Articles & Trainings

We hear a lot about gratitude and its effects but what does it really mean and how can it help us? Gratitude is showing appreciation for what we have and the goodness in our lives. It’s giving thanks on a substantial level—it’s not superficial. An old French proverb claims that “gratitude is the heart’s memory.” By recognizing what we’re grateful for we can move forward in life with renewed spirit, optimism, and a higher quality of life. 

What are some benefits of gratitude?

Improved mood: those who focus on positive things tend to be happier overall. Surround yourself with like-minded people for a contagious gratitude side effect. It’s a win-win!  

Increased optimism: when we are happier, we also have a more positive outlook on life for ourselves and our loved ones. With a positive outlook, we’re more encouraged to take (healthy) risks and pursue our dreams.

Enhanced social bonds:when we show our appreciation for close friends and family, it not only makes them feel cherished, it reminds us of the connections we have in our lives.

Improved physical health: typically, when we’re happier and more positive about our lives, we take better care of our physical health. Exercise and eating healthier result in better sleep, more energy, decreased blood pressure, and a healthier immune system.

Connects us to a higher power: When we recognize that the source of gratitude goodness comes from outside of ourselves, it helps to connect us to other people, nature, and a higher power.

Elevates empathy: when we’re more gracious and practice showing thanks, it increases our sensitivity to others and motivates us to naturally support one another.

Better self-esteem: when we change our perspective and see the good in life, it can reduce our need for social comparisons. In today’s culture, this is highly beneficial for our wellbeing. 

Increased mental strength: studies show that gratitude can help us overcome trauma, grief and anxiety and can increase our resilience in tough situations.

Better mental health: showing gratitude can help to reduce toxic emotions like anger, resentment or jealousy. We feel more inclined to take care of ourselves by going to check-ups and attending therapy when needed. 

How can I show gratitude?

There are many ways to show appreciation in your life. For instance, we can show gratitude by reliving joyful past memories, appreciating the present and not taking it for granted, and by maintaining a hopeful attitude when looking towards our future. Here are a few approaches to try:  

·       Every day write down something that went well and why.

·       Take breathing breaks and envision something positive.

·       Create a new family ritual by explaining how gratitude makes you feel.

·       Give out genuine compliments—even if you don’t know the person.

·       Volunteer in your community.

·       Perform random acts of kindness.

·       Shift your perspective. Recognize how much you’ve grown in your life. 

·       Slow down and try to be more present.

·       Notice things and relish in the small (and big) things that bring you joy. 

 

With an unstable and stressful year nearly behind us and the holiday season approaching, it’s important now more than ever to adopt a gratitude practice into your life. Remember that it’s okay and normal to not feel grateful all the time. But when those feelings do arise, amplify your optimistic outlook and appreciation of others, and help cultivate a community of gracious, grateful people.

Sources: nationwidechildrens.org, health.harvard.edu, psyhcologytoday.com, livescience.com

 

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on October 21, 2020, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine 

Question:  My parents live nearby but we have not seen them much in the previous months because of COVID and my dad having significant risk factors. We have had a few outdoor, socially-distant gatherings but with winter coming, that will be hard. I know my parents are upset not seeing the kids as much. My mom told me recently she feels like she is depressed. I feel guilty. Do you have ideas to keep the connection strong in a safe way?

Answer: I wish I had an easy answer. This is a dilemma that has impacted so many, in so many ways. Before giving any thoughts on the subject, I remind everyone to follow CDC guidelines for mask-wearing (yes, around the grandparents), social distancing (six or more feet apart) and handwashing and using hand sanitizer often. As the cold weather approaches and the time when families gather for the holidays, we must be extra vigilant. Recent surges across the country have been attributed to people gathering again in the home and being more relaxed about the virus.

We all have to get creative. My family has had to get creative for this same reason. Our visits are shorter and may get even shorter as the cold and darkness descend on us. We visit in the outdoors around a fire pit for about 2 hours once a week. Our chairs are six feet apart. Parents are in charge of watching if the little ones get too close to grandparents, and gently reminding grandparents when they don’t resist the impulse to snuggle and hug. My family has also driven to a park to meet at a halfway point to see other dear ones who live miles away. We try to be outside as much as possible. Taking walks, visiting a garden, and reading stories all can be outside activities, and soon sledding and snowman-making will be in the mix. 

