Jun 16

What is Emotional Wellness?

Written by: The Circles Team

What do you think of when you read the words “mental health”? If the words “crazy”, “weak”, or “sick” popped into your mind, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, a lot of people think of it that way too. There’s people who seek help from mental health professionals, and “normal” people who don’t.

This isn’t true.

Yes, there are people who are clinically diagnosed with a mental illness, but lacking one doesn’t necessarily equal mental wellness. Mental health isn’t as black and white as it seems. It’s a spectrum, and all of us are on it. Let’s be real, we all have our days (or weeks). Sometimes we feel amazing, and sometimes we feel like sh*t. We may technically be mentally healthy, but are we mentally and emotionally well?

Wait, hold up, what do you mean by emotionally well? We’re so glad you asked.

If you think emotional wellness means to be happy all of the time, you’re setting the bar high for yourself, and that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Being emotionally well doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re happy all the time, it means that you’re able to change course to feel better.

Emotional wellness refers to “the awareness, understanding and acceptance of our feelings, and our ability to manage effectively through challenges and change.” For the most part, a symptom of being human is having challenges and problems, most of us don’t go through life completely unscathed. That being said, challenges and problems don’t need to drag us down. As the iconic Dolly Parton says, “if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” In other words, it’s all about how you deal with the challenges you face that determines your emotional wellness.

Naturally, emotional wellness is critical to our wellbeing and mental health. So…how do we become emotionally well? How do we become more aware of our emotions, accept them, and manage them effectively when sh*t hits the fan?

A big part of becoming emotionally well entails slowing down and being more mindful. Focusing on the present moment, without looking back too much into the past or the future, allows you to be more aware of your emotions. We know, easier said than done, but as they say, practice makes perfect. A great way to practice being mindful and present is to meditate. Luckily, for all you beginners out there (don’t worry, we are too), there are great apps that can get you started, like Headspace which offers amazing meditation and mindfulness exercises created by Andi Puddicombe, an ordained Buddhist monk (literally).

It’s also important to remember that awareness and acceptance don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Emotional wellness requires you to accept the emotions you’re now aware of, even if they’re negative. Once you’ve accepted it, you can adjust your attitude about it. Dani DiPirro’s Positively Present is a great example of how to look at your glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

The more aware and accepting you are of your feelings, the better equipped you’ll be to act on them, and this will translate well not only in how you treat yourself, but also how you treat others. The longest study on happiness ever (we’re talking nearly 80 years) found that the most important ingredient in the recipe for happiness is our relationships. Happiness doesn’t go away when we share it, it actually does the opposite (we got this from Sharon Salzberg’s Instagram and it cannot be more true).

Our social connections have a powerful effect on our emotional wellness. With emotional awareness and acceptance in your arsenal, you can foster healthy relationships. Strengthening your social circle (see what we did there?) is so important for emotional wellness, because as we like to say, we only get better together. Mark Groves is a specialist in healthy relationships, and his page createthelove is a great place for lessons you can apply in your life.

The path to perfection doesn’t exist, but practicing awareness, acceptance, and connectedness will get you well on your way to emotional wellness. Good is good enough, and you are good enough. Glass half-full, remember?

Jun 14

Frame of Mind - 07/14/2021

As we’re slowly but surely escaping the clutches of COVID, our mental health is more on the forefront than ever. To that effect, we will be providing weekly information about what’s happening in the mental health and emotional wellness space - news, events, entertainment, and more - so that you can be in the know.

What’s Happening This Week

In the News…

Montana To Provide Mobile Crisis Response Units - Permanently

The state of Montana began sending special crews on emergency mental health calls in November as a pilot project, and it is now officially set to become permanent in July. Montana is currently running six mobile crisis response initiatives, up from one in 2019, and four more local governments have applied for state grants to start their own teams. The initiatives in Montana are symptomatic of what’s occurring nationally, as more communities are creating units that include mental health professionals to respond to psychiatric crises instead of cops.

Researchers Developed A Brain Map That Can Predict Future Mental Health Problems

Researchers of Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD) have developed a roadmap of brain activity that can identify cognitive processing problems that can contribute to mental health problems later in life. “This study pushes us closer to the point where we can identify and ultimately prevent mental health problems later in life by identifying risk early,” said John Foxe, Ph.D., a co-author of the study. “If we can identify these risks with a simple brain scan at a young age, then that gives us a long runway to intervene and potentially change outcomes.”

Women’s Mental Health Likely More Connected to Dietary Factors Than Men’s

A recent study has found that women’s mental health likely has a higher association to dietary factors than does men’s. "Interestingly, we found that for unhealthy dietary patterns, the level of mental distress was higher in women than in men, which confirmed that women are more susceptible to unhealthy eating than men,” said Lina Begdache, assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University. Based on this study and others, diet and exercise may be the first line of defense against mental distress in mature women, she added.

In Events…

“Are We Ready for a Mental Health Crisis Post Covid-19” - June 17, 2021

Solve.Care, a global healthcare blockchain company, is hosting the roundtable discussion “Are we ready for a mental health crisis post COVID-19?” Speaking at this event, are esteemed international mental health professionals where they will share their experience to help prepare for this impending mental health crisis.

“Mental Health For Women Entrepreneurs - Join the Conversation” - June 15, 2021

Women In The Black partnered with Healthfirst to create a series designed to help eradicate stigmas associated with mental health. This week’s guest speaker is Donna Taylor, a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist and the Clinical Director of Behavioral Health Services for Healthfirst’s Health and Recovery Plan. In this role she develops and delivers clinical programs to improve access, quality and experience of care for our high-risk communities and individuals.

In Entertainment…

Bo Burnham is BACK with a new Netflix special, Inside, following a 5-year absence from the spotlight as he took time off to work on his mental health. Burnham has been open in the past about his struggles with anxiety and having panic attacks while performing on stage. He created Inside while stuck at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, perfectly capturing his experience of the pandemic, and then some.

Stay tuned for next week to get everything you need to know about what’s happening in the mental health and emotional wellness space!

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 13

“There Is No Better Exercise For Your Heart Than Reaching Down And Helping To Lift Someone Up”

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on Yohnit Spruch, Head of Emotional Support at Circles. In addition to ensuring our members receive the emotional support they need, Yohnit is also always there for the Circles Team. Not a day goes by where someone at Circles - whether it be a member or staff - isn’t supported, and that is all thanks to Yohnit. We were so excited to interview her and learn more about her and the importance of emotional support.

Yohnit, tell us about yourself.

Yohnit Spruch: I am a busy mom of five incredible children who inspire me every day through their enthusiasm for life and their resilience when times get tough, and I’ve been a social worker for 18 years working in a range of mental health areas. I strive to live my life authentically and with empathy by recognising the innate inner strengths of others and helping them reach their full potential. I have a strong sense of community, belonging, and making sure that people around me know that they matter.

Absolutely - we feel that every day when we work together. Is that why you were interested in working in the mental health space?

Yohnit Spruch: I have always had a passion for helping people and I knew from a very early age that this is where I wanted to focus my professional life. The words of Bernard Meltzer “There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up” really inspire me as a professional. When people feel that someone really cares for them and is invested in their overall health and well-being they can achieve so much. Taking the time to just listen and then help people recognise and acknowledge their strengths and resilience can be an extremely empowering experience.

Is that what attracted you to Circles?

Yohnit Spruch: The philosophy of alleviating loneliness and providing support to people in the world who for many reasons are not able to access help really appealed to me, even more so since the pandemic started. I am now in a position where I can contribute towards improved mental health on a global level and I have the immense privilege of witnessing this profound impact every single day.

We feel the same way. You mentioned alleviating loneliness - is that what makes group support so special?

Yohnit Spruch: Words feel inadequate to me to be able to express the support that can be found in a group. The shared connections and vulnerability shown in a group setting is something that can only be felt in your heart when you see group members discovering that they are not alone in their struggle and that there are others who truly understand what they are going through. The mutual benefit of being able to give help and support to others while receiving that help and support right back is the power and magic of a group.

We couldn’t agree more. Speaking of the magic of the group, what has been your most meaningful group experience so far?

Yohnit Spruch: When my group members shared how much their lives had changed since they started the group. They shared how they felt the group space was the only place where they felt safe to share their true feelings and they felt heard and understood. Our meetings together were so powerful. Everyone shared so deeply what they had learnt from one another and from the group. The members demonstrated so much courage and strength through their healing journey and it was an honor to be a part of that process.

That’s great to hear. What would you tell someone who is unsure whether to get support through Circles?

Yohnit Spruch: Taking that first step to ask for help and to share with someone that you aren’t coping can really feel overwhelming. For most people, going to a group for the first time is one of the most difficult parts because the unknown elements can feel really scary. My advice would be to take things at your own pace, start off small - take the first step to just say “I need help”. From that moment on we will be there to hold your hand to make sure you feel safe and secure. You don’t have to go through it alone!

Absolutely! What advice would you give someone who is currently dealing with a life challenge?

Yohnit Spruch: Try to break that challenge down into manageable parts. Challenges can often feel insurmountable, but when broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces it can help us take that first step towards making positive changes. Taking things one day at a time, even one moment at a time, while not shying away from help that might be offered along the way, can bring back a sense of hope that things can and will get better.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 10

Top 5 Things You Can Do For Your Mental Health Today

After what has been a wild ride of a year, with lockdowns and social distancing, the adjustment to normalcy can be quite challenging for many of us. We have become so accustomed to staying at home, not changing out of our pyjamas, and watching Netflix, that suddenly being out and about in the world again can be overwhelming.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’re feeling it too.

So we’ve been asking ourselves what we can do to feel mentally better, and here’s what we came up with:

  1. Reduce Screen Time

We were on our screens a lot before the pandemic, and that increased even more so while we were stuck at home. A staggering 76% of people have spent more time on their phones during the pandemic, and 45% have spent more time on their computers. This is problematic considering so many of us are on our phones to look at social media, which has consistently been linked to anxiety and depression.. So what can you do? Limit your screen time. Make a rule for yourself to only check your social media once a day (those TikToks can wait). Alternatively, iPhone users can use the screen time feature to manage their screen time and limit time on certain apps. There are also apps like AppDetox that will allow you to do exactly what they preach - detox from your device.

  1. Eat Well

We’re sure we speak for many when we say that during the pandemic we ordered in A LOT. Ordering in is a great way to treat yourself once in a while, but when you do it regularly it’s not the healthiest habit. As the saying goes, you are what you eat, and if you regularly eat takeout, you’ll see the effects in your mood, because your body and mind are more connected than you think! You may not know this, but you actually have a “second brain” from a connection between your brain and your gastrointestinal tract. Your GI tract houses billions of bacteria that influence the production of neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that send messages from your gut to your brain. Eating healthy foods will promote “good” bacteria, which will keep your neurotransmitter production in good shape and send your brain positive messages. Eating unhealthy food regularly is like putting a bunch of hurdles on the path, causing your brain to receive less positive messages. You can start feeling better - physically AND menatlly - by cooking more at home and using more nutritious food. If you’re in need of inspiration you can follow beetsbybrooke who fills her Instagram feed with delicious plant-based recipes.

  1. Exercise

After being stuck at home for most of the last year, it’s more important than ever to stretch your legs and be active! We know exercise sounds daunting, your mind probably pictures push-ups and weights and immediately goes “no thanks”. But you don’t have to do intense exercise to experience the physical and mental benefits of being active. Just doing a 10 minute brisk walk increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood. Instead of snoozing your alarm, go out for a walk, you’ll find you’ll be more energized than staying in bed for those extra 10 minutes. To make it even easier to exercise, you can also do workouts in the comfort of your own home. Check out shapedfit for some at-home exercise inspiration (Spoiler alert: there’s a couch workout. Literally.).

  1. Get Some Sun (But Not Too Much!)

“Here comes the sun do, do, do. Here comes the sun, And I say it’s all right.” The Beatles hit from 1969 has never been truer. It feels like years since it’s been here, and now that it is, it’s time to take the sun in. Sunlight is super beneficial for both our physical and mental health. In addition the the Vitamin D your skin absorbs, exposure to sunlight triggers the release of hormones in your brain, like serotonin. Serotonin boosts your mood and helps you feel calm and focused. Less sun means less serotonin, which can lead to depression. It’s important that you go out and spend some time in the sun, whether it’s at the beach, park, pool or anywhere you can get it (just don’t forget your sunscreen!).

  1. Get Help

There’s no denying it: this year has been rough. We may all be in different boats, but we all faced the same storm. So many of us have been having a hard time with our mental health, and there’s no shame in admitting that. No one knows ourselves better than we do, we are our own experts. If you’re not feeling okay, that’s okay, but it’s also important to recognize when you could use support. For many people it’s really relieving to talk to someone who understands what you’re going through, and a great way to do that is to join a Circle. Support has never been more accessible and affordable, and this is your chance to be surrounded by it.

So, what are you waiting for? Give these tips a try!

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 09

Facing Mental Health Challenges in the LGBTQ+ Community - Together

It’s the beginning of June, which means we’ve officially started celebrating Pride Month! Rainbow flags are flying on the streets, your favorite brands have changed their logos, and most importantly - love is in the air.

Every year it feels we have so much more to celebrate as we inch closer and closer to equality for LGBTQ+ people everywhere. More than any other time in human history, LGBTQ+ people are represented in politics, culture and society, and are openly able to express their identities.

However, despite the steps we’re taking as a society towards acceptance and inclusivity, barriers still remain that push LGBTQ+ people a step back. Stigma and prejudice towards the LGBTQ+ community is unfortunately still present, shutting the door on those who would like to come out of the closet, and causing LGBTQ+ people to experience more difficulties with their mental health.

In the United States 1 in 5 people (20%) experience a mental health issue, but that rate is more than double (44%) for the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, these trends apply to LGBTQ+ youth as well. The Trevor Project, a leading nonprofit in suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ people, found in a 2019 survey that 39% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously contemplated suicide the year before, with 71% of LGBTQ+ youth feeling sad or hopeless.

There is no single concrete answer to explain why LGBTQ+ are more likely to experience mental health challenges, but undoubtedly the stigma and discrimination they may encounter from their family, school, workplace or community plays a significant part. No one should feel hopeless, and there is no better time than Pride Month to instill hope in the LGBTQ+ community.

Pride is a great opportunity where people in the LGBTQ community can connect with allies and with each other. It’s incredibly powerful to see your identity reflected back at you in a community, and for your community to be part of the mosaic of society. It validates that LGBTQ+ belong, and emphasizes that love is truly love. As important as it is to celebrate the strength of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s equally important to empower the community to overcome their challenges.

We’re very proud of Natalie Skipworth, a queer social worker, who leads a LGBTQ+ Circle of support open to anyone who identifies (or is exploring their identity) as Transgender, Non-Binary, Gender Non-Conforming, Genderqueer, Genderfluid, Agender, Two-Spirit, Bigender, Intersex, and all gender-expansive identities. Natalie and her Circle helps them feel less alone on their journey.

This Pride, let’s take the first step towards empathy, acceptance, and inclusivity. We wear “Love is Love” on our shirts, let’s wear it in our hearts as well

Written by: The Circles Team

Mar 03

Why a Male CEO Should Celebrate Women’s Day

One of my friends is a talented CEO, with an amazing professional track record. Last year, she founded a terrific startup with a social mission. She built a team, launched an MVP, and realized great results with high engagement from users. When she was preparing for a seed round of funding, she asked a few friends, including me, for help with the pitch. While she was presenting, I realized that she was occupied with an explanation of why she could lead the company. Her explanation seemed defensive, and I was under the impression that she felt apprehensive to talk about her worthiness for the role. .

As a CEO of a startup, I interview many candidates for different roles. I meet great people with tremendous passion for leveraging technology to make the world a better place. One thing I’ve noticed is that women candidates talk about themselves differently than men, and tend to be less confident speaking about their own accomplishments – even those with impressive expertise and experience. I do my best to deal with these situations during interviews, but as a company that is committed to inclusion and with a socially responsible mission, we’ve thought a lot about what more we can do better regarding this issue.

Imposter syndrome is a known and recognized phenomenon, where someone doesn’t recognize their own personal value and thinks they’re an “imposter”. Everyone at work respects you and listens to your opinion, but internally, you feel it’s only a matter of time until they find out you’re not worthy. You think you don’t really know what to do, you feel like a fake, and if someone would ask you just the wrong question, you’d collapse and the “true” you would be revealed.

Both men and women experience imposter syndrome, but surprisingly, statistics show that 75% of professional women struggle with it. This is a huge number. It means 75% of professional women leaders in the world think less of themselves. I think this number can’t be related to “personal” situations. 75% means this is a phenomenon, that something is broken with the system and the way we do things - the way we educate, the way we manage people, and the way we communicate. So, the question is who will rise to the challenge.

As a CEO , one of my personal goals is to lead this change within our company, and with Circles we can actually make a greater impact that will reach thousands of women. Circles was created to provide support for people who are dealing with similar challenges and so far we found it to be incredibly effective. So we thought why not train more women to support other women and encourage them to feel worthy and empowered?

This year for International Women’s Day, we offer 100 women free training on how to moderate a Circle for women. We are partnering with communities like SuperSonas and companies like Radware to offer this training to their female members and employees. Each moderator will lead a group of 6-8 women, and by leveraging the group’s power, we’re sure all participants will get tools to help them feel better about themselves and recognize their powerful inner strength.

Join us as a facilitator and lead a women’s Circle in honor of International Women’s Day.

Learn more and sign up here - https://circlesup.com/mycircle/leaders/.

Written by: Irad Eichler, Circles CEO

Jan 31

Smart Tips That Will Help You Relax

Let’s start with this: stress is a perfectly normal reaction for your body. The human body is wired to react to physical and emotional challenges. So, whatever it is that you’re feeling is perfectly normal. But, we do need to make sure that our stress levels are balanced for the sake of our physical and mental well-being.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s response to a challenge or demand. We all experience stress triggered by a range of events, from small daily hassles to significant life changes like a divorce or loss of a job. The stress response includes physical components, such as an elevated heart rate and blood pressure, thoughts and personal beliefs about the stressful event, and emotions, including fear and anger. Although we often think of it as unfavorable, stress can also come from positive life changes, like getting a promotion at work or having a baby.

How can we handle stress in healthy ways?

Stress serves an essential purpose — it enables us to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. However, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to mental health difficulties or increased physical health problems. As we’re now one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like almost everyone is coping with high levels of stress, and it’s worth noting that increased stress levels can interfere with our ability to deal with physical illness, as well.

While we can’t avoid all stress, we can find ways to create healthy habits that help us relax.

  1. Eat healthy food and drink more water: Consuming a nutritious, balanced diet can combat stress. Try to reduce your caffeine intake - high levels of caffeine can increase some physical symptoms of anxiety, such as palpitations and high blood pressure. If you have any concerns about your diet, consult your doctor.

  2. Exercise regularly. In addition to having physical health benefits, exercise is a powerful stress reliever. Consider non-competitive aerobic exercise, strength training with weights, or movement activities like yoga or Tai Chi, and set reasonable goals for yourself. This isn’t a competition - it’s about you taking care of yourself. Whatever it is that you do is good enough for you.

  3. Practice relaxation techniques. Taking the time to relax every day helps manage stress and protect the body from the effects of stress. You can choose from various methods, such as deep breathing, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. Many web and smartphone apps are available to guide you through these techniques.

  4. Reduce triggers of stress. If you’re like most people, your life may be filled with too many things to do, and too little time to do them. Free up some time by practicing time-management skills like asking for help when it’s appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and reserving some time to take care of yourself.

  5. Set realistic goals and expectations. It’s ok — and healthy — to realize you can’t be 100% successful at everything, all the time. Be mindful of the things you can control, and accept the things you can’t control.

  6. Sell yourself to yourself. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.

  7. Find your circle of support. Spending time with people who are currently going through similar challenges as yours can help you immensely. Find the right circle for you and surround yourself with supportive people.

Feel like you’re ready to try some relaxing methods? Here are some that we love:

If you feel like your stress levels are harming you in any way, physically or mentally, please consult your healthcare provider.

What to do if you have trouble sleeping

Insomnia, or difficulty with sleeping, is a common symptom of stress. Please note that insomnia can also be a symptom of illness, so make sure to talk to your doctor, if needed. If you are experiencing sleep issues related to stress, here are some things you can do:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule – go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

  • Make sure your bed and surroundings are comfortable.

  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.

  • Use your bedroom for sleeping only -don’t work or watch TV in your bedroom.

  • If you feel nervous or anxious, talk to your spouse, partner, or a trusted friend or find a support group to help get your troubles off your mind.

  • Listen to relaxing music.

  • If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired -don’t stay in bed worrying about when you’re going to fall asleep.

  • Avoid caffeine.

  • Maintain a regular exercise routine, but don’t exercise within two to three hours before the time you go to bed.

Remember - we’re all experiencing some significant changes in our lives. It’s ok to feel stress and to feel overwhelmed. Find your Circles of Support, and always find the time to take care of yourself.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 31

Can Your Smartphone Increase Stress? (Yes, It Can)

Here’s the deal: the world’s current setting has made us all addicted to our phones. With COVID-19, politics, and the never-ending breaking news cycle, we are all hooked on our alerts and notifications all day long.

