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Is It Time to Seek Out Couples Counseling?

Couples counseling can be a helpful tool in any relationship, but it is especially useful for couples who are experiencing difficulty. Whether you’re trying to fix the problem or just looking for ways to enhance your connection, there are many benefits of working with a trained professional. Here are some reasons why couples should consider seeking out sessions with an expert:

-To learn how to improve communication and turn arguments into meaningful discussions

-To help resolve conflict that may have been affecting your sex life

-To explore possible differences in values and lifestyle choices

-To get support when one partner has experienced trauma such as abuse or addiction

-For guidance on what steps to take if you want to end the relationship

What is couples counseling and how does it work?

Couples counseling is a type of psychotherapy – not unlike individual counseling – designed to help partners in a romantic relationship to be happier and more fulfilled, both as individuals and as a team. In couples counseling, the two people in a couple are treated together so they can focus on their partnership rather than individually. Couples counseling may also involve family members or friends if they are causing problems in a relationship.

Another name for couples counseling is marriage therapy . However, it’s not necessary to be married in order to have a successful therapeutic experience in the presence of your significant other.

Why should you seek out sessions with an expert?

Couples counseling is for anyone with a serious concern about their romantic relationship. This could include relationships in which either: Both partners are experiencing emotional suffering, or one partner has difficulty adjusting to a long term relationship and the other partner is having problems handling what’s going on. 

When is the right time to start going to couples counseling?

The answer to this question depends on the issue you are dealing with. In all my years of counseling couples, I have found that there are three distinct reasons that people seek out couples therapy.

1) The first type of couple is what I consider to be “The Perfect Couple.” They have been married for a number of years and have no major issues. They are happy with their marriage and enjoy going out on dates, cooking together, sharing hobbies, etc. Their kids are grown and they share in the responsibilities that come with them. There is a lot of intimacy between them, but just not enough passion. They are often wondering if there is something wrong with them as a couple because the flames of passionate love seem to have gone out.

2) The second type of couples that seek counseling are those that deal with recurring emotional or verbal abuse in their relationship. These relationships escalate from small disagreements into a major argument where excessive nagging or yelling of hurtful things (often true) occurs. These couples will fight over minor issues and end up talking to each other in ways they would never talk to anybody else. They both feel the love for one another is gone. Sometimes, they have been dealing with this kind of behavior for years and wonder if there is any hope for them to have a loving marriage.

3) The third type of couple are the ones that say, “I just don’t love you anymore.” These couples have either been married for a short amount of time or have been together for 10 years and are dealing with some of the common problems that every committed relationship encounters in order to grow, (e.g., sexual problems, financial difficulties, moving into a new phase of life issues). These couples usually have been to see a clergy person and/or attended marital retreats; however, they just don’t seem to be able to get their love for one another back.

In my opinion, it really doesn’t matter which type of couple you are dealing with, there is hope for all of you. 

Couples counseling offers both partners tools and techniques that allow everyone to understand the things they are doing to cause tension in their relationship. It also gives couples an opportunity to learn how to repair relationships when conflict occurs so that it doesn’t escalate into more severe problems. 

In general, the goal of couples therapy is to ensure that both partners in a relationship feel valued, respected, and loved for the person they are. This is accomplished through honest communication between both partners about what they need to be happy and fulfilled in life.

How can you tell if your relationship needs help from a professional?

Many people want to know if what they are going through is a common problem and one that requires professional help. All couples have disagreements from time-to-time; however, if there is an ongoing pattern of arguing about the same things over and over again, then it may be worth getting some feedback to see where you stand as a couple.

What are some of the benefits of working with a trained professional in this area?

There are numerous benefits of seeking out couple’s counseling. 

The primary benefit that is always mentioned is the professional allows couples to “air dirty laundry.” That’s one way to put it, but I prefer to think of it as a safe and neutral space where you can talk about things that you might not otherwise feel comfortable talking about with anyone else in your life. 

A trained professional will listen to you without judgment and offer feedback in a respectful way that can help you reach your own answers. Many people don’t feel comfortable talking about sexual difficulties, financial struggles, or parenting issues with anyone including their friends or family members. In cases like these, couple’s counseling is where the process begins so that couples can be on their way to a more harmonious relationship.

If this sounds like something you could benefit from, reach out and make a consultation appointment with one of our team members today!

Signs You Made Need Counseling for Anger Management

Anger is a normal human emotion that can be healthy when expressed appropriately.

