Be Aware of Your Mental Health
In order to maintain both your mental and emotional health, it is important to stay in touch with your own needs and feelings. When counseling clients with depression and anxiety, one common thing I see is that symptoms come after letting stress and emotions build up over time. These are some simple ways to stay cognizant of what is going on internally, both emotionally and mentally, to help prevent large explosions or meltdowns later.
Mindfulness is essentially intentional focus on a single situation or object. An example of this is to pick an object (like a painting or an object in nature) and intently see it. You can be mindful using all senses by asking yourself "what do I see, what do I hear, what do I smell, what do I taste, and what do I feel." This is like meditation and it helps to bring our focus inward and on the here and now. While doing this you might notice different thoughts or feelings pop up. Don't try to suppress or judge these thoughts and feelings, just notice that they are there and then bring your focus back to what you are being mindful of. Many clients report feeling more relaxed, grounded, and calm after doing this activity.
Doing a body scan means to turn your focus inward and scan from head to toe. Notice what sensations you are feeling. Are your eyes feeling strained or heavy, are your shoulders tightened, is your stomach feeling sick, are your hands shaking, are your legs feeling fatigued? Just notice whatever comes up without self-judgement. All you are doing is noticing "what is" in the moment. Many times simply bringing awareness to something helps to alleviate it, but if we start to judge it and ourselves then it can perpetuate the problem. For instance, if you bring awareness to your tight shoulders you might notice them start to relax; however, if, when you notice your tight shoulders, you start to think about how anxious you are, then blame that one someone or something that caused it, then start to ruminate about that situations, you will probably just cause the anxiety to increase and your shoulders to tighten more.
What is this telling me?
In both of these activities I discussed noticing without judgement. Emotions and thoughts aren't good or bad, they just are, but we tend to place judgment labels on them. So, you might ask, what are we supposed to do with what we notice. The answer is to ask yourself, "what is this telling me." If, while practicing mindfulness, you notice feelings of anger come up, ask what those feelings are telling you. Is it that someone wronged you or someone else? Is it that you were hurt by what a loved one said but that hurt quickly hardened into anger? If you noticed your chest felt heavy and you were taking short breaths, what might be causing that tension? Is this telling you that you need to stand up and step away from your desk for a few minutes, or step away from toxic conversations? If these are telling your to do something that is within your control and aligned with your values then take action! This could be to speak to someone, to apologize or verbalize a hurt you experienced, it could be to help someone, to volunteer, it could be to simply get up and move. The key is to notice the feeling or thought, see what this might be saying to you, and finally see if the action is within or outside of your control.
Lastly, feelings and thoughts are just a reflection of the moment in time, something that can't be changed or controlled. Just as you can't get mad at a mirror for reflecting back what it sees, you can't get mad or wish away thoughts or feelings that are doing the same. However, many of us try to block and judge these thoughts or emotions, leading to residual pain later. So in these situations, allow yourself your emotion or thought and accept it simply as a reflection of time, which will itself pass. You can choose to not hold onto these thoughts and feelings by simply acknowledging and accepting them, then mindfully and purposefully bringing your attention to something else.
James McMillian, LCPC
Resolve - Counseling & Wellness
Prairie Village, KS
“That’s life: starting over, one breath at a time.”
The start of the New Year is a natural time to set resolutions. It’s a “fresh start”, the beginning of a “new you.” I’m pro-resolution, and encourage people to set attainable goals, but there is an important step to take before you can make a change. I am suggesting as we wind down another year and anticipate a “fresh start,” that we take a moment to be mindful of the moment.
Too often we set out to make changes to ourselves or our situations without being present in the moment. Missing this crucial step can set us up for repeated failure. Being mindful before making change is like taking a deep breath before diving underwater. Mindfulness is the ‘ready’ in READY, SET, GO!
