May is Mental Health Awareness Month: Mental Well-being in New York City

As May unfolds, the United States observes Mental Health Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness, reducing stigma, and promoting mental wellness. In the bustling metropolis of New York City, where the pace is fast and the demands are high, prioritizing mental health is not just an option but a necessity, especially for adults navigating the complexities of urban life.

The Urban Experience and Mental Health

Living in New York City offers a unique blend of opportunities and challenges. The city’s vibrancy, diversity, and endless possibilities attract millions of individuals seeking success, fulfillment, and belonging. However, beneath the glittering skyline lies a landscape of stressors that can take a toll on mental well-being.

The fast-paced lifestyle, competitive work culture, and constant sensory overload can lead to feelings of anxiety, burnout, and isolation. Commuting woes, financial pressures, and the high cost of living further exacerbate stress levels, making it increasingly difficult for adults to maintain mental equilibrium in the city that never sleeps.

Stigma and Seeking Help

Despite the city’s abundance of resources, including mental health clinics, support groups, and therapy services, stigma remains a significant barrier to seeking help for many New Yorkers. The pervasive belief that seeking mental health support is a sign of weakness or failure can prevent individuals from reaching out for assistance when they need it most.

Moreover, the fear of judgment, confidentiality concerns, and logistical challenges, such as finding affordable and accessible care, can deter adults from seeking timely support for their mental health concerns. As a result, many suffer in silence, grappling with their emotional struggles alone, unaware that help is within reach.

Navigating Culturally Diverse Needs

New York City’s population is a melting pot of cultures, languages, and identities, each with its own unique perspectives on mental health and well-being. For adults from immigrant communities or marginalized backgrounds, accessing culturally competent mental health care can be particularly challenging.

Language barriers, cultural differences in understanding and addressing mental health issues, and mistrust of mainstream healthcare systems can all contribute to disparities in mental health outcomes. Recognizing and addressing these diverse needs is essential to ensuring that all New Yorkers have equitable access to mental health support and resources.

Promoting Mental Wellness

As Mental Health Month unfolds, it’s crucial for individuals, communities, and policymakers to come together to prioritize mental wellness in New York City. This includes:

  1. Raising Awareness: Increasing public awareness about mental health, reducing stigma, and promoting open dialogue about emotional well-being are essential steps toward fostering a more supportive and inclusive city.
  2. Expanding Access to Care: Investing in mental health services, expanding insurance coverage for mental health treatment, and increasing the availability of culturally competent care are vital to ensuring that all New Yorkers can access the support they need.
  3. Building Community Support: Creating safe spaces for individuals to connect, share experiences, and seek support can help combat feelings of isolation and foster a sense of belonging in a city known for its hustle and bustle.
  4. Prioritizing Self-care: Encouraging individuals to prioritize self-care, set boundaries, and practice mindfulness amid the hustle of urban life can help mitigate stress and improve overall well-being.

In conclusion, as New Yorkers navigate the complexities of urban life, let us remember the importance of prioritizing mental health. By raising awareness, reducing stigma, and fostering a culture of support and resilience, we can create a city where every adult can thrive emotionally, mentally, and socially. This Mental Health Month, let’s commit to prioritizing mental wellness for all New Yorkers.

Honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: A Mental Health Perspective

May marks an important time in the United States as it celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time dedicated to recognizing the contributions, culture, and history of these diverse communities. However, amidst the celebrations and acknowledgments, it’s crucial to shed light on a significant yet often overlooked aspect: mental health within the AAPI community.

The AAPI community is not a monolith; it encompasses a rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and traditions. Yet, within this diversity lies a shared experience of navigating cultural stigmas, intergenerational conflicts, and systemic barriers that can impact mental well-being.

Cultural Stigma and Silence

Mental health remains a taboo subject in many AAPI communities due to cultural stigmas surrounding mental illness. There’s often pressure to maintain a façade of strength and success, leading individuals to internalize their struggles and suffer in silence. Seeking help for mental health issues can be perceived as a sign of weakness or failure, causing many to forego treatment or support.

Moreover, the model minority myth perpetuates the stereotype that all Asians are academically successful, financially prosperous, and emotionally resilient. This myth not only undermines the diverse experiences of AAPI individuals but also creates unrealistic expectations, further exacerbating mental health challenges.

Intersections of Identity

The AAPI community intersects with various identities, including gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, and generational differences, each influencing mental health experiences uniquely.

For instance, LGBTQ+ AAPI individuals often face additional challenges, including rejection from family, cultural invisibility, and discrimination within both mainstream and LGBTQ+ communities. These intersecting identities can contribute to feelings of isolation, shame, and internalized prejudice, affecting mental well-being.

Similarly, immigrants and refugees within the AAPI community may grapple with acculturation stress, language barriers, and trauma from displacement, all of which can impact mental health outcomes. The pressure to assimilate while preserving cultural heritage can create a sense of identity conflict, leading to psychological distress.

Barriers to Access and Treatment

Despite the growing awareness of mental health issues, AAPI individuals encounter numerous barriers to accessing culturally competent care. Language barriers, lack of culturally sensitive resources, and limited representation of AAPI mental health professionals contribute to the underutilization of mental health services within these communities.

Furthermore, the perpetual foreigner stereotype, which portrays AAPI individuals as perpetual outsiders regardless of their citizenship or cultural integration, can deter seeking help due to fears of discrimination or misunderstanding from healthcare providers.

Cultivating Resilience and Support

Amidst these challenges, it’s essential to highlight the resilience and strength within the AAPI community. Cultivating culturally responsive mental health resources, promoting community-based support networks, and destigmatizing conversations around mental health are critical steps toward fostering well-being.

Encouraging open dialogue within families and communities, providing culturally competent mental health education, and advocating for policies that address systemic inequities can help break down barriers to care and promote holistic wellness.


As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, let us not forget the importance of addressing mental health within these communities. By acknowledging the complexities of identity, challenging cultural stigmas, and advocating for equitable access to care, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment where all individuals can thrive mentally, emotionally, and culturally. This month, let’s not only honor the rich heritage of the AAPI community but also commit to prioritizing their mental health and well-being.

Reflecting on Autism Awareness Month: Moving Beyond Awareness to Understanding and Acceptance

As Autism Awareness Month draws to a close, it’s a fitting time to reflect on the progress made and the work that still lies ahead. Throughout April, individuals and organizations around the world have come together to raise awareness about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), advocating for acceptance, understanding, and inclusion. While awareness is crucial, it’s only the first step on the journey towards creating a more supportive and inclusive society for autistic individuals.

Over the years, there has been a significant increase in awareness surrounding autism. More people than ever before recognize the term “autism” and have a basic understanding of what it entails. This increased awareness has led to improved diagnosis rates and access to services for individuals on the spectrum. It has also sparked important conversations about neurodiversity and the unique strengths and challenges of autistic individuals.

However, awareness alone is not enough. We must move beyond awareness to foster genuine understanding and acceptance of autism. Understanding goes beyond recognizing the existence of autism; it involves learning about the diverse experiences of autistic individuals, their strengths, challenges, and perspectives. It requires us to listen to autistic voices and amplify their stories, allowing their insights to shape our perceptions and actions.

Acceptance is perhaps the most crucial aspect of creating an inclusive society for autistic individuals. Acceptance means embracing neurodiversity and recognizing that autism is a natural variation of the human experience, not a defect to be corrected or cured. It means respecting the autonomy and dignity of autistic individuals and valuing their contributions to our communities. Acceptance is about creating environments where autistic individuals can thrive and be their authentic selves without fear of judgment or discrimination.

As we reflect on Autism Awareness Month, let us recommit ourselves to the pursuit of understanding and acceptance. This means advocating for policies and practices that promote inclusivity and support for autistic individuals in education, employment, healthcare, and beyond. It means challenging stereotypes and combating stigma through education and advocacy efforts. It means creating spaces where autistic voices are heard, valued, and included in decision-making processes.

Building a more inclusive society for autistic individuals benefits us all. When we embrace neurodiversity and create environments where everyone can thrive, we unlock the full potential of our communities. We learn from each other, grow together, and create a world that celebrates diversity in all its forms.

So, as Autism Awareness Month comes to a close, let us carry the spirit of understanding and acceptance forward into the months and years ahead. Let us continue to work towards a world where every individual, regardless of their neurotype, is valued, respected, and included. Together, we can create a more compassionate and inclusive future for all.

Finding Peace Among the Chaos: Strategies for Mental Well-Being in NYC

New York City, with its dazzling skyline and relentless pace, offers an exhilarating backdrop for life’s adventures. However, the very elements that make NYC iconic can also pose unique challenges to mental well-being. The constant hustle, coupled with the city’s high cost of living and competitive environment, can lead to stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. As a psychotherapy private practice based in the heart of this bustling metropolis, we understand the complexities of maintaining mental health in such a dynamic setting. In this post, we’ll explore strategies for building resilience and fostering a sense of inner peace amidst the city’s ceaseless rhythm.

Nurturing Connections

In a city of millions, it’s paradoxical yet common to feel alone. Cultivating meaningful relationships is crucial for emotional support and can act as a buffer against the stressors of city life. Whether it’s joining local community groups, engaging in social activities that align with your interests, or simply making an effort to connect more deeply with friends or colleagues, building your social network can provide a sense of belonging and support.

Finding Nature’s Respite

New York City is dotted with green oases that offer a tranquil escape from urban intensity. Regular visits to parks like Central Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, or the lesser-known havens in your neighborhood can provide a necessary breather and reconnect you with the calming influence of nature. Engaging in mindful practices like meditation or yoga in these natural settings can amplify the restorative effects.

Establishing Work-Life Boundaries

The city’s work-centric culture often blurs the lines between professional and personal life, leading to burnout. Establishing clear boundaries is essential for mental health. This might mean setting strict working hours, unplugging from digital devices post-work, or dedicating time to hobbies and interests outside of your job. Remember, productivity also includes taking care of your mental and emotional well-being.

Embracing Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

Practicing mindfulness can help anchor you in the present moment, reducing the overwhelm that comes from the city’s fast pace. Pair this with self-compassion, especially during tougher times, to foster resilience. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend, acknowledging that it’s okay to not always have everything figured out.

Seeking Professional Support

Sometimes, the most effective strategy is to seek guidance from mental health professionals who can provide personalized coping strategies and therapeutic interventions. Whether it’s through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or other modalities, professional support can be a cornerstone in building a healthier, more resilient self.

In conclusion, while NYC’s vibrant energy is invigorating, it’s vital to prioritize mental health amidst the hustle. By nurturing connections, seeking nature’s solace, setting clear boundaries, practicing mindfulness, and perhaps most importantly, seeking professional support when needed, we can navigate the complexities of city life with resilience and grace. Remember, taking care of your mental health is not just about surviving in the city but thriving in it.

Written by: Kat Heidelberger, LMSW

Hormones and Mental Health: Navigating the Waves

In our journey through life, our mental health is influenced by a myriad of factors, with hormones playing a pivotal role, especially in women’s health. From the joys of pregnancy to the challenges of menopause, hormonal fluctuations can significantly impact mental well-being. In this blog post, we delve into how hormonal conditions like postpartum depression, pregnancy, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), and menopause can affect mental health and explore how psychotherapy can offer support and guidance through these complex times.

The Ripple Effect of Hormonal Changes

Pregnancy: Pregnancy is a time of profound hormonal changes designed to support fetal development and prepare the body for childbirth. However, these hormonal shifts can also affect mood and emotional well-being. While many expectant mothers experience the “glow” of pregnancy, others may struggle with anxiety, depression, or antenatal depression, which can impact their ability to bond with the unborn baby and prepare for the challenges of motherhood.

