The Importance of Making Eye Contact

The Importance of making eye contact

The Eyes Have It

Shortly before the Covid lockdowns, a neighbor of mine published her first novel. She held a book reading and signing in an art gallery downtown, complete with a wine and cheese reception and stacks of books for sale (stacks that rapidly dwindled; she is an excellent writer). After she read a passage from the novel and fielded some questions from the audience, we lined up with our copies and waited our turn as she graciously spoke with us and signed them.

The art gallery that held the reception was floor-to-ceiling abstract art that held some works in progress as well as completed pieces. As I waited in line and sipped my wine, a tall man stood behind me. I recognized him as the owner of the gallery: in his forties, or thereabouts; not very young, but with hair and a beard that had yet to show any signs of gray.

We chatted about his studio and I admired his work. He talked about another art studio that he had in Brooklyn, and mentioned that he and his wife traveled back and forth between the two quite a bit. Not knowing – or even thinking – about how in a month, the idea of travel like that would be impossible because of the virus, I commented on how great it all sounded.

He was a very kind man, and what struck me most about our conversation was that he looked me in the eyes the entire time we were talking. I’m the kind of person who often looks around as I talk, trying to find the right words, but he wasn’t like that. He genuinely listened as I talked, not interrupting, and waited until I finished with a sentence before starting his.

I should be honest: it was jarring! I was so used to the folks in my life being much like myself by talking over each other, interrupting here and there (not impolitely, of course, we just enjoy lively conversation). But the owner of the art gallery didn’t do any of that. And not just with me, either: with everyone he talked to, he did the same thing. Listened, conversed, and looked them right in the eyes the entire time.

It was a wonderful feeling, probably similar to what the kids say these days when they say “I feel seen.” Being looked at in the eyes when someone is talking to you validates you, makes you feel as though you are worth looking at.

And you are worth looking at.

I remembered this the other day when I was thinking about how long it’s been now that we’ve been wearing masks that have covered up most of our faces, leaving pretty much just our eyes. Our eyes have had to do a lot more of the work communicating our thoughts and feelings this past year. What have your eyes told others this year? What have your friends’, and your neighbors’ eyes told you? Have you looked? In the mirror, what do you see in your own eyes?

There has been a lot to reflect on when it comes to the pandemic – years’ and years’ worth. There was plenty of suffering to be had (and still even so today). But one thing that may have served us well is the ability to look each other in the eye. It’s something that I hope we can keep up, long after the blessed day when the all-clear has been sounded!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Emerging from the pandemic a message of wellness

Emerging from the Pandemic

A message of wellness from eTalkTherapy

In 2017, we gave you our word.

To provide you with professional, compassionate, and affordable therapy, and to see you as a person, not as a diagnosis. To meet you with patience, kindness, and care and to help you create a life worth living.

Rising out of this pandemic is not going to happen overnight. Emerging from isolation and facing different life-challenges may have us feeling uncertain and hopeless. New questions will be around every corner. Words like trauma, depression, and anxiety now carry new meaning, and phrases like “going back to normal” feel hollow and disingenuous. Hidden traumas abound, and the road to recovery will likely be long and, at times, intimidating. Yet, life is lived forward and it is experienced in the present. It is not without heartache, but it is not without joy either.

Despite what has happened to all of us in body, mind, and spirit, eTalkTherapy’s mission has not changed, and our promise to you remains strong. In good times and in bad, eTalkTherapy has been here for you.

We were providing quality live-teletherapy years before the pandemic started, and we will continue to do so for whatever comes next.

We are here, and we are ready to help you.

In Good Health,
Don Laird

Mindfulness and being in the moment

The Benefits of Mindfulness

Why slowing down is good for your mental health

When we were first married, my husband and I liked to play video games. One of our favorites was Guitar Hero – do you remember that one? You’d have this guitar-shaped controller and you’d “play” along with whatever song. When you got high enough scores on the “album,” you could move on to the next level. One song I had a particularly tough time with in the beginning was “Slow Ride,” by Foghat. It doesn’t seem like that difficult of a song to play along to, but it was hard for me!

