5 Steps For An Election 2016 Recovery Plan



The ScreamHow can a mood change so radically in twenty-four hours? Mine tanked like the Dow Jones Futures as I watched election returns with my friends, mouth agape. Imagine Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream.

Therapists are loath to publicly disclose their political leanings. Tradition from Freudian times has held us to the blank slate standard. Generally we see it as unprofessional to let show anything that smacks of personal opinion. It’s key to give people the opportunity to trust us not to be judgmental. Non-judgment is a fundamental platform of a good, trusting, working, therapeutic relationship. Therapy is about you not me.

The presidential election season of 2016 turned that standard on its head. Many well-respected psychotherapists across the country and the world felt they had to say something. This election was like no other in so many ways; this was on of them. Therapists spoke their truth out-loud due to their sense of civic duty.

I did this quietly one person at a time. If someone asked me a question directly, “Who are you voting for?” I told them. Hillary. Often the talk, regardless of which candidate my patient was for, quickly turned to anxiety. Everyone expressed worry of the outcome. There were plenty of stories in the news media about anxiety being the dominant mood in the electorate. So much, in fact, that I chose not to write about it here, on this blog.

I’m sorry about that. I feel like I let you down.

No more. We need to live on. We have people who depend on us. We need to take care of our kids. We need to work. We need to take care of our homes and parents, our clients and businesses.

To do this under the weight of the unbelievable becoming real, we need to take care of ourselves, too. I want to help. So I will share with you my recovery plan which I am sort of making up on the fly.

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Don’t Boo, Panic or Despair – Vote!



IMG_3032This morning I went to vote.

The New York weather was perfect. The autumn sun back-lit the golden leaves, the air just cool enough for a sweater. I’ve never seen so many people crowding the church hall. The positive energy in the air made me hopeful.

It was the antidote to election stress and anxiety I needed.

I love my polling place. The people who run it are wonderful, efficient, well-organized and so nice! This is where I’ve always voted ever since moving to Western New York. It’s where my children learned about voting. They would crowd into the voting booth with me, help me click in my choices and pull the lever together with one final satisfying ka-chunk!

My neighborhood is suburban so you might be surprised to hear it is also amazingly diverse. My neighbors are African American, East Indian, Christian, Jewish,  Muslim, Daughters of the American Revolution, hunters and gun owners. They are parents, grand-parents, care-givers, teachers, doctors and business owners. We are Democrats and Republicans. We all get along and we all love our country.

fullsizeoutput_be0So when I entered my polling place to see the crowd I was so happy to feel the excitement, the sense of unity and goodness in together doing our civic duty. I pray it is this way across the country.

Afterward, I went to the bake sale in the room next door. The church where I vote always has a bake sale going on Election Day. What better or more American way to treat yo’self after voting than with some cookies and an apple pie?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Dr. Amy Brook & the ACT on Depression Workshop!



BrookFrom Dr. Aletta: EWN continues to grow! The latest member of our team, Dr. Amy Brook, brings with her seasoned knowledge and experience helping people who fight the demons of depression, anxiety and trauma. Her new workshop “ACT on Depression” provides a model for anyone who has recovered from a major depressive episode and want an effective and kind way to maintain a healthy perspective.

Here she is in her own words:

“I believe that sometimes healing involves telling your story to a compassionate, skilled listener, and that sometimes being stuck in the story is part of the problem. I meet each person I work with where they are in their process and offer skilled collaboration and support in deepening their awareness of their own internal experience in ways that facilitate healing and living a fuller, more satisfying life. I have a general practice with a specialty in trauma treatment and am happy to consult to other professionals.

I draw on mindfulness based approaches to treatment ranging from the skills-based, behavioral strategies of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to the values-driven approach of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Somatic Experiencing offers a powerful way to access the body’s organic intelligence and restore balance after trauma.

My work at Explore What’s Next will focus on groups and workshops rather than individual therapy. In early November I will be starting an exciting new group, ACT On Depression, based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy with a focus on teaching skills to heal from depression.”

For more information or to schedule a thirty minute screening session with Dr. Brook, please contact her directly at drbrook@explorewhatsnext.com or 307.278.9040.

Meet Dr. Alla Andelman, New Explore What’s Next Therapist



Alla's head shotA note from Dr. Aletta:  I am so happy to introduce you to Dr. Alla Andelman. She joins the Explore What’s Next Team as a seasoned psychologist with in-depth knowledge and training in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Her passionate caring for her patients, appreciation for the fullness of life and good sense of humor fits right in. So that you can get to know her, I asked her a few questions…

Why did you decide to become a psychologist?

