To Begin Again

It’s raw and delicate

to begin again

Sometimes I write poetry. It might not be great – in fact, most of it is probably terrible – but I like to play with words. And it’s okay for us to do things imperfectly, even messily (myself included).
Anyway, I share these lines from a recent poem I was working on. I was thinking about how it can feel raw and delicate to begin again. For example, after a medical event, we transition from healing up inside a safe and cozy cocoon to joining back into the real world. It happens in trauma recovery, too, when we move from the initial stages to re-joining the world in a new way. There’s relief, but also there’s reduced stamina. We might feel less strong, or even impatient to skip a few steps on the road to healing.
I think this is also true when we are recovering from a mental health episode of anxiety, depression, or grief. I think it’s true when we make a personal choice – a job, moving, choosing to end or begin a relationship.  I think it’s true when we vote and our country takes a step to begin again, each election cycle.
There is vulnerability in beginning again. Sometimes it is vulnerability to ourselves and our own hopes, sometimes it is vulnerability as we let others in to assist us in our healing.
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The Helper’s Humanity

Together with Amy Andrews, MFA, LMHC, Johanna will be running a series of workshops on the humanity of the helper. Each workshop will use a different aspect of creative writing to explore your sense of humanity as a helping professional. Johanna and Amy will lead various exercises to deepen your curiosity and validate your vulnerability as a human and as a helper. Each exercise will involve personal time for writing as well as group discussion for processing.

The goals of the workshop are to provide creative writing tools for self-care and personal exploration, and to validate all the aspects of your humanity!

The first workshop is coming up in a few weeks on September 22nd. Each workshop will run from 8am-12pm, and coffee and light snacks will be provided. Spots are limited, so sign up soon!

Workshops are open to all, but are geared towards those individuals currently working in the helping professions (medical, mental health, religion and spirituality, teaching, etc).

Sign up for one retreat or for all four: $75 per retreat or $250 for all four.

To sign up, email Johanna at jbondperspectives@gmail.com or Amy at andrews.counseling@gmail.com. Please feel free to reach out with any questions you may have, as well.

Johanna and Amy are incredibly excited to collaborate on this project and can’t wait for the first workshop, titled “Developing identity through character.”

 

Well-adjusted and in therapy

Not long ago, a friend of mine (not a therapist) mentioned her thoughts on therapy. When I mentioned that some of my own friends are in therapy, she said, “Wow, they must be really well-adjusted.”

I love that statement. Not “there’s something wrong with them” or “what do they need to fix.” The underlying sentiment was that these people are well-adjusted because they know when they need help and they seek it out.

The language we use is powerful. When I tell someone I’m a therapist and they say with a laugh, “oh, my friend here might need to see you!”, they are implying that a) they would not need to see a therapist themselves and b) there must be something wrong with the other person that they would need a therapist. My response is often, “I think we all need a little therapy sometimes.”

People often think the job of a therapist is to label you as “crazy” or “not crazy.” Let me tell you, that is not my job. My job is to support you and to challenge you.

When my friend made that statement, I liked that she assumed going to therapy was a positive thing. Not a sign of weakness or trouble, but something truly positive that people can do for themselves.

There are often negative life events or situations that lead to individuals coming to therapy, but having the strength to be vulnerable in seeking out and accepting help is a powerful and positive action.

June’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

June’s Mindfulness Exercise:

This month, we are going to bring our awareness to the endcaps of the day. Pick either the morning or the evening, and every day write down the first thoughts that pop into your head in the morning, or the last thoughts that run through your mind at the end of the day.

We can’t control what first pops into the mind, but we can control what we do with it and the habits we shape around our thoughts. After tracking your thoughts for several days, notice if there are patterns to your thinking. Those first or last thoughts of the day – are they what you’d want to have in your mind?

If they are, carry on. If they are not, take a moment to reflect on what kinds of thoughts you would like to have at the start or end of your day. Write down on a piece of paper or post-it what you’d like them to be, and place them next to your bed. Every day, before you close your eyes to end the day (or get out of bed to start the day), review the piece of paper.

