New Years Resolution Resolve

New Years Resolution Resolve
New Years Resolutions on Your Mind?

New Years Resolutions Resolve. In short, are you still keeping yours?

We are a month into 2023 and I suppose it’s a good moment to check in with yourself and how you are doing with those New Year’s Resolutions and your resolve to have kept them or let them go. If it just doesn’t even seem relevant any longer than there is the answer — funny how that happens.

Right after the holidays and for the majority of January it’s all about a fresh start, new habits, health, a reset, a Dry January, and more. And then the month moves on and people are often anxious to get back to the status quo, i.e. “Bartender, hand me my drink.” Just kidding, but I think you know what I mean.

So then is New Years Resolutions resolve just a flight of fancy, a set up for failure a few weeks later, a frustrating activity, an activity that gets to what we would like for ourselves even if we cannot keep them. I often wonder what the whole point is of the business of resolutions?

Well, if you made a few, if you remember them, this week marks a moment where one can check in with self to see if they are still important or not. If you can’t even remember them, then no need to think further. However, if they are still on your mind and/or you have been actively been doing them, then the check in provides an opportunity to see how it’s going. Where exactly is your resolve around your resolutions?

Remember too that New Years Resolutions can look different that an actual goal — it can be a word, a color, a feeling that you seek to name over the year. If you have chosen one of these, bring to mind the word and check in to see if it still fits for where you are now that we are month in.

The last week of January/first week of February allows a good week to check in. Well, it’s always a good idea to check in with one’s self, and New Year’s resolutions can certainly be a perfect way into this reflection.

For me, I can hardly remember what I resolved. What I want is to be intentional each day and see how I am using my time that I have been given in meaningful ways overall. So, for me, it’s not about a once a year resolution, but rather an ongoing dialogue within about where my attention, energy, and time are going.

I resolve to keep track. You?

How to Worry Nonsense

How to Worry Nonsense
How to Worry Nonsense

How to worry nonsense seems to be in the papers this January. It’s no surprise given the bent of most articles this time of year is how to be “better” both physically and mentally. However, I was shocked to see the headline in this Washington Post article, Don’t Try to Worry Less. Worry Smarter” The title sounds good in theory, i.e. worry!, but just do it in a way that is better for you — smarter for you.

All I got from this title was now you are worrying wrong. Ugh! Must there be so much judgement even on our worries?

The article is filled with lots of tips and tricks to acknowledge your worries, i.e. find it in your body, problem solve, and then let go. Oh so simple. If we could do any of these things, would any of us be worried? Probably not according to this article.

Worry is more than what is going on in your mind at the time. Often worries are deeply embedded in earlier experiences where we were left alone, let down, our expectations were not met, the worst happened, and more. When the events, people, or whatever comes up in our here and now and we “worry” it is often calling back to these earlier woundings and hurts.

That is why it is almost impossible to worry smarter.

How about using our worries as a place to get to know ourselves better. Inviting the worry in and letting it breathe. It certainly has something to tell us about our present concerns and where we have come from. If we can tolerate looking at ourselves from this lens, our worries can lead us to know ourselves in deeper ways.

It’s not always about being smarter and better by letting go and getting rid of the (what has been deemed) “bad” stuff. Sometimes it’s about tolerating our worries and anxieties, allowing them space to breathe, so we can then hear what they are trying to say and learn more about ourselves.

My two cents.

To Be In Awe

To Be in Awe

To be in awe! What a wonder that would be — particularly if we could be in awe on a regular basis in our daily lives.

I wasn’t much thinking about awe as the new year got underway, but then I stumbled upon a New York Times article titled, How a Bit of Awe Can improve Your Health and I became curious. Of course, most January articles are going to bend toward good health habits to get the new year underway, but I wondered what else awe could do for one’s self?

According to the article and author who wrote the book on awe, “it is a feeling that transcends one’s self.” Do you agree with this idea? When you are in awe are you no longer holding yourself in mind, but something beyond yourself? For me, when I think of awe filled moments in my life, they usually have to do with something spectacular I have seen or experienced, i.e. a double rainbow after a rain storm, amazing wild animals in their natural habitat, gorgeous beauty in nature, a friend’s baby and seeing her first steps, meeting my nieces for the first time, and more.

