COVID-19 Update: Thursday, March 26, 2020, 4:07 PM

Please note: JFS Orlando is CLOSED to the public until further notice, but our programs and services are still OPERATIONAL.

JFS staff will still be on-duty and managing programs via phone and digital means to work with clients when possible. We understand the situation is extremely fluid and we are monitoring the State’s response and will, of course, follow state recommendations and guidelines.

Below is a list with the operational status for each JFS program and service:

• The Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry will remain open Monday – Thursday 9AM – 4PM. To pick-up food, please call 407-644-7593 to schedule an appointment.

• The Counseling, Growth and Development program has begun telehealth counseling sessions. To schedule a telehealth appointment, please call 407-644-7671.

• The Family Stabilization Program is still operational, but only via phone and digital. If you are a current client of the program or you are interested in applying, please call 407-644-7593 ext. 250 (City of Orlando & Seminole County) or ext. 236 (unincorporated Orange County).

• The Reliable Independent Drivers for the Elderly (RIDE) program is still operational, but only via phone and digital. If you are a current client of the program or you are interested, please call 407-644-7593 ext. 249.

• The Chaplaincy program is still operational, but only via phone. If you are a current client of the program or you are interested, please call 407-644-7593 to connect with our Community Rabbi.

• The Volunteer program is cancelled until further notice.

With the world shutting down around us, JFS Orlando continues to operate. Now more than ever we need your help.




COVID-19 Virus Update: A letter from our Executive Director

*Please see our homepage for a complete list of how we are adjusting our programs and services during the COVID-19 virus outbreak.*

Dear JFS Orlando Community,

On behalf of the entire organization, please accept our warm wishes and thoughts during this challenging time. I write to provide you, an important part of our community, with updates of our response to the COVID-19 virus.

The Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry will remain open
to the very best of our abilities.

In order to maintain a safe environment for all who come to JFS we will be staggering appointments and maintaining social distances from each client. Appointments will be made in 15-minute blocks of time in order to assist both clients and staff.

The FSP and RIDE programs are operational. Staff will be attending their offices and working with clients by phone.

Counseling is closed. We are sending out information to all our clients scheduled for sessions and making them aware of the cancellation.

Chaplaincy has been asked to limit personal interactions. Rabbi Siegel is available by phone.

These new program and services protocols will remain in effect Monday, March 16th through Monday, March 30th.

Here at JFS I am heartened by the spirit of caring, and by the deep commitment our staff have shown to our mission and all we serve. I’m uplifted by our supporters, who likewise reach out to help others and are helping us find creative solutions to difficult problems.

At this time, it is critical to serve our community. And we need your help to do so. Please, donate to us now, at this difficult time, so we can continue to serve Central Florida as only we know how. Your financial contribution is so very, very needed.




 

This is your community–one you can be proud of. Throughout it all, JFS Orlando remains one of the best examples of Tzedakah. Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Philip Flynn III

Executive Director

Volunteer Spotlight: The Wheeler Family

The Wheeler Family poses during an afternoon of “family-time volunteering” in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry.

Volunteering is a family affair for the Wheeler Family. “It’s a group thing, all of us going and giving our time,” says Tim Wheeler. “We want to allocate time to help others.” It’s a great way for all of them, Tim, Corally, Elizabeth (age 17), and Lincoln (age 4), to spend time together. “It’s been a seasonal thing for us, but we’ve really dialed in regularly since this past fall. My wife Corally has actually been volunteering on and off for about ten years.” “We started volunteering together since about when Lincoln was born,” says Corally. “So about four years ago.”

Not only has volunteering in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry been a great way to get quality family time or a way for Elizabeth to get volunteer hours for the Bright Future Scholarship, but it’s been a way for the Wheelers to step out of their comfort zone and help their neighbors in need. “It’s an opportunity to help people in the community more than anything else,” says Tim. “A lot of people that come in are in tough circumstances. You can see it. And they are really appreciative for what they’re being given. This is an opportunity for us to connect with the community. It’s our time and our penance to try to help others out in the area. That’s how we look at it.”

