7 Mental Health Tips for Adjusting to the New Normal

“I can’t wait for things to get back to normal.” I know I have said it many times over the past couple of months and I hear it from all of my clients. The problem is, that may never happen. The way of life we were used to may be forever changed. But there are pieces of that way of life that we can absolutely get back, it just might look different as we move forward out of sheltering at home and into figuring out how to thrive again.

We have spent the past couple of months surviving. Surviving staying at home; surviving distance learning or working; surviving through loneliness; surviving through having COVID-19; surviving through all the losses we had to grieve; surviving through loss of jobs; and surviving through the unknown. Now we begin to learn how to thrive in our new normal.

Just as adjusting to sheltering at home took some time and effort, so will learning how to operate as we move back out into the world. Here are some tips on how to take care of your mental health as we adjust to moving outside of our homes and developing our new normal.

1. Take your time. You do not have to rush out and go to everything just because it is open.  Check in with yourself on what feels comfortable for you. Identify what you feel is important for you to do and make a plan on trying things one at a time. If you are not ready to sit down and eat at a restaurant then do not feel pressured to do so. Maybe start with ordering food and picking it up. Call up places you want to visit and ask about their safety precautions to make sure that you come prepared and that you feel they are doing things to stay safe to help you choose where you venture out.

2. Stay in the present. There are still a lot of unknowns about how things are going to look in a few months. A few months ago, we didn’t even have a clue we would walk through this sheltering in place experience. That tells us that a lot can happen in a short amount of time. Work on staying focused on today and what you can do with today. You can practice this best by learning mindfulness skills. You can use some apps like Mindfulness Coach and Headspace or the Mindful website www.mindful.com

3. Don’t let fear rule your life. It is good to be cautious and concerned but we do not need to be fearful. Worry and anxiety are going to pop up and that is normal. But we do not have to stay in fear, worry and anxiety. Try to reframe from following predictions about what will happen as that tends to increase our fear especially because there are just too many unknowns. Continue to limit your news intake as I hope you have been doing. Try to focus on facts and events that are happening in the present. Continue to practice hand washing and social distancing. 

4. Keep having a routine. If you are able to keep the one you have been using, great; if not, create a new routine as things transition. This helps you feel a sense of control and consistency with all the changes.

5. Be kind to yourself and others. There is a lot of judgment going on about safety, reopening, going out, what precautions are required, etc. Kindness can go a long way as we move forward. Do not judge yourself for the choices you make and try to reframe from judging others. Go easy on yourself if you are struggling with fear or worry. Practice self care things such as getting good sleep, exercising, eating well, doing enjoyable activities, and staying connected.

6. Keep the good things you have gained during sheltering at home. Have you been exercising regularly? Did you pick up a new hobby? Have you been using video chat more to stay connected to family and friends? Have you been reading more? Find ways to incorporate those activities and habits in your new routine.

7. Connect with family and friends. As you feel ready, see your family and friends. You can start off by meeting outside at a park or hanging out in a backyard. As you feel comfortable, you can visit in homes, restaurants and out in public. Being in-person with those we love and care about has been dearly missed and it is a great way to help your mental health.

Remember that we will have many of the things we love and are used to having back in our daily lives soon. They just may look different than they did in the past. Though we all have had different experiences of this situation, we are not alone in walking through this next chapter of life. If you are struggling with fear, anxiety, worry, depression or loneliness, please reach out for help.

Telehealth counseling appointments now available! JFS Orlando’s licensed counselors are specialized in various areas and are here to support you. Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. Call 407-644-7671 to schedule an appointment today!

Author: Shannon Hargrave, LMHC

Shannon Hargrave, LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Shannon specializes in working with kids, teens, adults, and families. She has worked in a variety of settings including outpatient community based mental health, inpatientresidential treatment center, substance abuse, in home/office outpatient therapy. Shannon holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Shannon specializes in a range of concerns including: depression, self-injury, parenting issues, teen issues, anxiety, anger management, low self-esteem, poor communication skills, substance abuse, parenting and behavior issues.

