Sunday, November 27, 2016

5 Tips to Make the Holidays Light

by Rachel Kobin

1. Keep the conversation light.
Right now websites like are compiling lists of good things. Give yourself and everyone else a break from politics. Need a fun distraction? Google "babies laughing" and share the delight by showing the videos to others.

2. Eating ​light.
You are in control of what goes into your body. You don't have to explain or justify eating or not eating something. A warm, "No thank you" should suffice.  
​If it doesn't, it's not about you.
3. Light up someone's day.
A compliment is sure to brighten even the surliest person's day.

4. Take in the light.
If it's sunny, go outside.  Take a walk by yourself to clear your head, or invite friends or family.

5. Be the light.
Sing in the shower​, dance to your favorite music in the living room. Be as goofy and silly as you need to be to get to a joyful place.

LGBTQ Support during the Holiday Season

by Stacey Vinci

The holiday season can hold high expectations for love, laughter, joy, celebration, and connection among friends and family. However for some (or many) of us, the holiday season can also bring up pain, discomfort, stress, family tension and conflict, and feelings of depression and anxiety. With this mix of expectations and real experiences, the holidays can require a significant amount of energy and can result in some serious introspection as we process all of the personal and family issues this season can evoke. For folks in the LGBTQ community, particularly youth, there is another level of complexity. Often these teens can struggle with issues surrounding self-identity; particularly the lack of freedom and support from friends and family in expressing their true and genuine self and the extra added pressure and fear of judgement and non-acceptance from extended family. In the coming weeks, as we all begin to engage in the celebration and joy of the holiday season, let’s also keep in mind those who are struggling, especially those whose internal struggles may not always be visible on the outside. Providing support and encouragement to LGBTQ youth is especially important during this time.

Here are some quick tips for parents of LGBTQ youth:

1.     If you think your child may be experiencing issues with gender identity or sexual orientation, the most important first step is to create an open, safe, and trusting place for communication and support.
2.     Be mindful of signs that your teen is especially struggling during this holiday time:
a.     Changes in eating/sleeping patterns
b.     Withdrawal from friends/family
c.     Changes in mood/affect (sadness, anger, irritability)
3.     Put in place the professional support system that you and your child/family will need during this time. By contacting a therapist or counselor specializing in this area, you now have a built-in system of support, resources, and guidance through each step of your child’s process in achieving a positive identity and increased support, comfort and engagement throughout the holiday season.
For more information on individual/group openings or alternate resources to help support you and child through the holiday season, contact Stacey at or 267-989-9113.

Stacey M. Vinci, M.A., LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working with teens and their families struggling with anxiety, depression, and trauma-related issues. She also specializes in working with youth in the LGBTQ community, particularly teens identifying as gender non-conforming or transgender. Stacey’s weekly LGBTQ Teen Therapy Group is currently accepting new members.

Maintaining Emotional Health and Hope during the Holidays with Your Teen

by Katie May

You’re a parent with a teen who’s struggling emotionally. Maybe they are anxious and full-on panic at the thought of a crowded room (even with familiar faces and family members in it.) Maybe they are depressed and withdrawn, and the concept of joy and laughter are so far off from their everyday that it feels cruel to ask them to smile for yet another picture when you know that it will be fake and plastered or trigger them to burst into tears.

You’re sitting back silently like an elf-on-the-shelf to avoid saying or doing something that will set your teen off or cause them to act out impulsively or self-destructively.

At this point you may be thinking, “Aren’t the holidays supposed to be fun?”

But from past experience you know that holidays and families can bring up baggage that causes way more stress than the everyday routine.

Many parents white-knuckle the winter break and repeatedly mutter the mantra “Just one week” until school resumes.  (Oh yeah… there’s another transition and yet another opportunity for your teen’s symptoms to increase… and for everything to fall apart again.).

Or, they spend the holiday season putting out fires and managing conflicts and crises as they arise with no clear plan for how to cope ahead and make the necessary changes that make the holidays run smoothly.  In fact, many therapists work this way too!  And if we’re being honest here, it’s just not working anymore.

When I work with teens in my teen groups we practice a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skill called Cope Ahead.  This idea is that we can begin to prepare for difficult situations by being mindful of how we may think, feel and behave in them and making a plan for how we will manage this in the moment.

One fun example of this is if you know that grandma is going to ask you twenty questions about why you’re not on the cheerleading squad and why you don’t like wearing pink, then you can make a game of it.  Create a bingo board for yourself on an index card to keep in your pocket and every time grandma makes a critical comment, check one off the board until you’ve “won” the game.  You can’t change grandma, but you CAN shift your reactions to be more effective.  I guarantee this game will have you laughing at your own personal inside joke rather than sulking sullenly in the corner!

Another example may be recognizing that a holiday will make you feel sad or empty because you lost a loved one and you miss them.  You can cope ahead by creating a memory jar or journal where you can record everything you remember about the holidays you shared together.  You can lead a discussion at the dinner table and ask others their favorite holiday memory of the loved one you lost.

Or, if being around people makes you nervous because you don’t know who will be there or what to say to them, you can do some prep work.  Make a list of everyone who will attend the gathering or party and decide on at least one topic that you can ask them about.  Also, write down three to five topics you like to talk about, such as what TV shows you’re watching or what’s new in your life that you’d be willing to share.  Having a set plan for what to say and who to say it to creates a structure for talking to people that takes some of the pressure off when you may freeze in the moment.

Coping ahead isn’t about making the feelings go away; it’s about using the knowledge you have about those feelings to change your experience into one that works for you instead of against you.

It’s time to have a plan for this holiday season!  I’ve called together a group of amazing therapists to help you prepare for how to manage an angry, sad or self-hating teen this winter.  (And they are ready and prepared to support your teen in Winter Coping Skills Camp too!  More at

Take some time for you and tune in to this video series for parenting teens.  In just a few short videos you’ll be equipped with the tools you need to cope ahead with holiday triggers that your teen may experience.  And you’ll likely learn at least a thing or two about how to create a stronger bond with your teen and help them manage their emotions on an ongoing basis too!

As a teen therapist, I know that adolescence can be a challenging time for my clients.  I support six groups of teens who all share similar struggles with anxiety, depression and/or self-harm behaviors.  And I want you as a parent to feel supported too.  

In this parenting support video series, you will learn:

·       How to peacefully communicate with your teen in a way that helps them make choices that are aligned with your family values
·       How to help your teen manage anger and disappointment in healthy ways that build self-esteem
·       How to help your teen go from self-loathing and critical to feeling strong and empowered
·       How to use self-soothing skills to help your teen manage anxiety and dis-ease
·       Why encouraging your teen to use the arts as a creative outlet is beneficial for both of you

To learn more about Winter Coping Skills Camp and to watch the parenting support video series, click here:

JOY to the World

by Karen Steinbrecher

Upon reading this newsletter, the Thanksgiving Holidays have passed, and the December Holidays are fast approaching.  No doubt, we live during a challenging period of time.

I would like to share some inspiration with you from a book that reads like a novel, rather than a non-fiction “self-help” book.  Written with Douglas Abrams, by his holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu is “The Book of JOY”.  With chapters such as “Fear, Stress, and Anxiety," "Sadness and Grief", "The Hard Times Knit Us More Closely Together," "Passing through Difficulties", and "Laughter", this book reads like a breath of fresh air.

“What is this thing called joy, and how is it possible that it can evoke such a wide range of feelings?

The Archbishop and the Dalai Lama looked at each other, and the Archbishop gestured to the Dalai Lama.  “Yes, it is true. Joy is something different from happiness. When I use the word happiness, in a sense I mean satisfaction.”  The Archbishop later explained, “When we realize that we are all children of God, and of equal and intrinsic value, then we don’t have to feel better or worse than others. God uses each of us in our own way, and even if you are not the best one, you may be the one who is needed or the one who is there.” 

In the chapter on loneliness, the Dalai Lama said, “When someone is warmhearted, they are always completely relaxed. If you live with fear and consider yourself as something special, then automatically, emotionally, you are distanced from others.“   He continued saying, “When one is thinking about others with kindness and compassion, one is never lonely.  Openheartedness-warmheartedness is the antidote to loneliness.”  The research of social psychologists Zhong and Gabriel have found that when people are feeling lonely or socially rejected, they literally seek warmth, like sipping hot soup.

Warm your hearts, your soul, this season and indulge in the warmth of this extraordinary book.

You must wonder what all of this has to do with QiGong.  As a QiGong practitioner/teacher, I love the flow of QiGong movements.  Qi = the energy that animates all of life and Gong means the work of, the practice of the movements.  Life is challenging, and at times one has to work at letting go of the negative, whether it be physical or mental.  Flowing QiGong movements enable one to work, in a pleasurable way to find that peaceful place within.  Warm Blessings to ALL this Holiday Season with Peace, Love, Compassion, Kindness and JOY.  

Karen Steinbrecher leads QiGong classes at the Resiliency Center on Thursdays at 2:00 pm and 6:20 pm.

Beginning a Meditation Practice Over the Holidays

by Catherine McLaughlin and Jen Perry

The holidays are a special time of year. Extra time with family and friends, invitations to parties and events, giving and receiving gifts, all that delicious food - but adding all the “extras” of the holidays to an already busy life can leave us feeling anxious and stressed. Here’s how meditation can help:

When we’re stressed, our brain’s amygdala is triggered. The amygdala houses the “fight or flight” response and is responsible for feelings of fear and anxiety. Research shows that a regular meditation practice decreases the size of the amygdala, and strengthens areas of the brain responsible for self-regulation, cognitive flexibility, planning, problem solving, emotion regulation, learning, memory, and may help to stave off depression and PTSD symptoms. So all the stress and anxiety from too much wrapping, traveling, seeing relatives, and partying can be managed through meditation.

But where should you start? Here are a few steps for beginning a meditation practice:

1. Start slow. Set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier and build meditation into your morning routine. You’ll know when it is time to increase your meditation time.

2. Be flexible. If something unexpected happens one morning and you can’t meditate, find another time during the day. Over your lunch break at work, in your car in the grocery store parking lot, before bed - any time you can squeeze in 10+ minutes of quiet.

3. Focus on the breath. When you sit quietly for the first time, you will probably notice how noisy your thoughts are. That’s okay! Notice them, like a train moving through a station or clouds floating by in the sky. The thoughts will move along, and you will return to your breath.

4. Stick with it! Sitting still with our thoughts is not easy. It may take a couple of tries to feel comfortable.

With everything going on, it may sound strange to add one more thing - but really, what’s one more line on your to-do list? And when it’s something proven to manage stress and anxiety, it may just be the perfect time to begin a meditation practice.

For more information on Catherine McLaughlin, call 267-800-5073 or visit  For more information on Jen Perry, call 215-292-5056 or visit 


Articles on Meditation:
Things to Know about Meditation at
A Productive Life: Meditation Guide at

How the Brain Changes when you Meditate at

Gratitude as a Practice

by Elizabeth Campbell, MS, LPC

For the last four years, I spent a week in a remote village in a developing nation.  Every year I return, touched by the beauty of the families and the community that hosts me and the group I go on the service trips with, and immensely thankful both for the experience and to return to the “comforts” of life.  I am thankful for reliable and safe, hot water that comes on when you turn a handle, healthy and abundant food, a car and safe roadways….the list goes on and on.  A month later I forget everything in the day to day and get lost in the frazzled life so many of us live.  I take it for granted.  I share this not to shame myself and everyone else that forgets daily just how lucky we are.  Instead, I hope to put into perspective how a simple practice of gratitude, not just on Thanksgiving, but everyday can transform many of the daily frustrations and negative feelings we experience.  So often during the holidays our schedules become more crunched and we are more anxious and stressed than ever.  We may feel more disconnected from what grounds us and what we are thankful for.  But it is hard to be annoyed with traffic or at a loved one that ruins the mashed potatoes when your heart is filled with gratitude for having a car, being able to travel, and that a loved one is present and celebrating with you.  This can take on many forms.  One may be a gratitude journal.  Listing things that we are thankful for, big and small, on a daily basis can help us to shift into gratitude.  Another way is to bring the things we are thankful for into our mind during meditation, one at a time, breathing and focusing on each one. For families, sharing something we are thankful for prior to meal or bed times can help everyone make this shift.   No matter what form your gratitude takes, notice what happens in your body during this practice.  Often we feel a lightening, calm, or happiness as a result.  I wish a very happy, thankful holiday season to you and yours.

For more information on Elizabeth Campbell please call 610-757-8163, email, or visit 

Friday, November 11, 2016


by Dean Solon

closing eyes gently...
closing eyes gently...

here we are.  here you are.
your life matters, is precious, was meaningful three days ago before the election results.  your life matters, is meaningful, now.
as long as you are here, in this life,
be here, be passionate, be compassionate, be connecting, be loving,
be doing the best you can.

my sister-in-law's sister said to me wednesday morning:  "they don't rule your mind."
no one rules your mind.
no one rules your heart.