Postpartum Period: Following childbirth, the sudden drop in hormones like estrogen and progesterone, along with sleep deprivation and the pressures of caring for a newborn, can lead to postpartum depression (PPD). PPD goes beyond the “baby blues,” presenting a more severe and long-lasting form of depression that requires professional support.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): PMDD is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that affects a small percentage of menstruating women. Characterized by debilitating physical and emotional symptoms, PMDD can significantly disrupt daily life and strain personal relationships.

Menopause: The transition to menopause involves a gradual decrease in hormone production, particularly estrogen and progesterone. This period can bring about a range of symptoms, including hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and mood swings, which can contribute to anxiety and depression in some women.

The Role of Psychotherapy

Understanding the interplay between hormones and mental health is crucial in providing effective care. Psychotherapy offers a supportive space to navigate these challenges, employing various strategies tailored to each individual’s needs.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is effective in addressing negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with hormonal changes. It can help individuals develop coping strategies to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, improving overall well-being.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): IPT focuses on the interpersonal relationships and social roles that may be affected by hormonal changes. It can be particularly helpful in addressing issues related to the postpartum period and menopause, offering strategies to improve communication and strengthen relationships.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): MBSR techniques can be beneficial in managing the emotional and physical symptoms associated with hormonal conditions. Mindfulness practices encourage present-moment awareness and acceptance, helping to alleviate stress and improve mood.

Lifestyle and Nutritional Counseling: Integrating lifestyle and nutritional counseling into psychotherapy can enhance treatment outcomes. Regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep can mitigate the impact of hormonal fluctuations on mental health.


Hormonal conditions can profoundly affect mental health, but with the right support and strategies, individuals can navigate these changes more smoothly. At our psychotherapy practice, we are committed to providing compassionate and evidence-based care to help our clients manage the psychological aspects of hormonal conditions. By understanding the complex relationship between hormones and mental health, we empower individuals to take control of their well-being and lead fulfilling lives.

Written By: Kat Heidelberger, LMSW

Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder and the Role of Therapy

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, is a complex psychological condition that is often misunderstood. It is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct personality states or identities within a single individual. These identities may have their own names, ages, histories, and characteristics. Individuals with DID may experience gaps in memory and consciousness, which can significantly impact their daily functioning and quality of life.

The Complexity of DID

DID is believed to stem from severe and prolonged trauma during early childhood, often related to extreme, repetitive physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. The disorder is a sophisticated coping mechanism; the individual dissociates themselves from a situation or experience that’s too violent, traumatic, or painful to assimilate with their conscious self.

Symptoms and Challenges

The primary feature of DID is the presence of multiple identities or personality states, each with its distinct mode of being and perceiving the world. Individuals may find themselves doing things they don’t remember doing, finding unfamiliar items among their possessions, or feeling like there are different voices trying to take control in their head. These symptoms can be highly distressing and may lead to significant disruptions in the person’s life.

The Role of Therapy in Managing DID

Therapy is crucial in the treatment and management of DID. The therapeutic process involves several key components aimed at integrating the separate identities into one primary identity and helping the individual cope with their traumatic memories in a healthy way.

1. Establishing Safety

The first step in therapy is creating a safe and supportive environment. Individuals with DID have often experienced significant trauma, making it essential to establish a sense of safety and trust within the therapeutic relationship.

2. Diagnostic Clarification

Given the complex nature of DID, careful assessment and diagnosis are critical. This involves a detailed exploration of the individual’s history, symptoms, and functioning to ensure that the treatment plan is tailored to their specific needs.

3. Stabilization

Therapists work with individuals to develop coping strategies to manage distressing symptoms and to stabilize their emotional state. This may involve techniques for grounding, mindfulness, and emotional regulation to help individuals stay connected to the present moment and reduce dissociative episodes.

4. Trauma Processing

Central to the treatment of DID is the careful and gradual processing of traumatic memories. This is done in a controlled and supportive environment, often using techniques like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

5. Integration

The goal of therapy is not to eliminate the different identities but to help them work together more cohesively. Integration involves fostering communication and cooperation among the identities, reducing amnesia, and consolidating memories and experiences into a more unified sense of self.

6. Rehabilitation

As individuals gain greater control over their symptoms and start to integrate their identities, therapy focuses on rehabilitation. This involves building skills for better daily functioning, improving relationships, and working on life goals that were previously hindered by the disorder.


Dissociative Identity Disorder presents unique challenges, but with appropriate, specialized therapy, individuals can achieve significant improvements in their quality of life. Therapy offers a path towards healing, helping individuals to integrate their different identities, process their trauma, and move forward with a greater sense of wholeness and self-understanding. It’s a journey of reconnection with oneself, guided by the compassionate support of psychotherapy.

Written by: Kat Heidelberger, LMSW

Unleashing Creativity for Mental Wellness: Rediscovering Your Inner Child and Finding Flow

In the bustling heart of New York City, where the pace of life never seems to slow down, it’s easy to lose touch with the creative spark that ignites joy and vitality in our lives. However, creativity isn’t just an artistic endeavor; it’s a vital component of mental health. Here are some ways that nurturing creativity can enhance overall well-being.

Rediscovering Your Inner Child Through Creativity:

Creativity is often associated with childhood — a time when we freely expressed ourselves without fear of judgment or failure. As adults, especially in a goal-driven city like NYC, we tend to suppress this creative freedom, but it remains a core part of our being.

Engaging in creative activities allows us to revisit the uninhibited joy of our inner child. This might be through painting, writing, dancing, or even cooking. It’s not about the outcome but the process — allowing yourself to play, explore, and make ‘mistakes’ without self-criticism. This reconnection with your inner child can be incredibly healing, offering a sense of freedom and spontaneity that adult life often lacks.

The Therapeutic Power of Being in Flow:

Flow states, a concept popularized by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, occur when you’re fully immersed in an activity, losing track of time and self-consciousness. This state of ‘flow’ or ‘being in the zone’ is not only deeply satisfying but also contributes to mental well-being. 

Creative activities are a perfect gateway to these flow states. Whether it’s through writing a piece of music, getting lost in a drawing, or crafting, these activities can shift your focus away from stressors and negative thoughts, providing a mental break that’s both refreshing and rejuvenating. In flow, the mind gets a chance to rest from the constant chatter of life. It allows for a unique form of mindfulness, where the present moment is all that matters. The result is often a sense of peace, accomplishment, and a deeper connection to self.

Expressing the Inexpressible: 

Another crucial aspect of creativity in mental health is its role in emotional expression and healing. Creative expression offers a unique outlet for hidden underlying emotions, providing a way to articulate and process them when words alone may fall short.

Many times, emotions are complex and layered, making them difficult to verbalize. Creative pursuits enable you to express these feelings in a more abstract yet profoundly personal way. This process can lead to significant insights and catharsis, aiding in emotional release and healing.

Fostering Self- Understanding:

Engaging in creative activities can also be a journey of self-discovery. As you create, you might uncover hidden aspects of yourself, understand your desires and fears better, and cultivate a deeper connection with yourself. This self-discovery can be empowering, leading to greater self-acceptance and a more authentic life.

Creativity in Everyday Life:

You don’t need to be an artist to incorporate creativity into your life. It’s about finding what resonates with you. Simple acts like rearranging your living space, experimenting with new recipes, or journaling can spark creativity. The key is to approach these activities with a sense of curiosity and playfulness.

We are all inherently creative. By embracing these elements, not only do we improve our mental health, but we also enrich our lives with color, passion, and vitality. Let’s start this creative journey together, and rediscover the joy of living in the moment, one brushstroke, word, or dance move at a time.

Written by Kat Heidelberger, LMSW

How to mindfully navigate New Year’s Resolutions and make them work for you. 

New Year’s Resolutions have become an integral aspect of the holiday season and our cultural fabric. Each New Year is widely perceived as an ideal moment to start a fresh chapter in life, marked by the commitment to introduce and cultivate aspiring habits and skills.

While the intention to create changes in one’s routine may be positive, New Year’s Resolutions may also become a source of stress and an increased focus on what is “wrong” and not working. This can exacerbate a sense of inadequacy, unhealthy perfectionism, and self-criticism instead of joy and fulfillment. As a result, so many of us may end up grappling with the weight of unmet resolutions, which can negatively impact one’s self-esteem and mental well-being.

Consider the following tips to navigate the New Year’s Resolution landscape more positively:

Give Yourself Permission to Opt Out: Recognize that the New Year’s resolution culture may not be suitable for everyone, and that’s perfectly okay. If the pressure or expectations associated with resolutions feel overwhelming or counterproductive to your well-being, allow yourself the freedom to opt-out. You may choose to forego New Year’s Resolutions completely or focus on alternative methods of personal growth or goal-setting that align better with your needs and values. 

Cultivate Self-Compassion: Instead of fixating on perceived failures or setbacks, encourage yourself to practice self-compassion. Understand that change is a gradual process, and setbacks are a natural part of any transformative journey. Stay mindful of a positive self and treat yourself with the same kindness you would offer to a dear friend or loved one.

Find the Joy in the Process: Amidst the pursuit of resolutions, it’s crucial to enjoy the journey itself. Rather than fixating solely on the end goal, take time to appreciate the small victories and positive experiences along the way. Whether it’s learning a new skill, adopting a healthier habit, or pursuing a passion, infusing joy into your efforts can enhance motivation and create a more positive mindset.

Set Realistic and Attainable Goals: Work with realistic and achievable goals rather than setting overly ambitious or vague resolutions. Break down larger objectives into smaller, manageable steps to create a more sustainable path towards positive change. For example, committing to a 10-minute walk in the morning will work better as the first step towards a more active lifestyle than forcing yourself to set up an elaborate 2-hour exercise regimen.

Focus on Progress, Not Perfection: Shift the focus from achieving perfection to recognizing and celebrating progress. Acknowledge the steps you’ve taken toward your new goals, no matter how small. Embracing a growth mindset fosters a healthier perspective on personal development and supports your success.

Choose Resolutions Aligned with Values: Align your resolutions with your core values. This ensures that your goals are personally meaningful and contribute to a sense of purpose. A great question to ask is “What is important to me in the area of [    ]?” For example, if you value connection and community, then joining an in-person class to learn a new subject will work better than a self-paced online course. 

Seek Professional Support: If the pressure of New Year’s Resolutions becomes overwhelming, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. Therapists can provide valuable guidance and tools to navigate challenges, fostering a more positive and sustainable approach to personal growth.

Remember, the essence of the New Year is not solely about resolutions but also reflection, gratitude, and embracing the opportunity for positive change. By approaching resolutions with a balanced and compassionate mindset, you can enhance your well-being and truly make the new year a transformative and fulfilling experience.

Written by Natallia Khalpukova

Unwrapping Peace: A Guide to Managing Holiday Stress

The holiday season, with its twinkling lights and festivities, can also bring a flurry of stress. Balancing work, relationships, and the added pressures of holiday preparations can take a toll on your mental health. This year, let’s unwrap a different gift – the gift of peace. Here are some steps you can practice to manage holiday stress and prioritize your well-being:

Reflect on Your Priorities

Before diving headfirst into the holidays, take a moment to reflect on what truly matters to you. What are your non-negotiables? Identify the activities and traditions that bring you joy and focus on those. Remember that it’s okay to prioritize your mental health over perfection.

Establish Boundaries

The holidays often come with a slew of social obligations. While spending time with loved ones is essential, it’s equally important to establish boundaries. Saying “no” when you want to is a practice of self-compassion itself. Do your best not to let the pressure of pleasing others overshadow your own needs.

Plan Downtime 

Don’t forget to schedule downtime for yourself. Whether it’s curling up with a book, watching your favorite movie, or simply enjoying a cup of tea, be sure to make time for activities that bring you peace. Downtime is essential for recharging your mental and emotional reserves. 

