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Supplement Your Journaling Routine with These Easy Therapeutic Exercises

In our last post, we spoke with Cummins therapist Mindy Frazee about the mental health benefits of keeping a journal. Studies have shown that journaling can have a wide range of physical and mental heath effects, from lowered heart rate to less distress and negative emotions. Although we covered a lot of the basics last time, there’s still so much more that can be said about journaling!

“Journaling helps us think in different ways,” Mindy says. “It aids in stress reduction, emotion regulation, increased awareness, but it also impacts and touches different parts of our brains, which is really fascinating.”

To help our readers supplement their journaling routine, we asked Mindy about her favorite ways to use journaling in a therapy setting. Here are a few exercises and prompts you can try for yourself!

Therapist Mindy Frazee on Her Favorite Journaling Exercises

Mindy Frazee considers herself a Rogerian, and as such, she doesn't believe in one-size-fits-all journaling therapy. "There's no manualized treatment for Carl Rogers, and I love that. So, for me, it's about whoever is sitting across from me. It's really tailored to what would work for that person," she says.

Self-Affirmation Journaling

“Some people that come into my office have very low self-evaluation and self-esteem, for a variety of reasons. One of the things I’ll do is tell them, ‘Write down everything you like about yourself.’

That’s really uncomfortable for people. Many of us don’t like to talk about ourselves. We’re in the Midwest; it’s not what we do. But on top of that, we may have been told negative things about ourselves. This exercise challenges those ideas. Then, if we read what we wrote out loud, it helps us accept those good things about ourselves. We think, ‘I wrote it about myself, I read it out loud, and then this person sitting across from me who’s completely unbiased accepts this about me. I guess I can accept that about me, too.’ “

Reframing Traumatic Experiences

“Usually in trauma work, I encourage the person to read their own words out loud in our sessions. And when they’re reading what they’ve written about a traumatic experience, I’ll pause them and ask, ‘What do you think about that experience right now? What is it like now, today, in this moment, to be saying these things?’

What was present then is often what trauma survivors fixate on. ‘I was so angry, I was so scared, I was these things.’ But as a therapist, I encourage them to think about what’s happening today, in this moment. This helps them be more present and stop living in the past, which is really pivotal and impactful in trauma work. They realize it’s OK to feel the way they did and that they’re not in that place anymore.”

Experimenting with Format

“Some people just don’t want to sit down and write, to be honest. Not everybody is going to say, ‘Dear diary, today…’ So, I try to meet those people where they’re comfortable. They can journal with logs or bullet points. They can write poetry and prose. It’s whatever makes sense for that person in their mind.

Another idea that’s really fascinating is photography as a way of journaling. Most people have some type of a phone, so I might ask them to capture pictures, but in a very focused way—with a specific quest, kind of. I’ll say, ‘Define this concept using photos throughout your day, and then bring them in and we’ll discuss them.’ “

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We’d like to thank Mindy Frazee for sharing these exercises, which can be used in both clinical and personal settings. But you needn’t stop here! There are countless ways to express yourself through journaling—the only wrong way is a way that doesn’t feel right to you!

What are your favorite ways to journal?

If you’d like to read more about mental health and wellness strategies, check out some of our other posts below!

Wellness: What It Is and How to Achieve It
Stress Can Be Good For You (as in this picture of a woman doing her homework)
Remember This Next Time You're Feeling Stressed

Journaling: A Simple Way to Manage Stress, Anxiety and Depression

“In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent.”  — Susan Sontag, essayist, filmmaker and activist

Would you believe that spending a few minutes each day with a pen and paper can be highly beneficial for your mental health?

Journaling, which you might also call keeping a diary, is the practice of regularly recording your thoughts, feelings and life events. It’s a great way to get difficult thoughts and emotions “out of your head” and into a private, judgment-free space. In fact, psychologists have known for many years that journaling can work wonders for mental health.

In one influential paper on the topic, psychologist James Pennebaker found that people who participated in journaling exercises later reported less distress, depression and negative emotions. Amazingly, some people even experienced improvements in their physical health and behavior. In a few studies, people who journaled went on to earn higher grades in school or find a new job more quickly after being laid off from work.

So, how does journaling work in a clinical setting, and how does the exercise translate to mental health benefits? We spoke with therapist Melinda (“Mindy”) Frazee to find out.

Mindy Frazee on Journaling for Mental Health

Mindy Frazee is an outpatient therapist at our Crawfordsville office, where she finds journaling to be an invaluable tool in her work with clients. “It can aid in emotion regulation and increasing awareness. I do a lot of mindfulness-based work with clients, and it can help them become more aware, more present, more tuned-in to what’s happening to them internally instead of reacting to what’s happening externally,” she says.

