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Helping Moon

Helping Moon

Saturday, February 23, 2019

How to Support Each Other After a Tragedy?

Hello everybody. This past year, since the Parkland shooting had been an emotionally loaded year for everyone in the community. As we had this time to reflect on what happened and how it affected our community, I am pleased to say that I was amazed by the beauty of the unity, love and connection. As expected, the anticipation before the anniversary date of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas brought a lot of tension. Working extra hours trying to meet the needs of the community put a lot of pressure on the helping professionals of the community, myself included. Having to say no to some people who called last minute was probably one of the hardest things I had to deal with, besides the sadness of the tragedy itself.
Photo by Luis Galvez on Unsplash
On  a positive note, our professional responsibility as therapists in the community is to take care of ourselves in order to make sure that we are able to take care of others. Many times, the past few weeks I found myself sitting wondering if I’m doing enough. The trauma that the community suffered, mainly the people in the 1200 building and around the school has taken a huge toll on people’s mental health. Thankfully, many people reached out for help and went to see a therapist. However, many others turns to dysfunctional and negative coping skills, such as using substances. What I have to say is that being in the park on the day of the anniversary and seeing how the community came together in unity, love, and peace really warmed my heart. I knew at that moment that people are really trying to heal, and support each other in this difficult process.
Recently, I was interviewed by NPR (found here) about how can people support the community since the shooting. I would like to provide you with a list of tips that could be helpful for yourself or your friend/family/colleague. I decided to include 17 tips in honor of the 17 people who got murdered on February 14th, 2018.

  1. Ask how you could help, instead of assume what other people would like you to do or say
  2. Offer a friend to go something productive together such as exercise, dance, go to a class together, walk, shop, etc.
  3. Identity to yourself a “buddy” that you know you can rely on at your professional/school setting. Offer to be that person for someone else. You can even create a bag of resources for yourself in an easy access location
  4. When you feel overwhelmed, avoid social media and the news, it only makes it worst
  5. Make an effort to push yourself to go out and engage in an activity or with people, even if you don’t feel like it (take your body, your mind will follow)
  6. Find a reason to laugh (stand up comedy, funny movie, hang out with that funny friend)
  7. Engage in expressive arts of any kind (music, painting, singing, dancing, etc)
  8. Use essential oils for grounding. Some good grounding ones are basil and lavender. Make sure it’s a pure product and not diluted by different products. Many companies offer blends such as peace, serenity, calm, etc.
  9. Journal to yourself or to your spiritual idol. Putting thoughts on paper can be cleansing
  10. Engage in religious activities (if you belong to any group)
  11. Engage in meditation, breathing exercise, yoga, reiki, somatic experience. There are many apps to help you such as Pacifica, calm, whatsup, brainwave, etc.
  12. Find some quiet time to breath and reflect on how you’re feeling, and allow yourself to feel in anyway you feel comfortable
  13. Avoid resorting to substances of any kind. Even prescribed medications, when taken for a long time can be damaging
  14. Use the services the community has to offer. Many agencies are trying to help locally. Some of those are Professionals United for Parkland, Bobbi’s Place, Tomorrows Rainbow, Children Services Council, etc.
  15. Advocate for what’s important for you. Join a professionals organization, charity, any non profit that meet your philosophy
  16. Talk about your feelings with someone who you know could help. This could be a good friend or family member. Or even a professional like myself
  17. Ask for help - if you feel down. You’re never alone! 211 is a suicide prevention helpline, and the community is filled with people who want to help. Professionals United for Parkland is happy to help too!
I hope this post was helpful for you, or you can share it from someone who would. It was written from a perspective of a therapist in the Parkland area, who had been involved in the healing process. Some parts can apply globally to tragedy, and some content is specifically for the local community. There is always HOPE, if you are ready for it. This journey had just begun, and we still have a long way to go but we are in it together, ready to help!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thankful Through Hart Times

Hey everyone! This blog is way overdue and I decided to take the time to write it today of all days because for me - Thanksgiving is about expressing gratitude. Thanksgiving is about being grateful for what we have in our lives. Thanksgiving is about the gift of giving (and buying excessively the next day LOL). Being able to do the job that I do and touching people’s heart it’s something I’m very grateful for. Hence, I am thankful for anybody reading this post or sharing it with somebody they think would benefit from reading it.