Volunteer Spotlight: Carla Betts and Jane Cohen


JFS Orlando Assistant Director Heather Petrusky with her mom Carla Betts;
Program Coordinator Audrey Cohen with her mom Jane Cohen.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, especially our JFS Orlando mom volunteers! Carla Betts is the mom of JFS Assistant Director Heather Petrusky, and Jane Cohen is the mom of JFS Program Coordinator Audrey Cohen. Both moms found out about volunteering at JFS from their daughters and started volunteering in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry last year.

Carla grew up in Cleveland, but has lived in Florida for the past 40 years. She retired last year after working 30 years in the school district, first as a teacher and then as an administrator. She enjoys spending time with her husband, Michael, and her two daughters, Jessica and Heather. Jane was born and raised in Philadelphia. She moved to attend Rollins College, where she majored in Art History. In her free time she loves to go to art museums, spend time with her two daughters and husband of 41 years, get in the kitchen and cook, as well as gardening and going on bike rides.

One thing Jane loves about volunteering at JFS is meeting her fellow volunteers. “I love meeting all the other volunteers who have all been so nice and generous with their time,” she says. “I always volunteer Thursday mornings and I get to work with Matthew, who I love! We have a lot of fun together.” Something special that has stood out the most to Carla is the gratefulness of the clients. “Giving food to people in need is very rewarding,” she explains. “I enjoy preparing the bags and interacting with the community.” Jane agrees saying “I like being helpful to our community. I love being able to work so closely with the clients. Working in the Pantry you really get to see the difference being made in these people’s lives. Nobody should go hungry. I love being able to give a cart full of groceries to someone in need.”

Carla and Jane see first-hand the value of the emergency food assistance in the Pantry, but they both also see and understand the importance of the other services JFS offers to the community. Jane explains how “JFS helps many people in so many different ways. Not only with the Pantry, but with all of the programs they offer. They will help anyone who is in need.” “JFS does so much for the community,” adds Carla. “They also offer a whole array of services to help people in need, like mental health counseling, family stabilization services, senior transportation assistance and chaplaincy services.”

Although volunteering is an incredible selfless act, both Carla and Jane agree that it is a gift that gives back. “It’s very worthwhile to give back to the community. JFS is a wonderful organization and a pleasure to volunteer at,” says Carla. “Volunteering is the best medicine,” continues Jane. “Being a part of the JFS family and helping their clientele is so rewarding. They are doing incredible work. You get to help the people directly and see that you are making a difference.”

Thank you, Carla and Jane, for being wonderful moms to Heather and Audrey, and now to the JFS family! We’re so glad to have 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.

Life Interrupted: Dealing with what “might have been”

Sometime in the middle of March, life stopped. Students stayed home from school after spring break ended; businesses closed, sending workers to offices in the basement in their homes; plays got cancelled, the NCAA went from the hottest thing to talk about in March to basketball with no fans to, finally, no competition what so ever; restaurants emptied and toilet paper flew off the shelves.

Whether you are a high school senior missing your graduation and wondering what your freshman year in college might look like now that we can’t hug or shake hands, or a senior-senior thinking about retiring, putting off that leave date and wondering when you will have that opportunity—or the finances—to transition from the workforce to leisure, we all have been impacted by this sudden and dramatic life changing event called the pandemic.

Daily we receive newsfeeds telling us about the increasing numbers of sick people and unemployed, those hospitalized and those in line for food. We see the impact on our country and on the world. What we often struggle with, however, is what we DON’T see, the non-events. How do we deal with the missed graduation, the cancelled trip, the lost visit from grandchildren, or the empty Seder table or Easter Egg hunt? We need a process for coping and a structure for learning in order to grow through these losses. Most of us will not lose someone to the virus, thank G-d, but all of us will lose something important during these months of social distancing, business and school closures and the financial downturn.

