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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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.

 

 

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

melissa: mindful walk meditation

I will be the gladdest thing
    Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
    And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
    With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
    And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
    Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
    And then start down!

Edna St. Vincent Millay

mindful moment

Over rivers and valleys, mountains and plains-over all you have lost and all you have gained.

Over all you have gathered, and all you let go, you have traveled at length through the wild of unknowns.

And through all that is changing you can see you have grown.

You have walked in the light.

You have not been alone.

-Morgan Harper Nichols

melissa: puddles

With all the ongoing changes and news in the world, I’m finding myself seeking as many mindful moments as I can. Mindfulness is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice on a daily basis,” as stated by one of my favorite Mindful sites. The concept is so basic, yet takes a lot of practice. We talk a lot about and teach mindfulness in therapy, as there is endless compelling data that demonstrates its effectiveness in coping with stressors, anxiety, depression, and increasing our overall sense of wellness.

I found myself in a spontaneous mindful moment (my favorite kind) earlier today. My daughter was thrilled to put on her rain boots to go to school 1) because she loves her rain boots endlessly and 2) because she knew there would be puddles to run through when we arrived. As I watched her run through the puddles, there was a look of pure joy on her face. Children tend to do that to adults: they convey their joy, innocence and pleasure in small things effortlessly. Their mindfulness takes no effort. It is an inherent skill they possess, as their brains typically aren’t yet filled with a constant running narrative of to-dos, stressors and worries.

I encourage all of us, myself included, to find those moments daily. The world around us is indeed busy, chaotic, and often overwhelming. Yet, this morning, I found myself hopping in puddles, too. My gym shoes soaked (I had forgotten my own boots- mindlessly!), and smiling broadly on the otherwise gray rainy day.

You can find more of our favorite mindfulness resources here.

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

mindful moment

Today

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

-Billy Collins

mindful moment

dive for dreams

or a slogan may topple you

(trees are their roots

and wind is wind)

 

trust your heart

if the seas catch fire

(and live by love

though the stars walk backward)

 

honour the past

but welcome the future..

-ee cummings

mindful moment

If you are seeking, seek us with joy
For we live in the kingdom of joy.
Do not give your heart to anything else
But to the love of those who are clear joy,
Do not stray into the neighborhood of despair.
For there are hopes: they are real, they exist –
Do not go in the direction of darkness –
I tell you: suns exist–

-Rumi

mindful moment

Spring

Sound the flute!
Now it’s mute!
Bird’s delight,
Day and night,
Nightingale,
In the dale,
Lark in sky,—
Merrily,
Merrily merrily, to welcome in the year…

-William Blake

melissa: the yellow cardinal

My friend recently sent me an article about the sighting of a rare bird: a yellow cardinal. Apparently, it’s a one in a million chance you’ll see a yellow cardinal. Neither of us knew that yellow cardinals even existed.

I noted to her that seeing a “regular” red cardinal is one of my favorite bird sightings, actually. I always interpret seeing a cardinal as good luck or a good omen. Whenever I’m lucky enough to see two in a day, I’ll tell my husband about it over dinner. It’s a pandemic, so this is pretty noteworthy on any given day. Though if I’m being honest, I would have brought this up over dinner in the past too. Cardinals are serious business. If we are all out walking, I show them to my daughter. She yells, “bird!” which is basically headline news for her- along with seeing a bus or a truck.

Apparently, lots of other people take note of cardinals too, even in pre-pandemic times. A quick Google search reveals lots of information and sentiments about cardinal sightings, along with a rich history of the etiology of such beliefs.

Whether or not you have aviary interests, I love the idea of knowing there’s a literal rare bird out there in our own big backyard. It may be a one in a million chance, but I know I’ll keep looking for the elusive yellow cardinal. In the meantime, I’ve stopped and paused at every cardinal sighting in the past year- an omen of good things to come. There’s change in the air. 

If you want to read more about the yellow cardinal, you can find information here. 

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

 

mindful moment

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

-Emily Dickinson

melissa: the orchid plant

Have you ever had an orchid plant that bloomed beautifully, and then was done blooming? Then, you noticed it was clearly still growing but not flowering. And so, you kept it in your house, watering it once a week- and just waited- thinking maybe it would blossom again one day.