The Wheelers have also enjoyed volunteering with JFS because of the flexibility. “It’s non-committal, you’re not locked into a specific schedule,” says Tim. “Scheduling volunteering with JFS has always been flexible. There are some other volunteer outlets that want more commitment and you’re locked into a time. It’s been nice that JFS has always been relatively flexible. It’s worked out well for our family. Because sometimes there’s just no knowing what life can throw at us schedule-wise. Also, the jobs and opportunities to serve, to be honest, are rather simple. It’s easy and light for those who are looking for ‘casual volunteering’.”

Teaching your kids about charity and giving can be difficult, but when they’re exposed to it first-hand it couldn’t be easier. “There’s more happiness in giving than receiving. When my daughter interacts with the clients at the Pantry door, I think it makes a positive impression on her. And for my son, just being able to contribute in some fashion, whether it’s having him grab a bag or box of cereal, it’s good for him to serve and get in the habit of it at such a young age.” Volunteering in the Pantry has also made an impression on Tim. “There was an older lady who was very appreciative and blessing us for helping her—just the look of joy on her face—and you can say that about several clients. It’s also the sense of gratitude you feel. Sometimes we think our life is rough until we go out and help other people and you realize we really don’t have it that bad.”

Thank you, Wheeler Family, for your years of support to JFS Orlando and our neighbors in need. You’re truly a beautiful, kind, and generous family and your love spreads to each client you greet at the Pantry door. Thank you for being a part of the JFS Volunteer Team!

Interested in helping your community by volunteering with JFS? Several roles are currently available, including helping out in the Pantry and behind-the-scenes office assistance. To sign up, contact us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or Audrey.Cohen@JFSorlando.org.

Be your own best friend

3 ways to be your own best friend, instead of your biggest critic

Good relationships are important to your mental health. You have probably heard this said a million times. One oft-neglected relationship is particularly important. It’s not with your parents or siblings, your partner, or your closest friend. It is your relationship with yourself. Under normal circumstances, this relationship is non-problematic for most. However, when life turns difficult and things don’t go your way, you may find that you turn on yourself.

I have noticed that many people, myself included, are more impatient and critical of themselves than they are with others. We may be kind and cordial to everyone else, supporting them through their breakups and hardships, but when it comes to ourselves, we find fault and blame.

Whether you occasionally call yourself names or nitpick your every move, you probably speak a lot more rudely to yourself than to others. You may berate yourself for negative outcomes, even when circumstances are beyond your control. You chastise yourself, “How could I have been so dumb?” (Why are we so surprised when we act dumb? I can vouch from firsthand experience that being dumb is the easiest thing in the world!) Even when we are heartbroken by a loss, there is a tendency to feel guilty in addition to sad. This is perfectly “normal” behavior and it makes us miserable. The intention of the internal critic is good, but the outcome is devastating.

Life is difficult and everyone flubs up not just a little, but a lot. Those are exactly the times, when it is important to be kind, gentle, and forgiving with yourself. It may seem more natural to give yourself a good firm scolding, but that actually weakens you when strength is most needed. Thankfully, self-criticism, like any habit, can be broken if noticed. Here are three ways to be your own best friend, instead of your biggest critic:

1. Notice how you speak to yourself by noticing your mood.

When you criticize yourself, you will generally feel inadequate, ashamed or guilty. A good rule of thumb is never to say anything to yourself that is too mean to say to a good friend. For example, your friend just called you up for some consolation because they gambled and lost $1000 in a river cruise. Would you rip them a new one or would you help them feel better?