I find that for me, things that are slow or require a long period of concentration or work is hard for me. Crocheting, for instance. I like to do it, and I’m working on a blanket now for my daughter that’s taken a full year to complete. (Her bed is not that big.) I’m so used to things moving so quickly – my Internet, phone, etc. – that I have a hard time waiting.

“Slow ride…take it easy”? I don’t think so! If there’s something to know, I’d like to know it right now, please!

But I read the other day about a great concept of “slow entertainment” that was made popular in Norway a few years ago. A Norwegian filmmaker strapped a camera to the front of a train that was embarking on a seven-hour trip, and filmed the whole thing in its entirety. Norwegian state television aired the whole thing uncut, and it was a huge success! People loved it. It wasn’t flashy, wasn’t loud or terribly exciting, and yet people embraced its slowness.

Young children love to embrace slowness, too, especially on walks. This time last year, when the pandemic was first really becoming a reality, the kids and I would take walks around the block to watch Spring unfold before us. And you’d better believe that there was a splash (or several) in every puddle, a look under every big rock, a pointing finger at every blooming tree where the birds’ nests were still visible in its branches. Those walks, which normally take about ten minutes at a decent clip, took far longer with the kids because it was necessary to slowly take in all the wonder of it.

Life has certainly slowed down for all of us. But as it (slowly) begins to pick back up, what are some things you’re going to keep doing? Is it reading a book, enjoying a meal or time with friends and family? It could be anything that brings you joy, be it big or small.

It may take time to adjust to the new wonders that will come out of all of this. But I hope you find them and savor them as much as you can!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Meet Therapist Bridgette Petras

Join us in welcoming our new therapist Bridgette Petras to our growing eTalkTherapy family! Bridgette’s therapeutic style is supportive, highly individualized and focuses on helping clients find healthy ways to cope with life stressors. Bridgette’s areas of focus include dependency issues as well as depression and anxiety. Get to know more about Bridgette in our Q&A:

Therapist Bridgette Petras

What does therapy mean to you?

Helping someone untangle their thoughts and gain insight that is supportive of self growth.

What makes therapy successful?

Having a great rapport and continuing to support and encourage self growth.

How has COVID-19 shaped your role as a therapist?

Yes, COVID-19 has challenged me to adjust to doing therapy over the phone compared to face to face in my office.

Describe yourself in three words?  

Creative, curious, and honest.

What was the last book you read? Thoughts on it?

“Greenlights” by Matthew McConaughey – I’m reading it now.

If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be AND why?

Leonardo DiCaprio ( because he’s my favorite actor and I’m impressed with his humanitarian work and support).

Share something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

I studied the Arabic language in Morocco.

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If you are looking to make positive changes in your life, we can help! Please contact us today about how to register and schedule your live video counseling session with Bridgette.

Follow eTalkTherapy on Facebook and Twitter for updates and articles related to good mental health!

Reduce Stress with Hospitality and Kindness

Stress reduction at home

Finding ways to promote hospitality and kindness

Not too long ago, a bunch of ladies on our street gathered for a “baby shower parade” for a neighbor who’s expecting her third child next week. The parade was organized by a friend who is remarkably talented in hospitality. Even though it had snowed the night before, this friend set up tables, stuck letters spelling out “It’s a Girl!” into the cold, hard ground as best she could, and organized miniature bottles of champagne with a sweet pink ribbon around their necks for the guests to take home and open in celebration when the baby was born. When our expectant neighbor came out to greet us – she didn’t know about the event beforehand – she wiped some joyful tears away, and we all spent the time masked up in her driveway doing what you would normally do during any non-pandemic shower: oohed and aahed over tiny baby outfits and warm receiving blankets, recalled stories of our own labors and deliveries, and basked in the shared little community we had.

It was a great day, made even more special by these little touches that my friend had created something that I, admittedly, am not very skilled in. (I don’t have a good eye for matching color palettes or am gifted in coordinating party favors.) But it was more than just those things: it was the spirit of hospitality that struck me, and the other guests, the most.

What do you think of when you hear that word, “hospitality?” You might think of a hotel manager or a party planner. You might think of the opposite word, “inhospitable.” Or you might picture something warm and inviting. When I think of hospitality, I think of welcoming – of anticipating someone else’s needs or wants and providing it for them for no other reason than enjoyment for someone else’s happiness. It’s letting someone know that you think they’re important enough to make them comfortable.