However, many people struggle with inappropriate anger or chronic rage. Counseling may offer you the opportunity to regain control of your emotions and to find peace in your life.

This article discusses signs and symptoms of anger problems. If any of these signs sound familiar, it might be time to consider anger management counseling for yourself or a loved one.

The first step in dealing with an unhealthy level of anger is identifying what’s going on inside you which leads to such feelings. Understanding can help you to better understand how to deal with these feelings. The following are some indicators that someone may need to seek the help of a professional:

1) You feel chronically angry to the point of being explosive or you suffer from uncontrollable outbursts.

2) Anger often follows you into your sleep and it keeps you awake at night.

3) You have a short fuse and get easily agitated over the smallest things.  People often tell you that you’re too sensitive about certain matters, but when they do, you get even angrier.

4) Your anger causes trouble in your relationships and makes people around you feel uncomfortable.

5) You’ve been arrested at least once for domestic violence or assault under the influence of extreme emotion/anger (i.e., road rage).

6) You are quick to criticize, condemn, or ridicule (usually upon hearing the first piece of negative information about someone).

7) You feel guilty all the time for verbalizing anger or you feel ashamed of something that happened in the past and you’ve never been able to forgive yourself. Sometimes talking about past regrets is a healthy way to release guilt, but if it occurs too often, especially when discussing something that happened a long time ago, you may be holding on to anger rather than releasing it.

8) You feel like you are in control of your anger, but other people tell you that sometimes you go too far and they become afraid of your behavior. They say things to calm you down or avoid doing things with you when they know you’re angry.

9) You have an intense need to be heard and understood, but when people try to help you they fail. You ask people to listen more often, but they don’t know what to say. They don’t tell you what to do, they just listen as if it’s enough. This makes you even angrier, and brings about a vicious cycle where you demand to be heard more, but no one is able to hear what you’re saying because it’s all coming from a place of rage.  When people try to help this way, nothing changes and you feel worse instead of better.

10) You don’t notice the impact your anger has on the people around you and when they do tell you something is wrong, you don’t believe them. Sometimes knowing that someone else sees how you act helps to put things in perspective, but if you’re too caught up in your own misery or have lost touch with reality, it just makes things worse.

11) You want to get help, but can’t find the time or resources. Many people feel guilty about seeking professional help because they don’t think they can afford it or there is no time in their schedule for counseling appointments. However, therapists will usually work with you on scheduling around your work and school schedule and often health insurance will reimburse members for a portion of their counseling costs.

In many cases, people experience short bouts of anger from time to time, but when someone enters into an unhealthy cycle of being angry all the time and it interferes with their personal and professional lives, it’s time to reach out for help.

Being overly angry can be painful, both physically and psychologically. If you are worried that your anger is hurting you or someone else, it might be time to contact an accredited mental health professional for advice on how to cope with the symptoms of anger where they originate as well as how to recognize what’s going wrong so that the problem can be addressed. In essence, you are asking a professional to help you assess whether or not the anger is a symptom of an underlying mental health issue or if there is another reason for it.

Approaching the Holidays During a Pandemic and Political Divisiveness

Samantha Mitchell of ABC7 News had a chance to connect with Keith Miller and Dr. Maria Zimmitti to talk about how to approach the holidays in the midst of a pandemic and the current political divisiveness in our country.

Many people are struggling with what to do over the holidays. Should we have gatherings in the midst of this pandemic? Should we postpone them? Some people are already planning “SpringGivings” as an alternative to a family gathering this week.

The other thing that people are really having some apprehension about leading into the holidays is where some conversations may go with family certain family members. The election may be over, but our political divides still run deep.

In the interview, Keith suggested thinking of going into a potentially conflicting situation with someone who thinks differently like going skiing or surfing – if you go with a wave and go the direction, you end up ok.

“Go with the person who’s pushing you, pushing your buttons,” Miller said. “Go with it until you find the opportunity to steer out of it. Stay relaxed – when you’re dealing with a current or undertow – you don’t have a choice sometimes, you react to other humans, we care about how other people feel about us. We sometimes have to go with it, and be empathetic.”

He also said you can “tread water,” and reflect on them, asking them to tell you about the world the person lives in and hurts them. Eventually, they run out of gas and there might be something you can relate to.

“You already have what you need to get through this pandemic,” Miller said. “I don’t think we need anything more, so I would ask people to reflect on what they have and appreciate what they have, at least ten percent more.