2. Follow (my proposed addendum to) the “Golden Rule”: “Do unto yourself as you would do unto others.”

There is some research into what is referred to as “positive self-talk.” What has been found to be most useful is to speak encouragingly to yourself in the second or third person. So instead of saying, “I” say “you” or call yourself by your first name (if you are on a first name basis). For example, “You did your best. It was harder than you thought. Next time will be better.” You may find that a little forgiveness goes a long way to easing your mind and helping you live with yourself.

3. Be forgiving with yourself.

I work with a teenager who is very hard on herself and feels inadequate a lot of the time as a consequence. Like a lot of people who are self-critical, she is a perfectionist. She really liked this example I shared with her. I told her, if you had a toddler just learning to walk and he fell, would you call him a klutz or an idiot and tell him he will never learn to walk? Or would you say, “That’s ok, let’s try again” and encourage him. She has been treating herself in a forgiving manner, which she calls “babying myself” and has found that she is happier.

You may say, “I’m not a toddler and I should know better.” I will recount one of my favorite sayings, which is by Mark Twain. He said, “Experience is recognizing a mistake every time you make it.” We will repeat the same mistakes over and over again because change is difficult. But finally, we learn and just like that, another mistake comes along….time to be understanding and forgiving, again.

When I started to write this article, I bumped up against my nemesis, the internal literary critic that feels obligated to sprinkle words of discouragement whenever I try to write something. I began scouring my mind for ways to weasel out of writing this because I suddenly felt so ill-equipped. I try to take my own advice sometimes. Doing so, I said to myself, “Dorrit, you can do this. You have written a million papers for school and they all turned out fine in the end.” With that little reminder, I was able to write the article which you have just read. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fast but it is done and you too can do what you need to do with a little help from your internal critic turned friend.

This season of love, show yourself some! JFS Orlando’s licensed counselors are specialized in various areas and are here to support you in anything you may be going through, from a major life transition to routine day-to-day life. Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. Call 407-644-7671 to schedule an appointment today!


Author: Dorrit Ram, LCSW

Dorrit Ram, LCSW, earned a Masters in Social Work (MSW) from the State University of New York at Binghamton. She is a licensed clinical social worker experienced in providing psychotherapy to teenagers and adults with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, PTSD, dissociative disorders, addiction, autism, and intellectual disability. She specializes in working with people who have experienced childhood trauma.

Dorrit utilizes an eclectic therapeutic style and a little humor to help people regain a lost connection to themselves. She offers habit reversal training for common body-focused repetitive disorders such as nail biting, skin picking, and trichotillomania (hair pulling).

Dorrit thinks that therapy is a great way to gain insight, develop self-acceptance, and make lasting changes. She conducts therapy sessions in English, Spanish, and Hebrew.

New Year, New Habits


As we come into the new year, many people are thinking about making new year’s resolutions, but really we should be focusing on forming long term healthier habits. Statistically most people will stop their ‘new behavioral’ around January 11th. Forming healthy habits can be crucial for the success of any new year’s goals. The more that healthier habits become habitual, the more likely it is that you will keep doing them, even beyond January 11. Check out these tips for creating healthy habits:

1. Begin with small goals

If you try to go too big, you won’t repeat it. If your goal is to get in shape and you go to the gym for two hours the first day, you will be very sore the next day and not likely return. Start small and reasonable—a goal of just getting one foot in the gym might be a good starting point. Once you get into the gym, you are more likely to at least do something. Remember, doing anything is really the goal. You can commit to a long term goal of doing something, but maybe not one hour a day. You may need to aim even smaller to start with short exercises such as parking further from the store entrance or planning brief, short walks. Keeping the goal small at first increases the likelihood that you will repeat the action.

2. Schedule the time

Make sure to plan a time each day for your new healthy habit. If your health goals include walking every day for example, ensure that it is planned and made into a priority. Ideally, this should occur at the same time every day to help build a habit out of it. This might be at the beginning of your day, but if you know that you aren’t an early riser it might be before or after dinner, or on your lunch break walking inside your air conditioned work place or large box store.