The cold weather season may mean rethinking cold-weather gear, just to be able to spend more time together. Dressing in layers can extend the time together.

It is difficult for your mom. Isolation and loneliness can really contribute to feelings of depression. The dark months of winter can be a problem under normal circumstances for many people, especially older adults. When the separation caused by the pandemic is added to the mix, it can become very serious for some. Your children are a major joy for her. If there are ways you can help her remain engaged, it will help her mood. Throughout the fall and winter, try to ramp up the engagement and involvement with the grandparents in any safe activity. If you notice increasing depression, substance abuse and/or overall withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed in your mom or other older adults for whom you care, help them get connected to their physician for an exam. The requirements of the pandemic are not your fault, don’t take on guilt. Just do the best you can under extraordinary circumstances. Allow time for your mom to talk and recognize the feelings she is expressing. She will feel better just being heard.

Here are some helpful ideas and suggestions for you and your children:

  • Video chats with guessing games, jokes, and stories both from her and from your children can keep them connected.  
  • Letter writing is a way of connecting, as well as sending hand-drawn pictures back and forth. I know one grandmother that draws a bird and sends it to her grandson, then they learn about the bird together. The next time, the grandson draws a bird and sends it off to his grandmother.
  • Holiday fun: Have an outdoor family Halloween parade. Grandparents can dress up too and provide some warm cider and cookies. Looking at the neighborhood lights together during the Christmas and Hanukkah season can be done together using separate cars and speakerphones so everyone enjoys the experience of it together. It’s all about memory-making, pandemic or not!
  • Another holiday idea is to have grandparents watching the assembling of gingerbread houses. Having an activity going on allows children to become comfortable with the online presence of their grandparents.
  • There are easy recipes online that you can use to make handmade ornaments of the kids’ handprints.
  • Grandparents can be online watching the assembly of a craft they furnished.
  • Car picnics or visits with cars parked side-by-side—windows open with heat ramped up!  
  • Grandparents can get a kick out of watching a little one get absorbed in a storybook being read by a parent. Be sure to set the screen so that expressions can be seen. 
  • Daily short video chats can become a normal part of life. Each child has a different attention span so enjoy brief chats more often.
  • If grandparents are close, have the child participate in baking and dropping off cookies.
  • In the same vein, grandparents can assist parents by cooking one meal and dropping it off.  
  • A daily chess match or crossword puzzle between grandparents and older children can be fun. Using Zoom, they can play Pictionary, Scattergories, Mad Libs, and other games.  
  • Send your parents pictures as often as possible. This keeps them aware of what the kids are doing and communicates to them that you are thinking about them. It is a bit more costly, but if possible, give a gift of a digital picture frame that shuffles through multiple pictures which you load on. This way they can see your children going about their daily lives. Very fun!
  • If it is in their nature, ask the grandparent to sing a bedtime lullaby to a smaller child. Sometimes there are special good night songs in families.

We all are eagerly awaiting normal times. We are learning a lot about how important connection can be. I wish you the best in helping your parents during this time.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

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This workshop is designed to help mental health and substance abuse providers explore common ethical decision-making situations.

November 12 | November 18, 2020

10:00 AM – 2:30 PM EST 

About the Training 

For today’s provider, ethical decisions are often complex, involving a range of multifaceted issues that cannot be easily resolved. This workshop is designed to help mental health and substance abuse providers explore common ethical decision-making situations. We will explore critical issues including confidentiality, dual relationships, boundaries, responsibility, competence, and legal standards.

Objectives of the Training:

  1. Become aware of appropriate models for ethical behavior
  2.  Discover meaningful guidelines within the broad limits of professional codes of ethics
  3. Develop clear ethical boundaries
  4. Identify methods of ethical decision-making
  5. Discuss common ethical pitfalls. Identify the gray areas in legal and ethical decision-making that contribute to professional errors

FEE: FREE for Health Affiliates Maine Affiliates; $30 for non-affiliates

About the Presenter 

Stephen R. Andrew, LCSW, LADC, CCS, CGP, is a “Storyteller”, Trainer, Author & Chief Energizing Officer of Health Education Training Institute. Stephen is the former substance abuse counselor for a public school system, the former Executive Director of an adolescent prevention/treatment agency, and founder of a recovery camp for adults. He is the co-founder of the Men’s Resource Center of Southern Maine, whose mission is to support boys, men and fathers and oppose violence. Stephen maintains a compassion-focused private practice in Portland, Maine and facilitates a variety of groups for men, co-ed, couples and caregivers. He also presents workshops internationally for health-care, criminal justice, social service agencies, substance abuse treatment agencies on motivational interviewing, adolescents and adults & addiction, diversity, co-occurring disorders, ethics, men’s issues and group work. Stephen with his two friends authored Game Plan: A Man’s Guide to Achieving Emotional Fitness. He has been a member of M.I.N.T. (Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers) since 2003. Stephen lives with his sweet wife, Hilary, in Portland, Maine, USA, and is a proud father of a twenty-three-year-old son, Sebastian.