You can read the full story and see the video interviews at:

https://wjla.com/news/local/holidays-2020-experts-talk-through-best-ways-families-approach

Handling Stress Over the Election

hand dropping ballot into ballot box

I think it is probably safe to say that many of us thought that the general unrest and divisiveness the country experienced during the last Presidential election cycle in 2016 could not possibly get any worse. That was a once in a lifetime event. Then 2020 came along and said, “Hold my beer.” 

Take the COVID-19 pandemic, racial unrest, perhaps the worst economic hardship we have seen since The Great Depression, natural disasters from coast to coast, and blend all of that together with an election year like none before it, and the result is many Americans are feeling uneasy right now. Some are even experiencing severe onsets of stress in regards to the election.

Various polls in 2016 found that around half of American adults felt that the 2016 Presidential election was a “somewhat” or “very significant” source of stress for them. With everything going on around us, it is hard to imagine that those figures would be any lower in regards to the 2020 election.

Stress can affect our mental and physical health. Because many people on either side of the political spectrum see this election as the most significant one in their lifetime, that stress is even higher.

People are worried not just about the results, but also what comes after. Will there be peace and acceptance of the results or will there be protests, violence, and rioting in the streets?

How stress impacts our mental health

When stress is introduced our body activates its “fight or flight” response. This response will initially help a person cope with the situation, but over the long run if the stressor is introduced frequently or continues to linger it can impact one’s mental and physical health.

Stress and anxiety can cause you to feel overwhelmed, sad, irritable, and confused. It can cause people to withdraw socially to avoid situations that introduce that stress.

Untreated, stress and anxiety will hamper our immune systems, leading to more frequent illnesses. It can also lead to depression.

How to cope with stress

Beyond right versus left, conservative versus liberal, and Republican versus Democrat this year, there are a lot of other factors that are contributing to higher stress levels this year. The most obvious, of course, is that The United States is still in the midst of a global pandemic with little certainty of when that might end.

As a result of the pandemic, more people than ever are going to cast their vote by mail-in ballot this year. Due to the extra time it is going to take to count mail-in ballots, we are likely not going to know who won on election day, or the day after… or the day after that. 

We could be looking at something like what we saw in the 2000 Presidential election where we were waiting for weeks for multiple recounts in Florida and for officials to figure out what to do about “hanging chads”. 

The waiting and uncertainty is going to be a major source of stress for many of us.

It is best to start preparing yourself mentally for that now. Understand that the most you can do is to vote. Once you have done that, you have done everything you can do. Worrying about the result will not change anything.

It is also important that you talk about your feelings. Talk to friends. Talk to family. Share the tensions and negative emotions you are feeling, but also be sure to focus on positive emotions. Despite what may feel like a whirlwind of negative story after negative story, there are a lot of amazing things going on in the world today, both nationally and right in front of you. Take time to appreciate and celebrate those things.

If you find that political discussions are causing increased levels of stress, avoid them or set boundaries with friends, family members, and co-workers. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I am not going to change your mind on this topic. You are not going to change my mind. It is becoming a source of constant disagreement between us. Let’s just agree to not discuss it anymore.”

Many of our political disagreements in 2020 can be found on social media. Few of us have connections that are only from one side of the political spectrum, and that can cause some heated, and sometimes toxic, disagreements on both sides. Take a break from social media if you need to do so. You do not necessarily need to leave social media completely until the upcoming election. Staying off of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram even for just a few days can often have a great calming effect.

In addition, make sure that you are taking care of yourself physically. Ensure that you are eating healthy, drinking adequate amounts of water, getting enough sleep each day, and adding some physical activity to your weekly routines. 

All of these things have been proven to help reduce levels of stress, and can help you get through what are sure to be a chaotic few weeks coming up.

If you find that you are feeling overwhelmed regularly and that feelings of stress and anxiety are impacting you on a daily basis, it may be time to reach out for professional help. You can contact us to schedule an appointment. We are scheduling both in-person and online appointments to conveniently work around your schedule.

Call to Courageous Communication

Black Lives Matter - Unite Against Racism art piece

“May we decompose violence in ourselves before we ask it in the world.” 

  • Brontë Velez

Black Lives Matter. Black Mental Health Matters.

We hope you are finding care and support during these trying times in our world. It is a time of grief and mourning as well as a call to awareness, change, and action. 

As an organization that responds to the impact of trauma, we must acknowledge the reality of racism and the trauma that racism inflicts on people and communities of color. 

Last week was the Minneapolis burial for George Floyd.

