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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melissa: breathing, meditation, and mindfulness

Lately, we’ve gotten quite a few requests for a better understanding on how to begin mindfulness exercises (mindful movement, generally quieting the mind, journaling, meditation, etc). Mindfulness is one of the most accessible tools we can easily access for managing the stressors or daily life, as well as the bigger obstacles and problems we face.

To get you started, I’ve listed some resources below. Top tip: even taking a minute to mindfully breathe can make big differences in our lives. Science has told us this many times over! If you’re intimated by taking on a new task, know that this one can truly take just minutes. Take a deep breath, and give it a go!

Here are some basics about meditation and mindfulness from Mindful.org.

From Berkeley University Great Good Science Center, try a five minute exercise (you can read it or listen to the recording). There are also additional guided exercises from the Berkeley Center here.

Copyright ©Melissa A. Frey, LCSW 2022. All rights reserved. 

 

mindful moment

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low but the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit…
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit!

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many failures turn about
When we might have won had we stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow…
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out…
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Edgar A. Guest

all of us: gratitude

As we approach the closing of this year, and the opening of a new year, we are reflecting on 2021. So much has changed, and yet so much has also stayed the same. While we are facing uncertainty at the closure of this year, we are also welcoming in hope and peace. We are endlessly grateful for the hours we’ve spent alongside our clients this year- as we have felt in every year that goes by. We have had so many moments of laughter, knowing and understanding, holding of space, and peace, along with the difficult moments we shared together as well. It is our honor to welcome in another year of changes and connection with our clients; knowing, in so many ways, that we face this next horizon together.

from all of us at frey & associates with gratitude: cheers to another year

 

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

mindful moment

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.

-Maya Angelou

 

melissa: holidaze

The holiday season is upon us, and as a new year comes within reach, many people find themselves in a holidaze. If you, too, are in a holidaze, there are some wonderful coping strategies and words of wisdom here. Particularly this year, I think we all recognize the importance of setting boundaries and holding empathy for those around us, which is well put and outlined in the article. If you find yourself slogging through the month a bit, I highly recommend reading that article, as well as finding some comforting rituals to get you through the days. While this holiday season and new year may again look different than those of the past, there are, undoubtedly, many bright days ahead.

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all. -Emily Dickinson

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

mindful moment

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.

– Albert Camus

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. 

 

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.