Don’t forget the ME in TIME

Sorry it’s been a few weeks since my last blog.  I say sorry, because I feel guilty for letting so many weeks pass and not posting as often as I’d like.  But I didn’t exactly just let those weeks “pass me by.”  They were filled with testing, writing, clients, dancing, friends, family, and me-time.  I was actually quite productive, so why do I feel so guilty?

The Man.

Someone at some point decided that we needed to “make the most of every day.”  Someone also decided that “the most” wasn’t a subjective experience, but rather a list of to-do’s we should all have and work to check off as often as possible.   That doesn’t account for that fact that realistically, our to-do lists all look different and our wish-we-could-do lists are likely different too.

For example, I’ve had individuals dealing with severe depression made to feel like failures because they did not wake up chipper and accomplish the 25 must do things in their area in one day!  But they got out of bed, showered, got dressed, made themselves a meal, and enjoyed a book.  THIS IS A BIG DEAL! 

I think we forget about the ME in TIME.

One of the benefits of higher-level cognitive functioning and free will is that in theory we have the capabilities to consider and choose how we spend our time.  Obviously there are certain things we should try to make happen every day: brush your teeth, follow through with outside commitments, snuggle with your pet; but, there should be no guilt associated with deciding that maybe today you just don’t have it in you, or to prepare for tomorrow, you need to take it easy today.

The beauty of Me-Time is that YOU get to decide what YOU need in that moment. 

Is it taking a break from your school/work responsibilities to finish up Season 3 of Stranger Things?  Is it spending a little extra time in the shower while singing along to your Broadway Pandora station?  Is it turning down a dinner invite out so you could be in your pajamas before 9 pm?  Oops, that’s Dr. JaiMee time.

But in all seriousness, you know you better than anyone and you deserve to take time for yourself in whatever way feels the most helpful to you without being worried about being judged or feeling guilty about investing in yourself. 

So instead of #selfcaresaturday, I’m claiming #selfcareanyday…Feels like #everyday could be a little up front pressure and ain’t nobody got TIME for that!

Feeling Emotions: No Permission Needed!

I recently watched the movie Inside Out for the 10 millionth time and love the part where Joy watches Sadness sit with Bing Bong while he cries because something “was sad.”  You see, Joy had tried so many tricks to try and cheer him up, change his mood; but, the only thing that really worked was being able to sit with Sadness and feel sad.  Joy finally realized that in order to move through Sadness you have to sit in it.  However, since I first started working with clients, I have found myself having to explain that it is okay to have feelings.

You are allowed to feel angry, sad, scared, happy, embarrassed…

Upon reflection, I realized that I use that statement a lot, usually in response to someone who is judging their natural emotional response to something and feeling shameful for even admitting it out loud.  Then I got upset and walked around my office space waving my never-to-be-controlled Italian, sign language hands at the hypothetical man.

When did we start needing permission to feel?!

Some of you might be thinking: Dr. J works with children who understand that permission is required for most things to prevent any sort of consequence; so, in a way, this need makes sense.  NOPE.  While kids do require permission for many things, feeling is not one of them.  What is the undesirable consequence to be avoided?  A tantrum?  Yelling?  Dare I say it…Crying?! 

Sure, there are ineffective ways to manage one’s emotions, but feeling them cannot be helped and expressing them should not be discouraged.  In fact, there is never a “right” way to feel.  However, it is important that these emotions are felt and not internalized.  Internalizing emotions often leads to more severe symptoms and increased difficulty later when you are working to modify the way you think and feel about certain experiences. 

I am not expecting you to walk into a crowded space and start crying next time you feel sad.  But if the urge is there and you want to give it a try, I suggest:

·       Crying or shouting in a place you feel comfortable (maybe that’s in the shower so no one can hear you or into a pillow in the comfort of your own bed cuddled up with your favorite stuffed animal).

·       Ripping up tissue paper or paper towels rather than homework or an important work fax.

·       Punching a pillow or something equally fluffy rather than a wall or door.

·       Having something soothing ready for after you express your emotions (for me that might be a tasty drink or snack, a good song or book, or a funny YouTube show).

