5 Hacks to Survive This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is upon us once again. This time of year can bring out many emotions in people, both positive and negative. Even being with someone can bring up feelings of disappointment, despair, and regret. Here are some survival tips for dealing with difficult emotions surrounding Valentine’s Day.

1. Be honest about your feelings.

For some, this holiday brings on a vast array of emotions—sadness, loneliness, irritation, disappointment, regret, envy, but also positive emotions like happiness, closeness, joy, and connection. Be honest with all of those feelings. Oftentimes trying to suppress feelings makes them come out when you least expect it. Try expressing them verbally or even expressing them through creative means, such as art, movement, song, or written word.

2. Don’t isolate.

Isolation and just ignoring the day completely may seem like a good coping skill, but inevitably you will run across a co-worker receiving a bouquet of flowers, a grocery store brimming with colorful, heart-shaped goodies, or even a surprise proposal. Instead, grab a friend, go out, and enjoy yourself. It’s perfectly alright to celebrate “Galentine” or “Palentine” Day with friends. Not all businesses celebrate Valentine’s Day. Laser tag anyone? It’s important to remind yourself that having a mate doesn’t define your worth and that depriving yourself doesn’t change the situation.

3. Be more assertive with your needs.

For example, do you really want to receive a gift? For many of us, there is a lot of anxiety and mixed feelings regarding gift giving and receiving. Just remember to listen to your partner to get ideas, hints, or feedback surrounding gifts. If a gift isn’t important to you but time spent with your partner is, tell them that. Or if it’s the opposite, that’s okay too. If we aren’t assertive or clear with our needs we are more likely to be frustrated or disappointed when they aren’t met, despite knowing that our partner isn’t a mind reader. Assertiveness isn’t confrontation—assertiveness can be a suggestion, “Would you consider we…”, or it can be more direct, “I was thinking this year we would…”.

4. Take some time for yourself. 

Either with your partner or without, it’s important to take time for yourself so you can be more present with others. Time with yourself doesn’t have to be bubble baths or long walks on the beach. It can be anything you personally enjoy or want to spend your time on.

5. Show your love year-round.

Remember to not just celebrate the love for your partner or for others on Valentine’s Day. Spread it throughout the year. Even small gestures of affection or acknowledgement can go a long way.

Many people view Valentine’s Day as a day that will make or break your relationship or as just another corporate holiday solely focused on couples in love, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Seize this day as an opportunity to show some self-love, spend time with friends and family, or as a building-block for an honest and open relationship with your significant other.

Managing emotions in a relationship or on our own can be hard, but JFS Orlando licensed counselors are here to help. Trained in a variety of areas, including codependency, self esteem, and marital and premarital therapy, counselors can meet with you one-on-one or as a couple. JFS accepts Medicare, Medicaid, most commercial insurances, and even provides a sliding fee scale to clients who qualify. To schedule an appointment, call 407-644-7593 ext. 247 or email Ashlyn.Douglass-Barnes@JFSorlando.org today!

Author: Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW

Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Therapist Supervisor 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.

New Year, New You: 5 Ways to Sustain Change throughout the Year

It’s that time of year again. It’s a new year and you have some resolutions you want to make. Here are some tips to sustain those changes for the long-term.

1. Choose an attainable goal—start smaller than you think

Start small. If your goal is to lose 10 lbs, start by making a list of ways you think you’ll get there. Start with the smaller changes first—drinking more water, not buying junk food to bring in the house, having healthier snacks available. Most people jump straight into spending hours at the gym, but if the first time you go to the gym you work yourself too hard or you hurt yourself, you probably won’t be going back on a regular basis.

A first goal if you haven’t worked out in a while is to just physically walk into the gym. It’s that simple—get in the door. You’re more likely to go to the gym for that initial workout if you don’t have a specific list of things you want to do there. Plus, once you’re in the door, you’ve already met your first goal and you have a victory to celebrate! Once you meet this goal, next time set a bigger goal, and so on.

2. Schedule it

We are all really busy, so changes often don’t happen if they aren’t on the schedule. Have a resolution to learn a new language? Schedule a specific time everyday where you will drop everything and practice for 15 minutes. Aiming to keep your room cleaner? Block off Saturday mornings as your cleaning time. Want to turn going to the gym into a habit instead of a chore? Do more than just get a membership to hold yourself accountable. You’ll be more likely to show up when it’s a scheduled class, if someone will miss you if you aren’t there, or if you’ll get charged if you don’t show up.

