Category Archive: Counseling

5 Tips for Creating Healthy Habits

Studies show that about 50% of people’s daily activities are habit-driven. (Source: Helping You Engineer Your Future) That’s half our day! It’s so easy to get stuck in our day-to-day habits. We try a routine, find what works, and stick to it—be it a specific route to work, a time to get up, or a go-to snack from the fridge. Whether you’re looking to break a bad habit or just want to shake up your daily routine for the better, below are five tips for creating healthy habits.

1. Begin with small goals

Aim to start with short exercises such as parking further from the store entrance, taking the stairs, 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 habits. If your health goals include walking every day, 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.

3. Connect the action to an existing habit

You can plan your walks following dinner or immediately before brushing your teeth. 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 you have a friend come 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.

5. Find the consequence of not repeating the activity

If you suffer a direct and obvious consequence from not engaging in a healthy activity, it can help force 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.

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.

JFS Orlando Staff Receives Suicide Prevention Training

The JFS Orlando Counseling, Growth and Development Team

On average, one person dies by suicide every three hours in the state of Florida. In fact, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the state. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Data & Statistics Fatal Injury Report for 2017) That is why this summer JFS Orlando’s mental health counselors and front-line staff participated in the Florida Implementation of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (FINS) Project.

FINS is a collaborative partnership between the University of Central Florida, Advent Health, the Statewide Office of Suicide Prevention, and the University of South Florida to build upon Florida’s comprehensive suicide prevention plan. The FINS Project was designed to enhance services to reach at-risk populations and ensure that adults, ages 25 and up, receive timely and appropriate services. 

Staff from the FINS Project worked with JFS to develop a strategy for suicide prevention and intervention, which will be implemented immediately agency-wide. The project, which consisted of four trainings, taught non-clinical staff gatekeeper skills to detect if someone might be suicidal; and clinical therapists how to conduct suicide risk assessments, safety plans, care coordination services, and, for select therapists, even clinical training to treat suicidal clients.

Many times patients in emergency rooms do not have access to therapists who are properly trained in suicide prevention. The FINS Project is aiming to build a system-wide approach where agencies partner together to ensure that care transitions are taking place between agencies. FINS Care Coordinators at Advent Health will be connecting with the clinical therapist team at JFS Orlando to help ensure continuity of care for clients/patients.

JFS is proud to have participated in the FINS Project and is grateful for this vital training that was provided at no cost to the agency thanks to the project’s collaborators and supporters. For more information regarding the JFS Orlando Counseling program, please contact Clinical Director, Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW at Ashlyn.Douglass-Barnes@JFSorlando.org or 407-644-7593 ext. 301.

How to Relate to Your Child During Back to School Time

When the school year begins, children can experience excitement for their new grade, fears of peers and fitting in, or the dread of homework and tests. This is not too dissimilar to an adult starting a new job or moving to a new city. This is an opportunity for parents to find ways to relate to their children’s emotions and challenges by correlating it to their own similar experiences as an adult.

We all share the human experience, no matter the age. When we can link our own feelings and challenges of today to our children’s, we find a wonderful opportunity to parent intuitively in a way your children will greatly appreciate; through understanding and vulnerability.

It’s not about the homework.

Children work hard all day, sit still, and try not to talk in class. When they get home, the struggle becomes when to do the homework and how to muster the desire. Some parent’s strategy is to have it tackled right away in order to be able to relax the remainder of their day. Some have children wait until after dinner. There is no right or wrong answer, but the solution is stronger when it involves the individual child’s personality and when it gives them a sense of control by selecting the solution.

If adults attend an all-day conference, where do they go at 5pm when it is done? You will likely find them in a place where they can relax and take a break. If they have work to do before the next conference day, they will have to find the self-discipline and self-negotiating skills to do it. They may do it before dinner, during dinner or later before bed. They may change this by day depending on how they feel.

This ability to negotiate with self to do what is needed, and sometimes not fun, is a very important life skill.

