10 Best Posts of 2013!


Time for the top ten list! 2013 was a very good year for Explore What’s Next. Nicole Newcomb and Kate Maleski joined our team of wonderful therapists, we settled into our beautiful new office space and expanded our hours and types of service! It makes me just burst with pride at how EWN has grown!

Meanwhile, back at the blog, we have a sweet collection of articles about how to deal with anxiety, how to build better relationships and useful tips to get through those times of stress that can knock us down for the count. Here are ten of the most popular posts for 2013:

3 Steps to Stop Anxiety’s Lies

4 Elements of a Good Marriage

Pushing Through Fear

For Couples: Two Steps to Successful Problem Solving

 In Marriage: Shut Up and Listen!

3 Things I Learned When My Blog Was Hacked

6 Helpful Tips for Parents of Troubled Teens

3 Ways to a More Resilient Self-Esteem

4 Ways to Deal with Grief During the Holidays

For the Holidays: Change can be Empowering!

Looking forward to an Awesome New Year
filled with peace of mind,
strength of heart and resiliency of spirit!

Our Warmest Christmas Wishes for You….


Peace of mind and heart,

Prosperity throughout the year,

Happiness that multiplies,

Health for you and yours,

Fun around every corner,

Energy to chase your dreams,

Time to rest and savor,


Joy to fill your holidays!

May all your Christmas wishes come true!

Inspired by d.m. dellinger

Video: The Black Dog of Depression

“Humans, especially men, are notorious at forging ahead until the wheels well and truly fly off the trolley. Why is it that we only start looking after our heart after we’ve had a heart attack? The same can be said for our mental health. Look after it now, for a better future.” ~Matthew Johnstone

Describing what it’s like to be severely depressed to someone who’s never been there can be like describing the color blue to someone who was born without sight. Produced by the World Health Organization, written, illustrated and narrated by Matthew Johnstone, this video uses the metaphore of a Black Dog to help understand and validate what depression can feel like and what it takes to find hope again.

Thanks to my friend Mac MacDonald for sharing this with us! You’re the best, Mac!

This Holiday Season Give Yourself A Break!

08HOUSEWORK-popupSometimes we stress ourselves out for no good reason! The holidays are filled with such “voluntary stress” opportunities. I don’t know about you but often my stress has to do with I think I “ought” to be doing for the holidays because of the standards others (a grandmother, mother or aunt, even so-called friends) have set up. Some of my “ought to-s” include:

1. Bake a ton of Christmas cookies, package them beautifully and give them away to neighbors and friends.

2. Find, purchase and wrap (beautifully) the perfect gift for everyone on my list before December 24, even if they live half a world away!

3. Decorate the house with Christmas cheer in every room! Is one tree enough?

4. Clean and scrub the house from top to bottom so that guests will not judge.

5. Lose ten pounds.

Ha! If even one of those five things happens it will be a Christmas miracle! Do you feel the same? Do you have your own list of ‘Shouldas’ that’s making you grumpy?

This year I am more of the mindset to just be honest with myself and brutally prioritize. You can do this, too. Ask yourself if you could only do one thing on the list, what would it be? So I took a deep breath and decided to focus on #2, revising it to read: “Find a good-enough gift that will make your loved one smile.” It doesn’t have to be the Best gift or the Perfect gift. For me the rest of the list is not essential for a happy holiday. In fact trying to squeeze in the rest in the next few days may take away form the holiday spirit.

The real trick here is not to care so much about the stuff that doesn’t get done. That’s not easy is it? But the truth is even the most sparkling floor does not replace the warm welcome of an open loving heart. A good guest won’t notice the dust bunnies in the corner and won’t care if they do notice them. A good friend will be just as happy with a little box of cookies after the New Year as a huge one before January 1st. I know I would! Wouldn’t you?

Life lived well is messy. Revel in it!

Photo via NYT Golden Cosmos

4 Ways to Deal with Grief During the Holidays

cold heartEditor’s Note: Here is a great post from EWN Associate and psychotherapist Nicole Newcomb.