The brutality experienced by George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and many other individuals, as well as their loved ones and communities of color across the country is unconscionable. These are painful realities we must face, together. 

Our counselors stand in solidarity with people collectively raising their voices to assert that Black lives matter.

Racism is a public health crisis. Not only does it cause ongoing racial trauma, but it is a driving force in other health disparities and severely restricts access to competent and affordable health care, including therapy. Psychotherapy and mental health care may have the potential to help heal trauma—but individual therapy does not treat institutionalized racism. 

The fields of psychology, counseling and healthcare must commit to creating equitable access to care. We want to be a part of this conversation. Healing is intertwined with justice.

Society will heal and transform—as the great Civil Rights leader John Lewis said yesterday “not from our bitterness”—but by our being steadfast to understand our fears and decompose violence that has seeped into our minds and bodies. Oppressive ideologies, policies, and systems will not be moved by our hatred of them, but by the re-moving of hatred and fear in our minds, bodies, and actions.   

The end…and a new beginning

As counselors we’re working every day to integrate actions that work to heal the legacy of racism inside of and between individuals and within families. But I believe that today is the day we are ready to end one aspect of this work—sharing ourselves only with those that can afford our fees.  

Today is the day of something new that transcends our usual, highly selective focus on individuals and families through counseling or psychiatry. Today we move beyond this singular focus of our work and develop clear actions that bring together voices in our communities to enact healthy changes in group behavior, rules, laws, and the fabric of our shared culture. 

We will still be counselors and we’re still here to support you with therapy. 

We have a long way to go and there are many fronts that this integrative work is already happening. But today we are going to start to make this happen in a new way. I believe it starts with us. 

  
A call-in to connection, courage, and change

Rather than simply calling-out injustice, which we support and believe has a vital place in healthy families and healthy societies, we also believe that calling-out without an equally vigorous calling-in-to connection and belonging while emotionally cathartic—is unproductive, and breeds further disconnection and pain. 

We thrive, create, innovate, and find joy when we know that we belong. 

The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and others, along with the story of Amy Cooper’s attempt to frame Christian Cooper, have shined a light on the ways in which Black people live with fear of violence, abuse, or discrimination in this country in profound physical and emotional ways. For far too long and for far too many, people of color in this country still sometimes feel they do not belong.  

Speaking the names

Speaking the names of those involved in highly public tragedies fueled by hatred, fear, or racism is not being done here to advance judgment, but rather, to advance our collective memory of what is really happening. These recent events reflect an ongoing, centuries-long pattern of violence involving state-directed brutality, murder, false accusations, disenfranchisement, criminalization, and disproportionate punishment of Black people. 

We are choosing to ask you to help us re-member—to literally embody the energy of oppression in our living bodies so that we are agitated enough to move through our doubts and face the parts of us that block us from knowing more fully our own pain, and the pain of others.     

Speaking the names, reading the stories of victims of racial hatred, and taking the risk of sharing with others important to you how these stories move you is a therapeutic response to violence and trauma. When we are able to feel safe talking about confusing or terrifying things, the mind is more rapidly able to process confusing binaries, and come up with creative modes of connecting the dots to form a coherent whole.

Mindful inquiry and courageous communication

We are going to bring together foundations of inquiry principles like “beginner’s mind” (mindfulness) and neurobiological principles of trauma-informed care to help others find wholeness and purpose in the mist of rapidly fragmenting events.     

We believe that building strong relationships requires courageous communication—saying the truth about ourselves to call the other to be with us in our vulnerability. We’re sharing how we have been moved by recent events to ask you to also pay close attention to how you are being moved by these events. 

What vulnerabilities do these events put you more in touch with? We’d like to hear from you. 

Healing begins with us

In the weeks and months ahead we plan to be engaging in a new ormat to achieve healing results in a way that’s new to us—and frankly, is a work-in-progress. This experimentation comes out of our own journeys of growth and healing.  

Normally, we counselors only offer our licensed professional skills (governed by a board of health license) in the form of paid counseling. The license-health-provider model of practice guides our standard of care while protecting consumers from many problems. This is good.  

We are still offering our normal professional counseling services and will continue to do so (services remain 100% online until further notice). However, we would also like to facilitate healing conversations in a community/group online format, with more transparency and connection to who we are, not just what we do.   