In order to navigate through these difficult non-event transitions, we need to make them real by naming them. We need to develop the hope that we can get through them to a better place on the other side and believe that growth is possible. In the following paragraphs, we’ll explore the process of turning these challenging times into growth opportunities by understanding these non-events, and learning critical coping strategies.

First, we need to take a look at what we are missing and come to a better understanding of what these non-events mean to us. There are all kinds of non-events:

1. In this pandemic shut down, the most common type of non-events tend to be personal. We might become aware that we lost something that we aspired to, hoped for or worked towards. Non-events might include cancelled graduations, trips, or an elective surgery.

2. A second type of non-event, which can interact with the first, is more relational. When we think about cancelled weddings, family visits or reunions, or unattended funerals, we are letting go of relational non-events.

3. Many of us are also dealing with career non-events: a job offer that was retracted, a promotion missed, a retirement postponed, or job search after graduation that disappeared. These non-events are different from the actual event of being laid off or furloughed, which are concrete and clearly understandable. The career opportunities that don’t materialize are much more confusing.

4. Equally unstructured is the loss of routine. We are used to going into the office every day, and now go into our home study; we used to get a Starbucks every morning, and now we use our Keurig; we used to go to yoga on Wednesdays, and now we turn on Zoom. Our loss of routine may seem insignificant, but can be disturbing and lonely, nonetheless.

5. The non-events that leave us feeling hopeless are the hardest to deal with and have the greatest impact on us. We despair when we feel like our lives have changed forever: I’ll never get a job again; I’ll never be able to say good-bye to my classmates; or the restaurant will never re-open. Hopelessness is often in our own mind, but nevertheless, the feeling of despair makes managing the non-event more challenging.

As we acknowledge that our life has clearly been interrupted, how do we cope with these disruptions, and, hopefully, turn them into learning experiences?

1. With a sense of control we tend to feel better, even if we only have control over a small part of the process. When I took control of my routine by getting up and going for a walk first thing in the morning, I felt better. When a friend figured out how to use zoom, she not only felt less isolated, but she realized that she could still be grandma to her grandkids.

2. Managing the social isolation while connecting to others can be one of the most powerful ways of coping. A support system that provides feedback, affirmation, resources and simply a form of connection makes all of this distancing so much easier. We all are finding new and creative ways to connect during this pandemic, like, Zoom meetings and classes, birthday party parades, streaming religious services, FaceTime calls with friends, and YouTube humorous videos.

3. Acknowledging and naming the challenges that you are facing makes a huge difference. I encourage you to reach out to someone, at home or on the phone, and tell them the story of your non-event: talk about what happened (or didn’t happen)—without blame. Who and what are you missing? What do you feel about this change in your life? Share what the non-event meant to you: What are you losing?—privacy, freedom, identity, sense of competence or independence?

4. Next, let yourself grieve. Journaling is a great way to express your grief, in all of its evolving aspects. You might start out with denial (“This pandemic will be no big deal.”). Later, you might try bargaining (“Maybe if I wear a mask I can go shopping with a friend.”). Soon, you might be aware of your sadness (“I’ve lost the ability to earn money.”) Finally, when you face your grief head on and acknowledge what you have lost, you will be able to come to some level of acceptance.

5. By refocusing your energy someplace where you can have some control and impact, you can experience a sense of accomplishment. For instance, you might design your own graduation ritual, plan a Zoom family reunion, or create an art project demonstrating your non-event.

6. Likewise, reshaping allows you to create a new future by dreaming a new way of being. You can take back the things you love about your “past” life and create something for the future that holds those values. For example, you might discover that you loved the part of your server job in the restaurant that included interacting with colleagues, but you now know that you prefer an office job with more stability. Take time to image what that new combination might look like for you.

7. Find self-compassion. Being where you are today is not your fault. There is no shame in being laid off, struggling to manage your children, or wishing you could go to Starbucks. There are lots of people in your same position. Your struggles are normal.

