Archive of ‘Healthy Relationships’ category

Adversity is a Great Teacher

As I am sitting here writing this blog, it is hard to believe that we are already in 2021!  I am sure many people will agree with me that 2020 has been quite a challenging year to remember.  It was a year filled with sorrow, laughter, anger, hope, frustration, surprises, despair, love, just to name a few.  Can you believe we have survived all that?  We always hear people saying that life is full of ups and downs – to say that for year 2020 is just an understatement.  For me, personally, I have learned how to accept the ups and downs, embrace emotions (both positive and negative), and adapt to the environment with intention and meaning.  I have learned not to be afraid of challenges but instead acknowledge them, take care of them and ask ourselves how we can turn these experiences into valuable life lessons.  I would like to share with you some of the things I have learned in 2020:

Accepting the Uncertainty

Life is uncertain.  There is never a time, even before the pandemic, when we can have any certainty of what is going to happen in the next minute.  The only thing certain is the present moment and our actual experience of the moment.  As Eckhart Tolle puts it: “People don’t realize that now is all there ever is; there is no past or future except as memory or anticipation in your mind.”  It is only natural to feel stress in the face of uncertainty. Staying in the moment and be present has helped me face and accept uncertainty, and manage the stress of uncertainty.  Do not be afraid of uncertainty, learn to accept and face uncertainty with resilience and ease.  Together, let’s find peace in uncertain times.

Power of Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness has helped me turn my attention to the present moment.  We should not dwell on the past or worry about the future, instead, we should focus on the present moment.  Practicing breathing exercises and meditation throughout the day have helped me tremendously in the past year, these practices truly taught me how to be present with a non-reactive mind.  I am also discovering how to incorporate mindfulness in daily living – mindful eating, mindful parenting, and mindful exercising.  If we practice focusing on the present moment, it empowers us to be with it, and we start to find ease of living.  I invite you to try these practices, even for just 2-minutes a time, you will see a difference!

The Importance of Connection

Separation is definitely one of the most challenging things we had to face in year 2020.  The pandemic has kept us all physically distanced from one another.  Many of us felt isolated and frustrated in our social distancing, but many found new meaning and connection with each other.  We have learned to make connection with each other in many different ways — saying hi to our neighbors from a distance underneath a mask, having “zoom” holiday meals with our friends and relatives, sending kisses to our elderly relatives at a nursing home through the windows, seeing clients via telehealth, etc.  As human beings, we instinctively need to connect with others, but to be able to build solid human connection, you have to first connect with yourself.  Doing mindful check-ins throughout the day to get in touch with my own feelings where I pause, take a deep breath, acknowledge how I am feeling right here and right now and how I would like to proceed with this moment have really helped.  Make space for self-reflection each day, it can bring clarity to the moment.

Practice Positive Mindset

Every cloud has its silver lining, but whether you see it or not is a choice you make. Focus on what you control, do not stress over things you cannot control. The year 2020 can be a difficult year to love, but if we just look on the positive side of things, I promise you can find something you are grateful for.  Just as importantly, whatever does not kill you makes you stronger. 

It Is Okay to Reach Out for Help

Believe this, we are all in this together.  You are not the only one suffering, you don’t have to do this alone.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust, or seek therapy if you need to.  Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.  Take care of your whole body, inside and out.

Create Your Own Happiness

Take responsibility of your own happiness, never count on someone or something to make you happy.  You don’t find happiness, you create it.  Many people think that only if the pandemic is over then things will get back to normal and they will be happy.  No.  If you think that way, you will never be happy.  Happiness can be created, under any circumstances, by you.  If you take charge, you will find your own happiness.

Resilience

You are more resilient than you think.  We went through a lot in 2020 – the pandemic, economic crisis, lockdowns, the politically polarized election, the racial justice movement, RBG death, just to name a few. We all have the strengths inside us to overcome life challenges.  “It is worth remembering that the time of greatest gain in terms of wisdom and inner strength is often that of greatest difficulty.” – Dalai Lama

Make Self-Care a Priority

We are always busy helping and taking care of others that we often forget to take care of ourselves.  Get to know yourself, be truthful to yourself and find out what your true needs are.  Only when you take care of yourself you can then have the capacity to take care of others and be able to get through tough times.

Thank you, 2020, for all you have taught me!  Hello, 2021, I am ready to take on challenges that you are sending my way this year!  I look forward to learning and growing to be a better person one moment at a time.  “No one has ever lived in the past or the future, only the now.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Life can be challenging at times, but it can also be amazing!

“Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” – Deepak Chopra

What have you learned in 2020, and how you are going to move forward in 2021?

Written by: Catherine Mok, M.A., LMSW Supervised by Melissa Haney, LCSW-S

An Attitude of Gratitude

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – Proverb

One of my first jobs was as a waitress at a local seafood grill. There I learned the nuances of customer service and to not take things personally. Our motto was “the customer is always right”; however, sometimes the customer was quite grumpy, carrying in the weight of their day into the restaurant and our interaction. In those interactions, I could choose to internalize the customer’s frustrations or to offer kindness. I call this “choose your ‘tude.” I continue to use this as I strive to choose an attitude of gratitude by cherishing the good and seeing challenges as learning opportunities in my personal and professional life. Research shows that one key element to happiness is appreciating the good that we might be taking for granted, and there is science to support how gratitude supports happiness.

Gratitude; more than being thankful.

Gratitude is a multifaceted source of happiness and well-being. It goes beyond just listing things you are grateful for. The leading researchers on this topic created a definition of gratitude that is twofold; appreciating and attending to the good things in your life and recognizing that these things come from an external source (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Gratitude is described as an “empathetic emotion” whose practice can positively impact our social, physical, and emotional well-being. 