Mindfulness can impact our physical, mental and emotional health. Being mindful helps with our attitudes and connections to self and others. It can relieve stress, reduce blood pressure and even ease gut issues. Mindfulness can also help us cope with worry, grief and regret. As we become better at being present, we can then work towards change or acceptance.
Here’s a quick exercise to tune into being present. Take a look around you and see if you can notice all the orange items in the room. This simple exercise helps you be what counselor’s call ‘here and now’ or present. It kicks us out of auto-pilot and forces us to be mindful of our surroundings.
A more challenging exercise is to check in with ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally. Ask yourself, how do I feel physically? What’s going on from head to toe, inside and out of my body? What emotions am I experiencing right now? Mentally, is my mind in a 100 different places?
One example is the morning shower. As a mom, the shower is a rare opportunity to relax with minimal interruption. Except, relax is the last thing I do. While I condition my hair and attempt to shave my legs, I make a mental ‘to-do’ list for myself, a list for my husband, and plan out a crucial conversation I intend to have with a co-worker later that day. I also take time to look at my body and think of all the ways I intend to diet and exercise to lose my baby weight. Oh, and if time allows I usually end up cleaning the shower while I’m in it. My peaceful time has suddenly become a jumble of thoughts, intentions, and interruptions.
In contrast, a mindful shower is one of focus and singular intention. Focus on the water hitting your skin and running past your feet down the drain. Let the thoughts, anxieties, and self-criticisms of the day rinse away with the soap suds. Feel the massage of your fingers on your scalp as you wash your hair. Take deep breaths in and out. Without judgement, or multi-tasking, just be mindful of the present physical, mental and emotional state of your being.
As we start a new year, I challenge you to be present. Be mindful of your thoughts, feelings and actions. Check-in with yourself and take a deep breath. Now you are READY to SET and GO!
Jessica Nickels, Level 2 Counseling Intern
"Accepting the notion that each person has some form of genius will not solve all the problems of life, but it can give more people the courage to develop a life of meaning and find ways to contribute to the world. everyone already has some talent or vision; what is rare is to find the courage to follow one's vision all the way to the destination to which it aims." -Michael mead, The GENIUS MYTH
Take a minute to remember your childhood. Think about the way you learned about success, about your purpose, or about your place in the world. Think about the ways in which you were taught about how you were supposed to behave, to act, to grow, to learn, and to be in different settings. Were you allowed to be yourself? Were you supposed to fit into a mold of an expectation?
Think about those expectations now. Do you still try to fit into the mold of who you think you should be? Did you reach the successful job, the house with the picket fence, the kids? Did you reach the expectation of having good friends, a stable income? If you have reached these, you may be happy. In all actuality, you’re expected to be happy once you’ve achieved these milestones in life. But what if you’re not? Happy, I mean. What if you’ve achieved all these things that you were taught you were supposed to have to be happy, and yet, there still is a part of you that feels missing?
Many of us confuse the need for achievement with the need for fulfillment. Achievement is more of a measurable concept. You set measurable goals for yourself, such as reaching $60k per year, and once you reach it, you’ve “achieved” that goal. At the same time, you may have set this goal for yourself with the idea that once you get there you’re going to be happy. What many people find is that they are achieving their goals, maybe even surpassing them, but it’s never enough. Once you hit $60k, you shoot for $100k and THEN you’ll be happy. Once you hit $100k, you shoot for $200k and THEN you’ll be happy. See a pattern? It’s a never-ending ladder that you’re always trying to get to the top to, except there never is an end.
Fulfillment comes from using your inner gifts. Fulfillment comes from knowing who you are and knowing what you want, the person you want to become, the purpose you were created to fulfill here on earth. Fulfillment is the feeling that of peace--that you know there is meaning in your actions, in your beliefs, and in the way you think. Many people have spent so much of their life reaching toward achievement that they have neglected what would fulfill them--what it would mean to live a life of meaning and purpose.