I am also in awe of others — people who contribute to their community in a meaningful way, people who check in with me and hold me in mind, particularly when it comes as a surprise, people who jump in to save another from harm, and more. I think when I take in humanity on the whole, I am in much awe. For as much as the world feels stressed and strained, people push forward in ways that are awe inspiring.

A dose of awe on a regular basis, I believe does take one outside of herself to focus on things larger than one’s self and one’s problems. However, they are moments and difficult to sustain — particularly on a dreary ho hum day in January. However, I believe we can cultivate it on a regular basis with intention.

How? Well, we aren’t necessarily going to run into something awe inspiring each day, but we can choose to be on the lookout — in the news, on our walks, in our interactions, in what we observe of others. Remember back in the day when we were encouraged to kept lists of things we are grateful for. Perhaps the list needs to be revamped to capture what filled us with some awe in any given day. Remember writing it down not only helps us to remember it, but also to build the muscle to recognize awe more and more often.

I want to have an awesome year ahead. One filled with awe-fiiled sights, sounds, people, kindness, and more. Here’s to not only finding it, but also embodying it within ourselves.

On that note, has anybody told you today just how awesome you are?

Telehealth Therapy

Telehealth therapy has become the present and future way of conducting therapy sessions ever since the pandemic took hold in March 2020. As a new clinician at that time, I had set up my office and was building my practice in the very way I was trained to do throughout attending school — in-person sessions in a small, containing office where my patients could be with me. I was only 4 months into practicing this traditional way, when a world-wide pandemic came along and shut down society as we knew it.

Although people still needed mental health services, there was then no opportunity to meet in- person. Luckily, we live in a day and age where technology does not hold such boundaries and allowed, through many different on-line video platforms, ways to connect therapists to their patients in real time, on-line, on a regular basis. Although there was resistance in the therapy industry, given how highly valued in-person work has always been, everybody moved to this way of working therapeutically — from the analysts to the behavioral therapists. Everyone went on-line to conduct their sessions.

Now that we can (mostly) say that the pandemic is behind us, mask mandates are still in effect for health-care providers, including mental health therapists. That means that we can meet you in our office, but we still have to have face coverings on — hiding most of the face. Given this constraint and the value I place on seeing my patients’ faces and having them see mine, I have become a full-time telehealth therapist only offering services via video or phone.

Even as I have committed to telehealth counseling, I have also expanded who I serve across America, including New Jersey (where I am based these days), Washington, and Maryland. Being able to serve all people throughout these states also underlies my value of equity of care to all people, not just those living in the city that I reside in. Telehealth has allowed for people to access care from wherever they are and this is one of the values I hold for myself and my practice.

As I have been practicing for almost three years as a telehealth therapist, I also appreciate the convenience it has on my patients’ lives. By and large, people enter into session in a space that they hold a degree of comfort in, have not had to deal with a harried, resource-driven commute to see me, and can seamlessly integrate care of their mental health into their daily life. It is a factor that allows for ease in attending regular weekly sessions with me.

Finally, for me, I have the opportunity to see the expressions on patients’ faces and for them to see my face. Although I am not in the actual room and cannot take in the entirety of a person, I can take in what is being communicated via one’s eyes, in how they are holding their face and reacting to what is going on in the space between us, and I can hear the affect and emotion as tone of voice and facial expressions emerge to tell me something more than the words being spoken. To see another’s face is paramount for me to feel connected to my patients.

If you are curious about the ins and outs of how telehealth therapy works, it’s actually quite simple — a link is sent to you that is HIPAA compliant and you click on it and we are in session together. Pets are welcome too! If you want more details, you can always reach out to me if you are in New Jersey, Washington, or Maryland to learn more.

It’s a new year and my therapy practice is in the new of being fully telehealth — first it happened due to the pandemic and, today, continues due to the legacy of mask mandates still in place. For me, it allows me to serve more people equitably and, at the core, this is what I value most of all.

Happy Holidays Stress Less

Happy Holidays Stress Less
Be like snow person and stress less this holiday season!

Happy Holidays! Now is the time to stress less.

What? How is this even possible when it’s less than ten days to Christmas? Right now, I am hearing — and I am sure you are too — “I am so busy!,” “Why is everything so packed?,” and “How am I going to get all of this done?” Very rarely do you hear someone saying they are truly enjoying this magical season — with enough time and resources to make it easy peasy.

