Maintaining Our Mental Health: Feeling Good Can Improve our Lives

Maintaining our mental health is a necessary part of thriving in life today.  Feeling good and feeling good about ourselves can improve our lives.  In maintaining our mental health, it is of utmost importance that we focus on the following three aspects of our lives:  self esteem, how we feel about ourselves, self awareness, knowing ourselves and understanding ourselves, and our support system, who we have in our lives, who we receive support from.

These three elements- self esteem, self awareness, and support system can be interrelated. Who we surround ourselves with can affect our self esteem and vice versa. Additionally, the more self aware we are, the better we can maintain a positive self esteem and a strengthening support system.  Understanding our feelings, and understanding ourselves can be one of the most important things we can do to feel good about ourselves, and positive about our lives.

So “feeling good” is dependent upon maintaining a positive self esteem, and maintaining a support system. By maintaining a support system, we need to have support accessible, whether it is family, friends, or even a mental health professional, or a support group.

How can we maintain a positive self esteem?

In consideration of your mental health (and maintaining a positive self esteem and sense of self), what is important is knowing yourself, and understanding yourself, your self awareness.

It becomes relevant to just check in with yourself.  You can assess yourself, by questioning your feelings.  This induces the awareness, a significant part of the process.  Sometimes we do not even realize how we are feeling on the inside, or how we are feeling “about” ourselves. We may be overwhelmed or preoccupied with our schedules, our relationships, and our interactions with others. We are inundated with responsibilities, in our everyday lives, and possibly busy maintaining our physical health, that we may forget to process our feelings. This can be how things build up, to the extent where we may even have trouble understanding ourselves. We need to have time for thinking, exploring, and processing.

We may experience struggle, pain, or disappointment, and feel misunderstood or isolated at times, as a result. If we do not take the time to understand and process experiences we have, or interactions with others, that can be hurtful and disappointing, we risk building up unresolved feelings within ourselves. Over time if we do not maintain a strong belief in ourselves, and our own capabilities, we may internalize negative or misunderstood views that others have of us. We have to be careful not to assume opinions of ourselves that others have of us. A more mild example being- If I am late in meeting someone, or getting somewhere, others may hold the opinion that I am inconsiderate or selfish in some way, for being reckless or careless with their time. But, if I know myself, and I know I am not an inconsiderate person. I try to be supportive, caring, and think of others when I can, however, I have a time management issue, that is not related to who I think I am or how I think I treat people. But, it is so important to know how I feel about myself before I take on any negative opinions from others about who I am. Just because someone thinks something about you, does not mean that it’s true. Self awareness helps us to realize that.

Therefore, working hard to maintain a positive self esteem and appreciating everything that makes you, you (or your individuality) becomes an important part of thriving in life. You must value yourself first, and foremost. Even if we give ourselves little reminders to choose positive thoughts of ourselves, over anyone else’s commentary that we come into contact with- we can listen to responses and feedback from loved ones, but it’s important to make a conscious effort not to internalize views others may have of us, or mistake others’ views of us for our own view of ourselves.

Even if we are not feeling positive about our lives one day, or at any given moment, identifying it, and realizing it, is an essential part of the process to getting there. If we don’t know how we’re feeling we will not even know what we’re working on or that we need to work on something.

Being honest with yourself, and truthful with your feelings, is one of the most important things you can do- whether you’re feeling down or disappointed, actually knowing that you are- can be the first step.

Another important thing to realize is that you have power and freedom over how you choose to react. I am not saying that you should tell yourself you’re feeling “great”. I’m saying the opposite. Give yourself the freedom to feel anything that you do. This goes for physical ailments too- Hiding our discomfort mentally, and physically, that we may be experiencing, can actually create isolation. Being within an environment where we may not be honest with ourselves, or those around us, can feel stifling. It separates us, and feeling connected is actually what can help us and make us feel better.