This would allow us to: 

  1. Bring more creative parts of ourselves into healing dialogues
  2. Focus more in-depth on core topics that are require significant repetition to gain results
  3. Distribute access to mindbody (emotional/psychological/physical) health care more broadly and for free or very low cost
  4. Nurture community growth between people who can help each other learn, encourage, focus, and share struggles more efficiently than in the isolation of private counseling
  5. Practice courageous communication and innovate together to show up more powerfully in the world where it needs us most        

We invite you to join us in our collective learning about the legacy of trauma (fear, violence, shame and disconnection) that racism triggers in ourselves, and find actionable ways in which our learning will touch the lives of others around us to move us forward toward a safer and more healthy society. 

Sign Up to Join the Discussion

“…and that visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.”
― Audre Lorde
 
Resources for further learning on this subject

During these times it’s ever more important to take care, of ourselves and each other, and to stay connected. 

Here are just a few resources for taking care and being aware so that we can remain present and engaged in the search for truth, growth and purposeful action!

  
Shared with respect and gratitude for all belief systems and perspectives.
 
Be well, be safe, take care, stay connected.

Keith Miller
Social Worker

Dealing With Feelings of Isolation During Quarantine

Businesswoman working alone

Many of us have found ourselves in a very isolated situation during the coronavirus pandemic. It may be by choice that you are leaving your house very infrequently in an attempt to be safer because you are in one of the high-risk health categories. It may be that your job has decided to have employees work from home. Or you may have been exposed to the coronavirus and been in self-isolation as a result. 

Whatever the circumstances are behind your isolation, you may find that you are not prepared to deal with the feelings of loneliness that can come with the new situation. Most of us are used to getting out daily for work and other obligations. Even those who are retired are running errands and attending social events with friends. 

For all of that to stop so suddenly can be a bit of a shock to the system.

Under normal conditions, less social interaction and being stuck indoors more often can lead to increased feelings of stress. These, of course, are not normal conditions. Add in the underlying worry about catching the virus and possibly an increased financial strain depending on how your employment situation has been impacted, and all of this stress can increase the likelihood of experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression.

That’s why it is important to be proactive in taking care of your mental health during times like this.

What can you do?

Social distancing refers to avoiding large gatherings of people and maintaining a safe distance from one another when out in public. Part of social distancing is also only leaving the house for essentials. It can feel like a very lonely way to live.

One of the main things you can do to help cope with feelings of loneliness is to stay in contact with friends and family. Social distancing does not mean no socializing. You can do this online, with a phone call, or even a simple text message. Today with video chat and Zoom taking the world by storm, it’s easier than ever to connect with those you care about. 

You don’t have to just chat either. There are more options than ever for enjoying a game online with friends and family. Anything from chess to the classic Monopoly is at your disposal. Combine that with a video chat with everyone playing for an evening of fun and catching up.

You can also schedule calls to add some structure to your social time. It will give you something fun to look forward to at the end of your day or week. Maybe grab some friends and have a standing virtual happy hour every Friday at 5:30. There could be Saturday night trivia or even karaoke. 

Online dating apps are as busy as ever. Many people are taking advantage of the extra time they have at home to make new connections. As long as you are not planning to meet up until it is safer to do so, it can be a great way to connect with someone and not feel so lonely.

If you do end up meeting with someone you start chatting with during this time, the excitement level for that first date might be even higher after all the build-up.

Things to do by yourself

Remaining social is an important part of staying mentally healthy and the best way to fight feelings of loneliness, but there are things you can also do on your own that can be beneficial for your mental health.

Exercising and physical activity are always good for both our physical and mental well-being.

Go outside for a walk each day. Even just 10-15 minutes out of the house and in the sun can do wonders for your mind and body.

You can take the extra time at home to start working out. You will find plenty of free workouts on YouTube or you can take it up a notch and look at services like BeachBody, which offers access to popular home workouts such as P90X and Insanity for a low monthly fee.

Exercising your mind is just as important as exercising your body. Many people are taking the time to learn a new skill through online courses during the pandemic. Quite a few colleges and universities are offering some of their classes for free right now.

You can also find plenty of tutorials online for everything from learning computer programming to learning how to build a new wooden coffee table.

You can also stretch your mind creatively through outlets such as drawing, coloring, painting, and music.

When to seek the help of a professional

There is no denying that we are living in an unprecedented and stressful time. We are being hit with news and information about the coronavirus on social media and television almost nonstop. For many of us, anxiety is at an all-time high.

If you find that your normal coping mechanisms do not seem to be enough and you are turning to alcohol or drugs, if you are having difficulty sleeping because of the stress you feel, or if you are frequently experiencing depressed moods, it is time to reach out for help. 