Practice Mindfulness

In the midst of holiday chaos, carve out time for mindfulness. Whether it’s through meditation, deep breathing, or simply taking a walk- grounding yourself in the present moment can alleviate stress. Mindfulness helps create a mental space where you can respond to challenges or stressors with clarity and composure. 

Maintain Healthy Habits

Embrace the holiday season as an opportunity to nurture your well-being by keeping consistent healthy habits. Maintaining regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep significantly reduces stress. Even a short walk can release endorphins, offering a natural burst of feel-good chemicals.

Connect with Supportive Individuals 

The holidays can evoke a range of emotions. Connecting with supportive individuals whom you trust and sharing your feelings can bring significant relief. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed. Sometimes, a simple conversation can provide the emotional support necessary to navigate the challenges of the season.

Embrace Imperfect Moments

Perfection is an illusion, especially during the holidays. Embrace the imperfect moments, and find joy in the spontaneous and unplanned. Connection and organic shared experiences often hold more value than meticulously planned events. Give yourself permission to enjoy the festivities without the burden of perfection. 

This holiday season, prioritize your well-being by unwrapping the gift of peace. By incorporating these steps, you can navigate the holiday season with a focus on well-being and create lasting memories filled with joy and tranquility. The most precious gift you can give yourself is the gift of a peaceful mind.

Written by Yen Liao, MHC Fellow

How to Reduce Anxiety When Initiating Professional Development Conversations

It is common to experience work-related anxiety when there is so much pressure to perform at a high level while managing the responsibilities and dynamics that exist in professional contexts. While we may already experience stress related to the nature of our jobs, the sources of anxiety at work can be attributed to factors like job security, fear of failure, social hierarchies or environment, and vary across professions.

Anxiety also often spikes when it is time to bring up professional development conversations. This can look like asking for a raise or resigning from your current position. Thankfully, there are ways to feel less anxious when approaching these challenging but necessary exchanges. Here are some places to start:

Evaluate Your Reasons

Reflect on your reasons for having this conversation. How would it support your values and goals on a professional and personal level? Understanding your motivations can help you feel more confident in your choice and express yourself clearly at the time of the discussion.

Prepare Thoroughly & Rehearse

Is there any valuable information you could gather, such as details about the industry standards and the salary structure within your organization to support your points? Who are the right people to approach with your request?  Make sure to do your research ahead of time, document important points, and consult with trusted colleagues and mentors prior to the conversation. Practicing ahead of time can also significantly lower your anxiety around the flow of the conversation and its possible outcome. Write a script and practice it with a trusted friend or family member who can offer you feedback and encouragement.

Choose the Right Time

Make sure to request a private and scheduled meeting with your supervisor or HR professional. This way, you will ensure it receives the attention it deserves. If the conversation is related to a career advancement request or additional opportunities, choosing a time when your performance has been strong may also help.

Be Flexible and Open to Discussion

Approach the subject with flexibility and be prepared for negotiation. Understand that your employer may not be able to meet your initial request, so be open to hearing about other beneficial options or future considerations. Thinking of a backup plan can also lower the pressure and expectations related to the conversation at hand.

Focus on Positive Self-talk

Challenge and reframe negative thoughts by replacing them with positive affirmations or statements. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge your achievements and strengths as an employee. Remind yourself that you are worthy of having your needs met in order to maintain personal and professional fulfillment, and communicate from a place of self-compassion and confidence.

Stay Calm

Practice deep breathing and mindfulness techniques before the meeting to manage anxiety. Meditation, breathwork, writing a gratitude list, journaling, or a quick walk on a lunch break will allow you to feel more grounded and balanced.

Seek Professional Support

Consider speaking with a mental health professional as a highly effective way to manage work-related anxiety, especially when you feel nervous about navigating difficult conversations with your employer. A collaborative therapeutic process will provide you with guidance, support, and strategies for building confidence and effective communication. 

Whatever the professional development conversation you are approaching, you got this!

Written by Natallia Khalpukova, MHC Fellow

5 Techniques to Conquer Anxiety and Realign with Joy

There is no denying the intensity of the moment. The constant barrage of stimulation from all directions can be astounding, and it is very easy to be consumed by overwhelming anxiety. Here are 5 ways to pause and address your anxiety, so that you can restore calm and refocus on joy:

  1. STOP! Check in with yourself. Often we are so used to living with some level of anxiety and overwhelm that we aren’t fully conscious of it. We just know that we feel off. Sometimes our anxiety is very pronounced and we are quite aware of its presence. Yet, there are many times that our anxiety is less obvious and sort of lingering close by, causing us to feel discomfort. Pausing for a moment to check in with ourselves and explicitly asking, “what exactly am I anxious about?” can help us get to the root of our discomfort. 
  1. Establish the core emotion underneath the anxiety. There are 7 core emotions: sadness, fear, anger, disgust, joy, excitement and sexual excitement.  Anxiety is considered a secondary emotion that is often a response to feeling a core emotion. Sometimes our brains will use anxiety to protect us from feeling an emotion we find threatening. For example, experiencing anxiety because you are angry. Even positive experiences can cause us to feel anxious. For instance, being anxious after getting a new job due to fears about having to deliver. Whenever we feel uneasy because of anxiety, it’s best that we dig deeper and address what is really going on for us. 
  1. Go in. Sometimes getting to that core emotion requires an extended analysis of our inner world. Being inundated all day, every day with notifications, ads, news, messaging and so on can create a lot of mental noise for us. Meditation is one way that we can pause and tune into ourselves. Journaling is also an effective way to be with and observe our thoughts. Both journaling and meditation are great ways to slow down and notice those thoughts that have us on edge. Noticing the narratives on autoplay in our mind gives us a chance to confront them and perhaps get rid of them. Journaling and meditation can help us become aware of the stories we live with. This awareness makes it easier to notice things like when our inner saboteur is talking to us. We can then tell it ‘beat it’ quicker.
  1. Get out. On the other hand, it may be helpful to get out of our heads by connecting with another person. Therapy is one of the most effective ways to get back into the real world. Being with someone we feel safe and comfortable with can be very soothing. Speaking to someone else is a great way to get away from “the committee” in your mind. The committee being the various threatening thoughts and voices whirling around in our heads, often spewing antagonistic messages and/or bad advice. 
  1. Work it out. Exercise can be great for reducing our anxiety. Working out releases feel-good endorphins in our brain. Having a gym membership in conjunction with seeing a therapist can enhance our overall sense of well being. A great gym with a good group fitness schedule offers many options for us to find the class that puts us in a state of flow. Being in a flow state allows us to be in the moment and puts space between our minds and those nagging thoughts. 

Combining meditation, fitness, and therapy creates a wellness regimen that is holistic. The anxiety produced by these uncertain times doesn’t stand a chance against a complete mental, physical, and spiritual self care regimen. Just remember that the first step to rejuvenation is to pause and stop anxiety in its tracks. 

Written by Antonio Thomas, MSW

How to Cope with Climate Change Anxiety

With Canadian wildfires causing smoke-filled skies in NYC—it’s no wonder many of us are experiencing anxiety around our changing world. Whether we have experienced these events first hand or our screens were filled with images of them, as we process particularly extreme climate change events, it is completely understandable to feel a level of fear or anxiety. Here are some things that can help:  

First, recognize that you are not alone if you are experiencing some version of these feelings. 

Climate change is happening globally and we are all being impacted, but we all have different methods of dealing with these monumental events and changes we are witnessing. It’s important to find safe people with which you can process your feelings. This will help you feel less isolated in your experience, and gain new perspectives on how those around you are coping. 

Secondly, take action! 

With such an expansive global issue, it is easy to feel like there is nothing you can do within your own power to help. However, there are many changes we can make on an individual and local level to be a part of the effort for sustainability. This could look like reducing waste on a daily basis, or joining a local advocacy group. This will break the larger issue into smaller pieces, allowing you to focus on what is within your control and lessening the feelings of powerlessness. 

Third, unplug. 

While it is important to stay informed, it is also easy to feel consumed by climate change related events on the news. This constant exposure can heighten your anxiety and leave you in a state of fight-or-flight. Try creating time limits for yourself on consuming this type of media, or schedule breaks to center yourself. 

Last, remember to always take care of yourself. 

When our focus is on such a collective issue, it’s easy to forget to check in with yourself. Listen to the way your thoughts and emotions are responding to our changing environment, and find ways to practice self care and cultivate joy on a daily basis. 

If this resonates with you, you are not alone! Reach out to one of our expert therapists to help manage these difficult feelings and find relief today.

Written by Laura Dupper

What To Do When Imposter Syndrome Creeps Into Your Professional Life

What To Do When Imposter Syndrome Creeps Into Your Professional Life

Feeling like an imposter in your job? You are not alone. Whether you just landed your first job after graduating or transitioning to a new career path or even just a new role, it can feel overwhelming and stressful to take it all on. A common hurdle many young professionals face is imposter syndrome – the nagging feeling of being inadequate despite evidence of your incredible abilities to succeed. However, there are strategies and techniques that we can use to alleviate this feeling and help become our best selves in our professional lives.

Acknowledge and Normalize Your Feelings!

First and foremost, understand that the self-doubt you are feeling is imposter syndrome, and it is a common experience. You may feel isolated in your experience, but in fact, many successful individuals have battled with feelings of being a fraud at some point in their careers. Know that you are not alone and that what you are experiencing does not have to define you.

Recognize Your Accomplishments:

You are in your position for a reason! Take moments to reflect on your achievements and the journey that led you to where you are today. Often, imposter syndrome clouds our judgment and causes us to downplay our successes and abilities. Remind yourself of the skills, knowledge, and experiences that have prepared you for your role. Reframing your mindset can help boost your confidence and remind you that you are capable of whatever you put your mind to!

Challenge Your Thoughts:

Imposter syndrome often manifests as negative thoughts and self-talk. It’s crucial to recognize that and challenge it when it begins to creep in. Acknowledge the thoughts and why they are coming up for you, and then remember the evidence that opposes these thoughts: your strengths, achievements, and positive feedback you have received.

Seek Support and Guidance:

Don’t hesitate to seek support from your friends, family, or mentors when imposter syndrome comes up. It is likely that they have experienced this themselves, and they may be able to give you a fresh perspective, reassurance, and advice for how to move forward.

Set Realistic Goals:

Setting realistic goals is essential in managing imposter syndrome. Break down your objectives into smaller, more attainable tasks. This will help make them feel less overwhelming and you more confident in achieving them. Remember to celebrate each milestone too! Celebrating your progress reinforces your self-belief and reminds you that you are capable of reaching your goals.

Prioritize Self-Care:

Taking care of your well-being – physically, emotionally, and mentally – is crucial in combating imposter syndrome. Make sure to engage in activities that bring you joy and peace. This can include exercise, meditation, your favorite hobbies, spending time with friends, etc. Utilizing self-care helps reduce stress, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and fosters a positive mindset that ultimately helps overcome imposter syndrome.

Utilize Therapy as a Resource:

Therapy provides a safe and supportive space to explore and address the underlying causes of imposter syndrome. A therapist can help you develop effective coping strategies, build self-confidence, and navigate the challenges of your professional life.

Embarking on a professional journey as a young adult can be both exciting and daunting. We at Refresh are here to help you through it, tailoring our work to your specific needs. Remember: you are capable, deserving, and on the right path towards your professional goals.

If this resonated with you, feel free to reach out to any of our wonderful clinicians today. 

Written by Isabel Golan

How Therapy Can Reduce PTSD Symptoms

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, can be an incredibly difficult thing to go through. It can cause nightmares, flashbacks, and very uncomfortable symptoms. While there are many different personal coping strategies that can be used, including journaling, exercise, and using self-soothing techniques, sometimes it’s helpful to discuss these symptoms with a professional. Here are just a few reasons why seeing a therapist may help improve PTSD symptoms.

