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 it’s Okay to Cope with the News by Looking at Memes

Did you ever have the experience as a child, where you would go to one of your parents and say “Mommmm…my arm hurts when I touch it”…and then your parent would respond by saying “Well don’t touch it.”…nope? Just me? I can remember lots of instances where I would complain to my parents about something or other hurting and their solution was to “not touch it”…….it was the same with emotional pain too. I would say “Mommm, Michael won’t do (insert whatever my older brother wouldn’t do)” and my mom would respond by saying “Okay, leave him alone” AKA “Don’t touch it”.

I have been reminded of my mom a lot lately in the therapy room when talking about coping skills. In this time of an election, a pandemic, a social crisis movement, you name it…I have so many clients that come to me and say “The news is making me sooo anxious”…and guess what I want to say? I want to channel my mom and say “Don’t touch it” or more appropriately “So stop watching the news!!”

So I actually have said that on many occasions, and the responses vary from “Well I have to stay informed” to “I can’t help it I have to watch it”….but here’s my question about those responses…why? Why did me as a childhood feel the need to touch my arm if it hurt when I touched it? Why do we feel the need to hurt ourselves? ……..We thrive off of emotional pain. I could go into details about all of the reasons we thrive off of emotional pain, but that’s a whole different blog post…..the point of me saying this today is so we can recognize how we all thrive off of this emotional pain.

Okay, now if we all recognize that we thrive off of this emotional pain, does that mean we will stop doing it? Probably not. Our brains are cool like that….so we have to actively make the CHOICE to stop hurting ourselves. To recognize that yes, this is causing me pain, and then choose to stop causing ourselves pain…..it sounds simple, but as we all know, it’s not.

But let me ask you this? Have you ever benefited from:

  • Picking that scab
  • Biting your nails
  • Staying up too late when you know you have to get up early
  • Not drinking water because it’s a hassle to get up and go get a glass of water
  • Saying “I don’t need ibuprofen, this headache will go away” and suffering through it
  • Agreeing to spend time with people that you know will make you feel poorly about yourself
  • Going on your ex’s Facebook page to look at how happy they are with their new partner

This is why, it is completely okay to cope with the election by looking at the hilarious memes…because I think we can all agree that the election memes were fantastic this year. Of course we want to stay informed. Of course we want to be aware of what’s going on in the world. Of course we want to help, support, advocate, and educate. But do we want to pick that scab? Will that help us? It absolutely will not.

Follow me on Instagram for plenty more memes!

For your viewing pleasure, some hilarious 2020 presidential election memes:

Why E-Courses?

It feels like everywhere I look on the internet, I see e-courses! There are a wide variety of online courses, some really fancy and intense and meant to be in depth, long courses and some mini courses. I feel like every day I get an e-mail with a free download of some type of checklist meant to help with some problem. So here’s the deal…do these work?!

If I’m being honest, I feel kind of sick of online products…I think that’s probably because I sign up for e-mails all the time so I guess I do it to myself. Anyways, lately, I have been learning a lot about online courses, doing more “mini” courses and guess what?! They are amazing!!

I have recently added e-courses (or online courses) to my website and I am sooo excited. I wanted to take this time to explain a bit what e-courses are, why they’re so awesome, and what to expect!

Any type of online course has become increasingly popular over the past decade and even more popular since the hit of COVID-19 to the United States. Online courses are popular for a variety of reasons including the fact that they are often much cheaper than in person services, much more accessible than in person services, and just plain easier in a lot of ways!

So there are obviously education services providing online courses. Most colleges and universities are providing some if not all of their courses online right now…but what I’m referring to are a different type of online course. Not a semester of homework, class assignments, and textbooks, but rather shorter e-courses, more focused, and done on your own time at your own pace!

There are a lot of business coaches and consultants who provide online courses such as: “Buy this e-course to learn how to start your business!”. There are also a lot of fitness online courses…such as: “30 Day online workbook to a healthier you”.

I have enrolled in online courses as a consumer in the past, but I never really thought about adding online courses of my own. However recently, I have had the awesome opportunity to develop and provide workshops for various organizations. These workshops have been so much fun to research, to develop, and to interact and (virtually) meet so many people!

With all this being said…because these workshops have been so fun and in high demand, I wanted to be able to provide the information from these workshops to even more people. I also want to be able to provide further information related to my Okay-ish podcast, more in depth than what I can do in a 20 minute podcast episode……………and to be able to give this information where people can do it on their own time in the comfort of their own homes…score!

So please check out my library of online courses here.

Also check out more online resources by becoming a part of the Okay-ish Squad Membership.

Mental Health in Today’s Political World

I have been REALLY hesitant to write about this. It’s not because it’s not a vitally important topic, but I have been hesitant because I honestly have no idea what I’m talking about. I am a white, middle class, protestant woman. I am really blessed and honored and often naïve to social issues because of my background. There’s a big part of me that feels like I have no right to write about this because of the reasons I listed above.

