Taking Care of Ourselves

Well, it’s been a difficult couple of months for many people. Some people are exhausted, frustrated, annoyed, and dismayed; myself included. So what can we do in hard times to take better care of ourselves?

First, we need to recognize that taking care of ourselves is not only good for us, it is vital for our mental, physical, and emotional health.

One of the things I wanted to share that has been helping me a great deal of late, is ambient music written by Moby, which he offers as a free download from his website. The album is over four hours long, and helps to soothe my frazzled nerves.

Another thing that really helps my is to get outside. The weather in Philadelphia has been unseasonably warm (or maybe this is the new normal?). Last weekend, my partner and I walked to the diner for brunch instead of driving. It was so refreshing to get outside, and have a great walk and talk. I felt so much better afterwards.

Finally, I’d like to mention that being active in the world can also help. Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post has a great article on How to Get Out of the Cycle of Outrage in a Trump World. It’s a great read. There is also a great list of ways to Strengthen our Spirits to Resist and Thrive by Finding Steady Ground. You should check it out for some more great ideas on things to do every day and every week.

April is Counseling Awareness Month

counselingawarenessApril is here and it’s Counseling Awareness month. What should you know?

Well, according to the American Counseling Association you should know 12 things about Licensed Professional Counselors. Of those 12 things, I think the most important are:

  • “Counselors respect diverse worldviews.”
  • “Counselors focus on wellness, client empowerment, and a proactive approach to mental health.”
  • “Counselors encourage people to be genuine and to find their own authentic self, even if that authentic self is different from the dominant culture.”

But more important than knowing things about counselors, what should you know about counseling itself? Sara Schuster of The Mighty interviewed counselors and came up with the 16 ways to make the most of counseling.  I won’t repeat them all here, but I’d like to mention a few that I think are important.

  • You are the expert in your own life.
  • Talk to your counselor about any questions you have.
  • Open and honest communication is the most beneficial.
  • It’s important to establish a good rapport with your counselor, but remember, not every counselor is right for every client. Since you are the expert in your own life, you can decide which counselor is right for you. Or, if you would like something different from your counselor, please ask.
  • Counseling is a collaborative process that takes time, just as the challenges we face developed over the course of time.
  • Counseling is 45 minutes or about one hour of the week. There are 167 other hours in a week. Trying things discussed in a counseling session during the other 167 hours can be very beneficial.

If you’d like to know even more about counseling, you can check out this page from the American Counseling Association.  Happy Counseling Awareness month and Happy Spring!

Changing the Conversation around Mental Health

news-michelleobama.jpgRecently, I noticed that Michelle Obama wrote for the Huffington Post, where she advocated for a change in the conversation about mental health. She points out that over 40 million Americans suffer from some sort of mental health challenge at some point in their lives. I’m not exactly sure where this number comes from*, but I do know that we all go through rough patches from time to time and could use some help. I also agree with Michelle Obama that the stigma around mental health issues often prevents people from getting help.

How do you know if someone needs help? There are five signs to pay attention to:

1)  There is a change in their personality
2)  They may seem moody, agitated, easily angered, or anxious
3)  They may isolate themselves or withdrawal from others
4)  They may stop taking care of themselves or do risky things
5)  They may seem overwhelmed or hopeless

What can you do if you notice someone who shows these signs? Michelle Obama advocates following the advice of The Campaign to Change Direction which lists resources for offering help. Another great resource in Philadelphia is the Department of Behavioral Health.

But perhaps the most helpful thing you can do is to listen, show compassion, and try not to judge – because judging is what perpetuates the stigma around mental heath. I agree with Michelle Obama. Let’s change the conversation. #ChangeMentalHealth

Michelle Obama’s article: Changing the Conversation around Mental Health

*Note: Report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) reports that in 2013, over 9 million Americans reported having serious thoughts of suicide within the last year. See this report, on page 10.

Consent

ConsentConsent2There has been much in the news this week about the six-month jail sentence for Brock Turner in the Stanford rape case, and the power statement issued by his victim.

This case got me thinking about consent, which is not just the absence of “No”, but also the presence of “Yes”. Consent is an agreement between people to participate in activities, and can be withdrawn at any time.

Morgan Roe and Liz Andrade created a storyboard (shown to the right) that teaches children about consent. There is also a great article from Joanna Schroeder, Julie Gillis, Jamie Utt and Alyssa Royse at the Huffington Post that talks about how to teach consent to children, teens, and young adults based upon their age groups.

Finally, you could check out this video (less than three minutes) from the Thames Valley Police in the UK, comparing tea and consent with a bit of humor.

What does equality mean?

I love this Ted Talk by iO Tillet Wright. iO launched the Self Evident Truth project where she photographed nearly 10,000 people who identify as anything other than 100% straight. It is a fact in the US that in over half our states, people can be fired, or denied housing because of their sexual orientation. In iO’s Ted Talk below, called Fifty Shades of Gay, she tackles the question of equality.

And if your up for another Ted Talk, this one by Geena Rocero, a fashion model from the Philippines, called Why I Must Come Out is great. She talks about the fluidity of gender, and she is also an advocate who founded Gender Proud. Did you know that the suicide rate for transgender people is nine times greater than that of the general population? Isn’t it time we treated people the way they say they want to be treated?

Civil Rights of Transgender Students

all-gender-restroom-signageThe US Departments of Education and Justice issued joint guidance yesterday (05/13/2016) regarding the civil rights of transgender students. The guidance explains how current laws prohibit discrimination, including discrimination of transgender students.  The Department of Education also offered examples of policies and procedures to guide school districts in implementing the recommendations.

A particularly absurd example in my opinion, is the question ‘How does a school confirm a student’s gender identity?’  I wonder, ‘Why does a school need to confirm a student’s gender identity?’ Seriously, why do some people think they need to know? How about ‘I identify as a human’.  Shouldn’t that be enough?  And should’t there be restrooms for each and every human to use?