COVID-19 Update

We remain open for all of current clients and welcome incoming clients that would like to schedule an intake appointment. Our appointments are virtual at this time, per the CDC recommendations. We will resume in-office appointments once we are able to, and you are welcome to transition into an in-office visit at that time. If you have insurance questions regarding telehealth, please give us a call, email, or text and we would be happy to look into your benefits; most major insurers are covering telehealth services as the pandemic continues.

Some of our incoming clients are interested in working through anxiety, sadness, and concerns about the personal and global impact of the pandemic. Others are seeking support in dealing with needs that were pre-exisiting. We are here to help support anyone seeking services, regardless of insurance status and needs. We truly believe we are all in this together and want to support the local and national efforts to work as a community. Please reach out if we can be of help and/or connect you to additional resources. We strive to respond to all inquiries as quickly as possible.

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Anybody Like Me

Melissa’s blog, Anybody Like Me, is dedicated to people sharing their stories- in particular, sharing stories of situations and experiences that have led them to ask, “is there anybody out there like me?” In hope of connecting people, Anybody Like Me is here for you to share your story, or read someone else’s. A lot of human experiences are shared in many ways, and Anybody Like Me is a way to connect through other’s anonymous stories. Check out our blog today and find connection.

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melissa: welcome december

December has arrived and with it, the last days of the year. I particularly like to spend time in December reflecting on the year that is nearly behind us, even amidst the ever-growing to-do list and holiday bustling. In my reflections today, I came across the poem below that summed up some of those reflection thoughts well. Welcome December and all of our musings; may we find some moments of peace and joy in the mix of the busy-ness that is our daily life.

“I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December.

A magical thing

And sweet to remember.

‘We are nearer to Spring

Than we were in September,’

I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December.”

— Oliver Herford

 

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

mindful moment

You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.

Deep down in the human spirit, there is a reservoir of courage.

It is always available, always waiting to be discovered.

Just where you are; that’s the place to start.

-Pema Chödrön

melissa: diaphragmatic breathing

These days it seems we can all use as many healthy relaxation techniques as we can get. One of the easiest and most accessible techniques is breathing, specifically diaphragmatic breathing.  According to Arlin Cunic, MA, of Very Well Mind, “deep breathing helps you to avoid the “fight-or-flight” response to stressful situations. In these situations, your body’s automatic systems are on high alert and signal your heart to beat faster and breathing rate to increase. By consciously becoming aware of your breathing and regulating its depth and rate, the likelihood of spiraling into a panic or anxiety attack is lowered.”

Sounds wonderful, right? If you want to give it a try, I recommend doing the breathing exercises at least once per day, usually before bed or in the morning, though you can access this breathing exercise any time you want to lower your anxiety and/or stress levels.

To try a round of diaphragmatic breathing, you can follow Harvard’s instructions:

  • Lie on your back on a flat surface (or in bed) with your knees bent. You can use a pillow under your head and your knees for support, if that’s more comfortable.
  • Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the air in deeply, towards your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position.

Additionally, visuals of how the breathing is done are here. Want to learn more about diaphragmatic breathing? You can find more information here and here. Let the deep breathing begin!

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

mindful moment

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it.

Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.

-Barbara Kingsolver

melissa: organize it

Ever since becoming a therapist over a decade ago, I’ve found that concrete tasks are some of the most rewarding tasks one can do for instant gratification. Life, with all its complex twists and turns, often leaves a lot of things undone, slow to unfold, or in limbo. All these twists and turns and ups and downs can create and contribute to a sense of unease and anxiety.

What’s the anecdote to managing life’s complications and stressors? I’m not fully sure. But I know therapy helps, as does fostering connection to others, sleeping enough, moving our bodies…and the process of organizing, fixing, and completing tasks. Organizing a drawer? Very soothing.  Cleaning out a fridge? Unpleasant but gratifying. Getting your boxes from Amazon all broken down an actually into the recycle bin? Massive accomplishment. Shredding your shred pile? Also very rewarding. Power washing your sidewalk? Proud feelings ensue. You get the theme here, I’m sure, and likely also relate.

When you take a moment and pause, I’m sure you, too, can think of tasks that foster a sense of wellbeing, even if for a brief moment.  Psychologically, our brains like tasks that we can start and finish within a short time frame. It helps feel a sense of accomplishment, as well as a sense of control. There’s a wonderful article here about the benefits of concrete tasks and the fix it mindset for helping to support our mental health during difficult times. There’s also a book Things Come Apart that discusses, in part, this same concept. What will your fix it or organize task be today? Mine is taking all of my mugs from my desk to the dishwasher. What task will you conquer next? The world is your oyster.

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

mindful moment

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like…do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?