When you schedule it, make sure you set an alarm or reminder to let you know the time is getting closer. Make sure to also give yourself enough time to get there or complete other tasks. Take a look at your schedule. Is there something you can outsource to make a little time for yourself, like hiring a cleaning company, using a grocery delivery service, or asking a friend to alternate picking up the kids from school? Though there may be a monetary cost, you will gain time for yourself and more easily achieve your goals.

3. Find successes in your progress

Many large goals are a process, one that isn’t always seen immediately. Don’t forget to celebrate the small successes along the way. If your goal is to run a 5K and right now you can’t run at all, realize that being able to run even 30 seconds is an improvement. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do since you started your journey. Look for other indicators of progress, such as fitting into an old pair of jeans that didn’t use to fit, actually taking time for yourself when before everyone else was the priority, or being more on time. If you are trying to be more on time, don’t beat yourself up if you end up being late to something. The goal was improvement not perfection. Seeking out perfection will often cause you to feel like a failure—be flexible and reasonable with yourself.

4. Use failure as a learning opportunity

If you feel like you have made a mistake or are failing, reframe your thinking to view it as a learning opportunity. If something doesn’t work, it’s just letting you know you need to try another way. Morning workouts may not be your thing, and that’s okay. There are many other hours in the day to try. If your goal is to build more confidence, don’t give up if you took a shot at the big work presentation and it didn’t go according to plan. Maybe it was too big of a jump for you and you need to start with something smaller, like speaking at a family or friend gathering where you’ll be more comfortable. Remember to learn not only from your successes, but from your failures too.

5. Don’t torture yourself

Make sure you are actually enjoying your goal. If it is torturing, don’t do it. Chances are you won’t continue. If it causes physical or emotional pain or if it is taking up too much time that you rather use doing something else, it’s okay to change it. You don’t have to keep the same exact goal if you find it isn’t for you. If you always wanted to run a marathon but you find yourself at the doctor’s office over and over again for knee pain, you’re not a failure for not running that marathon. It’s just feedback that this goal wasn’t a good fit and you should find an activity you can more comfortably complete.

A new year is a great opportunity to implement a new, healthy habit in your life. Pick a goal, build a plan, and measure your progress along the way. Realize some goals have a clear finish line, while others are life-long growing experiences.

Want some help setting attainable goals or need someone to help hold you accountable during your journey? JFS Orlando has licensed counselors trained in a variety of areas, including self esteem, life transitions, and weight loss. JFS accepts Medicare, Medicaid, most commercial insurances, and even provides a sliding fee scale to clients who qualify. To schedule an appointment, call 407-644-7593 ext. 247 or email Ashlyn.Douglass-Barnes@JFSorlando.org today!

Author: Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW

Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Therapist Supervisor 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: Tom Lucas

From bag boy to owner, Tom Lucas has worked in grocery stores for over 58 years. He owned one of the top independent supermarkets in the country back home in Pittsburgh. That’s why it only felt natural when he started volunteering for the food pantry at his church. When Tom decided to retire to Orlando, he wanted to continue fighting hunger in the community. He found out about JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry and right away knew it was right up his alley. “I started volunteering at JFS about two years ago. I do it because you should always give back to the community. I’ve done so well in my life, now I want to help others.”

One moment that has really stood out to Tom from his time at JFS was when an older lady was having trouble getting her food to her car. Tom went out to help her and he remembers how she was just so grateful. “She prayed for me, and that was just the best feeling.” He felt good knowing that this small act of kindness had really made an impact on someone.

Working in the pantry, Tom has seen all kinds of families and individuals come in for food. From families living paycheck to paycheck who need the food pantry as a meal solution to hold them over, to homeless individuals currently living on the streets who don’t even have a stove and need a special set of food that they can eat without heating up. “You should volunteer with JFS to simply help people who need help. If there’s anything we can do to help we should do it.” Thank you, Tom, for volunteering with JFS and helping feed the needy in our community!

Looking for a way to fight hunger and give back to your community? Become a JFS volunteer! Several types of opportunities are available, including in the pantry and office assistance. To sign up, contact Cherryl Faye, Volunteer Coordinator, at 407-644-7593 ext. 239 or Volunteers@JFSorlando.org.

Six Ways to Beat Loneliness during the Holidays

During the holidays, we tend to think that everyone is happy and joyous, surrounded by family and friends. But often the opposite is true. The holidays can be a time where the lack of support, family connectedness or friendship is magnified the most. Dealing with loneliness during the holidays can be difficult, but below are six ways you can cope with the holiday blues.