But, with being a mental health professional and living in Rochester, NY (which has now made international news)…..I felt as though I would be doing a disservice by NOT addressing some of the issues that are going on in our world today. I am not here to tell you my opinion or pretend like I know what I’m talking about. But I wanted to explain that the reasons I am not posting on social media or openly talking about this is not because I don’t care and not because I don’t have strong feelings that I am advocating for in my personal life. I just feel that as long as I am doing my part, advocating in my own ways, and supporting organizations that I feel strongly for…that it isn’t appropriate for me to post about things on social media.

So now that we’ve established that I have no clue what I’m talking about and that even though I’m not posting about this on social media, I am doing things in my personal life…the one thing that I do know about that I feel like I can contribute to this conversation is about mental health.

A mental health arrest is a precaution of safety that can be really great and really scary. A mental health arrest, or mental hygiene arrest occurs when someone is deemed not safe. When someone is deemed a danger or threat to themselves or others. For those of you who have been to therapists, you have signed paperwork acknowledging that a therapist will break confidentiality if you are a threat to yourself or others.

I unfortunately have been involved in many mental health arrests throughout my professional life. What I am about to share is what has happened for me. This can look different for different people, across different states, and different scenarios.

What typically happens (again in my experience) is that a client is presenting as a threat. I have always told the client that they’re presenting as a threat, that I’m worried about their safety, and that I think I need to call 911 because of it. Clients react typically in one of two ways.

The first way is that the client understands and agrees that they do not feel safe. I then call 911. An ambulance arrives with EMT’s and the client is taken to the nearest hospital to have a psychiatric evaluation. Sometimes the client is then admitted to the psychiatric unit at the hospital, sometimes the client is assessed and then released home.

The second way that I have had clients react is not as nice. Clients often take this news poorly, especially if that client happens to be under the influence of a mood-altering chemical. I have been yelled at, spit at, threatened, and intimidated. When this happens and I call 911, I let the dispatcher know the state of the client, and a police officer will accompany the EMTs. I have seen clients run away from said police officer, yell at, spit at, threaten, etc. When this happens, the police officer will usually handcuff the client and the client will then get into the ambulance against their will and be taken to the hospital.

There are so many issues with this process. There are so many areas of improvement for this process. I don’t know what happens when someone is assessed as a threat to themselves or others and needs to be mental health arrested (which that needs to be renamed, I mean come on, saying they’re being arrested is horrible) when they are not around a mental health counselor such as myself, but I know that there is no job that exists of an “on call” mental health counselor, similar to an EMT that responds to these events.

I think that people who are having mental health struggles need to be treated with dignity and respect but being a threat to themselves or others needs to be addressed so that people can stay safe…..how to do this? I’m not sure. I don’t have the answers. What I do know is that I am always advocating for appropriate and respectful treatment of those experiencing mental health struggles. I am also always advocating for the safety of people with mental health concerns and those around them.

I also know that I am always here to talk. I am here to teach about mental health and psychology and I am here to learn about you, your own struggles, your views, learn things that will help me be a better therapist and person, and to help support you however I can.

Also check out:

Why it’s Okay to Cope with the News by Looking at Memes

How to Survive Holiday Stress (without talking about mental health or politics)

“I care”

If you have read any of my blogs or know anything about me…I am not a big fan of the term self care.

The reason I’m not a fan is because it’s such a subjective term. What it means for me is different than what it means for you and for the next person…and while we’re on the topic…what does it mean again?

This past weekend, I was visiting the Adirondacks with some of my family. My mom kept bringing up self care. She was bringing it up with the best intentions, making sure her kids (including me) are taking care of themselves, being kind to themselves, and generally happy despite the global pandemic. It made me think…is this the new way of saying “How are things?”…what would happen if people who hadn’t seen each other in a long time asked “How have you been practicing self care” versus “How’s life” or “How are things”?…I wonder how conversations would change…my mom tested this out without even realizing it. It definitely led to more positive conversations with family members, talking about achieving goals, exercising, and positive things going on in our lives rather than complaining about Susan at the office.

My theory may not be fool proof though. After my mom asked me if I was practicing self care, I asked my mom and dad how they were practicing self care. My mom, who has more of an understanding, responded with talking about how she has been doing a guided journal based on the recommendation from her therapist. When I turned to my dad to ask him about self care…his response was “I always practice self care, I care!” When I pressed my dad further, about what he cared about, he responded and said “Everything!”…although I appreciate my dad’s enthusiasm and loving attitude, I don’t think he really understands self care, the term self care, or what it means to practice self care. Sooooooo…I don’t know how my dad’s doing other than the fact that he cares about everything 😊

Back to my point though…what if we started asking people:

How have you been loving yourself lately?

How have we been showing up authentically for yourself lately?

Give me an example of a time recently where you put your needs first in order to honor your mental health.

Maybe, just maybe, I don’t have to use the despised term self care, to actually promote self care. Maybe, by changing the conversation just a little bit, we can promote self care. (Don’t worry, I gave my dad examples of how he can take care of himself and told him I’d be following up with him on it).

Extra Resources to promote your own Self Care:

Weekly Journal Prompts

Blog about Mindset and Focus

Maybe schedule a therapy appointment?

Listen to the Okay-ish Podcast!

