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: 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

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

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

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

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

melissa: languishing

I think the term many of us have been looking for lately to describe our emotional state is languishing. According to Merriam Webster, to languish is “to become dispirited.” The original quarantine thoughts of baking our own bread, or picking up knitting with “all of our free time” have fallen to the wayside. Thriving is definitely a construct left behind in 2019. Where does that leave us in 2021? While there is so much hope and joy in vaccines and small things re-entering into our lives, there’s also a lot of “re-entry” anxiety mixed with a lot of confusion about the long haul mentality required to exist in an ongoing pandemic.

People seem to be beyond a status of “tired” and entering into a state of “languishing.” Languishing is best explained in the articles linked below, but in short, languishing is neither hopeless nor hopeful. Neither sad nor happy. Neither depressed nor content. It’s an in between state, and that seems to describe a lot of our shared experience right now.

And where does that leave us? Naming our emotional state is, in fact, an extremely helpful cognitive tool. Knowing that many of us are languishing together is another powerful means of building resilience. Lastly, getting into a “flow” state is another powerful anecdote, as described in the first article link below. Want to know more about flow? Watch Disney Pixar’s Soul, or read ‘Flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, to start learning more.

No matter what you choose to read or do about your languishing, or whether you do nothing at all, know that you are not alone in your fatigue and languishing. While we have many different circumstances, there are also many similarities that unite us as well. Inevitably, sunny days are ahead regardless of the pace at which we arrive at them-languished and all. Eventually, we will be revived and renewed.

You can read more about the concept of languishing here, here, and here.

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

melissa: waiting

This year, it seems the month of March is in like a lion…and out like a lion. Which is vaguely reminiscent of March in 2020, and now March in 2021. So, here we are again. Waiting. If there was a word of the year, I think thus far it would potentially be ‘waiting.’ Of course, it’s only March, so there’s a lot of room for the development of a new word. We have spent a lot of time over the past few weeks discussing with clients thoughts of hope, challenges in decision making, and confusion around guidelines. More than anything, perhaps, we find ourselves discussing the process of what it feels like to be seemingly, endlessly waiting.

Perhaps you are waiting to see loved ones, or hug a distant friend. Perhaps you are waiting to meet a life partner, or are questioning whether it’s time to say goodbye to a partner. Perhaps you are waiting for your children to return to school, or find yourself anxious that your children are in a classroom again. Perhaps you are waiting to walk anywhere freely with a mask left at home, or perhaps you are double masking and wondering if Target is a safe space for simple browsing again. Perhaps you are experiencing many of these quandaries all at once.

Hold onto hope, dear readers. While there are so many ups and downs in life, and certainly in a pandemic life, we hold onto hope and wait. Perhaps the old English proverb of “Good things come to those who wait” was written for this very moment in time. The approximately 200 year old proverb certainly fits well in this moment, all these years later. That’s the thing about life, most things come full circle in the end. So, for now, we wait and good things will certainly come.

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

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.

 

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.