I got into psychology for two reasons. First, I attribute my love of understanding people to a children’s book that I read in 2nd grade. It was called “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by A. Wolf.” This little book tells a story we know very well, but from the point of view of the villain, who, in this story, is not a villain at all, but rather a reasonable character who shares reasons for his actions and how they were misinterpreted. The concept of figuring out the other side of the story blew me away! From then on, I argued for the villains in various books and movies in debates with friends. More importantly, I think it began my development of empathy, which is such an important part of being a psychologist, which is to say, being able to put myself in other people’s shoes and understand their experience from their eyes.

The second reason for going into this profession was somewhat of a fluke. My love of understanding people led to my continued love of reading and writing stories. I was in a Humanities program in high school which required taking extra English and History courses. I chose AP Psychology because I thought it might be interesting and would get me out of Physics! I missed the deadline for applications, but my advisor put me into the class anyway. Needless to say, my mind was blown for the second time in that class. This led to my struggle of choosing between English and Psychology for my college major. Ultimately, real life stories won out over those on the page.

Who do you like to work with?

I love working with a wide range of diverse people. This includes adults and teens who are in a transitional stage of their life. I work with anyone “in between” trying to figure who they are in the new phase they find themselves in. Every phase of life comes with its own challenges. Depression or anxiety often accompanies the confusion and stress of going through puberty, starting college, launching into adulthood, figuring out gender identity or transitioning. Same goes for older adults, looking for a career change, recently widowed or divorced, retirees who are seeking to redefine their lives, all kinds of situations.

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New Workshop! Journey Into Mindfulness



JIM BLOG PIC

Nicole Chumsky, LMHC, is forming a new educational workshop series for anyone who wishes to learn how to step back and tap into the innate wisdom everyone has if they just pause long enough to listen.

The first workshop is a six week introductory course in mindfulness and meditation.

You will learn:

      • What mindfulness is really about,
      • How to practice formal and informal meditation,
      • How to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life and
      • Learn new attitudes to look at life with serenity!

Tuesdays from 5:30-7PM at the EWN Amherst offices.

Starts second week in October.

Space is limited!!! Call Nicole to register today!

585.737.4564

Click here to learn more.

When Life Becomes A Competition



Photo courtesy Sofia Francesca Photography

“Playing House” – Photo courtesy Sofia Francesca Photography

One night I was out running and thinking about how my wedding engagement set off an intense ripple effect in our friend group. Girlfriends started pressuring their boyfriends about wedding rings and houses. All of a sudden we had four weddings to attend before our own! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to be proud of these things and to share it with people you love, but was it just me or did everything start to feel like a competition all of a sudden?

With this on my mind, I became aware of the neighborhood I was running through. It was a new development with expensive houses, white picket fences, two new cars in the driveways, kids toys on the lawns, swing sets in the backyards. They all looked the same and reinforced even more that sense of completion.

We start to feel pressured around our 20’s and 30’s to have that ticky-tacky lifestyle. Somehow we are made to feel as if there’s something wrong with us if we don’t get into the competition.

I’m not immune to the competition stress. Even though, I am married I still don’t have the house, two nice cars or kids. Should I feel bad about that? Was I doing something wrong? The pressure was getting to me.

Being sucked into this race didn’t feel like me, but there I was. I struggled to remind myself to stay present and focused on what I have instead of what I don’t have yet. As much as I might wish I had more control, few things in life can be forced; things, especially the important things, tend to unfold in its own time, when the conditions are right. My timeline doesn’t look like everyone else’s. Just like other people’s timeline doesn’t look like mine. That doesn’t make it wrong or make me or anyone else a failure at adulting. Learning to be comfortable, patient and confident while we find our own path is a process, like so much of life.

What helps me is to stay mindful, aware and present in the moment. I try to remind myself:

“I’m exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.”

I hope this helps you, too. If you can relate to any of this or have your own ways that help you deal with this “life competition”, please leave me a comment! I would love to hear your story.

Choosing A Pleasurable Life



Roman Flowers

Courtesy Sofia Francesca

“I don’t know if it’s a function of age or temperament, but I’m no longer seeking those major exclamation points of pleasure. I want a life that has pleasure contained within it.”