And interestingly enough, it’s not something that comes easily to everyone! I don’t think it’s always our first instinct to look out for the other people in our lives. There are times when we have to move our own comfort out of the way for someone else, and it’s uncomfortable and undesirable (I’m looking at you, parents of young kids!) But if you’ve been on the receiving end of someone’s unfettered hospitality, you know how special it makes you feel, and that feeling can go a long way.

On a podcast I listened to recently, one of the hosts described a friend of his who is a master at hospitality. He doesn’t drink much beer, but always makes sure to have a case of it in his fridge ready for guests, and that’s because people are more apt to help themselves when it’s offered if there is a lot of beer there, versus if there’s only a couple. My friend, the one who hosted the baby shower, is also thoughtful this way too because when you spend the night at her house, her guest room is outfitted like a bed-and-breakfast, complete with wi-fi password framed by the bed, right next to your own personal Kureig machine.

Is this something you feel you need to do at your home? Probably not and that’s okay! There’s no need to go above and beyond. But I do think that we can all benefit from becoming more hospitable in our lives. What does that look like in a pandemic, when we can’t have people over for a beer? Well, it could look like taking some time to send a text or a Zoom call with a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. It could mean grabbing some extra sundries for a neighbor the next time you’re at the grocery store, or picking up a neighbor’s takeout order when you go to pick yours up. If you have the time (and muscle strength), it could also mean shoveling the sidewalk in front of your neighbor’s house after you shovel your own, or dropping off some donuts for the teachers in your kids’ school on a Friday to celebrate another week in the books.

Whatever it is, your show of hospitality will not only make a difference in someone else’s day, it’ll make a good difference in yours, too!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Coping with anxiety during Covid quarantine

Coping with Covid anxiety

Finding Meaning and Connection in My Family Tree 

As I’m sure many people have done since the Covid lockdowns began, I find myself down a rabbit hole of binge-watching some TV every now and then. One show in particular that I can lose many hours to is PBS’ “Finding Your Roots.” It’s a show in which celebrities and other notable people are taken on a journey of discovery through their ancestral paths using a combination of public documents, films, photographs, censuses, and DNA testing. It’s a fascinating look at where these people come from, because the celebrities we know and see all the time are the end result. Finding out who came before them and how their actions and their decisions shaped the generations that came after them is a lot of fun.

Some episodes are poignant and feature stories of terrible traumas. Some stories are funny, and my favorite parts are at the end, when host Louis Gates Jr. reveals to his guest a distant cousin who is also a celebrity or another notable figure, discovered through common chromosomal links in their DNA. Every guest in each episode is struck in some way by the fact that those who came before them played a pivotal role – even if it was a small one – in shaping a life that would come after them.

I think it’s natural when watching a show like that is to think about your own family tree. My parents used to have a sign in their kitchen that said something like “My family tree is full of nuts,” and maybe yours is too. Maybe your family tree is full of painful memories and people you wish belonged not only on some other tree, but in a whole other forest somewhere else! Maybe your family tree is filled with beautiful flowers, people who did the best they could and paved new trails or stood up for what was right; or maybe it is a humble tree that, although it doesn’t display any flashy leaf-color changes or produce exotic fruit, still gives plentiful shade just the same.

As we approach the end of the first year since the Covid lockdowns began and as we slowly ease back into a more normal-looking way of life, maybe take some time to write down your thoughts about it all.  (It’s not every day that we get to live through major world events like this one, you know!) Try to write about how you’ve felt about it, and include how you filled your days. What else were your grocery stores out of (besides toilet paper)? What gatherings did you miss? What fears did you have – and were they realized, or did they merely remain fears? Is there any benefit you saw from his time? How have you changed as a person?

Spending some time on these questions can be beneficial for us in the short term, but would also be a wealth of information for those generations who will come after us. How amazing would it be if generations from now, a great-, great-, great-, great-grandson or great-granddaughter learned about the Covid-19 pandemic and read what you had to say about it? How awesome would it be for them to sit back in a chair in amazement that they were related to you? I’m sure they would be amazed, because we’re living in quite amazing times. And you are very much an amazing person, well worth knowing about.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

New Year 2021

Well, That Happened!