The past year was an extremely difficult one for the community of Parkland and the surrounding community of South Florida. I know many hearts are heavy today because they don’t get to have one of their love ones sitting in their table. Many of those, are teenagers who got murdered way before their time, and that really saddens me. I’m sending healing and loving energies to those people and hoping this day will pass as smoothly and peacefully as possible. It’s important to share your pain and talk about it with somebody you feel comfortable with. If you don’t have somebody like that in your life, please make sure to contact a professional who can serve that purpose for you and help you get through the difficult times of the holidays.
The only part I am grateful for after this experience - is that I learned through it how much difference can happen thanks to a community of people who care and are willing to make a difference. I got to see the strength of my profession and people coming together to help. We formed an amazing organization that is now a nonprofit 501(C)(3) called Professionals United for Parkland (PU4P). I got to know the board members better, and together we are creating more opportunities for healing and support for the community. I am thankful for is the fact that God has given me the opportunity to serve the community, to the best of my ability, and offer healing to those around me. I am thankful for my amazing husband who is the best father in the world and the best business partner I could’ve ever asked for. Creating the life we are always dreaming about slowly (and surely), but together, stronger every step of the way. If it wasn’t for my husband, I wouldn’t be available to support the community in the way that I have. I’m thankful for the two amazing children we brought to the world. They bring so much laughter, Joy and happiness to our life in an endless, selfless and unconditional love. I am thankful for my mom, who is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met. She taught me how to be that way myself. She had been an amazing support for me, my family and many other families. 
I feel truly blessed for all the people I have in my life. I am thankful for the Facebook groups and the people I’ve met through them. Many of the colleagues became good friends that I will cherish forever. May we all continue being facilitators of changed and healing for the community around us. I feel blessed that I got to have so many amazing mentors through my personal and professional life. If you wasn’t for the social worker who helped me as a child, who knows if I would’ve chosen a different profession. I had amazing teachers throughout my life, who taught me leadership, compassion, empathy, selflessness, enthusiasm, and always thriving for helping in the best way. Remember that even if you feel as if there’s nothing to be thankful for and times are hard make an effort to look at the good things you have in life and focus on those as much as you can. Be mindful of appreciating the little things in life that can mean so much more if you allow yourself to notice them and focused on them. Unfortunately, suffering is part of life and when we accept that and use difficult times as opportunities for growth we are able to deal with them in a more positive and helpful ways.
If you need to talk and feel yoy do not have the support ou need, please do not hesitate to contact me here.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

MDS Strong - Journey of Hope: Healing from Trauma as a Community

Hey Everyone!
Just realized today that it’s been a really long time since I wrote my last blog. The past few months, since the MSD shooting it has been hectic. Between my regular caseload, my volunteering work with the Florida Counseling Association, Trauma Recovery Network Chapter, Professional United for Parkland, my family time, and the pro-bono work with the survivors of the Parkland shooting I have been pretty busy. 
Today, I feel blessed that I was given the opportunity to be able to serve the community in such magnitude. Last weekend, was my birthday weekend and it was an amazing experience to be able to spend that day by serving others. I was grateful to be able to spend some quality time with Deb DelVaccio and learn from her endless wisdom. Her divine guidance and teaching had been one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in a long time. I was always someone who loved to learn and reflect back on how I can become a better person and a better professional. I feel that the past weekend made me a better person and a better professional.
I am writing all of this because at times, during the past few months, I didn’t know how our community will be able to bounce back from such a terrible tragedy. As terrible as this tragedy affected us, it is uplifting to see some of the changes it created and facilitated. I do think that the community has grown and made some strides toward imported changes toward changes that need to happen in this world. Approaching the six month anniversary and the beginning of the school year for all the kids from MSD brings with it a lot of fears, concerns and insecurities. I want to make sure that those who know me know that I am committed to support the community for the long run. I am here to stay and willing to help in anyway I can. Nothing will ever make what happened makes sense. However, like any other trauma we’re going to have to find the ways of coping with the huge loss in our community on many different layers