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

So Rachel Hollis is getting a divorce…

I love self help books. Self Help blogs. Self Help podcasts. Anything self help related.

I also really really hate self help books. Self help blogs. Self help podcasts. Anything self help related.

Most people are surprised to hear about my love/hate relationship with self help…most people think that because I am a therapist, I love any type of self help and recommend any type of self help.

With the recent news of Rachel Hollis getting a divorce (don’t worry I’ll get to that in a second) I want to share a bit about my views on self help and why I have these views.

First of all, it’s called SELF help for a reason. What works for mySELF will not necessarily work for yourSELF.

Second of all, a significant amount of self help “gurus” have no professional experience in the therapeutic, counseling, or helping professions. Now, I’m not saying this doesn’t mean they have great things to say. I love reading about people’s journeys and their own paths to happiness and fulfillment. But the problem is, people often take advice in these books/blogs/podcasts very literally. Just because someone else quit their job and took a roadtrip across Europe, doesn’t mean that you should…or maybe it does…but it’s not my or their place to say. Taking advice from self help gurus that don’t have an educational/professional background can be very dangerous. They mean well, but it can trick us into feeling bad about ourselves, because we aren’t living like them or because we feel different than them.

Heck, counseling professionals get it wrong too! I have more understanding of the way the brain works and more understanding of mental health disorders and what leads to fulfillment, but that doesn’t mean that everything I say will work for you! That doesn’t mean that I don’t make mistakes in my own personal life just like the next person. I just have more knowledge in this certain area than people from different professional backgrounds.

Okay…so let me get to my point…Rachel Hollis.

For those of you who don’t know, Rachel Hollis is a public figure, author, and speaker. She began her career in marketing (and I think she still does some of that) but she is basically a self help guru. She is married with four children. She hosts business conferences and marital retreats with her husband, Dave.

She just announced that her and Dave are getting divorced. Many people are outraged because her and Dave not only host (very expensive) marital retreats but they have a marriage podcast, talk very openly about how great their marriage is, and have made millions of dollars giving relationship advice for having a great marriage.

Before I say anything else. I do not know these people and I truly hope that they are safe and happy and I feel for both of them and their children. I have no idea what goes on in their marriage so I hope that they are okay………..Notice a key phrase I just mentioned: “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT GOES ON IN THEIR MARRIAGE”…..because NONE OF US DO! Nor should we frankly, a marriage is very private, however they have acted like everyone knows all of these things about their marriage because of all their marriage advice.

So whether you’re feeling angry and confused by this news, whether you’re feeling happy about this news, whether you’re feeling sad and broken hearted about this news…this is what I have to say.

Rachel Hollis is not a marriage counselor. Neither is Dave Hollis. However, they have a multi-million dollar business based on giving marital advice. When you are looking for self help resources…please consider the source.

No matter how many times someone uses #nofilter or someone claims they are showing you the “behind the scenes”…they aren’t. The world we live in today has so many “filters”…and that’s not necessarily a bad thing……but stop comparing yourself to other people’s highlight reels. I PROMISE you, they are ALLLLL highlight reels.

Self help resources often do more harm than good. They lead to us comparing ourselves to others. They lead to us feeling bad that we aren’t living like the author. They lead to us worrying, overthinking, and getting confused about what’s best for us. By all means, read self help, just take things with a grain of salt!

Lastly, try not to be too mad at them. They’re just people. They make mistakes. Relationships are tough……

But please please please consider the source when you’re looking into resources. Anyone can call themselves a “coach”, anyone can call themselves a “consultant”, anyone can call themselves an “expert”……..be careful. There’s a LOT of fluff out there about self help this and self help that. There’s a lot of pseudoscience out there related to psychology. Trust yourself. Trust that YOU know the best thing for your own SELF care. Do whatever you can to NOT compare yourself to all of the self help influencers out there…it’s just a highlight reel. And everyone is different. And that is okay.

 

The scary world we are in…

The world is a really scary place right now.

 

Don’t get me wrong, it was before this past weekend…but for most of us, it’s even scarier now.

I have been hesitant to write this blog post because to be completely honest, I don’t know what’s best to do or say.

So I’ll write about what I do know…..

People are scared. I am scared. People are angry. I am angry. People are confused. Heck yes I’m confused.

As human beings we are not meant to live like this. We are not meant for isolation. We are not meant for hating each other and tearing each other down.

I don’t know the best way to support. But what I do know, is that I can ask questions on how to support the #blacklivesmatter movement. I can say that I don’t understand but that I want to understand and that I want to support. I can learn and I can love.

I have spoken to a lot of people about how they feel uncomfortable because they don’t know what to say, or how to support, or what to do. As long as we are going into our decisions with kindness and love…that is what matters….if you want to support but don’t know how, ASK!

Governor Cuomo made a statement on Sunday that even though the pandemic and the riots do not seem related, they are…………………………………………………….

OF COURSE THEY ARE!

We are struggling as a world with so many things and mental health, fear, anxiety, depression, and anger are all at the forefront…

Please take care of yourself. Please take care of others. And always act from kindness and love.

www.blacklivesmatter.com