1. Be kind to yourself—It might seem like the selfish thing to do, but really taking care of you can be selfless as well. We have all heard you can’t pour from an empty cup. Well, it’s true. It’s always good to have something to look forward to, even if that’s a cup of tea in your PJs at night while you read a book. Self-care doesn’t have to be bubble baths and facemasks, it can be anything that brings you joy. It doesn’t have to be big things either, even micro breaks as small as 3 minutes pushed away from the work desk with your eyes closed breathing can make a difference. Checking in with yourself on what you need is important to do.

2. Connect where you can—During the holidays you may have extra opportunities for connections. Send out a holiday card, make an extra phone call, let those neighbors know their lights look great, or call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. They might be feeling lonely as well, and having someone reach out to them might help you both feel more connected. 

3. Focus on what you have control over—Think of all your energy for the day as a gas tank. As you move through each item on your to-do list, you use up energy (or gas). What you want to focus on is only using gas on things for which you have control over and not on those situations or areas for which you don’t. That includes what we think about. How much energy are you wasting thinking about old things you can’t change? That doesn’t leave you a lot of gas to work on the things you can change or positively affect. That family feud that has been going on for the past 20 years and that always seems to ruin the holiday gathering doesn’t have to steal up your energy. Instead, try to identify the level of control you have in the issue and make your decisions based on that. This might include how long you plan to stay in the situation or if you want to go at all. It is okay to make a decision that will limit your interactions with toxic situations.

4. Know that you are not alone in feeling lonely—Many people, for many different reasons, feel lonely during the holidays. We often wish that the holidays could be something out of a movie, where everyone comes together for a fight-free night of food and fun. The reality is, families are often split geographically, don’t always get along, or have other limitations that can’t make this want come true. And that’s okay! Try reaching out to a friend or family member that you do feel close with, and talk with them about your feelings and how you like to be connected with them.

5. Be careful with expectations—Just like previously mentioned, our actual life often isn’t what hallmark movies are made of, so be careful of perfectionist expectations. The turkey might not come out just right or the cat might knock over the holiday decorations right after you finish them—those things happen. Be patient with yourself and don’t be the one to put on the pressure.

6. Give to others—A great way to connect with others is to give your time through volunteering. The holidays often present more opportunities through your place of worship, JFS Orlando, other non-profits, soup kitchens or homeless shelters—take the opportunity to give back to your community. If you don’t have the opportunity with time, you can find other ways to volunteer or give back even with your own family. Maybe there’s a family member who could use help babysitting to get some last minute shopping done, or some help putting up decorations, or even help getting something to the post office. Small acts of kindness can really lighten up someone’s day.

If you start to feel lonely this holiday, just remember these few tips to still enjoy the festive season and even use it as an opportunity to take care of yourself and connect with new or old friends.

And if you are still feeling overwhelmed, always know that JFS Orlando has professional counselors who can help in a safe, confidential, and caring environment. JFS accepts Medicare, Medicaid, most commercial insurances, and even provides a sliding fee scale to clients who qualify. To schedule an appointment, call 407-644-7593 ext. 247 or email Ashlyn.Douglass-Barnes@JFSorlando.org today!

Author: Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW

Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Therapist Supervisor 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.

A Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Friends of JFS Orlando,

I am reaching out to you today to announce that Eric Geboff has formally resigned from his role as Executive Director of JFS Orlando.  Eric came to JFS approximately seven years ago.  During this time, he diligently led JFS through many positive changes.  Eric’s incredible work ethic, talent, and his caring heart for those in need will be missed.  Although I speak these words of gratitude on my behalf, I am certain that I can also speak the same on the behalf of the Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, donors, and clients.

My name is Mike McKee.  I have been a JFS Board member for the last decade, half of which I’ve served as the Board President.  Because of my love for JFS and hope for a smooth transition with Eric’s departure, I have agreed to resign from the Board to take on the role of Interim Executive Director, pro bono.

Eric’s legacy is intact. His efforts have helped guide JFS to where we are today.  As a result, I am happy to tell you that we are ready to “spread our wings” like never before.  The future of JFS is shining bright!  I cannot wait to see what 2019 will bring.  One thing is for certain, however.  JFS will continue its mission to provide a handup to families and individuals in crisis.  The Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry, the Counseling, Growth and Development Program, the Family Stabilization Program (FSP), the Emergency Services program, Reliable Independent Drivers for the Elderly (RIDE), Chaplaincy, and all of our other programs will continue to be there to enhance the lives of thousands of Central Floridians in need.

I encourage you to get involved if you are not already.  We need you.  We need Board members, Committee members, volunteers, and donors.  Together we must share our time and treasure.  Both are essential elements for the important work that needs to be done.  There is always a place for you in the JFS family.

