All posts by Jamie Mahaffey

What’s Your Word for the New Year?

During the end of a year and upon the precipice of another to come, people often reflect on what was and what their hopes and fears are for what will come. This can often be a crucial time of stress for some as they reflect on what did not happen or what went wrong. I would offer the reframe that this could be an opportunity for refreshment and a restart. Taken in retrospective review, one can have a realistic perspective of where one is and make goals to propel self into the future that is ultimately desired. But how does one combat fear in order to organize oneself for such an embarking adventure?

1) Define “better”. Everyone could possibly conceive what better is. In Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT), this is the “miracle question,” the idea of envisioning oneself with the problem(s) solved? Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg are the therapists who are credited with the name and practice of SFT. “Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?”

What would you be doing, feeling, thinking? How different would your life be? These are some of the questions that come to mind as I work with my clients. Answer those questions for yourself, right now. Get a sheet of paper and begin to write it down.

2) Goal-Setting is taking what is imagined as “better” and creating goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive, or otherwise known as S.M.A.R.T. This acronym was commonly associated with “Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives concept.” The first known use of the term occurs in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran. Since then, Professor Robert S. Rubin (Saint Louis University) has advised of a greater expansion of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym.

Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
Achievable (agreed, attainable).
Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).”
The progress should be monitored and re-evaluated in order to assure compliance with ultimate goal(s) and to update due to circumstances that can influence one’s process while creating space for additional feedback. Some authors have expanded it to include extra focus areas, that is “SMARTER, for example, includes Evaluated and Reviewed” for this reason.

3) For those who would like a more visual and artistic view of “better,” one could try use of Vision boards or setting a “Word” for the year. Vision board include pictures, words/phrases, and images to visualize the “better” in one’s mind on paper, poster board, etc. In setting a “Word” or words for the year, consider the values you’d like to embody for the next year. This sets a goal in mind for how to orchestrate your focus, attention, and puts into practice what behaviors, activities one chooses based on if it falls within the set goals/values of the year.

For example, consider the word: CONFIDENT. If one chose this word for the year, how might this impact how the person attacked their fears of success, healthy relationships, career aspirations, leisure and play. According to Acceptance and Commitment Therapist Russ Harris what we choose as our values are: “your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave as a human being. Values are not about what you want to get or achieve; they are about how you want to behave or act on an ongoing basis.”

So consider this as you embark on the New Year. You can choose to focus on what you lost, what is broken, missing, and incomplete. OR You can choose to embrace the opportunity to persevere in spite of the losses. This requires a mindset shift from problems being non-existent in order to have a positive and engaging life. Some things are impossibilities. What you can do is choose to press through, not get over, but live through it. Whatever your “it” is, if it is too heavy for you alone, seek out help and resources in your community, family, and friends. There is no weakness in seeking help; there is only wisdom in that decision.
• Do not isolate. Let your friends and family in.
• Seek professional resources (therapist, crisis line, psychiatrist, primary doctor, for example).
• Exercise and eat healthy foods. Treat your body well.
• Find an activity that inspires you again (painting, journaling, sports, music, etc.)

Who knows? This could be your start to a better year! We at 1Alliance CPS wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year!

Resources:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-therapy/201001/cool-intervention-10-the-miracle-question
https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm
thehappinesstrap.com

Practicing Gratitude this Thanksgiving

Gratitude does not come easy and often is not the mind’s default way especially in times of crisis and change. Periods of transition can be hard because with change can come uncertainty of outcome. Fear of what’s to come can leave people anxious, stressed and zeroed into or tunnel vision about the identified problem(s). Often times, holidays can be triggering for points of increased depression, anxiety and loneliness, especially during a pandemic where recommendations are to be socially distant which feel/seem counter to our innate human need for connection but necessary for community-wide health for all. Here are some small, but significant ways to keep a positive undertone to your life during the holiday season in the midst of a pandemic.

1) Stay connected with friends, family and loved-ones. Even as you are socially distancing during the holidays, there may be ways to stay in touch with those you love. Examples: virtual meet-ups, Facetime calls, drive-thru visits, etc.

2) Beware of idle time. Idle minds are the breeding grounds for wandering thoughts that can increase negative feelings and thoughts. Identify and implement coping activities of interests in order to occupy your time and give your mind productive focus: journaling, talking to a friend, listening to music, art, exercise, games, volunteering, etc.

3) Make a gratitude list or keep a gratitude journal. Bringing your focus and awareness to positive things in your life, such as your character assets, emotional and physical resources, and any other supports will foster a more positive outlook and highlight your strengths even in dismal situations.

4) Identify your personal values. Do you value self-development, fitness, authenticity, connection, adventure, forgiveness, for example? Make sure that your values are tangibly represented in various aspects of your life (e.g. career, personal health, relationships, etc). According to Acceptance Commitment Therapy, those that live their lives in accordance with their values tend to be more satisfied with their lives. Find productive ways to engage your body, mind, emotions, and spirit that is affirmative and encouraging.

5) If you are having difficulty with this holiday season, please reach out for further support. Speak to a counselor, your doctor, and/or loved-ones. Don’t isolate and keep silent. If you are in crisis, remember there are services available during the holidays and 24/7 that allow for anonymity and promote safety. See below:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255    https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Georgia Crisis and Access Line: 1-800-715-4225 https://behavioralhealthlink.com/services/crisis-contact-center/

Other Resources:
Mental Health America of Georgia: https://www.mhageorgia.org/getting-help/

National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://namiga.org/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Treatment Locator: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-treatment

From our practice to you, Happy Thanksgiving! Have a safe holiday.

