling thankful for the things our lives include. It’s easy for us to look around the Thanksgiving dinner table and say that we are thankful. Some are surrounded by family, friends, and food and in that moment in time, we’re currently experiencing that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with a holiday gathering; we’re thankful. Each holiday season comes with high expectations for a cozy and festive time of year. However, for many this time of year is tinged with sadness, anxiety, or depression. What about those who just feel lost or overwhelmed or down at this time of year? Research suggests that one aspect of the Thanksgiving season can actually lift the spirits, and it’s built right into the holiday — being grateful.

Are you like me in the sense that you’ve wondered what the difference is between being grateful and thankful? The two words are often used interchangeably when people express their gratitude. However, although they’re considered synonyms for showing your appreciation for something or someone, there is a difference between these two words.

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word thankful as “pleased and relieved”, and the word grateful as “showing an appreciation of kindness.” This is where the difference lies; being thankful is a feeling and being grateful is an action. Gratitude is more than just the feeling of thankfulness. According to Psychology Today, gratitude is an emotion expressing an appreciation for what one has as opposed to what one wants. It’s not just thinking about how thankful we are to have all that we have. It’s about living out that gratitude through the simple things we do every day. The key is keeping gratitude at the forefront of our lives; a state of being, where you feel a sense of appreciation that comes from deep within.

When we search for definitions of grateful and thankful from the spiritual side of things, it may not come as a surprise that religious and spiritual movements, such as Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism have addressed the concept of gratitude. Religions have taught that living with a sense of gratitude is a critical part of leading a good life. In recent years, researchers have provided clinical evidence of what many spiritual traditions have been arguing for hundreds of years–that living with a feeling of gratitude has a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing, which creates a connection between gratitude and spirituality. While each religion uses gratitude in a unique way, they all use it to offer thanks to a higher power who has made their existence possible. By these definitions, the expression of gratitude is the continuous flow of being thankful.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Remember that the key to gratefulness is simple—it’s practice. The more you integrate gratefulness into your life, the easier and more routine it will become. It won’t take long for you to notice a change in yourself and others.

Putting it into action! How do we start incorporating these concepts into our daily lives? Here are some ways to cultivate and practice gratitude on a regular basis.

For just a few minutes, consider the things in your life that you possibly could be grateful for. You can think about any positive relationships you have, the comfort of your own bed, your ability to move your body, or your mind, which is your tool for understanding yourself and the things around you.

Take a deep breath in and feel gratitude for the clean air that surrounds you. Feel the life in your body and acknowledge the miracle you’re experiencing by simply being alive. Turn your mind to an appreciation of the things you’re seeing, smelling, and feeling right now and you will slip into a grateful mindset without even trying.

Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter or email expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Once in a while, and sometimes more importantly, write one to yourself!

Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one your thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day. As we head into that special time in November, open your mind up to just how helpful this simple practice may be on the path toward embracing your thankfulness. A Gratitude Journal is the practice of jotting down, each day, things that we are grateful for and allow us to become more present and aware.

Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.

Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.

Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow” — Melody Beattie

In Thankfulness and Gratitude,

Deidre McLeod, LMHC

Mental Health Awareness Week

What do you think of when you hear “mental health”?  Everyone has differing degrees of mental health, just as we all have physical health.  To bring awareness to the importance of mental health and wellbeing, the first week in October has been designated as Mental Health Awareness Week.  This week can be an opportunity to celebrate living mentally healthy.  Some examples of how Mental Health Awareness Week can be celebrated include exercising mindfulness, finding one’s center, and visiting a mental health counselor.

A great inexpensive way to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week is by practicing mindfulness.  I used to think that mindfulness referred exclusively to meditating.  Though that is a possible part of mindfulness, it is not necessary to meditate to be mindful.  Mindfulness refers to focusing on the present.   Mindfulness is defined as a mental state when one is focusing awareness on the moment, while calmly accepting and acknowledging one’s feeling, thoughts, and physical sensations.

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.

-Abraham Maslow, Ph.D.

Another way to celebrate mental health is finding and challenging a core belief.  If you have been reading our blogs, I maybe starting to sound like a broken record, but it really is that important.  If you haven’t already read it, go back and review the previous blog about finding your center for more information on this topic. How satisfying it is to ask the questions and find out that the core belief is sound and healthy.

If these questions or a recent life event raise discomfort, talking to a professional counselor may be beneficial.  Regular doctor visits are considered beneficial even when feeling well.  Some insurance programs even require them to qualify for a lower rate.  Most employers provide a limited number of free mental health sessions through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to allow employees and their family members to ensure continued mental health.  Go ahead and call your Employee Assistance Program for a referral.  Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing is an EAP provider.

Mental Health Awareness Week can be celebrated in many ways, such as exercising mindfulness, examining one’s core belief, and using EAP benefits to visit a counselor.  These are good health practices.  Events such as Mental Health Awareness Week help bring this reality to the public awareness.  Help celebrate mental health awareness week this year by doing something to maintain or improve your own mental health.

As always, Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing can be reached to schedule an appointment at 1-866-280-WELL (9355) if you are ready to live your best and achieve wellbeing.

Live your best life,

Jared Chantrill, LCSW

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