Experts say the barrage of text alerts and constant social media engagement on our smartphones can take a toll on our mental and emotional health. For years, but mostly since the beginning of 2020, our phones have acted as a direct conduit to anxiety, with a stream of upsetting information during very stressful times.

Spending hours and hours on your phone can lead to physical issues, such as bad eyesight, a sore neck, and tense shoulder muscles. But it can also lead to significant anxiety symptoms, such as insomnia, heart palpitations, and constant worries.

The solution? We can adopt practices in our daily routine to put our phones away and take a breather.

How to manage phone-induced stress:

  • Technology is a tool, not the destination. Use your phone as a tool to help you get things done, but not as a source of entertainment or replacement for social connections.

  • Turn off alerts and notifications. Choose three apps where getting notifications is most important for you, such as your messages or fitness app, and turn off all notifications for all the rest. Notifications are a major anxiety trigger, so it’s better to eliminate them.

  • Create a time frame for when you check and answer emails and messages. You don’t have to respond immediately to every message. With working from home, it’s even more important to set boundaries for your availability.

  • Get your news from a news outlet, not social media. Social media is full of fake news and conspiracies, which do nothing but stress you out.

  • Set a time frame for your smartphone usage in general. Try to start using it only after being awake at least one hour in the morning, and stop using it one hour before going to bed at night.

The weak division between our lives and technology

There’s no doubt that in 2020, technology became an increasingly indispensable resource. Technology has preserved our ability to work from home, and has kept us in touch with our loved ones while quarantining at home during the pandemic - a situation that’s still going on in many parts of our country and around the world.

But it’s important to remember that technology can also force us to move beyond healthy communications, and rely on screens rather than interpersonal connections. It’s important not to fall into a “rabbit hole of information” where you go almost into a time warp - where you’re reading a Wikipedia page, and then go to Facebook, and then suddenly realize you’ve lost an hour of your day. Find a method that works to take consistent breaks from your phone and computer during the day. Even while following the pandemic restrictions and guidelines - which we need to do for the sake of our own and others’ health - you can still find outdoor activities to keep your mind and body busy and fresh.

We must figure out how to restore balance to how we integrate technology into our lives because our mental health relies on finding ways for us to unwind.

If you feel like stress these days is too much for you to handle alone, join our Circles of Support to get the support you need and support others going through similar situations. Our Circles are led by professionals and are small groups, providing you with a safe place to process your emotions and current events.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 31

7 Life Hacks To Immediately Reduce Stress

Do you feel like you’ve had enough of whatever craziness is going on in the world at the moment? Has pandemic fatigue hit you hard, or is it just regular, normal burnout? Whatever the reason, high-stress levels aren’t something we want to live with for an extended period of time. We all realize there’s no such thing as a stress-free life, but there are some quick wins we can do to make us feel better.

Here are some quick hacks to practice:

Take a walk outside: The best thing you can do when you feel overwhelmed with life is to go for a walk. It will give you time to sort out what’s in your head and reach a conclusion for approaching the whole situation or just accepting reality as it is at the moment. Furthermore, physical activity causes our body to produce endorphins, also known as the feel-good hormone. Find a socially distant place and just start walking.

Meditate: Meditation is a great way to relax and it can affect you immediately. Focus on your breathing and go to your happy place. Inhale for six seconds, hold your breath for seven, and then exhale for eight seconds. Repeat this series a couple of times and it will calm you down and shift your focus away from whatever it is that bothers you. Meditation is all about practice, so go easy on yourself for the first few times. You’ll get there.

  • Play some music: Another way to mitigate stress is through music. You can listen to some classic tunes or just listen to your favorite artists. Music can be used as catharsis, and it has healing properties. Just put your headphones on and dive in. Check out our Circles playlists on Spotify - we’ve got some tunes to keep you calm.

  • Get some sleep: Sleep is necessary to recharge our mental batteries and recover our energy. Do you know how all your troubles seem more significant when you’re tired? Exactly. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, and make sure to keep your bedroom a screen-free zone.

  • Cut down on junk food and sugar-filled drinks: Foods and beverages that are highly processed with large amounts of sugar and salt can increase your physical symptoms of stress and badly affect your mood. We’re not saying cut them out of your diet entirely, but try to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your meals or a healthy protein, and make sure you drink more water during the day.

  • Practice joy over small milestones: To stay motivated, you need to have a clear overview of your progress. So, if you’re at work or have a difficult personal project, create milestones for it. Every time you complete a milestone, you can treat yourself, and when you know exactly where you are with your tasks, you’ll feel more confident and calm. Remember - focus on small achievements. Even one mission at a time is more than enough. You’ve got this!

  • Treat yourself: Listen, you’re doing the best you can under some crazy circumstances. Remember to treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Make sure to schedule some me-time into your busy day. It is essential to recharge.

If you feel like stress these days is too much for you to handle alone, join our Circles of Support to get the support you need and to support others going through a similar situation. Our Circles are all led by professionals and are small groups, providing you with a safe place to process your emotions and current events.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 21

5 Things Every Parent of a Child with Special Needs Should Hear

You are not alone. There may not be someone else dealing with the exact same constellation of symptoms as your child, but there are people with similar challenges. Find those people and join a circle of support. Surrounding yourself with support can help you get through the challenges - big and small, and just knowing that someone is always there to hear you out can make you feel like you’re never alone.

Self-care isn’t a privilege. It’s a must. It’s easy to put yourself in last place while taking care of others 24/7. However, taking care of yourself isn’t a privilege, and it does not have to come at the expense of taking care of your family. Taking care of yourself is a must for you to feel recharged and ready to go on with your busy days. Ask friends or family to bring a meal by now and then, schedule a pedicure for yourself or a date night, or whatever you enjoy doing. Whatever makes you feel special and taken care of - take the time to enjoy it. You are worth it.

**Make time to enjoy your kids. ** The life of a parent of a special needs kid can be hectic and often overscheduled. It’s essential to take some time just to enjoy your family and your children. Read to them, snuggle with them, engage with them about what’s important in their world. It’s ok to take some time off from appointments and just be a family.

Make time for your relationships. A relationship is hard work, period. Parenting is hard work, period. Parenting a child with special needs is challenging work, period! For those of you who are married or in a relationship, make time for your relationship away from your children. Schedule a date night, spend an hour with your significant other in the middle of the day, choose an activity that’s only for the two of you. Taking the time to be a couple is essential and can bring you back some lost energy.

Remember - you’re doing your best, and you are the best parent your child could have wished for. Our Circles of Support are always here for you.

At Circles, we offer Circles of Support programs for mothers. Join our Circles and be surrounded by support, starting now.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 19

The Fourth Trimester - and how it can affect you

The fourth trimester is the 12 weeks immediately after you’ve had your baby. Not everyone has heard of this term, but every mother and their newborn baby will go through it. It is a time of significant physical and emotional change, as your baby adjusts to the outside world and you adjust to your new life as a mom.

Named by pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp in 2002, the term ‘fourth trimester’ suggests that you should try to recreate the kind of environment your baby had in the womb.

Here are some ideas for how to do that while maintaining your mental health during this sensitive and emotional time:

Swaddling and swaying

Babies spend nine months in a confined and continuously moving environment. There are several ways you can re-create the sense of safety and security your baby felt before they were born. By swaddling your baby when you put them down to sleep, they will feel secure, and you might find they wake less frequently and sleep longer. ‘Wearing your baby’ in a sling across your chest can also feel familiar to them. But it’s essential to make sure you use the sling correctly, since they can cause injury if not correctly fitted. Movement is a great way to calm your baby. Gently swaying or rocking from side to side, walking while carrying them, or even taking a quick car trip can settle your baby.

Skin to skin contact

Cuddling your newborn on bare skin is a great comfort to them. Your smell and the sound of your heartbeat is warm and familiar. This is also something your partner can do.

Bath time

Having a warm bath is often a relaxing and comforting experience for newborns. Floating in the water is like being in the womb. It’s also an excellent way for you to bond, talk, and sing to your baby.

What does the fourth trimester mean for you?

The fourth trimester is a time of significant change. When the baby arrives, the focus shifts to them, and quite often. As a result, many mothers can overlook their health and well-being.

Newborns take up lots of time. It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed in the first few weeks from the demands of feeding, sleeping (or lack of), crying, and looking after a baby. Combined with the physical recovery after giving birth and hormonal changes, it’s no wonder many mothers feel exhausted!

Surround yourself with support

You shouldn’t feel alone during this time. As many new mothers have the support of their partner, and sometimes the help of close friends and family, it’s crucial to make sure that your mental wellbeing is also taken care of, along with your other needs.

At Circles, we have Circles of Support programs for new mothers, where you’ll be surrounded by women who are going through a similar challenges to yours.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but strength.

A few family and friends can help by:

  • Bringing meals
  • Helping with household chores
  • Looking after your other children (if this isn’t your first child)
  • Looking after the baby while you rest

Accept help, and don’t be afraid to ask. Find your circle of support and join us.

Eat good, nutritious food.

You will need lots of energy in the first few months, so eating various healthy foods will help give you the boost you need. Some light exercise will also help with your recovery and energy levels. Make sure to give your body time to heal and take it at your own pace.

Sleep when you can

It might sound obvious, but you need to sleep. It’s going to take a while for your baby to settle into a routine, and even then, they will have you up at all hours of the night. If you can, try and sleep when your baby is sleeping or ask your partner or a family member to look after your baby while you get some rest.

Being a new mom - for the first or fifth time - is always exciting, as well as overwhelming. You are not alone, wherever you are. Find your circle of support.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 17

Loneliness During The Corona Pandemic

One of the feelings many people are experiencing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is loneliness. Our usual ways of seeing family, friends, or just familiar faces have been put on pause, in our combined efforts to stay safe and save lives. Add to that the feeling of loneliness that usually comes when facing life challenges, and it’s no wonder that many Circles members report feeling more lonely than ever.

Though hope is in sight with the coronavirus vaccine, it will probably be months before we see the end of restrictions and social distancing and the return to some sort of normalcy.

So, what can we do when we’re feeling lonely?

  • Find your circle of support and share your feelings. It can be a friend, family member, or online support group, but make sure to talk about your feelings.
  • Find a hobby that will help you connect with others, like an online exercise class or book club.
  • Stay active outside your home. Going for walks in your neighborhood while maintaining safety procedures isn’t complicated and will make you feel better.

This is a challenging and sometimes lonely time, but it will pass. There will be lots of hugs, lunch dates with your loved ones, parties, and celebrations in the future. For now, let’s be as kind as possible to ourselves and others.

*Helping others who might be experiencing loneliness *

One idea is to get in touch with someone who lives alone or may not have relatives or close connections checking in on them. A message or a phone call could make a big difference to someone who hasn’t heard from anyone in a while. Another thing you can do is suggest that they take part in an online support program. Circles has a variety of daily support programs that people can join at any time. Spending time with like-minded people can help alleviate the feeling of loneliness.

If it’s a neighbor, you could even share something you’ve baked with them (at a safe distance!). If you know someone who struggles with technology, now could be an excellent time to talk them through setting up Skype or Zoom at home. This could make a huge difference in their social interactions.

*How does loneliness affect our mental health? *

Many of us feel lonely from time to time, and these short-term feelings shouldn’t harm our mental health. However, the longer the pandemic goes on, the more these feelings can become long-term.

Long-term loneliness is associated with an increased risk of specific mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and increased stress. The impact of long-term loneliness on mental health can be tough to manage. That means we need to adapt to how we connect with people and find new ways to stay in touch during this period. Now more than ever, it’s time to keep up those strong social networks that act as a buffer against poor mental health.

Throughout 2020 and now into 2021, we’ve had to rely on technology for a great deal of our communication. While it has been a valuable tool, many are experiencing ‘Zoom fatigue.’ However, staying connected to friends and family is vital to protect our mental health. Attending an online support program can also provide tools to deal with this Zoom and pandemic fatigue.

If you miss having hobbies or social outlets, joining an online book club or online language exchange is another great way to connect. Some sports broadcasters even allow fans to select matches to watch in an online video room with friends. With a little research, you can find something that’s right for you.

*Remember - it’s not just you *

No one is exempt from feeling lonely at times. At some point or another during the coronavirus pandemic, all of us will feel cut off from our loved ones. However, some of us will have greater access to technology than others or to more social connections.

By caring for each other, checking in on more isolated people, and joining a circle of support, we can help reduce the loneliness epidemic, while feeling better ourselves.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 14

7 Useful tips to do while coping with the loss of your pet

Losing a pet is one of the hardest things you may have to go through. Most of us have a strong bond with our pets, and when one passes away, it can feel like we’ve lost a family member. Research has shown that losing a pet is just as hard as losing a member of the family.

While it may seem there’s no way out of the despair and depression, there are some things you can do to get on the path of healing and to get back to being fully present in your day-to-day life. If you’ve experienced the loss of a beloved pet, here are seven tips to help you recover and heal.

Allow Yourself to Grieve

It may seem like an option to try to resist or ignore your grief or allow yourself to just completely shut down emotionally. However, repressing and ignoring the event could lead to even more painful feelings in the future.

It’s best to allow yourself to go through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. Despite what other people may tell you, feeling shocked and sad is perfectly acceptable and normal after losing a pet. In Circles’ Grief over Pet groups, you can find people who are going through the same pain as you.

Set Up a Memorial

Just like a family member, a pet deserves to be memorialized and honored. Setting up a memorial for your pet can be a great way to remember the love they shared with you during their life and help bring some closure to their passing.

Give Yourself Time to Heal

It’s essential to understand that healing and recovery is an individual process. There is not a specific amount of time you need to get over a loss.

Understand that grieving should not be rushed, and don’t get frustrated with yourself if you’re still mourning weeks or even months after the event. Grieving takes time.

Talk to Someone About It

Don’t try to wrestle with grief and negative emotions alone.

One of the best ways to heal after losing a pet is to speak to others about it. When you’re part of our Circles of support, you’re surrounded by people going through a similar situation as you are, and they will always be there for you.

People in your support Circles can help you process your feelings and slowly go through the stages of grief on your way to healing.

Don’t Forget Your Other Pets

Just because you lost one pet, doesn’t mean you should neglect or forget about your others.

Many people who own multiple pets realize that the other pets are emotionally affected after one passes away. Not only should you make sure to keep up with their usual care routine, but consider spending extra time with them. You will all benefit and help each other cope with the loss.

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Professional Help

Everyone has their own timetable for dealing with grief, but if you feel that it’s significantly interfering with your ability to function, consider seeing a professional therapist or joining a support group.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking support after losing your beloved pet. Our Circles of support are all led by professional therapists, who can provide you with the right tools to feel better.

Adopt a Pet in Need (When you’re Ready)

Your pet was one-of-a-kind and can never be replaced. However, just because the loss was painful doesn’t mean you should never adopt another pet again.

In fact, many people who have lost a pet say that one of the best ways to help move forward was to honor their lost pet’s memory by adopting a new pet in need.

When you feel that you’re ready for it, adopting another pet from a shelter may be a winning situation for all.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 12

How to Deal with Political Anxiety

Among the many difficulties this past year has brought with it, an uncertain political climate is also something that’s impacted our lives. With the pandemic, the social movements over the summer, the election, and recent events in the capital, many Americans report high levels of anxiety connected to the social and political climate in the country. What’s the good news? Our team of experts at Circles have some easy tips to deal with the stress and anxiety you may be experiencing right now:

  1. Set boundaries Staying connected and informed can reduce anxiety and fear of the unknown, but there’s such a thing as too much news. Set some boundaries when it comes to your daily news intake. Find a solution that will keep you informed, but not too overwhelmed and consumed by the never-ending news cycle. Decide on the times and channels where you want to consume your news, and stick to it. This way, you’ll be in the know, but won’t be greatly affected by the repeating news.

  2. Take a social media break Social media is a major time-consuming activity and source, though not necessarily the most trustworthy source for breaking, current events. Take a break from social media and from looking at your phone. If something major happens, you will know. Fill your spare time with relaxing and enjoyable activities, such as reading, working out, watching a fun TV show, or speaking with a friend on the phone.

  3. Change what’s changeable and control what’s controllable — and understand the difference. Understanding what we can control and what we can change is a powerful component in controlling our own stress levels. Accepting the notion that we can only control ourselves and change things for us is a powerful reminder not to get caught up in trying to change things that are beyond our control.

Feeling like you can use some support? Join our Circles!

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 06

Coping with the Loss of Loved Ones

A loss, in any situation, is a difficult emotion to understand and process. Loss can take on a whole new level of pain when associated with our loved ones, including our partner, child, parents, and siblings. One might experience a deep sense of sorrow, emptiness, depression, disbelief, and confusion while grieving their loved ones. Grief is a journey to restore hope and cope with your pains.

Our human nature calls us to gather and attach for survival. We’ve long evolved to connect ourselves more deeply to our social surroundings rather than survive alone. Perhaps, the severe pain of grief is explained by the significant loss of our existential need for one another.

Grief is a very normal response to a loss. There is no correct timeline or structure for it. It is an individual experience in which you learn to cope and find new meaning in the loss and life after that. The experiences, circumstances, situations, and support systems can impact your loved ones’ grieving process.

If you have a hard time carrying out your daily activities due to overwhelming feelings of sadness and sorrow, consider these tips to help you cope with your day.

Recognize when you are judging yourself There are so many emotions you will be experiencing each day. One thing to always remember is: It is not your fault. If you find yourself stating, ‘If only I had…’, you are entering into a rabbit- hole spiral of guilt and shame. Recognizing that this is happening in the first step towards avoiding the sense of responsibility and self-blame. Death comes in many different ways, so allow yourself to mourn the loss, be angry, and cry it out, but catch your thoughts when you begin to judge yourself.

Maintain your daily routine It’s never easy to try to go on with your life in the absence of your loved one. However, it is essential to find your sense of control and grounding through your daily routines. Try your best to wake up when you used to, maintain your daily tasks, and work towards filling those gaps routinely through self-care. Take things one thing at a time and one day at a time.

Celebrating the life of your loved ones You might never feel like you can ‘move on’ with your life as you used to, but you can learn to live with the absence. Find ways to celebrate your loved one. Their bodies have left, but their rituals, love, and presence in your life can still be remembered, enjoyed, and shared. Talk about their favorite foods, jokes, bad habits, and ways they were part of your life with the people around you. Their legacy can still go on through your life.

Take a break and ask for help. It’s okay to take a break from all the grief and sadness. It’s a very overwhelming time for you to juggle all the roles you must take on. Try to engage in small activities you used to enjoy, such as cooking, crafting, gardening, or biking. Whatever it is, figure out who can help you to unload and participate in these activities. Different people can help in different ways. If someone offers to bring you food, allow them to, and if you need emotional support, let them know.

At Circles, we understand that the depth of your pain can only be understood by those who have experienced it. You are not alone.

Join us today to restore hope in your life with a supportive community.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 04

Is Group Therapy as Effective as Individual Therapy?

You have decided it is time to get support for the challenges you are facing. You have already done the most challenging part by recognizing that you no longer want to face what is challenging you alone. The decision to start therapy can be scary. It can be even more terrifying when you are unsure of what to expect or feel overwhelmed by all the different therapy types out there.

Perhaps, you are new to therapy. Sometimes, it can be challenging to know what type of treatment will work best for you and the issues you are facing. A quick Internet search will show seemingly unlimited options. It can be not easy, not to mention overwhelming, to decide on the right approach for you. You may even be wondering, are my challenges better suited for individual or group therapy? Research shows that both modes of therapy are equally effective. There are, however, significant differences in the focus of these therapies and how they can best help you best navigate your unique life challenges.

It is also essential to recognize that individual therapy and group therapy are not mutually exclusive. It is often a common practice that both therapy modes go hand in hand and can be used as a “two-fold” approach. So just what are the benefits of group therapy?

What is Group Therapy?

First, what exactly is group therapy? In its simplest definition, group therapy gathers like-minded people who meet regularly to offer mutual support and discuss ways they are coping with life challenges. Groups may meet for several weeks, months, or even stay connected for years. Groups may be open - new members are welcome to join at any time or closed, where all members begin at the same time. Groups can also be peer-led or be led by a therapist.

What Will I Gain From Joining a Support Group?

Whatever form of therapy you choose, you are likely to receive a wide range of benefits. Professionally facilitated online support groups are unique in that they rely on the support of the group and the therapists’ input. Here are five additional services associated with joining professionally facilitated support groups.

Group Therapy is Cost-Effective:

Individual therapy can be expensive, and group therapy can be offered at just a fraction of the cost. Individual sessions can cost up to 200.00 per hour, whereas group therapy can cost as little as $15 per hour.

Groups Therapy Provides the Power of Universality:

It is common when you are suffering from feeling alone with your feelings. But when you join a support group, it can be tremendously comforting and a huge relief to learn that you are not the only one facing this problem or the only one who feels a certain way about an issue. At Circles, we have learned the more homogenous the group, the easier it is for members to connect and find hope and comfort together.

Group Therapy Allows You to See Yourself in Others:

Discussing your issues in a group setting can reveal insights about yourself that, in the past, you may have been too close to see. Discussion topics are organically generated by the group allowing for varying perspectives to common problems. Group therapy also allows you to model successful behaviors while reflecting on your own.