If you’re reading this and thinking “That’s me”, know that you aren’t alone and that millions of people are feeling the exact same way. Instead of focusing on the fact that you are unfulfilled, think about some steps that you can take in order to work toward developing this in yourself.
Ask yourself some of these questions:
“What am I good at?”
“What do I enjoy doing?”
“If I could do anything in the world, with nothing stopping me, what would it be?”
Or maybe you need to start smaller:
“What traits do I have that make me me?”
“What makes me different from the person standing next to me?”
“What makes me unique?”
Some of these questions can help get you started to making the changes to start living a life of fulfillment versus achievement. Once you start making the changes and feeling the difference, you will likely reach a level of achievement you never thought was possible. If you are struggling with these questions and would like some support along this journey, seeing a coach to help you find your meaning and purpose may be helpful.
Robin Helget, LMSW, CPT
Millennial Coach & Therapist
It can be a scary thing to start something new in our lives. Even when we aren't happy with how things are going, the fear of failure or of the unknown can keep us stuck in place. I recently saw a quote that stood out to me by Henry Cloud. He wrote "a full life is one made up of many different experiences, thoughts, goals, distractions, triumphs and failures. If you have to fail, fail at something new, and learn from it." This is what it comes down to many times, to just try something new.
Anxiety will stand in our way; it will cause us to think of all the possible scenarios and ways something could go wrong, it will elicit the fear of the unknown or will tell you that you will fail, it will make you want to avoid any sort of change.
During my work as a counselor I have seen this fear of change surface in many clients. They come to counseling wanting to feel differently, but when the prospect of change being necessary to feel better they become anxious and resist. Ultimately, when you enter therapy you must decide if your desire to grow and improve is greater than your fear of failing at something new. Is the desire to be in a healthy relationship greater than the fear of being alone and leaving a toxic relationship? Is the desire to be in a fulfilling career greater than the fear of leaving the safe but soul-sucking job? These are questions that only you can answer. But if you don't like where you are and feel stuck, the only way to get unstuck is to move by trying something new. If you are ready to take that step, here is a way to get started:
James McMillian, LCPC
Resolve - Counseling & Wellness
Prairie Village, KS
Social and emotional learning, which previously have shown immediate improvements in mental health, social skills, and academic achievement, continue to benefit students for months and even years to come.”
Social and emotional learning is a trending term currently in school systems, but what does that
mean? The focus and belief of education has been academics that prepare students for college
and interaction with other children promoting development in social skills. In a world of
increasing complexity, this is no longer enough.
Impact of Emotions in Learning
Emotions and relationships affect how and what is learned. Emotions can be a motivator in learning and sustaining interest, but for some, unmanaged stress and poor regulation of impulses interfere with attention, memory and often result in unwanted behaviors; all which contribute to disruption in learning and difficulty forming positive friendships/relationships.
When a child has difficulty managing their emotions, are impulsive, lack self-confidence, lack
self-esteem, have frustration intolerance, are unable to empathize with others and perhaps unable to
establish and maintain positive relationships, they could likely benefit from social and emotional
An example is a 3rd grade boy, named John, who has difficulty reading social cues from his
classmates. He lacks the skills to compromise. He gets angry (often bursting into tears) when
a grade is not what he expected, or he struggles with an assignment. Paying attention and
focusing in the classroom is challenging for John. John doesn’t understanding why his
classmates make fun of him and hesitant to include him in groups. He is dramatic in his use of
language and behavior gets him in trouble with the teacher. John doesn’t understand why he
doesn’t have friends and why he is always in trouble.
John is an example of a child who would benefit from learning social and emotional skills.
These skills include improvement in self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-confidence; learning social cues; and understanding how to establish and maintain relationships. In the example above, John has several emotions impacting his ability to learn.
Research indicates that social and emotional learning for elementary and middle school
students is a strong approach to reducing problem behaviors, promoting positive adjustment,
and enhancing academic performance.
What Do I Do If This Is My Child?