New Year’s Eve, 1999. We all stood around, a whole basement full of us, watching the TV and counting down along with all of America.

10…9…8….7…6…5…4…

We held those big red plastic party cups and our voices raised louder and louder as we got to the end.

3…2…1! Happy New Year!

All of us, as we were directed just minutes prior, simultaneously drained our cups and threw them, as hard as we could, toward the TV screen. They bounced off and we laughed and danced for hours afterward. It was a new millennium! Everything felt so brand new.

This New  Year’s Eve, if we were given the option for what to throw at the TV, I think most of us would choose a brick. This year has been that difficult.

It’s kind of like this great line from a movie I saw recently, which came out right around the year 2000: “State and Main.” Have you ever seen it? It’s a fun, light-hearted film about making a film – a really funny movie that is a great antidote to today’s difficult times. It’s a fish-out-of-water type film, sort of “Hollywood meets Mayberry,” and sports a lot of famous faces, from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and Charles Durning to Julia Stiles, William H. Macy, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

One of the main characters, an actor portrayed by Alec Baldwin, gets into a car accident in the middle of the one-horse town. He steps out from the car, dazed and vaguely hurt; and when he’s pressed about how he’s feeling, smiles uneasily and says, “Well, that happened!”

Kind of how we’re all feeling right now looking back at 2020, huh?

It certainly did happen. And you know what? You’re still here! It wasn’t easy, and it still may not be in many ways going forward, but you made it through. What kind of person did you become? Have you become more resilient? Have you become more flexible, more patient? Or maybe you’ve become more judgmental, more easily stressed, or less enthusiastic.

What things would you change about yourself for 2021? Which things would you keep? Just something to think about in these last waning days of a truly historic year.

I, for my part, am glad you’re still around! I’m hopeful that good things are around the corner for us and I hope most of all that 2021 is a year of joy, love, and peace for you.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Grow in Silence

One a scale of 1 to 10, how well can you handle silence? I’m only asking because I’m one of those people who can’t handle it well at all. If we were having a conversation and all of a sudden there was a peaceable lull, and we were having a sip of coffee or looking around at the sky, that would probably last me all of fifteen seconds. Before you knew it, I’d start bringing up the weather, or about birds – especially the cassowary, which I just learned can actually be quite terrible and has earned the notorious title of “world’s most dangerous bird.” I attended a Catholic university that had a convent just off campus (its Mother Superior used to serve at the school), and I attended a discernment retreat weekend there to decide if the religious life was an ideal one for me. Every evening at eight o’clock there was what was called The Great Silence until eight the following morning – during The Great Silence we were not supposed to talk at all, just spend time in quiet reflection. I made it about an hour before I found a copy of St. Francis’ biography and read it aloud, whispering into the quiet of my room just to myself, because I just needed there to be noise. Silence, it seemed to me, was just plain unattainable.

The thing is, though, I want to be a person who can sometimes be quiet. I want to be able to think about the answer to a question, or to plan ahead, or to give serious time to considering things before I do them, but it’s a skill that I really haven’t honed yet. And with my phone (which, like everyone’s, is pretty much a little computer), I have 24/7 access to not only physical noise (like podcasts and videos) but also visual noise, pictures and articles and posts just like this one.

It gets to be a lot, and to be honest, it’s a very hard habit to break. But luckily for me, the next few weeks can really be the ideal time to practice the art of silence a little bit more each day.  The sun rises a bit later, it goes down much earlier, and the night stretches out and allows for that quiet time. I find that watching the snow fall can help, too.

It’s often said that children grow the most while they’re sleeping, and Mother Teresa once noted something similar. “See how nature grows,” she said. “Trees, flowers, grass – grow in silence.  See the stars, the sun and the moon, how they move in silence.”

A lot of good things can be the fruit of a period of silence, or many small periods throughout the day. If it’s something you struggle with, I would suggest a break from social media to start. I always feel so much better when I step away from those kinds of things. Maybe try some reading, or maybe some old-fashioned letter writing. Journaling, just plain thinking, all of those count too.