World Mental Health Day—October 10, 2020

This day was first observed as an international day for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy in 1992. This day is to highlight issues of social stigma as a result of those struggling with mental health conditions and reduce the societal determinants as the catalysts for such conditions. This particular year, our world has seen unprecedented amounts of violence against people of color, discrimination, poverty and income disparities, issues of immigration, lack of access to healthcare, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic to name a few. This has brought a sense of unrest in the United States and the world.  The World Federation for Mental Health is a global mental health organization that has members in over 150 countries.  In some countries there is a full week to observe. This day is also supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an agency with the initiative to address issues of international public health.   Each year, the World Federation for Mental Health selects a theme to focus on. This year’s theme is “Mental Health for All: Greater Investment – Greater Access,” with a focus on the basic human right for quality and accessible health care for everyone.

Their recent “Call to Action” enlisted the following calls:
“1. Recognize and respond to racism in all its forms as a threat
to health and well-being across the lifespan.
2. Stimulate and accelerate efforts to achieve the SDG targets
3. Invest in social and behavioral interventions.
4. Ensure access to quality and affordable mental health care
and primary care.”

For more information on how to be apart of the solution, check out the World Federation for Mental Health website: https://wfmh.global/

“You can also join a virtual March for Mental Health on [October 9-10, 2020 as] the World Federation for Mental Health will join partners around the world to March for Mental Health. A 24-hour Facebook live-stream will feature rallying content from expert voices, lived experience and influencers.”

Managing Your Mental Health & Coping through Higher Education

Many schools have reopened for a variety of services in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. For those pursuing higher education programs, this can build a sense of anxiety due to virtual learning and social distancing or fear of how to engage in the public sector if your program requires some in-person classes.  This article’s purpose is to offer some basic information of things to be on guard for when it comes to your mental health, along with some coping activities to manage the pressure of academics in the middle of a global health crisis.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the average delay between symptom onset [for mental health concerns] and treatment is 11 years. If you notice during the pandemic, you are experiencing the following symptoms, it is time to seek help. The common warning signs of Mental Illness in Adults are: “Excessive worrying or fear,  Feeling excessively sad or low, Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning, Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria, Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger, Avoiding friends and social activities, Changes in eating/sleeping habits, thinking about suicide, overuse of substances or alcohol and the like” (NAMI.org).  During the pandemic, there have been marginal employment opportunities, and forced redistribution of resources to an already taxed medical health care system that can add more stress to even typical life transitions. For those seeking higher education in colleges/universities, additional concerns weigh in, such as:  financial barriers, social stigma, unrealistic expectations/perfectionism, limited to no social supports, embarrassment. Additionally, when the cycle of anxiety, self-doubt and failure  occur when unable to meet the demands of academic performance, social life, and other obligations, students may see a negative impact on their relationships with family, peers, or the students themselves.

What can you do to ward off these stressors? Reach out to supports.

  • Increase your motivation by getting dressed and following a daily routine even if you are working from home or getting online for school.
  • Attend to your Body & Mind through meditation, yoga, home exercise classes, and eat healthily.  Limit news intake, drink lots of water, opening a window for fresh air, and seek out tele-mental health therapy.
  • Continue socialization in safe ways such as online meet ups with friends, movie night at home with family/roommates, video games via apps, FaceTime loved-ones, for example.
  • Manage non-screen options: Art, music, writing/journaling, board/card games, adult coloring, and other personal hobbies.
  • Staying positive by addressing a holistic approach to your personal self-care:
    • Emotional health: Identify, Validate, & Process your feelings
    • Occupational: Seek out personal opportunities for growth, satisfaction, and financial stability
    • Intellectual: Stimulation and Creativity that fosters cognitively challenging activities
    • Spiritual: Finding purpose and meaning in your life through active faith practice and/or living life in accordance with your core values’
    • Physical: Regular and follow-up healthcare appointments, exercise, rest and self-care time, taking any prescribed medications for your health conditions
    • Social: Maintaining sense of connection and belonging with others.  Developing support network among family, friends, colleagues. This may require some level of creativity and thinking out of the box!

This all promotes self-awareness and self-management. It is always OK to seek out professional help. Our practice is here to assist those who desire to start therapy. This year has pushed everyone to me more adaptable and flexible.  By addressing any issues head on, you have the opportunity to grow in psychological adaptability while increasing your distress tolerance.

Resources:

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
NAMI.org
Camacho, Emily (2016) “Minority Student Perceptions of Mental Health,” The Journal of Undergraduate Research: Vol. 14 , Article 6
Thomas, L. & Bordeiri, M. (2019). Mental Health on Campus: What Barriers are there to Seeking Help? Murray State University.
Organ, J.M., Jaffe, D. B., & Bender, K. M. (2016). “Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concerns.” Journal of Legal Education, Volume 66, Number 1.
Gautam, M., Thakrar, A., Akinyemi, E. et al. Current and Future Challenges in the Delivery of Mental Healthcare during COVID-19. SN Compr. Clin. Med. 2, 865–870 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42399-020-00348-3

Other Articles:
The Coronavirus Survival Guide: The Self-care Guide for Law Students by Tara Roslin
The Coronavirus Survival Guide: How to stay healthy, positive, and productive in the time of Covid-19 by Rosario Lozadad\