Working through emotions and feelings alone is also an unnecessary struggle.  While I totally volunteer as tribute to fight off the tough stuff that makes you feel bad, I also know that I’m only around once a week for one hour.  It is important to share your feelings with other safe individuals around you and create a network of support that you can talk to or call or text whenever you are struggling.

My hope for all of you is that like Bing Bong, you cry little candies that you can enjoy after you openly challenge The Man…or at least feel a little lighter from letting go of those feelings you were holding in so tightly because no one reminded you that it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be mad, it’s okay to worry, it’s okay to feel.

Eight Isn't Always That Great

Tell me about your nighttime routine is something I often asked clients.  It’s partly because I am genuinely curious how they wind down after a typical day, but also because many of my clients have difficulties falling or staying asleep.  Sometimes those difficulties are secondary to depression or anxiety, not being able to pull away from the heaviness or calm those racing thoughts; other times it’s the things we believe to be true about sleep that are the reason we have trouble falling easily into it.

People say you should get 8 hours of sleep.  First of all, who is people?  The Man?  When did we start trusting some unknown entity over our own bodies, staring at an alarm clock hopelessly watching the time pass?  I think it’s time we stick it to the man and journey on a quest to find our magic sleep number (i.e., the time you need to sleep each night to feel rested, not the unrelated mattress brand).

The anxiety of watching it become later and later at night knowing that you have to wake up at 7 am and it’s impossible for you to achieve “the full 8 hours” is an unnecessary stressor.  This unrealistic expectation gets in the way of your mind and body truly relaxing.  I’m not saying eight isn’t it for you, it might be, and I wouldn’t want to be my own version of the man making you think that eight hours is wrong.  But feel free to play around a little bit on your days off.  Leave the alarm clock off and track approximately how many hours it was between when you got into bed and when you naturally woke up.  Repeat the experiment a few times for consistency.  Bring the alarm clock into the experiment!  Adjust your wake-up time 30-minutes before or after you normally wake-up and see if there’s a difference and then continue to adjust accordingly. 

While you take your time figuring out how much sleep you really need, here are some tips I usually bring up when the main trouble is falling asleep:

Do’s:

  • Establish a routine and stick to it.

  • Use the bedroom only for sleeping.

    • Don’t use it to do homework or other activating and possibly anxiety-provoking situations or your body may create an association between those experiences and your bed, therefore making falling asleep more difficult.

  • Trust your body and get into bed when you are sleepy and get out if you are unable to sleep.

If you are lying in bed either at the beginning of the night or after a middle-of-the-night wake up, get up and out if it’s been 20 minutes.  Lying in bed can create an association between that activity and wakefulness.  By getting up out of bed and changing positions, your body will have an opportunity to relax.

Another common question is: What do I do if I wake up in the middle of the night? 

During your 20-minute grace period, try some grounding exercises (try and find things in your room that match certain colors or letters of the alphabet, engage in deep breathing, pull up a memory and engage your five senses).  Once you’ve given it a good try, get out of bed and out of your room if possible.  Do not reach for the phone!  Blue light is super stimulating and will bring your brainwaves into alertness.  Turning on the light can be confusing for your body in general, so I always suggest that kids have a tap light or a little flashlight they can use if they need to get up and go to the bathroom at night.  Don’t look at the clock either because chances are, you’ll feel some sort of way about what time it is and how much time you have left to fall and stay asleep.  The clock = too much pressure = stress = no sleep. 

To listen to me talk more about sleep, check out Episode 2 “Sleep” from the Sunday School Show on 610 ESPN radio on October 21, 2018 at https://610espn.com/podcasts/the-sunday-school-show/

There is a ton of interesting and helpful information discussed throughout the podcast, but if you wanted to fast-forward, I’m featured at 24:12!

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program...

I know, I know… How do we stick it to the Man?!  Don’t fret!  I’ve got a notepad of those titles and they are still coming atcha every other Friday.  But I had some other thoughts and was in the mood to blog. 