Focusing on homework as an opportunity for your child to develop this skill and support them with empathy creates a different paradigm from ‘Get your homework done!’. Putting yourself in a situation that is comparable, like the all-day conference, will give you a mindset of support that is much different than frustrations and power struggles. This also may mean that sometimes your child won’t do their homework and will have to deal with the consequences. After all, adults don’t do everything perfectly either and we weigh the cost of the consequence with the short-term desire. Learning which consequences are too painful is a part of learning this life skill. If we take away this opportunity out of fear of their failure, we take the lesson away also.

There are many news articles stating that parent’s fears are getting in the way of children developing life skills and we need to refocus towards their internal world versus their external performance. When a child learns the self-discipline and self-negotiation needed for homework, it can apply to chores and future tasks. It is a lifelong muscle to value and exercise and, if applied, will yield rewards.

Remember, children are people too. They have reactions to events in life just as adults and they are much more like you than you may realize. Be with your child in support as you would wish if it were you.

Interested in more parenting or family wellness advice? Call 407-644-7671 or email Sonja.Pollard@JFSorlando.org 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.


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Author: Brenda Chappell, LMHC

Brenda Chappell, LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Brenda holds a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a specialty in Play Therapy.

Brenda Chappell specializes working with adolescents, children, and their parents with a variety of issues such as child defiance, depression, anxiety, poor school performance, divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse, and grief. Brenda utilizes Adlerian Child Guidance Principals to enable parents to be more effective and to build stronger relationships with their children. Brenda’s strengths lie in her ability to connect parents and children or adolescents through building a shared understanding and partnership.

Four Tips for Getting through June: A Month of Transition

 

June 1st was “National Say Something Nice” Day: a good way to start an article for our June Newsletter.

Later in the month, I am reminded by the calendar to celebrate “Old Maids”, “Call Your Doctor” and “Insurance Awareness” Days, all of which make me feel old. Likewise, “Strawberry Rhubarb Pie”, “Cream Soda” and “Black Cow” Days make me think of my late father, who loved all of those old-fashioned foods. Yet, I am happy to recognize “Make Life Beautiful” and “Daylight Appreciation” Days, along with “Best Friend” and “SummersGiving” Days.  And I could go on, with National “Waffle Iron”, “Pen Pal”, “Drive-In Movie”, and “Chocolate Ice Cream” Days…all of which bring me warm feelings, reminders of my youth.

The odd variety of celebration days this month triggers for me a set of mixed feelings. I remember summers as a little kid in the mid-west. My mom would make strawberry rhubarb pie and my dad would smile from ear to ear with delight. On the way home from the beach, my family would stop for a black cow drink at the drive-in. On Saturday evenings, we would look forward to popcorn and chocolate ice cream at the drive-in movie theater while watching a double feature. And then, on Sunday mornings, our family tradition was to enjoy crisp waffles with lots of syrup. How did the June National Day designators know our family so well?

June feels like a month of nostalgia, and, therefore, a month of transition. As I muse about days long-gone, I am made aware that the days are getting longer—hence, “Day Light Appreciation Day”. Noting the transition to health, June includes “Cancer Survivor Day”, and in a funny challenge to transition, June 3rd is designated as “National Repeat Day”—acknowledging that sometimes transitions can be rough and we sometimes must repeat a step or a phase as we move from one place to the next.

With the goal of moving forward and making a successful transition, let me offer a few tips, as I “Say Something Nice” about transition. Given the thoughts above about aging, I will use the transition of “getting older”, or more concretely, retirement, as the basis of my tips. However, most of the tips are applicable to many types of transitions, whether they be related to a job, a relationship or moving.

1. Explore what this TRANSITION means to you.

This exploration will likely include what society “says” about the transition. For instance, as you think about retirement, what does it mean to you to not work? Do you feel like you are not contributing, that you have no purpose? Do you feel that there is a stigma related to your new role in life? How you, and society, feel about this new role will have a huge bearing on how well you transition to this new place.