Group Therapy Allows You to Tap into a Social Network and Beat Loneliness:

Whether you have recently lost a loved one, are facing a divorce, a cancer diagnosis, or any other life challenge, you may be facing newfound loneliness. Becoming a member of a support group will help you gain a sense of belonging and acceptance. Friendships also develop and extend outside of the formal group meetings, many continuing for years to come.

Group Therapy is More Than Peer Support:

Therapists who lead professionally facilitated group sessions can help group members navigate issues with specialized expertise. Whereas group members and peers are valuable support, professionally facilitated groups offer benefits beyond forums or informal self-help groups.

Group therapy can be a helpful resource no matter the challenges you are facing. The good news is the different types of support groups available are plenty. So, whatever challenges you are facing, there is likely a support group waiting for a valued member, just like you.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 03

The Importance of Self Care While Grieving the Loss of A Parent

Nothing can truly prepare you for the loss of a parent.

No matter your age or if the death was sudden or expected, the pain felt from losing a parent is like no other. The depth of connection to your parents can be one of your profound relationships. You have shared so many memories, and your relationship likely is one of your longest. Your parents have seen you reach your most important milestones. They have laughed with you, cheered you on, and cried with you. Sometimes, the relationship can be complicated, but you will never have another mother and father, no matter what your relationship was like. The gaping hole left by a parent’s death is one that can never be filled.

Losing a parent is the most common form of grief and likely something we will all face at some point in our lives. As we enter adulthood, we expect it as a standard life passage. However, when a parent dies, our culture rushes us to accept what has happened quickly. We are told to bury the pain and return to life without missing a beat.

According to Elisabeth Kubler Ross, when a loved one dies, a person goes through five states of emotions during the grieving process. These emotions are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. She believes that skipping any of these steps can lengthen the grieving process. Not taking the proper time to grieve can cause more harm than good.

Taking the time to nurture yourself when grieving is an essential step toward healing. For many who have lost a parent, you may have begun the grieving process long before death arrives. Perhaps, your parent had cancer or another terminal illness. The thing about grief is it can start as soon as you become aware that death is possible. This type of grief is called anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief carries many of the same symptoms as regular grief. These symptoms can include depression, anxiety, sadness, anger, and exhaustion.

When grieving, neglecting your emotional and physical needs can happen regularly, especially when you are exhausted and feel guilty for prioritizing yourself. There are, however, many ways to take care of yourself when grieving. Here are some ideas that will help you take care of yourself while grieving a parent’s loss.

**Eat Well, Sleep Well and Move Your Body: ** Grief can affect your body, and now more than ever, it is vital to prioritize your physical health. Remember, a healthy body creates a healthy mind. You may have little energy while you are grieving to prioritize your physical health. But taking small steps each day to take care of yourself can help ease your grief in the long run. If you are having trouble planning healthy meals, ask a friend or family member to help with shopping or meal planning. Sometimes it can be challenging to ask for help. But asking a friend to set up a meal-train or shop for you can remove the burden of daily meal planning while you take the time to heal. Your body and mind need to rest to recover. Make sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Be mindful of your caffeine and alcohol intake. Both can be sleep disrupters. Take a nap or rest during the day if you need it. Lastly, remember to move your body. Go for a walk, do some yoga. Anything that will get you moving. Exercise produces endorphins, which are the body’s natural mood lifter.

**Be Kind To Yourself and permit Yourself to Grieve: ** Remember to take time to check in with yourself. Be patient with yourself and your pain. Honor your feelings and connect with your emotions. If your relationship with your mom or dad was complicated, give yourself the gift of forgiveness. Your grief is unique to you. Try not to compare your grief to anyone else’s grief or their expectations of what you should be feeling or doing. Allow yourself to be less productive during this time. Allow yourself to be angry. Allow yourself to cry. If you laugh and find joy in a moment, that is okay too. You will have good moments and difficult ones as you move through your grief. Remember to be present and take the time to listen to your heart and what it is telling you that you need.

**Connect With Fellow Grievers: ** Connect with those that also had a special connection to your loved one. Share stories, photos, and memories. Speaking of the deceased and remembering them can help with your healing. If you are not finding the support you need in your family and friends’ circle, connect with other grievers. For many, grief support groups are one of the best resources out there. Support groups will help you feel less alone and connect you with others facing similar emotions and challenges.

At Circles, we have Circles of Support open to people going through the loss of a parent. You’ll be surrounded by people going through similar challenges and by a professional therapist who will guide you through tools and methods while you navigate your life in the light of your loss. Join us and be surrounded by support.

Remember, the loss of a parent is one of life’s most stressful events. Practice compassion for yourself by taking the time you need to prioritize your needs. Be gentle with yourself while grieving. Taking care of yourself is essential and a necessity during this most difficult time.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 02

How to determine when it's a good time for you to join a support group?

Have you been told that you should join a support group by your doctor or your family members? Are you trying to figure out when you should join a support group? These are signs that it may be time to start looking for a support group today.

You are isolating yourself One of the first experiences for many people that are struggling in isolation. You may be spending more time in your room, avoiding your friends, and creating excuses for family gatherings. This can become an easy pattern for avoiding your negative emotions and people trying to assist you. At a certain point, you might even find yourself feeling comfortable with being alone.

Research has found isolation to have adverse health effects, including insomnia, memory issues, impairments in decision making, cardiovascular health issues, and a decline in the immune system(1). If you find yourself feeling more lonely and isolated, it’s time to find you the support that you need today.

No one seems to understand what you are going through There is a wide range of responses to your hardships and difficulties from family members and friends. Some reactions are helpful, and others might not be as supportive. You might find yourself feeling tired of explaining your situation or your emotions again and again. If you are struggling to find a sense of understanding from others and feeling alone through your process, it’s a sign that you need a different type of support.

Your emotional journey is unique to your situation, and it may seem that the only people that can thoroughly understand are those struggling with the same difficulties. If you are starting to feel your support system’s limitations, there is a community for you. Support groups are a space where you will share a common ground with others.

You need new ways of coping with your situation One of the commonly shared emotions while going through tough times is being out of control. You might find yourself spinning out of control with your emotions as you feel a sense of loss of control over your situation. When this happens, it’s normal to attempt to regain control through different coping mechanisms. Some coping strategies you are using might be helpful and healthy, while other methods might be causing more problems in your life and current situation.

It is essential for you to find a healthy way to cope with your unique situation. It can help you discuss these coping skills with others that are also in the same situation as you are. Don’t be afraid to seek help and find new ways to deal with your situation before things spin out of control.

Here are the top reasons people find it helpful to join a support group:

You are looking for an understanding of your situation: You have questions about yourself, your situation, and the future. If the why’s and how’s of your difficulties are ruminating at night and interrupting your daily activities, it’s time to understand what you are going through. If you are unsure where to ask specific questions about your situation, you will find support groups to be a safe place to find the answers. Support groups are a place where you will gain in-depth knowledge about your emotional process, practical tips for coping, and resources for your situation. The group facilitators are equipped to guide you through your emotional journey, and other group members are present to share their knowledge of the journey.

You want accountability for change: You want improvements in your life and have intentions to feel different; however, if your situation has taken over and you are finding yourself on the same downward spiral, you might need a gentle reminder to move forward towards change. You will find a group of people who desire you to feel better and need your support for their change. Checking in each week and discussing the topics related to the shared emotions can be an effective way to find accountability. Find a support group today to bring about the change that you are looking for.

Circles is a great place to start your journey of healing with others that understand your struggles. With the option to stay completely anonymous and access the support from the comfort of your place, you don’t ever have to feel alone again.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 01

Empathy vs Sympathy

The term empathy and sympathy are used interchangeably in our culture today.

According to the American dictionary, both words have roots in the Greek term “páthos,” meaning “suffering.” Empathy is commonly confused with sympathy, but there is an essential distinction between the two words.

Sympathy is a word that describes a feeling of pity and sorrow for another person’s suffering and pain. Sympathy is when you feel bad for the person from afar. It indicates a caring emotion of your acknowledgment of the other person’s pain.

Empathy is a word that was developed to describe a shared emotional experience with another person. Empathy takes an imaginative part of you to place yourself in the shoes of another and experience the suffering expressed by the other person.

To share another person’s emotional experience takes a lot more work than portraying sympathy, where the other’s emotions stay separate from your own.

Both sympathy and empathy displays care for the other’s suffering. The significant difference between the two is that empathy requires courage for you to access your pain and share it with the other person’s suffering.

Social worker and researcher Brené Brown distinguish the two as the following.

“Empathy fuels connection, and sympathy drives disconnection.”

It takes vulnerability to express pain to others. You can carry the expressed suffering and decide to either take part in the painful experience by accessing your despair or to stand apart from the pain. Empathy is a choice that you make when you decide to take part in the suffering.

Often, when we hear about another person’s suffering, we are looking to fix the issue at hand and lift their pain away. This is a way of trying to escape our own painful experiences and feelings of helplessness. What people are looking for is to know that they are not alone. They are looking for a connection.

Empathy is the connection that suffering individuals are searching for. Many times, they received sympathy from their supportive members of the community. This will result in the person feeling more alone, and it validates that no one understands.

We encounter suffering individuals every day to find a space where they can be accepted and understood. At Circles, we know that this is a cry for a genuine connection. This connection starts when you can freely share your pain with others accessing their suffering stories. We are ready to meet you wherever you may be in your journey of healing.

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 27

The Pandemic Isn’t Over: How to Handle COVID-19 Fatigue

Are you feeling anxious and exhausted? Well, you are not alone. Coronavirus cases are increasing across the country. It is normal to feel worried, anxious and exhausted during this challenging time. New data shows that Americans are suffering from unprecedented levels of mental stress. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently shared that most American adults believe that the pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health.

It would appear that we are still in the depths of this very challenging marathon. Now more than ever, it is important to check-in with ourselves and our emotional needs. We can do the best thing to pace ourselves as we enter this next stretch of the pandemic. As the pandemic continues, here are some tips to check in with yourself and nurture your mental health.

Do Things That Make You Happy: It may seem like the world has shut down, and yes, many things have, but there is still a lot of joy to be found. Remember to find the time EVERY day to do something that makes you happy.

Engage in Physical Activity Every Day: Research shows that exercise has an immediate and positive effect on our moods. If you are a seasoned athlete, set a goal and GO FOR IT. If you are not, it doesn’t matter. There are so many ways to get started. Even a little bit of physical activity goes a long way – a 30-minute walk or stretching each day will quickly lift your mood.

Talk to Someone: It can be difficult to handle stress alone, and we shouldn’t have to. Stay connected to family and friends, and remember to offer your support too. If you are having trouble managing stress or staying connected, consider joining an emotional support group for advice and connection.

At Circles, we have special programs that will help you learn tools to manage your stress levels better and navigate this weird world we are now living in a while, finding your balance and peace of mind. Join and be surrounded by support from people like you.

Stay Informed, but Limit Exposure to Social Media: It is essential to stay informed with accurate information from trusted sources. Remember, your risk is unique to you and your family. Making choices that are best for your situation might look different than those of a loved one. That is okay. Understanding the risk to yourself and the people you care about can make daily decisions less stressful. Try to limit exposure to media, especially when children are present, and self-monitor your time on social media if that impacts your level of stress.

Stress is inevitable. It affects everyone, especially during these unprecedented and challenging times. But stress does not have to lead to stress-related disease or adverse health consequences. Remember to check in with yourself and your loved ones daily. Remember there are many tools and resources out there to help keep your stress in

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 23

Five Tips To Mindfully Calm Your Anxiety

Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn said that we should “Smile, breathe, and walk slow when feeling anxious.” Much truth is held in these simple actions. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try, controlling anxiety is more manageable said than done. If getting rid of stress appears so easy on the surface, why is it that 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety each year?

What is Anxiety? Anxiety is feelings of worry and stress that won’t go away. It can show up as intense nervousness and fear. Anxiety is sneaky and can manifest itself physically, causing increased heart rate, sweating, muscle tension, or nausea. It manipulates and lies to us. It causes self-doubt, worries, what-ifs, and worse case scenarios.

If we aren’t careful, anxiety can make our thoughts spin out of control. The good news is that by adding little bursts of mindfulness throughout our day, we can gain the power we need to reduce feelings of anxiety and calm our worries.

How to Be Mindful When Anxious:

Whether your anxiety is mild or intense, felt occasionally, or felt every day – these five proven tips can calm your anxiety in no time. The good news is that you will have the ability to outsmart your anxiety and worries everything single time with a little practice.

Let it Go: There is so much in life that we can’t control. We can’t control these things to disrupt our calm and peace of mind if we let them. The only thing that we really can control is how we react to uncertainty and life’s challenges. One of life’s best lessons is letting go of the need to control the things we have no control over.

**Breathe in and Out: ** Breathing, it’s the simplest thing we can do, and it works almost instantly in calming our nerves and anxiety. No special skills are required. We can do it anywhere, at any time. It is that simple. Take a deep breath. And repeat. Again, and again and again.

Interrupt Your Anxiety: Anxiety moves out of my way. There is no place for you here. Interrupting your anxiety with an activity you enjoy is a sure way to calm your worries. Find what works for you and change it up. Reading a good book or going for a walk are excellent ways to find a distraction. Connecting with a friend and sharing in positive conversation can take your mind off your troubles in no time.

Soothe Your Soul With Sound: Take the time to make a playlist of the sounds most peaceful to you. Is it a specific song or artist? The sound of water flowing or birds chirping? Music or sound has the power to lift our moods almost immediately. Anxiety and negative emotions can be difficult to sustain when surrounded by the soothing sounds we love.

At Circles, our Circles of Support will help you find balance in your life challenges by surrounding you with like-minded people and professional therapist in small, virtual groups. Join our Circles to be surrounded by support.

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 22

The Holiday Circles Miracle

We are very moved.

We’re moved by the tremendous response we’ve gotten for our Holiday Circles program.

And we’re moved by the courage shown by so many reaching out for help during this holiday season. We recognize and appreciate their motivation to learn new tools to cope with grief and their openness to connecting with others in a similar situation.

We created Holiday Circles precisely for this reason – to make sure no one feels alone with their grief during the holidays. Especially this year, which has been such a difficult year for us all. We know this can be a hard couple of weeks. And while everyone else is getting ready to take off, we realized this is precisely the time we need to be there for others. That’s why we created the ‘Grief Over the Holidays’ workshops, available for free this week for anyone who feels like they could use a bit of support to get through the holidays.

We know how it can feel when you’re surrounded by holiday cheer and you’re missing that person who’s no longer here. We know because we’ve been there. Thousands of people have responded to our Holiday Circles program and signed up to join the workshops. The first day of the workshop has been a humbling experience for us. People from all walks of life, from across the country. It’s amazing and humbling to see so many dealing with the challenge of coping with grief over the holidays - people who lost a loved one to COVID, people who lost someone close to them several years ago, people working out how to get through the holidays without their spouse, adult children who miss their parents, and parents who are going through the holidays without their child. While everyone’s loss is different and everyone’s grief is intensely personal, there is a common experience and recognition we can share with others. That is the power of the group.

And people are realizing it. Comments we’ve received from participants in the* Holiday Circles* so far include:

“Thank you so much. The meeting was such a comfort. I really appreciate you providing that for us!”

“You are my Christmas gift. I’m so blessed to have this group!”

“You are making a difference in my life for the better.”

It’s having an impact not only on participants, but also on the group leaders. As one therapist who led a Holiday Circle told us, “It was such a humbling experience. I’m blessed to be doing it.”

This year, when so many of our social interactions have moved online, we are using technology for good. It can be isolating to be on your own with your grief during the holidays, and Holiday Circles allows us to connect with others, from coast to coast, for mutual relief and support. Others who we may never have had the chance to connect with through our usual social circles. Others who know what we’re going through.

We are touched and humbled.

Thank you to all participants who have opened up their hearts and shared their experiences with the Holiday Circles. We wish you love and strength during the holidays.

We’re here for you,

Irad,

Circles CEO

Written by: Irad Eichler, Circles CEO

Dec 17

Five Tips for Facilitating an Online Support Group

Facilitating an online support group can be very different than facilitating an in-person support group. There can be many additional barriers and challenges. Still, at the same time, online support groups can act as spaces where people find safety, solace, and connection, which is essential, especially at a challenging time like the present. As a group facilitator, you play a fundamental role in promoting safe spaces for healing to take place, and the following helpful tips can support you along the way.

Here are five tips from Circles group facilitators team:

1. Acknowledging the strength involved in seeking support: For many individuals deciding to seek support of any kind can be a very brave and courageous action to take. That can be due to a variety of reasons. There is so much power in acknowledging this and sharing with group members that, as a facilitator, you are glad they could find the group and reach out for support. This can help welcome members into the group, make them feel more comfortable, and even reaffirm their decision to seek support in a safe place filled with a caring community.

2. Setting rules for creating safety within the group: Group rules are a vital component of any support group. In addition to going over the group rules, it is essential to ask members if they have any questions about the rules. In some support groups, facilitators welcome group members to suggest or share any other rules they believe are essential for enhancing their safety. In online support groups, it is vital to share the group rules in the group area to go through them at their own pace or refer to them if they need to throughout the meeting.

3. Sharing the structure of the group meetings: Considering that for some group members, it may be their first time attending a support group, it may be helpful for you as the group facilitator to briefly share some information about the structure of the group meeting at the start. This can also reduce any apprehension or fears members have about what to expect from the group, so they feel at more ease.

4. Participant visibility for monitoring safety and creating safe space: With online support groups, it can be more challenging to monitor safety within the group. You cannot observe body language and expression in the same way as in-person groups. That is why it is a group rule in Circles to have the camera turned on. This not only allows you as facilitators to assess for any risk and monitor the safety of members throughout the meeting, but it also helps to enhance safety for all members within the group. To reduce any reluctance surrounding this, explain that when all members are visible on the screen, it can show that members are being attentive and are present for one another. This will affirm the idea that support groups are a place to give and receive support in a safe and non-judgemental space.

5. Sharing resources for psychoeducation or additional support Lastly, it can help share some type of resource with the group members at the end of the meeting. You can let members know that it is up to them to decide if they would like to access or utilize the resource because sometimes the group process itself can feel overwhelming or can provide enough catharsis. Be mindful about how many resources you decide to share and the type of resource, considering that the group member may be alone when accessing the resource’s content. It may evoke a range of thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Every support group is unique in its way, and all group facilitators have their styles. Please consider which of these tips could enhance the quality and level of support you can provide within your groups.

The work you all do is significant and can make a massive difference to the lives of many. As you do this work, remember to take some time to practice self-compassion and self-care throughout this particular season in all of our lives.

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 09

Holiday Circles of Support

The holidays can be wonderful. They can also be very, very hard.

Especially if you’ve lost someone close to you.

I know. My mother died six years ago. And ever since then, the holidays have been hard. I could be sitting around a holiday table, filled with good friends and family, with great food and drinks, and it can feel like something is missing. Someone is missing. Surrounded by my closest friends and family, I can feel alone. Alone in my thoughts, my grief, and missing my mom.

It doesn’t matter how long ago you may have lost someone - during the holidays, it can be even more challenging.

One of the reasons we started Circles was to make sure people do not feel alone when going through a difficult time. We believe in the power of community, of human connections, and the value of professional guidance to help people feel better.

So, this holiday season, we’re doing something new.

Circles is opening our virtual doors to make sure everyone’s surrounded by support during the holidays. We’re running special workshops for people dealing with grief over three days in December. For free.

Professional therapists will lead the workshops, for small groups of people who are all dealing with grief. Participants will have the opportunity to share their feelings, gain mutual support and relief, and learn tools for coping with grief during the holidays.

This year in particular, as so many of our interactions have moved online, we can go through the holiday season pretending as if everything is ok. But that could make it even harder. Instead, we invite you to use the virtual world as a tool to find support and ease your pain.

Because we know how it feels. Especially during the holidays.

And even more, during the holidays this year.

If you feel like you could use some support this year, please join one of the Holiday Circles.

We’re here for you.

Irad, Circles CEO

Written by: Irad Eichler, Circles CEO

Dec 07

Experiencing PTSD and Complicated Grief After Traumatic Loss

What do you think of when you hear the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Perhaps you imagine images of soldiers who have experienced unthinkable trauma first hand? But, did you know that grieving the loss of a loved one and PTSD can go hand in hand? Mainly when a loved one’s death occurs traumatically or unexpectedly.

The myths surrounding PTSD are plenty. The stigma surrounding PTSD is strong. The symptoms and treatment of PTSD, especially as related to grief and loss, often goes misunderstood. At the same time, the importance of recognizing the symptoms and warning signs of PTSD is crucial for diagnosis and subsequent treatment options.

When Grief Becomes Complicated Grief is the experience of loss in one’s life. The death of a loved one is marked as one of life’s most significant stressors. Pain from loss can be overwhelming, and these feelings are normal and expected. Experts define grief as being either “normal” or “complicated.”