Trauma affects the brain in such a way that changes the way it is built. Thankfully, our mind is plastic and therefore can make the changes necessary to return to normalcy. It is not going to be a simple, effortless process, but it is possible if you take the right steps to make the change. One of the things we spoke about in the training last week was the window of tolerance. Some of us are not aware of the fact that if we feel that we are shutting down, feel a little spacey, lose track of time or start feeling sluggish and it feels uncomfortable it may be a sign that we are dyregulated. Dysregulation may even feel like agitation, being anxious or angry. That type of dysregulation need to be addressed in order for it not to become worse. Becoming worse on one side can be hyperarousal - such as feeling extremely anxious, angry, or even out of control. You may feel sensations of feeling threatened or overwhelmed and you might want to fight or run away. The other extreme of dysregulation may be hyperarousal, feeling out of control. You may feel sensations of feeling threatened or overwhelmed and you might want to fight or  run away. The other extreme of this regulation may be hypoarousal. You may feel extremely zoned out or numb both emotionally and physically. You may feel like time just goes by and you feel as if you’re frozen. It’s not something you want to feel her choose to feel but your body totally takes over. Both extremes mean that you’re experiencing some former stress and trauma. You may feel that it’s hard to stay calm more focused and you’re easily thrown out of balance. If you feel any of the above symptoms I would strongly recommend making sure you start taking care of yourself. if you are a parent, teacher, or a counselor it is time to take care of yourself to make sure you could continue taking care of others. It can start by exercising, meditating, using essential oil‘s or anything that makes you feel better. Of course therapy would be a good place to start as well. Finding a qualified trauma therapist can make a huge difference. If you notice any of those signs in your children or those you love maybe will be a good suggestion to have them go to therapy. 
There are many resources available for the community. You can access some of the information on the Florida Counseling Association website here. Other information you can find on the professional United for Parkland Facebook group here. As well as the trauma recovery network website here. If you need to reach me directly please click here.   May this be as easy and smooth as possible new school year at Parkland Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school and schools everywhere around. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

How to Support Your Kids After a Traumatic Event

Hello everybody, I have been on a bit of a delay on writing my blog this month. It is sad and unfortunate that I am writing to you under these circumstances.
Last Wednesday, devastating news arrived to South Florida, and the rest of the world. 
I live about 10 minutes from the location of the tragedy - I think it affected me significantly due to it. It made me think about my kids, and their safety when they will join the school system. Living in the United States, has blessed me with many opportunities for professional and personal growth. However, it also brought to my attention the risks, and the horror that present to many people living here. As a parent, this tragedy presents different layers of issues to deal with. We have to deal with our ability to process the pain and fear related to what happened. At the same time, we feel that we have to stay strong for our kids. I wanted to use this opportunity to reach out to all the parents out there and let them know that they are not alone and to give them a few tools on how to deal with the situation to the best of their abilities.
After reading a lot of literature, and listening to different professionals in the field I found few good pointers on how to handle this tragedy, or any other possible future tragedy that may ever happen. Hopefully it will never happen again though. Here are some of the tips I collected.
  1. Let your child be heard. It is very important to open a conversation about what happened, ask them questions and clarify any questions they may have. Let your child feel that their fears, questions, and emotions are OK. Let them know that you’re also affected by this tragedy, but make sure to reinforce safety. You are your kids representation of what is out there. Ensure your kids that the world is a safe and good place despite this tragedy. Unfortunately, sometimes there are some people out there that do bad things.
  2. Try to keep the routines as normal as possible. This week unfortunately the kids  are not going to be able to go back to school. It is important that you try to still have some kind of routine and activity with the kids. Kids getting security from having a routine and the predictability of their schedule.
  3. Try to limit exposure to the television and the news as much as possible. If your kid wants to look for information make sure to help them focus on the heroes, the teachers, and the first responders rather than the shooter (Lisa Zuker).
  4. Share information with your kids about the situation as much as possible, taking into consideration their age and their ability to process the information you’re about to give them.
  5. Make sure to take care of yourself in anyway possible. Crying is OK as well as long as it is coming from a place of sadness and the ability to process what happen and not from a place of fear. It could actually be healthy for your kids knowing that it is OK to cry to process their pain.
  6. Make sure to seek professional help if necessary. The community has build a lot of help locations for free to deal with what is happening. Here is a link to a list of possible resources.
  7. Create a family safety plan together. Go over contact person for emergency, code words in case something happens. Having some kind of a plan between all of you can ensure your child sense of safety.
  8. Self-care is highly important at this time. Both you as a parent, and your child independently as well as as a family.
These are just a few of the tips that I came up with, but you can also look into the Florida school counselor Association website, the Red Cross website, and other online resources for further help (herehere and more). My blessings and prayers are with the victims who died, those who are injured, the family and friends, as well as the community as a whole during these difficult times.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goodbye 2017 - Bring it on 2018!

