Kiss a Goldfish

5 Ways to Check in with Yourself

Article originally written for the Jordan Porco Foundation

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Photo by Aman Mahapatra on Unsplash

Sometimes our world gets so busy and we have so many things to cross off our To Do List that we become strangers to our own needs. We are on perpetual turbo cruise control, spinning our wheels from morning until bedtime. Where is the time for the me or the we in there? The following five questions can help you assess if you need to step it down, not up!

  1. What can I spend 15 minutes on every day that will refuel me? (for example: reading, walking the dog, gardening, meditating, doing a crossword puzzle, etc)
  2. What am I avoiding doing or procrastinating about that would actually relieve some stress if I completed it?
  3. Am I spending enough quality time with family members or friends?
  4. Am I moving my body enough? (at least a half hour of exercise per day)
  5. Have I found my purpose? Am I pursuing it? (That’s a big one!)

It’s really important that we carve out some time each day to do something we love so that we can re-energize and feel at peace (if only temporarily). It’s in those quiet moments of equanimity that we reconnect to ourselves and who we are. We are so outwardly-focused and so plugged in  to hundreds and thousands of others—the world, even—that we have lost touch with ourselves. Many of us need to seriously rebuild our friendship with ourselves.

Here’s the super cool thing: if we attempt just a few minutes of an activity then, miraculously, more minutes could magically appear and we may actually stay on the enjoyable task longer than anticipated! And if those minutes don’t magically appear, we’ve at least devoted 15 minutes to reconnecting with ourselves. Truly, we don’t have to feel guilty for taking a couple of minutes each day to do something we love!

Perfectionism breeds procrastination

We often put off a task fearing that we will not be good at it and then become bound by

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Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

our own perfectionism (avoiding math homework or taxes, anyone?). Instead, we can give ourselves permission to complete a project with a C level of effort, which is far better than no effort at all! Like we say in college, “Cs get degrees!” So too does completing a task competently but not perfectly. It gets the job done, if not with a perfect score. Who cares if the basement isn’t perfectly organized! Did you get rid of 5 boxes of old clothes? Fabulous! Progress, not perfection is the goal.

Procrastination also increases anxiety and negative self-talk. Have you ever wished that you didn’t complete a project/task/assignment that was due? Me either. The trick is to only do it for 5 minutes and, just like doing something we love for a few minutes each day, doing 5 minutes each day of something we’re avoiding also yields great rewards. Five minutes frequently turns into more, but if not, that’s still putting in 35 minutes per week on something we weren’t putting any time into at all. Do those 5 minutes the moment you think of it! Nike didn’t say, “Just Do It” for no reason. It works!

Humans need other humans (yes, even introverts do!)

Humans are social animals who need some form of tribe or pack. Support systems are critical to overall mental and physical health and for longevity. So, if you’ve been feeling all alone on an island, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and either make time for family and friends, or find family and friends. How, you ask? Join clubs, take personal interest classes, go to the gym and take exercise classes, or connect with old friends—anything that increases your contact with possible future friends (who may become family over time) in a healthy way. Notice we didn’t recommend going to a bar to make friends?

If you already have your posse, but you’ve been in hiding for a while, invite one or more of them out for a walk, coffee, dinner, or whatever thing you do/did together.

The body is made to move

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Photo by Miguel Salgado on Unsplash

 We have become a society of sitters and it’s impacting our overall health. Being sedentary is actually as risky as smoking! It increases the danger of coronary heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and even death. Now the good news: if we exercise, it’s a powerful depression and anxiety fighter as well as an ADHD modulator (as effective as antidepressants, ADHD, and antianxiety medications) without the side effects. It releases feel-good endorphins—dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. It even promotes neural growth and increases self-esteem. Exercise also aids in the prevention of substance abuse relapse. It’s an all-around win-win for wellbeing and health! Exercise can be as simple as a walk around the block or with your dog. Great strategy: text your old or new friends, leash up your dog, and reconnect to nature, yourself, and your support systems.

Finding your life’s purpose is your life’s purpose

Looking for your life’s purpose is kind of like looking for love—it doesn’t come when you’re trying too hard. Some people are born with knowing what they want to do with their life, but the rest of us sort of bumble around until we trip over what makes us happy and serves the greater good (the greater good part is the key ingredient). When we do for others, our psyche sings. We can do it for the planet, for animals, for a neighbor, for children, or for goldfish. The “it” isn’t as important as the intention. And if we act in ways that enhance the vibrations of the universe with kindness and compassion, we change ourselves, too (even at the molecular level!). Bringing joy begets joy.