The funny thing is it is such a special time of year — the glittery lights, the children’s wonder, the baubles that are fun to window shop, the cheesy holiday movies, the special treats, and the opportunity to be with family and friends and generally make merry. But we are so BUSY, it is hard to even actually be present to any of it. December 26th or January 1st or 2nd dawns and it’s pure relief that we got through it — which is fine — you did and you lost out on being present to yourself throughout the season.

So, as you enter into these final days of the build up to the season, I encourage you to stress less. How to do that? Here are some simple ideas to hold yourself in mind to reduce your holiday stress:

First, choose you. This is probably the greatest gift you not only can give to yourself, but your loved ones as well. Taking a nap, watching a favorite show, getting a way for some time on your own will not only rejuvenate you, but will also help you slow down and be present to yourself and the season.

Second, you have enough time — you are in time. And whatever you don’t get to there will be another time. Think about what are the top few priorities and let the rest go. Focus on the things/events/people that are paramount to your, your life, and your traditions and let the rest rest.

Third, say no. We hear this all the time, but really this two letter little word is your best friend — especially this time of year. As everyone is saying they are so busy and trying to get you to ease their burdens, you can choose you and choose to say no. It is not imperative that you hop on the other’s anxious holiday state. No, no, no is a yes to you.

These are just a few thoughts to keep in mind as you celebrate happy holidays and stress less. You can have both when you hold yourself in mind as you make merry.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Write It Down

Write It Down
Write It Down

Write it down? What’s that?

How often have you seen someone lately with a notebook and pen in hand? My guess is not very often. Now, think back and ask yourself how many people have you seen on a screen lately? I bet the numbers are explosive right now in your mind. They may be reading or typing, but the screen is the gateway to just about anything these days.

I am from an era, however, where people wrote things down — and I mean wrote everything down as lugging out a typewriter to type anything out other than something formal wasn’t about to happen. We wrote out to do lists, recipes, essays, budgets, reminders, letters, notes, and whatever else you can think of — if we were wanting to record something for any reason we were grabbing a pen and paper.

I went back to graduate school in my mid-40s and during the very first class I definitely noticed a change. As class began, everyone was pulling out their laptops as I pulled out my fresh notebook and pen. It didn’t take me too long to gather who was the dinosaur in the room — me! However, that never bothered me, and I gladly opened up my tools to begin to record my notes.

At that point, the Professor looked out into the sea of students in the large class and addressed everyone, “I see you all have your laptops out ready to go, but there is hard core research that says people best learn by writing down notes — something about pen to paper contact makes absorbing information easier.”

Of course, the Professor was probably ten years older than me, so I thought perhaps she just hasn’t gotten with the times and is using “research” as an excuse to not feel so old given how it used to be. However, more and more there has been research out that says exactly this — humans remember more when we write it down.

I know for me this is true. Once I have my to do list written, I sort of know in my head what is on there more so than when I type it on a screen. I have an electronic calendar and I have a paper calendar. Oh how I love my written calendar and writing it all down. Partly this is my era and partly it is because I remember it all better when I write it down.

I was struck recently when a person in her mid 20s was discussing crafting a budget and related she was writing it all out and that this helped her more than any budget app as she could see for herself the ecosystem of her money and remember the amounts and the categories much more easily. Even someone much younger than myself finds putting pen to paper better.

So, if you are having difficulty remembering tasks, events on the calendar, tracking your money and/or any other number of tasks, write it down instead. Try it at the very least.

Oh! And everyone always appreciates a handwritten letter! You could even begin there!

Hello March

Hello March

Hello March!

If there is one month that I never liked it has to be March — although this year I am having a different thought about March.

Why did I hate on March so much? Probably because it has 31 days in it and it feels like the longest bridge between winter and spring. There is still a need to wear winter clothes and gear outdoors – ugh! More often than not, when I look out my windows, I see gray, rain, maybe even snow flurries! Ugh! I am ready to be done and there March stands in my way!

I am feeling a little different this year and maybe this has to do with how long proper winter has felt — i.e. December, January, and February — talk about dragging on. This year as I see March dawn, I see on the calendar where we are going to “spring ahead” with our clocks (more light!) and warmer temperatures even as we experience atmospheric rain rivers in Seattle. As I look further into my calendar, St. Patrick’s Day is almost around the corner — time to make some Irish Road Bread – and, if you are a Christian, Lent begins where it truly is 40 days of waiting.