You can call us or visit our contact page to set up an appointment with one of our counselors. We see clients both online and in person.

Staying Social in the Age of Social Distancing

dad and son enjoying some online social time with friends
Father and son using digital tablet in bedroom

Social distancing is a phrase we have all become quite accustomed to during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. It may very well be the phrase of 2020. 

Health experts and government officials have asked us to maintain spacing of at least 6 feet from others, avoid any kind of gatherings, and generally isolate ourselves in order to reduce the spread of the virus. Slowing the rate of infection helps doctors, nurses, and hospitals keep up with the need for medical services and care.

Right now it looks like in most areas of the country, we will be facing at least a few more weeks of social distancing if not a few more months.

Whether you are an extrovert or more of an introvert, the truth is that we all need contact with other people. Social connections promote mental wellness, especially in times of increased anxiety.

Social distancing does not have to mean being alone. Here are a few tips for staying engaged and connected with family and friends to stay positive and healthy.

Volunteer

There is no better time to step up and give back to your community than in the middle of a catastrophic event. According to the Mayo Clinic, volunteering can reduce levels of stress. Increased stress and anxiety can have a detrimental impact on our immune systems, making managing stress and anxiety extremely important right now.

Even in the middle of this pandemic, there are opportunities for volunteering. If you are healthy and able to safely leave your home, there are local organizations that help to deliver groceries or other necessities to high-risk individuals and families. 

Many local food pantries are in need of assistance as the need for their services has increased dramatically. In fact, the Capitol Area Food Bank, the DC metro region’s largest supplier to local food pantries, is calling for more volunteers to meet the surge of demand for their services.  

If you are unable to leave home, there are still volunteer opportunities available. For example, nursing homes and senior care living centers are looking for pen pals to help boost resident morale. 

Organize a Movie Night or TV Watch Party

Gathering a group of friends and heading to see the latest blockbuster movie isn’t possible right now, but you do not have to completely give up on watching movies with loved ones. 

Netflix even has a special service for just such an occasion called Netflix Party. Netflix Party lets friends and family members watch a movie or TV show together online and syncs up the viewing experience for everyone. It even adds a group chat feature.

You do not have to limit yourself to just Netflix. There are plenty of free online conferencing options like Zoom and Google Hangouts where all of you can gather online while watching your favorite TV show. Chatting and seeing one another’s faces can really be a significant boost to your overall mental well-being.

If you really want to make it more fun, pick a movie or TV show that everyone has seen and is familiar with. It will keep the social aspect of the event flowing.

Get Creative with a Virtual Happy Hour

Again, this is a great way to make use of free telecommunication services out there. Get your co-workers or friends together on Zoom, Google Hangouts, or whatever service you choose and have a fun happy hour, with or without the booze. Seeing and hearing familiar faces, without being in work mode, is  a key part of feeling connected and important for meeting our natural need to belong. 

Unlike a business conference call, encourage everyone to keep their mics on. You want to have the kind of flowing conversations you might have at a typical happy hour. 

Encourage people to embrace being at home and not try to hide from it. This isn’t a work event. If there are roommates in the background or kids that might pop up on screen, no problem. Introduce them. Create an environment of inclusiveness.

Gaming

There are lots of popular online video games out there that allow people to play and chat together while enjoying a virtual escape from the real world. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be 14 with lightning-fast reflexes and know how to build complex structures while no-scoping an opponent in Fortnite to have a good time. 

There are a lot of popular board games with digital versions today. It can be from something simple like free chess at Chess.com to popular board games many of us grew up on like Monopoly, The Game of Life, and Backgammon. You can also find more complex popular modern games like Settlers Of Catan and Ticket To Ride. The game service Steam offers a ton of options to choose from. 

Fire up your favorite video chat and gather around the virtual table with your friends and family for a board game night. 

Make a Phone Call

With all the digital options that are at our fingertips today, making a phone call might seem a bit primitive but just hearing a familiar voice can be enough to lift one’s spirits. 

Even if that call ends up being just you leaving a voicemail, letting someone know you were thinking about them can help to make both them and you feel less isolated. 

Entertain the Kids With a Neighborhood Hangout

It might be hardest for kids to come to grips with all of this isolation and understanding why they cannot go outside and play with their friends. You can make it a little easier by organizing some activities for kids in the neighborhood to get outside and connect while still maintaining boundaries.