Grieving is unique to each of us—most people dealing with loss exhibit intense symptoms that fade with time. Healing ultimately occurs, and individuals can return to their daily life. For some, grief is complicated, and healing does not happen promptly. Complicated grief occurs in about 7% of bereaved people. Studies show that PTSD and other anxiety disorders coexist in bereaved individuals with complicated grief. Individuals with PTSD need the help of a professional. As a result, it is vital to recognize symptoms and strategies for providing support.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD? No one truly knows why some people have PTSD while others do not. Grievers who are experiencing PTSD have symptoms which dramatically affect their ability to function in their day to day life. Symptoms will often linger for more than one month.

Common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Reliving the Event
  • Flashbacks of the trauma or hyper-focusing on what the individual might have gone through in their final moments
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Physical symptoms can include heart palpitations, sweating, or hyperventilating.
  • Persistent avoidance of things or events that remind us of the person or place where the tragedy occurred.
  • Feelings of Guilt or Self Blame
  • Anger or Rage
  • Feeling Numb or Detached

The Importance of Reaching Out and Finding Support After a traumatic event, such as sudden or violent death, it’s normal to feel emotional pain and out of sorts. Most individuals, who experience the loss of a loved one, will start to feel better after a few weeks or months. Suppose the emotional pain becomes too much to bear. In that case, you experience intense physical symptoms. You cannot function in your daily living. After a few months, you are not feeling any relief. Please reach out to your doctor or a mental health care provider for advice and support.

Professionally facilitated emotional support groups can be a great addition to treatment for PTSD and complicated grief. Support groups can give you a sense of connection to people experiencing similar types of loss. Many support groups connect you with individuals who have experienced similar kinds of losses. This makes the connection even more valuable.

Despite feelings of loneliness, it is essential to remember that you do not have to suffer alone. Start by recognizing your feelings are important and valuable.   Acknowledging and sharing them are an integral part of your healing. Reaching out for help is a courageous act in itself, and connecting with others going through a shared experience can be transformative.

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 01

Treat Yourself Kindly This Holiday Season

This year has been tough. And now the holidays are coming up. It can all be a bit daunting, especially if you’ve lost a loved one. Nearly **60% **of Americans have experienced the loss of an immediate family member in the past three years. That is a lot of people dealing with grief that is relatively new.

In a year full of ‘new normals’, when social distancing became socially accepted, and when so many of our interactions moved online, it can be especially hard to process feelings of loss and grief. It’s been a year that’s given new meaning to being alone and staying apart from others, even our closest family and friends.

As the holidays approach, many of us are thinking how can we do this? How can we get through it this year? How can we not miss our loved one even more after such a hard year?

If you feel like this, know you’re not alone.

88% of our members say they are struggling during the holiday season. And 67% report that the holidays trigger painful memories for them. In a season that’s supposed to be full of joy and celebration, many are hurting. As one member said, “I’m dreading the holidays. I don’t know how to keep pretending that I’m ok.”

We hear you.

Which is why we’re opening our virtual doors for three days of free grief workshops leading up to the holidays. From December 21-23, we will be offering live online workshops for small groups of people, led by professional therapists.

You can go through the holidays virtually and pretend everything is ok, or you can use online technology as a platform to find a real circle of support. Instead of feeling distant and exhausted from Zoom, it can be part of the solution that actually helps you feel better.

During the workshop, you’ll have the chance to connect with others who are dealing with grief during the holidays and learn how to maintain self-care during the holidays, while still dealing with grief.

Treat yourself kindly this holiday season.

Join our Circles of Support.

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 01

The Benefits of Joining a Support Group

Support groups offer a space where people can share common issues, ranging from health concerns to emotional needs. In well-formulated groups, the members can express their honest thoughts and struggles without the fear of judgment. Support groups can be utilized as supplemental to medical treatments or individual therapy services to cultivate healing or personal growth.

Talking to others about our difficulties helps us see our situation clearly by reflecting on our own needs and emotions. At times, our immediate circle of support may not be equipped enough for the amount of emotional pain that we are encountering. Joining a support group can be beneficial in many ways, whether dealing with an emotionally challenging situation or suffering from a mental and physical health issue.

Support groups come in various formats and structures. Some groups may be informative, while others might be emotionally-process-oriented. There are groups for people looking for targeted behavioral changes, specific situational issues, health issues, and groups that serve therapeutic purposes. We are all in need of a support group of a proper shape or style.

Support groups are offered in many different settings, including religious organizations, nonprofits, therapy offices, health clinics, and online platforms. The other locations provide options for diverse support groups to find the necessary care. You will find a sense of comfort in being able to listen and discuss your emotional challenges with others.

These are just a few of the benefits of joining a support group:

  • Fewer feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Gaining knowledge about the emotional process of your difficult situations
  • Feeling understood by others.
  • Discovering coping skills
  • Gaining resources from others going through similar situations
  • Provides a sense of belonging and validation
  • Empowerment
  • Stimulating new thoughts and feelings about your situations
  • Gaining the ability to manage your emotions
  • Sharing accountability
  • Affordability

We all need a place to share our tears and laughter with a community of people that understand our expressed emotions. Circles support groups offer the opportunity to have a balanced integration of sharing information, building coping skills, and processing emotions.

You will find that Circles offers a unique approach to connect you with your emotional community. Find your support group led by a mental health professional today.

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 01

Qualities of a Good Online Group Facilitator

When facilitating online groups, various qualities allow a person to succeed and enjoy their work. Exploring these qualities will help us see how we can relate to our strengths and expand ourselves to incorporate more skills. Here are a few rates that you will probably relate to in some ways. Which qualities help make your work most fulfilling?

Self-Disciplined We all know that being self-disciplined brings benefits in almost every situation. There are a few ways that this quality can help with group facilitation, like pushing through our struggles and keeping up to date on best practices. Most days facilitating a group is a pure delight. At the same time, we all have days where we are tired, busy, or otherwise distracted. Self-discipline helps us show up with an empathetic approach and be fully present for our members, even on our worst days. Additionally, a self-disciplined approach to our self-care and continuous education will help us model self-care for our group members and pursue ongoing education that will allow us to deliver effective facilitation for our groups.

Insightful In school, we must understand ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses to best serve our clients. This could not be truer than during group facilitation. To operate successfully as a group leader, we must understand where we fit into groups and how we relate to others. Having this knowledge and insight, doing our inner work will allow us to connect in a very human way to others’ struggles and triumphs. Also, every time we facilitate a group, we have an opportunity to expand our self-knowledge and insight.

Accessible When keeping in contact with group members, it’s important to remember that we are not operating as an individual therapist. We are facilitating each member’s potential to improve their functioning by relating to and interacting with a group of their peers. With that said, the facilitator must be the group’s cheerleader, encouraging members to show up, and responding timely to their questions or concerns. This means contacting members by phone, text, email, whatever way will engage them so that they have an opportunity to connect and group with their peers. Sometimes members will have extenuating circumstances that may require extra contact with the facilitator, such as a death in the family or other loss/emergency. These situations may require a few additional minutes of individual contact with the facilitator. The facilitator’s goal in these situations would be to encourage the member to share the news with the group and continue with the group process amidst their struggle.

Flexible Whether it is technical difficulties, or fewer group members than expected, facilitating an online group always manages to throw a curveball of some sort. Sometimes these difficulties may force us to improvise on the spot with adjusting meeting content and managing our feelings of frustration. These struggles can be seen as a chance to work flexibility and emotional regulation. When fewer group members show up than expected, it is good to spend more time on specific comments and ask more follow up questions. Whatever comes up, there is always a way to facilitate and complete the group in a meaningful way.

If you are interested in learning more about online support groups, please apply to join Circles’ amazing Group Facilitator Team, and join us in helping people find a sense of relief!

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 01

Your Circles of support

We launched 7Chairs a little bit over a year ago, aiming to make emotional support accessible to everyone, everywhere. After experiencing personal challenges myself, I recognized the real need and value of connecting with others while you’re going through a difficult time.

That led me, together with my partner, to create 7Chairs - a digital platform for support groups. The idea was to connect seven people who are all dealing with a similar challenge, in a group led by a professional therapist. We had one mission - to make sure that no one around the world feels lonely with their struggles.

We soon realized how deep the need is, and how wide the gap is - you may be surrounded by people, but still feel alone. People facing life challenges are eager for human connection, especially with others who are dealing with similar situations. We saw how profound the impact of a group can be, and how meeting other people can bring a person relief and show them they’re not alone.

On top of this, almost a year of dealing with a global pandemic has shown us the power of community support, and in the process of developing our platform, we realized that we offer more than just a chair to sit in - we offer a full circle of support.

7Chairs is now Circles. We changed our name to better represent what we offer: circles of support, in the form of small groups of people who understand you, with professional therapists who carefully guide you through your journey. It’s your safe place to grieve, to cry and laugh, to listen and share, to support and be supported.

With Circles, you are always surrounded by care and support. You have the opportunity to find mutual relief and encouragement, to develop coping skills, and build personal resilience. We offer you circles of support, so you are never, ever alone dealing with life’s challenges.

Thank you for your trust, Irad Eicler, Circles CEO

Written by: Irad Eichler, Circles CEO

Nov 30

Stronger, Together

We’ve all been there.

We’ve all faced difficult times in our lives. And sometimes, it can feel like no one in the universe can really, truly understand what we’re going through that no one can know how we feel.

It can make us feel really lonely.

As much as our experiences differ, and even though we all experience them differently as individuals, there is, however, some common ground. That’s the beauty of life – it’s complicated and diverse, yet we’re all human. And human nature has the capacity for empathy and sympathy, and we often experience and feel similar things.

Talking to strangers can be strange at first, especially when dealing with your most personal thoughts and feelings. Still, there are also specific benefits, especially when you’re talking with others facing a similarly hard time. Your inner circle of friends may be the closest people to you, but if you’re dealing with anxiety or depression or grief, and they are not, it can be challenging to connect. But if you speak with others who are also going through the same thing as you are, it can be a real epiphany to realize there are people out there who know how I feel.

When you speak with others in a similar situation, you can get relief hearing what they’re going through and realizing you’re not alone. Not only that, but you can provide them with relief by talking about what you’re going through - you support and learn from each other. The diversity of life experience is also a benefit since it can help us discover different ways of coping or provide us with a whole new perspective on our situation.

Connecting with others going through similar hard times, especially in a small group led by a professional therapist, can be a beneficial method for helping people feel better and learn new coping skills. Groups such as these can help reduce feelings of isolation and alienation and give us a sense that “we’re all in this together.”

Another benefit is the opportunity to express your feelings and practice new coping skills in a safe, secure environment. When you are part of a supportive circle and surrounded by people who can relate to what you’re going through, you can rely on their support. This can give you strength and confidence, even between group meetings.

So, even though we all face our life challenges, so many people are dealing with similar things. Whether it’s a feeling of stress or anxiety or dealing with a specific life transition, we can take comfort knowing others are going through the same thing. When you find these others, and when you can connect with them in a meaningful way, it can make all the difference.

Written by: The Circles Team

Nov 28

What Should I Say to Someone Who is Grieving?

“When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than a million, empty words.” Dr. Therma Davis

Grief is not pretty.  It can be raw, painful, messy, and awkward.  We know it as a normal and natural response to the loss of a loved one.  We will all experience it at some point in our lives, yet despite its universality, we are not always well equipped to deal with it or know how to best offer support to those going through it.

Imagine you have just learned that someone you deeply care about has lost a loved one.  Maybe it is their spouse, their young child, or an aging parent who has battled a chronic illness for many challenging months. You want to share empathy and show support, but it can be hard to know what to say – or perhaps more importantly, what not to say to them during their time of loss. Your intentions are good, and your heart knows that your loved one needs your care and support, yet you stumble to find the right words or right actions to comfort them.  Sometimes we fear saying or doing the wrong thing, so we withdraw and do nothing, leaving our loved ones to face formidable challenges alone and without support.

The truth is that we as humans need to share the everyday experience of grief with others.  Those experiencing loss need the gentle comfort and availability of friends and loved ones, not just for the immediate days following the loss, but often for months and years to come.  We know it can be hard to find just the right words, so here are four tried and true ways to support a loved one who is grieving in their time of need.

Let Them Be Sad: Our natural response to feeling sad is to try and cheer them up and make them feel happy.  We often try and distract or minimize their pain associated with grief.  We may encourage our loved ones to reengage with daily living and move quickly past their sorrow.  Remember, though, that an essential part of healthy grieving is experiencing the pain and suffering associated with loss head-on courageously.  Despite good intentions, we need to recognize that being sad, angry, mad exhausted or moody are natural responses to loss. They are a necessary part of processing and healing. No matter how difficult, put aside your feelings of discomfort, and take the time to validate your loved one’s emotions.  Let them know that you feel sad too. Please help them to express their pain and sorrow.  Hold them when they need to cry. Scream with them when they are angry and say that life can be cruel and unfair. Let them know that there is no time limit to their grieving and that you will be there with them through the hard times, for as long as it takes.

Give Love, Not Advice: Remember that grief belongs to the griever, and it is not about you. This is their unique experience and journey, and you are there to support them.   The words that you say do matter, so try and choose them carefully and with intent.  Be an active listener to show support and be wary of offering unsolicited advice. Active listening involves being focused and letting your body language show that you are open to what they are saying.  Sit close to your loved one, maintain good eye contact, and reach out and hold them when needed. The power of touch can be very healing to the griever. Try to avoid sayings that minimize their pain, such as “your loved- one’s suffering is over, and they are in a better place” or “you are so young, you will be able to move on and can always remarry.”  Avoid comparing stories of grief.  Remember that part of healing can be sharing beautiful memories about the lost loved one.  Encourage your loved one to mention the deceased by name and when they want to share, listen openly to stories about their lives and even more difficult and painful aspects of their death.

Remember Big Dates and Little Dates: Time will move on, seasons will change, and there will be specific personal dates and calendar reminders that will trigger emotions for your friend or loved one throughout the year.  Remembering significant dates and little dates can be incredibly supportive and appreciated as your loved one grieves.  Try and make what might be difficult dates a little bit easier for your loved one.  Set yourself reminders of birthdays, anniversaries, and other essential days into your calendar.  Reach out to your loved one on those important dates and let them know that you remember and that you are thinking about them and available to listen.  When holidays approach, extend an open invitation for your loved one to join your family for dinner or other events so that they are not alone.

**Remain Available:  ** All too often, the funeral ends, and friends and loved ones will move on with their own lives, leaving the mourner to grieve alone.  Remember that the pain and trials your loved ones are facing are just beginning.  Grieving is a long process, filled with many peaks and valleys. Instead of asking your loved ones to let them know what you can help with, be specific in how you will help.   Remember that your loved one might be hesitant to ask for help, or she may be so overwhelmed that she does not know what she needs.  Offer your time to them by saying, “I am available on Monday, and I will come over to walk your dogs or do your grocery shopping.”  Offer to do a load of laundry or some cleaning while you are visiting.  Organizing a community meal train with friends can also help take some of the stress off of completing daily chores.  As the months pass, continue to check-in.  Take the time to call to share a beautiful thought or memory that reminded you of their lost loved one.  Send a handwritten card or note to let them know that you are thinking of them.

Your loved one might fear that the person who died will be too soon forgotten, but it is equally as important to let them know that as the days turn to weeks and then to months that YOU are standing by their side and have not forgotten about them.

Written by: The Circles Team

Nov 26

The Healing Power of Gratitude

“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” Hansa Proverb

With the current state of affairs, so much uncertainty on the horizon, and our ever so busy lives it can be easy to focus on the negative. In fact, as a culture, depression and anxiety rates are at an all-time high and people are unhappier than ever before. But did you know that there is an easy way to bring more happiness into your daily life?

You may have heard that starting your day with an attitude of gratitude can have positive mental and physical health benefits. This is certainly true and the benefits of practicing gratitude are limitless. Better yet, incorporating a daily practice of gratitude is easy. It just takes a little time, effort and creativity to get started. To help you on your gratitude journey, here are a few simple activities that have the potential to bring more gratitude into your life.

What is Gratitude?

We all know the saying, “Take Time to Stop and Smell the Roses.” Simple and to the point, this saying has some excellent advice:

  1. Slow down and stay in the present moment
  2. Enjoy the beauty and sweetness that life’s simple pleasures bring

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful. It allows us to recognize and focus on the good in our lives. Gratitude can be tangible. I am thankful for the apple tree in my yard – as in the late summer afternoons I can pick delicious apples to eat. Gratitude can also be intangible. I am thankful that I am able to hear the laughter of my child, as it brings me great joy.

Gratitude allows us to savor the moment in the present. Gratitude also allows us to focus on the good, while blocking the negative voices in our mind which are trying to be heard.

How is Gratitude Healing?

Happier people lead healthier lives and gratitude has been shown to make us more joyful and happy. When we focus on the positive we tend to take better care of ourselves physically and emotionally. When we feel good we tend to make good physical and emotional choices. Gratitude has been shown to:

  1. Reduce Depression
  2. Strengthen our Immune System
  3. Helps us to Sleep Better
  4. Improves our Relationships with Others
  5. Increases our Self Esteem
  6. Increases Empathy
  7. Increase Resiliency

How Can You Bring More Gratitude into Your Daily Life?

Bringing more gratitude into your daily life is easy. And not only is it easy, it can also be fun.

-** Write a Gratitude Letter**: Writing a gratitude letter can be a very powerful exercise. It can also bring much happiness to the recipient. Did you have a favorite teacher, colleague, or boss that you never had the opportunity to thank? Is there something special you want express to a family member or a loved one? Why not write them a gratitude letter? Writing can be cathartic and meditative. If you are feeling down, depressed or unmotivated this is a great exercise to immediately lift your spirits.

Remember, there are so many different ways to harness the power of gratitude every day. There is no right or wrong way – what matters is that it works for you. Why not make it a priority today and find the ways that you can bring gratitude into your life on a daily basis? We promise with a little practice, finding gratitude in the little things will become routine and you will be reaping the benefits of a happier more purposeful life in no time.

Written by: The Circles Team

Nov 16

How Can I Benefit From Just One Session With a Support Group?

Reaching out for help can be difficult for many of us. We must first come to terms with the fact that we are struggling and then accept that someone else can help us.

Seeking emotional support can be even more testing. Facing our emotional challenges and finding a way to express them can be a daunting task. We might find ourselves feeling guilty from explaining our situation and emotions to our family and friends. Sometimes, we find ourselves struggling to repeat the same story to the same people over and over again.

Finding an understanding of our emotional process is a challenge.

We might find ourselves being more reserved and isolated after feeling misunderstood by our friends and family. It seems that we are not meant to be facing life difficulties alone, yet there are only a few people around that might understand our unique struggles.

Support groups provide a safe space to be with others who are struggling with similar life challenges. A support group is designed, so others fully understand your situations with common emotional difficulties. It can also be an opportunity to gain the skill sets you need to move forward and learn coping strategies from others while dealing with your unique situations.

Why Join a Group for One Meeting?

If you feel overwhelmed, stressed, lost, or experiencing difficulties understanding your situation, I invite you to join a support group for just one session. Entering the first session at Circles online is risk-free and an opportunity to feel a sense of belonging.

At Circles support groups, we provide flexibility and complete anonymity for you to unload the emotional burdens. The complexity of the problems you face is shared with others and understood by other participants on a deeper emotional level.

It just takes one session to create meaningful connections on our chat-based group, gain information, and ask questions from others going through similar difficulties. You may find a sense of relief after just one session.

There is no commitment or challenges that you might face from on-site meetings. We provide a nonjudgmental gathering space for you to meet with people from different backgrounds and locations to connect. Connections happen quickly and effortlessly as you have no barrier or awkwardness similar to face to face meetings.

Take the first step into your relief by joining one of your personally matched groups today.

You only need one session to know that you are not alone!

Written by: The Circles Team

Nov 10

How Can Support Group Therapy Ease the Pain of Grief?

Have you recently lost someone you loved?  Are you having trouble moving through the stages of grief?  Do you feel like you are paddling upstream, through Class V rapids, and don’t know how to catch your breath?  Grief, like love, may be the most powerful emotion we as humans feel.  When we lose a loved one the feeling can be crushing and very difficult to move on from.

Grief is not only paralyzing, but grief can also be so very lonely.  Grief is personal and unique to each and every one of us.  And at times it may seem like you are the only one who could possibly feel such, deep and gut-wrenching pain.  The truth is that there many others out there suffering the pain of grief, alone just like you.

Talking about death and grief openly in our culture is at best awkward.  Death reminds of us of our own mortality and it is commonplace for our culture to avoid the discussion at all costs. After the funeral, we are expected to neatly move on.  Get back to work. Get back to living.  The truth is grief is messy.  It is disruptive.  It lasts a long time.  And there is no straight forward easy path to healing. For healing to truly take place you must work hard and diligently through the stages of grief.  At Circles, we have seen firsthand that one of the best ways to work through grief is to work through it with the support, kindness and care of others going through the same challenges.

Finding support with others in a group setting can make moving through difficult times in a nurturing environment much easier.  There are many specialized support groups which focus on grief.  These groups, often led by a professionally trained grief therapist, help those who have experienced loss move through the stages of grief collectively and in healthy, productive ways.

If you have never been part of a support group before – it is natural to have questions.   Here are a few frequently asked questions that we often get with regard to joining one our online professionally facilitated grief support groups.