The holidays can be particularly hard when we are in the midst of grief and loss. We feel like a part of our holiday, as well as our soul is missing. Whether we’re going through the holiday season without a loved one for the first time, or this is the second or third,  everything seems to remind us of the person we’ve lost and how much we loved them. If this is true for you, here are a few tips to help make the most of your holiday this year:

1. Set aside some time to cope. When we “stuff” our emotions and try to pretend they are not there, beware! They will resurface later at a less appropriate time, like in the middle of family dinner after a glass of wine or two! Pay special attention to how you are feeling throughout the day. Try setting aside a half hour in the morning of the holiday to give yourself permission to feel your emotions freely and take care of them. I suggest you write down how you are feeling or speak out loud to the person you miss (privately, so people don’t misunderstand and think you’ve lost your marbles! :-)). This is a healthy way to cope so that you don’t end up with too much “stuffing”.

2. Honor that person. Do not forget to show that person that you still care. Maybe you’d like to set a place at the table for the loved one, say a special prayer or express thought of gratitude about them. This suggestion only works if the rest of your family is on board. If you feel the family would not be responsive to this idea, honor the person in your own way, privately in your head. You could share their favorite piece of pie. Light a candle that is always present but only you know is the light of your loved one’s spirit and love. You could visit the gravesite and talk to them or go to a spot that held special meaning to you both. Leave a flower, a beautiful stone or note. This too will help you cope with your emotions.

 3. Make a new tradition. Your holidays will never be exactly the same as they were when your loved one was present. I mean, who or what could fill that persons spot? Nothing can, and if you expect it to, you will set yourself up for disappointment. But don’t let that happen. Create a new tradition! If your tradition was to start the day by going out to breakfast, make holiday pancakes at home instead! Create a new and fun tradition to look forward to every year. One that will bring some new holiday cheer!

4. Focus on the present. Please do not forget about today! After you have given time and honored your loved one, coped with your emotions and created a new tradition, don’t forget to enjoy it! Just simply observe your surroundings by asking yourself what you see, hear, feel, taste and smell. Breathe deeply, slowly. This will quickly and painlessly bring you back to the present. All you have is this moment, so don’t forget to be in it!

Take what you like of these ideas and make them your own! Do you have an idea that’s not here that may help? Your thoughts and observations enrich our community! Please share them in the comments section!

And if you feel the need for extra support right now you may always contact us. There is no reason to feel alone.

Photo courtesy of Irina Patrascu

9 Depression Busters Just in Time for the Holidays

6a00d83527e90e69e20120a74631f0970b-320piAround this time of year I don’t think there can be enough helpful tips to keep the Happy in the Holidays. That’s why I’m sharing these classic holiday depression busters by Therese Borchard, mental health writer extraordinaire.

These 9 rules help me put the joy back into the festivities–or at least keep me from hurling a mistletoe at Santa and landing myself on the ‘naughty’ list.

1. Expect the worse. What I’m trying to say is that you have to predict bad behavior before it happens so that you can catch it in your holiday mitt and toss it back, instead of having it knock you to the floor.

2. Remember to SEE. SEE stands for Sleeping regularly, Eating well, and Exercising. Without these three basics, you can forget about an enjoyable (or even tolerable) holiday.

3. Beef up your support. If you attend Al-Anon once a week, go twice a week during the holidays. If you attend a yoga class twice a week, try to fit in another. Schedule an extra therapy session as insurance against the potential meltdowns ahead of you.

4. Avoid toxic people. This one’s difficult if the toxic people happen to be hosting Christmas dinner! But in general, just try your best to avoid pernicious humans in December.

Check out How to Avoid the Holidays with Seriously Toxic People

5. Know thyself. Before you make too many plans this holiday season, list your triggers: people, places, and things that tend to trigger your fears and bring out your worst traits.

6. Travel with polyester, not linen. I’m saying that you should lower your standards and make traveling as easy as possible, both literally and figuratively.

7. Make your own traditions. Making your own tradition might mean Christmas Eve is reserved for your family and the extended family is invited over for brunch on Christmas Day. Or vice versa. Basically, it’s laying down some rules so that you have better control over the situation.