8. Find meaning. You can do this in all sorts of ways: focus on religion or spiritually; bask in moments of joy; give back to others; find your flow; create a gratitude list. Research shows that gratitude not only makes you FEEL better emotionally, but your physiology also changes—all for the better.

9. Learn how to manage your stress, which is always important. Take deep breaths; exercise; carve out worry time and limit your worries to a half hour a day, and write them down; find one thing you can do to move your life forward; vent; listen to music and dance; and even let yourself have some comfort food. Any or all of these techniques will help you manage the stress you are experiencing.

The bottom line: it is the journey not the destination. We might think we have to be some place, but if there is anything that this pandemic has taught me, it is: no, I don’t have to be some place other than where I am right now. This journey may be inconvenient, it may be painful at times, or even scary, but… it is all that we have. The only thing that we can really change is our attitude: to work WITH what is, instead of against it.

It is important to remember two things: we all are doing the best we can with what we have; and, facing our fears allows them to dissipate.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Now might be the best time to explore this question. Grasping our interrupted life and making it into the life we desire is the gift of the season. In Chinese, the same word is used for both crisis and opportunity. Now is your opportunity.

Telehealth counseling appointments now available! JFS Orlando’s licensed counselors are specialized in various areas and are here to support you. Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. Call 407-644-7671 to schedule an appointment today!

Author: Dr. Eloise Stiglitz, PhD

Dr. Eloise Stiglitz, PhD is a licensed psychologist. Her passion is helping people through challenging transitions, whether it includes a crisis like a divorce, death, move or career shift, or a personal evolution centered around sexuality, spirituality or disability. She works with seniors, helping them through their difficult times, young adults creating their sense of self, as well as all those in between struggling with the many life challenges that we all face. Her specialties include women’s issues, depression and anxiety, substance abuse and addictions, sexuality, grief and relationship concerns.

Eloise believes that the therapy relationship is a powerful healing tool, empowering people to make the desired changes in their lives. Her eclectic therapy style integrates cognitive-behavior, Neuro-linguistic programming, and solution-oriented interventions with a relational-developmental, client-centered perspective. More importantly, she connects with her clients through intensive and caring listening, truly open-hearted support and a delightful sense of humor.

Volunteer Spotlight: Briggett Marquina

Briggett Marquina, one of JFS Orlando’s newest volunteers.

Between babysitting for Family Stabilization Program (FSP) workshops and volunteering in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry, Briggett Marquina pulls double duty as a JFS Orlando volunteer. When she’s not volunteering, she’s studying Clinical Psychology at UCF to become a child psychologist, going to the gym, or playing with her dog, Saige. Briggett is also an army veteran and served two nine-month deployments to Kuwait. Her selflessness and desire to make a meaningful impact could not be more evident in all that she does.

Briggett first began volunteering with JFS in February 2020 and so far has enjoyed it. “I heard about JFS through my hair dresser. Not only does the staff make you feel welcomed but also the experience here is most definitely worthwhile.” The meaning and value of her volunteer work is clear. When she babysits for FSP workshops, she is giving struggling parents a chance to learn the vital skills they need to stabilize their families. When she volunteers in the Pantry, she is directly giving individuals the food they need to survive.

Whichever program Briggett comes in to help with on any given day, she is giving up her time to help those most in need in our community. She does it, not only because it’s the kind thing to do, but because she understands their situation. “I love knowing that I am giving a hand to those in need. I come from a very humble home with a foreign single mom who doesn’t speak the language and I know first-hand what it’s like to know your children are fed and well taken care of through my wonderful mom’s struggles.” One particularly meaningful moment that has stood out to Briggett from volunteering with JFS was when she was working in the Pantry. “I had the pleasure of speaking to an older Hispanic lady who asked me if I spoke Spanish. When I told her yes, the sense of relief I saw in her was very rewarding.”

Thank you, Briggett, for giving of your time and for being that source of relief for many of the people JFS Orlando serves. We’re so glad to have 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.

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.


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.