  1. Emotional Support: Given that PTSD is a mental illness, symptoms may not always be apparent to others. These invisible symptoms may make individuals feel alone and like they have no one to confide in. A therapist can provide individuals with emotional support simply by being there and allowing an individual to share their own story. This process can show them that they’re not alone in their diagnosis and that they deserve support.
  2. Validation: Sometimes, individuals with PTSD may struggle to discuss the difficulties they face as a result of their diagnosis. This can be for many reasons, including stigma, lack of support from family and friends, and the hidden nature of the illness. A therapist can provide validation to these individuals by using techniques such as empathizing and active listening. Through the process of validating individuals, they can feel like their fears and concerns are recognized and addressed. This can strengthen the therapeutic bond as sessions progress.
  3. Developing New Healthy Coping Strategies: Healthy Coping strategies of any kind can be helpful, as they allow us to do something that actively gets our mind off things and lessens symptom severity. However, sometimes our strategies may not work or be as effective as they once were. A therapist can help those struggling with PTSD by targeting their individual symptoms and working with them on different things they can try. Through trial, error, and discussion, a therapist and client can develop a set of different coping strategies that can be used the next time PTSD symptoms occur. This may also give individuals a greater sense of control over their symptoms because they now have a set plan to help manage them.
  4. Healing in Community: While individual therapy can be incredibly helpful, sometimes it’s beneficial to receive support from those who have been where you are. Group therapy addressing PTSD can help clients feel like they have a community of fellow individuals struggling with PTSD symptoms, and allow them to receive support from those who know exactly what they’ve gone through. Individual therapy can also be used in conjunction to discuss anything that has gone on in the group, allowing clients to receive support on multiple levels.

While PTSD can be difficult to manage, it doesn’t have to define you. If you feel like you’re struggling and would like help, feel free to set up a consultation with one of our clinicians to receive the support you deserve.

Written by Jessica Karim

Clean Your Social Circle: Identifying and Addressing Toxic Relationships

Toxic relationships come in various forms and can be found in any area of our lives, including friendships, romantic partnerships, family relationships, and even professional connections. While it’s normal to encounter conflicts or disagreements in any relationship, toxic relationships go beyond that, draining our energy and causing significant distress. If you’re finding yourself in relationships like this, cleaning your social circle may be an essential step toward cultivating a more positive mental space.

The first step in cleaning your social circle is recognizing the signs of toxicity. Some common red flags to look out for include:

  1. Constant criticism and belittling: Does this person often undermine your self-esteem, making you doubt your abilities and self-worth? This may look like criticizing your appearance, achievements, or personal choices, leaving you feeling inadequate and insecure.
  1. Emotional manipulation: Does this person manipulate your emotions to get what they want? They may guilt-trip you, play mind games, or use emotional blackmail to control your actions and decisions.
  1. Little respect for boundaries: Does this person disregard your boundaries and personal space? They may invade your privacy, constantly demand your attention, or pressure you into doing things you’re uncomfortable with.
  1. Unbalanced and One-Sided: Toxic relationships often lack reciprocity and balance. If you find yourself constantly giving, supporting, or sacrificing without receiving the same level of care or consideration, it’s likely an unhealthy dynamic.
  1. Lack of support: Does this person rarely show genuine support or empathy and only seem to care about themselves? They may dismiss your problems, invalidate your feelings, or even sabotage your efforts to succeed.

Once you’ve identified toxic relationships in your social circle, it’s crucial to take proactive steps to address them. Here are some strategies to help you navigate this process:

  1. Set boundaries: Clearly define your personal boundaries and communicate them assertively. Let the person know what behaviors are unacceptable to you and what consequences will follow if those boundaries are violated.
  1. Practice assertive communication: Learn to express your needs, opinions, and emotions assertively, without resorting to aggression or passivity. Assertive communication allows you to stand up for yourself and set those boundaries while maintaining respect for others.
  1. Limit Contact or Distance Yourself: If the toxic relationship involves a non-essential person in your life, consider limiting contact or creating some distance. This may include reducing interactions, unfollowing them on social media, or even severing ties if necessary.
  1. Prioritize self-care: Take care of your own well-being by engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Cultivate self-compassion and surround yourself with positive influences that uplift and inspire you.
  1. Seek personal and professional support: Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals who can provide guidance and support as you navigate the challenges of addressing toxic relationships. Their objective perspective can help you gain clarity and confidence, and help guide you through the healing process. 

Cleaning your social circle can be challenging and emotionally draining, but it is an essential step toward prioritizing your mental health and well-being. Remember, you have the right to surround yourself with positive, supportive individuals who contribute positively to your life.

By identifying toxic relationships, setting boundaries, and seeking support, you can create a social circle that nurtures your growth and fosters a healthy state of mind. Don’t be afraid to let go of toxic relationships and make room for healthier connections in your life. Your mental health matters!

Written by Katherine Heidelberger

Refresh Your Routine: Simple Changes You Can Make to Boost Your Mental Health

Adding even more steps to your routine when your schedule is already slammed might seem antithetical to addressing your mental health. After all, when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed and you have a million things to take care of, why not save time by cutting out self-care? Spending even 15 minutes a day incorporating mental health hygiene into your routine can make drastic improvements to the rest of your day; it might even help you identify extra time and space that you didn’t realize you had. It can be difficult to remember to prioritize yourself, especially when things get busy. Here are a few simple changes you can make to boost your mental health hygiene:

  1. Hydrate: dehydration has been shown to negatively impact cognitive function. Being intentional about rehydrating first thing in the morning and throughout the day can improve cognition, low mood, irritability and confusion.
  1. Check in with yourself: whether it’s meditation, breathing exercises, journaling, yoga, or a mindfulness app – take 10 minutes out of your day to slow down and check in with yourself. Creating a space that is designed to prioritize YOU can reduce feelings of stress and burnout.
  1. Take inventory: make a list of your strengths, your supports, the things you’re proud of, etc. and keep it somewhere handy so you can pull it up whenever you might need a helpful reminder of the internal and external resources you already have available to you. 
  1. Get some sunlight: This isn’t easily accessible for everyone. But research has shown that sunlight increases serotonin and boosts your mood, helping you to feel calmer and more focused. If you don’t live in a place that gets a lot of sun, consider investing in a SAD lamp.
  1. Cut back on social media: there have been countless studies detailing the adverse effects of social media on mental health. Some studies show that more time on social media increases the risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness and low self-confidence. It’s easy to get sucked into doom scrolling, but limiting the amount of time you spend on social media apps can help boost your mental health – ironically, there’s an app for that.
  1. Take a walk: it’s easy to get sucked into a busy work day and find that hours have passed without you having ever gotten up from your desk, or making it outside. Walking has been shown to help manage and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. If you’re having a stressful moment at work, taking a walk removes you from the situation long enough to widen your perspective. 
  1. Turn your phone off at night: The National Sleep Foundation says that people should stop watching television or using screens for at least 30 minutes before bed. Read more about the importance of sleep here

Yes, these simple changes can help you get on track to addressing your mental health, but sunlight and a hot girl walk aren’t going to solve the deeper issues. If you’re feeling continually down, burnt out, anxious, or overwhelmed, give yourself permission to seek additional support – whatever that looks like for you.

By Kenna Alemania

Why Some of Us Struggle with Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate our mothers for everything they do; their sacrifice, their love and their care. However, for so many people, even mothers, Mother’s Day presents an emotional challenge.

If you have been consuming social media recently, you have seen some videos of mothers talking about how this day has become a burden for them. One would think that when the day arrives, others would try to take away as much of the burden as possible so mothers can relax and enjoy the day. However, some mothers have found that they have to plan their own celebration. They will be asked, “what do you want to do today?”, which essentially gives mothers the mental workload of having to come up with ideas to plan their own day. Additionally, there are those mothers who have had no events planned for themselves and the other mothers in their life, so they end up having to step up and celebrate with each other.

There are also more painful reasons why Mother’s day is difficult to celebrate. There are those who are often reminded how their mothers are no longer with them. The first Mother’s Day after a loss will be the most difficult. Later, it can become a yearly reminder of this loss. It never gets easier to experience this day, but you will find a way to survive and celebrate positive memories each year.

Lastly, there are those with complicated relationships with their mothers. The relationship might be tumultuous, which makes it painful to see others able to celebrate their mothers. This can bring up unpleasant memories or trauma reactions. These individuals have probably grown up with mothers who are critical, neglectful and even abusive. 

If you identify with any of the above groups, finding community will ease the burden of this day. You are not alone in your discomfort with the day, so seek out others who understand your experience. This could mean joining support groups, reaching out to friends, or leaning on family members. 

Written by Leina Rodriguez,  LMFT

Decluttering Your Mind: Tips for Letting Go of Negative Thoughts and Emotions

Our minds have a way of filling up quickly. New stressors build upon old ones, and soon after that, our brains can feel like quicksand that swallows negative thoughts and emotions into one big pit. We often have the urge to push negative thoughts or emotions away, letting them fall into the depths of the quicksand. These thoughts can clutter up your brain, leaving less room for relaxation and calm. 

Cue in the IMPROVE skill from dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) which comes from the distress tolerance toolkit. All skills are grounded in mindfulness to approach each moment presently. IMPROVE is intended to reframe the immediate moment when we are feeling overwhelmed by replacing the moment with more positive acts. As with most DBT skills, IMPROVE is an acronym for Imagery, Meaning, Prayer, Relaxation, One, Vacation, and Encouragement. 


Close your eyes, start taking deep breaths, and begin to imagine a scene or place that makes you feel safe. This could be the beach, a forest, or even your childhood bedroom. Get really detailed in the imagery so it feels like you are in this place. If this is your childhood bedroom, imagine the posters on your wall, the smell of your cherished body spray, or the feeling of the furry rug you had on the floor. Envelop your senses in the space you chose to imagine. The goal is to IMPROVE the moment with your safe place. 


Improve your moment with meaning by thinking about your purpose. How do you make meaning of this moment in your life? Sometimes we get lost in our daily activities and it can feel like we are on autopilot. Stop to think about the meaning or purpose behind your day to day routine.


Sometimes giving up our control to a higher power can offer us space to declutter our thoughts and emotions. This doesn’t have to tie to religion or spirituality. We can pray to anything and ask for strength during tough moments. Prayer can also be a time of self-reflection. 


Think about your preferred methods of relaxation. Improve the moment by doing an activity or reserving time for yourself. Take a hot bath (and, yes, include the bubbles), or schedule a massage. Reserve some time to watch your favorite show or sit in the park to observe your surroundings. 


Focus on one thing in the moment in front of you. What is one thing you can improve at this moment? Can you change your environment? Look at your surroundings and see if there is something that is causing your thoughts or emotions to wander. 


Plan a vacation from adulting. Improve the moment by going to the beach, taking a walk in nature, or visiting friends or family. Take a break from the decision-making and truly enjoy the moment. 


Self-encouragement can IMPROVE the moment because it comes from within. Repeat positive affirmations that motivate and empower you. It can be helpful to have a list of affirmations in your phone to reflect back on. If our negative thoughts or emotions come from the past, saying, “My past does reflect on the person I am today,” or “Those are thoughts from my past and do not hold truth today” can provide us mental space. If these thoughts are about the future, saying, “I am focusing my energy on the now” or “I am living presently and taking it day by day” will refocus you on the present moment. 

Next time you are having negative thoughts or emotions just remember to IMPROVE the moment. It is okay to have negative thoughts or emotions, but when we are feeling cluttered we can take time to acknowledge where our thoughts are coming from, and learn to reframe the moments from there.

