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Circles of Influence

Summer is at last upon us, and I don’t know about you, but every week simultaneously feels like an instant and a million years. There is so much going on all around us, and if you’re one of the lucky ones not feeling overwhelmed by it all, go out and buy yourself a lottery ticket, because it would seem you’re one of the very lucky ones!

I heard a brief talk recently that explained one way that a person could find peace in this extremely chaotic time. The idea wasn’t new per se (in fact, I think it was first referenced in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) but helpful nonetheless. The speaker talked about two circles: the circle of influence, and the circle of concern. The circle of influence, he explained, was the circle of your immediate life: your self, your family, friends, neighbors, and so on. The circle of concern encapsulated all of the “big issue” things that concern us: our health, financial status, relationships, society at large, etc. It’s called that because those things concern us, and we are concerned by them. The trouble is, though, that a lot of those things that concern us are things that we ourselves have very little control over, and when we sort of blur those circles together, we tend to fall apart. His solution? If you want more peace in the chaos, focus your attention on your Circle of Influence more than your Circle of Concern.

Now, that makes very logical sense to me, but I can see the challenges with this that would easily pop up in my own life, mainly through social media  Because my news feeds and all of that content is shared by people I (mostly) know in real life, it can become overwhelming to sort through the things I can change vs. the thing I can’t.

Does this mean that we can’t affect change on a broader scale? I don’t think it does! I think that it means that the actions I choose to do will, I believe, work outward. I can’t “fix” (or my personal favorite, “control”) really large things that affect millions of people. But I can do my share. And I know that it sounds little, and small, and silly, but hey, something is better than just worrying about how terrible things are and how no one will ever be able to fix them. My effort, and yours, and everyone else’s, can grow and can change things.

But it’s really difficult. It’s not easy to look at our lives and figure out what we can change.  It’s really hard to think outside ourselves. But we can do it, even if we fall short.

I heard a story once about an American woman who read about Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta, how she used to help the utterly poor and those near death, the ones that no one in society wanted anyone to do with. And, in her zeal and inspiration, this woman traveled to Calcutta, met up with the Sisters of Charity, saw with her own eyes the desperation and the pain and the degrading poverty, and…she just couldn’t do it. She couldn’t help. She had read about it and thought she knew what it was going to be like, but she saw it with her own eyes and just couldn’t move – she was too overwhelmed by it. One of the sisters who worked with Mother Teresa saw this woman’s struggle and didn’t kick her out, didn’t send her back to America. She just asked her to come with her and to help her do the work that needed to get done. Even that little help was enough.

Mother Teresa had that famous line, “Find your own Calcutta.” She knew that there are people in our own lives that suffer immensely, even if it’s not from material poverty. If we stayed home and did that, that would be enough.

It all feels so loud out there. So overwhelming. So in the next few days, try to figure out what your circles are – write them down or draw them out, if you would like to! And see what you can do for your own circle of influence. I hope some peace comes from that both for you and for those who will feel it coming from 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.

Mom and daughter wearing protective mask in quarantine.

Parenting during a pandemic

Sadness, anger, frustration and disappointment are all normal responses to significant change and disruption in one’s life. It can help to hear that someone understands and acknowledges how difficult life in quarantine can be. Are you struggling to strike the right balance between work and family? You’re not alone! Join Kema and start the conversation on how to cope with and manage your new normal.

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Feeling stressed or anxious? We are here to help. Since 2017, eTalkTherapy.com has been serving Pennsylvanians with online therapy and professional counseling services from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Our licensed professional counselors and experienced therapists are highly skilled in the areas of anxiety, stress, depression and trauma. We provide therapy sessions on a HIPPA secure, live-video website or by phone. Don’t allow your worries or anxieties to spiral out of control. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a confidential and affordable appointment with one of our experienced telehealth therapists.

Young girl on a swing in the park alone

Life Goes On

When my mother died in a January that’s been years ago now, I was surprised by how swiftly the rest of the world continued to operate. It moved forward unrelentingly, singly-focused, completely churning along as it always had. It didn’t skip a beat, not one: the sun still rose, the February weather was still frigid, waves of the oceans still approached and receded from the shorelines. I don’t know what I’d expected; of course the world would go on. My world, as I had known it, was so different, but the world at large had no idea. And I had resented it a little, at first – didn’t everyone understand what a big deal this was?

(My mother used to tell a similar story, in the opposite way, every year on my birthday: “When you were born, I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t on the front page of every newspaper. Didn’t everyone understand what a big deal this was?”)

Death, birth.  The world kept turning through both of those things.