2. Discover the OPPORTUNITIES.

This is particularly important if you find yourself with some pretty strong, negative feelings or facing a powerful stigma. With every transition, there are opportunities; it may take a while to uncover them, however. You may have the opportunity to learn, meet new people, or restructure your life to achieve some forgotten goals. With your eye on the opportunities, the negative feelings can melt into the background.

3. Articulate your LOSSES.

The flip side of opportunity is the perception of loss. Without acknowledging your losses, you will too easily fall prey to paralysis or self-sabotage. Will you miss old friends, lose status, or potentially struggle with the lack of structure? With every transition, even those that we excitedly embrace, we lose something.  While those loses might be insignificant, it is always a positive step to acknowledge what they are.

4. Assess your RESOURCES.

Once you start on the path and know where you want to go, see the light ahead in terms of opportunities, and are ready to let go of your losses, you still need tools to move forward. What resources do you need and which do you already own. For instance, do you have a support system of people that you can check-in with along the way? Do you possess stress management skills to help you through those rough spots that are filled with uncertainty? What other skills might you need: assessment, flexibility? What relevant experience do you have?

During this month of “SummersGiving”, we can give ourselves the gift of support. Whether this is the month that you decide to retire, move into a senior living community, leave a bad marriage, or make a commitment to make some new friends, you will likely need some help in making this transition. Counseling services at JFS Orlando can be just the assistance you need to move through to the other side. You will gain skills as well as enjoy the support.

It’s easy to “Say Something Nice” about JFS’s Counseling Services. You, too, will have something nice to say as you take advantage of the benefits offered to you. We will be your partner as you transition—not just this month, but each and every month of the year.

Call 407-644-7671 or email Sonja.Pollard@JFSorlando.org to schedule an appointment 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: Eloise Stiglitz, Ph.D.

Eloise Stiglitz, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist. Eloise received her Ph.D. in clinical and developmental psychology from Purdue University. While her professional identity has always been as a psychologist, she has spent many years in higher education as a counselor, administrator and faculty. After she retired as Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students from a major university, she returned to her roots as a practicing 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.

Five Tips for Adulting with ADHD

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. One disorder worth raising awareness about is ADHD, an invisible disability. “An estimated 9% of children between ages 3–17 have ADHD. While ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood, it does not only affect children. An estimated 4% of adults have ADHD.” (Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness)

ADHD and ADD are interchangeable terms. ADHD is the official psychiatric term. There are three types: hyperactive, inattentive, and combined (hyperactive AND inattentive). All types have in common deficits in what is called executive functioning. Executive functioning includes focus, organization, time management, and self-control—important skills that make it easier to set and accomplish goals. ADHD often co-occurs with (is accompanied by) mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder), anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders. All in all, it’s more difficult for a person with ADHD to get things done.

Below are five tips to improve your mental health if you have ADHD:

1. Allow extra time to do things.

If you know you are notorious for underestimating how long things take, plan to do less, much less, in the time you have allotted for work, school, errands, chores, etc. You will be less stressed and less frustrated with how little you accomplished.

2. Plan to arrive early for things.

Don’t start doing something new if you have to leave within 15 minutes. If you want to arrive on time most or all of the time, you should plan to get in the car 15 minutes before you actually need, to account for last minute delays and traffic. Rushing and weaving madly through traffic does not calm the soul.

3. Put everything you need to do in a date book and on the calendar of your phone.

Set alarms, even for daily events, like picking up kids from school or leaving work, if you tend to get so absorbed in things that you lose track of time. Getting super-absorbed in an interesting activity to the exclusion of everything else is called hyper-focusing, and is, ironically, also typical for people with ADHD. Getting a wristwatch with a timer can help you remember the little things like getting the pasta off the stove in ten minutes.

4. Take ADHD mess-ups in stride.

All your best systems will sometimes fail and you will occasionally miss deadlines, forget appointments, arrive late, lose things, blurt things out, etc. Coming to terms with this reality, even as you layer on more reminder buzzers, can be freeing. I like to say, “You laugh or you cry.” Laughing requires fewer tissues.