3. Connect the action to an existing habit

There are many activities that we already do every day. For example, if you are trying to be more consistent with your blood pressure medication, leave it next to your tooth brush to take it before you brush your teeth each morning. You can even make it stand out by putting it in a brightly colored pill box. Make it really obvious. Don’t hide it in a drawer because you’ll likely forget it in there. Make the connection between the current daily activity and the new activity you want to add to the day.

4. Find a friend to come along with you

Keeping an activity going and turning it into a habit can become a lot easier if a friend comes along with you. Going for a walk can seem like less of a chore and become more enjoyable if you have a friend come with you to share the experience with. It can turn a dreaded activity into a social event that you like doing. For instance, if you wanted to make an appointment that you are dreading, maybe for your yearly mammogram, see if a friend needs to get hers to and go together then plan lunch or something fun afterwards.

5. Find the consequence of not engaging in the planned activity

If you suffer a direct and obvious consequence from not engaging in a healthy activity, it can help encourage you into repeating the healthy activity. Far off penalties don’t always motivate us in the same way as more immediate penalties. These consequences can be the disappointment of a friend or being charged for an exercise class you missed. Anything you place a value on that you may lose can become a cost of not doing the activity. Don’t go overboard with this one, but a simple no show fee of $15 might be motivating to get out of bed on a cold morning.

The start of a new year gives us an opportunity to reevaluate our lives, including our healthy and not-so-healthy habits. Make sure the change for the better remains a change for the long-term!

Interested in more wellness counseling? Call 407-644-7671 to schedule an appointment with a JFS counselor today! Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. In addition, we’re one of the few remaining agencies in Central Florida that operates on a sliding fee scale (as low as $55 per session) for those who do not have insurance or have an insurance we do not accept.


Author: Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW
Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Director and a licensed clinical social worker at JFS Orlando. Ashlyn has worked in a variety of settings including outpatient community based mental health, inpatient/admission psychiatric hospital, substance abuse/DUI, dialysis/medical, and in home/office outpatient therapy.

Volunteer Spotlight: Danielle Reeber and Linda Nusynowitz

JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry feeds thousands of our hungry neighbors in Central Florida every year.

Danielle Reeber and Linda Nusynowitz are no strangers to volunteering together. “We know each other since our kids went to the Hebrew Day School—a long time ago! We used to volunteer together in the school kitchen.” Danielle, originally from Hollywood, FL, and Linda, originally from Michigan, now volunteer together in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry twice a month. And they love it. “Time goes by quickly together!”

Linda explains how she found out about volunteering at JFS. “Danielle told me about this opportunity and how much she gets out of it and it sounded great.” “It feels good to know we’re giving food to those who really need it,” says Danielle. “That little girl [who just came by to pick up food with her dad] was not so happy. I handed her some cookies and now she’s happy! It made her day!” Both Danielle and Linda enjoy how direct the work that they do in the Pantry is. All the food donated to JFS goes straight into the hands of the hungry. “We feel like we’re actually making a difference in people’s lives as opposed to just volunteering at something where they don’t really need us. It’s a big deal!” Truly, the Pantry couldn’t function without the hard work and time our volunteers put in everyday.

Another reason Danielle and Linda enjoy volunteering with JFS is how it opens their eyes and reminds them how hard times can fall on anyone. “You never know in life—what life is gonna bring you. There was a woman who came to the door. She was driving a really nice car and she was really well-dressed. She looked at me and she said she hadn’t had food in her cupboards in so long and she burst into tears! You never know who needs what. People are always judging everybody, but she really needed it. It could happen to anyone. People who really need help come here. And it makes a difference for them.”

Thank you for making a difference in the lives of the clients we serve everyday, Danielle and Linda. You are both so kind, generous, and warm. We are so glad to have you on the JFS Volunteer Team and appreciate you both so much!

Interested in helping your community by volunteering with JFS? Several roles are currently available, including helping out in the Pantry and behind-the-scenes office assistance. To sign up, contact us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or Audrey.Cohen@JFSorlando.org.