According to Mindy, journaling can be an effective therapeutic exercise for just about anyone. However, she finds it particularly useful for people who have experienced trauma. In her therapy sessions, Mindy often asks clients to read aloud portions of what they have written in their journals, and then they discuss topics that either person thinks is important.

Mindy says that journaling forces us to confront our thoughts and feelings head-on rather than avoid them. Although this process can be uncomfortable at first, it’s often a crucial step on the journey toward self-discovery or psychological healing:

“When people first come to work with me, especially when they’ve experienced trauma, I compare it to looking down a very long hallway with a lot of doors shut. It’s scary and dark, and we don’t like to go down there. But in my office, we go down there. It’s very disorganized in that area of our minds, and journaling can help us start to organize it. We revisit the traumatic event, we look at it in a safe way, and we make a different sense of it.”

How to Start Your Own Journaling Routine

Keeping a journal is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your mental health. All you need to do is pick up a pen and start writing. You can write about anything you want, from the events of your day to something that has made you happy, sad, excited or nervous. If you keep up the routine long enough, you’ll start to know yourself better and work your way through problems that once seemed too difficult to approach.

Your journaling exercise will be most effective if you can make it a regular part of your day. “My recommendation is to be very intentional about when you’re going to journal,” Mindy says. “Sit down and walk through your schedule. When do you have 20 minutes where no one is interrupting you, you’re relaxed, and you’re able to just sit, think and write?”

Here are some other tips and suggestions to consider:

  • If at all possible, try to write in your journal every day. Be strict with yourself about maintaining your schedule.
  • Write whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about things like sentence structure, grammar and spelling.
  • Don’t censor yourself or worry about what other people might think. Your journal is for your eyes only.
  • If you don’t know what to write about, try choosing weekly or monthly themes. Examples could include “joy,” “anger,” “memories” or “aspirations.”
  • Instead of keeping a written journal, you could also record audio or video logs. Any format that feels right to you is fine.

Journaling is one of the many client-specific behavioral treatments used by our therapists at Cummins BHS. While journaling is useful in clinical care settings, it can also be practiced outside of therapy for your general mental and emotional well-being.

We hope this post inspires you to start journaling for your own mental health! 

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For more on wellness and simple exercises for improving mental health, give these other posts a read!

Wellness: What It Is and How to Achieve It
Calm Down Quick with This Simple Trick: Extended Exhale

Building Connected, Healthy Communities: National Night Out 2019

Tuesday, August 6th is National Night Out!

The website for National Night Out—an initiative of the National Association of Town Watch—includes a quote from former Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison that nicely sums up what the organization is all about:

“The best way to build a safer community is to know your neighbors and your surroundings. National Night Out triumphs over a culture that isolates us from each other and allows us to rediscover our own communities.”

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United States Permanent Representative to NATO and former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Celebrated in most places on the first Tuesday in August, National Night Out (or NNO) is an annual event with the goal of creating safer, tighter-knit communities. One way this is done is by strengthening relationships between community members and law enforcement. To this end, local police departments have a large presence at each event. Officers put a positive face on law enforcement by interacting with community members, and they also get residents involved in programs like neighborhood watch, drug prevention, and other anti-crime efforts.

However, NNO is also about strengthening ties between everyone in the community. As Senator Hutchison said, the best way to build safe communities is to know your neighbors! That’s why Cummins BHS is proud to be participating in this year’s National Night Out celebrations!

Recapping Montgomery County’s NNO Events with Jeremy Haire

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Jeremy Haire, LMHC, is a Youth and Family Therapist at our Montgomery County location in Crawforsdville, IN.

In Montgomery County, National Night Out was celebrated a week early on Tuesday, July 30th. The event was held at Milligan Park in Crawfordsville, IN and hosted by several organizations including the Montgomery County Youth Service Bureau and Drug Free Montgomery County. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, Police Department and Fire Department were all present to interact with the public. Additionally, there were many fun activities for children and families to participate in, such as an obstacle course, a bounce house, face painting, caricatures, and a special “Silly Safari” show.

Two of our staff were also there to speak with attendees about Cummins’ services and answer their behavioral health questions. Jeremy Haire, LMHC and Youth & Family Therapist, headed the booth at the event. “We had a display for doing deep breathing and a couple of activities to get kids engaged, and while they were playing, the parents might ask us about our services. It was a great time to get information to community members who maybe hadn’t heard of us or didn’t know exactly what we do,” Jeremy says.

In addition to letting people know about the health services available to them, Jeremy says the event was a good opportunity to connect with other local organizations:

“It’s nice to be able to meet some of our community partners and discover how they can help people who are currently in our services. For example, we met an organization that provides hygiene products and household items for adults and families. That was a resource we weren’t aware of. Having relationships like that will help us connect folks who are in need with the appropriate resources.”