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Photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

Remember, your life’s purpose doesn’t necessarily have to be your job. It can be found and pursued in any number of activities we engage in. Yet another reason to do something we love every day—we could finally find that thing we’re meant to do!

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Photo by Kyaw Tun on Unsplash

This is your prescription for greater happiness: be present for yourself and extend to yourself the love and care you have for your most cherished loved ones. Because you are your most cherished love one. You will be with you every day of your entire life. Be kind, be generous, be patient with you. That is the most important part of your life purpose. And then, go kiss a goldfish!

Transforming Transgender Treatment

When did it Happen?

I don’t know exactly when it happened; I have no recollection of the exact moment in time when working with the transgender population became a focus of my therapy practice. Like all things in life, it was a confluence of events and knowledge, a synergistic melding of intention, experience, and information. It was a slow drip to the realization of one of my life’s purposes: to be there, to show up for people who need me.

It all started several years ago with a homosexual student at the college where I work. He began to educate me extensively about the LGBT+ community. I was enthralled and soon realized how little I actually knew. Then my nephew came out as a transgender woman (he has since gone back to his biological gender, so my pronouns are correct).  My sister struggled mightily with this decision and was genuinely heartsick and that led me on an odyssey of exploration in support of her. I’m sorry to say that I continued to call my nephew by his birth name during this time of transition. It wasn’t in defiance, in hindsight, it was because I didn’t try hard enough to break myself of the habit of using his birth name.

Tony Ferraiolo Blasts It

A transgender male college student helped me work through my confusion and ignorance. He is an advocate and activist and is changing the world, so thank you Ben Crowley! He graduated this May, so I will need him on speed dial to make sure I get it right when working with trans clients in the future. And then the brilliant Tony Ferraiolo came to town. He gave a presentation at Three Rivers Community College and showed his amazing, award winning documentary, A Self Made Man. Simply put, it shook my world. My lingering heterodominant and gender binary biases were blasted to smithereens.

We Reject it Because we Don’t Understand it

And just about then the calls started coming into my practice from trans folk looking for support. I took every client. They taught me so much about the human experience—not just the gender one—for which I am forever grateful. As we sit across each other in my little living room and they share their stories, I am profoundly attuned to how universal our experiences are… and how dissimilar. I have gleaned that it is within these whispers of difference that the world germinates its seeds of cruelty to trans people. Why? My guess is because we don’t understand it and so therefore we reject it. The bigger question then becomes: What can we do to make their world better? How can we ameliorate the transgressions? (Pun intended.)

Be an Ally

Well, I’m glad you asked! There are a lot of great resources out there. I suggest you educate yourself on how to become a true supporter. We can actively enhance the lives of trans people and be an ally by supporting the following National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and Slate recommended initiatives:

  • Providing gender neutral bathroom facilities in all public places to keep them safe and promote laws that allow them to use the facilities of their identified gender. Remember: They are far more likely to be victims of violent crimes than perpetuate them.
  • Support the informed consent model for medical treatment not the gateway model that insists on medical professionals making the final determination of eligibility (Urquart, 2016).
  • Promote the ineffectiveness and actual harmful effects of conversion therapy counseling through legislative action.
  • Ensure that your state and insurance company support the medical necessity of transition-related medical care.
  • Promote social justice through advocacy for fair labor practices for transgender people.
  • Use their identified names and pronouns!
  • Refrain from asking them about their surgeries or treatments. You don’t talk to people about your genitals and they don’t want to talk to you about theirs. Geez.
  • Support comprehensive anti-bullying policies.
  • Advocate for gender identified justice system housing and fair treatment if incarcerated.

The above list is just a very brief summary of a few of the things we can do to help and support our trans friends and relatives. For more comprehensive information and recommendations, please visit www.transequality.org

Pure Joy Podcast

I was recently interviewed on the Pure Joy Podcast about my work with the transgender population in my therapy practice, Spaziani Therapy. Co-hosts Joy and Jennifer approached the questions from two different perspectives—Joy’s questions were thoughtful and deep, even profound, and Jennifer’s were joyful and practical.  Listen to the interview on Green Ink Radio on Spaz on Health. But don’t forget to tune into our sister podcast, Pure Joy Podcast where Joy and Jennifer explore trans’ issues and a lot of other cool topics.

Please remember that when in doubt, err on the side of compassion and sensitivity. Trans folk are just that—folk. We are all in the same boat of human experience, reaching, evolving, grasping, and being. So, be kind and… show up.