Maximizing support for ourselves

We need to identify those who can be supportive to us, in our lives.  Additionally, we need to be sure to follow up, and utilize our support system. When it comes to dealing with struggles, difficult life situations, or any mental health concern as well, it is important not to isolate ourselves, and to remember that we are not alone. We have a support system.  We can decrease isolation by utilizing our support in our life, and we can. This is how the three S’s (self esteem, self awareness, and support system) become interrelated. Knowing ourselves, and understanding ourselves can help us to maximize the support system that we have. We can increase our communication with our supports once we understand how we’re feeling.   We can create a support system for ourselves, which can improve our lives. We can create stronger connections with others when we stay true to who we really are and share how we “really” feel.  This makes for a true connection. This is how we create an effective support system for ourselves.

It becomes very important not only be aware of how we feel, but also, aware of how we feel around others. Strength and self-confidence can be the most important elements of a positive self esteem and the endurance to handle difficult life situations. It becomes easier to build our strength and confidence in ourselves with support from others, and spending time around others who believe in us, and our capabilities. Recognizing that we are not alone, and receiving help from others, can prevent us from becoming isolated. We must utilize the support system we have, and even recruit one, if we identify the need.

Being honest with loved ones, and surrounding ourselves with those we feel we can be honest with, can make a difference. This does not mean we have to sever ties with people that do not understand. It does not even mean that we have to decrease the amount of time we spend with those we cannot be honest with about our feelings and experiences. It does mean that communication becomes very important.

Understanding ourselves can allow us to know ourselves and know our needs, and further identify our needs to those that care about us. Communication is such a significant part of our relationships. Receiving support from loved ones within our everyday lives, can help us feel better. We can allow ourselves to receive support, by knowing what we need, and expressing it to others. We can set a goal to be aligned not only with each other, but to have our support systems align themselves with us. Receiving support builds strength.

Jennifer Shrier LCSW

Preventing Anxiety in Our Everyday Lives: Mindfulness Can Help

Anxiety is more common than we realize. When we have some form of control over our lives we are able to mask anxiety by avoiding anxiety-provoking situations.  Oftentimes we do not even recognize feelings of anxiety that develop, as we become preoccupied with achieving tasks and keeping to the schedule.  However, when anxiety develops and is not addressed, it can affect our productivity, interactions with others, relationships, and overall wellbeing.  It may have physical manifestations as well. The anxiety among the population has dramatically increased over time, reaching its greatest height presently, that it has become an epidemic.  Treatment that worked, previously, may help to provide coping skills, however, previously suggested treatments may not be effective in lessening the anxiety that’s become so common now.  Greater interventions and lifestyle adjustments may be necessary because the anxiety has a significant environmental influence.

A combination of the fast pace of the schedule, increased stress, overwhelming responsibilities, and rapid scanning of electronics, contribute to the anxiety experienced present day.  The body and mind are both over-stimulated, which requires a treatment for both, the mind and body.  This sensory overload that develops, can be related to limited processing time throughout our experiences and interactions.  We are handling numerous responsibilities, and occurrences at a rapid pace, without enough time for our minds and bodies to process.

What we have known anxiety to be, as a condition, has had physical manifestations by history.  However, this more prevalent anxiety, resulting from environmental factors, causes a greater amount of sensory overload for the body than may have been known and treated previously.  Anxiety is essentially, a fear.  When we are taking in too much information, engaging in too many interactions, and experiences, as we internalize doubts, fears, and disappointments throughout these experiences, we need an adequate amount of time to process the information and interactions, in order to formulate productive thoughts that contribute to a positive sense of self.  We need to have the time to understand our interactions and experiences with others, and the environment, in order to realize our strength, and handle our anxieties that develop throughout our day to day.  As we keep up with the fast pace, while following through with endless responsibilities, and frequent use of electronic devices, our processing time becomes greatly limited.

This is where mindfulness can be of tremendous value. The practice Mindfulness and the development and maintenance of a deep connection with others, are two things that can work to decrease anxiety.  They each aid us in dealing with anxiety in different ways.  Mindfulness is maintaining an awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings at the present moment, while accepting those thoughts and feelings exactly as they are, without judgment or expectation.  The process of thinking, feeling, and experiencing, slows our minds and bodies, and results in a calming effect on the mental state.  The acceptance of the present moment, and all thoughts and feelings without judgment, eliminates negative opinions that can further contribute to anxiety.  Additionally, mindfulness allows the time we need for processing, which can, in turn, help to prevent anxiety.