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on September 16, 2020, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine 

Question: My kids suffered greatly when their schools went remote last spring due to COVID-19. I am trying hard to prepare as best I can for a potentially rocky school year. What are the best ways to prep for that now for both me and my kids? They are 9 and 16. 

Answer: By now you probably know your kids’ school schedules, but we can talk about how you and your children can cope with change and uncertainty, which is a constant part of life and so very important now. At this point, we do not know if school will be successful with the new models or if more change will happen again.

The whole school situation is very difficult and complicated. Everyone involved has great concerns for safety while at the same time everyone wants what is best for the kids. We are all needing to adopt a very flexible outlook and parents need to present the attitude of “we can do this!”  

Resilience will be key. Resilience is a term for describing the ability to overcome adversity and challenge. It is about bouncing back. Imagine pushing a beach ball under the water. It can momentarily be overcome by the water and disappear from plain view only to launch itself right out of the water pushing against the challenge to come out on top. This image is something your 9 and 16-year-olds can visualize. This pandemic may make disruptions and changes in their lives, but they can end up on top and have a story to tell.

Though kids are known for being resilient, they do not have a long list of experiences from which to draw only remembering school a certain way. It is helpful to remind them of when they overcame other difficult times like a pet dying, a friend moving away, passing a difficult exam, or trying out for a team. They can learn to draw on other experiences to help them now. Whether there was disappointment, sadness, or success, they managed. Things may have returned to normal or they adjusted and went on to have other adventures and challenges. 

Some pandemic examples of resilience are:

  • Restaurants that managed to keep going, by offering outdoor dining and take out.
  • Graduates who managed to celebrate their graduations with socially-distant drive-by celebrations including yard signs and online parties.
  • Game nights and hiking as a family drawing everyone together.
  • People who starting cooking more, trying new recipes, canning vegetables, and organizing their drawers.
  • Kids who have discovered ways to help others by fundraising for a cause.

Things that will help both you and them as you get back to the school routine (as un-routine as it may seem) are:

  • Take time together to talk about how the day went, specifically asking about the masks, the social distance, online challenges, how they are connecting with friends and taking time together to problem-solve issues and celebrate successes.
  • Make a practice of regularly reaching out to others in the same situation for support and ideas. 
  • Remind yourself and each other to take one day at a time. This means watching when the things causing worries are out of your control and changing the focus to the here and now avoiding “what ifs.”
  • Review the expectations of each class and teacher regularly.
  • Keep the teachers informed of difficulties and confusion.
  • Take time to play outside as often as possible. Laughter lightens every load.

With your involvement, encouragement, and positive attitude your kids will not feel as overwhelmed and you will all get through it together.

For some, resilience is not easy. Children who struggle with school and relationships or have a history of trauma could experience additional challenges during these trying times. The isolation and uncertainty can be distressing. Children with mental illnesses might also struggle more than usual. It is very important to assist them in connecting with a counselor, case manager, or physician. These types of professionals may make an important difference in how these children and parents cope. I wish you and your family a positive and successful school year!

 

 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

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Mental and emotional resilience takes continuous practice. It’s a commitment to yourself that you will always show up and do the hard work. Being mentally healthy and resilient will allow you to feel more confident, in control, and able to tackle life’s ups and downs.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulty or a tough situation. It’s a skill that takes constant care to develop. It’s a conscious choice to improve your response or reaction to something that was very hard for you to experience. In other words, resilience is the ability to “bounce back.” It sounds like a superpower, but we can all practice resilience with self-awareness and the decision to improve. 

What does resilience look like?