5 Strategies for Handling Food over the Holidays

As we head into the end-of-the-year holidays, you may be strategizing for all the holiday parties, family meals, work engagements, and friend get-togethers. Remember, there are 93 meals in the month of December, so treating yourself to a social event surrounding food will not derail you in the way we think of during the holidays.

1. Don’t deprive yourself, skip meals, or punish yourself with exercise.

The underlying theme of these strategies is shame. These types of behaviors encourage disordered thinking and behavioral patterns surrounding food. If you deprive yourself, your temptation to eat will start a shame cycle—“I shouldn’t eat this. If I do that means X (i.e. I’m out of control, I have no will power, I can’t be trusted)”. The reality is food is tasty, it holds memories for us, and it feeds the part of our brain that regulates pleasure. Don’t skip meals to “make up” for later calories. This will most likely result in eating more food than planned. And lastly, don’t punish yourself with exercise. We have all seen those images with the amount of exercise we need to “earn the treat”. Again, this continues the shame cycle—“only good people who exercise get the treat”. You don’t have to earn treats, you can walk or not, or eat the doughnut or not, but you don’t have to “earn” it.

2. Pace yourself and stay mindful.

The slower you eat the more you can enjoy the food. Mindful eating consists of really savoring the bites you take, tasting the food, and enjoying the process. Sometimes, particularly when we are very hungry, our brain takes a moment to catch up to the fact that we aren’t hungry anymore. This leads to overeating. So take a little bit of everything you want, really taste the food you are eating, and enjoy yourself! Have you ever noticed how easy it is to eat an entire container of anything while you watch TV at night? The same applies with holiday eating. If you are sitting at the snack table chatting with friends, you are more likely to mindlessly eat the snacks, versus if you looked at the snacks, chose what you really liked and wanted, and then mindfully ate those snacks. You will be less likely to overeat and more likely to feel mastery over the situation and feel less shame surrounding eating.

3. Bring a dish.

When you are not sure what your options will be, particularly if you have dietary needs that might leave you with few choices, bring your favorite dish. Being prepared can help you feel more in control of your eating options. Often we can’t choose what food is being prepared or presented. If you bring a dish, you can pick something you know will be filling or satisfying so it can be your main dish, while everything else is merely taste-size portions.

4. Watch the alcohol.

Be careful with alcohol use. After the first glass you are more likely to not make the best food decisions. Be sure to eat first and then drink as alcohol can hit you fast and cloud your judgment, especially on an empty stomach. Alcohol is more likely to cause you to overeat or make different food choices than when you’re sober. Also, alcohol is not calorie-free! It can be loaded with calories and its nutritional facts are usually hard to find, leading to less than well-informed choices. Alcohol might also bring up stronger feelings surrounding family dysfunction, relationship problems, or stress in general. It can increase tension and the holidays are stressful enough sober!

5. Don’t feel you have to be a part of the clean plate club.

Take a little bit of everything, but if you taste it and it’s not what you thought or not all that tasty, don’t finish it. If you’re in a culture or family where it is rude not to take a little bit of everything, including Aunt Betty’s aspic or your grandmother’s ambrosia fruit salad (with marshmallows and mayonnaise), take a little but don’t feel obligated to finish it. Often when we don’t make a big deal about it, no one will even notice. You can offer to clear the table or take your own plate to the sink.

The holidays can be a tough time for many reasons. Don’t make food one of them. Just remember—no shame, be mindful, and have fun. Happy holidays!

Interested in more wellness counseling? Call 407-644-7671 to schedule an appointment with a JFS counselor today! Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. In addition, we’re one of the few remaining agencies in Central Florida that operates on a sliding fee scale (as low as $55 per session) for those who do not have insurance or have an insurance we do not accept.