Written by Emma Novick, LMSW

Parenting & Its Toll On Your Mental Health

Being a parent is a 24-hour-a-day, 365 days-a-year job. You never stop being a parent; not in your sleep, not at college graduation, not at their wedding, and especially not when they have kids. You will always be this human’s parent; it’s wild! You will always walk this earth wearing your heart outside of your chest. Stress and anxiety may become your forever friends; foreva-eva, foreva-eva1.

I am a Mom who experiences depression and anxiety. I am also the Mom of a 13-year-old girl who experiences depression and anxiety, so mental health is a daily conversation in our home. 

Anxiety had me in a chokehold at 13. It woke me in the middle of the night and distracted me throughout the day. When I started menstruating, my depression said, “it’s showtime”, throwing on a tophat, tails, tap shoes, and jazz hands-ing its way into my life. No one in my family knew what to do, and for years I suffered. There was a lot of crying, screaming, and panic attacks. When I became an adult, I learned about mental illness, started therapy, and found a psychiatric medication combination that fit me just right. I naively promised myself that my kid would never suffer the way I did.

Thirteen years ago, I gave birth to the most remarkable human being to walk the planet.  She was a great baby, a fun and loving toddler, and my ride-or-die until she was nine years old. At 10, anxiety, depression and puberty (a.k.a the dreaded period) came knocking and she was all, “wait til they get a load of me”. The last three years have turned my world upside down. I have never experienced this type of stress before. My anxiety levels are at an all-time high and on the weekends, I have difficulty getting out of bed.  

I was a fool because I thought I knew how to help my daughter navigate puberty. I thought I could throw on my supersuit and assemble like an Avenger with a child therapist to my right, a pediatric psychiatrist to my left. My personal knowledge and experience with depression and anxiety were my shield made of viburnum. But alas, my daughter Thanos-ed me2

Some days I truly hate being a parent and want to tap out. There are days when her anxiety triggers my anxiety, my fuse is short, patience thin, and I have an overwhelming urge to scream, “I do not like you. Please leave me alone.” It is on those days that I must dig deep into my mental health reserve and ground myself. If I’m being honest, this doesn’t always work. There are days when the only way to the other side of these feelings is through them. I let myself feel anger, rejection, shame, hurt, and exhaustion; then I get up and I try again. 

There is nothing on earth that could have protected my child for her mental health journey; she came to me hardwired. It’s important to avoid the trap of blame when it comes to our kids’ mental health. Sometimes it feels like guilt and motherhood go hand-in-hand, but then I remember that my job is not to hide her from challenging experiences, it is to help her find the right tools for her mental wellness. I want her to thrive and be happy with her life. 

Every now and then, I get glimpses that she is actually internalizing my guidance in her own way. Recently, I had a severe panic attack. It was my first one in 13 years. My daughter found me in the fetal position, hyper-venting on our kitchen floor. She talked to me, and similar to her own reaction when she is panicked, I told her to leave me alone; and just like me, she didn’t listen. The apple fell pretty close to the tree. My daughter went into action by playing the one song that she knew would calm me. She sat with me and gave me the space to get through until I felt better. When I sat up, I felt exposed and raw. I thought, “how could I let her see me in this state?”. I felt so guilty for having her take care of me. Then I remembered the times that I’ve played music for her, sat with her, and attempted to soothe and ground her came back to me.

That day, my daughter showed me that through every battle she has had at the mercy of brain chemistry, she’s felt safe, secure, and cared for in a way that she wants to replicate for others. To me, that is priceless.

Written By: A Mom

 1Outkast, “Ms. Jackson”. Ms. Jackson, 2000.

 2Whedon, J. (2012). The Avengers. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Spring Cleaning: Five Ways to Clean Out Your Anxiety

Spring is finally here! Winter can be a challenging season for any of us. The cold weather and gray skies can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder, lead to depressive feelings, or further social isolation. Spring is all about reawakening; flowers bloom, patios open up, and morning walks begin. 

‘Spring Cleaning’ is a phrase that is used to describe the deep clean we often do as Spring rolls around; winter jackets get stored, dust gets cleared, and closets are cleaned. It’s a time to refresh and look forward to warmer and sunnier days. Though we usually think of ‘Spring Cleaning’ in terms of physical space, the idea can be applied to mental health too! Below are five ways to clean out some of the anxiety of the past few months:

1. Identify Your Stressors

Sometimes we get so caught up in feeling anxious that we forget the reason we started feeling this way. Start thinking about the origins of these feelings. Did you have a stressful day at work? An argument with your partner? Maybe you are anxious about a mistake you made. Recognizing the cause of anxiety can help us understand how to move through it in a healthy way.  

2. Create a ‘Releasing Ritual’

Once you understand where your anxiety is coming from, visualize yourself releasing it. Intentional breathing can be helpful; when you exhale, think about the stressor and picture it falling away. If you want, the ritual can be a bit more physical or literal; write the stressor on a piece of paper, rip it up, and throw it out. Releasing comes in many forms, find the one that feels right for you.

3. Write Down Goals for the Future

Thinking about the future can alleviate anxiety in the present. Try to think of things you are excited for in the future. If that doesn’t work, write about something that you want to achieve, and focus your thoughts and energy on making a plan to get there. 

4. Socialize 

Spending time with friends can be a great anxiety reducing activity. Choose to surround yourself with people who make you feel positive about the future and confident in yourself. If you are comfortable, open up to your friends and family about your anxiety. They may have good resources or tips to help you with your feelings.

5. Organize

If things start to feel chaotic in your brain, organize the physical space around you. The act of organizing can settle feelings of anxiety and be a physical symbol of calmness in your mind. Traditional ‘Spring Cleaning’ might actually help you clean out your anxiety. 

These are just five examples of the many ways that you can take stock of and reduce your anxiety. Use the change in seasons as a turning point for your mental health management.

How Animals are Changing the Therapy Game

You may have heard the term “Therapy Animal”, but how much do you know about their role in the world of mental health care? As Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) becomes more mainstream, it is important that we learn their role, training, and the benefits of the animal-human bond.

First things first, let’s differentiate the titles of working animals:

  • Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT): An animal who has the training of a therapy animal (provides comfort, affection to persons in crises) but is accompanied by a handler who is a mental health professional and utilizes the animal in professional therapeutic sessions.
  • Emotional Support Animal: A companion animal that provides therapeutic benefits to individuals with a mental and/or psychiatric disability; these animals are NOT pets, (handlers with Anxiety, PTSD, or other psychiatric disabilities).
  • Service Animal: An animal who is trained to work and/or perform tasks that directly relate to their handlers’ medical needs. These animals are NOT pets, (handlers with vision or other physical impairments, seizure disorders, Autism, etc.).
  • Therapy Animals: Animals specifically trained to provide comfort and affection to people suffering from mental disorders/episodes. Animals handler can be a volunteer with no mental health training (visits hospitals, etc.).
  • Working Animal: Animals who perform specific tasks at an expert level, (detection animals or search and rescue animals).

I first knew that Gio was special when I was working with a client who was in extreme crisis. Gio allowed this client to pick him up and he just snuggled in and worked his magic! The client was able to calm themselves and engage in a therapeutic conversation.

From that moment, Gio and I engaged in multiple levels of training, and he was able to get certifications in 3 levels of Canine Good Citizenship. As the handler, I engaged in courses to teach me the skills to professional handle and engage with a therapy animal. As a licensed social worker, I have completed the coursework to be a certified Animal Assisted Intervention Professional.

DiMaggio "Gio" the dog with his blue therapy vest on

The animal-human bond has been proven unique and therapeutic. According to a 2020 article from Medical News Today, the benefits of Animal Therapy and mental health can include:

  • decreasing anxiety and stress
  • decreasing perceptions of pain
  • reducing feelings of fear or worry
  • increasing feelings of social support
  • provided motivation, stimulation, and focus

AAT is more than dogs! Cats, horses, birds, rabbits, have all been known to engage in the therapeutic process. And it is more than mental health; AAT has proven benefits with physical and occupational therapy among others. I have personally found that having Gio with me (in-person or through telehealth) can help the client relax – his antics and super cute face allow people to feel comfortable and calm. Although the concept of AAT is just starting to gain traction, I believe very soon it will become standard practice!

Written by: Melissa Mendez

5 Signs that You are a Perfectionist and How to Navigate it

Sometimes I wish I could be perfect in all aspects of life. Do you ever wish that? Do you find yourself wanting to be the perfect partner, employee, student, brother/sister, or friend? 

While the definition of perfection may vary between us, we ultimately want to achieve success because it makes us feel accomplished, validated, proud, and unstoppable. In some ways, trying to achieve perfection can increase focus and motivation. But what happens when the outcome is not perfect? How do you feel then? 

Realistically, nothing is going to be perfect, especially humans – we are built to make mistakes and learn from them. If you struggle with perfectionism, keep reading as I share five signs that you are a perfectionist and how to navigate the challenges with that come with it: 

‘Failure is Not an Option’

Fear of failure is common. Making mistakes doesn’t feel good and we might feel crummy about the mistake, but one of the best parts about life is that we can try again. If you take a chance and fail, take a lead from Aliyah and, “dust yourself off and try again.” For perfectionists, the idea of failing is paralyzing. Perfectionism hinders a person’s ability to take risks in their career or relationships, which compromises the growth that comes with failure. 

One thing I encourage patients who experience perfectionism to do is ask themselves, “what’s the worst case scenario?”. This allows you to walk through what you think might be the worst outcome(s) and help to ease any anxiety you might feel about taking a risk. The purpose of this exercise is to help you build confidence in your ability to cope with failure. It opens the door to facing your fears. 

Need for Control

Perfectionists feel the need to be in control of every situation or person they come in contact with to ensure a perfect outcome. This is not realistic, so it will often increase anxiety in folks struggling with perfectionism. A bit of advice in learning how to navigate your need for control is to identify what you do have in your control and focus on it. While it doesn’t completely dissolve the anxiety stemming from a lack of control, it is a baby step towards coping with perfectionism. 

The need for control might negatively impact your interpersonal relationships. If you find yourself struggling in your relationships due to your need for control, I encourage you to communicate with your loved ones about the anxiety and/or depression you experience when you feel a lack of control. This allows you to practice vulnerability and allows others to support you in what you need emotionally (i.e. a hug, verbal reassurance, understanding). 

Good vs Bad 

Perfectionism can ignite all-or-nothing thinking, but life does not operate on an all-or-nothing program – it exists in the gray area.  It might be paralyzing for folks with perfectionism to accept more than two outcomes in their life. One way to challenge all or nothing thinking is by reframing all-or-nothing thoughts. Ask yourself: what is another perspective on the situation? Use the answer to this to remind yourself of the variability of each situation.

Critical of Self & Others

Fear of failure, need for control, and all-or-nothing thinking creates a domino effect. For example, if you fail at something because of a lack of control, it might trigger self-critical thoughts. Alternatively, if you are a perfectionist, you might actually be fueled by self-criticism. 

Witnessing others not striving for perfection can evoke critical reactions from a perfectionist, regardless of intent. While some perfectionists thrive off of being self-critical, it is not the same for others. If you find yourself judging someone else because they are not executing a task in the ‘right way’, practice walking away from the situation or de-centering yourself from the situation. 

Self-worth is Dependent on Accomplishments

Recognizing your achievements in life can lead to increased confidence. If you work hard towards a goal and it pays off, you should celebrate that! There is nothing wrong with a desire to achieve your goals in life, whether it be in career, education, or relationships. However, if your self-worth is dependent on only your successes, you might be battling with perfectionism. 

Perfectionists often experience bouts of sadness and self-loathing if they feel they have not successfully accomplished a goal. An exercise that can help you cope with perfectionism is practicing self-compassion. For example, if you start to feel depressed due to perfectionism, talk to yourself as if a loved one was sitting in front of you, needing support. Oftentimes, it is easier for us to have more compassion for others than we do ourselves, which is why this exercise can be challenging but rewarding. 