I thought about this the other day when I saw a friend of mine. I was trying not to huff and puff too loudly as I walked up the hill of our street (a couple of months in isolation without strenuous exercise can make anyone winded pretty quickly these days), and I waved as I approached her driveway from the requisite six feet away.

“How’s it going?” I asked, the way I asked everybody who’s been under lockdown for weeks on end, in that tone that clearly implied that I knew exactly how it was going.

Only I didn’t know. My friend stood still in the driveway, her boys playing behind her, and told me the news as I stood across the street, six feet away.

“I found a lump.”

Aggressive breast cancer in a 36-year old mother of two little boys, a tremendous wave of uncertainty in a time that already feels like a tsunami. And still, the world rolls on.

__

One of my favorite traditions around Mother’s Day is to watch the BBC version of “Little Women” that came out just a couple of years ago. Every time I watch it, I’m struck by how death and birth exist so closely to one another. When someone dies, two little ones are born. Bad things happen, but so do the good. There is War, and separation; but there are also weddings and reunions.  

It is not lost on me that the world, although it looks and feels very different than it did just a few months ago, is still home to not only terrible things, but good things, too. All of the precautions we are taking to combat the coronavirus are also shedding light on things that we really enjoyed and miss, and can’t wait to take part in again. We are, like it or not, learning that for all the things in our lives we can control, there are so many that we cannot.

There are plenty of terrible things to see in the world, but there are also beautiful things.  They may be harder to find than they used to be (in fact, I’m sure of it); but maybe it’s a comfort to you to know that they are there. Maybe we can seek them out more than we used to, now that we are beginning to understand the importance of seeking the beauty around us. And I totally understand how frustrating that exercise is if you’re stuck inside… but is there a way the light hits a table in a way that is beautiful to you, that you’ve never noticed before? Is there a curtain you could pull back, or a blind you could roll up, or a photo you could move to a more prominent place in your home space to look at that reminds you of love?

Think of the smallest thing you can, then try to find more because just as the world rolls on through sadness, it’ll roll on through joy, as well.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

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.

Mother with little daughter playing in a autumn field

Hold Things Loosely

There’s been a lot of talk about sacrifices these days, especially in comparison to the past. There’s the usual talk about how people today would never have been able to “hack it” back during times of real struggle, like during World Wars and Great Depressions; but there’s also some good discussion out there about how best to put the time we’re in right now to good use.  And what I’ve found most appealing so far hasn’t been pep talks like “Now’s the time to write that novel you’ve always wanted to!” (Which I think puts a ridiculous amount of pressure on an already unstable situation, but anyway) It’s been articles of historical value: “Here’s how people got through the really hard times.” It’s concrete history that’s shown us how resilient we’ve been as a species; and if you ask me, it’s helpful to remember that we’re just as resilient now, even if it looks a bit differently. 

In the face of all of this uncertainty (and who doesn’t see it everywhere they go these days?) I’ve found it’s best to “hold things loosely.” To think ahead and to hope, but to not put too much stock in what’s coming because it might be taken away more quickly than we think. Pennsylvania is operating on a tri-colored tier, and although it’s tempting to fix our eyes on the “green” phase of operations, it may be a good practice to realize that we could get kicked back to the “red” zone pretty quickly.

When the shutdowns first began, my kids’ school moved pretty quickly to shuffle everything online. They’ve done a wonderful job, and my kids do benefit from the one-on-one instruction that I cobble together to supplement their teachers’ videos. But I still find myself so thrilled by the PA Department of Education’s report that they expect students to be returning to their brick-and-mortar schools in the Fall. I dream of the day in just a few months when my kids can step on the school bus, fresh supplies in their bags, ready to start a new year, all crisply new amid the backdrop of all of that uncertainty.

But I’m learning not to hold on to even that so tightly because we just don’t know. We just don’t know what it will look like in even just those few months. And lest the disappointment be even worse than the hope, I’m finding it’s better for me to keep hoping, but also plan for things just in case.

We’re all in that boat, aren’t we? We’re all in this shared situation of having to wait, and I think it’s a sure bet that by now most of us have grown accustomed to disappointment. But before we go swimming into all of that despair, what are some ways we can find to balance out our disappointments? What are the small hopes we can believe in that can temper our temptations to believe that the world will be forever terrible? How can we hold things loosely in our lives and gain the freedom that comes with that flexibility?

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.

Boy holding a magnifying glass showing a big eye next to the door

Follow the clues

For all of the reasons I hate living with an anxiety disorder, there is one reason I’m glad for it – helping others through it. One of my children has a lot of anxiety too, and because I have lived with it for so long, I’m able to help guide him through his experience.  (Although, to be honest, sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind!) I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for parents to help their children who do not themselves suffer from anxiety, because it is just an intricately difficult mindset to understand if you don’t already experience it.