We all have different life experiences, stressors, and issues that we work through on a daily basis. Therefore, a resilient person does not have one specific quality, look or personality trait. It’s all of us. However, there are some characteristics to look for in a mentally healthy and resilient person:

Sense of autonomy: individual autonomy is the notion that you are your own person. You live your life based off your own values, ethics and motivations.
Rational thinking: the ability to consider and analyze facts, opinions and judgements of a situation to determine a reasonable conclusion.
Regulate stress: the use of coping skills to manage daily stresses.
Self-esteem: the attitude you have towards yourself; self-respect, self-worth. 
Sense of optimism: can also relate to one’s happiness and the meaning and purpose they have of their life and life in general.
Good health habits: this includes proper sleep and personal hygiene, nutritious eating and regular exercise.
Sociability/social skills: being sociable with others; the way you communicate and interact with others.
Adaptability: the ability to change and adjust to new situations or experiences.
Altruism: the moral principle of being concerned with the happiness and wellbeing of all other living beings; compassion, love for others.

On the other hand, those that are lacking resiliency may show these traits:

  • Irritability or anger
  • Low immune system or illness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Overreaction to normal stressors
  • Easily upset/depressed or crying
  • Lack of hope

It is not out of reach or impossible to strengthen resilience and our mental health. We all have the natural ability and capacity to grow and improve our quality of life.

Why is it important to be resilient?

To be resilient is to have developed, and continue to develop, a means of self-protection against difficult situations using self-awareness and coping strategies. Also, being resilient will allow you to maintain balance during stressful times and protect us from developing possible mental health issues. It can also offer the following:

  • Improved learning skills, improved memory
  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Reduced risky behavior (excessive drinking, smoking, illicit drugs)
  • A sense of belonging and giving back to community and/or family
  • Experience more positive emotions and better able to regulate emotions

It’s important to note that those practicing resilience are not immune from mental illness or mental health issues. However, when effective coping skills are in place, mental health illnesses or issues can be more manageable.

How can I be more resilient?

There many ways that you can practice resilience and mental strength in your life. We are all our own person with individual thoughts, emotions, and life experiences and so our coping strategies will vary. Here are a few to try:

  • Let yourself feel emotions as they come and go
  • Find a support system that you can trust
  • Lean on self-care strategies; listen to what your body and mind need
  • Find a therapist or professional counselor
  • Maintain a routine of wellness (meditation, eating, exercising, etc.)
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Cultivate a sense of purpose
  • Embrace change and your reactions to it
  • Develop problem solving skills; take action to solve problems as they come
  • Face your fears; this begets self-confidence which will affect your perspective
  • Practice self-compassion; be mindful of the words, thoughts, actions toward yourself
  • Learn to forgive; this allows you to process unfavorable experiences by changing your mindset and relieving yourself of toxic, negative emotions and thoughts.

 

The uncertainty of the past year and upcoming months may have lead you to feel isolated, lonely, stressed or overwhelmed. Being aware of your mental health and coping strategies now and working towards strengthening them will better prepare you for any challenging times ahead. Remember that it is okay to need and want help. Reaching out to a professional takes courage.

 

 

 

 

Source: payneresilience.com, positivepsychology.com, psyhcologytoday.com

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Our affiliates and staff are the heart of Health Affiliates Maine. Over the last ten years we’ve changed, grown and overcome challenges, because we are—and continue to be—deeply committed to ending the stigma surrounding mental health. Our affiliates and staff are essential not only to HAM, but to individuals and communities all around Maine.

It was our absolute pleasure to host HAM staff in our first official Party in the Parking Lot. While our plans for celebration went through several revisions, this properly distanced, drive thru, dance party was our way of celebrating ten years of Health Affiliates Maine. We absolutely loved surprising you with music, gifts, gratitude and a special individual toast to each and every one of you.

Affiliates and staff, we appreciate all that you do. Thank you. Cheers to ten more years!

 

 

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Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment

A day-long virtual training for mental health professionals 

September 14 | September 18 | September 21, 2020

8:30 am – 4:00 pm 

About the Training 

This interactive virtual training will help clinicians develop skills and knowledge in the basics of working with clients with eating disorders. The training will cover diagnosis, assessment, factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders, and relevant treatment modalities. Though virtual, this training will include ample time for case studies and questions and answers.

FEE: FREE for Health Affiliates Maine Affiliates; $30 for non-affiliates

Register for September 14 Session. 
Register for September 18 Session. 
Register for September 21 Session. 
 