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A photo of the deep breathing board that was displayed at Cummins' booth. The two techniques listed, "bubble breathing" and "balloon breathing," presented healthy breathing exercises in a way that was engaging for children.

Attending National Night Out is a wonderful way to get involved with your community and discover the health and wellness resources that are available to you. We encourage all our readers to check with their local civic organizations to see if National Night Out is being celebrated in their town!

Cummins BHS will be in attendence at the NNO event for Putnam County. Come out to see us Tuesday, August 6th from 5–8 p.m. at Robe Ann Park (Splash Park) in Greencastle!

If you enjoyed this post on National Night Out, you might also like our article featuring Police Officer Chase Lyday and the Decatur Township Drug-Free Coalition!

Officer Chase Lyday
How One Indianapolis Police Officer Is Fighting Teenage Substance Abuse

Calm Down Quick With this Simple Trick: Extended Exhale

Yoga, meditation

What is 4-7-8 breathing?

“Unlike the heart’s one-dimensional, slow-to-fast continuum, there are many distinct types of breaths: regular, excited, sighing, yawning, gasping, sleeping, laughing, sobbing. We wondered if different subtypes of neurons within the respiratory control center might be in charge of generating these different types of breath.” 

Practicing the 4-7-8 breathing technique 

Dr. Andrew Weil developed the 4-7-8 breathing technique to help with reducing anxiety, insomnia, and controlling/reducing anger responses.

This technique asks a person to focus on taking a long, deep inhalation for four seconds, holding the breath for seven seconds, then exhaling slowly (making a ‘whooshing’ breath sound) for eight seconds.  Structured, rhythmic breathing like this is central to many meditation and yoga practices as it promotes relaxation and mindfulness.

Breathing is special because it is both an automatic reflex and a voluntary action.  Our breathing speeds up when we’re afraid and slows down when we’re calm, all without conscious effort.  When we apply conscious effort to slow our breath, it can slow down those negative stressful feelings as well.

Yoga Specialist Becky Mann

Yoga Instructor Becky Mann explores breathwork with her clients while easy poses help reconnect to emotions within the body. As Becky says, “There are issues in our tissues!”  Becky guides her clients with soothing, instructive visualizations like this:

As you inhale, feel your lungs expand…feel your rib cage rise with cool air entering the nostrils. As you exhale down to the last whisper of breath, feel the belly soften and feel the warm air leave the nostrils.

Breathing exercises are so effective they have been adapted for use by the US Military. Try their ‘Box Breathing’ technique as well:  Inhale for four seconds, hold for four, exhale for four, and wait for four seconds before repeating.   Like a square or ‘box’, this breathing technique consists of four parts of equal length.

Experiment with these structured techniques to find a style that works for you! Thank you to Tara Treatment Center’s Becky Mann:  Learn more about Becky’s specialized practice here.

Yoga facilitator Anne Halleck stretchingInterested in the application of Yoga and breathing exercises to mental health?  Check out Anne Halleck’s blog article here.

 

Shining a Spotlight on Minority Mental Health Month with These Indiana Organizations

Every person deserves access to quality healthcare regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and economic status. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

People who belong to “minority” groups are less likely than the rest of the population to have access to care, and the care they receive is often of a lower quality. This is especially true when it comes to mental health care. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that in 2017, 42% of all youth ages 12-17 received care for a major depressive episode, but only 35% of African American youth and 33% of Hispanic youth received treatment for their condition.

This long-running disparity in treatment led the U.S. House of Representatives to establish July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in 2008. This month, organizations across the country are advocating for better mental health care for members of minority groups.

Here are a few of the organizations and events celebrating Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in Indiana!

The Indiana Youth Institute

"If an organization impacts youth and families, we act as a catalyst in their efforts and provide resources to help them achieve their goals," says Kevin Enders, Senior Outreach Manager at the Indiana Youth Institute.

The Indiana Youth Institute is a statewide organization dedicated to improving the lives of all Indiana children. IYI provides data, resources and training to organizations that directly interact with youth, such as those in the areas of education, workforce development, health care, the Department of Corrections, and the State Department.

IYI’s mission is to understand the health issues that affect children and teens in Indiana, and one way it does this is by collecting data. Each year, IYI compiles the Indiana KIDS COUNT® Data Book to provide a snapshot of youth health in the state. According to Kevin Enders, Senior Outreach Manager at IYI, one of the things this data does is help organizations identify and remedy disparities in mental health treatment for minority groups.