Spending the time to connect with others also slows us down. However, a deep connection can help to decrease anxiety further.  A positive connection with another person also helps to provide encouragement for an individual, in an effort to build self-confidence and strength, the key elements needed to overcome anxiety and combat the fears that surface.  A deep connection is different than interaction.  We may have numerous interactions throughout our days, and lives.  Allowing ourselves to pay attention to others, listen and understand each other can help us to develop stronger connections with those around us.  These connections that we form, have the power to build trust within relationships, and self-confidence for each individual, resulting from the connection developed. Through trust, understanding, nonjudgement, and acceptance we can instill self-confidence in another person, whether it be in a personal relationship, or a therapeutic relationship.  This deeply felt connection could help to decrease anxiety over time.

The combination of the mindfulness and the connection to others throughout experiences can cause us to stop and feel another person’s presence.  The feeling of being around others and connecting to others, can also decrease the anxiety felt by the body. However the connection felt needs to be a positive one.  In this way, a relationship between a healthcare professional and a client, referred to as a therapeutic alliance, can be highly effective.  The formation of a therapeutic alliance can benefit a client by having positive effects on an individual’s self esteem and sense of self.  The relationship a person has with a therapist can serve as a model for other relationships in a person’s life.

In summary, we have a better chance at preventing anxiety if we

  1. Stay present in the moment and accept ourselves and our feelings without judgement, accept the experience for what it is (mindfulness).
  2. Actively slow down our pace.  
  3. Decrease our use of electronics (which helps to slow down our pace by decreasing the rapid scanning).
  4. Spend time to process experiences and feelings, realize what we feel and experience.
  5. Develop a deep connection with others (by spending the time to connect with others, understand others, and understand ourselves within the relationship as it develops).

If we become aware of a challenge or any doubt we have, we can address it.  We need the processing time to be able to do that.  Believing in ourselves, and our strength, to face anything, can eliminate the fear (the anxiety).

It becomes easier to build our strength and confidence in ourselves with support from others, and spending time around others who believe in us, and our capabilities. Recognizing that we are not alone, and receiving help from others, can make a difference. We must utilize the support system we have, and even recruit one, if we identify the need.

How to Prevent a President’s Week “Breakdown” ( A Social Worker’s Guide)

In the effort to take our mental health, seriously, it is best to be prepared for what we are dealing with, during a vacation week when school is out. School year’s September start to our current date, we have already had 7 holidays, plus 5 vacation days and 3 half days that school has been out, to be exact, in addition to the snow day and 44 weekend days (yes, I count those!).   We have been through this, so the thrill is over. What was once a curiosity of what a day might be like without rushing to school in the morning, without having to keep to a strict schedule, is no longer unknown. We have had our chance to live that way. Some of us might not choose that lack of structure, especially when we have been forced to scramble to create a home school setting, on snow days. This is the time of year, when President’s week hits us, parents, hard. School is out, yet again, after being cooped up throughout the cold-weathered winter.

We may need to remind ourselves that we start the vacation time trying to enjoy ourselves, and the extra time we have with our children. If you can, that is the best way to spend the week off from school. This can be a time to play games together, bake or cook, read, explain things in greater detail, now that you have the time. You can actually pay attention to what they are saying, and listen to their questions. If there is something you know you enjoy doing with your kids, this week is the time to do it! Like we say, there is no time like the present. President’s week is the best time to grab for your most exciting indoor tricks you’ve been saving. In many cases, this is only an option for so long. Everyone has a different threshold, and you must know yours, since the main goal is to minimize frustration for yourself, and prevent a President’s week breakdown.

As we get busier or overwhelmed with responsibilities, we tend to develop higher stress, and a lower tolerance for frustration. This can lead to less productivity, more difficult interactions with others, greater conflicts and even guilt or a decreased sense of self, as a result. Staying in tune with our emotional well being, which includes identifying emotional needs or frustration levels, can increase our chances of survival, and may even cause us to thrive. Instituting time for ourselves, can positively impact our experience for the week.

