2021 Reset: Prioritizing Mental Wellness

2021 Reset: Prioritizing Mental Wellness

While the month of January marks the beginning of a new year, it has also turned into a month of setting high expectations and lofty resolutions for individuals. While goals are great to have, and promote both professional and personal growth, they often weigh heavily on our mental wellness. As we fully settle into the new year, it is important to check in with yourself, see how these “resolutions” may have affected you over the past few months, and ways to prioritize your mental wellness. 

Take a Break

One of the best ways to prioritize your mental wellness is to avoid burnout as best as possible. In order to do so, it is important to take breaks- and often. Whether that be a break from a project you’ve committed yourself to, a relationship that is no longer mutually beneficial, or a goal you’ve been tirelessly working to cross off your resolutions list, taking time to step back will allow you to approach any task with a clearer mindset and accomplish more.

Another common issue linked with burnout is setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. Often the effects of not reaching your unrealistic goals include disappointment and frustration. Taking a step back (or to the side) and thinking about what is realistic increases the likelihood of getting done what you are wanting to. Setting realistic goals leads to higher satisfaction and will support you in feeling good about yourself and proud of your accomplishments. 

Do What You Love

Carving out time on a daily basis for yourself is crucial in truly prioritizing your mental wellness. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to begin, start the moment you wake up in the morning. Set an alarm just a few minutes earlier in order to dedicate time to do something you enjoy or start your day out well. You might choose to wake up and do a mindfulness exercise, play a game on your phone, journal, or practice yoga. What you choose does not have to be goal oriented. It is more important to focus on actually enjoying yourself than measuring your progress when it comes to your mental wellness.

We often hear people’s goals consist of “read more” or “eat healthier,” but often these become more like chores as opposed to activities we actually enjoy doing and look forward to. By focusing more on what you love and less on what you need to accomplish, you’ll find more fulfillment in these activities. Perhaps you can just change the language a bit and replace these goals with “read for 10 minutes a day” and “eat one vegetable a day”, making them easier to measure and strive for. 

Talk to Someone 

Unlike some of the goals you may have written down in January, prioritizing mental wellness isn’t one you can cross off as easily. Making your mental health a daily priority takes time and a commitment to YOU. The first step of course is making a conscious commitment to making it a consistent part of your life. Talking to a friend or family member about your plan is another great way to get started. You can even have them be an accountability partner who you can check in with and encourage one another. Our team of healthcare professionals is also available to help guide you through this ongoing process. By starting the conversation regarding your own mental wellness and wellbeing, you’re setting yourself up for a great year ahead, no matter what day it may be. 

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What is Sports Psychology and Could You Benefit?

What is Sports Psychology? 

Sports Psychology is the use of psychological knowledge and skills to encourage optimal performance and well-being of athletes. It also addresses the developmental, social, and systemic components of sports and the organizations, coaches, and players involved.

How do you know if you need one? 

  • Is your performance suffering?
  • Do you have negative thoughts about your skills or mental toughness?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed with balancing life and sport?
  • Do you lose focus easily or struggle to cope with pressure?

Or… Are you…

  • Looking to develop your mental skills?
  • Improve your grit and self-confidence?
  • Enhance your optimal performance level?
  • Increase your concentration and ability to deal with adversity?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these then a sports therapist is for you! We help both struggling athletes to improve and successful athletes to increase their performance by utilizing psychological techniques and proficiencies.  Whole Health Psychological Center’s Intern Lauren Clem specializes in Sports Psychology!

Here are a few links about Sports Psychology and therapists and their impact on athletes of all ages:

A Growing Demand for Sport Psychologists
Inside the Mind of Champion Athletes
Sports Psych for Young Athletes 

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Partner Communication: Do’s and Don’ts


By: Drema Carpenter, Psy.D., Post-Doctoral Resident

Healthy communication is the key to a healthy relationship. When healthy communication is not used, false assumptions and misinterpretations occur. Understanding and identifying Do’s and Don’ts to communication is the first step to improving or maintaining a healthy relationship. However, this takes practice! There are four main Do’s:  Reflections, “I” Statements, Relationship Conflict Resolution, and Assertive Communication. 

Reflections guide us to become better listeners for our partners. They are used by repeating back what the partner originally said but in your own words. By repeating what your partner said in your own words, you are showing them you did not just hear them, but you understand them as well. An example of a reflection would be, “I get so angry when you come home late without calling. You do not care if I am waiting on you to eat dinner or not.” The partner could respond back by stating, “You feel angry and do not feel like a priority when I do not call to remain on the same page as you. It is important to you that I communicate what time I will be home.” Another important note when practicing reflections is the tone of voice that is being used. Use a tone that comes across as a statement. You want your message to your partner to come across as you attempting to understand them, as opposed to being argumentative. Your reflections do not have to always be accepted 100% by your partner. It is okay for your partner(s) to let you know if you missed something that is important to them or if they don’t think you understood what they were saying. If the partner did not mention an emotion initially, observe their tone and body language and reflect the emotion that is being sent to you to confirm if this is accurate for them. Examples of how to reflect back to see if you are understanding them more clearly are: “I hear you saying…,” “I imagine you feel…,” or “What I hear you saying is that…” By starting with these statements, you are acknowledging them and confirming the message you are hearing fits what they are saying and feeling. 