“As an example, we know that 1 in 5 high school students in Indiana has thought about suicide. We can break this down by gender, sexuality, race, or ethnicity and take a deeper look. If we break it down by sexual orientation, we see a huge disparity. Suicidal ideation occurs in 15% of heterosexual youth, but it occurs in nearly 47% of gay, lesbian and bisexual youth. When it comes to race and ethnicity, we see higher rates of suicidal ideation in Hispanic, African American and multiple-race youth compared to their white counterparts. We want to educate the state of Indiana about these disparities so that we can provide better interventions and preventions in the field of mental health.”

Visit the Indiana Youth Institute on Facebook to learn more about how the organization is promoting the health of minority populations and all youth across Indiana.

Hendricks County Health Partnership

"We accomplish our mission through education, advocacy and collaboration. Collaboration is really the heartbeat of the partnership," says Chase Cotten, Partnership Coordinator of the Hendricks County Health Partnership.

On the county level, the Hendricks County Health Partnership is a grassroots community service organization with a mission to improve the physical, mental and spiritual health of residents. It consists of seven local coalitions that each focus on a specific facet of public health, such as the Physical Activity & Nutrition Coalition, the Mental Health & Wellness Coalition, and the Substance Abuse Task Force.

One of the newer additions is the Minority Health Coalition, which meets the first Thursday of each month to discuss the physical and mental health of the county’s minority populations. When it comes to mental health, the coalition recognizes that members of minority groups face unique barriers to receiving treatment in Hendricks County, as explained by Partnership Coordinator Chase Cotten:

“If you are a member of a minority population in Hendricks County, the lack of intercultural competency is a large barrier. If I’m a Spanish-speaking resident and English is my second language, it’s going to be very difficult to connect with a therapist or counselor if they don’t have any sort of translation services on site. Another example would be the lower income barrier. Maybe I’m an uninsured patient and there are only one or two providers that accept a sliding-scale fee instead of an insurance fee or a standard fee, so my options are very limited. Or let’s say I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ population. Not all providers are affirming of that, so that adds another layer of barrier and stigma that I have to fight through. The ‘why’ behind the coalition is to increase intercultural competency for providers and community members so that everyone has an equitable chance to get the help they deserve.”

Visit the Hendricks County Health Partnership Facebook page to get in touch with the coalitions and see how you can help make a difference in Hendricks County.

2019 Indiana Black and Minority Health Fair & Shalom’s Dr. Dannée Neal Back-to-School Family Health Fair

Cummins' Michelle Freeman (pictured here), Director of County Operations for Hendricks and Marion Counties, will be at the 2019 Indiana Black & Minority Health Fair on July 20th from 12:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.

In celebration of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Cummins Behavioral Health Systems will be in attendance at two local events over the weekend!

The first is the 2019 Indiana Black & Minority Health Fair, which is part of the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration. The goal of the Health Fair is to raise awareness of chronic disease prevention and treatment among minority populations. To this end, there will be a wide variety of free health screenings available as well as health education, demonstrations and activities!

The 2019 Indiana Black & Minority Health Fair runs from July 18th through the 21st. It’s being held in Halls J and K of the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. Cummins’ own Michelle Freeman, Director of County Operations for Hendricks and Marion Counties, will be there to answer your mental health questions on Saturday the 20th from 12:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.! Please consult this flyer for additional information.

Also on Saturday, Shalom Health Care Center will be holding its annual Dr. Dannée Neal Back-to-School Family Health Fair. This health fair welcomes more than 3,000 people—including children, their families, and other members of the community—to participate in free health screenings, games and activities. There will also be music and dancing, backpack giveaways in preparation for the new school year, and exhibitions from more than 100 community health partners.

This year’s Dr. Dannée Neal Back-to-School Family Health Fair will be held on Saturday, July 21st at Shalom’s Primary Care Center at 34th Street and Lafayette Road. The fair runs from 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m., and members of the Cummins staff will be in attendance! Please visit Shalom Health Care Center’s website for more information.

This Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Cummins BHS wants you to know that no one should be ashamed of their mental health struggles, and help is out there! Our health care providers can offer assessments, evaluations and interventions based on your needs.

For more on mental health care for underserved groups, take a look at our recent post for LGBTQ Pride Month!

LGBTQ Pride 2019: Explaining the Gender Unicorn withYouth MOVE

Multitasking, Attention-Deficit Trait, and Boundaries

Stress Can Be Good For You (as in this picture of a woman doing her homework)

Why Multitasking Doesn't Work at Work

There is time enough for everything, in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.”

— Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

Here’s a fun fact: the term multitasking originated in the field of computing, where it describes a computer’s ability to perform two or more processes at the same time. Today, we often use the word when we’re talking about people doing multiple things at once, such as reading a book while watching TV and sending text messages.