While this blog highlights five signs of perfectionism, it does not mean you are a ‘bad’ person if you see these signs in your behavior. Anyone can address the parts of themselves that may be impacting their ability to live a fruitful life. I highly recommend you speak to your therapist or schedule an intake session with one of the many brilliant Refresh therapists who can help you work through the difficult memories and emotions that arise when you think of how perfectionism has negatively impacted your life. 

I will leave you with this, “On this sacred path of Radical Acceptance, rather than striving for perfection, we discover how to love ourselves into wholeness.” – Tara Brach (Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha). 

Dear Perfectionist:

*Written by a Perfectionist

I saw the Instagram reel your company posted, the one where you so confidently pronounced diaspora as dysphoria. I witnessed the moment when one of your staff members referenced your mistake and you assured her what you said was correct; because, “Hellllooo, you ARE Perfectionist”.  

I witnessed the bile rise in your throat, watched as you experienced panicked breathing and felt embarrassment paralyze you while you rewatched the video and realized your staffer was right. I saw you greet your ‘old buddy’ panic attack as it shook and shimmied toward your body, swaying its full hips to a sexy funk beat that engulfed you.

You say, “Hey, panic attack, I see you are back.” Every misspoken word, every misuse of their and there in a text message floods back. You were reminded of the harrowing 6th grade trip to the Circle Line, the one where you wore pastel green parachute pants and got your period, the embarrassment paralyzing you.  

Perfectionist, it is clear that you have made a mistake; another misstep, another screw up to keep you up at night. There is a new crack in the armor that you have to hastily patch up, smooth with spackle and make pretty on the outside, but you will never forget the crack that exists within. 

You are spiraling, you are making an internal list of your recent f*ck ups. Maybe it’s the poppy seed between your crooked front teeth, the instagram video, and the realization that your Gen Z staffer Regina George’d you; yes, it is a Wednesday and yes, she is wearing pink.

How do you go back when your mistakes are playing on a loop in your head?  Perfectionist, I don’t know how to go back, that science has not been created yet, or at least the man doesn’t want you to know if it has. You, my dear, have to move forward. 

Now listen to me: 

To start, you will pull yourself out of the panic and shame spiral by doing the grounding exercise your therapist at Refresh taught you: 3 things you can see, 3 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, all while taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. 

Next, when you are ready, you will calmly and confidently contact your media manager and boss, explain your error, get the video pulled, edited, and reposted lickety split. You will then put more money in Jeff Bezos’ pocket by ordering 4 containers of dental floss, one to keep with you at all times, one for your car, one for your desk, and (obviously) one for your bathroom.  

You are now grounded, relaxed, and in control. You are Perfectionist AND a Bad Mama Jama; 

Dear perfectionist, you are a work in progress. But look! You have once again reclaimed your perfectionist status, and feel you are winning at life. So why do you have a gnawing feeling in the back of your mind that you can’t keep this charade up forever…

Stay tuned on our Dear Perfectionist blogs to learn more about ways to overcome your perfectionism and build confidence in the badass that you are (mistakes and all!)


Mean Girls. Directed by Melanie Mayron and Mark Waters, performances by Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Tina Fey, and Tim Meadows, 2004.

How to Let Go of Perfectionism and Fill Your Cup

Perfectionism is associated with a range of mental health problems including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Perfectionism can manifest in different areas of your life, ranging from a preoccupation with making “perfect” impressions in social situations, to always getting an A+ in class or knocking it out of the park at work. Some may argue that perfectionism can be healthy, but it is important to note that there is a difference between adaptive, goal-driven ambition and a maladaptive need to be perfect. While the former can push you forward in pursuit of your vision, the latter keeps you in the cycle of self-criticism, avoidance, and disappointment. 

So how can you move past this debilitating perfectionist mind-trap?

To start, it’s important to understand the root cause(s) of your perfectionism. Everyone is different, but there are some common themes that play a role in the development of perfectionistic tendencies. These tendencies can start with parents who – consciously or unconsciously – prioritized external achievements such as getting good grades, over internal values such as hard work or authentic expression. By promoting this outcome-oriented mentality, a child learns to associate these external achievements with their sense of self-worth, paving the way for a perfection-complex.  

Whatever your perfectionism origin story, it is well worth doing some digging in order to deepen your understanding of the factors involved. Perfectionists may have endured harsh criticism from friends, family members, or authority figures, sending the message that “you must always do better in order to be good enough”. Perfectionists are often gifted individuals whose lofty potential casts an ever-present veil of expectation over their actions; which can prompt heightened pressure and scrutiny from those around them.

To move beyond this maladaptive pattern, it is useful to think about how your perfectionism impacts your life. Does it affect your productivity? How does it affect your social life? Your self-esteem? What is the cost of being a perfectionist? Write down a list of answers to these questions to visualize the daily impact of your perfectionism. You may start to consider whether it is truly worth your time to spend 45 minutes crafting an eloquent email to your co-worker, or always ensuring that your makeup is applied with exquisite precision. What is the downside of achieving that perfection?  

As a perfectionist, you are likely your own worst critic, but you almost certainly fear the criticism of others – particularly those whose opinions you hold in high esteem. The greater the fear of criticism, the greater the need to be perfect. Part of breaking down the walls of perfectionism involves building a tolerance for healthy, constructive criticism. This does not mean that you need to throw yourself headfirst into the line of fire, but when the stakes are low, you might consider rethinking your standards by just a notch or two. You may find that the criticism you were bracing for never comes – but if it does, you can handle it.  Most people dislike criticism, but the greater your ability to withstand it, the more effectively you can pursue what matters to you.  

The most challenging part of overcoming perfectionism is coming to terms with the fact that humans are flawed, including you. Being perfect leads to a slew of practical and psychological issues, but it affords the vague and brief assurance that if you did everything right, you can keep yourself – and everyone else – happy. In order to truly move forward, you have to grieve the loss of this fantasy and come to terms with your authentic, flawed, self. No matter your particular brand of perfectionism is, ask yourself who you would be without it, and if that version of you could be happier and enjoy life to its fullest. By coming to terms with your flaws and differences, you let self-love into your life.

This can be a scary process, but on the other side of it is a version of yourself that doesn’t live in chronic fear of disappointment, criticism, or rejection. It is a version of you that doesn’t lose sleep over your mistakes, and prioritizes experiences based on your wants and needs instead of your fears and insecurities. It may be useful to repeat daily affirmations of your worth, with or without perfection.

If you are unsure of where to start, or feel that you could benefit from some guidance, consider reaching out to a therapist.

They can work with you to recognize your personal progress and promote healthy changes to your mindset. At Refresh Psychotherapy, we understand perfectionism and want to help you move past it. Contact us at for a consultation.

Written By Eli Wilson-Berkowitz

The Connection Between Perfectionism & Mental Health

Perfectionists derive their value from positive recognition from others. It is no wonder that we exclaim, “perfect!”, for the things we see as positive. When we hear that something is perfect, we often feel relieved and accept it as a well-intentioned compliment. However, perfectionism has another side to it that can serve as an indicator of mental health needs. Behind perfectionist behaviors, feelings such as insecurity, inadequacy, low self-esteem, anger, dissatisfaction with reality, self-contempt, and anxiety can be found. Perfectionism can create a false sense of wellness and short-term soothing for perfectionists.

An example of a perfectionist is someone who feels they are inadequate because they make less money than their partner. They might hyperfocus on organization of the household because of this. Though the person may gain a temporary sense of ease from the sights of their perfect-looking home and may be distracted from the original issue, the emotional need continues to remain unmet.

Perfectionism is a coping skill that rarely meets its intended goal of feeling adequate with a healthy sense of self. Instead, it can perpetuate an unstable self-perception that is based on the recognition of others. Your relationships and your experiences suffer because you struggle to develop an acceptance of who you are, just as you are. Perfectionism doesn’t push you to be better, it ignores your unique power and potential for growth.

You may have recognized how exhausting perfectionism can be as a lifestyle and you may want to be fulfilled in different ways. Psychotherapy is a tool to help you discover information hidden in your emotions that can lead to greater meaning in your life, enhanced confidence, and self-acceptance. It may be hard for you to access your emotions, let alone name what they are. After all, you may have been taught that emotions are irrelevant or even been put down for expressing them. But wasn’t it your painful feelings that perfectionism tried to cover up? 

At Refresh, our therapists can help you understand yourself on a deeper level and reach a healthier sense of self; a person who is more accepting of their imperfections. Just remember, a healthier, more balanced emotional life is at the root of much of what we do. Let’s build a firm foundation.

By Jacqueline McIntosh, LCSW CASAC

Is it 5′ o’clock Yet? : How to Stay Motivated at Work

We have all been there; staring at the clock moving minute-by-minute, waiting for the end of the work day. Staying motivated throughout the day is challenging and (unfortunately) common. Expecting yourself to be motivated 24/7 is unrealistic, but if you find yourself struggling more than usual, here are some tips that can help. 

1. Listen to a Podcast

Listening to an uplifting podcast can increase internal motivation, which can help you regain focus and concentration. For me, listening to Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast is a great way to feel rejuvenated during the workday. I recommend choosing a podcast that will spark a smile or a laugh. If you find yourself losing momentum at work, throw on your headphones and try out a podcast. 

2. Ask an Important Question

Who or what brings you joy? I recommend looking at a picture of your favorite person or animal to remind you of the things you love. If a picture doesn’t work, try thinking about the yummy dinner you’ll be preparing or the social plans you have after work. Remind yourself of what brings you joy; this can spark motivation to move towards that very thing. 

3. Take your Break

Please, please take your lunch break. This recommendation may sound simple, but is an important reminder that we all need to hear. Sometimes stepping away from a work task might actually help you create fresh ideas when you return. I encourage everyone to take their break to refuel their body by eating, drinking water, or going for a walk. When you schedule your future break you’re more likely to actually take it. I’ll be sure to block off mine too! 

4. Call a Loved One

It’s normal for motivation to come and go throughout the day. Picking up the phone or texting a loved one and asking for support can be a game changer! I encourage you to call someone who can provide reassurance or validation while you move through your day. Receiving external validation can help normalize your experience. So call your support system, and you may get the added benefit of being hyped up by your favorite person! 

Lastly, I cannot stress enough how normal it is to feel a lack of motivation at work. There will be some days where you just can’t regain motivation, and that is okay! Above all else, have compassion towards yourself during those difficult times at work. Focus on what brings you joy: phoning a loved one, practicing breathing, repeating affirmations, or listening to a podcast. You got this!

Written by Olivia Alvizo, LMSW

The Importance of Community: Understanding Group Therapy

When it comes to our emotional and mental well-being, there is one powerful thing that is often overlooked: community. In a world where we’re taught to be independent and self-sufficient, it’s easy to forget the impact of community.

One way to foster community in a safe setting is Group Therapy. These groups consist of individuals who come together to work through a common challenge. While individual therapy is a powerful tool for personal growth, group therapy offers a unique experience that can help create open spaces and improve support systems.

Group therapy provides a space for people to give and receive support. When we share our challenges with others, we open ourselves up to the possibility of receiving the help and support we need. On the flip side, when we offer support to others, we are reminded of our own strengths and abilities to make a positive impact on the world. This can help us to build our self-esteem and make us feel more connected to the world around us.

The importance of community cannot be overstated. Rarely are we given the opportunity to be in a space that is dedicated to emotional connection. Group therapy is a way to tap into the power of community and experience the impact it can have on our lives. Creating relationships through group therapy offers the opportunity for connections with people working towards a similar goal. 

