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

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

melissa: awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness month! Mental health awareness, at all times, but particularly during a pandemic, is for everyone. The overall prevalence rates of anxiety, mood changes (including depression), and substance abuse have gone up to a roughly 40% prevalence in the US population. Many researchers note that this is likely a very conservative estimation. We have yet to encounter a single person in any of our lives who hasn’t identified challenges with mood, motivation, anxiety, stress, drinking, and/or overall sense of wellness over the course of the past year.

More broadly than ‘disorders’ or ‘clinical need,’ mental health has appropriately taken on a new definition over the past few years. We now consider our mental health in the same way we consider our physical health, which, frankly, seems about time to those of us working in the field. Each and every human being has mental health considerations just by nature of being alive. In the exact same way we look at physical health, we now understand that mental health is just as important to assess and attend to regularly. Everyone has stress, struggles, challenges, and emotional needs.

Therapy, among with many other care strategies (exercise, meditation, connection, hobbies, etc) allows us to look at people as whole humans. If you are in our practice, you know how we feel about the importance of caring for the whole person and, often times, removing labels and looking at people simply as they are and where they want to go. If you are new to therapy, welcome- it’s a deeply rewarding way to learn about yourself, the world around you, and improve you overall sense of wellness.

Happy Mental Health Awareness Month to all. May you take this month to focus on your sense of wellbeing and identify ongoing ways to take care of you.

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.

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

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.

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: 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.

mindful moment

Become the sky.
Take an axe to the prison wall
Escape.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.

-Rumi