Most of my colleagues would tell you I’m a Child Psychologist.  The age range of my clients is typically somewhere between elementary school and a new college degree.  In order to keep up, I have to tube in…tune in…oops, Freudian slip!  You see, YouTube is a topic of daily conversation on my office couch and I felt professionally responsible to gain some sort of insight into the world wide web as kid’s today know it.

Now, most of my friends would tell you that I love YouTube and integrate videos into my daily routine and self-care!  Podcasts about adult things?  Books that are not classified as YA?  Absolutely not. 

If I am not playing Pandora while I go about my day, I am usually watching/listening to a YouTube video. 

Parents may read this and think, Dr. J is brushing her teeth and watching a video of some kid playing video games?  Not exactly.  There is content for everyone and while I do occasionally watch a beau-tuber video (i.e., make-up routines, tips, and tricks) or Jenna Marbles (i.e., the Queen) for a good laugh, I am usually watching a video made by someone who is working to highlight certain universal struggles and be vulnerable in the process of learning about them.  Perhaps they are experiencing them personally, on camera. 

It is entertaining and inspiring, and I am always recommending channels to my clients because they only hang out with me once a week and sometimes talking to friends about what is going on is tough.   Being able to watch someone their age who has gone through or is currently going through something similar either open up about that topic or pursue a passion of theirs while managing those experiences is still a helpful connection and a positive role model.

So, as I was watching a YouTube clip…I thought: Why not share some of these videos with you?

“Pero Like,” one of Buzzfeed’s channels recently posted a 21-minute video called “Latino Men Try Therapy for the First Time.”  It is included in their playlist: “Latinx Struggles.”  I clicked on it right away because A) I am a fan of Pero Like and the content they produce, B) Therapy for the first time?, C) Men?, D) Latinx?  You get the idea.  I sent it to my partner, Moraya, because we both work to advocate for the practice of culturally competent therapy and serve multicultural communities at BFF Therapy.  Just like we share articles, videos, etc. with each other to keep one another current and in-the-know, I’m going to do the same with you.

This video does a great job exploring some of the reasons the males featured have not explored therapy before, but that topic is for another time.  Maybe a good excuse to start our own YouTube channel to keep the discussion going?  I liked how the clinician utilized a combination of English and Spanish depending on the client’s preference, even within session switching.  This is something that occurs in my work with Deaf and Hard of Hearing clients who may solely prefer American Sign Language or like to alternate with spoken English depending on their mood that day and the topics they are discussing.

The clinician involved also had many great therapy gems that had me nodding my head and saying “Yes!” to my laptop.   But I’m working to keep these blogs a readable length, so I’m going to choose one of my favorites:

In therapy, we can start with something safe.  What is safe for you?

Working with children and adolescents, many of my sessions start with what some might label “superficial conversation.”  But any conversation that I am having with my clients is an opportunity to learn more about them, what is going on in their lives, and how what has previously occurred might be impacting them now. 

I think sometimes parents hear about the “games” we play in session and don’t realize that this is my thing.  I’ve got this.  We aren’t just coloring.  We are drawing their anger.  We are creating labels for their worry.  We are using silly metaphors that bring cognitive restructuring to their level and maybe even bring a little bit of fun and laughter into these sometimes heavier topics.  We learn to tolerate.  We learn to celebrate. 

I hope today you learned a little bit more about me and what it could be like to try therapy for the first time too.

If you want to learn more about the providers featured in the video, check out: www.latinxtherapy.com

#2

Blog #2, and that is exactly what I would like to talk about today.  You may roll your eyes but cut me some slack, I just spent my entire day in session with kids.  You may also be thinking to yourself: Whoa whoa whoa, we barely know each other, and you are going to talk about poop?  This sentiment is exactly why this conversation has to happen.  Why are we so afraid to talk about it and how has it become such a big deal that despite our bodies begging to use the bathroom, our minds convince us that “it’s not a good time.”