Gratitude is powerful.

Gratitude helps fire neurons in your brain that contribute towards positive thinking and feelings of happiness. When we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for the “feel good” emotions and support a lift in mood (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). A study that incorporated fMRI scans found that the participants who wrote gratitude letters showed greater activation in the area of the brain associated with learning and decision making (Brown & Wong, 2016). This suggests that this activation of the brain has lasting effects and can alter the way the participants see the world. The benefits you get from activating gratitude include (but are not limited to!) reduction in stress, increase in empathy, better sleep, enhanced resilience, increase in motivation, and improved relationships.

Gratitude opens up more room for positivity.

The intent is to help steer the focus on what you have instead of what you feel you lack. When you are thinking about the things, people, and experiences you are grateful for, it becomes harder to ponder the negative (Harvard Health Publishing, 2011). While the idea of practicing gratitude sounds simple, it can be challenged by competing priorities, a flux of emotions, and feeling drained. Some days we just don’t feel that grateful. The cool thing about practicing gratitude is this practice can help shift your mindset, helping you feel more positive emotions, which has a ripple effect and supports resiliency. 

“It is impossible to feel depressed and grateful at the same moment” – Naomi Williams

Gratitude can be unique.

There are various ways to express appreciation and incorporate this practice into your own life. 

  • Take a moment to reflect on fond memories
  • Start a daily gratitude journal
  • Thank someone for their kindness; verbally, through a thank you note, call, or text
  • Incorporate saying what you are thankful for at mealtime or bedtime
  • Meditate; focus on what you can hear, smell, see, and touch
  • Pay it forward to someone else (coffee is on me!)
  • Take time to appreciate small moments
  • Make a vision board
  • Create a gratitude jar, fill it when you feel inspired
  • Volunteer or donate to an organization in need
  • Use a gratitude app like Happyfeed
  • Listen to a Podcast focused on Happiness and Gratitude

I am grateful for the start of a new year and the opportunity to connect with our community. Now it’s your turn; what are you grateful for?

Resources:

Brown, J. J., & Wong, J. J. (2016, June 6). How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(2), 377. 

Harvard Health Publishing (2011, November). Giving thanks can make you happier. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

Written by Janet Mize, LMFT-Associate Supervised by Kirby Sandlin Schroeder, LPC-S, LMFT-S

Things I Learned After Getting Married During a Pandemic

As 2020 comes to a close, I cannot help but think how COVID-19 has not only altered so many aspects of our lives, but also the way in which we cope with those changes as individuals, families, and communities. One thing I have been reflecting on the most in relation to the pandemic are the weeks leading up to my wedding and how the pandemic helped me find gratitude and strength in all the uncertainty.

Planning a Wedding During a Pandemic

Planning a wedding during an unprecedented time where everyone is constantly trying to process and adapt to new information about this virus was v e r y stressful. And truth be told, I did not expect COVID would still be here by the time my wedding happened in August, but as you know it was more present than ever. As humans I believe that we have this amazing ability to adapt in all types of situations, which is what we ended up doing. Because most of my family and friends were unable to attend, we lived streamed all three days of the festivities and ceremonies. Everyone in attendance wore face coverings. There were hand sanitizing stations and temperature checks at every corner of the venue. Instead of giving away custom Koozies or other trinkets, we sent our guests home with mini monogrammed hand sanitizers. In short, my wedding was nothing like I imagined it would be and by accepting that I allowed myself to be fully present and happy on my special day. 


After reflecting on my own experience, there are a couple of final thoughts that come up for me that I believe may help others cope with the changes that COVID-19 has brought us all. 

Social connection

Social connections are important and while we may not be able to create them as easily during this pandemic, we can still continue to strive for it. Connecting with others may have changed from grabbing an impromptu coffee to having a scheduled Zoom date, but nonetheless when we make time to meet with others it makes us feel better. According to Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Dr. Dana Avey, “having a social network of friends with whom one can spend time is noted to have significant mental health benefits” such as lowering anxiety and depression, regulating emotions, and increasing overall sense of wellbeing. 

Support System

Creating a support system that we can rely on can help us get through this challenging time by having a few people we can turn to for everyday advice, managing stress, or help in a crisis. Support systems will look differently to everyone and that is okay, just as long as the people who make up this system are genuine sources of comfort and guidance.  Research continually shows that people who have a network of supportive relationships live longer, have better health, and are more resilient in times of stress. And when you have people in your corner, they can also help you identify when you’re experiencing stress or even notice it before you do. 

Find Your New Normal

This pandemic is changing how we live, work, and go about our daily lives. After we wrap our mind around how we are all living in an unprecedented time, then only can we work towards trying to find our new normal. It won’t be easy and we may fail, but we can continue trying to live each day with grace and forgiveness for ourselves and others.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

When we try to avoid or ignore important thoughts and feelings, they always have a way of manifesting  either through our behaviors, words, emotions etc. If you realize that certain things keep coming up for you, take a breath and acknowledge them. Being attuned to your own state of being without labeling it as good or bad is a concept that is largely rooted in mindfulness. Being mindful or aware of your body, mind, or feelings does not only have health benefits such as stress reduction, reduced blood pressure, and self regulation, but it can also increase your own awareness and understanding of yourself. Here are some ways you can build your self-awareness. If you’re interested in mindfulness check out this website, which breaks down mindfulness and how to practice it using step by step instructions.

Written by: Geetha Pokala, LPC-Associate Supervised by Kirby Schroeder LPC-S, LMFT-S


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