Check out For the Holidays: Change can be Empowering!

8. Get out of yourself. According to Gandhi, the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others.

Check out How to Bring Christmas Cheer to a Loved One in the Hospital

9. Exercise your funny bone. Remember, with a funny bone in place–even if it’s in a cast–everything is tolerable.

Check out A Merry Christmas Gift: The Gift of Laughter

Please share your favorite depression buster if it isn’t here! Click on the “Comments” tab above. We could all use your wisdom!

Read Theresa’s entire article here.

Nelson Mandela: What happens when we lose a father?

“Who will be my role model now that my role model is gone?” ~Paul Simon

From what I’ve read and heard through the media, I don’t think Nelson Mandela would expect or want to be deified. Some of the posts, interviews and articles about him since his death make him sound like he sprung from his mother’s womb fully the tolerant, brilliant politician and peacemaker he became in later life. But that can’t be so. It wasn’t so.

Like Nelson Mandela, my father lived a long life. He died in his sleep at eighty-eight years old. We are very lucky when we are able to know our parents as adults. It gives us chance to get to truly know them, not as the two dimensional icons of our childhood, but as the three dimensional human beings they really are. More like us.

Sometimes that’s a painful transition. As a child and into early adulthood, I worshiped my father. I thought he was the most intelligent, the most cultured, the coolest guy around. A combination of Jack Kennedy, Einstein and Freud. I had him on an impossible pedestal.

When it turned out he wasn’t the smartest guy in the world, that he could be, and often was, wrong, I had to grieve the loss of the superman I had created.

Then I got to learn all over again who this man really was; his frustrations, failures, in addition to his accomplishments. I realized he had clay feet as well as strengths. I had to let myself be angry that he wasn’t perfect. That he had “let me down”. Then I could forgive him in my heart and accept that he did the best he could. This was a long process and took not a few hours of therapy! It turned out that even with his faults my Dad was pretty cool after all. And, more importantly, he was a real human being.

Ultimately, when we are able to embrace our role models as good yet flawed, we can incorporate them into who we are and love them and ourselves that much more deeply for it. Who is our role model now that our role model is gone? They are never gone, as long as we carry the best of who they were inside our hearts.

The NPR Program, Tell Me More, had a wonderful conversation which emphasized the evolution and complexity, of who Nelson Mandela, the father of his country, really was. Of all the tributes I’ve heard and read over the last few days, this one stood out for me. To help us remember Nelson Mandela well, here are some of his most cherished words. Is your favorite here? If not, please share it in the comments:

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

“Let your greatness bloom.”

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Photo via Andrew Johnson

For the Holidays: Change can be Empowering!

Christmas SasquatchEditor’s Note: This article was contributed by Kate Maleski, LCSW-R and EWN psychotherapist.

For some finding and creating emotional safety may not come easily or naturally. You may not have grown up with a loving supportive family or learned how to stay connected to your own heart. It may take some time and effort to find that safe emotional place during this holiday season.

Holiday time can stir up memories of loss, turmoil, regret and you find yourself faced with emotional chaos. It is very important to nurture your own emotional strength.

One way to help with this is to make your own memories. This year is the year to do something different. Whether it is bringing a new dish to the table or something small you can do to change things up.

Follow your heart and start some new traditions. Introduce some new activities, try a new recipe, or go someplace you’ve never been before! You can choose to embrace the change of traditions, especially if some of them weren’t all that meaningful for you in the first place.

You can hold onto the past that is important to you but also create your own new memories for your present and future. This may allow you to find a sense of strength and safety when faced with any holiday stress.

You can be responsible for your own safety and happiness by following your heart and making changes.

Below is one of my favorite poems showing that change can be empowering.

“There Is a Hole in My Sidewalk”

An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, By Portia Nelson

Chapter One

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in.

I am lost…I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend that I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in this same place. But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep whole in the sidewalk. I see it is there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit…but,

My eyes are open

I know where I am

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter Four

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter Five

I walk down another street.

Photo courtesy of Photo Dean via Flickr

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