What Can I Expect From A Grief Support Group? In Circles grief support group, you can expect a safe and nurturing environment where you are encouraged to share your feelings openly and honestly.  Support groups are a safe, confidential space to speak from the heart about your lost loved one.  If it is difficult to talk about your emotions you have the availability to remain anonymous.  It is expected that your emotions will run freely and openly.  It is encouraged that feelings and difficult emotions are expressed and received with support, kindness love and care. Circles support groups are more than just a peer support group.  All our groups are led by a professionally trained and licensed facilitator.  Over a matter of weeks your facilitator will get to know you and share important insights for your healing and progress.

What Will Talk About During Our Weekly Group Sessions?

At Circles, we follow an evidence based curriculum for each of our support groups.  Our experienced facilitators listen to you, your expectations and your needs.  The topics discussed are individualized and are relevant to you and your peers.  The first few sessions of your support group will be about getting to know one another and building the trust and rapport needed to share openly and confidently about your feelings and grief.   We have heard from many of our participants that their weekly group meeting highlights their weekly calendar. They look forward to the consistent, non-judgmental support available to them each week.

What are the Benefits of Joining a Grief Support Group?  One of the best things about attending a grief support group is an essential reminder that you are not alone.  Although we have been leading support groups for many years, we still find it amazing that group members report that they feel more hope and meaning in their lives after just one or two sessions.  Other benefits that are group members report include:

Feeling less lonely  Having reduced feelings of distress, anxiety, and depression  Finding increased coping skills  Increased sense of self -empowerment  Increased knowledge and resources  Positive emotional, mental, and physical health outcomes  Having an increased sense of happiness and hopefulness

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Swiss American psychiatrist and author of “On Death and Dying,” said the reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to."   Our mission at Circles is to find the best in you to help you cope, find resources, and heal within our emotional support groups.

Written by: The Circles Team

Nov 08

Community: Together, Even from Afar

So many of us are currently living lives far from what we’re used to.

We may not be going to the office every day, seeing family members in person, or taking that long-planned trip to visit friends across the country. Instead, many of us find ourselves seeing a close network of people and living much of our social and community lives online, through screens. We’ve discovered the joy of connecting with college friends over Zoom and doing family birthday parties virtually. And it is joyful! But it can also be challenging.

As COVID continues to impact our lives and shape our daily routines, we are still getting used to the new normal, even if it takes us a few months! Part of this is recognizing and accepting the importance of community, no matter how we tap into it - virtually or in person.

While meeting people over a virtual platform is not the same as sitting together with them in the same room, so many of us are doing exactly that and realizing that it has the power to forge and cement real connections. Though the setting may be virtual, the relationships are genuine.

So, while we continue being careful about our physical health, we also have the opportunity to be mindful of our emotional health. A crucial part of that is continuing to seek out friends, family, and a support network. One way we can do that today is by taking advantage of the opportunity technology gives us for being together, even from afar.

After all, we can find communities – people with whom we share something in common – many different ways. And the gift of finding a community online is that we can overcome the boundaries of our immediate networks and geography. Think you’re the only one who’s going through a hard time? Does it seem like no one else can relate to what you’re going through? Well, it might be the case for the people in your immediate network. But there are others out there who do know what it’s like.

That’s what we do at 7Chairs. We help connect you to others who know what you’re going through because they’re going through the same thing. Whether it’s dealing with COVID-related anxiety or grieving the loss of a loved one, others face similar challenges. These people can be your allies, your circle of support - your community.

We’re here for you.

Because we know together is better, even from afar.

Written by: The Circles Team

Oct 23

Say Goodbye To Stress with These Simple Tips

Feeling stressed? You are not alone. Stress and anxiety are common experiences for most people. We all know that feeling when your muscles start aching, your heart starts beating a bit too fast and you find it increasingly difficult to concentrate. That’s stress talking. And once again it is trying to rear its ugly head into your space of calm.

Are you ready for the good news? You don’t have to welcome the physical effects of stress into your world. You have the power to wave goodbye to your stress in minutes. These stress-busting strategies are simple and readily available to everyone. They make a real difference in how you manage stress. So, take a moment for yourself and for your health. Stop whatever you are doing. We encourage you to give these tried and true stress busters a try.

Stress Busting 101

**Relax Those Muscles: ** When your body is relaxed – it is more difficult for tension to take hold. There are a number of ways to get immediate relief from tension and stress that is being stored in your muscles. A great exercise for reducing the effects of stress on your body is to try Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This exercise can be practiced anywhere. You can try it while sitting at your desk or for added benefit stretch out on the floor, your couch or your bed. Focus on one area of your body at a time. It doesn’t matter where you start. All you need to do is tense a group of muscles as you breathe in, and you relax those same muscles as you breathe out. Work your way through all the muscles of your body, continuously being mindful of your breath. For added benefit, repeat the exercise 2-3 times until you feel completely relaxed.

Stop and Smell the_______? Have you ever noticed how you feel when you smell something beautiful like lavender, freshly baked caked, rain on a warm summer day, or peppermint? Don’t underestimate the power of smell and the impact it can have on reducing your stress while promoting a state of relaxation. In fact, studies have shown that aromatherapy does indeed have an effect on brainwaves and can alter our emotions in positive ways. Think of your favorite smells and incorporate them into your stress-busting routine. Next time you are at the store pick up a scented candle. An essential oil diffuser situated next to your office desk can help restore calm throughout your busy workday. Or perhaps at the end of your day relax in a nice bath filled with scented bath salts or bath oils. There are so many options, the choice is yours.

Pour Yourself a Cup of Tea: Its true, tea has many benefits that relate to overall health. Scientific studies prove that drinking a cup of tea can reduce your levels of stress too. With so many different teas to choose from, it can be hard to know which one will have the best result. Try to stick to decaffeinated tea if you can. Decaffeinated green tea, in particular has been proven to not only decrease your stress levels but improve your quality of sleep as well. The good news is that with so many flavors to choose from your palate will never get bored. So why not try a cup of peppermint, chamomile or lavender tea today and relax and breathe in the soothing aroma of this wonderful hot and delicious treat.

Written by: The Circles Team

Oct 15

5 Tips to Becoming More Resilient

Many people talk about building resilience or grit, but what exactly does it mean? How can we develop resilience, especially when we’re going through a hard time? Though it may seem like a difficult, abstract thing to do, there are certain beliefs and mindsets we can put into play and practice every day to help ourselves feel better and build resilience.

What does resilience mean?

The theory of resilience holds that adversity occurs to all of us, but what is important is how we deal with it. Strength can help us deal with difficulties or misfortune. It can have different meanings across cultures and societies, and individuals can be more resilient at specific points in their life than others.

Resilience is closely related to positive psychology, which says that specific characteristics can help us deal positively with challenges in our lives. It has been defined as “the process of adapting well” in the face of adversity or significant sources of stress, such as family and relationship problems, health issues, or financial stress.

Can we learn resilience?

How can we transform an idea into something we can implement in our daily lives? The good news is that it’s been found that resilience can be built – it’s not something we either have or don’t have. It’s something we can practice every day, just like we learned how to ride a bike, how to be a good friend, and what works best for taking care of ourselves. It’s something we can work on and develop, just like building up our muscle strength.

So, the answer is yes, we can.

5 Tips to becoming more resilient

There are many ways to build resilience. By understanding how our thoughts and beliefs affect our feelings and experiences, we can begin to recognize our own role in how we react to things. And we can start becoming more resilient and bouncing back from challenges.

-** Be aware of personalization.** This refers to holding ourselves accountable for all the bad things that happen, blaming ourselves, and saying that it’s our fault. This can be an automatic response sometimes. Notice it. Know that it’s not always the case, and we can begin to recognize there are other possible reactions.

  • Notice pervasiveness. Pervasiveness is the belief that a negative situation can spread across all areas of our life. Acknowledge that bad feelings don’t impact every aspect of our lives, or ourselves.
  • Recognize things are not permanent. A feeling of permanence, especially as it relates to bad events, can prevent us from improving our situation. It can overwhelm us and make it seem that we can’t go on. Change is an ever-present part of life. Things change, situations change, and we change, too. It’s a natural part of life.
  • Share our emotions. Sharing emotions, both positive and negative feelings, can help us be open and honest about how we’re doing. It helps with our communication processes and can not only bring relief through expressing ourselves but also help us clarify our situations and start working on feeling better. -** Build connections**. By purposefully connecting with others, we know that we’re not alone in dealing with our situation. We can ask for help, gain other perspectives, check in with others about how we’re doing, and feel less alone. This helps us build strength and support for dealing with things and moving forward.

Resilience isn’t about ignoring the bad things in life or pretending they don’t matter. It’s about reflecting upon ourselves and our situations and creating a positive mindset to help ourselves feel better. We can all practice resilience every day.

Written by: The Circles Team

Oct 01

The Healing Power of Grief Journaling: 10 Writing Prompts to Get You Started

After the loss of a loved one it is common to feel that you are going through the movements of life with very little purpose. Grief can be overwhelming, lonely and long lasting. The emotions of grief are all encompassing and oftentimes it may feel difficult to find a safe space to let your feelings out. After the loss of your loved one you may have many things you want to share with them. For others you may feel that while they were alive you have left important things unsaid. Writing or grief journaling can be an excellent tool to express your emotions in a safe and healing way. Writing can be therapeutic, cathartic and can help you to organize feelings or sort through conflicting emotions.

Writing may come easy to you. Perhaps, it is something that you find enjoyable. Or you may be thinking I have never been a writer. I am not very good at it. I don’t know even know how to get started with grief journaling. The good news is that grief journaling is a healing tool available to everyone.

Whether you are a seasoned writer or new to the practice, here are some writing prompts to get you started. Feel free to use a computer if you are more comfortable. Paper and pen work equally as well. Or if you are super tech-savvy, there are even journal apps to get you started, such as https://journey.cloud. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. This grief journal is for you and does not need to be read by anyone else. Let your thoughts, emotions, and even tears flow freely.

Ten Writing Prompts For Grief Journaling

  1. The hardest time of day for me is…………
  2. My favorite memory about my loved one is………….
  3. If I could speak to my loved one right now I would say……………
  4. The three things my loved ones loved about me were……
  5. The hardest part of grieving is………………
  6. Who can I reach out to when I am sad. My support system includes……
  7. The things that help me the most right now are?
  8. How have you changed since your loved one died?
  9. If you had one more day with your loved one what would you do?
  10. How can you best honor the memory of your loved one?

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 15

This Simple Mindset Shift Can Help You Feel More Happiness Everyday

The Dalai Lama shares a straightforward but important message “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” It would seem that happiness does have a pretty important role in our lives. In fact, our happiness can have a huge impact on the way we approach our day to day, how we relate to others, and most importantly on our overall health.

One thing is for sure, we all want more happiness in our life. And in order to find more happiness, you need to define what happiness looks and feels like for you. Take a minute and ask yourself are you happy? I mean really truly happy. Are you happy with the way your life is right now at this present moment? Or do you have a running mental list of things you think you need in order to be truly happy? You are not alone if you feel like you are always chasing happiness. A recent study from NORC at the University of Chicago found that just 14% of American adults say they’re very happy.

What is Happiness?

Defining happiness is difficult. It means and feels something different to each and every one of us. Perhaps the best place to start is to understand what happiness is not. Happiness is not losing ten pounds. Happiness is not a bigger paycheck. Happiness is not right around the corner. Happiness is right in front of you. Happiness is the warmth of sunshine on your face. Happiness is the joy you get from helping others. Happiness is the hug you receive or give to a loved one. Happiness is the satisfaction of time well spent. In this sense, happiness comes from a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment. It is a sense that no matter what life throws at you – life is as it should be. Happiness is not about never feeling sad or challenging. Happiness is not about feeling happy at every single moment.

Happiness is Good For Your Health

Studies show that happiness really can influence health. We feel happy in a variety of ways. It can make us feel relaxed, euphoric, and content. When we are happy we tend to take better care of our physical and emotional needs. We find the time to move our bodies, eat well, stay connected, and get good sleep. On a cellular level, when we are happy, there is a lot of important stuff going on. Some of the benefits of happiness include:

  • Happiness boosts the immune system
  • Happiness fights stress
  • Happiness lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Happiness promotes longevity
  • Happiness promotes a healthier lifestyle

Finding Happiness

The best advice I have ever received in my life is that happiness depends on you. It depends on the internal dialogue that you are having with yourself. Your spouse, your shiny new car or your new career is not going to provide happiness for you. When you open your mindset to this new way of framing happiness – you will find that happiness has always been there waiting for you – right under your nose.

Happiness and joy become elusive when we attach it to an external force and when we give that external force power over our emotions. Finding happiness is not easy, but the steps to happiness are simple. Here are a few steps to get you started to a happy, more fulfilling life:

Step One: **Acceptance **: The key to happiness is accepting where you are today. Accept where you are at this very moment. Love yourself and be kind to yourself. If you have gained ten pounds, so be it. Do those ten pounds make you any less loveable? Should it make you any less happy? Accept that some days will be harder than others. Accept that life will have emotional and physical challenges and hurdles. Accepting life as a winding path with detours will allow you to have space to embrace the joyful, happy things that life throws your way.

Step Two: ** Choice**: Remember you own your feelings. You have the choice to be happy or angry or sad. Take the time to do things that you enjoy. Surround yourself with loving supportive people. Draw boundaries around things in your life that need boundaries. Focus on the positive and make a conscious effort to have gratitude for the little and big things that life brings your way.

**Step Three: Coping **: No one ever said that life is easy. Times will get tough. You will have challenges. What are the tools and resources that are there for you to help you through difficult times? Stress is not always unavoidable. It can build up. What daily routines can you incorporate to manage your stress to make more room for happiness? Nurturing a circle of supportive friends can help you feel happier and less stressed in many facets of your life.

If you feel like you need some support, join our Circles of Support. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded people and a professional therapist that will guide you through your journey.

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 01

How relating to others going through similar life experience can be helpful

Life throws unexpected adversities your way, and at times, it may feel as though you are the only one dealing with such a tragedy. Support groups are a place to meet with others going through similar life challenges.

Meeting a group of strangers can be intimidating at first, but sharing a common complicated process has benefits that even your family or friends may not understand. There might be an adjustment period of opening up to the group, but you will experience a sense of relief that you might not have found elsewhere once you feel comfortable enough to do so.

Here are some benefits of relating to others going through similar life situations.

You will feel less lonely. With the social distancing and stay-at-home orders, relationships feel farther away than they have ever felt before. There seems to be no hope for those who suffer from chronic loneliness as much as those newly dealing with societal disconnections.

Fostering connections is a way to fight your loneliness and promote health amongst the emotional stressors. We may be limited in our ability to connect physically, but it is still possible to build healthy connections. Relating to people will lessen your loneliness, especially with those who will understand your pain the most.

You will be able to process your emotions safely. Our current society provides rare opportunities to relate deeply and intimately with others concerning our struggles. Honoring your complicated story and processing the emotions that arise from your situation is an essential part of your healing journey.

Processing one’s emotions is a way of recognizing, understanding, finding appropriate ways of expressing them. It takes a safe space to accept and receive all spectrums of your feelings from negative to positive. Most of us are used to suppressing our emotions, especially the negative ones, in a way that develops into an unhealthy relationship with ourselves and even others. Meeting with others that understand your uniquely painful situation creates an opportunity for you and all your emotions to be accepted and processed.

It improves motivation in your day today. When stress is overwhelmingly taken over our daily lives, we are left exhausted and unmotivated. One’s willpower is tested from the first thing in the morning; if activities such as getting out of bed turn into a struggle, motivation in your day can be found within an empowering community.

A community is where you feel a sense of belonging and understanding. Going through a challenging situation gives you a new lens through which you view your life. There is a community of others that also share that lens with you. You will cultivate motivation for healing with people that share similar life experiences.

It alleviates mental distress. Challenging life events position us in a spot of emotional ‘stuckness.’ We become frustrated, angry, and stressed with the negative cycle we are trapped in. Hearing other people’s struggles and ways to deal with their challenges can unfold ways to deal with the distressing situation that you haven’t thought of.

Once you hear about similar experiences coming from others, you feel validated and accepted. There is an alleviation associated with sharing your distressing emotions. You will be able to share your heavy load with people who can understand and help you carry it.

There is a powerful healing that takes place when you share your story with others. Your emotional challenges matter to us, and at Circles, we are here to provide a safe space for your account to be heard.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 30

Back to School Anxiety? 3 Tips Parents Need to Know for Managing Their Family’s Mental Health During the Pandemic

Stay healthy. Stay calm. This is a little mantra to keep in clear view for this year’s back to the school calendar. With so much going on, it is normal to feel stressed. With a situation filled with so much uncertainty, it is normal to feel anxiety. As we begin the back to school season, it is clear that this is a year like no other. So, whether your child is going back to kindergarten or college or whether your school is going hybrid, remote, or fully in person, you’d better buckle up your seatbelts and get ready for a wild rollercoaster ride.

To begin, remember that you are doing you and you are making decisions based on what is right for your family. Try not to spend time comparing your decisions to those of others. Refrain from making judgments. Everyone is trying to navigate during this crazy time the best that they can. Have empathy for those who seem to be struggling a bit more. Regardless of what your family’s individual situation may be, here are three creative strategies for managing the symptoms of stress and anxiety as you face the new school year ahead.

Focus on the areas that you can control: There are so many things out of your control right now. Think about it. We are unable to control whether the school will open or close. We are unable to control the global rate of disease spread. We cannot control if the supermarket will have the groceries that we need. And we cannot control when businesses open or close. And perhaps the most frustrating part? We have no idea how much longer this pandemic will last? Weeks? Months? Half a year? Your guess is as good as mine. But until the said time, let go of the things that you cannot control. Spend your time and energy, focusing on the things that you can control. You can control your thoughts and attitudes. You can control how you spend your time. Try turning off the news and watching a program for enjoyment. Pick up a book or go outside and celebrate the beauty of nature. Help others and spread kindness. There are many amazing ways to find enjoyment during this unprecedented time. Establish Routines: Covid-19, working from home, and homeschooling children have created a lack of structure for many. Routines are an excellent tool to help us cope with change and uncertainty. When you set up a routine, you know exactly what to expect. With so much on your plate to manage, setting up a routine can ensure that you are not leaving out important components of self-care from your day today. For kids, a chalkboard or whiteboard is an excellent place to help them visualize routine. Give the kids some control by adding fun items to the calendar. For everyone’s health and sanity, keep mealtimes and bedtimes on schedule. Make your routine fun! And remember not to over-schedule. It’s important to leave some room for spontaneity and silliness in there. Have Regular Mental Health Check-ins and Reinforce Ways to Cope: Check-in regularly with your loved ones to make sure they are managing their stresses okay. Remember, children often show stress differently than adults. Changes to eating, sleeping, and loss of interest in things they once enjoyed are common ways for kids to show stress. Normalize the routine of talking about feelings. As parents, our natural ability is to solve problems and lessen our kids’ pain and discomfort. However, our kids need to develop their own solutions on ways to cope with their stress. Try listening to your kids’ frustrations without giving advice. Ask them to find their own coping mechanisms, which are self-soothing. Put the power in their hands to find ways to cope with a challenging and frustrating time. Remember, you are your children’s greatest teachers and their most adored role models. The better plan you have to manage your own Covid related stress and anxiety, the better your children will do. For additional information, the CDC has excellent resources for families on managing COVID-19 related stress.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 26

How to Have the Ultimate at Home Self-Care Day

The truth is the best relationship you can have is the one that you have with yourself. Self-care is a critical part of maintaining this all-important and nurturing relationship with yourself.
The truth is – life gets busy. And sadly, self-care is all too often the first to go. You are not alone if your job, family, and household responsibilities take precedence over your own needs.
In fact, studies show that 1 in 3 Americans feels bad about taking time for themselves, even though 67 percent desperately want more time for self-care.

We don’t hesitate to call out of work sick when we have a sore throat or cold. It is acceptable and expected. Our mental health is equally as important as our physical health. Yet, our mental health takes a spot on the back burner. The thought of calling out for the day when we need to relax or feel burned out or run down is looked down upon and not common place at all. With the average American working harder than ever and having relatively little vacation time compared to the rest of the world – taking a “mental health” day every now and again makes sense. In fact, taking a day to care for your mental health will leave you healthier, refreshed and more productive at work in both the short and long run.

What is Self-Care, Anyway?

Self-care is doing good for the mind, the body, and the soul. It doesn’t need to be expensive. It doesn’t need to be luxurious. It simply needs to be time spent focusing on restoring health, reducing stress, and enhancing energy.

The benefits of self-care are far-reaching. They include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Lessened anxiety and depression
  • Increased production of “feel good” hormones
  • Increased happiness and joy
  • Positive physical health benefits

Taking care of yourself is easy. Finding the time to prioritize yourself can be difficult. This week set aside some time for just you. If you don’t have a full day, focus on yourself for an hour. Small increments of less time-consuming activities that focus on just you can be equally beneficial. We hope you enjoy these ten ways to get started with self-care.