5. Forgive yourself for not becoming what you could have been if you had better executive functioning skills.

Forgive yourself for under-achieving or taking longer to get there than others. Having ADHD isn’t easy and should be taken into account when you pull out the ruler and see how you measure up. What? You say you can’t find your ruler? You’re in good company.

Take charge of your mental health! During this Mental Health Awareness Month, take a moment to reflect on your mental health. JFS Orlando’s licensed counselors are here to help you navigate through life’s daily struggles or those big life-changing moments.

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. Call 407-644-7671 or email Sonja.Pollard@JFSorlando.org 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.

5 Ways Volunteering Benefits Your Mental Health

Whether it’s coaching a little league team, feeding the hungry at a food pantry, or building a home for a family displaced by a natural disaster, without a doubt volunteering is something we should all do to help others in need. Although it is a selfless act, volunteering isn’t without its benefits. Here are five ways doing good does you good:

1. Provides a sense of purpose or meaning

How often do we actually get to feel we are doing something that benefits the greater good? How many times have you been sitting at your desk at work or sitting in front of the TV at home thinking that you should be doing something different with your time? You can make a difference and feel good about what you are doing with your time by volunteering. If you enjoy cooking, possibly volunteering at a soup kitchen can help you see the people that eat and enjoy your food. Seeing the changes you make in others’ lives through volunteering can help you feel a greater sense of purpose.

2. Reduces feelings of isolation or loneliness

Isn’t it hard to make friends as an adult? Volunteering can help you meet new people and not feel so lonely. You can meet people with similar interests and values as you. For instance, if you love animals, you can volunteer with your local shelter. Aside from the opportunity to interact with animals, especially if you’ve always wanted a pet but can’t afford or have time for one, this could also be a great way to meet people who love animals too. Spending time with people who enjoy the same things as you can lead to conversations and friendships outside of volunteering.

3. Creates a sense of mastery

Feeling useful and capable is important at all stages of life, especially in our younger years or as we age when we tend to feel less useful. But you can volunteer at any age or ability level. Volunteer in areas in which you feel confident. For example, if you are a retired accountant, it might be a good volunteer match to work with a program that provides tax prep to low income families and seniors. Feeling a sense of accomplishment can increase your overall self-esteem and help you in other areas of your life.

4. Keeps you physically and mentally active

Volunteering can entail many activities—making phone calls, sorting or organizing items, preparing items for pick up, cooking, data entry, and interacting with animals or other people. Often problems will arise and you will need to use your problem solving skills to figure out the best solution. These critical thinking skills are significant throughout our lives, from young children to the elderly.

How many times has your doctor suggested that you be more active, but you find it hard to do activity with little purpose? Many volunteering activities will also require you to get up and move. Volunteering with children, for example, will guarantee you movement and make increasing your activity feel more useful and fun.

5. Brings hope and helps you make a difference

There are so many large world problems that we wish we could solve, but are too overwhelming or seem unfixable. Poverty, for example, is such a complex problem we couldn’t possibly fix it on our own or right away. However, providing food assistance through a food pantry can ensure that a family living in poverty will be fed today. Though we can’t solve the world’s problems easily or by ourselves, we can at least each make a small, positive difference in someone’s life and bring hope by making a small step towards fixing a larger problem.

Interested in volunteering? Become a JFS volunteer! Several types of opportunities are available, including in the food pantry and office assistance. To sign up, contact Cherryl Faye, Volunteer Coordinator, at 407-644-7593 ext. 239 or Volunteers@JFSorlando.org.

Want some more wellness advice? JFS Orlando’s licensed counselors are specialized in various areas and are here to support you in anything, from a major life transition to routine day-to-day life. Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. Call 407-644-7671 or email Sonja.Pollard@JFSorlando.org to schedule an appointment 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.

How to Be Your Own Best Friend

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.

Doing some spring cleaning? In addition to cleaning out your closet or tidying up your home, consider some mental health spring cleaning. 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 407-644-7593 ext. 247 or email Ashlyn.Douglass-Barnes@JFSorlando.org 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.

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.

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.