Some examples people have been making use of include:

  • Let the kids use washable markers to draw or play tic-tac-toe with friends on each side of windows or storm doors.
  • Create a neighborhood scavenger hunt where kids can search for specific items visible from the sidewalk or street.
  • Have a chalk art gallery show. Let the kids create driveway art with sidewalk chalk and have a neighborhood walk through.
  • Have a water balloon toss. Let kids throw water balloons from yard to yard and they have to try to catch them without them bursting.

Get creative. Social distancing doesn’t mean we have to be socially isolated.

Tips For Working From Home

Mother With Baby Working In Office At Home

The coronavirus pandemic has brought many changes, both in our personal and professional lives. Not the least of which is that many people have suddenly found themselves in the new position of working from home. While working from home may have seemed like a dream opportunity in the past, many are finding it more challenging to juggle than they imagined. 

Here are a few tips to help with both staying productive as well as maintaining your mental well-being:

Get dressed!

I know. Those pajamas are really comfortable, and you are at home so who would know? If you talk to people who have worked from home for extended periods of time, they will tell you that on days they gave in to the temptation of staying in their pajamas they often found that they got off to a slower start and were less productive throughout the day.

Don’t worry. You do not need to dress as formally as you would on a normal work day, but the seemingly simple act of changing your clothes serves as a signal that it is time to wake up and start the day. It helps to mentally set a divide between your work day at home and your time off at home.

Performing other tasks that relate to your appearance is also a good idea. Jump in the shower. Brush your teeth. Do your hair. Put on makeup. Do the things you would normally do before going into work. It’s not necessary to put as much effort into the tasks as you might have in the past before going to work, but taking care of your appearance can help to make you feel like you are taking care of yourself.

Of course, all of this goes without saying if you are one of the people who have found themselves suddenly on a lot of Zoom calls on your webcam.

Define your work hours

It’s important to designate hours for when you are “at work” and when you are off the clock. You need to have a time when work is done and you are shutting it down for the day. If you let yourself continue to think about and concentrate on work tasks, you will start to feel like you are working nonstop and putting in more hours than you ever did before. 

If you have roommates or a family at home, this is even more important. They need to understand when you are “at work” and when you are done. This will cut down on distractions. 

If you have children, as much as you can, try to make sure they understand the difference between something that needs mommy’s or daddy’s attention right now and something that can wait until the end of your work day.

Once your work day is over, disconnect from work and give your family the full attention it deserves and needs.

Create a designated workspace

Similar to having work hours as mentioned above, it is also important to have a work area at home. If you normally travel to work each day, the division between your work and home lives is physical. That separation can and often will become blurred when you are working from home.

You want to try to recreate that separation of work and home life as much as possible by having a designated workspace. If you have a room all to yourself that you can use, that is ideal, but that is not going to be an option for everyone.

You can turn an area that is part of another room into your workspace. Working from home means that you lose out on the time you spend outside on your commute. Picking an area with lots of natural lighting can help make up for this.

Try to avoid social hubs in your home such as a kitchen table or island where people tend to gather. Sitting down at your workspace should make you feel like you are starting the work day. Sitting at the kitchen table or on the couch in front of a TV will make it harder to get going.

Avoid home chores that can suck you in for extended periods of time

Distractions are the number one problem that people face working from home. Everything you would consider doing when you are normally at home is right there at your fingertips. 

Understand that it is going to be virtually impossible to completely eliminate distractions. In your normal work days, you probably take a few 5 to 10-minute breaks and that is fine to do at home too. If you want to get up and empty the dishwasher, do it. 

You need to avoid things that potentially could drag you into something much bigger.

You know that bathroom faucet that has had a slow leak for the past 3 months? Your at home work time is not the time to start investigating what is going on there.

Be social

You may find that suddenly working from home is cutting off a lot of the social interactions you are used to having throughout the day. Sometimes these interactions may feel mundane, but they do help us to feel less lonely and help to break up the work day. 

Just because you are now working from home does not mean you have to cut off your work social life. Whether your company is using Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, or some other way to communicate, you can also use these tools to interact with your co-workers the way you normally would. 

Is there a favorite show you and a co-worker routinely talk about the morning after a new episode? Reach out to them and do it. If on Monday you would usually talk about your weekend with a teammate, do not stop just because you are not in the office.

Of course, follow whatever guidelines your company has laid out for using work related devices and software.

Maybe even suggest to your manager that your team does a group call each morning to kick off the day, or if you are the manager organize it yourself. Seeing everyone’s face regularly and having a few minutes to chit-chat can really help us to not feel quite as lonely working from home.