Our brains function a little bit like biological computers, but there are some important distinctions. One of them is that while computers are very good at doing many things simultaneously, human brains are awful at it. For humans, trying to multitask is a surefire recipe for performing all of our tasks poorly and mentally burning ourselves out in the process.

The Myth of Multitasking

On the surface, multitasking seems like the ideal way for us to get more done in a shorter amount of time. But the reality is that while the number of tasks we complete might increase, the quality of our work universally declines.

Research has shown that multitasking temporarily lowers our IQ by 10 points, making us less capable at solving complex problems. We also process information differently when our attention is divided, leading to poorer retention and less understanding of learned material. And to top it all off, the time-saving benefits of multitasking are small because our brains can’t process two decision-making operations at once.

Armed with this knowledge, it would appear that the solution to multitasking is simple: just stop doing it. But it can be surprisingly difficult to avoid distractions in a world where distractions have a way of coming to you.

Rise of the Attention Deficit Trait

In our modern technological world, we face more challenges to concentration than ever before. Phone calls, email, text messages and social media give us unprecedented connectivity with others, but they can also serve as near-constant interruptions that erode our ability to focus on what we’re doing.

Over time, an environment filled with continuous distractions can cause us to develop a neurological phenomenon called attention deficit trait, or ADT. First identified by psychiatrist Dr. Edward Hallowell, ADT shares many symptoms with ADHD, including distractibility, impatience and a feeling of inner frenzy. In short, ADT is the byproduct of information overload as we struggle to cope with incessant demands on our attention.

Under these conditions, people who are normally smart, talented and responsible suddenly find it incredibly difficult to solve problems, be creative and manage their time effectively. Luckily, ADT is a temporary condition that can be reversed with a little practice.

Set Boundaries to Save Your Brain

The best way to avoid falling victim to ADT is to set clear boundaries. One goal of setting boundaries is to minimize distractions and confine interruptions to designated times, but it’s also about not overworking ourselves so we aren’t as easily distracted in the first place.

Here are a few simple guidelines you can follow when you’re trying to get work done:

  • Turn off notifications or silence your phone. This will eliminate the distraction of incoming calls, texts and emails so you can focus on the task at hand. If you can’t afford to go completely off the grid, at least silence alerts from social media and nonessential applications.
  • Establish designated times for checking your email and messages. This might be at the beginning and end of each day, or perhaps at a few intervals throughout the day. If possible, try to schedule this during parts of the day when you are naturally less productive.
  • Post office hours and times of availability. Let co-workers and clients know when they can call or meet with you and when you need uninterrupted time to work. Keeping others informed of your schedule will help them minimize any distractions they may cause you.
  • Don’t take on more work than you can handle. An excessive workload or unrealistic deadlines will only create stress and tempt you to try to multitask. Saying “no” to assignments can be uncomfortable, but reasonable co-workers and clients will understand.
  • Take breaks and set times to stop working. Exhaustion from overworking can seriously impair our ability to concentrate. This is why it’s important to take regular breaks and refrain from working at all hours of the day. Take the time to refresh your mind and body, and the quality of your work will benefit from it.

Remember: humans are the sum of what we pay attention to. What we focus on determines our experiences, our knowledge, and our fulfillment in life. If we want to truly be in control of our own lives, we must dole out our attention wisely and with purpose.

For more tips on taking charge of your thoughts and emotions, take a look at this post on “eustress,” the positive form of stress!

Perfectionism and the Imposter Syndrome

Embracing Your Inner Expert: Perfectionism and the Impostor Syndrome in Mental Health

“The problem was that I carried around with me a tendency to feel that other people’s respect for me would vanish if what I did was second rate. And while I accept that this ‘perfectionism’ is likely to stimulate the production of better work, it doesn’t, unfortunately, go hand in hand with a relaxed and happy attitude to life.”

— John Cleese, television and film actor



Have you ever felt that your best isn’t good enough? Have you faced pressure from yourself or others to be better than great—to be perfect? Even though we all know no one really is, this unrealistic self-expectation can still creep into our minds regarding our relationships, our hobbies, and especially our jobs.

Mental health professionals are no exception. Due to the demanding nature of their work, therapists and counselors may feel the need to know everything and have all the answers for the people they serve. And if they don’t have all the answers for their clients, they might feel unknowledgeable or unqualified for their job.

Even though such thoughts and feelings aren’t based in reality, they can fill us with anxiety and slowly eat away at our confidence. Over time, we might even start to feel like we’re living the life of an impostor.