Please join me in thanking Eric for his time and dedication to JFS as we certainly wish him the best.  Go JFS!


Mike McKee
Interim Executive Director
407-644-7593 ext. 238

Winter Park Holiday Parade 2018

On Saturday, December 8, 2018, JFS Orlando participated for the first time in the 66th Annual Winter Park Holiday Parade, the oldest continuous holiday parade in Central Florida. JFS was one of more than 80 organizations that participated. 34th in line, the JFS Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry van rolled down the parade along with shopping carts filled with food to represent the vital role the pantry plays in feeding the hungry in the Winter Park community. 29 volunteers, staff, and Board members accompanied the van waving and handing out cards describing the mission of JFS and encouraging onlookers to visit and volunteer.

“It’s a great opportunity to get the word out there about JFS and the good work that we do,” said Interim Executive Director, Mike McKee. “Although we’ve been a part of the community for over 40 years, many people still don’t know about JFS. We’re still ‘the best kept secret’ in the neighborhood. We hope participating in the parade will introduce us to some new folks and remind others that we’re still here, whether you need our help or are looking to help.”

8 Helpful Tips for Caregivers

The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060.1 The rise of the senior population is increasing every year which means that there is a greater need for caregivers.

Caregivers can have different roles in different phases of a person’s life. The most understood definition is “one who is responsible for attending to the daily needs of another.” This can be financial, emotional, or physical, and these needs might be for a brief time period or the last period of a loved one’s life. The task is frequently placed on loved ones but other people might be involved, like from the health profession. Caregiving is often times perceived to be a thankless job, with usually no pay given in return for services.

Some statistics2 on the role of caregivers in the United States include:

  • 7 million Americans are informal caregivers
  • 86% of caregivers are related to the person for whom they care
  • 66% of caregivers are women
  • 36% of children care for a parent
  • 1/3 of American households report they have at least one unpaid caregiver
  • The average age of a caregiver is 49, though 50-64 is the fastest growing population of caregivers
  • 3 years is the average length of time that relative caregivers provide care
  • 59% of family caregivers are employed

This is a large number of people in our community. That is why November is dedicated as National Family Caregivers Month, to honor and celebrate the invaluable contributions caregivers make to families and community. Caregivers are always on task to be there for those in need, but who takes care of them?  And how can we help them be able to provide loving support and yet find ways to care for themselves?

There are certain signs in a caregiver’s behavior that can mean they need to dedicate some time on themselves. For example, they may show anger, ambivalence, anxiety, depression, disgust, loneliness, embarrassment, and even jealousy. Studies show that an estimated 46-59% of caregivers are clinically depressed2. These are not “bad” feelings, just feelings they will sometimes experience as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.

A helpful example to give to yourself or anyone who is in this role is the need for oxygen. On an airplane, an oxygen mask descends in front of you. What do you do? As we all know, the first rule is to put on your own oxygen mask before you assist anyone else. Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important—and most often forgotten—things you can do as a caregiver. When your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too.

Some common issues caregivers face include sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, failure to exercise, failure to stay in bed when ill, and postponement of or failure to make medical appointments for themselves. Although they might appear simple, these key pieces can easily go to the wayside if one is not careful. 

Here are eight helpful strategies for dealing with caregiver stress:

1. Reduce Personal Stresssee what is realistic for you to do and find ways to seek assistance when needed.

2. Set Goalstake a break from caregiving, get help, and do something fun for yourself.

3. Seek Solutionsthe laundry needs to get done, set up a schedule to do it or pay for laundry service.

4. Communicate Constructivelywhen addressing your feelings use “I” statements not “you” statements. Respect others’ feelings by truly listening to them. Be clear and direct when communicating your needs.

5. Ask for and Accept Helpmake a list of things that need to be done, share it with the helper, and let them choose what they can do. Ask them when you know they are open to hearing your request and are willing to do something for you. Lastly, don’t take it personally if they can’t help. It is not a personal attack, just their own decision.

6. Eat a Balanced Dietmake simple meals that you know you will eat and will help you both emotionally and physically. Lots of colored food items are yummy, and remember drinking water is also important.

7. Start or Restart Exercisewalking is a great form of exercise and so is yoga. Try one or both!

8. Learn from Your Emotionsit is a strength to recognize when your emotions are controlling you (instead of you controlling your emotions). Our emotions are messages to which we need to listen. They exist for a reason. Pay attention to them.

Know that you are not alone in this experience. Reach out in your community and see if there are any caregiver support groups or services for caregivers. Caregivers need to be supported and it’s more than ok to do that. 