Waiting. I suppose that is what March represents to me — whether I am waiting impatiently for spring and can’t stand March or breathing a sigh of relief that I can see some hints of spring even as I wait it out — this is a month about waiting for me. Waiting for warmth, for long days, for summer fruits and vegetables, for vacation days, for BBQs, for everything that is not winter.

Do you wait with active patience or passive patience? I was reading a little note about this recently. That one can just be passive and not do much as one practices patience for whatever she is anticipating to come. One can be active as she practices patience as well. In this case, perhaps buying some seeds and beginning to plant them in cups, buying flowers for one’s self, layering in lighter clothes, changing over one’s closet from winter to spring, cooking up a spring recipe — and I am sure there are more active ways to practice patience through this long bridge to spring.

Oh! And let’s not forget that the spring equinox is in March! It really is just around the corner — that’s what I keep telling myself!

Making the Dark Days Cozy

I’ve been waking up at my usual time — about 5 am — recently and can’t believe how long it takes to see the dawn. I keep thinking it is mid to late January — surely now I will see the light around 6:45 to 7 am. Alas, no! It’s dark until around 8 am and then a bit of twilight time for the next hour. I know we are gaining light, but at this exact moment it doesn’t feel like it.

What can any of us do when winter and the darkness seems to descend for an endless loop. Well, first thing, is to hold on to one’s mine and remember – quite literally – we are gaining time. Check out your local weather forecast and they tell you the sunrise and sunset times for each day. It is indeed a fact that the days are lengthening — even if they don’t quite feel like they are just yet.

Second, this is the time to take a page out of the hyggle lifestyle and make these dark days cozy. The Danes definitely know a thing or two about making their lives cozy during winter. It’s a fun little read. The idea was all the rage about five years ago, but such concepts never truly go out of style and so here are a few ideas for making your home and life cozy during these dark days of late January into February.

Cozy up to your favorite hot beverage — cocoa, coffee, tea, or any number of other fancy hot drinks. Enjoy the ritual of making it for yourself and really taste the warmth in the depths of our cold temperatures.

Knit, crochet, or just touch material that is warm and soft — cashmere anyone? It’s always soothing to make things out of these materials, but if you aren’t into such craft projects, even touching something soft and warm can bring coziness to your days.

Make a meal — perhaps a rich stew or slow cooker meal? Try your hand at making something delicious that will not only keep your stomach full and warm, but allows people around your dinner table to linger and savor each other’s company as they enjoy the meal. Being with people as you “break bread” can lead to a light that is kindled deep within.

Bath anyone? Can there be anything better than a warm to hot bath with salts and bubbles? Get your temperature just right and soak away. Bring into the bath a favorite book, podcast, drink, and more and linger, relax and unwind. Don’t forget to light a candle or two.The ultimate to creating a warm, relaxing feel. Towel off and use moisturizers and oils to extend the self pampering.

Light a fire or candles. If you have a fire pit outdoors, light it and cuddle up around it with warm outdoor blankets. Just looking into a flame can be meditative and relaxing. Also, as it gets dark early in evening, it is nice to light candles to continue the light at soft levels. Add candles to your dinner table too — it’s not just for special occasions.

Get in touch with yourself. With the pandemic still raging and light hardly around more of us are finding ourselves indoors. This is the time for vision boards, journals, and other inner wanderings where we can be in touch and in flow with ourselves that may be harder to do when warmer weather abounds and one wants to be outdoors in the literal light. For now, give yourself the gift of introspection to shine a light within.

When you do see the sun outside during the previous daylight hours, get out into it. Walk, run, have your hot beverage outdoors. Take in that shot of pure Vitamin D and let it soak in. Seriously, it will help you find even more contentment when the darkness arrives way too early in the evening.

These are just a few ideas to making the dark days cozy. I think the Groundhog is about to climb out of the ground and let us know how much more winter to expect — 6 more weeks or not? Whatever the time, enjoy each day and make it cozy.

Book Review: The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library is one of the most fascinating fiction books I have read in a long while — and, yes, I know I am very late to this party. This book was published back in 2020. I bought it for another person to read, who raved about it, and then it came up with another person as a must read. The premise completely enticed me even without these recommendations, but it still took me a long while to come to it — to come to death, the potential in-between state between life and death, to choices, to where the path not taken takes someone, and more.