Hello everyone! I’m
Going to keep today’s blog kind of short and sweet with wishes for an amazing 2018 for all of you. Thank you for being my great supporters and followers. This year the most important thing is to stay healthy. Staying healthy is what gives is the strength and ability for all the other great things in life. Then, wishing you and me lots of happiness, joy, laughter and LOVE. May we reach our aspirations and career goals and beyond. Let’s learn from the past and plan for the future since it’s that time of year again.  Time when we reflect on how this year went for us, and what we would like to see or not see in the following year. I’m not big on making new year resolutions, because I believe we should work towards our goals on a daily base and not just through a decision one time a year. 
I have respect for those people who decides on a new year resolution at the beginning of the year and actually make it their reality. However, I think it is safe to assume that many don’t really stick by it for a long time after making the decision. I do believe in making a vision board of what we plan to have in our lives in the future. Then, working hard toward visualizing it, believing it will happen, and willing to do the hard work to make it happen. 
So what happen in my life in this past year? It was a tough year with many changes and adjustments. I am pleased to say that I learn to balance my life between marriage, having two beautiful and healthy children that I adore, and a private practice career that I dreamed about for years. Initially, it wasn’t easy figuring out the way of being full-time therapist and being a wife and a mother. I felt that I was missing out on a lot of my children development, my connection to my husband and being able to reach my private practice goals. I was spreading myself so thin that I was exhausted and I felt that I could reach a burn out quickly. I was working 12 hour days, making sure I’m the one going to my babies at night and when they wake up and still handling all bills and catering to my husband. Don’t get me wrong, he was catering to me as much. I don’t believe I would have been able to reach this balance of it wasn’t for my amazing husband. He is part of what makes my life so smooth and easy. 
We decided that he would stay home with the kids so I can fully focus on my career. At the same time, he pushed me to cut my case load so I can be there in the morning and for bed time with the kids. He sends me videos and pictures of the kids all day long, and in addition he reminds me how much he loves and adores me any minute of the day. I didn’t predict our love to be so alive and nurturing after 11 years together. It’s truly heartwarming and I feel truly blessed for it!!! Let’s practice gratitude and appreciate what we have in life because it helps us start positive. Use those moments of difficult and make them our opportunities for change and growth. Let go of negativity, negative self talk and toxic people and you’ll already see how your life becomes better. Goodbye 2017, bring it on 2018. It’s going to be a great year, I can see it already. Be blessed! 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Benefits of Living a Life of Gratitude

Hello my followers. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving and overall a good weekend. During this time of year a lot of people take the time to mention how grateful they are for the things they have in their life. This months I’ve been part of an online 30 day gratitude challenge, and I have to say it’s been a real pleasure. I practice gratitude most days and I love paying attention to the beautiful people/things/ moments/etc. I have in my life. This sense of bliss is heartwarming and empowering. Life can get so hectic and overwhelming that it is our responsibility to take the time, breathe, and be in the moment to appreciate what we have instead of focusing our attention on what we don’t have.
 About a year and a half I wrote a blog about the out of gratitude and when I research the topic online I found out that there is a lot of empirical data to support the fact that people who practice gratitude have a more fulfilling and happier life.  Based on an article I read on psychology today by Amy Morin for 710 typically proven benefits. Those are gratitude opens the door tomorrow relationships, credit improves physical health, private improve psychological health, got it enhances empathy and reduce his aggression, grateful people sleep better, but it improves self-esteem, and got it was increases mental strength.  She also published a great book about 13 things people who are mentally strong don’t do (watch here).