 

The Impostor Syndrome: A Threat Lurking Under the Surface

In 1978, Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes published a study on 150 high-achieving women who did not believe they deserved their accomplishments. Despite their educational honors, professional successes and recognition from peers, they secretly considered themselves to be intellectual frauds and lived in constant fear of being exposed.

This was the first documentation of the impostor syndrome. Today, we know this condition affects both women and men equally and is especially prevalent in academic and workplace settings. People who have this condition don’t believe they are as competent as others think, and they attribute their successes to luck or hard work rather than innate ability.

Someone suffering from impostor syndrome has an internal monologue that sounds like this: 

“I feel like a fake.”

“I must not fail.”

“I just got lucky.”

“If I can do it, anyone can.”

As mental health professionals, we’ve spent a lot of time and effort to obtain the proper certifications and licenses. It’s been ingrained in us that we need a certain level of expertise and permission from people who are smarter than us to practice psychology. Ironically, even once we’ve obtained that expertise and permission, we may wonder if we’re really good enough for the job.

We can fall prey to the impostor syndrome if we let these feelings get the better of us. Fortunately, there are several things we can do to prevent this.

 

 

Unleashing the Expert Within

Just like with other anxiety-related issues, combating the fears of perfectionism requires us to examine and adjust our thought patterns. We can start to regain confidence in our professional worth by confronting our faulty self-perceptions with reality.

Here are some of the best ways you can do this:

  • Recognize your expertise. The simple fact of the matter is that if you have the education and certifications to be a practicing counselor or therapist, then you are an expert in your field. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for you to continue building on your expertise, but it does mean you’re more than qualified to provide treatment for your clients.
  • Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Mental health professionals sometimes develop the belief that because their job is to counsel others, they aren’t allowed to make any errors themselves. This is simply not true. Everyone messes up from time to time, and therapists and counselors are entitled to the same forgiveness for mistakes as the people who are seeking their help.
  • Reframe thoughts of self-doubt. If you find yourself repeating the internal monologues of the impostor syndrome, change your mental chatter to focus on your strengths and abilities. Instead of obsessing that you aren’t good enough, remind yourself that you will continue to improve over time. Reframing your negative thoughts can be especially helpful right before an achievement event, such as before an appointment with a client.
  • Talk to your peers. The worst thing we can do when struggling with negative thoughts is stay inside our own heads. Discussing your feelings with your colleagues can create opportunities for positive reinforcement and provide you with a realistic perspective on your abilities. You might also discover that they have perfectionism fears of their own, which can help you feel less alone in your struggles.

Those working in mental health may sometimes feel the need to be perfect, but we should remember that being professional does not mean being infallible. The best way to serve our clients is to be confident in our abilities and let our inner experts shine through.



If you liked this post on perfectionism and the impostor syndrome in the field of mental health, you might also enjoy our blog post on peer-based recovery support!

 

Some say Yoga is simple physical exercises. They’re wrong.

Bringing Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Into Mental Health Practice

The Body Keeps The Score Chapter 16:  Yoga & Learning to Inhabit Your Body

In The Body Keeps the Score, Trauma Expert Bessel Van Der Kolk explains the effects of trauma by recounting his first meeting with a patient we’ll refer to as ‘Sarah’.  She was breathing quickly, her legs were shaking, and she was too nervous to talk.  Sarah had been abused by both her parents growing up, and carried the resulting shock well into adulthood at the age of 27.  What can help individuals like these, who are too traumatized for traditional talk therapy?   

Working with the Breath

Dr. Van Der Kolk says that Heart Rate Variability (or HRV) plays a crucial role in our response to trauma. Healthy people typically have high HRV, which means their pulse fluctuates rapidly in response to external stimuli. This reflects a well-functioning nervous system which is able to change in balance with our environment. High-HRV individuals can moderate their emotions by controlling their breathing, allowing them to stay calm and engaged in the present moment.
 

In contrast, survivors like Sarah tend to be stuck in their traumatic past, taking rapid short breaths out of worry that their trauma may return–even when the threat has long subsided.  This causes poor HRV, a state in which changes in breathing take much longer to affect emotion. Poor HRV has negative effects on thinking and feeling, and it also contributes to heart disease and cancer. Luckily, techniques exist which allow us to regain some control over our reactions to triggering stimuli.

Therapist & Yogi Anne Halleck finds that combining these two practices allows her clients to make progress rapidly.  She reports that yoga can teach powerful techniques to utilize the breath and improve mindfulness.  She says,

“I blend yoga and therapy to different degrees depending on the needs of each client. I often introduce mindfulness and practices such as calming breathing or meditation into individual and group therapy in order to approach mental health in a more holistic and integrative way…There is a lot more to yoga than yoga pants and being flexible!”
 