Author: Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW
Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Director and a licensed clinical social worker at JFS Orlando. Ashlyn has worked in a variety of settings including outpatient community based mental health, inpatient/admission psychiatric hospital, substance abuse/DUI, dialysis/medical, and in home/office outpatient therapy.

Volunteer Spotlight: Sandy Weiss

Sandy Weiss prepares sets of food in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry for our hungry neighbors in Central Florida.

“I think it’s a privilege to work in the Pantry.” Sandy Weiss has volunteered with JFS Orlando since 2018, first as a RAISE coach and now as a full-fledged Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry volunteer. “I helped somebody with the RAISE (Recognizing Abilities & Inclusion of Special Employees) program here and I got to know the job description. So it just evolved.” Sandy has always had a big heart and a love for helping others.

Before moving to Orlando from NYC 48 years ago, Sandy started her career in teaching. “I taught elementary school—4th grade mostly. I was a teacher for 28 years!” While teaching, Sandy and her husband raised their two sons in Maitland (“We’ve lived in our same house for 43 years!”), and their family has now grown to include five grandchildren, some living in the area and some in Charlotte. Now retired, Sandy enjoys volunteering with RAISE and with JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry.

“When I say I volunteer at the Pantry, people’s eyes light up. It just seems magical because it’s something that everybody is for—it’s not this thing or that thing, what people believe or not—we’re feeding and helping the world. And people are hungry!” Sandy notes how the people who come to the Pantry are always so grateful and almost a little embarrassed; they’ve just fallen on hard times. “These are people who are reasonable and they are reaching out. Working here grounds me and it helps me understand more of what’s behind the four walls of our lives. It just shows you that there is another world—you know about it, but when you actually see it, you just become so grateful.”

There have been many moments from working in the Pantry that have left an impression on Sandy, but one particular one stands out the most: “One gentleman came, 20 or 22-years old. That day we had a lot of produce and it was all over-flowing. I opened up the door and his eyes widened. He said, ‘Wow…I haven’t eaten in three days.’ Luckily we had a few bars to hand him. And at that time also, he had no way to get his food home. I said ‘How did you even find us?’ He said ‘I guess when you’re hungry.’ He had gone on the computer and he found us. He said ‘I promise I’m a really good person and I don’t do this kind of thing normally. I’m waiting and I had an interview with Taco Bell.’ All he wanted was a job at Taco Bell….”

Sandy had always wanted to volunteer at the Pantry and, now that she does, she wishes more people would support it too! “I just think people really don’t know. They know it’s a pantry and they say ‘Oh, that’s wonderful’, but they really don’t know. It’s a very happy and fulfilling place. It fills your heart with positivity in a world that is full of so much negativity. Volunteering at the Pantry is something that you can do that’s positive. It makes you happy and you’re putting a smile on someone’s face.”

You put a smile on our faces, Sandy. You are such a sweetheart and you provide such a warm, bright presence to everyone that come up to the Pantry door. We appreciate all that you do for the people we serve and we love having you on the JFS Volunteer Team!

Interested in helping your community by volunteering with JFS? Several roles are currently available, including helping out in the Pantry and behind-the-scenes office assistance. To sign up, contact us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or Audrey.Cohen@JFSorlando.org.

The Bully Within

Bullying is an issue which has captured the national spotlight in recent memory. What once was seen as an unpleasant rite of passage for many in their formative years, is now analyzed and studied with a tender, urgent care. The US government, through the Department of Health and Human Services, has even contributed to the proliferation of information on prevention geared towards children, parents, schools and communities. And for good reason.

It is estimated that approximately 25% of students experience bullying in a given year. With the advent of social media, bullying has moved beyond the boundary of schoolyards and now reaches anywhere a phone, tablet, or laptop does, effectively edging out any place of solace from perpetrators. And the cost can be devastating. Not only has an increase in rates of depression and anxiety been noted but suicidal ideation and attempts have doubled as a result; given that suicide is the second leading cause of death among students in middle school and beyond, the clamor for answers is quite understandable.