 What I’m trying to say is that even so I think Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to show your appreciation to the universe or your God that you’re grateful for what you have. The best thing would be to learn to express gratitude on a daily basis as part of your daily routine. I’ve noticed that on days I forget to express my gratitude when I start my day - my day just doesn’t go as well as when I practice gratitude in the morning. When we take the time to be in the moment and express our gratitude we will likely start our day in a more positive attitude and will tend to spread that energy to people around us. Dr. Murray speaks bout the power of gratitude on living a long healthier, happier life (watch here). He speaks about how important it is to live in grace and learn to just thank people around you in any opportunity you have (personal, professional, etc.).
I am thankful to be able to work in a job that I enjoy doing, I am blessed to have the family I built and the career I dreamed of. I also feel blessed to have a group of people who actually read what I have to say (and are hopefully benefiting from reading it). If I can help you or someone you care for please do not hesitate to look me up. Have a blessed day and Happy Holidays!

Monday, October 30, 2017

How to Overcome Our Fears?

Hey Everyone!
In lights of few conversations I had with some clients the past few weeks I decided to address the issue of FEAR in today’s blog. For those of you who are new to my Blog/Nesletter welcome, and I hope you will enjoy reading this. I think it is safe to assume that we have all experienced some form of fear at some point in our lives. For some of us, fear becomes anxiety and negatively affects our daily living. For others, fear is just part of their evolutionary response to “dangerous” situations in life that will mostly provoke a fight/flight/freeze response. Many times, through my work with my clients in private practice we discuss the main difference between the two. The main basic difference is that fear is based on something that is actually happening to us at present time. Anxiety is all future oriented and is not based on facts. Furthermore, I would say that fear could provoke something positive such as protecting us from danger or making us study for an important exam. When anxiety, will impact us negatively by provoking negative feelings and some paralyzing bodily sensation that will make us fail a test we were worried about.

Image result for fear quotes
Many times when we are scared of trying something new (apply for a new job, start a new relationship, move out of our parents house, apply to school, etc.), having a conversation with someone, or just being in a new situation many times it is because we are scared of failure or at times fear of success. The way I like to describe it is that we become controlled by our fear and we can get paralyzed by it - at that point don’t you think we already failed? I believe that when we do not try we are at a 0% to succeed, while if we do try we have 50% of success and 50% of failure. Don’t you think that 50% much better chance than 0%? I sure do think so!!! One person who agrees with me for sure is Will Smith who is a strong believer in the Law of Attraction (as I am). In a recent video he spoke about he fact that “at the point of maximum danger, there is minimum fear.” You can watch it here. Another great video about overcoming fear can be found here.

Image result for fear
Now lets talk solution, as I promised we will talk about things you can do to overcome fears.
  1. Develope awareness about what your fear does to you and how it affect you. Are those thoughts helpful or harmful? If they are helpful use them to help you reach your goals. If they are hurtful just recognize them and let them go (easier said than done - I know!). There is a techniques called AWARE (read about it here)
  2. Look at the evidence and how would you respond to a good friend who would present to you what you are fearful of
  3. Be in the moment and exercise mindfulness through meditation and deep breathing
  4. Think positive thoughts and avoid letting negativity govern how you live your life
  5. Visualize your success and how great will it feel, even create a vision board if necessary. Picture yourself being calm nad happy when doing something you were scared to do
  6. Distract yourself with something you enjoy doing such as: take a walk, hangout with friends, watch a movie, go to the beach, exercise, etc.
  7. Talk about it with positive people - avoid talking to those you know will increase your fear/anxiety because they tent to be that way too
Life is full of opportunities for growth and development, but it is totally up to us to look fear in the face and make our life the way we wish they would be. Buddha has two great quotes about this topic. One is “What we think, we become“, and the other is He is able who thinks he is able.” Make sure to do what you can to reach your goals so you do not have any regrets about the past and you live your life to the fullest since we only live once! If you need help please do not hesitate contacting me. 
Before I say goodbye I want to share one more video that I like a lot for a spark of inspiration here