I hope this little bit of silence adds some well-deserved peace to the end of a hectic year.  Who knows? Maybe it’ll help make 2021 much better, too!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

A Different Gratitude

Well, there’s no way around it: gratitude will look different this year. I don’t think it’s too much of a surprise – I mean, everything has looked different this year – but gratitude will, too. It may look so much smaller than it once did. For example: before, where you may have been thankful for getting to experience traveling to a faraway country as part of that really cool conference, maybe now you’re thankful for not needing to travel so there’s less chance of being sick. Before, you were thankful your son or daughter was the best athlete on the team; maybe now you’re thankful they’re home with you, because practices every night meant no family dinners during the week and now you actually get to spend time with your kids and get to really know them. Or maybe even harder: before, where you may have been thankful for your job, it may be gone now; and so your gratitude may be for the people who are keeping you afloat.

It all looks very different now, and that’s normal. That’s okay. You know what is also okay? Recognizing that the times are still very, very hard. It’s okay to acknowledge that things are looking pretty bleak in a lot of ways. The point, though, is that there are still reasons to be thankful. Pain, anger, disappointment – they can all exist alongside thankfulness and gratitude. Indeed, they ought to: because gratitude is the means to find hope – and as long as you can find hope, all is not lost.

It’s been over a year since I’ve seen my extended family, and it’s not looking like I’ll be able to in the upcoming months. It’s hard for me. I miss them, but I still cling to the text chains we send back and forth, and for the video calls we have every now and then. This Thanksgiving, because we’re all in our various states of quarantine, we’re trying to arrange one of my favorite traditions: the playing of a board game after dinner. I’m sure it’ll be chaos: there might be Internet struggles because the whole country will be reaching out virtually at the same time; the kids may be out of control and coming down off of a pumpkin pie sugar high; everyone may be sad because this is just not the way we do things. But we’re going to try anyway, and I hope you try too, in whatever way makes you happy.

I’m thankful for you, for the chance to reach out and encourage you every now and then. I’m thankful for all of the great things you do for others, even if they’re little things, and even if no one thinks they’re a big deal. And I’m thankful, like so many, that this year is almost over! Can’t wait for the next one!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Opening the Door

Opening the Door

In our home, the wood sometimes swells up when it gets humid outside, so it’s not unusual that our doors stick and won’t open if they’re shut pretty hard. One easy way to tell that it’s getting to autumn and winter in our home is to see if the doors close all the way; another is to note that our bread (which we make at home) doesn’t fall apart as easily like it does in the summertime.

Earlier this year, during the door-swelling season, it happened that my son was pretty angry. We had taken something away from him as a punishment for his behavior, and as retaliation, he ran into his room and slammed his door as hard as he could. After a few long minutes of the kind of full-throated screaming that most kids save for the angriest of days, he calmed down and decided to leave his room.

Except he couldn’t: he was stuck.

He pulled and pulled at his door, but the top of the doorjamb was swollen and wouldn’t budge. This, of course, led to more screaming, this time out of a mixture of anger and panic; and after we opened it (after a lot of banging at the top of the door), he needed a spoonful of honey to soothe his sore throat. He had calmed down from his initial anger, but he still found himself trapped.

I thought about that, and about how we can all be trapped by anger too. Do you ever feel that way? You’re angry about something, even furious; and even when you calm down, you find that you’re still not very far away from the fury at all. And over time, your perspective on life becomes informed by your anger, to the point when you feel angry all of the time.

There’s been times in my life when I’ve felt that way. I’ve felt that my anger was “right,” and that because I was “correct” and no one else seemed to be, that made it even worse. I became trapped in my anger until I realized that it was just another form of control. I was trying to control those around me, and when they didn’t act how I wanted them to – even if I was angry about the “right things” – I would get upset. It took me so long (and I still forget sometimes) that in general, people are going to be how they are until they change – if they ever do – and it was better for everyone involved if I lived my life the best I could and let others do that too.

Anger and control can be friends. They can be the door and that which swells it. But maybe there’s a way we can help keep it manageable. In our home, we learned that we didn’t need to wait for cooler temperatures to calm things down – we bought a dehumidifier and that helped so much. If you struggle with anger, how can you “dehumidify” it? What are some things we can do  – things we CAN control – to help soothe our spirits?

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.