In doing so, you are bringing mindfulness to your thoughts and training your mind to take the thought paths you would most prefer!

 

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.

Awkward and Strong

At a yoga class recently, I was reminded in the midst of a holding a very difficult pose that what we need we carry with us. The instructor went on to discuss how we have the ability to cope with difficult situations. Deep stuff, right?

This doesn’t mean I held the pose. I certainly didn’t look the picture of the strength and grace I aspire to be. I was awkward, and shaky, and exited out of the pose before the teacher told me to do so. I may have even rolled my eyes a bit at the instructor’s words.

But it made me think. Not necessarily to agree with the instructor about what we carry internally, and whether it is enough. No, it made me think about how the things we need to grow come from within us, instead of from the material things around us.

I realized that my physical practice of yoga depended on me. Not the room I was in, not the clothes I was wearing, or even the yoga mat beneath my feet. My awkward, strong engagement in physical movement using my own body… that depended on me.

The instructor was right. I didn’t have the tools to bend and contort into a crazy pose, but I did have the ability to engage my body in the practice and own my movements. I didn’t need anything but myself to do yoga.

I often say in counseling sessions that you are the only one who is in your body and your mind 24/7. (It’s a great thing – and sometimes a very difficult thing!). That self is all you need to challenge yourself to grow.

And in my office, all we really need is you (the person who is in your body and your mind), and me (the person who will sit with you). Counseling depends on the relationship between myself and you, the client.

It is nice to have chairs to sit in, pictures to look at, and a window to let the light in; but the real work comes from the connection in the therapeutic relationship. That’s all we really need. It may be awkward at times, it may be shaky, and it will be strong. The real work comes from the changing perspective you develop for yourself and take out of the office with you.

What we need to grow we carry within us.

In yoga, the things we need come from physical movement. In counseling, it comes from the counseling relationship. In both cases it is the internal parts of self and relationship that lead to growth.

Good-bye snow bank, Hello recycling bin

After over a month, my recycling bin has emerged from the midst of a snow bank. Sometime in February, I’d set the recycling bin by the curb and a snowstorm buried it overnight. Just this week, the snow melted enough for my blue bin to reappear, equally full of snow as recyclables. I left the bin out by the curb. It was finally ready to be emptied.

When it comes time for spring, I think we’re all a bit like that recycling bin. We may have things we’ve been holding onto that have no more use; we may have been buried (or been hiding!) in a snow bank; we may be emerging from a long winter, standing alone on the grass where there used to be snow.

A new season is heading towards us – spring. With change comes stress, and new growth, and opportunity.

What do you need to empty from your recycling bin? What are your hopes for spring? What might you still be holding onto? What do you need help sorting through?

As always, I’m a phone call away if you find you need another perspective as you dive into your own emotional spring cleaning – (585)406-3012.

December’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

December’s Mindfulness Exercise:

The holidays are here. This can mean more family gatherings, parties, and other get-togethers outside the norm of our usual day-to-day. It also can mean more stress.

With stress and social interactions in mind, this month’s mindfulness exercise is focused on interpersonal interactions.

Over the course of the next week, pick several different social situations (such as at a party, at home, or at work) to try the following exercise:

In conversation, notice how your emotions fluctuate. Throughout the course of a conversation, check in with yourself. Beginning with the very first “hello,” notice what you are feeling emotionally and your overall level of distress. Before you respond to the other person (or people) in the conversation, wait for one breath – or even a half a breath – to notice what you are experiencing emotionally. When the conversation is ending, take a few deep breaths to notice what you are feeling and your overall level of distress.

How do your emotions fluctuate in conversation? Does this change based on the context, the time of day, or the person with whom you are talking?

Notice what you experience and your overall observances. If you are an active client, please feel free to share your experience of this exercise in your next session.

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.