“I” Statements are used to focus on the person sending and to reduce defensiveness. By starting the statement using “I”, you are able to explain how you feel in a way that your partner can hear. A good “I” statement takes responsibility for one’s own feelings that is difficult to argue with, because you are speaking about your feelings. The statement goes as follows; “I feel_____(emotion) when____(situation).” Be careful how you verbalize the situation that caused the emotion. For instance, be aware of your tone and if your wording is blaming the other person. The following table shows some blaming versus “I” statement examples

Blaming “I” Statements
“You can’t keep coming home so late, it’s inconsiderate.” “I feel worried when you come home late, I cannot sleep.”
“You never call me, I guess we will only speak on your terms.” “I feel sad and my feelings are hurt when you do not call, I feel disconnected and insecure when you don’t call. 

Relationship Conflict Resolution involves focusing on the problem, not the person. This means that during a disagreement or argument, the tone remains calm, there is no blaming the other person, the argument does not involve personal insults, raised voices, or mocking each other. You simply focus on the problem, not the person. Using reflective listening during a conflict can be helpful; repeating back what your partner said in your own words. Use “I” statements, take a time-out from each other, and work towards a resolution. When working towards a resolution, sometimes a compromise (or finding a middle ground you are both comfortable with) has to take place.

Assertive Communication is when both individuals are able to express their thoughts and emotions and feel respected at the same time. When assertive communication is used, the person is providing information regarding their needs, wants, and feelings. In order to use assertive communication effectively, you want to listen without interrupting, clearly state what the needs and wants are, show that you are willing to compromise, stand up for your own rights/morals, use a confident tone and body language, and make good eye contact. Examples of assertive communication include: 

“I completely understand what you’re saying but I have to disagree,” 
“I feel frustrated when you are late for meetings. I don’t like having to repeat information.”
Can you please explain the reasoning behind your decision, so I can try to understand why you chose it,”
“I understand that you have a need to talk but I need to finish what I’m doing. Can we meet in half an hour?” 
“I want you to help me with this report,” “Can you suggest a time we can talk about the missed deadline. I’m concerned.”

The two primary don’ts include Passive and Aggressive Communication. Passive communication is when an individual prioritizes the wants and needs of someone else even at their own expense. During passive communication, the person is not expressing their own feelings or needs, they are simply adhering to the other person’s needs. When this occurs, the person using passive communication is setting themselves up to be possibly taken advantage of, even by people that may not realize they are doing this. Some factors that fit with passive communication include being soft-spoken and quiet, allowing others to take advantage, prioritizing needs of others, uses poor eye contact (looks down or away), not expressing their own needs or wants, and lacking confidence.

In aggressive communication, the person is only expressing their own needs, wants, and feelings. The other person is being bullied, ignored, or dismissed. Aggressive communication signs include being easily frustrated, speaking loud or in an overbearing way, unwilling to compromise, using criticism and humiliation, domination, frequently interrupting and not listening to the other person, and acting disrespectful towards others. 



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Childhood Development

How valuable is the Teddy Bear to Childhood Development

How valuable is the Teddy Bear to Childhood Development

By: Robyn Cassel, Ph.D.

Items such as teddy bears, loveys, special blankets, etc can be very healthy and positive for young

children, particularly to use in early childhood as transitional items to help the child soothe him

or herself during new and unique situations.

Children can be encouraged to have a soothing item, but the genuine attachment to a transitional

object is nearly always created naturally if and when the child is in need.

When the infant/toddler begins the natural, gradual process of separating for slightly longer

segments of time from the primary caregiver, the child begins to develop a sense of self

outside of the parent-child dyad.(Childhood Development)

Though the separations and increased time spent independent of a parent might seem small or

insignificant, many toddlers experience anxiety and are eased by developing a symbolic

attachment to an object which acts as external representation of the parent.

It is a concrete item which symbolizes the comfort of the parent but also allows the child to explore

his or her new independence more comfortably.

It is helpful to be kind and supportive with your child about the item, as it means that they are beginning to learn the art of self-soothing and they are becoming more comfortable with being independent. Depending on the child’s age and the object, it might be appropriate to have the object with them most of the time.(Childhood Development)

However, it is appropriate and healthy to establish realistic limits with the child while

being kind and supportive development.

For example, objects must be washed. Parents can involve the child in the process and provided

activities to help the child self-soothe during that time, using it as a learning opportunity

to instill belief that the child will be alright for the short period of time away from the toy.

Activities which might help the child self-sooth and continue to internalize the object might include

discussing fun times they had with the toy or drawing a picture of it.

The parent can teach other means of self-soothing such as taking deep breaths or labeling feelings

if the child has the language. It is important to validate the child’s feelings about not having the

object in hand without encouraging the child to act out.

As the child ages, additional boundaries might be important.

For example, the child can be permitted to bring the object on an outing, but they must leave it in the

car or with a parent in a bag when

the child is on the playground or with a peer. Further, allowing the child to make choices about

where to store the item, within limits placed by the parent, can increase the child’s sense of

control in the anxiety-provoking situation. Longer periods of time without the object, which

occur naturally, will increase the child’s confidence that they can self-soothe without it.

When the child enters preschool, the parent might discuss additional boundaries while being

sensitive to the child’s anxiety about entering a new environment. It can be useful to provide the child with information that other children might want to play with the toy. If the child does not want to share the toy,

a parent can recommend keeping it safe in a cubby, backpack, or at home in a special designated sp

ot. Additionally, as the child ages, the parent can provide information about how peers might

perceive the use of such objects. Then, the parent can allow the child to make a choice about how to proceed.

As the child becomes more comfortable with his or her sense of self and more practiced at self-soothing, there will be less of a need for the object. Also, small, realistic limits employed when the child is young can

make the transition away from the object smoother. Aiming to eventually find a safe area to

keep the object indefinitely in the home might be an easier alternative for the child to cope

rather than needing to give or throw away the object.

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