One way I’ve been trying to help him, and this is a technique that I’ve found really helpful over the years, is to introduce the idea of being a detective. He’s just about at the age where the idea of detective work sounds so exciting. So for every anxiety-filled thought he has that causes him a lot of trouble, we “investigate” it: look at it from every angle, trying to inject as much logic as we can into it to see if the anxious thoughts will hold or if they’ll fall apart.

Most times, it works relatively quickly, but it does take some effort, particularly because his body is hyped up from the fight-or-flight response that accompanies the worries too.  (We’ve found that it’s best to wait until his body is calmer to help him take in the questions better.) We’ll try to sit down and ask questions of his worry:

  • What worry are you feeling right now?
  • Where in your body do you feel the worry?
  • What really happened? (We’re looking for objectivity here.)
  • What evidence do we have that makes your worry true?
  • What would someone else think about what happened?

And we go from there. The more we talk it out, the better.  Of course, as a parent, it gets tiresome because I don’t always feel like stopping everything I’m doing in the moment (making dinner, or cleaning up, or helping with a school assignment) to sit down and address these worries with him. More often than not, I brush off his worries with a “It’s fine” or “Don’t worry about it.” But as someone who struggles daily with anxiety and worry, I know statements like that do nothing to help the situation. It really is worth the time it takes to untangle his worry and help him back on the path to a good day and, if it can wait, some time right before bed is also helpful, when our attention can fully be focused on him and his needs.

Being a detective can also work for you! What worry do you have that keeps popping up, robbing you of your peace and your happiness? Where in your body do you feel it? What is really happening, and what evidence do you have for what you’re perceiving to be happening? What would a trusted friend think about what happened? Give yourself time to think about it, write it down/type it out in a journal, and talk to a therapist or friend if you need outside affirmation and guidance.

This is just one tool that we can find useful in our supplies to help us rise above and conquer the anxieties in our day, and can help us see more clearly as we go about our daily lives.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

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.

Woman enjoying a cup of coffee during healthy breakfast at home. Writing on notebook. Adorable golden retriever dog besides.

It’s Okay To Be Okay

A writer/comedienne that I follow on social media, Jennifer Fulweiler, shared an Instagram stories post recently that expressed her shock at the reaction of a friend of hers to the current quarantine.  “How are you?” Jennifer asked her friend. “Never better!” was the reply.

“Never better?” At first, I had the same reaction to Jennifer’s: pure shock. How in the world could that be possible? And yet, it was, at least for this woman. And you know what? I’m sure that it’s true for more folks than just her. And I think it’s perfectly fine!

You know the saying “It’s okay to not be okay?” Well it is also “okay to be okay!” It’s okay to realize that, all things considered, now that we’ve had over a month of self-isolation under our belts, maybe things aren’t as bad as you thought they might be. Maybe you’ve been able to find some bright spots and silver linings in between the disappointments and the sufferings. Maybe you’ve been able to play at some new hobbies: baking bread, learning to knit, trying your hand at poetry. Maybe you’ve been able to catch up on a few TV shows you’ve missed out on, or you’ve been walking around the block during the day and you’re watching Spring unfold in a new way for what seems like the first time.

Of course, I don’t think (even for the woman who is doing so well) that there’s anyone going through this that is all okay every minute of the day. Even when we didn’t have a pandemic going on around us, no day in our lives was completely wonderful for every single minute of it. And maybe the complete opposite of all of this is true, and you’re miserable. Maybe your days are filled with dread, or disappointment, or just plain old weariness. But just as things don’t have to be okay for every minute, they don’t have to be terrible for every minute either. If you do feel despair, fear and rising anxiety, please reach out – and if you can find a window, walk over to it, and look outside. Spring is here. The birds are singing, and the plants are growing. Plants are funny things. It seems like they’re completely bare one minute, and then the next, boom! Everything is in full bloom.  But they were growing all the time.

We’re growing too, in this time of quarantine. It may not feel that way – it still may feel a lot like winter to you, at least interiorly. But we are growing. We’re becoming more patient. We’re becoming more hopeful. When things are opened back up to us, we’ll be able to do things we love again, and maybe this time around, we’ll be better people for it.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

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.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

The New Normal

Mental Health Month in the Shadow of COVID-19

In this COVID-19 crisis we see stark images casting a shadow over our ability to navigate the world. We are now face to face with meaninglessness and nothingness in a way that is unparalleled in our modern times. We have arrived at a point where the old “normal” can no longer continue, and we need to create new meaning, which means change.  That which we have been given is no longer enough; we need something different, something new.

