Reflections on Community

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Above photo: A community sand art project created during Refuel and Restore Workshop.

by Jenny Murphy, LMHC, ATR-BC

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to facilitate a 4 week self-care group for women at The Well called “Refuel and Restore.”  This group used art, music and movement to help women re-connect to a deeper part of themselves. The hope was to use these creative modalities to help one another feel uplifted, inspired and most of all, validated in our experiences.  For me, validation ended up being the most powerful part. The amazing and all too important reminder that we are not alone. We are not alone in our experiences, our feelings, or this big journey we call life.  It also reminded me that we have community all around us, if we are open to receiving it.  In the simple fact that we are women, we have an unspoken connection, and layered on top of that, motherhood became another powerful experience of simple understanding.

The opening song for the group was called “Welcome to the Circle” by Betsy Rose.  The line that always sticks out to me is: “There is no one in this circle who has never felt this way.” I find this to be incredibly comforting, grounding and a source of great relief. Our experiences make us wise, and we all have something to give, and we all have something to learn.  Why don’t we come together to create this meaningful exchange? There were many beautiful moments shared throughout the 4 evenings we spent together. Even in this short time, I witnessed these seven women create shifts, and change in personal growth, great insights, delight in creativity and joy in the group process. There was laughter, a few tears, and what I believe was a deeper felt sense of connection.

I have found that today, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for women to gather in community, and yet it is such a gift.  This group was promoted as a “gift to yourself” and I believe it was for all of the women there. And the added bonus was that it was an incredible gift for me!  

If you’re interested in future classes like Refuel and Restore, contact jmurphy@visitthewell.org


Jenny Murphy is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Art Therapist, and Certified Yoga Teacher.  Jenny is passionate about helping people use the creative process to facilitate a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them.

5 Things NOT To Say/Do To Your Anxious Child

Written by Josh Cabral , MS, LMHC

Childhood anxiety has increased to near pandemic proportions over the last decade.  Due to the rapidly changing landscapes of schools, homes, technology, and multiple other factors, there is no question that anxiety has become one of the leading health epidemics that afflict our children’s health and development.  However, parents and professionals often lack the necessary knowledge to help a child navigate and appropriately manage their anxiety symptoms. Here are some important things to remember when the moment of anxiety strikes for your child.

Do not tell your anxious child to calm down

I understand as a parent, pediatrician, or other professional we are used to solving problems and applying fixes.  However, this is counterproductive. Rest assured, if your child were able to calm down, they would. No child wants to experience anxiety or panic symptoms.  It is much more helpful to direct them to appropriate relaxation or distraction strategies that will help them to regulate their thoughts, emotions, and nervous systems.  

Do not attempt to reason with your anxious child

Again, this is a well intentioned and loving intervention.  We just want our children to understand that they are safe. Unfortunately that does not make it a particularly helpful intervention.  As adults, we have the necessary development and reasoning skills to understand that we are not in any real danger and therefore are able to regulate ourselves accordingly.  Depending on your child’s age and stage of life, they may have a number of years before they have the necessary brain structure to be proficient in this kind of thing. Often children understand their anxiety is irrational in some way.  Pointing that out to them will likely only result in embarassing or shaming them for not being able to control those powerful emotions. Take a minute to be present with and validate your child’s anxiety and reassure them that they will be okay.

Do not ask your child “what is wrong/the matter/etc.” with them

Nothing is wrong with your child when they are experiencing anxiety.  A large percentage of childhood anxiety is developmentally appropriate and they will learn to manage those emotions at varying levels throughout their life cycle just as we did… well just as many of us did… Some of us did?  In fact, with early enough detection and treatment, the portion of the population that is diagnosed with clinical anxiety may actually “outgrow” that anxiety based on some of the most current research we have in developmental neuroscience.  The most helpful thing that you can do is to normalize your child’s anxiety and address it. This can be quite reassuring for a child because they don’t feel different or isolated because of their anxious symptoms.