That’s right — the fictional idea that we can “die” and not yet “die.” That there is an in between state that begs the question between life and death. Nora, the protagonist, wants to die. The choices she has made have lead her to one big book of regrets and so she dies — not explicitly stated, but she completed suicide.

Yet, she finds herself in a library and it’s midnight — rather than the pearly gates of the afterlife. From here she moves in an ever shifting space of what has been and the opportunity to walk down all the paths she didn’t take and see how they played out. The idea is she is not dead — yet — there may be a story she finds that she wants to live out. This is a story of redemption even when one feels there is nothing about self to be redeemed.

One of the most interesting books she opens is the first one — a large, hefty volume of her regrets. Ah! Regrets! And this one is really accurate for Nora — thus why it is so thick. Regrets large and small about the life she has been living — everything from not exercising on any given day to not marrying the one and basically everything in between.

There is oh so much more, but it had me stop to think about my own book of regrets. If I found myself in my own Midnight Library, would the first book I open be one of regrets? Would the volume be thin, thick, silly, serious — how would I receive looking over the life I have been living essentially? Would the thickest, most urgent volume be the one filled with my regrets?

For Nora, the volume becomes overwhelming. Her volume was thick, overflowing with every move she made and many she did not make. Before she can begin to even open the books that will take her into her stories that she spent so much time regretting she has to face the regret first. Oh! What courage!

As the New Year gets ushered in, how are you perceiving life? Are you looking back at the old with regret? Is there space for what was possible and that you made possible for yourself.?Is there space to hold on to decisions you made that were intuitive and may have left you in pain, but was necessary for yourself in some way? Or when you made those decisions did the walls close in and you filled with regret — which then lead to paralysis to not be able to move forward?

Regrets. They can creep in and define a life. The Midnight Library concept is so special because it allows us to name the regret — well, it’s been written down for you in your great volume of regrets — and then to open up a whole different volume to see if you would have played that decision differently, what would come from it. We often think in terms of all the good we didn’t allow ourselves to have, but, quite possibly, it may have saved us a lot of heartache and wrongness that we just new even as we could not point a finger and name why specifically.

We are all walking the life we are crafting. From the everyday mundane tasks to choosing a partner and a profession — life is dynamic. The Midnight Library acts dynamically as well. Nothing is ever cast in ink either — you can jump out of one story and into another. We have agency, autonomy, and choice to open or shut our decisions, chapters of life, and more.

At the beginning of all things, let there be choice and suspend the regret. Think about it all written down in the great volumes of your Midnight Library — what are you missing in the other volumes by focusing on regret?

Happy New Year

Happy New Year
Happy 2022!

Happy New Year.

We are only a few wee hours into 2022 — does it feel like a new page for you? Of course there is always the annual stress that occurs post-Christmas to think about the past year and find some things to renew and resolve for the new one. Funny, does one evening and the flip of a day really carry that much on its shoulders? It strikes me that the calendar day/year is set up like this and then we follow suit. How to unwind?

I was reading an article the other day about how the Gen Z and Millenial generations are no longer waiting for the magic of January 1 to begin anew, but beginning wherever and whatever day they are on. As I read the article, this was not a new concept in the least, but perhaps it is so much more a “here and now” society the idea of waiting on anything — even a new year to begin — seems like a waste.

I am not sure if you make resolutions. I am now hearing people call them intentions these days. Resolutions, Intentions — it all seems to me to be a moment of actual reflection and a place to build a bridge between the old and the new. Why do we want to slam the door so hard on the old and seek to wash our hands of our “bad” habits or those things that were less than what we wanted for ourselves. We all know that by the end of January everything that is new is yet old again.

I recommend recognizing this and building a bridge. It’s often a wonderful thing to take stock of all the good that the old year held for us — what are we proud of, what was a highlight, what motivated us to do better, what did we learn, how did we express our curiosity? From there, how would it look to have more of that and what else? Can any of these things build bridges to other habits and moments. So, it is no longer a frame of throwing it all out and beginning anew with perfection in mind, but building on what has been to what we want to continue, to discard, to build upon.

Life is not a linear line. It builds on itself and even as we awaken into this new year, we are made up of all the events, happenings, and how we brought our self to it all over all of the old years. Bringing these parts of ourselves into the new — honoring, being with, and companioning all the parts feels so important.

I wish for you a bridge between the old and the new. May it light your days for all the new ones to come based on all of the days and years that have come before.

Here’s to it!