If building a support network appeals to you, consider reaching out to a therapist and exploring the option of group therapy. You never know, it might just be the community you need to help you on your healing journey.

Written by Declan Taintor, Anna Kushner, Katherine Heidelberger, and Julia Newberry Means

Visit for more information on the groups we are offering at this time.

Life Changing Time Management Skills That You Can Start Today

One of my favorite quotes about the human experience is ‘we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit’.  It reminds me that achieving more is less about a single instance of herculean greatness, and more about creating consistent habits that allow us to achieve goals. One of the most common challenges to building good habits is time management. Here are four approaches to increasing consistency and improving time management. Some people say that preparation is half the battle, but I would argue that it is the battle. Incorporating these first two habits in order should help you win this hypothetical war. 

1. Schedule the Time and Place

The first step to developing strong time management skills is scheduling the time and the place where you will do an activity. Clarifying this foundational information for yourself can exponentially increase the odds that you will engage in your goal behavior.

2. Prepare Your Environment

When you are in environments set to facilitate a task, it is much easier to engage with the task itself. Think of going to the gym and why it’s much easier to exercise there than it may be just sitting in your basement. If you’re working out from home, putting together the dumb bells, the outfit you’ll wear, setting up the TV, and the exercise machine the night before will help you wake up in the morning and be many steps closer to actually doing the exercises.

3. Try the Eisenhower Matrix.

It can help us decide where to start, what to schedule for later, what to delegate, and what to delete. Below is a quick overview of this method:

Try focusing on what has a deadline or severe repercussions for not being completed on time. Follow that by things that are important but not urgent. Schedule them for a definitive time and place at a later time. Next, Focus on the tasks that are urgent but not important, that is to say they need to be done but not necessarily done by you. Letting go of the little things and asking for help can greatly improve our ability to focus on what’s important. Lastly, our deleted items. These are things that aren’t important or urgent. I urge you to simply let them go. Recognizing that something can be deleted from our calendar is just as, if not more, important as recognizing that there is something that needs top priority.

4. Start with the Hardest Task

Once you’ve organized yourself, you can maximize efficiency by starting with the hardest task you have. This method of task management is called ‘eating the frog’. The idea is that if you have to eat a frog at some point during your day, it’s best to do it first and then have more ’frog free’ hours. If you wait until later in the day you may end up worrying about small details related to the frog, or doing other tasks that aren’t as important. You will continue to be stuck with a large task that requires a lot of energy at the end of your day. 

Always remember that time is a resource. Mastering our time management to maximize our efficiency is one step towards thriving in your personal and work life.

Written by Karl Smith, LMSW

Black Mental Health Matters: Accepting Therapy Within the Community

I had my first panic attack at age 5. Heart pounding, I couldn’t hear anything but the blood rushing to my head. I felt dizzy, my vision blurred and I couldn’t breathe. I owe all of this to Eddie Murphy. I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch Eddie play Buckwheat on Saturday Night Live. My father found me and calmed me. He helped me through the first of many panic attacks and eventually got me to bed. 

I spent the first half of my life afraid of death, spiraling late at night when it was dark. I was alone in my room thinking of being in a casket, fearing the unknown, and eventually screaming for my Dad to help me; which he always did. We would breathe, he would rub my back, tell me not to worry, and sit with me until my attacks subsided and I was able to sleep. My father loved me with all of his heart but he didn’t have the tools to get me the mental health help I needed.

My father didn’t know how to find a child therapist for his daughter. As kind and gentle as he was, he also didn’t know how to access his emotions, and he shut down when bad things happened. He would compartmentalize his feelings and focus on what needed to be fixed, not the thoughts and feelings behind them.  

My wonderful father is not a unicorn when it comes to Mental Health in the black community; my dad was a tough NYC pigeon; always there, willing to get through challenges using his instincts, but not able to ask the snow birds for help to get to the warmer places where the fruit was in abundance, and sun shined bright. 

Many black children born in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s were told the same tropes “don’t talk about it outside of the family”, “Pastor will help, bring it to God”, “Don’t leave the kids alone with Uncle Leroy”, “You know cousin April’s not right in the head”. We were told these things because even for the wealthiest of us, mental health and therapy were luxuries for white people. The idea was that we didn’t have time to stop and feel because we had to deal with everyday microaggressions. Our options for judgment-free faces that looked like ours (outside of the religious arenas) were few and far between. ‘Social worker’ became a pseudonym for one who takes your kids. The idea of sharing our thoughts and feelings for 60 minutes was foreign, so we expressed our need for therapy in the ways our ancestors did; in song, in literature, in protest. However, we came to learn that therapy is not a “white” thing. We started to put the pieces of the puzzles together, and found that if we continued to hold all of our thoughts and feelings inside, we would be calming our kids from 2 am panic attacks for the rest of our days.  

We began to seek therapy, and soon were able to recognize the need to understand our thoughts and feelings better, process our generational grief, and recognize that we want to do the same for others in our community. 

Our move toward mental health in the black community is ongoing, we are bravely sharing our stories in private with our therapists, some of whom look and sound like us. We are doing the work to feel and be better. Our language around who we are and how we see ourselves and our kids is changing.  We celebrate “Black Boy Joy”  and  “Black Girl Magic”. We are shouting “Me Too” to sexual injustice and processing it.

The world may be pushing back on our growth with more injustice and, yes, it hurts us, but we are also better equipped to handle these challenges because of the work we choose to do on our mental health. Black women and men are choosing to say “Enough! I can’t be strong all of the time. I need you to see and accept my vulnerability.” As Rihanna said to our white allies “Come Thru” so we are not fighting this alone.

We are choosing to prioritize our health in every way, so if our kids or our grandkids are anxious, depressed, demonstrating symptoms of OCD, have Bipolar Disorder or BPD, we will recognize it and be able to walk in their room at night to comfort them and take them to their weekly therapy sessions where they will learn tools to be the best version of themselves.

Written by: Patricia Valencia MS, LMHC

How to Focus on Progress Instead of Perfection

Our learned measures of progress stem from our earliest years. In school, we are taught to strive for the best grades. We measure these grades down to percentage points, and progress in class is directly related to your percentage point. We are told that an ‘A’ is the best grade; the closest to perfection. A perfectionist’s mindset exists within the frame. You always want to get 100%, and will do all of the studying and extra credit to get there. Maybe that process worked in school, where we are measured by points, but real life does not provide you with your percentage. We have to learn how to appreciate our work, instead of perfecting it.

Try writing down your list of accomplishments each week.

These should be small, ranging from ‘got out of bed’ to ‘made dinner twice this week’. The purpose of this list is to appreciate the little things that we do each day. All of these small accomplishments are just as important as the big ones, because they keep you going each day and allow you to accomplish your larger goals.

You are not the sum of your productivity. Being productive feels great, but it does not define who you are. Remind yourself of who you are without all of the accolades and accomplishments. Understanding who you are without your tangible accomplishments will give you clarity about your value. 

Reframe your negative thoughts.

It can be uncomfortable for a perfectionist to feel like they have failed. Instead of making a mistake and internalizing it as a flaw in yourself, try putting the situation into perspective. Maybe you had a bad day at work and felt like you didn’t get anything done. That’s ok! Remind yourself that this is just one day of many. Your growth stems from being resilient after failure, not being perfect all of the time.

Part of appreciating your progress is taking pride in the work that you do; not just the end product. Each small task brings you closer to completing a big one. Take time to think about where you started and how far you’ve come.

Written by Jessy Pucker, LMSW
Photo credit: Pexels

Nobody’s Perfect: 5 Signs You’re Being Too Hard on Yourself at Work

Do you find yourself creating negative thought loops in your mind when you are at work? Do you feel like your work stresses bleed into your personal time? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Below is a list of five signs that you are being too hard on yourself at work. 

  1. You find yourself second-guessing all of your decisions
  2. You say ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’ll never be able to understand this’
  3. Your manager tells you that you are being too hard on yourself
  4. You have trouble creating boundaries between work and your personal life
  5. Your self-confidence lowers (both in and out of work)

It can take a while to change your self-perception at work from negative to positive. Start by identifying the negative thoughts you have about yourself related to work. Is there a common theme? Once you start to notice a theme or specific thoughts that come up, try to identify triggers. Are you doing a specific type of work when you feel this way? Are there certain circumstances in the workplace that feel uncomfortable? By understanding your triggers, you are collecting evidence about your thought process. Once you understand the origins of your thoughts and their triggers, you can change them! 

Remind yourself that just because you don’t understand something now doesn’t mean you will never understand it. You can learn about the task or ask co-workers how they do it. Try not to speak in absolutes; using the words ‘never’ or ‘always’ limits your capabilities and potential. Lastly, think about the life you have outside of work. Your performance at work doesn’t have to be an indicator of your performance in life. 

Practice these tools. Give yourself time to grow. If you do so, you will likely find that your performance and experience at work will improve.

Photo credit: Pexels

Written by Jessy Pucker, LMSW

3 Good Morning Habits for a Successful Start to your Day

Do you wake up feeling groggy and unprepared to start your day? This is a common experience, especially in the winter months when there is less sunlight. A morning routine is a good way to rev your engine and start your day on a positive note. 

Make sure you set realistic goals for improving your mornings. For example, if you want to wake up earlier, try doing so incrementally; wake up 10 minutes earlier for a week, then push it up to 20 minutes the next week, and so on. Below are three suggestions for healthy morning habits, but your routine is personal to you. Choose activities that feel energizing for you!

1. Create a wake up playlist

Make a playlist to match the way you want to wake up; this can be gentle, fast-paced, happy, or anything in between. These songs will mark the start of your day and set the mood for your wake up. 

2. Get your body moving 

A morning workout is great, but can feel ambitious for some people. Moving your body can mean anything from intense cardio to easy stretching. The nature of the movement doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you start your day doing something positive for yourself. 

3. Repeat a morning affirmation

Crease a phrase that you wake up and say every morning. This can be anything that will open you up to the day and motivate you to get started. Some examples include, ‘I am excited about this day!’, or ‘Today I will be kind to myself’. 

No matter what you choose for your routine, the most important part is getting your feet on the ground and keeping that momentum throughout the day. Some mornings will be harder than others, but try to keep building your habits to the point where they feel automatic.

Written by Jessy Pucker, LMSW

Accepting Good Enough

Perfect is a word that gets thrown around a lot. Especially for high achieving professionals, perfect is the ultimate and constant goal: the perfect client pitch, the perfectly planned event, the perfect employee or boss. For some people, their perfectionism is seen as a superpower. It acts as an internal motivation that they use to succeed personally and professionally. Perfect, however, can also be a thought trap that keeps us from connecting with others, living lives with rational expectations, and can be the source of anxiety and depression. Sometimes, it can even be a barrier that prevents us from trying something in the first place.

Perfect isn’t so perfect after all. As we move into 2023, with Covid-19 still on our heels and a potential recession on the horizon, the world is only becoming less straightforward and the definition of perfect less tangible. Striving for perfect only causes more anxiety, more depression, and more frustration. So how can we move forward? By changing our thinking about “perfect” and finding ways to let go of an impossible standard that many times is only being applied to us by ourselves. In order to break these thought patterns and combat perfectionism, one option is to implement a cognitive model known as “good enough.”

Originally coined by psychoanalyst Dr. Donald Winnicott while working with mothers in the UK on their parenting, “good enough” is a framework to approach everyday tasks. Winnicott observed that while some mothers strove to be the perfect parent, it was the “good enough” mothers, the ones who made small manageable mistakes, who raised better adjusted children. Children of “good enough” mothers were forced to accept disappointment, self soothe, and move on. This led to stronger mental resilience as adults. 

So how does this concept applied to British mothers apply to our lives? My favorite corny joke highlights this perfectly:

“Q: What do you call the medical student who graduated at the bottom of their class?