 
Chat Conversation 

Anne is specially certified as a trauma-sensitive yoga teacher.  This therapy was highlighted in The Body Keeps the Score, which highlights new technologies linking the body and the brain.  We’ve learned that the prefrontal cortex is not where trauma is being stored.  It’s actually being stored in the nonverbal—even preverbal part of the brain, suggesting that a more integrative approach may be more successful than talk therapy alone.  Van Der Kolk presents several work-arounds to reconnect with the body, with ourselves, and with others. 

The good news:  Sarah began yoga for the trauma she had experienced and recovered, in a yoga group just like Anne Halleck’s.  While Van Der Kolk discusses many promising new approaches, yoga remains among the best at treating PTSD and improving clinical measurements like Heart Rate Variability. 

Trauma Sensitive Yoga

It looks like the evidence supports Anne’s observations.  Learn more about PTSD, HRV, and yoga in this video.  If mind-body approaches like yoga have helped your mental health (or a loved one’s), let others know by sharing this post! 

LGBTQ Pride 2019: Explaining the Gender Unicorn with Youth MOVE

Gender, Sexuality, and Mental Health

Youth MOVE Indiana

Alot of people don’t know how to talk about this sort of topic; It’s been sort of a taboo subject in years past, and people are nervous“, explains Madeline Zielinski of Youth MOVE National.  At the state level, April Moody of Youth MOVE Indianapolis (YMIN) works to help children with mental and behavioral issues. YMIN’s mission is to inspire and unite youth to bring real change by furthering acceptance, tolerance, and understanding of mental health.  Youth MOVE has facilitated LGBTQ trainings for companies across the country, including ICAADA locally.   This PRIDE month, we asked Youth MOVE experts April Moody and Madeline Zielinski for a general update on mental health as it relates to the LGBTQ community.  

Five Dimensions to Sexuality

April and Madeline are opinion leaders in the field of mental health and sexuality, and their concern is both personal and professional.  As the book Headcase explainsMany studies indicate that LGBTQ communities are at higher risk than heterosexuals for substance use and mental health disorders–eg; 27.6% compared to 10.5%.”  This Pride month, we asked April and Madeline to explain the curriculum covered by the trainings they facilitate across Indiana with Youth MOVE.  To encourage understanding, they use a framework of five dimensions, organized into a handy meme by transstudent.org:

The aforementioned experts from Youth MOVE like to use the gender unicorn as a basic way to organize our thinking about sexuality.  

  • The rainbow shows that gender identity is self-configured.  It cannot be observed from the outside.  
  • Then we have our gender expression.  This is our appearance, which includes how we dress, walk, talk, etc.  
  • Sex assigned at birth: This one is not on a spectrum, yet.
  • Physically attracted to the male and/or female form, as opposed to
  • Romantic/Emotional attraction, as when attraction is distinct from falling in love. 

Youth MOVE explains that many other cultures dont rely on a binary, black-and-white model of sexuality.  Please like and share this article to encourage understanding and show support for your friend or family member.   As April says, “The real goal is to create a culture in which ‘coming-out’ isn’t even a thing.  Sexuality is an important part of us, but it does not define us.”

Happy PRIDE Month from Cummins BHS!

Seize Control of Your Social Media Time with These Simple Setting Suggestions

Do you ever feel like social media can be just a bit too social?

Connecting with friends, family and loved ones online is wonderful, but we all know there are certain things that can bring these good times to a screeching halt. Maybe it’s a harassing message from a stranger or friend of a friend. Maybe it’s a series of upsetting posts from that relative who doesn’t know when to stop sharing. Or maybe it’s simply too many alerts and notifications at a time when you’d rather not be disturbed by them.

Fortunately, Facebook has a variety of features that can help you take control of your experience on the app. In this post, we’ll walk you through eight of the easiest things you can do to change WHO can see your activity, WHAT activity you see, and WHEN you see it.

(All screenshots below are taken from the iOS version of the Facebook app.)

Controlling WHO Can See You

Adjust Your Privacy Settings

If you want to limit who can find you on Facebook and see what you post, you’ll want to review your account privacy settings. Here you can specify whether your profile is visible to all users, friends of your friends or your friends only, and you can also choose who can see your posts, post on your page or send you friend requests. You can also designate who can see the personal information listed on your profile page.

To get to your privacy settings, start by tapping the menu icon in the toolbar (this runs across the bottom of the screen on Apple devices). In the main menu, scroll down to the bottom of the list and tap “Settings & Privacy,” then select “Settings” from the expanded menu. Once on the settings page, scroll down to find the section titled “Privacy,” then tap “Privacy Settings.”

You can also reach your privacy settings by selecting “Privacy Shortcuts” from the expanded menu under “Settings & Privacy.”