~Terry Gross

The Nice Attack: Be Careful What You Watch



So many times, too frequently to count, I strongly advise people to give themselves permission to stay away from media  after terrorist attacks. In reference to the attack in Nice on Bastille Day, my colleague and friend, Shane Owens,Ph.D., A.B.P.P.,  wrote this:

“The footage from this attack is unusually graphic, and it is raw and widely available. I logged into social media and was hit immediately with it without clicking the GIFs.

Seriously, this stuff is different. Be very careful about what you watch and what you click on when around those of tender age or sensibilities.

One last bit of advice, if I may: please limit your exposure to any media over the next couple of days. I have noticed that people who are usually unshaken by events like those we’ve seen in the past week or so are starting to let it get to them.”

It is extremely important that we protect ourselves and our loved ones, especially our children, from being indirect, but still very real victims, of any terrorist attack. I will heed Shane’s advice and I hope you, my dear friends, will do so, too.

Dr. Owens is a psychologist based in Suffolk County, New York, Board Certified in Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology. Follow him on Twitter @drshaneowens

Soothe Your Brain With A Mindful Walk



With the recent shootings in Florida, bombings in Turkey, the Brexit vote and the consistent daily stream of stressful news it is important to find ways to quiet the mind, handle the stress and find peacefulness. But how do you do this when there is so much negativity surrounding us?

Here’s an idea! It can be as simple as going for a walk in nature. Find a bit of greenery! Simply strolling through a quiet tree-lined path in a city park or heading out to a nearby hiking trail can help you let go of dwelling on the dark side of everyday life and find some inner light. In a world that needs each and everyone one of us to be more positive and compassionate, you can impact global change by starting with yourself!

Nicole Chumksy LMHC, CASAC is an associate at Explore What’s Next and is currently welcoming people to join her on a mindful walk in nature. Click here to find out more information!

Fight Terrorism. Take Care Of Yourself.



It makes me so sick. Another gathering of innocents. Another shooting. Another massacre. More desperate phone calls. More screams. More grief so sharp it cuts through bone.

When things like this happen I give myself allowance to avoid the media. It’s too gut-wrenching. The Paris attacks, Belgium, now this. My imagination and empathy take me to such dark places it’s unbearable. So I spare myself as much as I can in order to function.

Is this selfish? I hope not. I think of it more as necessary, healthy self-care. To be able to provide empathy and compassion I need to be able to think straight. That’s hard to do when I’m overwhelmed by the utterly overwhelming reports of what happened in that nightclub.

There’s a kind of re-traumatizing that happens with too much information all at once, over and over again. The brain just isn’t built to process the fire-hose delivery of information and it literally burns out. In my case burn out means full blown panic. In others it might mean a sadness so profound it leads to despair. This is how the terrorists win. This is how they rend the fabric of our society. We must do what we can to not allow this to happen.

So I stay away from the 24 hour news outlets, especially the individual personal accounts they seem to revel in. My news moratorium does not mean I don’t get information. You can’t avoid it completely without very strong effort. Snippets come through, a headline here, an interview over the radio, just enough to be horrified but not too much to be able to handle. At least that’s what I like to tell myself.

I know the victims are people with mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, lovers, friends. Young people with the pulse of life dancing through them, simply enjoying their Saturday night. I know each and every one precious life has their own story of hope and struggle. I do not need the details force-fed to me by an all too eager reporter.

Sidebar: Do they hear themselves? Do they ever turn off the video and just listen to their breathless voices? To how excited they sound shouting out really awful things? I would be so ashamed.

As we grieve, our family, our friends, our community all need us to take care. Do what you need to do to titrate your exposure to the tragedy. Balance the exposure with walks in nature, listening to music you love, reading an escapist novel, laughing at an episode of a favorite sit-com. This does not make us insensitive. It is because we are so sensitive that we need need to be careful.

Try this Self-Care Exercise. Take a break in as quiet a spot as you can manage. Close the office door, turn down the lights. Sit or lie down as comfortably as possible. Breathe in deeply slowly, and out deeply, slowly through your nose if you can. (If not, don’t sweat it) three times. Then just breathe easily. Bring to mind the place, person or thing that gives you refuge from the storm. A place where you always feel safe and nurtured, a person who never judges, who only has love for you, a thing that reminds you of a time or place that was wonderful. Visualize your refuge with as much sensual color as you can. Smells, sights, sounds, textures and tastes all come together to create a real sanctuary where you can breathe easily, plug into your source of positive energy and recharge your battery. Give yourself a minute, ten, twenty, however long you wish to be in this place of peace.
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