Archive of ‘Wellness’ category

New Year’s Resolution Alternatives

Congratulations – you made it through another year! Another trip around the sun full of triumph, tragedy, and all of the beautiful nuances in between. Inevitably, with the closeout of a year comes the onset of a new one, and alongside that new year comes a bit of baggage in the form of New Year’s Resolutions. I am going to let you all in on a little secret…. I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I know, it’s a strong statement! Keep reading, let me explain.

New Year, New Me?

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate our opportunity to focus on self-improvement, wellness, and making changes. I love the idea of utilizing the symbolic nature of a new year to create a new chapter, bookend the past year, and paint a new vision for the future. What irks me about New Year’s Resolutions is the implication that we didn’t do something “good enough” over the past year. It’s the idea that in order to have lived what is considered a “good” day, week, or year, we have to continually strive to meet some arbitrary expectation set for ourselves to be better – as if being ourselves isn’t enough. To resolve ourselves to some big change just because the date on the calendar changes feels harsh and full of undue pressure on ourselves. It is also unforgiving of the complexities and nuances that we have faced within the last 365 days, and the ones we will face in the next 365 days. We go through so much just existing and being human in the state of the world, and you’ve made it so far. That’s a big accomplishment! We are all doing the best we can to survive and thrive within our given circumstances. You are amazing, worthy, and beautiful just the way you are, and a new date on the calendar does not mean you need to “resolve” anything about yourself! 

Resolution Alternatives

With that being said, I can certainly appreciate the tendency to look towards the new year and feel the need to create meaning, excitement, goals, and joy around it. I’ve come up with a few of my favorite alternatives to the traditional New Year’s Resolutions. 

New Year’s Intentions

Intentions are a little less intense than a resolution! I love setting intentions because it allows for a more fluid way to look forward and create momentum for your year without setting hard goals. If you are unsure of the specific ways you want to create change in your year, that is okay! Intentions allow for some flexibility in the way we create our goals (or not!) and allow for us to mold our behaviors to our intention, rather than force our intention to fit our behaviors. Consider what you would like to potentially incorporate into your new year that is different from prior years and use this as a way to guide your goal setting going forward. 

New Year’s Theme Word

Pick a theme, not a resolution! Find one or two words that describe what you are hoping to bring in your new year. Again, themes are about fluidity and flexibility. Keep track of your theme by dedicating a journal to your theme word. Consider journaling at the end of each week or month about how you embodied your theme word throughout that time period, so you maintain accountability towards your theme word, yet maintain grace for yourself as you progress in the new year.

New Year’s Reflections

Rather than looking forward on this New Year’s Eve, take a minute to reflect back on the last year. Ask yourself some open-ended questions about the lessons you learned, accomplishments you made, areas of growth and challenges you faced. Journal, draw, or share them with a trusted friend (or therapist!). In your reflections, hold space for the wide breadth and depth of the experiences within your year. This practice may not get you closer to a defined goal, but you’ll develop a deeper understanding of what you want to leave behind in the past year and what you would like to bring with you into the new one. 

New Year’s Gratitude

To quote the great Brene Brown – “Practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we are enough.” I believe gratitude is a crucial accompaniment to any New Year’s ritual practice. In order for us to continue to look forward without creating shame or harsh judgments towards ourselves, we need to honor ourselves first. Consider starting a bullet journal of gratitude with all of the amazing things this year contained! You survived another year of a pandemic. Maybe you landed a new job, started a new hobby, cultivated deeper relationships, or took the leap of starting therapy. Maybe you just were able to make it through every day, and that is certainly worth celebrating too! You are wonderful just as you are. You are a breathing, walking miracle capable of creating sunshine in a dark place. That is deserving of recognition and gratitude. Cultivating a gratitude practice will help maintain strong levels of encouragement and appreciation throughout your new year. 

As we enter this new year full of excitement, suspense, and wonder I want to encourage you to hold true to your own authentic place in this journey. Whatever your feelings are towards New Year’s Resolutions are valid! If you are a goal setting go-getter ready to take on 2022, great! If you’re a little more hesitant and unsure of what you want this new year to look like, that’s okay too. Holding true to your own feelings and authenticity surrounding this transition is the best resolution you can make to yourself. If you want some support around your journey with yourself, consider reaching out to a therapist. We are here and ready to help you create the life you are looking for! 


4 Mindfulness Practices for Your Family

Mindfulness may be a term you have never heard or hear all the time. Regardless of how familiar it may be, it is often hard to define. When I introduce mindfulness into therapeutic work, I use Jon Kabat-Zinn’s simple definition: Paying attention, on purpose, without judgement. This perspective allows for full appreciation and engagement with the present. 

