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This group will provide a supportive place that you can count on as we head into the end of the year. A great way to end your busy week and wind down into the weekend. Perfectly timed for those of us who need more zen in our lives as the holidays approach.
This group is perfect for women who:
We will meet for 30-45 minutes for discussion and process and then practice yoga for the remainder of the session. The focus of the yoga segment will be on how you experience anxiety in your body and the ways in which that changes as we practice.
*Disclaimer: This is not your hardcore workout for the week.
Please feel free to contact me to sign up or if you have additional questions. Space is limited!
A Word on Wellness:
Here's hoping that by the time I send this newsletter Fogust * will truly be over. Some of us are seriously affected by this moody weather and lack of sunshine. There's actually a mental health diagnosis, aptly named SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder that, in most places in the country, plagues people in the winter. Since summer in San Francisco can be more like winter, this is when many people feel the impacts of the weather on their mood. Symptoms can include: oversleeping, feeling sad or moody, trouble concentrating or loss of pleasure in usual activities.
This post isn't about SAD specifically, as much as it's about being aware of your mood and how you're doing on any given day. It's easy to function on autopilot and not notice changes like, "hey, I'm having a tough time getting up in the morning, I've blown off the gym twice this week and I'm irritable at home - what's going on here?" Increasing this awareness will allow you to identify if something is causing this change in your mood and habits. Once you know what's happening, you can be intentional as you go through the day and plan to address your needs so that things can improve.
There's this saying many therapists use, "You have to name it to tame it" (coined by Dr. Dan Siegel) and there is so much truth in this. You can't "tame" or control something if you don't know what it is. Once you can name what's happening, you can take concrete steps forward. But the naming comes first. and The naming requires awareness.
Using the SAD example... this might mean noticing that your mood and motivation has shifted with the lack of sunshine. Simply knowing that this is the cause will allow you to force yourself to exercise, for instance, even when you don't want to. You'll be able to predict, "I'm not going to want to get out of bed in the morning because it will be gloomy" but do it anyway because you know it's what you truly need. You may even plan for some time out of the city where you can get a dose of sunshine and warmth. Whatever the cause of a change in mood (or in some cases no cause at all) knowing that the change has occurred truly is half the battle. Now might be a good time to ask yourself how you're doing. How has your mood been lately?
* Fogust is what San Franciscans call that month in the summer (aka August) where fog can hang over the city for weeks on end.
Something to Read:
This is a compelling read and definitely explains a lot of what I see my teen clients struggle with: Have smartphones destroyed a generation?
A colleague of mine is opening PRACTICE San Francisco, a gorgeous studio space on Union Street, offering programs related to mindfulness and effective coping skills for kids and families. PRACTICE will offer prenatal yoga, yoga for kids and teens, mindfulness classes, parenting workshops and a chance to build real community. I will likely be collaborating to offer workshops there in the future. If you're in the neighborhood on September 16th feel free to stop by the open house!
A Word on Wellness:
There was an article going around recently, I forget where I saw it, otherwise I would link to it here... but it was addressing the pressures that women (in particular) feel in regards to reaching specific "life milestones." In case anyone is unsure, which I know you're not, these milestones are - a) getting married b) having children. I wrote briefly about thisover two years ago, but after years of focusing on women's mental health I am more acquainted with the stress this causes as many, many clients come in trying to cope. The op-ed piece I read was focused on having kids and all of the different questions women are asked in regards to this. Comments on age, comments on relationship status, if you already have one child, then "when will you have your second?"
Many of my clients come in stressed out and self-critical as a result of being on the receiving end of questions, very personal questions, or comments about where they are in their life in regards to "settling down, getting married and having kids."
To illustrate one way that this is harmful, I'll tie it into mindfulness (which I've written about in the past) and the peace and happiness that can come with living in the present moment. Whenever a woman is enjoying a moment in her life, she's got a great apartment and a job, perhaps she's at happy hour with coworkers and someone bluntly asks, "so are you and ___ getting engaged anytime soon?" By asking that question the person has yanked her out of the peace of the present moment and asked her to look at the future. Why? Will she ever be allowed to enjoy the moment, or life phase she's in without being asked to think about the next one? Now, if this is something she already worries about, and the person asking is a very close friend, then maybe she's happy to be able to talk about it. BUT if the person asking is not a close friend, then they have no idea how this question will land, and perhaps shouldn't be asking it.
