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At What Point are Politics a Mental Health Concern?

Despite the title…politics aside. Seriously I want you to try to forget your political views for a few minutes. I’m serious! Trust me, I have a point……..

As a therapist, I don’t share with clients my political leanings. Partly because I know whatever I would say would sound ignorant because I don’t know nearly as much as I would like to about the political world…but mostly because it doesn’t matter. My political views do not directly impact my client’s mental health, therefore it’s not appropriate to talk about.

But with the election of 2020, politics were discussed a lot in my therapy office. Don’t worry, not my political leanings. But everyone’s anxiety regarding politics. I have clients who have political views all across the board and everyone, no matter what their views, was anxious. So when I say politics were discussed, I should really say that anxiety regarding politics were discussed.

Sooo, if you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you know that I gave all my clients the same advice: turn off CNN, focus on what you can control, blah, blah, blah….(seriously I even got sick of myself saying these things over and over again).

But here’s why I’m writing this. At what point does a political view turn into a mental health issue?

Let me share with you what happened this week (and I’m sorry but I am redacting some pertinent information to maintain confidentiality…but you’re smart, you can put two and two together).

So a client of mine who I’ve had for many years and I started chatting about COVID-19 and the closures in our county, the vaccine, etc. Nothing political, really just about wanting to get control of this virus so that life can go back to normal. So I made a comment about how I am curious to see what happens after January 20, 2021 (when Joe Biden will be sworn in as the POTUS). I am curious about what things will change regarding the COVID imitative, etc.

This client responded to me and said “Well, you know there’s election fraud”……………sticking with my not sharing any political views stance, I think I just smiled and nodded. And the client continued to say that the news is not telling America what is really going on and that there’s election fraud and “I thought we lived in a democracy” type talk….So I couldn’t resist. After sitting quietly and letting my client go on a bit I finally asked “Wait. If there’s election fraud that we don’t know about because the news is lying…how do you know about it?”….Well, the client responded that they knew about this from a news source (use your imagination, it’s not hard). I attempted to point out that “If all other news sources are lying, how do you know this one is telling the truth?”

Now I’m going to be honest. I do not care about my client’s political views. But what this client told me was completely irrational thinking. If this client had said a similar statement about ANYTHING ELSE, I would have for sure zeroed in on the irrational thinking of thinking that all news sources are bad except for one. That’s not rational. It’s just not.

So I need your help. And this is where I need you to put your political views aside…because at this point, it’s not about political views…it’s about how we’re interpreting the world around us. How we’re interpreting messages being sent to us. Because from everything I’ve learned about psychology…it’s not healthy…so at what point does this turn from not being about politics at all and being about mental health?

How to Survive Thanksgiving Holiday Stress 2020

So I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone when I say that there is always a lot of holiday stress…..my business is usually booming between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Normally, I talk about those two holidays together as “the holiday season” but with the craziness of life right now…I am going to focus on just Thanksgiving. (Don’t worry, I’ll do another blog post about Christmas!)

Alright so here’s what I know:

  • Thanksgiving is happening
  • COVID-19 cases are on the rise and most states have a mandate saying no family gatherings over 10 people
  • People have very different views on COVID-19 mandates
  • The presidential election is over…but not really because people are still debating who won
  • People have very different views on the election

Alright…..from what I know, listed above…this sounds like a recipe for disaster. Like seriously. I’m concerned about all of our mental health during the holidays. Anyone else? Buttt as I mentioned Thanksgiving is still happening in whatever form it may be in and family is important, ya know especially when we’re supposed to get together and all be thankful for each other. So I have compiled a list of tips and tricks to make it through Thanksgiving and maybe even have a little fun!

  1. Don’t talk politics. Just don’t do it. I say this every year and people still do it. I don’t know why. Don’t talk politics. If people start talking politics around you, BITE YOUR TONGUE. Just smile and nod and comment on how tasty the stuffing is. Seriously. You are not going to change your family’s opinion and they aren’t going to change yours.
  2. Don’t talk opinions on COVID. See above for how to not talk about it when someone else is trying to talk about it. But really, no one has any clue what they’re doing with COVID so unless you happen to have genius infectious disease doctors in your family, don’t talk COVID. Actually, even if you do have genius infectious disease doctors, they’re probably so sick of COVID they just want to eat their turkey in peace. Talking about it is literally only going to stress you and other people out. Just don’t do it.
  3. You may be thinking “Oh I need wine to deal with my mother (or insert whatever family member)”. Drinking is not going to help. It’s really not. So enjoy your wine, enjoy a beer, or whatever cocktail of choice…but overindulging is just going to make you hungover and embarrassed the next day. We’re trying to get through the holidays peacefully, we don’t want to have to call our grandma and apologize the next morning.
  4. No one. I repeat no one is at their best right now. Hopefully you and the people in your family are making the best of things and still able to enjoy some time off together. But NO ONE is at their happiest, “living their best lives” self right now. So when your mom starts crying in the gravy, yeah it’s annoying, but give her a break, it’s been rough for all of us.
  5. Okay this is mostly a list of what not to do. But, you can still: be thankful for family, enjoy spending time with these people you’re related to, enjoy having a day (or a few) off of work, and maybe, just maybe forget about everything going on in the world for a little while.