Want more tips? Whether you’re going through a difficult time or just need someone to talk to about your regular day-to-day, JFS Orlando has licensed counselors that can help you get some self-care. To schedule an appointment, call 407-644-7593 ext. 247 or email Ashlyn.Douglass-Barnes@JFSorlando.org today!


1 Population Reference Bureau

2 Family Caregiver Alliance

Author: Carla Fischer, MA, LMHC, LMT

Carla Fischer has been a Mental Health Counselor for over 15 years. She received her training for Mental Health Counseling at Webster University in Central Florida. Carla has traveled extensively; through that experience she developed an understanding of culture and discovered that background shapes who we are and how we experience the world. Carla is bilingual, fluent in English and Spanish she also has a good control of the German Language. Carla approaches Mental Health Counseling therapy with an open heart and mind.  She is aware that the willingness to start opening up and dealing with emotions is the first step in finding solutions to whatever concerns the client. The use of body centering or emotional centered therapy has been an integral part of helping her clients find balance in their lives and work through some of the difficulties that they might face.

Author: Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW

Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Therapist Supervisor 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.

November 2018 Board Corner: Dick Appelbaum

Dick and Dottie Appelbaum, JFS Orlando Pantry to Plate 2014

Dick Appelbaum has been a member of the JFS Board since 2012. He grew up in the Bronx, NY and attended Hunter College. He moved to Orlando, FL in 1962 to work for Tupperware as a buyer of motivational and incentive gifts and awards. Soon after, he married his wife Dottie and had three daughters, Ali, Jill, and Julie.

After ten years with Tupperware, Dick decided to start his own business, The Dick Appelbaum Company. It soon became a family business, including Dottie, her mom Rose, and daughter Ali. They were even honored with the first Partnership Award presented by the Direct Selling Association. After 35 years, Dick retired from the family business and passed on the specialty division, Richard’s Incentives, to his daughter Ali.

Dick and Dottie Appelbaum and friends, JFS Spring Brunch 2016

Since a young age, community service was important to Dick, a member of the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and later the National Guard. He and his friends even started a chapter of APO, a scouting based service fraternity, at Hunter. Here in Orlando, Dick has served as President of the JCC twice, was chairman of the Board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, and currently sits on the board of Kinneret, JFS Orlando, the Jewish Pavilion, and other local agencies and associations.

Dick and Dottie Appelbaum, JFS Orlando Spring Brunch 2015

Besides his many awards and accolades, however, Dick says his greatest rewards have been his daughters, son-in-laws, and grandchildren. “My grandparents are the most loving people I’ve ever met,” says granddaughter Carly. “They taught me to think of others first and to give back to my community.”*

And JFS Orlando has surely felt this love and generosity and could not be more grateful to have Dick as one of its leaders.

*Orlando’s Jewish Lifestyle Magazine, Spring 2018 Vol. 2 Issue 1, pg 28-29

Interested in helping families in crisis right here in Central Florida? Apply to join our Board of Directors by completing an application and emailing it to Executive Director, Eric Geboff at Eric.Geboff@JFSorlando.org.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Pittsburgh

Dear Friends –

The horrific events at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, October 27, 2018 cut deeply at the soul of all peace loving people. We are greatly saddened at the events that took the lives of 11 innocent people and injured many others. We share the grief with those who have lost loved ones or have been injured. Further, we express our deepest appreciation to the first responders who placed their lives on the line for others and our solidarity with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh.

JFS Orlando condemns acts of violence in any form and stands strongly for an open and inclusive society.

The safety and security of visitors and clients to JFS Orlando remains our priority. We have been in contact with our local law enforcement and have confirmed there is no active threat against our facility or users. We have ongoing security measures in place to assure the safety of all who walk through our doors and continue to provide a safe and sound environment for all of our clients and guests.

We invite you to join us as the community comes together in solidarity on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 at 7:00 PM for “Stop The Hate: Remembering the Victims in Pittsburgh,” an interfaith and multicultural memorial service, coordinated by Central Florida Jewish organizations and the Greater Orlando Board of Rabbis. The service will be held at Congregation of Reform Judaism, 928 Malone Drive, Orlando, FL 32810.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at 407-644-7593 ext 238.

May the souls of those lost at Tree of Life Synagogue be bound in the bond of eternal life.

Eric Geboff, MSW
Executive Director

New JFS Building Sign

We just installed a brand new building sign! Displaying our updated purple and green agency colors, we hope it will help JFS standout to let people know we’re here and ready to help our Greater Orlando community. Keep an eye out for it the next time you drive down Lee Road!