Block an Abusive User

If another user is harassing you with insulting, annoying or otherwise unwanted messages, you can easily block them. This will prevent them from seeing any of your activity, posting on your profile or adding you as a friend.

To add users to your blocked list, simply locate the “Privacy” section of the “Settings” menu and tap on the heading that reads, “Blocking.” Once in the Blocking menu, you can search for a user by name and block them with a single tap.

You can also block someone from their profile page. Just tap the “Manage Friendship” button and select “Block” on the following screen.

Hide Your Posts from Specific People

Most of us have that certain someone on our friends list who is likely to respond negatively to posts they disagree with. If you want to post something but don’t want to deal with their reaction, you can choose to make your post visible to everyone except them.

When creating your post, tap the button that says “Public” by default. This will bring you to a second screen. Tapping the “Friends except…” option will pull up a third screen where you can search your friends list and select anyone you would prefer not to see the post.

Controlling WHAT You See

Choose Which Posts You See First

You may have many friends on Facebook and follow many pages, but there are probably some people and pages whose posts you value more than the others. If you want to ensure you don’t miss updates from these people and pages, you can prioritize their posts to make them appear first in your news feed.

From the “Settings” menu, scroll down until you see the heading “News Feed Preferences” under “News Feed Settings.” Tapping on this selection will bring up a new screen containing the option, “Prioritize who to see first.” Choosing this option will bring you to another screen where you can search for friends and pages and tap to add them to your favorites.

Alternatively, you can reach this same screen by selecting “Your Time on Facebook” from the “Settings & Privacy” pull-down menu, then selecting “News Feed Preferences.”

Finally, you can also prioritize the posts of a user or page from their profile page. From a user’s profile page, tap on the “Manage Friendship” button and select “Following” on the next screen. A pull-up window will then allow you to change the priority of their posts. To prioritize a page that you follow, you can find the “Following” option by tapping the icon with three dots below the name of the page.

Unfollow a Person or Page

Just as we may have Facebook friends who frequently find issue with what we post, we might also have friends who tend to post things that upset, annoy or aggravate us. If you’d like to remain friends with these people but stop seeing their posts on your news feed, you can choose to unfollow them.

From your news feed or the post itself, tap on the three dots to the right of the poster’s name. A pull-up window will appear containing a number of possible actions, including “Unfollow X.” Unfollowing a user will make their posts stop appearing on your news feed, but you will remain friends on Facebook. Unfollowing a page will simply remove its posts from your news feed.

Just like with prioritizing a user’s posts, you can also unfollow their posts from their profile page. Tap on the “Manage Friendship” button,  select “Following” on the next screen, and choose the “Unfollow” option on the pull-up window. To unfollow a page, you can find the “Following” option by tapping the icon with three dots below the name of the page.

Snooze a Person or Page

If you’d like a break from a specific user or page but aren’t sure you want to unfollow them completely, you can decide instead to “snooze” their posts for 30 days. This works exactly like unfollowing, except their posts will begin populating your news feed again after a month’s time. You can use the snooze feature as a trial run to determine whether or not you want to unfollow someone for good.

To snooze a user or page for 30 days, tap the three dots to the right of their name on any of their posts. Then choose the “Snooze X for 30 days” option on the pull-up window.

Controlling WHEN You See Activity

Modify or Turn Off Notifications

Let’s be honest: sometimes Facebook sends us so many notifications that it can get frustrating to keep track of them all. Fortunately, it also gives you the option to choose what you receive alerts about and where you receive those alerts. You can modify your notifications to specify which activities (e.g. comments, tags, friend requests and birthdays) generate alerts and how you receive these notifications (via email, text message or push notification). You also have the option to mute all push notifications from the app or limit the number of text notifications Facebook will send you in a day.

You’ll find your notification settings in the “Settings” menu under the heading, “Notifications.” From here, you can choose to modify all your notification settings at once or review only your text messaging and email settings.

Set Daily Usage Reminders

It can be easy to lose track of time while browsing Facebook. Between your news feed, notifications and messages from friends, there’s a lot to grab your attention. If you find yourself frequently using Facebook for longer than you intended, you can set a limit on your daily usage.


From the main menu, select “Your Time on Facebook” under the category “Settings & Privacy.” On the next screen, scroll down and tap “Set Daily Reminder.” A pop-up tab will allow you to set how long you’d like to use the app that day, and you’ll receive a reminder when you’ve reached that limit. Keep in mind that this setting will only track your Facebook usage on that particular device, not across all your devices.

We hope this article helps you make better use of your time on Facebook and create a less stressful, more fulfilling experience with your social media! If you enjoyed our post, please share it with your Facebook friends so they can take control of their time on the app, too!