When there is silence, one finds the anchor of the universe within oneself. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

-Lao Tzu

melissa: sleep during a pandemic

Many topics are seemingly fairly universal in therapy; for example, we often discuss stress management, communication styles and conflict, and balancing needs of others versus self. One topic that seems particularly top of mind during pandemic times is sleep. Never not tired, as many people report. Waking up “refreshed” can often seem like a thing of the past. Different types of sleep issues come up for different people, though some of the most common maladies are known as early, middle and/or late insomnia: difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or early waking and and having trouble falling back asleep. Given the fairly ongoing reports of sleep and fatigue challenges, sleep hygiene during a pandemic is pretty serious business. Common areas we explore are the usual suspects of caffeine, eating late, room temperatures, running to do list, screen time, etc. I also like to think through the not so usual suspects: did I think through one positive thing that happened today, an intention for tomorrow, gratitude for a small win, or plans for joy the next day? Often, reorganizing our thinking is one way to create a new sleep pattern.

Admittedly, I don’t think my watching Squid Game before bed is working in my favor, personally, but nonetheless, we can all strive to improve our sleep hygiene and hope for a refreshed start one of these days. What will be your new sleep strategy? Not sure? There are lots of suggestions here. Additiontally, there are mental health workout concepts and suggestions here. In the meantime, you’ll find me trying to watch Squid Game during the day…and reading a calming book before bed, instead..maybe.

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

 

mindful moment

There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow.

-Orison Swett Marden

melissa: preparing for what may come

While certainly we are making progress in terms of the pandemic, I think we all find ourselves occasionally (or maybe frequently) in a state of disbelief in terms of how long we’ve been enduring these challenging times and how different our lives are, compared to our “old lives.” While certainly we’ve heard the sides of the coin regarding slowing down, minimizing commutes, finding new ways to spend times indoors (knitting, anyone?), there’s also the other side of the coin known in my mind as “the groundhog day” effect. (Please reference the Bill Murray film, if you haven’t already seen it many times over).

It’s certainly been a long haul, and with a new potential covid/flu season ahead of us, how are we preparing for a state of growing our cognitive resilience? There’s a great piece here in the Wall Street Journal, noting “Five Way to Train Your Brain for Another Covid Season.” The main takeaways are good reminders to stay mindful in the present, look for the positives among all of the challenges, and externalize how you’re feeling.

That last one, externalizing, I think, is often underestimated or labeled as “complaining.” However, research has shown many times over that externalizing our feelings and thoughts by sharing them with others is a way to not carry our burdens alone.  It also helps us to remember that many people have the exact same feelings, which reduces feelings of isolation and increases of sense of connection- both of which are extremely important for building cognitive resilience and a sense of wellbeing.

Which strategy will you use today? I’m going to walk outside with my iced coffee this afternoon. Later, this evening you’ll find me watching Wandavision (why am I so late to the game on that one?). What about you?

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

mindful moment

Before I rise,

like a phoenix from the ashes

or a blossom from a barren winter branch,

I must learn to dance in the burning

of each golden falling leaf.

-Tianna

melissa: a new season

Changes of seasons tend to bring up bigger questions of life change: a change of habits, goals, forward motion, progress, or questions about what is keeping us where we are. One of my favorite writers Heather Havrilseky often talks about concepts of what we want out of life and how to consider these thoughts.

In the therapy world, we, too, find that questions of change and what we want out of our lives, jobs, and relationships often bring people to therapy around the change of season. Acknowledging (or sorting out and finding) what you want, in all its fullness, honesty, and realness, is the first step in embracing change and a brand new season. There’s no better role (at least in our minds!) than to be on that journey with someone as they discover a whole new season within themselves that is built with intentionality and thoughtfulness.

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

“Admit that to yourself. Feed that. Write down what you want. Write down the life you want. And believe in it.” Heather Havrilesky, Ask Polly

mindful moment

Stop acting small.
You are the universe in ecstatic motion.
-Rumi

melissa: embracing change (or lack thereof)

As we find ourselves moving into another season, we are looking at how to embrace change…or rather, I suppose, how to embrace a lack of change. We had a summer that gave us an ever so slight reprieve from the pandemic, and we now find ourselves struggling to “go backwards.”

One concept that seems to be keeping us semi-grounded is focusing on sitting in the muck of life. In others words, we embrace the way things are versus the way we wish they were. We often find ourselves hearing questions such as, ‘does this means I’m settling?’ ‘does this mean I’m complacent?’ ‘does this mean I’ve accepted things will never improve?’ The answer to all of those questions is very much a resounding, “no!”