The most successful way to obtain social and emotional learning skills is with a behavioral
specialist (therapist, social worker, psychologist or other professional trained in behavior
intervention) working closely with a child and the teacher. The key is to implement and teach at
the time of need, without delay. Not all schools have the staff to support this type of program,
however, outside collaboration between a school and a behavior specialist is possible.
Lori Cull-Deshmukh, LMSW, CPT
"When you continue to chase your fears and go on, something happens to you."
Many people think of a New Year’s Resolution each year. Their intentions are on point. They want to better an aspect of themselves, their work, health, or relationships. At this time, change seems exciting and maintainable. However, a few months or even weeks later, people lose sight of their resolution; they fall into old habits. They mess up once and deem their resolution as a failure.
As a Millennial Consultant for businesses and Therapist and Coach for this generation, I have learned through working with my clients and through research that change can happen at any time of the year, at any moment, any day, and any hour. Change is not something that happens over a period of time. Change happens in a moment.
Creating Lasting Change
1. Identify your beliefs.
What are your beliefs regarding your ability to change? Do you believe you can’t do it? Are your thoughts a combination of “Who do you think you are?” or “If I change and be happy, then I won’t know what else to focus on and work on?” Identifying the beliefs you have about yourself in the particular subject you want to focus on is necessary to be able to change them to more helpful beliefs.
2. Drastically change them.
Now that you have identified your beliefs, it’s time to change them. I mean 360 degrees change them. In order to facilitate change, you have to begin telling yourself that you can. These thoughts could like this: “I know this is uncomfortable, but I have done uncomfortable things before, and I can do it again”, “I am worthy of being happy”, “I am good enough”, “I am capable”, “There’s no other option. This is happening.”, and “I am capable of making this change.”
Write them down. Put them in a place where you will see them frequently.
3. Create a routine.
Make it easy on yourself! Look at all the things you need in order to be successful in your goals. Plan out your weeks so that you put time in your calendar. Whether that is 30 minutes to go to the gym, or two hours of networking per week, add that to your schedule as something that is not an option.
4. Be specific.
It is important that you are specific with what exactly you are going to do. Using the example in point 3, if you want to begin networking two hours per week, identify goals that specifically measure the progress. For example, I would make the goal specific by stating that I will attend one networking event per week (one hour) on Friday mornings and reach out to 10 contacts via email to schedule coffee on Tuesday afternoons from 1p-2pm. I will do this for 4 weeks and re-evaluate.
5. Make it a habit.
It takes 30 days to make a habit. These first 30 days it may feel like you are forcing yourself to follow-through. This is the hardest part. After this time, it often becomes a muscle memory - something you don’t even think about doing anymore, you just do it. For example, football players don’t relearn how to throw the football each week, they have built on the practice they have to strengthen that skill. They could throw a football well probably in their sleep. You will do the same if you work extra hard in the beginning. You will, too, be able to throw the football in your sleep. Figuratively, of course.
6. Visualize your success.
Our thoughts create our reality. Take a moment to close your eyes. What would it look like when you reach your goal? How will you feel? What do you notice around you? What can you see or hear? What do you smell or taste? If you reach out your arm, what would you touch? Create the vision of success in your mind; you’re more likely to make it a reality.
Again, I need a visual aid for this. I have used vision boards for myself and with clients. Create a vision board with words, pictures, quotes, etc. of what your goals look like. Visualize it.
7. Be curious about not following through.
It’s inevitable that you may not follow through with your plan at some point along the journey. THAT’S OK. If you don’t, don’t discount your entire journey as a failure. If one of your table’s leg is broken, you would fix the leg, not throw the entire table away. Be curious as to what prevented you from following through in that moment or that day. Need a day off from this a week? Make that a part of your routine. Listen to yourself and what you need. Because we don’t push 100%, 100% of the time does not mean that our entire progress is a failure. It’s not failure. It’s an opportunity to explore your needs. You have still made steps toward reaching your goal. You are still better than when you started. Don’t give up.
8. Recognize your progress.
I am visual learner. I need physical proof of my results. If you’re like me, some ideas in recognizing your progress is drawing a picture of a thermometer. On the side, you will put the points along your change that are measuring markers. For example, if your goal is losing 20lb, put 0lb at the bottom of the thermometer, put 10 in the middle, and 20 at the top. Each pound you lose, you can color a portion of the thermometer to show your progress. You can do this for virtually any goal!
When we recognize your progress, it sometimes feels uncomfortable to praise yourself. This is an opportunity for self-compassion. Pat yourself on the back. Take yourself on a date. Write a letter to yourself about how hard you have worked and how proud you are. Instead of focusing on how much you have to go, look at how far you have come and the progress you have made.
Doubt can only fuel you to prove yourself wrong.
Robin Helget, LMSW, CPT
"Just because you're an adult doesn't mean you're grown up. Growing up means being patient, holding your temper, cutting out the self-pity, and quitting with the righteous indignation." - Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York, Millennial
Eighty-five million of us. Millennials, rather. When I tell people about the population I work with, I hear things like, “Oh that’s such a difficult population to work with I bet” or “Yeah I have millennials at work and they are so lazy”, or my favorite: “Instead of boo-hooing about it, why don’t they work harder”.
Millennials began chasing the American Dream right when the American Dream changed. Millennials are the most educated generation of all-time, which sounds awesome, and sure, it used to be. However, with so many people having college degrees, the college degree is becoming the equivalent to a high-school diploma. You’re expected to have it, which makes getting a job, and a well-paying one at that, that much more difficult.
Not only are millennials expected to have a higher degree, but they also bring along the debt that comes with it after everyone telling them needed to go to college for this degree. In fact, 80% of college graduates are in debt with $30k or more. So, millennials are educated, in-debt, and can’t get a job that is fulfilling or that supports the piece of paper of a degree they are carrying around.
Because of this, millennials are doing everything that the American Dream tells us we should do much later. Millennials are waiting to get married, waiting to have kids, waiting to buy homes, and waiting to make big purchases. They are working to pay their monthly student loan payment, rent, insurance, utilities and groceries, yet they still buy the things that matter to them, that are important, and a few luxury items. This is why you need to solidify your marketing plan to market toward millennials--not against them.
What Does This Mean for the Economy
Because millennials are the largest generation, they have about 80% of the buying power. What this means for businesses is that they better understand how millennials work, what motivates them to purchase goods, or what value they get from a service. Businesses need to learn how to communicate with millennials in a way that provides three things:
So, Millennials. You may love them. You may hate them. You have to work with them at some point. It can be difficult learning from or teaching to a generation who is completely different than anyone we have seen so far. If you are a business owner or supervisor who needs help on how to best work with, hire, or keep millennial employees, call today for a free consultation. You will be provided with tips and resources on how to get your needs met in your business and increase productivity and sales simply by changing the way you interact with your millennial employees.
Robin Helget, LMSW, CPT
Millennial Consultant & Coach
“For it is in giving that we receive.” — Francis of Assisi
What do Birthdays, Anniversaries, Weddings, Graduations, and Holidays have in common?
They are all celebrations of a person or event. At such times we often gather with friends and
family, share food and give gifts. These events activate what a dear friend of mine calls, ‘anticipatory delight’. This phrase expresses the excitement that children feel ‘the night before Christmas’ or a student may experience as they prepare to receive their well-earned diploma.
Gifts are a way of expressing our joy, appreciation, honor or congratulations to another. Gift-
giving is an important part of human interaction and is probably as old as humanity.
When was the last time you gave or received a gift?
Are you a gracious giver?
Are you a receptive receiver?