About the Presenter 

Sarah Carnahan graduated from The University of Maine at Farmington with a BA in Women’s Studies, and a minor in Psychology. After graduation, she attended Ohio State University, where she received an MA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and a Master’s in Clinical Social Work. While at OSU, Sarah also taught courses in the Women’s Studies department and completed an internship in the counseling center. She completed additional training working with clients with eating disorders at The Center for Balanced Living in Columbus, before returning to Maine in 2013. In addition to her work as a HAM affiliate, Sarah is a full-time mental health counselor at UMaine Farmington, and a board member of the Eating Disorders Association of Maine.

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Social media was created for a sense of community—and now, more than ever, we all need interaction with other humans, even if it is over the internet. Through social media, we are able to find like-minded people all over the world and easily interact with them, learn from them, and be friends with them. In fact, 75% of all internet users are on social media. These users are spending 2.5 hours daily on an average of seven different social network accounts. We use social media to connect with friends and family during these (physically) socially distanced times, but is it making us unhappy?

Short answer: yes. Some studies are showing that teens and young adults are reporting higher rates of depression than those who spend less time online, rising from 13-66 percent.1 However, studies are showing a correlation, not a causation between social media usage and our mental health. Because it changes and evolves so quickly, and the history of social media is so short, not enough studies on the topic have been conducted. Therefore, long term scientific effects are not yet known. Below are some effects people have reported from using social media frequently:

Perceived isolation Feeling FOMO (fear of missing out) when we scroll through friend’s accounts. Thinking “Why didn’t they invite me?” when constantly looking at the activities and lives of other people online.

Lowered self-esteem Constantly comparing our lives with those of our friends, celebrities, and influencers with the personas that they display online. “Facebook envy” has been on the rise and is a recognized term by health professionals.

Less healthy activity Not leaving enough time for exercise and outdoor activity. Always having phones at the ready while at the gym, running, or otherwise focused on the activity. Exercise is necessary for both mental and physical health.

Disrupted concentration Attention spans are shorter than ever, and now more than ever we’re completely distracted. We crave the dopamine hit from notifications, “likes,” and comments from our social media apps. This instant gratification is “addicting without being satisfying.”2 according to Dr. Alexandra Hamlet of the Child Mind Institute.

Sleep deprivation The blue light from our device screens discourages melatonin production making it difficult to fall asleep each night. Being anxious, envious or otherwise distracted is also keeping us from getting enough sleep. Proper sleep is critical for mental health.

Making memories Not being present in the moment. Always trying to get the “perfect” photo or looking at the “perfect” photos of others. When we look back on our lives, we should have authentic memories that we can cherish and not forgotten photos and “likes.”

Comparison culture is toxic and pervasive on social media and shows us in real time how we’re keeping up (or not keeping up) with others. We look at celebrity and influencer profiles that have the “perfect” aesthetic and we compare them to our own hair, makeup, physique, vacations, jobs, homes—our entire lives. Jerry Bubrick, PhD, is a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York City. He states that “the more we use social media, the less we think about being in the present moment.”3

On the other hand, the human connection aspect of social media makes us feel included, heard and that we belong. Human connection is essential because it encourages compassion and empathy for others which the world needs more of right now. For anyone that finds socializing in-person to be difficult, social media can be that link to human interaction. For instance, those with anxiety disorders, Asperger’s, or physical disabilities rely on social media to feel connected to others.

How can we continue to use social media without harming our mental health? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Designate specific times for social media usage and for non-social media times (e.g. phone-free Fridays)
  • Stay physically active! This helps your body and your brain stay
  • Model behavior for your kids. If the rule is no phones at the dinner table, mean it!
  • Be mindful of how you really feel online. Do certain people, pages, or posts make you feel bad about yourself? Unfollow them
  • Taking a hiatus from social media can help you reconnect with yourself, your family and your
  • Refrain from social media 1-3 hours before your
  • Seek a professional if you’re feeling signs of depression or if you’ve noticed any severe changes in your mood or daily

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: psycom.net, pewresearch.org, blog.hootsuite.com, psychologytoday.com Caroline Miller, Does Social Media Cause Depression? New York: Child Mind Institute, 2020 https://childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/

1 Caroline Miller, Does Social Media Cause Depression? New York: Child Mind Institute, 2020 https://childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/

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What are boundaries?