  1. Don’t set the alarm. Wake up to your body’s own natural sleep and wake rhythm.
  2. Enjoy a cup of herbal tea and a fresh fruit salad.
  3. Surround yourself with people who make you smile.
  4. Write down at least ten things that you love about yourself.
  5. Take a warm bath with essential oils.
  6. Give yourself permission to draw boundaries and say no the things that no longer serve you.
  7. Take a walk outside. Breathe deeply in the fresh air. Enjoy the sunshine!
  8. Buy yourself some fresh cut flowers or pick your own bouquet.
  9. Read some feel good poetry or inspirational quotes.
  10. Ask yourself: What do I need? And make plans to make self-care a priority every day.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 24

The Power of Human Connection

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Fred Rogers.

As humans, we need social connections. We especially need to feel connected when we are sad or when times are tough. Interestingly, social relationships seem so readily available to us when times are good, and we are at our best. Yet, when times are tough, when we feel vulnerable and in need of support and care, that real human connection that we are so desperate for can sometimes be challenging to come by.

Imagine for a moment that you have recently lost your spouse to a long illness. In the days and weeks leading up to and surrounding your spouse’s death, you were rarely physically alone. Friends stopped by day and night to deliver your meals, to sit with you, and to offer you company and support. So many loved ones surrounded you, and you might wonder why it seems strange then that you feel so very lonely. Yet, when you think about it during this time, you were never physically alone. Sadly, this feeling of loneliness is all too common when we face a life challenge, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Importance of Human Connection When we are young children, we are taught the importance of and how to live healthy lives. Nutrition, exercise, and making healthy life choices all rank high on the scale of healthy living, but what do we learn about the importance and value of developing a deep, meaningful human connection. Interestingly enough, we are taught very little about this and the importance of nurturing it. Human connection, it would appear, is supposed to come naturally to us and be readily available. Yet, our lives are so busy in today’s day and age, and our social connections play second fiddle to work, school, hobbies, and household responsibilities.

Research shows that despite the increased connection to others via technology, loneliness is on the rise. A recent report found that more than 60 percent of Americans report feeling lonely, left out, poorly understood, and lacking companionship. Research also shows that loneliness can be detrimental to our health and many researchers fear that it may be more harmful than obesity or smoking. Research also suggests that individuals who feel lonely are 50 percent more likely to die prematurely than those with stable, healthy social relationships. So it would seem then that connecting with others is more important than we might like to think.

What Does Connecting Mean? Brene Brown, a professor who specializes in human connection, believes, “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.”

Connecting means being open and available and being present in time and space with one another. It requires both learnings how to give and how to receive. For connection to occur, it is essential to create a safe, nurturing space where compassion, empathy, and trust are readily available.

Finding Real, Authentic Human Connection in Emotional Support Groups

It is hard to connect, and it is even harder to connect when we feel vulnerable. Our culture tells us to keep our feelings inside to be healthy, to talk about happy things and not the things that cause us emotional pain and discomfort.

At Circles, we understand the struggle of finding real human connection, and we recognize the benefits that come from connecting people who are experiencing similar life challenges. We believe in the power of human connection, and we know that individuals and communities are most potent when all members are valued, listened to, nurtured, and heard.

Making an Online Support Group Work for You Suppose this is the first time you have participated in a support group. In that case, it is expected that you might be feeling hesitant or apprehensive about sharing your darkest moments with a group of people you just met. Don’t worry; everyone feels this way at first, and in no time, sharing in the group will feel cathartic and second nature to the healing work you are doing together as a group.

Circles make it easy to find the connection and support you need from people who can genuinely relate to what you are going through. We hope that you will find the support you need in one of our group sessions.

We are glad that you took the first step throward help for our members, new and old.

Here are some quick tips to help you get the most out of your experience with Circles:

  • Be open and present
  • Attend all group sessions if possible
  • Remember, your facilitator is always there for you to guide you along the way. Reach out to your facilitator and communicate openly with them if you have any concerns about the group dynamics or if you will be missing a session.
  • Nurture your group relationships. Learn to give and receive feedback from the other members of the group.
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Let your feelings out, cry, laugh, get angry.
  • Remember, this is a safe, supportive, and confidential space.
  • It is okay to take risks!
  • Find a quiet, peaceful place free of distractions to log into your group session each week.

Do you want to learn more about our programs? Find out here.

Thank you for your trust in Circles. We are in this together.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 11

The Importance of Finding Emotional Support And Connection During Divorce

Going through a divorce can be an incredibly stressful event. Divorce is ranked as the second most stressful event an individual can go through. It is ranked second only to the death of a spouse. Divorce can bring to the surface all sorts of unsettling feelings such as grief, anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, fear, depression, and loneliness.

The Loneliness of Divorce Feeling isolated or lonely during a divorce is normal, and it can be an excruciating and unsettling feeling. For many people, the loneliness or feelings of isolation from your partner may have started long before the divorce or separation began. Emotional distancing from someone you once loved or still love hurts, mostly when the divorce results from broken trust or betrayal. During the divorce process, you may feel lonely because your happily married friends don’t seem to understand the stress and pain that the divorce is causing you. If you enjoyed time with your friends as a married couple, you might begin to feel like a third wheel or feel uncomfortable socializing with them for a while. After the divorce, as you start to accept and build your new life, it is quite common for the loneliness to continue for some time.

After divorce or separation, it can be difficult and even scary to move on with your new life. But remember, like any significant life-changing event, it is essential to be kind to yourself and acknowledge and prioritize your feelings and your needs. As you begin a new chapter in your life, here are some tips to help you move forward at a time when you may be feeling stuck or unsure of what your future may hold.

Allow Yourself the Time and Space to Grieve Remember grieving is a necessary step in the healing process. So, please permit yourself to grieve. It may be painful and messy, and you might be feeling angry. Give yourself the time and the space to grieve. If you have a hard time letting your emotions out, try writing what you are feeling out. Try journaling as it can be an excellent way to process feelings and set them free.

Talk it Out There are many benefits in starting therapy, individual or group, during or after your divorce. Individual therapy can help you unpack your emotions in a safe, supportive space, and a therapist can help you set goals for yourself to rebuild your life. Emotional support groups can be an excellent tool to connect with others going through a shared experience. Those who have joined Circles support group report that the shared experience has given them more hope and fewer feelings of loneliness moving forward.

Find Ways to Stay Connected Finding ways to stay connected after divorce can be an essential component of your emotional well-being. If you do not have children or your children are grown, you may be wondering what to do with the newfound time on your hands. Start by making a list of the things you enjoy or new things you always wished you had time to do. If you are not sure where to start, perhaps start by volunteering your time where it might be needed in your community. Volunteering has many benefits that you might not be aware of. Research shows that the more we give to others, the happier we feel. By volunteering, you will increase your sense of accomplishment and build a new identity moving forward.

Moving on may be a long winding path for you, with many detours and forks in the road along the way. Starting your new life takes time, courage, and conscious effort. Reach out to others for support along the way. Set goals for yourself and take the time to check in with yourself to see how you are doing. Remember, true happiness is out there waiting for you – you just have to go out and find it.

Join our Circles of Support for anyone who’s going through a divorce or spreation

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 18

Father’s Day: 5 Thoughtful Ways to Honor Those Dads Who Are No Longer With Us

Losing a father can be devastating, and celebrating Father’s Day can be bittersweet, especially for those of us who have lost our dads.  Sadly, I’ll admit I am a member of this club too, having lost my own wonderful dad to lung cancer many years ago.  Additionally, my daughter’s father tragically passed away when she was just a baby, leaving me to bravely and creatively find ways to honor and keep the memory alive of the father she never met.

I am sure that many of you feel the same way, but what I wouldn’t do to do to share just one more smile, laugh, or “I love you” with either of these amazing dads that I was blessed to have in my life.  Dads certainly plan an essential role in our lives.  They are ordinary men turned by love into fearless and playful superheroes.  They love us unconditionally with love so genuine that they never expect anything in return for all the kind, supporting beautiful things that they do for us. Dads are amazing because they are our protectors. They hug us when we are sad. They show us how to navigate the tough times. Their laps make the best couches. They sneak downstairs late at night with us to share a bowl of ice-cream over talk, even after our mothers have warned us “no dessert and to go to bed.”  They share giggles, stories, and games. They are our teachers, wise and knowledgeable.  And when they are no longer with us, the void is impossible to fill.

On Father’s Day, many of our friends will be able to Facetime or Zoom call their fathers to celebrate this important day.  The lucky ones will be able to visit their dads face to face, share a card or a thoughtful gift, and maybe even a meal together.  But just because your father is no longer with you doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate the day by honoring their memory.  Remembering can make us feel better, more connected, and it allows us to celebrate beautiful memories and experience positive feelings related to those that have passed on.

Here are some ways to celebrate those terrific dads who are with us in spirit.

Write Your Dad a Letter: Is there anything you want to tell your dad?  Perhaps, it is something you wished you had said while he was still alive or maybe, it is something that has happened since his passing that you have been longing to tell him.  Writing a letter is a great way to express your emotions in a positive, meaningful way.

Connect with Family and Friends Who Loved Your Dad: Spending the day with others who loved your dad is a great way to honor his memory.  If your dad loved having a bar-b-q, why not get the family together for one and share stories and memories.  If your dad loved hiking, why not go for a hike with those who loved him.  Gathering with others during difficult days is a great way to offer you the emotion you need on what is likely a difficult day.

**Make a Scrapbook or Photo Album:  ** Spend the day taking a trip down memory lane. You likely have many photos on a camera or your smartphone waiting to be downloaded into an album or scrapbook.  Sorting through old photos is a sure way to make you smile and bring back beautiful memories of your dad.

**Cook Your Dad’s Favorite Meal: ** Perhaps, it seems like forever since you cooked your dad’s favorite meal.  What did he love a nice steak?  Or a special meal only you had the recipe to? Why not honor your dad this year by cooking up some of his favorite dishes?  Cooking can be relaxing, and putting the time, effort, and love into something he enjoyed so much can make you feel closer to him at a time when you are missing him.

Heal by Helping: Sharing your time with others in need today can be a great way to honor your dad.  If your dad was in a nursing home, why not deliver donuts or a special treat to the dads there.  If your dad was involved with charity work, why not honor him by sharing your time this week or financially donating to his favorite cause.  Ask yourself if you know of any dads you know who might have experienced loss themselves and might be feeling lonely today.   Reach out to them and connect. The power of healing found in simple gestures of kindness often goes understated.  If you have the opportunity to find ways to be helpful to others in your community, reach out and do so in your dad’s memory.

Remember, to grieve is to love. Feeling sad or feeling lonely is a normal part of the grieving process. Finding the strength to take the time to honor your dad and celebrate your memories on Father’s Day is a beautiful opportunity to discover sources of power that you may not have known were available to you.  So this Father’s Day, let us remember all those dads no longer with us, who spent their lifetime cheering us on!

Dads – we remember you – and we honor you on this special day!

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 16

Sound Body, Sound Mind

Your mental health and physical health might be more connected than you think. Envision your mental health and your physical health as two sides of a shiny new coin. On the mental health side is your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Flip it over, and you and you will find your physical well-being. This includes things like your genetics and lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise. Each side might seem uniquely different and have isolated needs at first glance, but when we look at them a bit closer, we see just how related they are to one another. No matter how hard you try, you cannot separate one side of the coin from the other. What happens when we keep one side shiny and clean, and the other side becomes dirty and dull?

In the last few months, the coronavirus pandemic has dealt life a blow as we know it. As we entered the new decade of 2020, pandemics were indeed not on our radar, and terms such as social-distancing, flatten the curve, and self-quarantine was not rolling off the tongues of the masses. But now, we feel a direct threat to our physical health. Daily counts of those infected are updated hour by hour on our news channels, and millions of Americans are at risk of catching it before all is said and done.

We have joined a new normal. We all know what taking care of our physical health looks like. We obsessively wash our hands for thirty seconds in hot water, we wear masks and gloves outside the home when we need to buy essentials, and we obsess over every cough, sneeze, and body ache. We think back if we may have had exposure during an outing, and we always wonder if we are coming down with the coronavirus. Many of us try to focus on staying healthy in other ways, as well. We practice social distancing. We take care to eat healthy immune fighting foods, including foods high in anti-oxidants and fresh fruits and vegetables. We try to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep at night, and we try to walk or get some other form of exercise every day. We want to feel safe, and by focusing on the tangible, we have a sense of control over our lives and well-being. This feels comforting and good.

But what about our mental health? Are we taking time to focus on this all too neglected aspect of total health? Do we even have the tools, resources, and know-how to take care of it. What happens when we do neglect it? Will it make us sick in other ways, not directly related to the coronavirus.

Anxiety and stress are at an all-time high. Not only are we scared of ourselves and loved ones getting sick, but many of us are juggling the pressures of remote work while tending to our children’s needs and schooling. Some of us have lost our jobs, and the future economy seems so uncertain. Some of us, our devastated, grieving the loss of a loved one. Still, many of us cannot even pinpoint why we are feeling so stressed and on edge.

We are feeling anxiety and stress, not just mentally but physically as well. For many of us, this feeling of fear is new or so unpleasant that we might need a suppressor to “talk” ourselves out of our anxiety. Holding emotions in can be very dangerous to our health in the long run. Acute stress can turn into chronic stress, and chronic stress can decrease our life span.

Recognizing the Physical Effects of Anxiety Anxiety and depression look different in different people. Some people function so well we might be surprised to learn they are even suffering from anxiety or other emotional challenges. It is essential to recognize the physical effects of stress because when we can recognize and acknowledge the physical symptoms, it is easier to control them moving forward.

Short term physical symptoms include:

  • Sense of impending doom
  • Racing heart or heart palpitations
  • Feelings of panic
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeplessness
  • Irritability

Studies have shown that longer-term impacts of stress and anxiety on physical health can include:

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Weakened Immune Systems
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Frequent Migraines

The good news is that once we understand what anxiety looks and feels like, there are simple steps that we can take to reduce the symptoms and regain control over our life.

Here are three tips to get us started:

Be Mindful of Trigger Events A trigger event is an experience that draws us back in time to an unpleasant thought, feeling, or experience. Be aware of what is causing the physical symptoms of anxiety in your day to day life. Remember that you have the power and control to disconnect from many things that bring you. It may help disconnect from the constant news cycle on the television, social media, or your smartphone. Watch something on tv that brings you pleasure and a sense of calm and relaxation, or curl up with a good book instead.

Make Friends With Your Fear It is essential to recognize that the feelings and emotions you are experiencing are normal and valid. Pandemics and the uncertainty that comes with them are scary. Remember, you are not a superhero, and understanding your feelings is a big part of feeling better. Remember analysis over paralysis. Simply put, fear is not your enemy. It is a natural response to scary things we can’t control or don’t fully understand. Remember, fear feeds itself. Instead of letting your thoughts spiral out of control and get the better of you, think about what a healthy relationship with your anxiety looks like. Sit in a calm setting and write a list of what you are fearful of. Putting your fears on paper can allow reframing your thinking and the pause you need to think about what you are terrified of.

Focus On The Here and Now Focusing on what you are missing can make you feel depressed. Looking too far into the future can make you feel anxious. But being in the present is enjoyable. Keeping your thoughts and mind in the present makes you feel centered and relaxed. Structure and routine are vital to keeping you grounded and focused. Try to create a daily schedule that includes little things that bring you joy and calm. Try that new recipe. Read that book you have been longing to read. Do something meditative like a puzzle or a craft. Up until now, our lives have likely been so busy. Appreciate the pause and allow yourself to focus on the now.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 07

Finding Support in Your Circle

“Cancer is a journey, but you walk the road alone. There are many places to stop along the way and get nourishment – you have to be willing to take it.” Emily Hollenberg, cancer survivor

Sunday, June 7, marks the 33 annual National Cancer Survivors’ Day. On this day, people worldwide join together to raise awareness around the challenges of cancer survivorship, celebrate those living with a cancer diagnosis, and gather support and lend outreach to those impacted by Cancer.

In 2020 alone, roughly 1.8 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Individuals and their families may feel a wide range of emotions, including shock, anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, guilt, and hopelessness. In addition to feeling emotional distress, many cancer patients are also managing physical symptoms, including pain and fatigue, Cancer, and subsequent treatment. Sadly, a cancer diagnosis can be a lonely and isolating experience for many, mostly if the diagnosis was sudden, and the individual or family has little experience navigating Cancer. The good news is that emotional support is readily available, and no one should walk the path of a cancer diagnosis alone.

Living With Cancer Shouldn’t Be Lonely. Cancer patients and their loved ones share that being diagnosed with Cancer feels like “being forced into a club that no one wants to join.” People report that being diagnosed with Cancer seemingly changes their life, as they knew it, overnight. No doubt, a cancer diagnosis will significantly impact a person’s life and daily routine and even plans and hopes for the future. But knowing what to expect, having an action plan on how to proceed, and having a healthy support system can help make this difficult time much more manageable.

A cancer diagnosis brings with it a wave of uncertainty. One common thread that can positively impact those living with Cancer is the need for an excellent and well-connected support system. Many individuals will undoubtedly receive loving support from friends and family during a cancer diagnosis. Still, they will often join a support group to relieve some of their caregivers’ burden and connect with others with a shared, everyday experience. Fortunately, there are so many different types of cancer support groups out there that are welcoming and easy to find by tapping into your resources.

Finding Your Tribe Studies show that those living with Cancer can benefit from joining support groups and receiving advice from others residing or who have lived through similar situations. Some support groups can be generalized, focusing on a wide range of cancer topics. While other groups may be more specific, for example, a group made up solely of young women living with breast cancer or men navigating the challenges of a lung cancer diagnosis. Groups can meet in person or online, and many are led by therapists who specialize in psycho-oncology (a field that focuses on the psychological and behavioral components of coping with a cancer diagnosis). The options are plenty, and even if the first group you join doesn’t feel like the perfect fit, try a few out and see which one makes sense for you and feels like an ideal fit.

How Group Support Can Help After a Cancer Diagnosis Emotional support groups can be a powerful venue for healing and personal growth. Support groups can benefit patients in so many different ways, improving the quality of life along the way. At Circles, our professionally facilitated online support groups have helped countless numbers of cancer survivors.

Our group members commonly report that our cancer-specific groups have helped them gain:

Increased Coping Skills: Sharing your feelings with others can be cathartic. Listening and learning from others going through a shared experience can lend insight into various coping skills beneficial for you.

Information Sharing: Sharing of resources, practical information, and best practices that have helped others successfully navigate their journey will relieve much of the weight from the shoulders of those living with Cancer. Information sharing can help newly diagnosed patients cope with the side effects of treatment, learn about new treatments, and other strategies for dealing with a cancer diagnosis’s physical and emotional burdens.

Hope For Today and the Future: Joining an emotional support group can help you to feel better. Listening and learning about others’ survival stories and resilience can instill a hopeful outlook for the future. Lastly, finding your tribe and connecting with others with a shared experience will help you not feel alone in your diagnosis and fight!

Written by: The Circles Team

May 25

Men’s Mental Health Matters!

“I am tired of acting as though I have something to hide.”

We are all familiar with such sayings as, “Why don’t you just man up” or “boys don’t cry.” Ours is a culture of masculinity. Adherence to masculine norms, such as self-reliance, being tough, staying in control, and not openly sharing emotions, has led to a mental health crisis among men in the United States. Sadly, every day men’s mental health struggles go overlooked and often undiagnosed due to the stigma surrounding mental health. This stigma stops many men from speaking up about their worries and life challenges and prevents them from seeking supportive help when they need it most.

June is National Men’s Health Month. The goal of marking this month is to increase the awareness of preventable health problems while encouraging early detection and treatment. Mental health issues cannot be left out of this equation. It is time to talk openly about mental health issues. We educate ourselves and others about the importance of proper mental health care and treatment. It is time that we encourage equality in how people perceive physical and psychological health challenges. Now is the time to move past this age-old stigma surrounding mental health, especially mental health issues among men.

Understanding the numbers about mental health can help us recognize just how common mental health challenges are among men. Often when we feel emotional discomfort, we think that we are alone or that no one will understand what we are going through. So, we sit in silence with our pain.

Understanding the numbers also lends essential insights into symptoms and barriers to treatment.

  • 9% of men have feelings of anxiety and depression.
  • Over 6 million men in the United States suffer from depression.
  • Men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women.
  • 1 in 5 men will develop alcohol dependency at some point or another in their lives.
  • Men are more likely to die from stress-related illness.
  • On average, men live 4.4 years less than women, with the last 11 years of life suffering from poor health or chronic health conditions.
  • Only 1 in 4 men seek treatment for a mental health challenge or condition.

Why Don’t Men Talk About Mental Health Challenges?

Research suggests that men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health issues.

Some commonly reported reasons why men don’t talk about their mental health challenges include:

  • Not wanting to burden others.
  • Learning to deal with their emotions and feelings in silence
  • Feeling embarrassed by their feelings.
  • Not knowing where to turn for help.
  • Not wanting to be perceived as being weak.

How Men Can Beat Stress and Anxiety

Studies show that men and women report symptoms of depression differently. Women are more likely to express their emotions openly and report feelings of sadness. These clinical symptoms are more readily diagnosed, leading to quick and effective treatment plans. However, it has been shown that men are more likely to express their symptoms of depression in terms of fatigue, irritability and anger, risk-taking, substance abuse, escapism, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and sleep disturbances.