THE MAN

We get the message from very early on that pooping and other associated experiences (i.e., farting) are inappropriate and often tied to embarrassment and guilt.  My childhood is filled with memories of kids exclaiming: “Whoever smelt it dealt it, whoever said the rhyme did the crime!”  This happened with family, at school, sleepovers, camp, anywhere.  Now apparently “flatulence humor” is a real thing (it has its own Wikipedia page!), but in all seriousness, these statements convey that farting, often a precursor to needing to use the restroom is shameful.  As I am writing this, my internal editor’s voice is wondering if “poop” and “pooping” are okay to use here while urging me to more formally say, “defecation,” “elimination,” or “bowel movement” in my discussion.

Like with farting, people will try to prevent themselves from going to the bathroom to minimize the potential stress of doing so in a manner where “someone might notice.”  The problem is that not going to the bathroom can also causes stomach distress, which may make a person even more anxious, especially if their anxiety manifests with stomach-aches as a primary symptom.  It becomes this awful cycle of stomach issues and you cannot always be sure what is now causing the ache (is it the anxiety of potentially having to use the bathroom at some point or the stress of not going to the bathroom when your body is ready?).

Totally not an original idea, but everybody poops!  Like with most distressing thoughts, feelings, and experiences, it is important to normalize.  This experience is not singular to you, this is a biological process that is required to maintain overall health. 

You are not an embarrassment because you have to poop.

If the worry is that you may have to use the bathroom while you are engaged in some kind of activity, that makes sense, it is a realistic possibility.  When travelling, there will likely be options to stop off and use a bathroom.  Chances are that once you arrive somewhere, they have at least one accessible bathroom available for use.

If the worry is that people will notice you are gone and might make a joke at your expense: A) Who cares!  That person sounds like a ding-dong anyway because they definitely poop too. B) Honestly, your every move is not typically being monitored by those around you, so they probably will not realize you are even gone. 

I know in my Introduction blog I mentioned movies and my love for their metaphors, but when I thought about the media references that tied to this topic, it was often someone in a stall uncomfortably trying not to go to the bathroom or it being the joke of the scene and that is not the point I was hoping to drive home.

Last week was the series finale of Game of Thrones and we finally learned the outcome of the longstanding question, “Who will sit on the Iron Throne?”  Now that we have the answer, I say we proudly stand-up (really sit-down) and claim the Porcelain Throne for ourselves!

As the deeply wise, fart-guru, Shrek always says: Better out than in!

Meet + Greet, Movies & The Man

Meet + Greet, Movies & The Man


Hi, my name is Dr. Jaimee Arnoff, I love alliteration, and I’m a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in children and adolescents.  About a year ago, I co-opened BFF Therapy, a private therapy practice in Beacon, NY and my clients inspire me on the daily. Over the last few months I’ve been hearing stories from kids, teens, and young adults about a wide range of topics and I’ve noticed a root commonality within all their stories.

Systemic stress!  I know there are many ways to understand that concept (i.e., family systems, biological systems, etc.).  I also know kids don’t like to be lectured with big, fancy words, so I’m going to refer to comedy genius, Jack Black and his monologue in School of Rock about “The Man.”

…You can try, but in the end, you’re just gonna lose big time because the world is run by the Man.  The Man, oh, you don’t know the Man?! He’s everywhere…in the White House…down the hall…Ms. Mullins, she’s the Man.  And the Man ruined the Ozone, he’s burning down the Amazon, and he kidnapped Shamu and put her in a chlorine tank!...

This rocks for a couple of reasons:

  1. I love watching movies and have been recalling quotes competitively for a good laugh for most of my life.

  2. Movies make great metaphors for kids because they’ve likely seen the movie and have some context to build their understanding + it’s much easier for them to understand an abstract concept through relatable material.


I digress. What struck me about these stories was that much of the stress, fear, and intrusive ideation that was being mentioned likely stems in some part from the messages we are sent by The Man.  While I can respect that shared rules, beliefs, and values are helpful in governing a society, I am struggling with the subsequent negative impacts I’m seeing first hand and how it’s making my clients feel like they are losing…big time.

Thus, I was inspired to start this blog with discussions about how The Man can get you down & how to stick it to him (or her!).  I mean, that’s until I run out of ideas or something else catches my attention. I’m all about being upfront and setting realistic and achievable goals: I am a psychologist after all.