It can be important to keep in mind that small increments of time and attention provided to your children, can go a long way. Sometimes it can feel like a push-and-pull if you’re trying to accomplish something you need to get done, and a child needs your attention at the same time. Sometimes, if we give them focused attention, initially, and follow up with an explanation of what we are trying to accomplish after we tend to their needs, we can actually accomplish what we attempt.


If you can afford it, and they ask for it, just buy it. Let them do something they enjoy, that they’re excited about. Yes, there are benefits to saying “no,” to requests and demands of children, but this longer-term-lesson of disappointment we would like to teach them, does not have to come at the expense of our emotional health during vaca week from school! Remember, that you would like to be able to use the bathroom at some point. Therefore, load up on the crafts, and let them open it, and craft away; coloring, beading, stickers, stamps, paints, dot-to-dot, string, rainbow loom.

Utilize those “other” people around:

Playdates can work. If someone invites them over, do not hesitate, or question whether or not it works for your schedule, whether or not, the kids get along with those playmates well. The playdate does not have to be your child’s best friend. Lots of different play experiences and interactions are an opportunity to learn as well. It is best just to make the plan, and arrange the playdate, always keeping in mind the goal for the week, which is to maintain emotional health and wellness as the caretaker.   Family members or family friends have blocks of time? Even if they say no, because they’re not sure they can fit it into their schedules, do not take no for an answer the first time. Reel in those grandparents, aunts, uncles, old best friends for the “quality time with your children.” Even if they do not see the positivity of their quality time from the planning stages, they’ll be happy they did it, after the fact.

TV, electronics?

Yes, of course. These are highly reliable crutches for parents. We are hoping for a “break”, not a breakdown. If your kids do not engage independently, TV time, ipad, and video games may be the only time you can take care of anything. At some point you may want to find time to clean up what they just played with, or prepare something for anyone to eat, maybe even for yourself. Let go of the guilt, and utilize the TV and electronics if it affords you some time to feel productive during the week.

Drop off activities

Now is not the time to listen to the whims of your children. Sometimes, they say, “I don’t think I like chess , soccer, or screen writing,” or “I like soccer, but I don’t feel like playing at that place that day.” How many new experiences would our kids have, if we allowed our kids to make all of their decisions? We have to remember that we know what is best for them (and for us- ha!), but seriously! Again, it is an opportunity for learning, at the very least, to learn about what they enjoy and do not enjoy. They may have an idea that they will not enjoy the activity or the event, but that could be simply a fear or a thought, not necessarily the reality. It can be our obligation as parents to present options, experiences, and guide them in directions they may question, if we feel they may benefit from them, or learn something. Each activity is an experience.

Stay in touch with your supporters. If there are friends or family members you enjoy speaking to, catching up with, or seeing, make plans to include them in your daily activities if it is possible. If this is not an option, you can at least try to stay in touch by phone. We may underestimate the positive impact that a conversation exchange with an important support in our lives, can provide, if we take those interactions for granted. Vacation week from school can be a stressful time for caretakers. If you can, make the time to reach out and stay connected with those providing support, adding joy or humor to your lives. Every laugh matters!

It is important to find the joy and laughter, in everyday. We can hope to create them and realize them with our children as well. That is how we may begin the week! We can begin everyday this way.

Try not to forget you, this week. If there is something you truly enjoy being able to do, whether it is going to the gym, hiking, biking, going to the nail salon, taking a walk, lying down, having a tea or coffee, cooking, reading a book, a magazine, writing, talking on the phone, or even shopping, try to make the time to include it. As caretakers, we often sacrifice too much of ourselves in the process of caring for others. If we do not get to do anything for ourselves, we are at a greater risk for frustration in our interactions with others and our daily life events. This can leave us disappointed and depleted. Good luck! And, post pictures!

*  Above mentioned activities and suggestions may vary according to children’s characteristics, conditions, and diagnoses, and may not be viable options as related to existing conditions or diagnoses.  Feel free to contact me by email with questions.