Understanding these gender-based differences of expression is essential for diagnosis and gender-specific treatment plans.

Men and women also care for their mental health in different ways. We all have heard the term self-care and are reminded of its importance almost daily. When we think of the term, “self-care” we often think of it as something women do and might envision a woman in a comfy bathrobe sipping tea in a candle-lit room. Where and how do men fit into the self-care routine? Remember, there is no shame in prioritizing self-care or seeking help for challenging emotions. Here are five quick and easy tips for men to get started in prioritizing their mental health this month.

We all take sick days. Why not take a break from life’s busyness and claim a day as a “mental health day?” Prioritize yourself by doing something that you love. Open up to someone you trust and share your emotions. If you are unsure of sharing your feelings with family or friends, therapists, or support groups are excellent options. Acknowledge and accept your feelings and emotions as a sign of strength and health, not weakness. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, sleep well, and spend time outdoors. Have an open mind and don’t be afraid to explore new forms of self-care, and most importantly - find your circle of support.

Written by: The Circles Team

May 20

Grief, Loss, and Coronavirus: The Most Difficult Goodbyes

“There are three needs of the griever: To find the words for the loss, to say the words aloud, and to know that the words have been heard.” Victoria Alexander

Mourning the death of a loved one is never easy. It is challenging to navigate the feelings of grief even in the best of times when you are surrounded by the loving care and support of family and friends. But mourning the loss of a loved one during the coronavirus pandemic has created new challenges and hardships for those grieving a loved one’s death.

Safety precautions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus have mandated limited or no in-person visitations to loved ones who are sick and dying in nursing homes or hospitals. As a result, so many individuals did not or will not have the chance to hold, hug, comfort, and say their final goodbyes to loved ones in their final moments. Additionally, due to social distancing recommendations and regulations, holding funerals and burials has become increasingly complicated. Zoom funerals, something that would have been unheard of just a few months ago, have become the new norm. So how can you process the complicated emotions of grief and loss when you didn’t have the chance to say a proper goodbye? And how can you effectively mourn the loss of a loved one during the lonely reality of a Zoom funeral?

Adapting to a New Normal

The coronavirus pandemic will continue to affect so many of us profoundly in the weeks and months to come. Already, in just a few short months, our nation has witnessed challenging sights due to the coronavirus pandemic alone.

We are all familiar with the saying that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is unique. It looks different to everyone. However, this current pandemic has changed the face of grief in many collective ways. For example, as a result of the coronavirus:

Grief Support Systems Have Been Turned Upside Down In-person, face-to-face support of family and friends is essential for providing emotional care to the griever. The rituals surrounding a funeral create an opportunity for loved ones to gather in support, love, and memory to nurture those suffering from grief. Even after formal rituals, loved ones continue to compile in the days and weeks after the loss to offer support. Today, being less able to receive in-person support can lead to greater isolation and loneliness of the griever.

**There is a Lack Of Closure and Loss of Rituals Surrounding Death: ** Funeral rituals and traditions are essential for many reasons. They allow the mourner to grieve in ways that are anticipated and culturally bound.  Funerals help the griever process the reality of death, celebrate and memorialize the life of the deceased, and collectively encourage the expression of grief consistent with cultural and religious values and beliefs.

**Individuals are Experiencing Unprecedented Levels of Stress: ** To put it lightly, these are stressful times filled with many emotional challenges for everyone. Everyday routines that provide stability and comfort for many have been thrown out the window as we define a new normal during the pandemic. This, combined with high levels of stress-related to health, financial, and employment stability, can make a typical day, not filled with grief, difficult at best. Additionally, suppose a loved one was lost due to coronavirus. In that case, the daily news may trigger frequent reminders about their loved one’s death, including the fear that they may experience a further loss due to the pandemic.

Coping with Grief During a Pandemic: Taking care of yourself, your family, and your loved ones is critical during this difficult time, and coming to terms with your loss and adjusting to a new life will require new and creative ways to foster and receive support and connection. Additionally, remember to be patient with yourself and your loved one during this time. Coming to terms with loss and adjusting to a new life does not happen overnight, and suffering loss through a pandemic can complicate grief.

Allow Yourself Time to Grieve: There is no set timetable for grief, and without regular rituals and routines, the time and space to grieve may become complicated and blurred. Give yourself permission to grieve and make your healing a priority. Acknowledge feelings of sadness. Accept that you may feel more tired than usual. Take the time to nurture yourself by eating well, taking time to rest, exercise, or spend time in nature.

Let Others Help You: Asking for help can be difficult for many, but don’t let it be. Your loved ones want to be there for you to support you through this difficult time. Ask for help when you need it. Reach for the phone when lonely. If you feel alone and don’t feel that you have anyone you can connect with or who understands you, there are several ways to reach out for support, including support groups that specifically deal with grief and loss.

Treasure and Celebrate the Life of Your Loved-One: Finding ways to stay connected and honor those lost can be healing. Hold a special remembrance ceremony for your loved one. Write your loved one a letter or put together a unique album filled with memories of a life well-lived. Plant a tree or create a ritual and remembrance that resonates for you, in your heart. Marking a particular place or doing an activity for them is an act of love, and it can also help you feel better and create moments of healing.

Written by: The Circles Team

May 01

5 Ways To Strengthen Your Family’s Mental Health During The Coronavirus Pandemic

The last few months have no doubt been a struggle for so many families. Stress from Covid-19, nationwide protests, statewide lockdowns, and the completion of academic terms from home have left many families feeling like they are swimming in an ocean with no land in sight.

Recent research found that as many as seven in ten Americans (72%) find that their lives have been disrupted significantly by the coronavirus outbreak. More so now than ever, it is essential to keep family stress levels in check, as stress can take a heavy toll on individual emotional, mental, and physical health. Left unchecked can cause a variety of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Chronic stress can also contribute to several physical issues, including cardiovascular disease, weakened immunity, obesity, gastrointestinal issues, and skin diseases.

As families dive into a new normal of summer, there is no better time to reflect on how things have been going for you and to take the opportunity to reflect on where you would like something to go over the next few months. Remember that much learning comes from doing and thinking about, and reflecting on what you want to do.

As a family, you will always remember your time together during the coronavirus pandemic and how it was defined. Children can take this opportunity to learn to be adaptable, flexible, and resilient. Define the memories that you will create together. Will this summer be marked by stress and uncertainty or joy and opportunities? When you participate in new activities outside of your everyday routine and comfort zone, there is so much room for learning to take place. So, take a moment to reflect and ask yourself this summer, will you sink or swim; Will you face the challenges of still so much uncertainty head-on? At Circles, we have put together some tips to help ride the wave of stress and uncertainty.

Break up the Monotony: Day in and day out can look the same if you let it. Change, excitement; it is up to you! Although camps and summer travel vacations may no longer be in session – make up a new calendar together as a family. When you open up your mind, you will discover that there is so much to do right in your backyard. Enjoy a fancy picnic, play tourist at open venues in your town, create a family book club, or enjoy a night of painting or board games together as a family. Whatever you choose, make sure it is new, different, playful, or even silly!

Declare Time and Space as Screen-Free Zones: The body and mind need to take time and unplug from those electronics! Taking time away from your phone or computer allows you to be more present when engaging in other activities. Children will follow your lead, so establish a sound, consistent screen rules in your own house. Remember, screen time is a choice, and establishing zones and times in your home, which are screen free will open up other pathways to communication and discovery.

Regularly Check in With Family Members: Family meals are a great time to check-in and see how everyone is doing. Perhaps you have a “chatty” child always looking to engage in conversation, or you may have one that gives you quick, simple one-word answers. To encourage discussion, try asking open ended questions. In my house, we use a little strategy I call the “peach and the pit.” Ever since my kids were small at dinner time, we take turns going around the table pondering and describing the best and worst part of their day; the sweetest, juiciest moment (peach) and the tougher, harder one (pit).”

Be a Positive Role Model: It might seem as if your children aren’t listening and watching what you say and do, but the good news is that they are. Remember, you serve as their role model, so take this opportunity to show them how to handle stress, adversity, and uncertainty with strength and confidence. Show your children how to care for themselves and care for other members of your family. While you are at it, why not try some new forms of self-care during this time? There are so many free apps out there to explore or try something you might not be familiar with.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Lastly, remember the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially during these stressful times. Eating well, sleeping well, getting exercise every day, and spending times outdoors are all great stress busters.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 16

What is Emotional Wellness?

What do you think of when you read the words “mental health”? If the words “crazy”, “weak”, or “sick” popped into your mind, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, a lot of people think of it that way too. There’s people who seek help from mental health professionals, and “normal” people who don’t.

This isn’t true.

Yes, there are people who are clinically diagnosed with a mental illness, but lacking one doesn’t necessarily equal mental wellness. Mental health isn’t as black and white as it seems. It’s a spectrum, and all of us are on it. Let’s be real, we all have our days (or weeks). Sometimes we feel amazing, and sometimes we feel like sh*t. We may technically be mentally healthy, but are we mentally and emotionally well?

Wait, hold up, what do you mean by emotionally well? We’re so glad you asked.

If you think emotional wellness means to be happy all of the time, you’re setting the bar high for yourself, and that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Being emotionally well doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re happy all the time, it means that you’re able to change course to feel better.

Emotional wellness refers to “the awareness, understanding and acceptance of our feelings, and our ability to manage effectively through challenges and change.” For the most part, a symptom of being human is having challenges and problems, most of us don’t go through life completely unscathed. That being said, challenges and problems don’t need to drag us down. As the iconic Dolly Parton says, “if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” In other words, it’s all about how you deal with the challenges you face that determines your emotional wellness.

Naturally, emotional wellness is critical to our wellbeing and mental health. So…how do we become emotionally well? How do we become more aware of our emotions, accept them, and manage them effectively when sh*t hits the fan?

A big part of becoming emotionally well entails slowing down and being more mindful. Focusing on the present moment, without looking back too much into the past or the future, allows you to be more aware of your emotions. We know, easier said than done, but as they say, practice makes perfect. A great way to practice being mindful and present is to meditate. Luckily, for all you beginners out there (don’t worry, we are too), there are great apps that can get you started, like Headspace which offers amazing meditation and mindfulness exercises created by Andi Puddicombe, an ordained Buddhist monk (literally).

It’s also important to remember that awareness and acceptance don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Emotional wellness requires you to accept the emotions you’re now aware of, even if they’re negative. Once you’ve accepted it, you can adjust your attitude about it. Dani DiPirro’s Positively Present is a great example of how to look at your glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

The more aware and accepting you are of your feelings, the better equipped you’ll be to act on them, and this will translate well not only in how you treat yourself, but also how you treat others. The longest study on happiness ever (we’re talking nearly 80 years) found that the most important ingredient in the recipe for happiness is our relationships. Happiness doesn’t go away when we share it, it actually does the opposite (we got this from Sharon Salzberg’s Instagram and it cannot be more true).

Our social connections have a powerful effect on our emotional wellness. With emotional awareness and acceptance in your arsenal, you can foster healthy relationships. Strengthening your social circle (see what we did there?) is so important for emotional wellness, because as we like to say, we only get better together. Mark Groves is a specialist in healthy relationships, and his page createthelove is a great place for lessons you can apply in your life.

The path to perfection doesn’t exist, but practicing awareness, acceptance, and connectedness will get you well on your way to emotional wellness. Good is good enough, and you are good enough. Glass half-full, remember?

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 14

Frame of Mind - 07/14/2021

As we’re slowly but surely escaping the clutches of COVID, our mental health is more on the forefront than ever. To that effect, we will be providing weekly information about what’s happening in the mental health and emotional wellness space - news, events, entertainment, and more - so that you can be in the know.

What’s Happening This Week

In the News…

Montana To Provide Mobile Crisis Response Units - Permanently

The state of Montana began sending special crews on emergency mental health calls in November as a pilot project, and it is now officially set to become permanent in July. Montana is currently running six mobile crisis response initiatives, up from one in 2019, and four more local governments have applied for state grants to start their own teams. The initiatives in Montana are symptomatic of what’s occurring nationally, as more communities are creating units that include mental health professionals to respond to psychiatric crises instead of cops.

Researchers Developed A Brain Map That Can Predict Future Mental Health Problems

Researchers of Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD) have developed a roadmap of brain activity that can identify cognitive processing problems that can contribute to mental health problems later in life. “This study pushes us closer to the point where we can identify and ultimately prevent mental health problems later in life by identifying risk early,” said John Foxe, Ph.D., a co-author of the study. “If we can identify these risks with a simple brain scan at a young age, then that gives us a long runway to intervene and potentially change outcomes.”

Women’s Mental Health Likely More Connected to Dietary Factors Than Men’s

A recent study has found that women’s mental health likely has a higher association to dietary factors than does men’s. "Interestingly, we found that for unhealthy dietary patterns, the level of mental distress was higher in women than in men, which confirmed that women are more susceptible to unhealthy eating than men,” said Lina Begdache, assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University. Based on this study and others, diet and exercise may be the first line of defense against mental distress in mature women, she added.

In Events…

“Are We Ready for a Mental Health Crisis Post Covid-19” - June 17, 2021

Solve.Care, a global healthcare blockchain company, is hosting the roundtable discussion “Are we ready for a mental health crisis post COVID-19?” Speaking at this event, are esteemed international mental health professionals where they will share their experience to help prepare for this impending mental health crisis.

“Mental Health For Women Entrepreneurs - Join the Conversation” - June 15, 2021

Women In The Black partnered with Healthfirst to create a series designed to help eradicate stigmas associated with mental health. This week’s guest speaker is Donna Taylor, a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist and the Clinical Director of Behavioral Health Services for Healthfirst’s Health and Recovery Plan. In this role she develops and delivers clinical programs to improve access, quality and experience of care for our high-risk communities and individuals.

In Entertainment…

Bo Burnham is BACK with a new Netflix special, Inside, following a 5-year absence from the spotlight as he took time off to work on his mental health. Burnham has been open in the past about his struggles with anxiety and having panic attacks while performing on stage. He created Inside while stuck at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, perfectly capturing his experience of the pandemic, and then some.

Stay tuned for next week to get everything you need to know about what’s happening in the mental health and emotional wellness space!

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 13

“There Is No Better Exercise For Your Heart Than Reaching Down And Helping To Lift Someone Up”

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on Yohnit Spruch, Head of Emotional Support at Circles. In addition to ensuring our members receive the emotional support they need, Yohnit is also always there for the Circles Team. Not a day goes by where someone at Circles - whether it be a member or staff - isn’t supported, and that is all thanks to Yohnit. We were so excited to interview her and learn more about her and the importance of emotional support.

Yohnit, tell us about yourself.

Yohnit Spruch: I am a busy mom of five incredible children who inspire me every day through their enthusiasm for life and their resilience when times get tough, and I’ve been a social worker for 18 years working in a range of mental health areas. I strive to live my life authentically and with empathy by recognising the innate inner strengths of others and helping them reach their full potential. I have a strong sense of community, belonging, and making sure that people around me know that they matter.

Absolutely - we feel that every day when we work together. Is that why you were interested in working in the mental health space?

Yohnit Spruch: I have always had a passion for helping people and I knew from a very early age that this is where I wanted to focus my professional life. The words of Bernard Meltzer “There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up” really inspire me as a professional. When people feel that someone really cares for them and is invested in their overall health and well-being they can achieve so much. Taking the time to just listen and then help people recognise and acknowledge their strengths and resilience can be an extremely empowering experience.

Is that what attracted you to Circles?

Yohnit Spruch: The philosophy of alleviating loneliness and providing support to people in the world who for many reasons are not able to access help really appealed to me, even more so since the pandemic started. I am now in a position where I can contribute towards improved mental health on a global level and I have the immense privilege of witnessing this profound impact every single day.

We feel the same way. You mentioned alleviating loneliness - is that what makes group support so special?

Yohnit Spruch: Words feel inadequate to me to be able to express the support that can be found in a group. The shared connections and vulnerability shown in a group setting is something that can only be felt in your heart when you see group members discovering that they are not alone in their struggle and that there are others who truly understand what they are going through. The mutual benefit of being able to give help and support to others while receiving that help and support right back is the power and magic of a group.

We couldn’t agree more. Speaking of the magic of the group, what has been your most meaningful group experience so far?

Yohnit Spruch: When my group members shared how much their lives had changed since they started the group. They shared how they felt the group space was the only place where they felt safe to share their true feelings and they felt heard and understood. Our meetings together were so powerful. Everyone shared so deeply what they had learnt from one another and from the group. The members demonstrated so much courage and strength through their healing journey and it was an honor to be a part of that process.

That’s great to hear. What would you tell someone who is unsure whether to get support through Circles?

Yohnit Spruch: Taking that first step to ask for help and to share with someone that you aren’t coping can really feel overwhelming. For most people, going to a group for the first time is one of the most difficult parts because the unknown elements can feel really scary. My advice would be to take things at your own pace, start off small - take the first step to just say “I need help”. From that moment on we will be there to hold your hand to make sure you feel safe and secure. You don’t have to go through it alone!

Absolutely! What advice would you give someone who is currently dealing with a life challenge?

Yohnit Spruch: Try to break that challenge down into manageable parts. Challenges can often feel insurmountable, but when broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces it can help us take that first step towards making positive changes. Taking things one day at a time, even one moment at a time, while not shying away from help that might be offered along the way, can bring back a sense of hope that things can and will get better.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 10

Top 5 Things You Can Do For Your Mental Health Today

After what has been a wild ride of a year, with lockdowns and social distancing, the adjustment to normalcy can be quite challenging for many of us. We have become so accustomed to staying at home, not changing out of our pyjamas, and watching Netflix, that suddenly being out and about in the world again can be overwhelming.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’re feeling it too.

So we’ve been asking ourselves what we can do to feel mentally better, and here’s what we came up with:

  1. Reduce Screen Time

We were on our screens a lot before the pandemic, and that increased even more so while we were stuck at home. A staggering 76% of people have spent more time on their phones during the pandemic, and 45% have spent more time on their computers. This is problematic considering so many of us are on our phones to look at social media, which has consistently been linked to anxiety and depression.. So what can you do? Limit your screen time. Make a rule for yourself to only check your social media once a day (those TikToks can wait). Alternatively, iPhone users can use the screen time feature to manage their screen time and limit time on certain apps. There are also apps like AppDetox that will allow you to do exactly what they preach - detox from your device.

  1. Eat Well

We’re sure we speak for many when we say that during the pandemic we ordered in A LOT. Ordering in is a great way to treat yourself once in a while, but when you do it regularly it’s not the healthiest habit. As the saying goes, you are what you eat, and if you regularly eat takeout, you’ll see the effects in your mood, because your body and mind are more connected than you think! You may not know this, but you actually have a “second brain” from a connection between your brain and your gastrointestinal tract. Your GI tract houses billions of bacteria that influence the production of neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that send messages from your gut to your brain. Eating healthy foods will promote “good” bacteria, which will keep your neurotransmitter production in good shape and send your brain positive messages. Eating unhealthy food regularly is like putting a bunch of hurdles on the path, causing your brain to receive less positive messages. You can start feeling better - physically AND menatlly - by cooking more at home and using more nutritious food. If you’re in need of inspiration you can follow beetsbybrooke who fills her Instagram feed with delicious plant-based recipes.

  1. Exercise

After being stuck at home for most of the last year, it’s more important than ever to stretch your legs and be active! We know exercise sounds daunting, your mind probably pictures push-ups and weights and immediately goes “no thanks”. But you don’t have to do intense exercise to experience the physical and mental benefits of being active. Just doing a 10 minute brisk walk increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood. Instead of snoozing your alarm, go out for a walk, you’ll find you’ll be more energized than staying in bed for those extra 10 minutes. To make it even easier to exercise, you can also do workouts in the comfort of your own home. Check out shapedfit for some at-home exercise inspiration (Spoiler alert: there’s a couch workout. Literally.).

  1. Get Some Sun (But Not Too Much!)

“Here comes the sun do, do, do. Here comes the sun, And I say it’s all right.” The Beatles hit from 1969 has never been truer. It feels like years since it’s been here, and now that it is, it’s time to take the sun in. Sunlight is super beneficial for both our physical and mental health. In addition the the Vitamin D your skin absorbs, exposure to sunlight triggers the release of hormones in your brain, like serotonin. Serotonin boosts your mood and helps you feel calm and focused. Less sun means less serotonin, which can lead to depression. It’s important that you go out and spend some time in the sun, whether it’s at the beach, park, pool or anywhere you can get it (just don’t forget your sunscreen!).

  1. Get Help

There’s no denying it: this year has been rough. We may all be in different boats, but we all faced the same storm. So many of us have been having a hard time with our mental health, and there’s no shame in admitting that. No one knows ourselves better than we do, we are our own experts. If you’re not feeling okay, that’s okay, but it’s also important to recognize when you could use support. For many people it’s really relieving to talk to someone who understands what you’re going through, and a great way to do that is to join a Circle. Support has never been more accessible and affordable, and this is your chance to be surrounded by it.

So, what are you waiting for? Give these tips a try!

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 09

Facing Mental Health Challenges in the LGBTQ+ Community - Together

It’s the beginning of June, which means we’ve officially started celebrating Pride Month! Rainbow flags are flying on the streets, your favorite brands have changed their logos, and most importantly - love is in the air.