Embracing things as they are is referred to, in the therapy world, as ‘radical acceptance,’ or just generally, ‘acceptance.’ Much of therapy is learning how to improve our lives, our ability to cope, and/or problem solve. There’s also a lot of learning in therapy around how to best live in a state of contentment, which is partially achieved through learning acceptance, or radical acceptance. The concept sounds so simple, yet takes practice to learn to cultivate a mind that accepts the present moment, while also focusing on what can be done to work within our current circumstances and stressors. Often, there are ways in which we can DO something to improve our lives. Other times, for example during a pandemic, we have limitations to what we can do. There is always a path towards more contentment in our lives, just different ways in which we may get there.

It appears for 2020 and 2021, we are taking the (very) long way home.

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

Want to learn more about this concept? Acceptance and Commitment Therapy teaches us about acceptance and how to find contentment and peace in the it. There’s a wonderful Wall Street Journal piece here.

 

 

mindful moment

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

-Rainer Marie Rilke

melissa: five minutes

Once again, it seems we are finding ourselves surrounded by a LOT of news. Headlines are running through our day, day in and day out, and it’s not usually much news that brings us peace of mind. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the news and challenges that face us currently, it might be time to consider a sustainable self care plan.

Self care is a term that gets tossed around very lightly these days. But, really, it’s mostly about setting boundaries for yourself, which certainly isn’t just a trend, but rather, ideally, a way of life. I like to think about it in terms of five minute increments. What five minutes of your day are you looking forward to? Most people can manage five minutes of peace every day.

If you can keep up with five minutes, maybe you can consider increasing your number of peaceful moments to ten or fifteen minutes. Whatever your number is, start small, and increase that number as you are able to. Maybe five minutes is what you stick with all month, but at least then you’ve made a commitment to yourself to breathe, relax, and refresh. Of note, those five minutes don’t need to be fancy. You can drink a cup of coffee or tea, or walk outside and get some fresh air. I like to change up my five minutes (and sometimes longer!): a snack, a podcast, a true crime documentary (questionable?), a walk (when it’s not too hot, of course)- it all depends on the day. What’s on your list?

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

mindful moment

Regardless of what you have been through or where you’re going, I hope you’re still able to soar to newer heights. I hope you find what you’re looking for whether it’s in faraway lands or at the base of your feet. I hope you find your joy again and laugh so hard your stomach muscles ache for days. I hope you keep the company of good friends and lovers who are worthy of your radiance. I hope you are finally able to reach that deep inner peace hidden within your bones. Most importantly, I hope you find yourself. And when you do, I hope you find that you were always a miraculous and spectacular being, worthy of the greatest love and the deepest peace. I honor you in hopes that you will one day learn to honor yourself.

-Emily Maroutian

melissa: how to mindfully take a stroll

If you’ve got ten minutes sometime, I highly recommend you consider taking a mindful walk. Typically when walking, or even driving, we wind up somewhere without much knowledge of how we got there. Or, perhaps there are a lot of wonderful things along the road or path that we may have missed. If you want to get step by step instructions, you can click here. Mindful walks, particularly in nature, can be very restorative and remind us of a sense of connection to the physical and natural world around us.

The general flow of a mindful walk is:

Movement- focus on your steps, the movement of your legs and arms, and feeling your feet on the ground

Sound- noticing the sound of animals, birds, cicadas, cars, people, buses, etc

Smell- noticing the smell of the earth or city around you

Vision- noticing what you see around you as trees move, wind blows leaves, the ground and its texture

Finish up by focusing once again on your movement and feeling your feet on the ground

More details and instructions are here: A Daily Mindful Walking Practice

Wishing you a peaceful walk

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

 

 

mindful moment

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

-Rumi

 

 

 

 

melissa: the tree

I recently read a piece in the Wall Street Journal, Why a Tree Is the Friend We Need Right Now. Of all the articles, news, podcasts, and books, we all consume, this piece really hit home for me. Nature, particularly throughout the pandemic, has been a very grounding pillar of support for many of us. Nothing seems to embody and inspire the human spirit quite like a tree that has been standing for over a hundred years- despite, and sometimes because, all the changes around it.

I have a tree friend, myself. Well, a few, actually. But closest in proximity is the tree outside of my home office window. I’ve observed nests being built, birds hatching, an owl looking at me from the limbs (closest I’ve ever been to an owl, by the way), wind chimes quietly sounding in the wind, blossoms in spring, leaves falling as the weather gets cooler, and more species of birds than I ever knew we had in our yard in the first place. I even purchased a bird book, so I could look up what birds I observe in my tree friend. Inquiring minds want to know, after all.

I could talk about this topic endlessly. However, there’s a much more compelling argument for said tree friend in the article.  All of this to say, if you don’t have a tree friend, it might be time to find one.

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Copyright © Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2021. All rights reserved. 

mindful moment

For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whomever you want to be.

There’s no time limit.

Start whenever you want.

You can change or stay the same.

There are no rules to this thing.

We can make the best or the worst of it.

I hope you make the best of it.

I hope you see things that startle you.

I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before.

I hope you meet people who have a different point of view.

I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald