Blog & Video Archives

Past Bridge Street Mental Health segment with accompanying text.

We Need Compassion Now More Than Ever: Four Steps to Increasing Empathy

Given the heightened level of tension and polarization present in today’s world, empathy is, ironically, the thing which is most needed and in the shortest supply.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and care about the feelings of another. It is feeling compassion for someone else. Although neuroscience estimates that 98% of people have the neural capacity for empathy , the current level of societal anger generated by both the hardships imposed by the coronavirus crisis and racial unrest toward police reveals that many folks are not feeling or expressing it. Instead of understanding and compassion, fear and mistrust are keeping us from uniting together against the common threats of Covid-19 and racism.
Apart from the larger cultural and political unrest, empathy is a key ingredient needed in everyday life to help partners , families, friends and colleagues, to get along better and reduce conflicts. The ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes and experience and discover how another person has many of the same hopes and fears that we do goes a long way towards overcoming mistrust and hostility. Here are four simple steps to help you improve your understanding of and increase your caring about others:

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COVID-19, Boredom and Stress Eating : 7 Tips to help prevent weight gain during the coronavirus crisis.

As restrictions caused by the coronavirus continue and the frustration they have created mount, one of the common casualties reported by many folks is unwanted weight gain. This phenomenon is especially problematic for those who are sheltered-at-home. Changes and restriction in daily customs and work routines has created situations where folks don’t know what to do with large amounts of idle and unstructured time. This over-abundance of unstructured time has resulted in boredom which has in turn has driven many folks to distract and soothe themselves with comfort foods and by binge eating. Likewise, the food’s people are likely to choose for anxiety-based eating , things which are usually loaded with sugar , simple carbs and fats, are not helpful for maintaining a stable weight. Uncontrolled stress-eating combined with reduced activity levels spell trouble for anyone trying to avoid putting one a few pounds.
You get the point. Folks whose lives are normally filled with jobs and other vigorous activities have been caught off guard by the social side effects of COVID-19. The absence of a normal routine and a lack of meaningful stimulation has resulted in people feeling bored. Uncontrolled eating has been what many have relied upon to cope with this unresolved public health crisis.
Nevertheless, it is important to understand that unhealthy weight gain is not inevitable that but preventing it will take some increased awareness and intentional effort. If you are struggling with this issue, here are seven tips to help you resist the impulse to pig-out :

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Is COVID-19 Killing the Romance in your Marriage? Get Silly and Laugh !

With more and more people working at home and sheltering, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many couples are spending additional time in physical proximity to one another. This increased togetherness has resulted in many partners taking advantage of the increased opportunity and having more sex.
Unfortunately, for other couples, the forced togetherness has exposed previously avoided problems of intimacy and romance and created some uncomfortable awkwardness.
As a clinician who helps couples have better sex lives, I see the coronavirus crisis as an excellent opportunity to address and fix an embarrassing and discouraging problem.
The good news is that the solution is really fun but doesn’t involve sex at all. The key for many couples to re-ignite the flames of passion is unlocking pent up inhibitions and learning how to get silly . Yes, that is not a typographical error. Increasing silliness in couple is good and allows passion to follow. Let me explain:

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Frequently Asked Questions about Tele-Therapy .

It’s been almost two months since all counseling here in New York State has been conducted via tele-therapy , i.e. over either a telephone or a video platform.

At first, speaking with your counselor in this way may seem artificial or odd, but my experience and the experience of many others has been that, with a little practice, it becomes quite natural and normal.

While remote counseling is not new,, ( I first provided Skype style sessions for military families with deployed members almost twenty years ago), many folks don’t know much about it.

So , if you have been considering getting some counseling but have been reluctant due to this different format, here are some frequently asked questions and answers about tele-therapy to help you understand it and feel more comfortable with it.

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Understanding and Overcoming the Self-Blame and Shame of Sexual Abuse

Okay , my apologies for not posting earlier about this. With all the attention given to and disruptions caused by COVID-19, I almost neglected to acknowledge that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

That said , I want to address a serious two headed problem faced by many who have been sexually assaulted: Shame and Self-Blame. Too often, even after many years have passed, many folks who have experienced sexual assault as children say that, even though they “know better”, they still can’t shake the feeling deep down inside that what happened was their fault.

It is important to understand that self-recrimination is a common psychological phenomenon experienced by many who have been abused. The good news is that, once understood, individuals can break its depressing hold and free themselves from this false sense of guilt and responsibility . Let me show you how.

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Lessons from Job for Families Dealing with Anger Issues while Sheltering-in-Place.

As the Covid-19 crisis drags on and the isolation restrictions take their emotional toll, how to deal with increased irritability and anger is one of the of the most commonly asked questions by many cooped-up couples and families.

For me, both as a pastoral counselor and a psychotherapist, The Bible is filled with stories which can help us in times such as these. The Old Testament book of Job offers some especially valuable guidance.
What is remarkable about Job’s anger is how it is expressed and where it is directed . Unlike most of us when we get mad, Job did not externalize or displace his frustrations onto others or God. He did not become verbally abusive or name-call nor did he blame or make excuses. What he did in perfect I-statement form, was to talk about his experience and his pain and what he wanted.
Applying this illustrative story to our situation, here are the key points to remember about Job’s model for dealing with anger and frustrations while living in cramped quarters and restricted circumstances:

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NEW YORK STATE SUSPENDS ALL MEDICAL INSURANCE CO-PAYS AND DEDUCTIBLES.

In an effort to make it easier for folks to cope during these stressful times which has been created by the COVID-19 crisis, New York’s governor , Andrew Cuomo has declared that a state of emergency exists.
To ensure that folks continue to seek, to receive and to afford needed counseling ,in addition to requiring, non-face to face, tele-therapy for counseling, the state had has ordered that due to the virus crisis:
All Insurance Co-Pays and Deductibles Are Suspended until further notice.
Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC.
https://www.dfs.ny.gov/industry_guidance/circular_letters/cl2020_06?fbclid=IwAR03srYC3Tsq18twyOLOS0bnVfCgkVyX4xtMDtSNdSc8i67TsDR1bcTr1pk

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COVID -19 UPDATE : 3/23/2020

In response to the unfolding coronavirus crisis, I want to re-assure everyone that Pine Ridge will continue to provide the highest quality of psychotherapy and pastoral counseling throughout this ordeal.

In keeping with the best medical and public health recommendations, however, all therapy and counseling will be tele-therapy conducted via phone and video platforms.

If you have any questions about how to proceed during these trying and uncertain times, please call us at ( 315 380 1005 ) and I will be glad to help.

Rev. Michael Health , LMHC, Fellow AAPC 3 22 2020 .

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It’s Okay to Be Afraid but there is No Need to Panic: Tips for Managing Coronavirus Fear Rationally.

Okay, everyone needs to just take a deep intentional breath or two and reflect for a moment. Although it is unprecedented and very difficult to accept (much less understand), over the past week, the coronavirus has completely changed the world and life as we have come to know it. Even worse , even the experts don’t know how bad it is going to get or how long it will be before life returns to normal.

Indeed, these are frightening times and being afraid is normal and not a sign of paranoia or some other anxiety disorder. That said, while it is normal and okay to be afraid, it is important not to panic. Here are some basic tips to help you tell the difference between fear and panic and how to manage fear rationally :

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COVID-19 Update:

In response to concerns about the coronavirus problem, I want to reassure clients that, even though there has not been a reported case of COVID-19 in Onondaga or its surrounding counties, our offices are cleaned with sanitary wipes after each appointment and that every precaution is taken to prevent the potential spread of the disease including having hand sanitizer available .

Likewise, for those who are ill and wish treatment or for those who are simply anxious about going out in public, teletherapy is available through phone and HIPAA compliant internet based video platforms.

With respect to other medical appointments you may want to consider telehealth options. Please contact your doctors to see if they provide such remote consultation services.

It is important to know that we will continue to provide counseling services no matter how intrusive or disruptive the virus becomes.

In the mean time , here is a link to a CDC sight which lists basic precautions which should be taken if you are over 60. https://ix.cnn.io/dailygraphics/graphics/20200311-coronavirus-tipsheet/CNN-coronavirus-tipsheet-en_US.pdf

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC 3 12 2020

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Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety: Tips for Keeping a Rational Perspective .

Over the past few weeks, there has been wall to wall coverage of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), epidemic. In addition to the impact on the sick, the fear of the spread of this disease has caused world-wide alarm and has had a devastating impact on industry and the world’s stock markets . Concerns about limiting and containing the spread of the virus have already resulted in significant daily living disruptions with measures such as quarantines, cancelled conventions and air flights. Going forward , how to prevent a general public panic is uncertain.
Unfortunately, the problem is made worse and more confusing because government preparation and responses have been inadequate and statements from the White House and public health agencies about the virus or what to do are often contradictory. As a result, it is difficult for the public to know what is true and just who to believe.
Fortunately, there is wide-spread agreement among health experts about what common sense measures should be employed to lesson the risk of contracting the disease: — Use disposable tissues. — Be mindful of what you touch. — Wash your hands frequently after touching things like door knobs, light switches, etc. — Avoid unnecessary public contact like shaking hands. — And MOST IMPORTANTLY — Don’t touch your face.
It is important to realize , despite all of the media attention, the virus is not the Black Plague. Although many will be infected by Coronavirus, most will not even feel sick. That said the threat of the virus goes beyond a medical risk. COVID-19 poses a severe psychological stress which create individual and even mass panic. Even for those who don’t get sick, the emotional strain of non-stop media hype in addition to the disruptive precautionary measures will pose a serious menace that will, in some way, impact almost everyone sooner or later. Although no one can control the spread or extent of the disease, there is a lot which individuals can do to control the anxiety produced by this difficult situation. Here are some important tips:

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Turned Away on Valentine’s Day: Tips for Dealing with Rejection and Loneliness

Depending on your romantic situation, Valentine’s Day can mean dramatically different things. For lovers and married folks, it can be a joyful time to reflect on and express love and affection for one another.

However, this heavily media-hyped day can be an excruciating and heartbreaking time for folks who have lost, are without partners or who are in the midst of relational strife or divorce. Indeed, the plight of those who are lonely can be overlooked and ignored in the wake of the red-hearted deluge of the holiday.

We need to remember that, for these folks, Valentine’s Day is at best awkward and at worst a painful reminder of loneliness, frustration, disappointment and loss.

Beyond the pain of being without or losing a loving partner is the destructive impact on one’s self-esteem . Unfortunately, partner-less and divorcing folks often blame themselves for their lack of romantic success and see themselves as defective or permanently damaged such that they will always be alone.

While some folks do suffer from emotional issues which make sustaining intimate relationships difficult or problematic, that is not the case for most. And for those who are bummed out on Valentine’s Day, here are some thoughts and tips for coping with loneliness until Cupid’s arrows work their magic.

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A Valentine’s Day Primer for Couples who want more Romance in their Marriage .

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and so it’s a perfect time to talk about romance and how important and necessary it is to a lasting and satisfying marriage.
It is ironic that , while that most folks think that romance is a good thing, many married (and unmarried) couples admit that there isn’t a lot of it in their relationship and would like more.
Unfortunately, many erroneously believe that once romance disappears from a marriage, there is no way to get it back. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to rekindle romantic feelings and restore excitement to your marriage. Given the all of the bad information and discouragement surrounding romance, here are some basic facts to remember that explain: 1) Why romance is so important, 2) The key factors that go into keeping romance alive and vigorous and 3) Tips for re-igniting romance and passion that may have flagged :

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Let’s Talk about Sexless Marriages: The Good News !

Recent studies have repeatedly shown that Americans are having less sex. One statistic reveals that over half of single folks under forty haven’t had sex in a year. Factors such as work-related anxiety and financial worries leave many singles either too busy or too stressed out to bother with sex.

Shockingly, more and more married couples are reporting that they aren’t having sex either. Sexless marriage hasn’t been talked about much in the past but, lately, it’s attracting more clinical attention because the fact that couples aren’t having sex is emerging more frequently with patients who are seeking help for other issues.

Sadly, many sexless couples don’t seek help because they are discouraged and feel that there is nothing that can be done. Unfortunately, untreated, the problem only becomes worse and worse. While sex may not be the most important thing in life, it’s probably in the top ten. Therefore, couples need to know that sexual problems in marriage, while difficult to talk about at first, are very treatable.
Here are some important facts about sexless marriages:

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Being Realistic about New Year’s Resolutions: Some things to think about before making one.

As we come to the end of the year, encouraged by tradition and media hype, many will think about new year’s resolutions and making important changes in their lives.

Likewise, many will look back on the year just past with disappointment and discouragement over the well intentioned but failed efforts from the previous year’s resolution list.

Frankly, change is hard. It takes more than good intentions to actually succeed in making significant and needed improvements in our lives. Many who undertake plans for things like losing weight, quitting smoking or exercising more, for example, fail to understand the necessary factors which are required on one hand and those which work against change on the other.

Taking a little time to reflect may not only improve your chances of succeeding but also help to help you to avoid the pain of not following through. With these complications and pitfalls in mind, here are a some things to think about before undertaking the challenge of a new year’s resolution .

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2016

2015

Rekindling Passion: Part Two – The Secret to Re-igniting the Fames of Desire

 

2012

Flirting with Your Spouse

 

2011

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