There are two types of boundaries that you should create for yourself: external and internal. External boundaries are guidelines that determine how you allow others to behave towards you. Internal boundaries maintain balance, exhibit self-discipline and allow you to manage your time, thoughts, emotions and behavior. Both types are meant for your protection and well-being and should be based on your values.

Where to implement boundaries

Healthy boundaries should exist in all aspects of your life. Consider the following areas:

Physical: applies to your personal space, privacy and your body. This includes sexual boundaries and determine the what, where, when, how and with whom of sexual activity.
Possessions: determines whether or not you lend or give away personal belongings.
Spiritual: relates to your beliefs and experiences with God, a higher power, nature, etc.
Mental: relates to your thoughts, values and opinions.
Emotional: applies to your emotions, feelings and behaviors.

Do I need boundaries?

Yes, everyone needs boundaries for good mental health. If you’re able to take accountability for your feelings and actions, especially as they relate to other people’s feelings and actions, it’s a sign that you have strong internal boundaries. If you often feel resentment, anger, anxiety or feel taken advantage of it could indicate weak external boundaries and that you’re consistently being pushed past your own limits and values.

In order to set boundaries for yourself, you need to know what they are. These are determined by your core values. Are you unsure of what your values are? Now is the perfect time for self-reflection. Tune into your feelings, your past experiences and how you want to show up in the world. What matters most to you? What are you unwilling to compromise on? Use meditation, prayer, journaling or being in nature to allow for a space of self-awareness. These realizations may not all come immediately. That’s okay—have patience and continue showing up for yourself.

Why set personal boundaries?

Creating, setting and following through with personal boundaries will help maintain your mental health. Boundaries can also help you grow, save your emotional and mental energy, and act as a form of self-care.

How to set boundaries

Making boundaries for yourself can be difficult to do at first, but it shows that you take responsibility for your mental health. Try the following:

  • Look to your core values
  • Follow your instincts
  • Be assertive and consistent
  • Learn to say “no”
  • Communicate clearly
  • Start small
  • Seek support if needed

Being consistent with implementing external and internal boundaries will increase your self-esteem, conserve emotional energy, and create more independence in your life. Once you’ve made boundaries known in your life, it’s natural for people to test them. Don’t falter. We all have different values and boundaries and we all deserve to have them respected. Honor your needs and make yourself the priority.

 

 

 

 

Sources: psychcentral.com; mindbodygreen.com; healthline.com

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 21, 2020, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine 

Question: Our 11-year old daughter overheard my husband and I discussing finances and is asking some tough questions. My husband was furloughed from his job and we don’t know when he will be back. Unemployment is helping but is nowhere near the same amount he was making. There is also uncertainty around my job and I am fearful I could get laid off soon. As it is, my hours are reduced. Obviously, we have been worried and our daughter overheard some of those worries. How do we discuss this in an honest way while keeping her concerns at bay?

Answer: These are indeed tough times and are indeed difficult for so many people. Financial insecurity and uncertainty is an all-consuming problem. You are managing a lot. I truly hope everything with your job and finances improve.

It is very important to know that your daughter is watching you and listening to you always. Just in your day-to-day parenting, you are modeling and teaching your daughter about life—the good and the not so good. Our desire to shelter our children from things which are difficult and uncertain is not always the best plan. Right now, in the loving protection of her family, she can experience adversity while you and your husband show her healthy ways to cope by problem-solving together and maintaining optimism. 

At the same time, certain conversations and differences between parents should be taken out of the view and earshot of their children. Young children are just beginning to make correct judgments and can often misread circumstances. For example, she might one day hear the two of you arguing and mistakenly think you are going to get a divorce. Children also take the blame for discord between parents that they don’t understand. This can be very detrimental to their self-esteem and creates unnecessary anxiety. In those cases when your daughter overhears a difficult discussion, take time to give her reassurance that you are handling it.

I like your desire to want to discuss it with your daughter, in an honest way, while keeping her concerns at bay. Tell your daughter that life is not always easy, and that sometimes there are a lot of problems at once. It’s like when the car is driving on a smooth road and suddenly there are bumps and potholes. These are difficult times, but difficult times often pass and the road smooths out again. Reassure her that you and her father are working together to find ways that will make the situation better. This is a parent problem to solve and you are taking steps to do that.

 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

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Coronavirus/COVID-19 Alert - The health and safety of our affiliates, staff, case managers, and clients is our top priority. Our COVID-19 Updates page provides current information about how we are working together to help keep our communities safe. Learn More

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