I’ve had that exact orchid plant situation more than once in my life. I don’t have a green thumb, but I usually hold onto the orchids for a long time- figuring they will eventually bloom again. Maybe years later.

Life is definitely starting to feel like that orchid plant in my sunroom. Except this time, I see the tiny buds forming and I have a feeling it really will bloom again. I don’t know when exactly, but I see the signs of growth and hope around me. Cautiously optimistic, there is change in the morning air.

Personally, none of my orchid plants have ever bloomed more than once, but I keep buying the plants anyway. Those orchids spark joy in me with their beautiful flowers. Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll develop a green thumb. Until then, I’ll wait.

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

melissa: snow and sun

If you find yourself blankly staring at the ceiling or out the window in the early mornings lately, you’re in good company. There’s a lot of snow out there, readers. And a lot of cold.

People have frequently been asking in session if their malaise is normal right now. Let’s have a moment with that. It’s below zero many days, there’s been a ton of snow, and we are rounding out a full year of a global pandemic. Of course a feeling of malaise is normal! The end of January, February and March are almost always tough months for midwesterners at baseline. You have to have some level of sheer grit and resilience to get through long midwest winters, particularly one that is more challenging than our previous winters.

I talked about both/and in my last post, and this week I find myself thinking about that very concept again. It’s both arctic level cold, and so sunny. I actually can’t recall a winter this sunny in recent years. It’s both very snowy (where will it even be plowed if/when there is more!?), and that snow is glittering in the sunshine and under street lamps.

If you, too, have some malaise, welcome it on in. I’m welcoming it in, too. And then, I’m turning my face up to the sunshine and basking in it. I’m watching my daughter stick her face up to the rays of sunshine, and sticking out that tiny mittened hand to catch a falling snowflake. We are learning both words: snow and sun. Both/And.

As always, stay strong, readers. I’ve started to realize that if we can weather this winter, pandemic, malaise, all of it, then I bet we can weather just about anything. “Every winter has its spring,” as H. Tuttle noted, and (in humans,) “No feeling is final,” as Rilke said.

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

melissa: both/and

Up, down, right, left. Things have gotten confusing lately. On the one hand, we’ve got amazing medical advances headed our way. On the other hand, we’ve got some challenges to accessing them and some baffling ‘variant’ conversations to top off our COVID musings lately. Forget what day or week it is (also often confusing and disorienting). What life is it?

It’s strange and confusing to be holding so many emotions and thoughts at the same time. If we felt like we had COVID fatigue before…this is both next level COVID fatigue…and then we mixed in hope, gratitude and excitement. The concept of ‘both/and’ has never been more real. This life is both deeply unsettling and very hopeful.

‘Both/and’ is a therapeutic concept that demonstrates a human’s ability to holding two opposing thoughts and feelings at the same time, also known as ‘dialectics.’ This concept was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 1990s. Of all the concepts one learns as a therapist, ‘both/and’ has been one of the concepts that struck me as the most relatable and factual. It’s a way to balance out oppositional feelings and emotions to reduce some internal distress.

This pandemic is both extremely taxing in a variety of ways, and also has illustrated the importance of connection and not taking for granted basic freedoms that we have been afforded over time. I’m both saddened to not hug family members, and grateful that I can call them via FaceTime for virtual hugs. I’m both exhausted from constantly taking in a lot of news and media, and also thankful I live in a time when I can easily access this information. I both miss my old pre-COVID life, and also am grateful that I don’t spend very much time in my car these days (driving is not, in fact, my favorite). I’m both not enjoying being indoors so much during a Chicago winter, and also laughing that I met my family outdoors in the middle of January to have milkshakes. The ‘both/and’ list is endless, more so than ever before in life.

If COVID has taught us anything (and I suspect it has taught us a lot), it’s that we live in complicated times with complex emotions, and that we can hold of all of these feelings and thoughts at once. Things are rarely all one way. We are doing about the best we can, and that’s enough. We are both suffering and feeling hopeful. ‘Both/and’ brings some sense of peace, I think, simply because it allows us to feel all the feelings, freely, knowing that we remain in a shared experience.

“Be full of sorrow, that you may become hill of joy; weep, that you may break into laughter.” -Rumi

Here and here are some additional readings if you’d like to read more about the concept of ‘both/and.’

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