Speak Up

Someone reminded me, recently, that one thing she learned from me, was the importance of speaking up for herself.  If you observe something that you think is not correct or justified, whether it pertains to your own experience, something you witness or simply thought about, remember your voice, and speak up.  It might be a complaint you have about something, or a concern. If you thought it, speak up about it. It may be a question of the way things are done. If you ask yourself, ask others as well. We need to realize that our thoughts can push us to question things some times and even make things better for ourselves, and others.  Our thoughts and ideas can improve our relationships, and the systems that make up the structure of our society, if we choose to share them.

It also allows us to be heard for what our true beliefs are, and follow through with our belief system, by sharing our perceptions and opinions with others. Speaking up becomes the process for us to become our true selves.

What good can come from keeping concerns or ideas to yourself? Speaking up is an opportunity to bring your ideas and thoughts to the attention of others. There may be reasons things are not right. Furthermore, it reinforces the thoughts you have by giving you the chance to collaborate with others.

This is how significant changes can take place. Things and systems are always “one” way, until there is a different way.

There are deterrents to asserting ourselves, that exist. Perhaps, we fear we will draw too much attention to ourselves. Clearly, if we choose to keep things the way they are, and keep our concerns and thoughts to ourselves, we will not have to face those who disagree with us, or disapprove of our ideas. We would not have to engage in a potential conflict.

It can be decreased self -confidence or concerns about others’ opinions that can prevent us from being ourselves, and may prevent us from speaking our truthful thoughts. This is exactly why developing the strength and self confidence to speak up despite the dissent or opinions of others, is so important.

We may encounter others who disagree with our ideas. We may come into contact with those who disapprove of our choice to be outspoken. Let us remember that we do not choose to speak up to win their approval or form deeper friendships. The reason we speak up has to do with our thoughts and who we are, not others, or their thoughts. Remembering the reason can be significant- we recognize something that we feel needs to be addressed or changed, or we think we will feel relief from following through on what we notice. We have voices. We need to use them. This is part of our purpose. We need to remember our strength. If we do forget, believing in ourselves and support from those who believe in us, can lead us to greater strength and self-confidence, and further, to achieve our goals.

Jennifer Shrier LCSW

Here We Go Again! The Holidays Are Almost Here! Ways to Handle Together Time With Our Friends and Family, That We Are So Thankful For!


The holidays bring families together. In many cases, it includes relatives, friends or significant others “of” family that are not choice-selected, for our favorite day’s and night’s outings. These are all people we are spending the holidays with, however, and it would be ideal to actually enjoy the time that we are celebrating the holiday with our families. Conflicts can arise when different personalities come together, and are more likely to arise when people are not accepting of varied personalities.

It is helpful to try not to take things personally. We may find that others say and do things that we would never find ourselves saying or doing. It may seem at times that someone’s negative behavior is directed toward us. It is best to try not to take the action or comments of others personally. Even if we find it very difficult to believe that the comments or actions are not aimed at us directly, it is always better to make mental notes, and process these interactions for some time, before reacting.

Another important notion, is to witness and experience even negative interactions during the holiday, before actually reacting to anyone. It is optimal to try not to let the comments of others upset us. They have more to do with what is going on for them, and nothing to do with who we are. We can remember to use our known coping skills we may have available at this time. In this process, staying calm when frustrated with others, can prevent personal frustration from becoming a conflict or an argument with someone else.

Taking alone time when it is needed, and getting some personal space during the holiday, can even be necessary. If we are feeling the stress or the stress of others, taking some time to get away from the cause of the frustration or the crowd of people we are socializing with, can help us refocus, calm ourselves, or energize to return to “enjoying ourselves and the company of our loved ones.”

This is not the first year we are celebrating a holiday with others, whether it is with family, friends, or even a loved one’s family. It makes sense to take what we have learned from other holidays in our history or past experiences, so we do not repeat something we wish to avoid. It can be helpful to identify and become aware of what may be referred to as “triggers,” based on our past experiences. These can be events, situations, or people with which we have less tolerance and higher frustration. Is there something about one or more of your family members that has always bothered you, and he or she does not find fault with his or her actions, or he or she does not change in any way? Sometimes regular conflicts or (recycled arguments, I like to call them) appear between us, and the same family members every so often. It is nice to stay aware of these triggers before the holiday and during the holiday, to avoid that recycled conflict. If that day is actually on a holiday, it is probably better not to aspire to reveal this frustration during this time. These repetitive arguments with family members can take a snowball effect when we have other loved ones around us during the holiday as well.