This existential crisis has most of us feeling everything from helpless to fearful to angry to sad and all stops in between. Again, it is okay to feel this way. It may not feel good but trying to push your feelings away or act as if they don’t exist is the unhealthiest thing you can do right now or ever.

Our mental health will suffer over the next several months and possibly for years to come. You might find yourself completely avoiding any reminders of what is happening. Normal daily activities have altered drastically, and we will hardly go back to what looks normal anytime soon.

You would think that the ongoing mental health fallout from COVID-19 would be a much larger point in the current conversation. Yet, it hardly seems that way. So, why does mental health and wellness always seem to end up at the bottom of our ongoing health care debate? Costs are a big barrier to treatment, but so are attitudes. A 2007 study in Psychiatric Services, a Journal of the American Psychiatric Association, looked at several hundred potential mental health clients who had thought about seeking services but decided against it. This can be understood from a financial standpoint considering the enormity of the economic fallout of this crisis.

When questioned 66-percent of those surveyed thought the problem would get better on its own. Seventy-one percent agreed with the statement “I wanted to solve the problem on my own.” Several other studies have shown that many Americans still view depression and anxiety as a sign of weakness, and that seeking treatment demonstrates a lack of character or strength. Mental health does not get the attention it deserves because of the stigma, but nearly one out of every five Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder within their lifetimes, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Since its inception in 1949, Mental Health Month has been celebrated in May and for 55 years this campaign has provided an opportunity to raise awareness about mental health issues. Americans recognize Mental Health Month with events and activities in communities across the country. Many organizations, such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), engage in ongoing efforts to promote Mental Health Month through increasing public awareness and advocacy.

At eTalkTherapy, we recognize and embrace the goals of Mental Health Month. Our objective is to build public recognition and support about the importance of good mental health and daily wellness, and to provide tips to promote mental wellbeing. We understand and acknowledge that there is more to good mental health than offering platitudes or medical management. Accepting the whole person, not just a diagnosis, is paramount to providing quality care and it is our mission.

Take the first step. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed professionals.

In Good Health,
Don

Relaxed woman with laptop at home

Staying safe at home

Your mental health matters. During this time of uncertainty, many of us are staying safe at home. But for some, home may not be a safe place to be. If you just need someone to talk to, you’re feeling down, seeking support, or looking for new ways to cope with anxiety, give Kema a call or meet with her live online through eTalkTherapy’s HIPPA secure video portal. Kema specializes in depression, anxiety, postpartum depression, trauma and women’s issues.

All of the experienced and licensed therapists at eTalkTherapy are here to help, contact us today.

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Feeling stressed or anxious? We are here to help. Since 2017, eTalkTherapy.com has been serving Pennsylvanians with online therapy and professional counseling services from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Our licensed professional counselors and experienced therapists are highly skilled in the areas of anxiety, stress, depression and trauma. We provide therapy sessions on a HIPPA secure, live-video website or by phone. Don’t allow your worries or anxieties to spiral out of control. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a confidential and affordable appointment with one of our telehealth therapists.

Smiling woman making video call on laptop

We are in this together

Kema wants to know what are some things you do each day to support your mental health? Looking after your mental health during this crisis can be tricky, but Kema shares some advice for maintaining a healthy routine and keeping a positive attitude.

We are here to help. The experienced and licensed therapists at eTalkTherapy.com will continue to support your mental health and wellness through live-video chat or telephone sessions. If you are in need of some help with your emotional well being or you are struggling with life during this crisis, contact us today.

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Feeling stressed or anxious? We are here to help. Since 2017, eTalkTherapy.com has been serving Pennsylvanians with online therapy and professional counseling services from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Our licensed professional counselors and experienced therapists are highly skilled in the areas of anxiety, stress, depression and trauma. We provide therapy sessions on a HIPPA secure, live-video website or by phone. Don’t allow your worries or anxieties to spiral out of control. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a confidential and affordable appointment with one of our telehealth therapists.

A Message for Your Mental Health

A message from our therapists at eTalkTherapy

This is just a friendly reminder during this challenging time, to take extra care of yourself today and every other day. Remember your total well being includes not just your physical health, but your mental health too!

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Feeling stressed or anxious? We are here to help. Since 2017, eTalkTherapy.com has been serving Pennsylvanians with online therapy and professional counseling services from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Our licensed professional counselors and experienced therapists are highly skilled in the areas of anxiety, stress and depression. We provide therapy sessions on a HIPPA secure, live-video website or by phone. Don’t allow your worries or anxieties to spiral out of control. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a confidential and affordable appointment with one of our telehealth therapists.