Don’t worry, we’ll get through this holiday stress together. I promise. This is just the beginning, but I’ll have more tips and tricks for Christmas, so stay tuned! Follow me on Instagram for reminders throughout the holiday season and check out the Okay-ish Podcast for more helpful information on how to manage this shit show we’re in right now!

Why are we Angry with 2020?

I have been seeing a lot of pretty hilarious memes about being angry with 2020. Memes that say things like “Why did we celebrate the new year to go into this?” Or one of my favorites is: “I bet none of us were right back in 2015 when we predicted where we would be in 5 years”…….don’t get me wrong….these are hysterical…..but there’s a problem with focusing on this………….when we focus on “Let’s just wait until 2021 and start over” that puts us in a mindset that there’s nothing we can do now except wait.

I have always hated New Year’s Eve. Typically, I have really high expectations and hope on New Year’s Eve. I have set my goals for the new year. I have made my vision board. I have dressed up and popped the champagne. And usually, I have failed at one of my goals in some way or another within about 20 minutes. Then I end up feeling bad about myself and thinking “Welp, the whole new year is ruined, might as well wait until next year”……clearly a healthy thought process going on here every New Year’s Eve.

I feel like right now, with this focus on how bad 2020 is, we’re all in that perpetual New Year’s Eve state. We are just sitting back and waiting.

Guess what? New Year’s really means nothing. Was it the Mayans who developed the calendar? I’m embarrassed to say that I honestly have no idea but I think the calendar is based on the Mayan calendar along with maybe solstices? (If anyone wants to give me a quick history lesson, I clearly need it). But my point is, it doesn’t mean anything. We can go after our goals TODAY. We can say that yeah, the past few months have been a sh**show and it’s not over, but that doesn’t mean I have to sit back and hate 2020, that’s not going to do me any good.

So laugh at the memes with me, create your own memes, joke about how ridiculous life is right now…but please don’t wait another five months to do good things for yourself. You got this. Now.

Extra Resources when you’re feeling angry:

Listen to the Okay-ish Podcast

Weekly Journal Prompts

and follow me on Instagram for hilarious 2020 memes!

Grieving

Right now we are grieving a lot of things. Some of us may be grieving people. Many of us are grieving hope, normalcy, safety, rituals, not to mention hobbies, school, work, weddings, births, and much more that I’m sure you’re listing off in your head.

Currently, we all have an open wound. People keep saying “we’re all in this together” and even though we know it’s true, it sure doesn’t feel like it…it just feels like grief.

ONE of the crazy parts about all of this is that we NEED other people to grieve effectively, and that’s exactly what has been taken away from us.

So it’s really important to feel our grief. If we don’t feel it, then we don’t process it appropriately. Feeling our emotions, talking about our emotions, processing our emotions helps us to do a few things. It allows us to let go. But it also allows us to connect with our feelings and when we disconnect with our feelings that leads to emptiness and hopelessness.

We are probably all familiar with the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). But in recent years, David Kessler (an author and grief expert) has suggested a sixth stage of grief after acceptance…the stage he has suggested is “meaning”….he suggests that loss is not a lesson or a gift or all those other things people say when they have nothing else to say…he says that loss is simply something that happens in life, but meaning is what we make happen out of it. He also says that meaning and healing does not mean that the loss hasn’t happened, it just means that we aren’t letting it control us…

Viktor Frankl (neurologist and psychologist) says that when we can’t change a situation, we end up changing ourselves.

Extra Resources:

Check out this article about 2020 Grief and Depression

Listen to the Okay-ish Podcast to learn more and have some fun in the process

The weather is nicer…Things are starting to open back up…Why do I still feel crappy?

The weather is finally nice in upstate NY (insert me jumping up and down). We are well on our way to Phase 2 of opening back up! People are having safe, distant outdoor picnics! All of this sounds great………….right?

I have been seeing so many people post on Instagram and Facebook about how the sunshine and warmer weather has helped them finally feel better…that’s fantastic. As much as the increase in Vitamin D helps and seeing people outdoors from far away helps………………….it is okay to still feel anxious. Maybe your anxiety is even worse because now you’re starting to leave the bubble of your house slightly more, which after being inside for 10+ weeks it’s become almost a culture shock to go outside again.