Imagine the benefits of being just a bit more present-focused and mindful in our lives, work, school, and especially in relationships with ourselves and others. I have included a few mindfulness practices and resources at the conclusion for families with people of any age to foster awareness, acceptance, and connection.  Breathwork

1 – Breathwork

Imagine paying attention, on purpose, without judgement to your breath. By being mindful of our breath, we can begin to realize the power that it has. The breath is the most effective way for us to affect our nervous system. Each inhale engages the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and each exhale engages the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Bringing awareness to our breath can have a direct effect on our entire nervous system in an effort to bring it into balance when feeling dysregulated. We often encourage children or adults to “take a deep breath” in overwhelming situations without being mindful of what that looks and feels like. It takes practice and practicing as a family can further solidify its effectiveness. 

Belly breathing – Place your hands or a stuffed animal on the belly while lying down. Practice breathing into your hands or making the stuffed animal move up and down. In this way you are taking a true deep breath by expanding the lungs completely so that the diaphragm pushes the belly to move. 

Ratio breath – Ratio breath acknowledges the different parts of our nervous system that an inhale and exhale engage. By working to extend the exhale to be longer than the inhale, we engage our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Begin by breathing in for 4 seconds and breathing out for 6 seconds. Adjust this ratio as needed to practice extending the exhale.

2 – Yoga/Mindful Movement 

Imagine paying attention, on purpose, and without judgement to your body and what it may be trying to tell you. Research shows the tremendous benefits yoga has on the mind, body, and connection between the two (The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk). Whether yoga is familiar or new to your family, it is accessible to everyone. I have included free resources to reference at the conclusion, but also feel free to define what yoga or mindful movement looks like for your family. My favorite option is to let the child(ren) lead the class and choose what postures feel most comfortable, challenging, and relaxing.

3 – Guided Imagery/Meditation

Imagine paying attention, on purpose, and without judgement to our thoughts and feelings. Guided imagery and meditation are grounding practices that encourage mindfulness, stillness, and relaxation. This can become a part of your morning or night routine by listening to or creating moments of stillness as a family. 

Guided imagery can be used in combination with a total body scan or progressive muscle relaxation by imagining a warm light traveling throughout the body, recognizing, and releasing any physical tension along the way. Another accessible option for all ages is a counting meditation. Start by simply counting your breath and each time a thought or feeling comes up, pause to notice and then start over counting from 1. See if you can count 10 or 20 breaths uninterrupted. Finally, the following is a short grounding meditation focusing on the 5 senses to bring our awareness to the present moment. 

Identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste or say aloud 1 positive self-statement. 

4 – Nature Walks 

Nature is therapeutic as it is. Taking a walk outside and paying attention, on purpose, without judgement to what nature has to offer can benefit all the parts of ourselves and our ability to connect with others. While enjoying a nature walk with your family, I encourage mindful curiosity which could look something like the following: 

  • Having a conversation about what parts of nature stand out on the walk for each person and why. 
  • Creating a family sculpture with natural objects found in your yard, a walk through the neighborhood, or a local park. 

Online Resources

written by Emily Koenig, LMFT-Associate, Supervised by Kirby Schroeder, LPC-S, LMFT-S

Meet Emily!


When heroes need help

firefighters in action

byMaria Vanillo, M.S.

My father has been a first responder for over 30 years. His profession has come with numerous sacrifices both he and our family have made. From sleepless nights to difficulties with facing everyday stressors, we all struggled. I learned how difficult it is to ask for help, the misconceptions of receiving assistance, and the ripple effect a problem can have when it goes unsolved.

5 Steps to Asking for Help

Acknowledge there is a problem.

When it comes to family matters’ there is a false belief that a single person is to blame for all the negative aspects of our lives. Therapists who work from a family systems perspective believe that an occurring issue is not because of an individual but the family unit as a whole. Both positive and negative behaviors, thoughts, and emotions are reinforced within families. The negative beliefs loved ones have passed down about mental health, asking for help, and the misconception that vulnerability is a weakness is hurting us. Just because these thoughts are loud and feel true does not make them correct.

Identify safe individuals to speak with.

Finding helpful resources can be frustrating. To find a counselor that suits your needs searching Psychology Today or Inclusive Therapists allows you to specialize your search for a mental health professional. You can also speak with your primary care physician to ask about local referrals and support groups. 

Be vulnerable and share what is happening.

Once you have found a clinician you trust, SHARE! Share your thoughts, from fears of what therapy is to what brings you joy. Clinicians are not mind readers and are not making attempts to declare insanity. We ask questions to understand what is happening in your life and provide resources that best suit your needs.

Give yourself grace when working on steps to solve the problem.

It can take years for someone to reach out for help. It takes time for a clinician to provide tools to help you solve the problem. 

Set boundaries.

If you are not ready for the world to know you’re in counseling, that is okay. Voice your concerns to your clinician. They can help you create boundaries when discussing personal matters with others. Privacy is of the utmost importance when conducting sessions. What is shared and what is kept confidential will be discussed during the first session with your clinician.

Reminders

  • You are not alone, and many people are struggling with the same problem you face.
  • Talking to a mental health professional does not make you a burden.
  • Ignoring the problem does not fix it.
  • Not asking for help is scarier than receiving it.

Written by

Maria Vanillo, M.S., LPC-Associate, Supervised by Molly McCann, M.S., LPC-S
Clinician

Meet Maria!


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