Women are confronted with these present-moment-stealing questions ALL THE TIME. And the kicker is, these questions are also not open ended... meaning there is an implicit judgement attached. The judgement being that she "should" be on the road to marriage and children. The person asking may not think they have an opinion either way, but asking at all is making an assumption, no? As more women aim to define their lives the way that they want to, perhaps in ways that don't include (or don't only include) the short list of "life achievements" there will be a disconnect between what they are doing and what people assume they should be doing. Unless we all do our part to change the conversation.
As for me, I aim to be more mindful myself when my conversation defaults to these topics (I'm guilty too!) A good rule of thumb is to spend a moment reflecting before making the comment or asking the question. Asking oneself, "do I truly know this person well enough to ask them this personal question right now?" and also, "If, for some reason, this is an uncomfortable topic for them (which may not be obvious), are we in an appropriate place for me to broach this, and am I an appropriate person to be bringing this up?"
If this resonates I would love to hear from you in the replies :)
Something to Read:
In the spirit of the above: Important milestones you can have in your life besides getting married.
In Case You're Searching:
As Therapists, we get frustrated that there isn't an easier, better way for clients to search for us. I've been on the client end of trying to find a therapist and have found that many of the platforms out there aren't too helpful. It's like, "here are 200 therapists in your area..." So we're all a little excited that Being Seen is here. It's too early to tell, but the creators of Being Seen also started Open Path Collective and I've heard from many people that OPC functions well for client and clinician. So, I'm going to cross my fingers and give Being Seen a try, and the next time you're in search of a therapist it could be a good place to start.
Take Care of Your Thoughts when You're Alone and Take Care of Your Words when You're with People.
A Word on Wellness: The power of a mantra.
Most of us have internal thoughts that can, at times, be negative (if you can't relate to this, who are you??). These thoughts can be our own worst enemy, they can tell us that we aren't good enough, that we'll never achieve our goals, that no one will like us, etc. They are not helpful and can get in the way of happiness. But how do we control them? We have much more control over our thoughts than we may think. Today I will quickly explain ONE tool that I use, and have clients use, to help redirect negative thoughts toward thoughts that are more helpful. That tool is using a mantra.
A mantra is traditionally a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation, originating with Hinduism and Buddhism. While I'm suggesting a non-traditional use of a mantra, the purpose is still to aid in concentration (on positive intentions) and to distract from negative thoughts.
So here's how it works...
Step One: Get real acquainted with your most recurring negative thoughts. What is the general theme here? Start to be aware of when these thoughts come up and what they are telling you. For example, these thoughts might say, "You're not good enough."
Step Two: Now that you know the recurring thought, find an encouraging word or phrase that you can repeat in your mind whenever the negative thought comes up. For our example the mantra might be "I am worthy of love" or "I am enough." Can you think of others?
Step Three: Whenever the negative thoughts creep in, immediately cut them off and repeat the mantra to yourself for as long as you need to, until the negative thought passes or until you start to finally believe what you're saying to yourself.
Give it a try!
Something to Read:
A friend sent me this comic strip the other week. It illustrates a lot of the stress that my clients come into therapy trying to manage. Many women feel the effects of this, sometimes invisible, workload. They may not be able to name what it is, or understand why they can't quite feel on top of things. Instead they internalize it. Most often this internalizing looks like guilt over not being able to juggle work and home life sufficiently - a feeling of failure on all fronts. Thankfully more and more men are stepping up to make this comic strip less of a reality, we need a lot more of that!