I love sunshine, I have spent the past few days outside all day long…but that does not take away anxiety. It does not take away depression. It does not take away this fear that has been instilled within us for the past few months. It does not take away our worries.

Don’t get me wrong.

Sunshine helps.

Being outside helps.

Exercise helps.

Seeing friends and family help………………………..But unfortunately these things are not a cure.

In order for these things to help even more, we have to continue to work on quieting those monsters in our brains. We have to recognize that anxiety and depression want to take over our thoughts with illogical thinking but we won’t let them. We have to look introspectively, NOT listen to the anxiety and depression, and all those other things I go on and on about all day long that I’m sure many of you are sick of hearing 😉

So go out and enjoy the sunshine. Go enjoy having socially distant picnics. Do this while remembering that it’s okay that things are still hard. They will get better. I promise. But it’s okay that you aren’t out of the woods yet.

àFor more info on anxiety management skills check out: https://maryellendancecoachingconsulting.vipmembervault.com/

So we’re still in quarantine…

Those of us in New York State can relate to the sinking feeling we all had in our chests this past Friday, May 1st, when we found out that schools will be closed for the rest of the year…..I had a strong feeling that was going to happen, but that didn’t make it any better. Kids, seniors, retirees, teachers, school support staff…it’s pretty safe to say that no one was excited about this decision.

So I’m just going to say it…THIS SUCKS. It sucks It sucks It sucks. There is no denying it. It’s sad, it’s frustrating, it’s lonely, and did I say it just plain SUCKS?

I recently wrote a blog about how what you focus on grows and so it’s important to focus on the positive. Don’t worry, I still believe that. It’s SO important to be positive, to support each other, to look at what we’re thankful for.

That being said. We are all grieving. We are grieving the loss of jobs. The loss of people. The loss of events. The loss of hope.

It’s vitally important to LET ourselves grieve. Yes, we want to be positive, we want to look on the bright side…but we cannot ignore that this SUCKS and that we have LOST a lot.

Being sad, being frustrated is all part of the grieving process. In order to successfully grieve, to work through and process everything, we need to FEEL our feelings…the good, the bad, and the ugly feelings.

So how do we feel the nasty feelings while still focusing on all the positive crap?………..I’m glad you asked!

One of my favorite things to tell people is “It’s important to sit in your shit, just don’t set up camp there”…sit in the icky feelings, feel them, just don’t stay there all day, don’t pitch your tent there and stay for good.

Anxiety and COVID-19

“Excuse me, you’re really going to talk to me about managing my anxiety during a global pandemic? You must be the crazy one.”

As a Licensed Mental Health Therapist, I am getting a lot of comments like the one above. I hear so many people telling me that they have just accepted they are going to live in a puddle of anxiety until this is all over. Well, that sounds miserable to me. Of course we are going to feel a bit more anxious than usual during this time in the world, but we don’t have to just sit and let our anxiety take over.

If I had to guess, we are doing other things that actually increase our anxiety. Some of the top triggers for anxiety are boredom, fear, and loneliness.

Can any of us relate to these feelings right now?…..I know I can!

Although we can’t directly do anything to stop the global pandemic, we can work on our boredom, fear, and loneliness which ultimately lead us to managing our anxiety. I want to share with you some of the best and easiest ways to manage your anxiety during this time!

  1. Recognize that you have anxiety. It’s okay to admit that right now is a stressful time in life. If we ignore anxiety, it has this tendency to bubble up underneath the surface until we feel like we’re losing it! Talk about it. Share with a loved one how you’re feeling. Have compassion for yourself for feeling this way.
  2. Stop reading the news!! Okay, maybe not completely, because it’s important to stay informed. But we are inundating ourselves with news articles with so many statistics, opinions, and hypotheticals. Stay up to date, but put the phone down!
  3. Stick to a schedule. Just like babies have feeding and sleeping schedules, so do we! To keep some sense of normalcy try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day as well as eating three meals around the same time each day.
  4. Breathe! Breathe! Breathe! If you notice your shoulders going up and down, you’re breathing shallowly which can increase anxiety. Put your hand on your stomach and try to breathe in deep in your belly, your stomach should grow when you inhale and shrink back when you exhale.
  5. Distract yourself. Make a quarantine bucket list of things you want to accomplish during this time and every time you feel bored, go to something on the bucket list. Call a friend. Read a book. Go outside. Anything to distract from the spiral of anxious mush in your brain!

Please don’t put your mental health last. Please don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, and panicked to reach out for support. Right now, (not all) but most insurance companies are even waiving copays for mental health therapy to meet the growing needs of the community.