Resources

National Center for Transgender Equality. Downloaded May 25, 2018 from www.transequality.org

Urquart, E. (March 11, 2016) Gatekeepers vs. informed consent: Who decides when a trans person can medically transition? Slate. Downloaded June 2, 2108 from http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2016/03/11/transgender_patients_and_informed_consent_who_decides_when_transition_treatment.html

Colette Lopane-Capella, the Meryl Streep of Psychotherapy

The Therapists’ Therapist

Colette Lopane-Capella of  New Day Vitality Psychotherapy in both Westchester and the Bronx, New York is a therapists’ therapist. It’s not because she sees only other therapists in her practice, but because another therapist, such as myself, can understand how truly talented she is. I know how difficult and nuanced our craft is and how spot on every one of her answers were when she was interviewed for Therapists Talk! on Green Ink Radio.  By the end of the interview, I wanted to grill Colette on every conceivable diagnosis, her preferred treatment modality, and her therapeutic approach to confirm if we were on the same page.

The Meryl Streep of Psychotherapy

While she is my junior by a few years (okay, okay, probably more like 20), she has the innate confidence, wisdom, and compassion that separates the great from the good in the world of therapy. Think of Meryl Streep, Emily Watson, and Jodie Foster. Now compare them with Jennifer Anniston, Kirsten Dunst, and Cameron Diaz. I think we would all agree that the second set is a very competent group of actresses , and have even had moments of greatness on film, but they are not The greats of film. Same with therapists. A lot of us are damn good therapists, but there are very few greats. Colette Lopane-Capella is one of the greats. Let’s just say that Colette is the Meryl Streep of psychotherapy. Watch her and cheer, baby!

And She Said Yes!

I met Colette through a shared Facebook group. I once again did my new weirdly wonderful thing and reached out to Colette and asked her if she would be interested in being interviewed for Green Ink Radio and she said yes! As with Gail Doy, something about Colette spoke to me. Her pretty, sweet face and her soothing energy reached out from the flat media screen of my phone like a  genie-in-the-bottle vapor mist, and before I knew it, I was asking her if she would like to be on Green Ink Radio! Just in case you think I do this all the time, I don’t.  I encounter thousands of people in my Facebook groups and so far only one woman compelled me to reach out from Facebook, and one on Twitter. My upcoming interviews with Suzanne Giesemann and Corbie Mitleid were also intuitive connections but through different channels (more of that in upcoming blog posts and podcasts).

Colette is in Love

Colette is a rare thing, a young woman unabashedly in love with her husband and vocal about her gratitude for her happy union. She is also madly in love with her work. Both passions show in her joyous commitment and enthusiasm. Her dogs too are up there in the love triad of her life (a girl after my own heart-I have a boneless, chubby, dachshund-mix rescue melted onto my lap as I type this).

From Pet Therapy to Eating Disorders

Colette sees individual, couples, family, and support group clients. She even has a Pet Loss Support Group! She created the group because her heart was breaking as she was losing her beloved dog. And while at the vet’s office, she noticed others were grieving as hard as she was. She went on high alert and inquired if they offered a support group for the devastated families. They did not. So, Colette immediately created one and has provided empathetic care to many grieving pet owners over the years. She also offers animal assisted therapy! Sign me up!

Check out her adorable co-facilitator of change–Aurora.  

Her specialty areas are Eating Disorders, ADHD, Depression, and Anxiety. Colette sees clients in her Bronx and Westchester offices, both of which are beautiful, intentionally healing spaces. And while she is physically in New York, the good news for the rest of the country is we can contact her for phone sessions. She uses a secure server and some insurances will cover the sessions. If not, she will consider a sliding scale on an individual need basis. You can call Colette at 914-752-4759 to set up an appointment or to obtain additional information. You can email Colette at vitality@clopanetherapy.com You can follow her on Facebook at New Day Vitality Psychotherapy, or go to her website at clopanetherapy.com

Colette also has a blog and covers great subjects, from relationships, to work stress, to holiday challenges, to self-esteem (just to name a few of the covered and ever-growing topics). Also, cool news: Colette has a brand new podcast, too! Listen in to discover how to find the right therapist, hear her fabulous Green Ink Radio interview, or do some quick and easy mindfulness practices. Her pithy, cool topics, range from 1-5 minutes. Super easy to tune in.

I really like Colette. Her generosity of spirit is evident in both her professional and personal lives. If she lived closer, I’d ask Colette to hang out and go for tea and to the dog park (with her dogs, not mine, because mine are the anti-therapy dogs–hating most people and all other dogs). She’d be the girlfriend (or the therapist) you’d call when you really needed some compassionate support.

I  think after listening to her interview, you’ll totally agree and probably want to do exactly that–call her, that is, not go to the dog park.