Mend is an app meant to serve as a personal trainer for heartbreak. Users receive daily "trainings" which are about 3 minutes long and curated to help them heal from a break-up. Mend has a team of content creators, including yours truly, working to ensure that the trainings will provide the most benefit. The training of the day might teach the user something, ask them to reflect, or instruct them to take concrete actions. The feedback from users - or Menders, as we call them - is overwhelmingly positive! Stick this resource in your back pocket if you or someone you know is recently going through a break up.
This month I would like to let real folks share some real things that they do to stay healthy and happy. These are self-care tips from real people (NOT my clients) because it's interesting to learn what others are doing, and because May was cray-zay busy and I needed to outsource some content :)
Enjoy these wise words:
"Life with a toddler is a mixed bag. Every day is awe inspiring with newly mastered words, dance moves, sheer joy over new sights, sloppy kisses and tight hugs. But it's also hard! So so hard to keep your cool when they are flopping on the ground in a tantrum over the "wrong" snack or testing you by hitting the dog. Parenthood also brings new struggles within your marriage and all previous relationships. It's hard to find the balance. Something that has made such a HUGE difference in my day to day life is a 10 minute daily meditation. I used to worry that meditation wasn't for me. How would I be able to quiet my mind? Would I actually stick with it? Could I get real results? I started using the headspace app and those 10 minutes each day have brought so much mindfulness to my daily life. I find myself pausing more before I react and being more present in the things I'm doing and experiencing. I recommend taking 10 minutes to anyone like me who struggles with anxiety, stress, patience, a quick temper, acceptance, or being in the moment. You deserve those 10 minutes! And everyone around you will benefit from it as well!" - KG
"I take a look at my calendar at the beginning of each week and set a minimum number of workouts that fit in my schedule. This way I don't have to struggle each day to figure out when to workout. Committing to the schedule at the start of the week puts my mind at ease because, when I work out, I know I'm giving back to myself." - LG
"I keep photos of special loved ones (people like nieces and nephews, my bf) or special places I visited that were magical (vacation! or just a hike) in a special folder on my phone. When I feel like the day (think a crowded muni! or work project) is stressing me out or sending me over the edge, I open this folder to be taken back to these people and places. They are the important things that build me up and make me happy, the rest is only momentarily 'a thing.' It keeps me grounded and my perspective in check." - EC
"Self-care is a huge part of my weekly routine. Without it I would not be able to be the best version of myself. As a co-founder of a small biz it's incredibly important to me to live a balanced life and find the time to work on myself or do things that benefit my overall well-being. For me, having a routine is the only way to guarantee I'll make the time. For the past three years I've been doing Pilates on Wednesday nights, and for the past year and half I've been seeing a therapist every Thursday afternoon. These two weekly appointments are very beneficial for both my mind and body - I am more aligned mentally and physically. I incorporate lots of other small acts of self-care as best I can throughout the week such as: journaling, long walks in nature in Golden Gate park, phone dates with friends or family, massages, and of course a glass of wine with a girlfriend never fails to make me feel better. One other tip that I have learned to live by is setting boundaries. Saying no to social plans if I already have plans 2 or 3 days that week is a must for me. I've learned that I HAVE to leave a couple weeknights open for downtime. Setting these boundaries was tough for me to learn at first, but now saying no feels good and empowering - I own my schedule and have the power to spend my time any way I want!" - JF
"Exercising is my #1 self care habit. However, this one can be more challenging when life circumstances make me change your routine or alter your favorite workout. Being injured, being pregnant, being extra busy, shorter days, or just being a little bummed out can all hinder my ability to get the heart beating sessions I need. However, there are good self care lessons in being flexible too.. Sure, 15 mins of "prenatal Zumba" in my living room is not 7 mile run on the beach, but sometimes it's got to do." - KB
This coffee table, artsy magazine is filled with mental health content aimed at breaking the stigma! The first issue just came out last month, and it's all about Anger.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month - here are my two cents:
1) The importance of Mental Health Services (and Mental Health providers) is not valued the way it should be. There is still a stigma to mental health struggles, even though we have all either suffered personally, or have someone close to us who has. I have amazing colleagues who are still doing this work without being fairly compensated for it. People who are severely in need of mental health support often aren't able to gain access due to insurance stipulations or lack of funds. In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Month, please take any opportunity to advocate for the increased funding of mental health services, the increased pay of the providers (who are underpaid, and often employed by non-profits) and please continue to advocate for your own care when necessary. We all have to fight for this progress together. As always, please message me if you need referrals, or help getting linked to services. Here are two organizations to be familiar with:
2) There seems to be a misconception that one has to overhaul their whole life and rethink their career to feel like they are making a difference. That is simply not true! Let's say you have a well paying job, that affords you the ability to take good care of yourself and your family, but you're feeling a little guilty about not contributing to society in a different way. You don't have to travel around the world volunteering on a shoe string budget to make an impact. Start in your own community. Start a little bit at a time, with a commitment you know you can honor. There are many worthy causes to get involved in. Aside from staying informed politically (don't even get me started) and using your voice to impact policy, here are some organizations to peruse if you're interested in getting involved:
If you know of other organizations please message me and I will continue to add to this list on my blog.