A: Doctor.” 

While perfectionists focus on this person’s class ranking, “good enough” allows us to recognize that they’ve accomplished the real goal, graduating. Fully embracing “good enough” frees us from trying to be perfect beings in an imperfect world. 

So the next time you are stuck on a task at work or home, ask yourself whether the task needs to be perfectly done, or just done. Does that email need to be rewritten five times, or does it just need to be sent?  Does your child’s bed need hospital corners, or does it just need to be made?

Photo Credit: Pexels

Written by Karl Smith, LMSW

Learn How and When to Say ‘No’

As a therapist, I use the word ‘boundaries’ a lot. We set them, we hold them, we break them; this is the reality of having interpersonal relationships. Learning how to say ‘no’ is hard. Depending on your identity, you may have been taught to be service-oriented and agreeable. This means that saying ‘no’ is breaking the social code by which you live. Knowing your boundaries and being comfortable saying ‘no’ go hand-in-hand. 

Enforcing your boundaries is a good way to avoid resentment. If we are always saying ‘yes’ to things that can stretch us thin, resentment builds towards the people who are asking us. In the short term it might feel easier to just agree and sacrifice your time for others, but as this continues frustration boils below the surface. This is an uncomfortable feeling that is easily avoided by making a choice that is healthy for you (which sometimes means saying ‘no’). 

If the idea of saying ‘no’ feels overwhelming to you, there are ways of saying it in a gentler tone. If you can’t do something because you are already overwhelmed and don’t want to add more to your plate, it is ok to say that! You are in charge of your own schedule. Being truthful about the reasoning behind your choice takes the weight off of having to make up an excuse. 

Start small. If you are a people-pleaser, putting your needs above others’ can feel insurmountable. The more you practice, the easier it gets. Start by declining a casual social invite that you aren’t interested in. As you do this and realize the benefits of choosing yourself, saying ‘no’ will become easier. 

Saying ‘no’ points to your autonomy. You, as a person in this world, have a right to create a boundary and hold it. It should be mentioned that saying ‘no’ will not always go well, especially when you are expected to do as you are told. This can be intimidating, but enforcing your boundaries can be empowering. The consequences of confrontation have to be weighed against your recognition of your own power. Saying ‘no’ is an indicator to yourself and others that you are the driver of your life, and the maker of your decisions.

Written by Jessy Pucker, LMSW

Tools for Dealing with Anxiety During the Holidays

The Holidays can be a time of high-highs and low-lows. Our collective anxiety increases with the expectations that come with this time of year. Family gatherings, holiday parties, and the uncertainty of the next year can create a mix of excitement and anxiety. Uncertainty and expectation are a breeding ground for increased anxiety.

The management of these feelings is the key to improving your Holiday experience. It is important for you to remember that these feelings are normal! Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Instead of being frustrated about these feelings, try to develop mechanisms to move through them. Below are a few tools to get your through Holiday Anxiety:

Take a moment to yourself

Being surrounded by people can be exhausting. If you are spending the Holidays with family, friends, or others, give yourself small breaks from socializing. When you start to feel irritability arise, leave the room and spend a few minutes alone. This will help you keep your social battery charged. 

Identify your outlets

If you start to feel anxious around this time of year, try to identify an outlet for these emotions. This can be anything ranging from venting to a close friend or taking long walks with music; whatever helps you feel calmer. Think of these outlets as a way to release some of the pressure from the expectations of this time of year. 

Be kind to yourself

Anxiety has a way of feeding on itself. When it starts to feel overwhelming, remind yourself that you are strong; you have gotten through this emotion before and you will do it again. Rather than blame yourself for feeling this way, be a comfort to yourself. If you start to feel lost in an anxiety spiral, stay grounded by speaking in a gentle, soft voice to yourself. 

Emotions run high during the Holidays, so make sure you are caring for yourself in the process!

Written by Jessy Pucker, LMSW

How to Find a Therapist That is Right for You

A positive relationship between a client and therapist is based on trust and open communication. When you feel comfortable and connected to your therapist, the therapy itself improves. You will likely allow yourself to be more vulnerable because you know the person on the other end is trustworthy and cares for you. Every therapeutic relationship is different. One friend might have a ‘tough love’ relationship with their therapist, while another has a light-hearted or humorous one. Neither of these is right or wrong; a good relationship with a therapist is dependent on you and your needs

Therapy does not always feel good. Some sessions can be challenging and painful. Working with a therapist who you trust and do not feel judged by is essential in these moments. If you trust your therapist is helping to guide you to something positive, these painful sessions can feel like part of a larger (and important!) process. 

Try to find someone whose focus aligns with your goals.

For example, if a therapist has a lot of experience working with Depression, they might be helpful for someone who is dealing with low-mood. This is not to say that your therapist has to specialize in your issue, but that can be a helpful starting point in the search. 

Ask for a consultation or screening call.

Some therapists offer phone consultations to help both the client and therapist decide if they are a good match. Try to identify goals and expectations before your first meeting so that you decide if the therapist will be helpful with those. 

Listen to your gut.

If after a few sessions you start to feel like you aren’t connecting with your therapist, it is ok to tell them. This is a conversation that can either lead to an improved relationship or a referral to another therapist who might better suit your needs. Don’t be afraid to tell your therapist about these hesitations; the more open you can be, the more effective the work will be.

Making the decision to go to therapy is brave. Finding the right therapist can be hard, but it is worth the effort. Remember that this is a process that takes time, but it is time well spent in the service of taking care of yourself.

Written by Jessy Pucker, LMSW

Goal Setting: How to Envision the Future

We are taught that setting goals helps us progress in life, but are rarely told how to set them. Goals are nuanced, and our circumstances impact the types of goals that we can create. Two people may have the same goal of ‘being a CEO’, but depending on their identity, and taking intersectionality into account, one person may be far more likely to achieve the goal. This doesn’t mean that the person less likely shouldn’t try, but it does mean that their path to progress will look different. If you feel like your path to progress is covered in obstacles, it’s time to start thinking about how to set your goals for success.

First, think about your long-term goal. Write it out, envision it, try to think about what your life would be like if you achieved it. Think of the ways your life would be different if you completed this goal. 

Next, ask yourself why you want to reach this goal. On the same piece of paper, under the goal, write out your motivators for doing it. Is it to create a better life for your family? To be more confident in yourself? There are endless reasons for us to want to achieve, but our intrinsic motivation is essential to starting. These motivators will help you keep moving towards these goals, even when you feel worn out. 

After you understand your motivators, think about the path to achievement. Set a realistic timeline for yourself. Will it take two weeks? Two years? Give yourself a range of time. When we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and do not reach them, it can negatively impact our self-esteem and resilience. 

Once the timeline is made, write out all of the little achievements and steps it will take to get there. Make these small steps as simple as possible. Soon after, you will begin achieving them, and this achievement will motivate you to continue towards your larger goal. 

Writing all of this down in one place is a good way to organize yourself. When you feel unmotivated or exhausted, revisit the reasons you are doing this work, and start going after your shorter-term goals. There is power in momentum, and the more you feel like you’ve achieved, the more you will want to continue achieving.

Photo Credit: Canva

Written by Jessy Pucker, LMSW

Moving Through Anxiety

Anxiety is a common and natural feeling. It can arise when we are uncomfortable, unprepared, or worried. Anxiety manifests in the body through a series of symptoms including elevated heart rate, strained breathing, trouble concentrating, and more. Take a moment to reflect on your physical symptoms when you feel stressed. Some people develop subconscious self-soothing methods like pulling your hair, biting your nails, and bouncing your legs. Listen to your body; if you notice yourself doing some of these actions, it can be a sign that you are feeling anxious. 

There are countless ways to manage anxiety; some healthy, some harmful. If you have found a way that works for you, use it! We each have a toolkit to manage our feelings. Take a moment to think about which tools you have, and which you may need to add. If you need some help finding one, below is a list of healthy ways to move through feelings of anxiety:

1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

If you have 10 minutes to yourself and access to a comfortable spot, then you have all that you need to try this exercise. It is a combination of breathing and muscle relaxation. Click here to find out more. 

2. Move Your Body

Movement helps us release some of the stress that builds in our bodies when we feel anxious. This does not require a full workout. Try running in place for 30 seconds or dancing in your room. When you move in this way, it releases endorphins that promote feelings of wellbeing. 

3. Put Your Phone Away

Try to stay in the moment. Distracting yourself from the anxiety does not allow room for you to move through it and process the event that triggered the feeling. It can be challenging to let yourself feel uncomfortable, but it is empowering to be able to self-soothe without distraction.

Though we all experience anxiety, it is important to note that some people experience it more acutely and sometimes without a trigger; this could be Generalized Anxiety disorder. If you feel that your anxiety impacts your day-to-day life, go to to book an appointment with one of our clinicians today.

How to Set Boundaries at Work

When we read self-help books, inspirational social media posts, or read about self-care activities, one phrase is always present: ‘work-life balance’. We are told how important it is for our mental health. We are told that without it we will develop anxiety or fall behind on taking care of ourselves. Sometimes it feels like a heavy burden to have to find the perfect ‘work-life balance’. There is pressure to do it all, and do it well.

‘Work-life balance’ does not mean the same thing for any two people. We can’t even hold ourselves to the same exact balance everyday because different parts of our lives need more attention at different times. 

One way to keep up with your ‘balance’ is to create boundaries at work. No matter where you work or how you work, boundaries can help improve your experience in and out of the workplace. These boundaries can come in various forms; conversations with your manager, physical space, separation rituals, and many more. Below is a list of how-to’s for boundary-setting at work:

  1. Identify what you need from yourself to have a manageable workload.
  2. Identify what you need from your boss to have a manageable workload.
  3. Ask yourself: what is the role of work in your life? In your identity?
  4. Find a song or video to play when you are done with work. Play this song at the end of every work day. This will create a connection between the song and work ending.
  5. Create open lines of communication with your colleagues. This will help you express your needs if you are feeling overwhelmed. 

Boundaries take work because they require reinforcement. Build the habit, continue to stick by your boundaries, and you will see an improvement in your ‘work-life balance’.

Photo Credit: Canva

Written by Jessy Pucker, LMSW

How to Balance Family, Work, and Living in Today’s America

Today’s America looks very different from America pre-pandemic. It’s important to acknowledge the difficulties in balancing and living as there are times where the two struggle to co-exist. 

While battling inflation, possible layoffs, health scares, and the upcoming holiday season, the looming stress can feel like a burden. So here are some tips to preserve your peace amidst the stress of today’s America.

Take a mental health day:

There are times when our work schedules become overwhelming and we need a day to recuperate. You can choose how to spend your day; whether it’s sleeping, completing your favorite hobby, taking a walk in the park, watching your favorite show, or doing absolutely nothing because you deserve it.


When things feel off-balance, it can feel good to clean your space. Our space can reflect the chaos in our minds. This can be physical space such as an apartment or office, or mental space. To support clearing your mental space, try meditating using an app called HeadSpace or Youtube meditations. You can also use yoga, mindfulness, or free writing.

Say NO:

Yes, you read right. Sometimes it feels easier to say yes than to muster the courage of ‘no’. When you recognize the value of your time, it becomes easier to make that decision. If you are feeling tired and at your wits end, boundaries may be the key to moving forward. 

If this is something that feels hard, make a list as to why.  

Is it hard because you don’t want to disappoint others? Yourself? 

What about the time it takes from your already full day? 

If you didn’t complete the task, what would happen? To you? To them?

Oftentimes, we create barriers as to why we CAN’T say no and not for why we CAN say no.If this resonates with you, check out Refresh’s newest therapy group about boundaries at:

Photo Credit: Canva
Written by Iyesha Gatling, LMFT

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