Do not NOT talk about your child’s anxiety

As mentioned above we want to normalize our child’s anxiety symptoms.  That requires that we start a dialogue early about what anxiety is, what it means, and how we all experience different emotions at varying levels.  Too often parents and other professionals are unwilling to talk about anxiety. This may be due to lack of subject matter knowledge, fear, concerns around stigma, etc.  Whatever the barriers are to speaking with your child about anxious feelings, early dialogue leads to the healthiest therapeutic outcomes.

Do not be anxious about your child’ anxiety

Finally, in the spirit of breaking my first rule (for parents only)... Calm down.  We know so much more about anxiety today than we did years ago and we are learning more all the time.  In reality even if your child struggles with clinically significant anxiety there are a multitude of strategies, resources, and treatments available to your child that lead to successful outcomes.  

Whether you have concerns that your child is suffering with an anxiety disorder or you just feel that your child is “shy”, consult a mental health professional near you.  Finding a therapist who specializes in anxiety, pediatrics, or ideally both can make all the difference in securing a happy and healthy future for your child.

Josh Cabral is Executive Director and a Psychotherapist at The Well and is also a Behavioral Health Consultant at Bridgewater Pediatrics. He has worked with children and families on a variety of issues such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, trauma, and other behavioral issues.

Confronting Negativity with the Spiritual Discipline of Thankfulness

2016 Masquerade Volunteer Planning Committee

2016 Masquerade Volunteer Planning Committee

By Katherine Forbes-Smith

Love it or hate it, it's almost time to fall back again. This Sunday at 2 a.m., Daylight Saving will strike, and your iPhone's clock will adjust to show an hour "earlier" when you wake up in the morning. With this falling back, you can be guaranteed of an increase in grumbling about the cold weather, piles of snow, and bad driving conditions that seem to dissipate only over the few, short summer months of nice weather.  Shorter, colder days can lead to lots of negativity at work, on the sidelines of kids sporting events, and pretty much anywhere we go.  These negative comments, while often times just fillers of innocent conversation, can cause us to feel negative, and can affect our mood, perspective, and ultimately, our joy.  

In my medical practice at Bridgewater Pediatrics, I frequently see patients who meet the diagnostic criteria for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons. Normally it begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.  

However, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, November is the month where we are invited to focus on the things with which we are thankful. Thankfulness is the antonym of miserable, disgusted, or critical.  It’s the remedy for negativity.  I love the 30 day Thankfulness Challenges that often times pop up on Facebook in November -- 30 days of posting what we are thankful for.  We all know we are blessed and have so much.  But the habit of our mind is often to focus on the things are that bother us, giving fuel to the fire of our negativity and anger, which can ultimately be a contributor to depression, anxiety and serious mental health issues.  

It’s incredible what Thankfulness can do to change our perspective. Being mindful of the things we are thankful for has been a game changer for me in my life.  With the demands of a  full-time job, the responsibilities at The Well, and raising 3 active kids, I can definitely find myself slipping into the patterns of negativity--thoughts and articulations of injustices, unfairness, and negative perspectives.  And when I’m really struggling, I pass this negativity on to my husband, my kids, my friends and my coworkers.  But practicing the discipline of Thankfulness changes that around.  I keep a journal next to my bed and I write down 2-3 things every morning that I’m thankful for.  And I often do it before bed too.  Throughout the day, I allow my mind to meditate on those positive things in my life, resulting in less anxiety and fears along with more joy and positivity.  Choosing to focus on the good and being mindful of the blessings not only makes us feel happier, but it changes the neurochemistry of our brain.  It taps into the “feel good hormones” that our body releases which ultimately, brings us greater joy, peace and contentment. 

So today, I’d like to share with you what I’m thankful for.  Last night, 10 lovely friends and volunteers celebrated with me in my home over dinner.  We celebrated a very successful Masquerade fundraiser that was held on October 21st.  We raised over $70,000 to support an organization that I thank God for every day.  The Well serves the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of hundreds of kids, teens, adults and families every year.  I’m incredibly grateful to these lovely ladies who donated their time, talents and even financial resources toward this event.  Without them, we never could have pulled it off and the doors of The Well wouldn’t remain open to those who need it the most.

My heart is full of gratitude today and for that, I’m thankful!