A Word on Wellness: Yoga as a Tool for Improved Mental Health
Ok remember last month when I explained why yoga has mental health benefits? As promised, I will explain further by using the example of anxious teenage girls and the yoga group I started for them in February. [You can basically insert [you] instead of teenage girl, and [whatever issue you're struggling with] instead of the examples I'll use - that's how universal I believe the benefits of yoga to be.]
In my practice I see many teenage young women. All of them struggle with anxiety. They may be aware that the root of the anxiety is their never ending homework load, immense pressure to get into a good college, feeling lonely and isolated at school or trying to navigate their family life. Whatever the specifics are, anxiety is the general mental health issue that brings them through my doors. The symptoms of anxiety can often be mental - circular thinking, catastrophic thinking, and/or ruminating on the same worries (or as I like to call it "spinning"), and/or physical symptoms- tight chest with difficulty breathing, stomach issues and panic attacks. Now, there are many interventions therapists can use to treat these symptoms in therapy, and they can be incredibly effective. However, in my opinion the most effective interventions are ones that allow the client to experience relief right there in the room... yoga is one tool that, if used in a therapeutic way - and even if used IN therapy sessions - can create relief and client buy-in quite quickly.
Each week the young women in my group share their anxiety symptoms and we discuss the triggers, what makes it worse, better, how to have firmer boundaries etc. We use the thinking parts of our brains to explore the issue and possible ways to navigate it. This helps them feel less isolated and gives them more insight - which is great! Then we use our bodies and breath to directly reduce the feeling (whether that be a busy brain or tight chest) of anxiety. And rather than me telling them what they might try to reduce the anxiety, I SHOW them by leading them through breathing exercises and a yoga practice. They are actually able to feel the difference and the effectiveness right then. I don't have to convince them of some abstract concept, they experience the relief themselves, and they are on board.
All of the girls in my group have reported using the breathing exercises and certain yoga poses at home in between our meetings. They are more likely to try these interventions now because they know it works.
If you are someone who has tried to think your way out of anxiety, perhaps you'd be willing to try feeling your way out? If you're reading this and looking for relief (and maybe you're not ready for therapy) I'd say, give yoga a try. If you already have a very physical yoga practice, perhaps try to monitor the mental health benefits. Take a minute to see how you feel before, how busy is your mind, are you anxious? And then throughout the practice continue to direct your attention to your breath. Check in afterward to see if you feel any relief. It's also common for yoga to bring up many emotions (especially in certain moments of stillness), which is why I think a lot of people avoid the practice. If this is happening for you, perhaps you'd benefit from exploring this with a therapist. I do not believe that yoga is a replacement for the benefits of therapy, but in my opinion they go together nicely, and joining the two is something I plan to continue pursuing in my therapy practice.
Something to Read:
I just love her - Chrissy Teigen on Postpartum Depression.
826 Valencia is a writing center doing amazing work with under-resourced students to help close the achievement gap and inspire all students to write. There are amazing opportunities to work one-on-one with students!
Expect quotes, observations, tips and reflections.