Bullying is far more pernicious than even these studies and prevention programs suggest. It is a human behavior which is not solely reserved for prepubescent students. And the extent of its scope can reach far beyond school or social media.

What if a bully’s reach was so vast as to be inescapable?

What if there was no place of comfort to be had from taunts, jabs, and jeers?

What if the bully were able to follow you relentlessly no matter where you turned?

What if your biggest bully lived inside your own mind?

Our minds are always abuzz with thought. More frequently than we might like to admit, those thoughts about ourselves are less than positive. If we were to hear anyone else be spoken to in the manner we sometimes speak to ourselves internally, there is little doubt we would classify it as bullying. But there is likely more to our cognitive traffic than we might realize.

Aaron Beck, the father of cognitive psychology, noted when working with depressed patients that they tended to experience negative spontaneous thoughts which he coined automaticnegative thoughts. The other thoughts we have are part of our conscious stream of thinking and are referred to as self-talk, our inner dialogue.

Beck noted that automatic thoughts tend to be negative and center around the self (“I’m so pathetic”), the world (“everybody ignores me”), and the future (“nothing is ever going to improve”). Automatic negative thoughts are plenty as well as repetitive. Since they generate in our own minds and sound as though they are our own thoughts, it can be easy to misinterpret automatic thinking as reasoned rational arguments or observations about ourselves. A constant barrage of negative cognitions can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. If we then accept such thoughts as truth, then it becomes much easier to adopt them as value judgements and incorporate them into our conscious stream of thinking, thus becoming negative self-talk. This can easily plummet us downward into a sinking spiral of depression.

The silver lining to this darkening cloud of depressive thought is that it is a very typical experience shared by all; there is nothing abnormal about you for being subject to automatic negative thoughts. In fact, they are the reason behind the truism that we are our own worst critics. No matter how harsh the criticisms are which come from others, the voice inside our own minds is up to the task of topping them. Which leads into another positive which can allow us to poke holes through the clouds to let the sunshine in: we have the ability to control our own thinking. If we choose not to accept the negative automatic thoughts as true, then we can disrupt the tendency to add fuel to the fire by doubling down on negativity through our conscious self-talk.

So, how do we silence the bully within?

This can be accomplished by identifying, challenging, and then replacing the automatic negative thoughts in your mind. The tricky part is to become aware that you are being subjected to automatic negative thoughts before you incorporate them into your own conscious self-talk. One trick to accomplishing this is to give a name to your internal critic. This will allow you to distance who you are as a person from the automatic thoughts which pop up in your mind like so many prairie dogs of negativity. Labeling things comes naturally to us as human beings. If you give your critic a name, it becomes separate from you and gives you more power to challenge what it says about you. Make that nickname a silly or preposterous one and you take away its power, like “pantsing” the bully mid insult.

Once you have identified and named your inner bully, you can begin challenging the veracity of its claims. This is where automatic negative thoughts are at their weakest. When we accept them as true, we are often engaging in distorted thinking which we would not apply to negative comments about someone else. Here are three examples of how these distortions trick us into believing them.

1) All-or-nothing thinking:

These include evaluations about ourselves which are extreme, either black or white, with no gray in between. You can recognize such misleading thoughts because they use words like “always,” “never,” and “every.” It is one thing to be wrong in a given situation, nobody is perfect. But engaging in this kind of distortion would sound like “I am always wrong” or “I will never get this right.”

2) Selective abstraction:

This involves holding onto one detail taken out of context and ignoring everything else. This could be a form of perfectionism in which you believe you ruined a recital because of the mistake you made on one piece, or thinking that you are a failure in school because of the one “D” amidst the “A’s” and “B’s” on your report card.

3) Arbitrary inference:

This means drawing preliminary conclusions without sufficient evidence. An example of this would be thinking that your friend no longer likes you because they did not like your comment or return your text right away. It includes an arbitrary deadline and ignores other potential reasons for your friend’s inaction.

