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melissa: musing on resilience

Keep Going – Edgar Guest

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and 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 a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

mindful moment

Dance, when you’re broken open.

Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.

Dance in the middle of the fighting.

Dance when you’re perfectly free.

…Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.

-Rumi

mindful moment

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

– Albert Camus

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

mindful moment

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

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. 

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. 

 

 

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. 

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

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.

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

But that shadow has been serving you!
What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.
You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.

-Rumi

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.

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

melissa: time

Somehow, we are two weeks into this year…but it feels as though it’s been a full year within a year. I find myself saying Happy New Year, but thinking, “Wasn’t that months ago?” Alas, it was not. While 2020 was the year of the unknowns (among many other things), I think 2021 may be the year of waiting. If you find yourself unaware of the day, time, and month some days, you’re in good company. And certainly if you find yourself vacillating between hope and despair, you’re in good company as well.

I find myself often thinking of the phrase by Art Buchwald, “Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.” This is, indeed, the time we have. It seems we are all trying to “make the best of the worst.” Practicing “boring self care” seems more important than ever. So, we go outside, even if it’s cold. We remember to breathe, because slowing down our breathing helps us remain calm. We take showers, put on our clean ‘daytime pajamas,’ and practice boring and delightful self care.

Take care of you, reader. And if you want to listen to an interesting concept of how Twitter can loosely predict how the general public is doing, you can have a listen here. I certainly laughed out loud quite a bit, and found myself comforted in knowing, “yep, we are all here together in this strange space and time.”

We are living history as it unfolds.

 

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