There is something that happens beyond the actual present itself when a gift is freely given and
opening received. Sometimes we feel pressure from society, tradition, family or our own inner judgement to ‘give a gift’. Or we may allow the commercialism of a seasonal event such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day to push us into giving because we feel we ‘should.’ “Should giving” can carry with it the frustration or resentment with which the gift was selected.
Is that what you want to give?
Before creating, baking or selecting a gift, ask yourself the following questions:
WHO would I like to celebrate, honor, or appreciate?
WHY is this person important to me?
WHAT do I want my gift to express?
HOW do I want to give the gift? (with joy, gratitude, surprise, congratulations)
Taking a few moments to reflect on these questions will make a difference in your giving and your receiving. Remember that long after the gift is gone –the spirit with which it was given will remain.
Your most Precious Present is your Presence.
Ilene Kimsey, PhD
"'no' is a complete sentence." - oprah winfrey
We’ve all been there: stretched thin with all the activities we have agreed to do, the friendship that we continue to maintain even though they are constantly a negative voice in our ear. Sometimes it's simply the way we allow someone to speak to us in a public setting. We have all allowed our boundaries to be crossed and felt horrible after it happened. Many of us struggle to understand the importance of boundary setting and feel guilt or shame for saying “no” to the people we love. I am here to let you know that boundary setting and saying “no” can be one of the best ways that you can love yourself and allow others to authentically love you.
Starting out, the practice of saying no can be a difficult one, simply because one may not have awareness of where their boundaries lie. Think back the last time you were stressed, frustrated, angry, or exhausted. Its very likely that you crossed your own personal boundaries (or someone else crossed into them) causing you to have those feelings. Its possible you didn't even know that this was occurring, but looking back you will likely be able to see the point at which you (or someone else) took things past your comfort level. Now think of the rules you could put up for yourself to avoid feeling those feelings in the future; these rules that you could set for yourself and others are called boundaries. Teaching others where your boundaries are allows them to love you in a more authentic fashion.
For me, Sundays are MY day. It's the one day of the week where I get everything done that I need to: laundry, grocery shopping, reading, watching 60 minutes. It's the one day that my friends all know I will likely not hang out. It's the one day my spouse knows that my routine is highly important and will take precedence over most everything else. Previously, friends may have invited me to brunch or my husband may have asked me to help him getting things done on the lawn, but after years of simply saying “no” on Sundays, most people have caught on that I am likely not going to be available for many things outside of me. This is neither selfish nor rude, but a way that I honor my own boundaries. I know that if I set myself up for success on Sundays, I am much more likely to be a good mom, a good friend, a good therapist and a good wife throughout the week.
Below are four steps you can take to begin establishing small boundaries in your life:
“It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness”
During this holiday season, everywhere you go there are signs, shirts, cards, home décor, etc. that write “grateful”, “thankful”, or “blessed”. The title of Thanksgiving says it all – be thankful for what you have. Shouldn’t we be grateful, thankful, and blessed all year long and not just because we are reminded during the holidays?
What does being “grateful” really mean? Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful, as well as, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Simply put, gratitude is acknowledging and giving thanks to ourselves and others. Why is this so difficult to do? Many people struggle to recognize and express emotion for what they do have but yet it’s easy to note what they don’t have. This comparison often leads to opportunities for disappointment, envy, resentment, regret, and anxiety.
Over the years, there have been a variety of scientific studies to support “gratitude equals happiness”. Some people feel like in order to be thankful about an event, themselves, or life as a whole, they must first be happy but that is not the case. These studies have suggested that recognizing and showing gratitude strengthens one’s: self-worth, satisfaction, energy, positive emotions, optimism, empathy, and the ability to express more compassion and kindness to others.
There are many things to be thankful for in our lives such as the most basics of food and shelter, as well as family, friends, animals, careers, community, opportunities, etc. When we reflect on the things that make us feel good, we show appreciation, and thus this moment brings us happiness. Examples to show yourself gratitude may be:
Allison Kidd, LMSW, LMAC