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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.

Wellbeing Corner – Vol.2 Nov. 2020

Thanksgiving. This most beloved holiday is upon us, looking very differently through the lens of our year 2020. Thankfulness has been a difficult concept to grasp in many ways recently; let alone looking forward to how the holidays will be impacted by our current dynamics. Families may be separated due to inability to travel or be in proximity of each other due to pandemic concerns. Job loss and economic impact also resonate throughout our families, among many other factors. So how do we grasp the heart of ‘Thanksgiving’? Where is the meaning of the holiday?

“The grateful mind reaps massive advantages in life,” Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and the founder a research lab that studies the effects of grateful living. “Health and wholeness, wellness and fullness result from the systematic practice of a grateful living.” “It literally breathes new life into us. It recharges and it rejuvenates,” Emmons said about gratitude, which he defines as “an affirmation of the goodness in one’s life and the recognition that the sources of this goodness lie at least partially outside the self.”

Essentially, having ‘an attitude of gratitude’ can bring us wellness and ‘breathe new life into us’! Sounds like just the thing we all need, especially moving into an uncertain holiday season! So… now to find and take hold of it!

  1. Beginning with the above definition: “an affirmation of the goodness in one’s life and the recognition that the sources of this goodness lie at least partially outside the self.” It is not about us!! Finding the simple blessings and reasons to be grateful that surround us continually in the daily mundane can be the first step in finding gratefulness. Taking notice of a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a flower randomly growing on the side of the road, connecting with a loved one virtually or otherwise. Releasing ourselves to the knowledge we have so very many reasons to be grateful amid our hardships, we just need to take notice!
  2. It is not enough to take notice of reasons to be grateful, we must act! “The word ‘thanksgiving’ literally means, giving of thanks. Thanksgiving is an action word,” Emmons said. “Gratitude requires action.” Giving back to others around us brings us a greater sense of joy and happiness! Telling your co-worker how much you appreciate their collaboration on a daily basis; sharing with your spouse or loved one what you are grateful for about them; maybe even leaving an anonymous thank you note for someone who blesses you routinely… be creative!
  3. Keep the gratitude going! We do not have to leave the thankfulness of Thanksgiving with the holiday! Start a gratitude journal… make it a consistent pattern in your daily routine to grasp thankfulness! It will not return void!

Mostly, thank you all for all you do every day. Sacrificially. Without selfishness. Whether you are serving in hospice care or another completely different arena, thank you. We are all a part of a greater team and purpose to connect and serve together. I am grateful.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” Maya Angelou

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 ‘thankfulness’, 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 – October 2020 – 1st edition

Welcome to the Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing’s “Wellbeing Corner” Blog! We hope to provide you with a monthly opportunity to find your ‘center’ and to stop and take a breath (if for only one minute) amid your very busy day!

2020… no need to say more! We are all gasping for breath under stressors we never could have imagined for this year! We are just regaining our footing from this pandemic quarantine, only to roll right into a very volatile election, and holiday time! 2020 does not seem to hold back any punches. So, what does ‘wellbeing’ mean and look like in the middle of these trying and unprecedented times? Miriam Webster defines ‘wellbeing’ as the following: the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that ‘well-being includes the presence of positive emotions and moods (e.g., contentment, happiness), the absence of negative emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety), satisfaction with life, fulfillment and positive functioning. In simple terms, well-being can be described as judging life positively and feeling good.’ (https://www.cdc.gov/hrqol/wellbeing.htm#three). I will be the first to say, ‘wellbeing’ is a bit difficult to grasp right now! Anyone else feeling that contentment, happiness and the absence of negative emotions is nowhere to be found in this challenging socio-economic and emotional climate?

Where In this space and time can we find our ‘center for wellbeing’? This answer can be different for each one of us. Finding the moment to recognize the highlights in each day can be the first step in this challenge. It could be providing a special service or word/gesture to someone , connecting with our family and loved ones (virtually or otherwise), reading that book we have wanted to start for so long, finally getting outside our home to take a walk (without a mask). The key point is FINDING it! Find that moment for YOU! ; Giving back to ourselves can be the most difficult to make time for. I just encourage you all to FIND that positive moment for yourselves in each day and make self-care a priority. If you have taken the couple of minutes to read this entire blog… CONGRATULATIONS!! You made the first step in that positive self-care for today! Keep up the great work!

Thank you all for the sacrificial giving you graciously do every day! In the months to come, we will be focusing even more on emotional PPE, holiday time and embracing the New Year. Stay tuned!

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” – Helen Keller

If your loved ones, friends, or maybe even yourself, are struggling to find your best mental health and self-care, 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.
Be (and remain) Well!

Deidre McLeod, MS LPC