Another purpose of increasing our self-awareness, in preparation for the holiday, is to identify things that we enjoy about the holiday itself, and the people with whom we will be spending it. We need to follow through on doing those things and maximizing our time with those people. It is helpful to remind ourselves throughout the holiday time of what those things are, so we can be sure to appreciate them, and the people we have identified as those that contribute to our enjoyment. These people we have in mind probably bring out the best in us, and appreciate our presence. If we can, it is a holiday made happier, to spend time around these people. We need to stick with those bringing out the comfort, fun, and laughter we need.

Have inlaws?  Let us not even play that game with them during the festivities. We should follow the holiday protocol, and revisit any significant relationship concerns separate, from the holiday, at another point in time.

Have children?  We may often hear comments or parenting suggestions from family and fellow holiday-goers about eating habits, and how to handle our children in different situations. Unfortunately, we may even hear criticisms at times, about our child/children or how we have been parenting them. Ignore it?  If we can, then we should. We need to decide what is right for us in our parenting, at that moment.  We have to remember we can stick to following through on that action, yet at the same time, try not to get frustrated by the different suggestions bombarding us. This is a time when we can remember the other ways we are handling this holiday, by remaining calm, and processing commentary from others, before reacting.  A suggestion or input from others may certainly be helpful, but also may not. That is for us, as the parents, to decide.  People will have opinions everyday, but it does not mean that we need to follow the direction guided by those opinions.  Have parents?  Parents often have opinions about us, as their children, so expecting to hear those opinions during the holiday can help us handle them better.

Know that you are not alone. We are all faced with higher stress, and concerns about conflicts within our relationships, and difficult interactions at times. Most people have experienced the same thing that you’re dealing with, at your event, whether they recognize it and choose to share it or not.

Most importantly, we must remember, at all costs, to avoid conflict!

Jennifer Shrier LCSW

We Don’t Have to Struggle If We Get Support

Whether you are a young adult attempting to complete secondary education, or simply uncertain about life’s next stage,

Whether you’re dealing with unemployment, or job dissatisfaction,

Whether you’re searching for greater satisfaction and understanding of a relationship with a significant other, family member, or friend,

Whether you’re an expectant parent, looking to process changes,

Whether you’re a new parent, dealing with newer responsibilities and lifestyle changes,

Whether you’re a parent with questions or concerns,

I can help you better understand what you’re going through and process feelings, changes, and optimize happiness and fulfillment in life.

Young Adults

A young adult in today’s society faces issues and challenges that did not exist, nor were acknowledged, by previous generations. Expectations are less clear about what a person’s next step should be after finishing school (whether it be high school, college, or graduate school). Young adulthood can be a time of many changes within family relationships, friendships, and furthermore, may include questions about goals, interests, and understanding roles within society and family. Counseling for young adults may help in the exploration of identity, and understanding their roles in relationships with others.

Job Dissatisfaction 

Periods of unemployment can feel disheartening and fearful. It can lead to lower confidence if not understood appropriately within the context of our society today. Additionally, job dissatisfaction can be highly frustrating. In most cases, our work is so much of what fills our lives everyday. Many people feel dissatisfied at one point or another, due to decreased pay, feeling undervalued, limited career growth, lack of interest, or being overworked and exhausted.

It can be less overwhelming to move toward new employment opportunities by exploring skills, training, needs, interests, ideas and goals with a trained professional.

Conflicts Within Relationships

Sometimes we are frustrated by feeling misunderstood in relationships, or even by lacking a connection with others. It can be helpful to understand our own feelings and expectations of these relationships, in order to achieve fulfillment and success with our loved ones.

Expectant Mothers and Fathers and Post Partum Mothers

Waiting to be a new parent can be an exiting time in one’s life. However, it can also cause one to feel uncertain or overwhelmed at times. Understanding your thoughts and feelings better, can help you get ready for anything you’d like to achieve.

If you are interested in exploring any thoughts or concerns, or simply looking for feedback, or an opportunity to share something, talking to someone can help.

Jennifer Shrier LCSW