Working from home is going to be the new normal for many of us for the foreseeable future. These tips can help you to adjust to this new way of life while staying positive and productive.

How to Handle Feelings of Anxiety Relating to the Coronavirus

Person with protective antiviral mask, chemical decontamination

Many people are experiencing feelings of anxiousness in relation to the rise in reported cases of the coronavirus around the world and especially due to its recent spread here in the United States. For those in China at the center of the outbreak, its impact on their mental health has been undeniable. Yet, even in areas not yet heavily affected by the spread of coronavirus, people are expressing their concerns and worries.

When the media goes into hyper coverage of an event, such as a flood, hurricane, violence, or the outbreak of a virus, it is common for people who watch a lot of news media to experience a rise in feelings of anxiety. People start to wonder, “What if that happened here? Will it happen? What can I do?”

With the coronavirus, those symptoms could include obsessing about information on the virus, difficulty sleeping, and a fear of catching it even if it has not been reported in their area.

The intensity of these feelings and symptoms can range from a minor inconvenience to seriously impacting their ability to function at work and at home. If you are feeling this way, there are things you can do to help deal with it.

Turn Off the News

It is important for all of us to stay informed about what is going on around us, but if you are feeling overwhelmed by concerns about the coronavirus, limit the amount of news you are consuming. You do not need to eliminate watching the news altogether, but try no to obsess over coronavirus updates either.

If you follow news outlets on Facebook or other social media platforms, hide them for a while so they stay out of your news feed. If you normally come home from work at night and turn on the news, consider watching something else you enjoy or limiting the amount of time you watch the news.

Focus on What You Can Control

The increased feelings of anxiousness over a situation that is largely out of our control may cause us to make irrational choices. 

We cannot control how world governments or those around us are reacting to the outbreak, but it is important to remind yourself what you can control. 

Remember that you do have control over yourself. As mentioned above, take common health precautions. Wash your hands. Be on the lookout for flu-like symptoms. 

You can take reasonable steps to prepare yourself for a more widespread pandemic. Find a trusted source of information about the outbreak, and stick to that instead of sensationalized or false stories you may see on social media or even in the news. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) would be two examples.

Seek Help if Needed

It’s normal to experience feelings of worry and stress over news of a health crisis. If those feelings continue to grow and they begin interfering with your ability to work, concentrate, sleep, and take basic care of yourself, it’s important to talk to a professional that can help.

Why Do Celebrity Deaths Impact Us

The tragic passing last week of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant stirred strong emotions for some people.

It’s helpful to notice our emotional reaction to grief, as it can connect us to one another, and to the practice of gratitude.

Almost every single one of us can name a celebrity death that affected us. Maybe it was a famous performer who we enjoyed like Prince or David Bowie. It might have been someone who had a lasting impact on the world around us like Steve Jobs or Congressman Elijah Cummings. 

Why can the death of a stranger move us to tears? 

To a large degree it is because we feel like we have a relationship with them. They may not know us, but we know them. 

Due to social media and our 24/7 news and celebrity coverage, it has only become more prevalent in today’s society. Tabloids, magazines, and even some television stations feed this sort of interaction. The result is us becoming even more emotionally attached to our movie stars, athletes, and reality stars.

This all leads us to experience deeper feelings of grief when celebrities do pass, and perhaps we grieve more today over the death of a celebrity because of the way media saturates our lives. 

Social media has given us a new platform and opportunity to grieve publicly, both with friends and family as well as with strangers. For evidence of this, compare the passing of Prince last year to that of John Lennon in 1980. 

When John Lennon died, fans could only express their grief openly and publicly by gathering together at his apartment building leaving flowers and signs. By contrast, when Prince passed away fans had Facebook and Twitter to “gather on” and express their feelings and memories of him.

When it comes to grieving a celebrity’s death, what’s normal and what’s not?

Obviously, there are no statistics on how many people grieve over celebrities, but it is safe to say that it is fairly common. Grief from the loss of a celebrity is going to depend on each individual and their perceived connection to that celebrity. Loss of musicians tends to impact fans more, as often we connected with their music on a deeply emotional level.

Generally speaking, the death of a celebrity is not going to hit a fan as hard as the death of a family member would. While it is completely natural to feel sad, cry, or even feel anger about the passing of a celebrity, tune in to how long you remain in that kind of state and seek help if you feel increased anxiety or depression.

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