These automatic negative thoughts can be replaced once they are identified and challenged. This process silences the internal critic who bullies us into thinking that we are less than we really are. Life is challenging enough as it is without those sabotaging thoughts. Silencing our inner bully leaves us more emotionally whole and reduces our chances of developing low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. We owe it to ourselves, and to our emotional wellbeing, to be just as vigilant in preventing our inner bully as we are at preventing the schoolyard bully from causing pain and suffering to others.

Interested in more wellness counseling? Call 407-644-7671 to schedule an appointment with a JFS counselor today! Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. In addition, we’re one of the few remaining agencies in Central Florida that operates on a sliding fee scale (as low as $55 per session) for those who do not have insurance or have an insurance we do not accept.


Author: Jason Krause, MA
Jason Krause, MA is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern. He gained experience working for 10 years within the mental health field following graduation with his Bachelor’s Degree before returning to the University of Central Florida to follow his passion by earning a Master’s in Clinical Psychology.

Jason works with adults and children ages 12 and up to address a variety of concerns including anxiety, depression, self-injury, stress, substance abuse, and trauma. Jason utilizes unconditional positive regard, non-judgment, and empathy in a person-centered approach to help you discover and highlight your own personal strengths. Jason believes no one knows you better than yourself and he provides individualized care in a warm environment to help you actualize your potential.

Volunteer Spotlight: Robin and Marty Katz

Robin and Marty Katz working together to fight hunger in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry.

Teamwork makes the dream work! Robin and Marty Katz have volunteered together with JFS Orlando for about a decade. “I do it with Marty because he does the heavy lifting and I do the sorting and putting away,” says Robin. “And so we have a very good teamwork!”

Robin, originally from Chicago, and Marty, originally from New York, met in Arizona. They ran their own restaurant there until they decided to move to Florida in 1997. They sold the restaurant and bought a new business in Florida, a tea distributorship. At the same time, Robin was also a counselor and teacher. Now both retired, they enjoy working out, staying healthy, and their individual hobbies. Marty plays the trumpet with the Maitland Symphony Orchestra and Robin enjoys playing Mahjong. Additionally, they both enjoy volunteering in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry.

“We’ve always known about JFS!” says Robin. “Actually, Marty started volunteering several years ago. I started to do it with him. We like volunteering together. It’s such a good thing. We feel so good about doing it.” Robin and Marty volunteer the first and second Monday of every month for a couple hours in the afternoon. “It’s the easiest way for you to do community service,” says Marty. “It’s do-able. It’s a two-hour stretch,” says Robin.

The Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry serves clients of all walks of life who have run into an emergency and simply need a “hand up” to make ends meet. People come to pick-up food in their car, on the bus, and even on bicycles and wheelchairs! It’s something that has made quite an impression on Robin. “It really gets to me when I see people going on the bus, carrying all of these things, on a rainy day. What they have to go through to get food is enormous!”

When asked what they like the most about volunteering with JFS, the answer is clear: “Feeding people!” says Marty. “And we really like connecting with the people,” says Robin. “We like the generosity of the donors. And we love the blessings and the thankfulness from the people who get it. It’s just a really good thing.”

Besides our wonderful Pantry Assistant, the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry is almost entirely run by volunteers. It simply couldn’t function without them. That’s why, when asked what she wishes the community knew about JFS, Robin says “That they need more volunteers. And there’s a lot of people that volunteer, but they’re always calling for more. I wish more people would come and see how nice it is to do it…if they would just give it a try!”

Thank you Robin and Marty for caring so much for the Pantry and the people we serve. You two are the perfect example of a power couple and we love having you on the JFS Volunteer Team!

Interested in helping your community by volunteering with JFS? Several roles are currently available, including helping out in the Pantry and behind-the-scenes office assistance. To sign up, contact us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or Audrey.Cohen@JFSorlando.org.