Every year it feels we have so much more to celebrate as we inch closer and closer to equality for LGBTQ+ people everywhere. More than any other time in human history, LGBTQ+ people are represented in politics, culture and society, and are openly able to express their identities.

However, despite the steps we’re taking as a society towards acceptance and inclusivity, barriers still remain that push LGBTQ+ people a step back. Stigma and prejudice towards the LGBTQ+ community is unfortunately still present, shutting the door on those who would like to come out of the closet, and causing LGBTQ+ people to experience more difficulties with their mental health.

In the United States 1 in 5 people (20%) experience a mental health issue, but that rate is more than double (44%) for the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, these trends apply to LGBTQ+ youth as well. The Trevor Project, a leading nonprofit in suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ people, found in a 2019 survey that 39% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously contemplated suicide the year before, with 71% of LGBTQ+ youth feeling sad or hopeless.

There is no single concrete answer to explain why LGBTQ+ are more likely to experience mental health challenges, but undoubtedly the stigma and discrimination they may encounter from their family, school, workplace or community plays a significant part. No one should feel hopeless, and there is no better time than Pride Month to instill hope in the LGBTQ+ community.

Pride is a great opportunity where people in the LGBTQ community can connect with allies and with each other. It’s incredibly powerful to see your identity reflected back at you in a community, and for your community to be part of the mosaic of society. It validates that LGBTQ+ belong, and emphasizes that love is truly love. As important as it is to celebrate the strength of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s equally important to empower the community to overcome their challenges.

We’re very proud of Natalie Skipworth, a queer social worker, who leads a LGBTQ+ Circle of support open to anyone who identifies (or is exploring their identity) as Transgender, Non-Binary, Gender Non-Conforming, Genderqueer, Genderfluid, Agender, Two-Spirit, Bigender, Intersex, and all gender-expansive identities. Natalie and her Circle helps them feel less alone on their journey.

This Pride, let’s take the first step towards empathy, acceptance, and inclusivity. We wear “Love is Love” on our shirts, let’s wear it in our hearts as well

Written by: The Circles Team

Mar 03

Why a Male CEO Should Celebrate Women’s Day

One of my friends is a talented CEO, with an amazing professional track record. Last year, she founded a terrific startup with a social mission. She built a team, launched an MVP, and realized great results with high engagement from users. When she was preparing for a seed round of funding, she asked a few friends, including me, for help with the pitch. While she was presenting, I realized that she was occupied with an explanation of why she could lead the company. Her explanation seemed defensive, and I was under the impression that she felt apprehensive to talk about her worthiness for the role. .

As a CEO of a startup, I interview many candidates for different roles. I meet great people with tremendous passion for leveraging technology to make the world a better place. One thing I’ve noticed is that women candidates talk about themselves differently than men, and tend to be less confident speaking about their own accomplishments – even those with impressive expertise and experience. I do my best to deal with these situations during interviews, but as a company that is committed to inclusion and with a socially responsible mission, we’ve thought a lot about what more we can do better regarding this issue.

Imposter syndrome is a known and recognized phenomenon, where someone doesn’t recognize their own personal value and thinks they’re an “imposter”. Everyone at work respects you and listens to your opinion, but internally, you feel it’s only a matter of time until they find out you’re not worthy. You think you don’t really know what to do, you feel like a fake, and if someone would ask you just the wrong question, you’d collapse and the “true” you would be revealed.

Both men and women experience imposter syndrome, but surprisingly, statistics show that 75% of professional women struggle with it. This is a huge number. It means 75% of professional women leaders in the world think less of themselves. I think this number can’t be related to “personal” situations. 75% means this is a phenomenon, that something is broken with the system and the way we do things - the way we educate, the way we manage people, and the way we communicate. So, the question is who will rise to the challenge.

As a CEO , one of my personal goals is to lead this change within our company, and with Circles we can actually make a greater impact that will reach thousands of women. Circles was created to provide support for people who are dealing with similar challenges and so far we found it to be incredibly effective. So we thought why not train more women to support other women and encourage them to feel worthy and empowered?

This year for International Women’s Day, we offer 100 women free training on how to moderate a Circle for women. We are partnering with communities like SuperSonas and companies like Radware to offer this training to their female members and employees. Each moderator will lead a group of 6-8 women, and by leveraging the group’s power, we’re sure all participants will get tools to help them feel better about themselves and recognize their powerful inner strength.

Join us as a facilitator and lead a women’s Circle in honor of International Women’s Day.

Learn more and sign up here - https://circlesup.com/mycircle/leaders/.

Written by: Irad Eichler, Circles CEO

Jan 31

Smart Tips That Will Help You Relax

Let’s start with this: stress is a perfectly normal reaction for your body. The human body is wired to react to physical and emotional challenges. So, whatever it is that you’re feeling is perfectly normal. But, we do need to make sure that our stress levels are balanced for the sake of our physical and mental well-being.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s response to a challenge or demand. We all experience stress triggered by a range of events, from small daily hassles to significant life changes like a divorce or loss of a job. The stress response includes physical components, such as an elevated heart rate and blood pressure, thoughts and personal beliefs about the stressful event, and emotions, including fear and anger. Although we often think of it as unfavorable, stress can also come from positive life changes, like getting a promotion at work or having a baby.

How can we handle stress in healthy ways?

Stress serves an essential purpose — it enables us to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. However, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to mental health difficulties or increased physical health problems. As we’re now one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like almost everyone is coping with high levels of stress, and it’s worth noting that increased stress levels can interfere with our ability to deal with physical illness, as well.

While we can’t avoid all stress, we can find ways to create healthy habits that help us relax.

  1. Eat healthy food and drink more water: Consuming a nutritious, balanced diet can combat stress. Try to reduce your caffeine intake - high levels of caffeine can increase some physical symptoms of anxiety, such as palpitations and high blood pressure. If you have any concerns about your diet, consult your doctor.

  2. Exercise regularly. In addition to having physical health benefits, exercise is a powerful stress reliever. Consider non-competitive aerobic exercise, strength training with weights, or movement activities like yoga or Tai Chi, and set reasonable goals for yourself. This isn’t a competition - it’s about you taking care of yourself. Whatever it is that you do is good enough for you.

  3. Practice relaxation techniques. Taking the time to relax every day helps manage stress and protect the body from the effects of stress. You can choose from various methods, such as deep breathing, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. Many web and smartphone apps are available to guide you through these techniques.

  4. Reduce triggers of stress. If you’re like most people, your life may be filled with too many things to do, and too little time to do them. Free up some time by practicing time-management skills like asking for help when it’s appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and reserving some time to take care of yourself.

  5. Set realistic goals and expectations. It’s ok — and healthy — to realize you can’t be 100% successful at everything, all the time. Be mindful of the things you can control, and accept the things you can’t control.

  6. Sell yourself to yourself. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.

  7. Find your circle of support. Spending time with people who are currently going through similar challenges as yours can help you immensely. Find the right circle for you and surround yourself with supportive people.

Feel like you’re ready to try some relaxing methods? Here are some that we love:

If you feel like your stress levels are harming you in any way, physically or mentally, please consult your healthcare provider.

What to do if you have trouble sleeping

Insomnia, or difficulty with sleeping, is a common symptom of stress. Please note that insomnia can also be a symptom of illness, so make sure to talk to your doctor, if needed. If you are experiencing sleep issues related to stress, here are some things you can do:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule – go to bed and get up at the same time every day.

  • Make sure your bed and surroundings are comfortable.

  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.

  • Use your bedroom for sleeping only -don’t work or watch TV in your bedroom.

  • If you feel nervous or anxious, talk to your spouse, partner, or a trusted friend or find a support group to help get your troubles off your mind.

  • Listen to relaxing music.

  • If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired -don’t stay in bed worrying about when you’re going to fall asleep.

  • Avoid caffeine.

  • Maintain a regular exercise routine, but don’t exercise within two to three hours before the time you go to bed.

Remember - we’re all experiencing some significant changes in our lives. It’s ok to feel stress and to feel overwhelmed. Find your Circles of Support, and always find the time to take care of yourself.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 31

Can Your Smartphone Increase Stress? (Yes, It Can)

Here’s the deal: the world’s current setting has made us all addicted to our phones. With COVID-19, politics, and the never-ending breaking news cycle, we are all hooked on our alerts and notifications all day long.

Experts say the barrage of text alerts and constant social media engagement on our smartphones can take a toll on our mental and emotional health. For years, but mostly since the beginning of 2020, our phones have acted as a direct conduit to anxiety, with a stream of upsetting information during very stressful times.

Spending hours and hours on your phone can lead to physical issues, such as bad eyesight, a sore neck, and tense shoulder muscles. But it can also lead to significant anxiety symptoms, such as insomnia, heart palpitations, and constant worries.

The solution? We can adopt practices in our daily routine to put our phones away and take a breather.

How to manage phone-induced stress:

  • Technology is a tool, not the destination. Use your phone as a tool to help you get things done, but not as a source of entertainment or replacement for social connections.

  • Turn off alerts and notifications. Choose three apps where getting notifications is most important for you, such as your messages or fitness app, and turn off all notifications for all the rest. Notifications are a major anxiety trigger, so it’s better to eliminate them.

  • Create a time frame for when you check and answer emails and messages. You don’t have to respond immediately to every message. With working from home, it’s even more important to set boundaries for your availability.

  • Get your news from a news outlet, not social media. Social media is full of fake news and conspiracies, which do nothing but stress you out.

  • Set a time frame for your smartphone usage in general. Try to start using it only after being awake at least one hour in the morning, and stop using it one hour before going to bed at night.

The weak division between our lives and technology

There’s no doubt that in 2020, technology became an increasingly indispensable resource. Technology has preserved our ability to work from home, and has kept us in touch with our loved ones while quarantining at home during the pandemic - a situation that’s still going on in many parts of our country and around the world.

But it’s important to remember that technology can also force us to move beyond healthy communications, and rely on screens rather than interpersonal connections. It’s important not to fall into a “rabbit hole of information” where you go almost into a time warp - where you’re reading a Wikipedia page, and then go to Facebook, and then suddenly realize you’ve lost an hour of your day. Find a method that works to take consistent breaks from your phone and computer during the day. Even while following the pandemic restrictions and guidelines - which we need to do for the sake of our own and others’ health - you can still find outdoor activities to keep your mind and body busy and fresh.

We must figure out how to restore balance to how we integrate technology into our lives because our mental health relies on finding ways for us to unwind.

If you feel like stress these days is too much for you to handle alone, join our Circles of Support to get the support you need and support others going through similar situations. Our Circles are led by professionals and are small groups, providing you with a safe place to process your emotions and current events.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 31

7 Life Hacks To Immediately Reduce Stress

Do you feel like you’ve had enough of whatever craziness is going on in the world at the moment? Has pandemic fatigue hit you hard, or is it just regular, normal burnout? Whatever the reason, high-stress levels aren’t something we want to live with for an extended period of time. We all realize there’s no such thing as a stress-free life, but there are some quick wins we can do to make us feel better.

Here are some quick hacks to practice:

Take a walk outside: The best thing you can do when you feel overwhelmed with life is to go for a walk. It will give you time to sort out what’s in your head and reach a conclusion for approaching the whole situation or just accepting reality as it is at the moment. Furthermore, physical activity causes our body to produce endorphins, also known as the feel-good hormone. Find a socially distant place and just start walking.

Meditate: Meditation is a great way to relax and it can affect you immediately. Focus on your breathing and go to your happy place. Inhale for six seconds, hold your breath for seven, and then exhale for eight seconds. Repeat this series a couple of times and it will calm you down and shift your focus away from whatever it is that bothers you. Meditation is all about practice, so go easy on yourself for the first few times. You’ll get there.

  • Play some music: Another way to mitigate stress is through music. You can listen to some classic tunes or just listen to your favorite artists. Music can be used as catharsis, and it has healing properties. Just put your headphones on and dive in. Check out our Circles playlists on Spotify - we’ve got some tunes to keep you calm.

  • Get some sleep: Sleep is necessary to recharge our mental batteries and recover our energy. Do you know how all your troubles seem more significant when you’re tired? Exactly. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, and make sure to keep your bedroom a screen-free zone.

  • Cut down on junk food and sugar-filled drinks: Foods and beverages that are highly processed with large amounts of sugar and salt can increase your physical symptoms of stress and badly affect your mood. We’re not saying cut them out of your diet entirely, but try to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your meals or a healthy protein, and make sure you drink more water during the day.

  • Practice joy over small milestones: To stay motivated, you need to have a clear overview of your progress. So, if you’re at work or have a difficult personal project, create milestones for it. Every time you complete a milestone, you can treat yourself, and when you know exactly where you are with your tasks, you’ll feel more confident and calm. Remember - focus on small achievements. Even one mission at a time is more than enough. You’ve got this!

  • Treat yourself: Listen, you’re doing the best you can under some crazy circumstances. Remember to treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Make sure to schedule some me-time into your busy day. It is essential to recharge.

If you feel like stress these days is too much for you to handle alone, join our Circles of Support to get the support you need and to support others going through a similar situation. Our Circles are all led by professionals and are small groups, providing you with a safe place to process your emotions and current events.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 21

5 Things Every Parent of a Child with Special Needs Should Hear

You are not alone. There may not be someone else dealing with the exact same constellation of symptoms as your child, but there are people with similar challenges. Find those people and join a circle of support. Surrounding yourself with support can help you get through the challenges - big and small, and just knowing that someone is always there to hear you out can make you feel like you’re never alone.

Self-care isn’t a privilege. It’s a must. It’s easy to put yourself in last place while taking care of others 24/7. However, taking care of yourself isn’t a privilege, and it does not have to come at the expense of taking care of your family. Taking care of yourself is a must for you to feel recharged and ready to go on with your busy days. Ask friends or family to bring a meal by now and then, schedule a pedicure for yourself or a date night, or whatever you enjoy doing. Whatever makes you feel special and taken care of - take the time to enjoy it. You are worth it.

**Make time to enjoy your kids. ** The life of a parent of a special needs kid can be hectic and often overscheduled. It’s essential to take some time just to enjoy your family and your children. Read to them, snuggle with them, engage with them about what’s important in their world. It’s ok to take some time off from appointments and just be a family.

Make time for your relationships. A relationship is hard work, period. Parenting is hard work, period. Parenting a child with special needs is challenging work, period! For those of you who are married or in a relationship, make time for your relationship away from your children. Schedule a date night, spend an hour with your significant other in the middle of the day, choose an activity that’s only for the two of you. Taking the time to be a couple is essential and can bring you back some lost energy.

Remember - you’re doing your best, and you are the best parent your child could have wished for. Our Circles of Support are always here for you.

At Circles, we offer Circles of Support programs for mothers. Join our Circles and be surrounded by support, starting now.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 19

The Fourth Trimester - and how it can affect you

The fourth trimester is the 12 weeks immediately after you’ve had your baby. Not everyone has heard of this term, but every mother and their newborn baby will go through it. It is a time of significant physical and emotional change, as your baby adjusts to the outside world and you adjust to your new life as a mom.

Named by pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp in 2002, the term ‘fourth trimester’ suggests that you should try to recreate the kind of environment your baby had in the womb.

Here are some ideas for how to do that while maintaining your mental health during this sensitive and emotional time:

Swaddling and swaying

Babies spend nine months in a confined and continuously moving environment. There are several ways you can re-create the sense of safety and security your baby felt before they were born. By swaddling your baby when you put them down to sleep, they will feel secure, and you might find they wake less frequently and sleep longer. ‘Wearing your baby’ in a sling across your chest can also feel familiar to them. But it’s essential to make sure you use the sling correctly, since they can cause injury if not correctly fitted. Movement is a great way to calm your baby. Gently swaying or rocking from side to side, walking while carrying them, or even taking a quick car trip can settle your baby.

Skin to skin contact

Cuddling your newborn on bare skin is a great comfort to them. Your smell and the sound of your heartbeat is warm and familiar. This is also something your partner can do.

Bath time

Having a warm bath is often a relaxing and comforting experience for newborns. Floating in the water is like being in the womb. It’s also an excellent way for you to bond, talk, and sing to your baby.

What does the fourth trimester mean for you?

The fourth trimester is a time of significant change. When the baby arrives, the focus shifts to them, and quite often. As a result, many mothers can overlook their health and well-being.

Newborns take up lots of time. It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed in the first few weeks from the demands of feeding, sleeping (or lack of), crying, and looking after a baby. Combined with the physical recovery after giving birth and hormonal changes, it’s no wonder many mothers feel exhausted!

Surround yourself with support

You shouldn’t feel alone during this time. As many new mothers have the support of their partner, and sometimes the help of close friends and family, it’s crucial to make sure that your mental wellbeing is also taken care of, along with your other needs.

At Circles, we have Circles of Support programs for new mothers, where you’ll be surrounded by women who are going through a similar challenges to yours.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but strength.

A few family and friends can help by:

  • Bringing meals
  • Helping with household chores
  • Looking after your other children (if this isn’t your first child)
  • Looking after the baby while you rest

Accept help, and don’t be afraid to ask. Find your circle of support and join us.

Eat good, nutritious food.

You will need lots of energy in the first few months, so eating various healthy foods will help give you the boost you need. Some light exercise will also help with your recovery and energy levels. Make sure to give your body time to heal and take it at your own pace.

Sleep when you can

It might sound obvious, but you need to sleep. It’s going to take a while for your baby to settle into a routine, and even then, they will have you up at all hours of the night. If you can, try and sleep when your baby is sleeping or ask your partner or a family member to look after your baby while you get some rest.

Being a new mom - for the first or fifth time - is always exciting, as well as overwhelming. You are not alone, wherever you are. Find your circle of support.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 17

Loneliness During The Corona Pandemic

One of the feelings many people are experiencing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is loneliness. Our usual ways of seeing family, friends, or just familiar faces have been put on pause, in our combined efforts to stay safe and save lives. Add to that the feeling of loneliness that usually comes when facing life challenges, and it’s no wonder that many Circles members report feeling more lonely than ever.

Though hope is in sight with the coronavirus vaccine, it will probably be months before we see the end of restrictions and social distancing and the return to some sort of normalcy.

So, what can we do when we’re feeling lonely?

  • Find your circle of support and share your feelings. It can be a friend, family member, or online support group, but make sure to talk about your feelings.
  • Find a hobby that will help you connect with others, like an online exercise class or book club.
  • Stay active outside your home. Going for walks in your neighborhood while maintaining safety procedures isn’t complicated and will make you feel better.

This is a challenging and sometimes lonely time, but it will pass. There will be lots of hugs, lunch dates with your loved ones, parties, and celebrations in the future. For now, let’s be as kind as possible to ourselves and others.

*Helping others who might be experiencing loneliness *

One idea is to get in touch with someone who lives alone or may not have relatives or close connections checking in on them. A message or a phone call could make a big difference to someone who hasn’t heard from anyone in a while. Another thing you can do is suggest that they take part in an online support program. Circles has a variety of daily support programs that people can join at any time. Spending time with like-minded people can help alleviate the feeling of loneliness.

If it’s a neighbor, you could even share something you’ve baked with them (at a safe distance!). If you know someone who struggles with technology, now could be an excellent time to talk them through setting up Skype or Zoom at home. This could make a huge difference in their social interactions.

*How does loneliness affect our mental health? *

Many of us feel lonely from time to time, and these short-term feelings shouldn’t harm our mental health. However, the longer the pandemic goes on, the more these feelings can become long-term.

Long-term loneliness is associated with an increased risk of specific mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and increased stress. The impact of long-term loneliness on mental health can be tough to manage. That means we need to adapt to how we connect with people and find new ways to stay in touch during this period. Now more than ever, it’s time to keep up those strong social networks that act as a buffer against poor mental health.

Throughout 2020 and now into 2021, we’ve had to rely on technology for a great deal of our communication. While it has been a valuable tool, many are experiencing ‘Zoom fatigue.’ However, staying connected to friends and family is vital to protect our mental health. Attending an online support program can also provide tools to deal with this Zoom and pandemic fatigue.

If you miss having hobbies or social outlets, joining an online book club or online language exchange is another great way to connect. Some sports broadcasters even allow fans to select matches to watch in an online video room with friends. With a little research, you can find something that’s right for you.

*Remember - it’s not just you *

No one is exempt from feeling lonely at times. At some point or another during the coronavirus pandemic, all of us will feel cut off from our loved ones. However, some of us will have greater access to technology than others or to more social connections.

By caring for each other, checking in on more isolated people, and joining a circle of support, we can help reduce the loneliness epidemic, while feeling better ourselves.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 14

7 Useful tips to do while coping with the loss of your pet

Losing a pet is one of the hardest things you may have to go through. Most of us have a strong bond with our pets, and when one passes away, it can feel like we’ve lost a family member. Research has shown that losing a pet is just as hard as losing a member of the family.

While it may seem there’s no way out of the despair and depression, there are some things you can do to get on the path of healing and to get back to being fully present in your day-to-day life. If you’ve experienced the loss of a beloved pet, here are seven tips to help you recover and heal.

Allow Yourself to Grieve

It may seem like an option to try to resist or ignore your grief or allow yourself to just completely shut down emotionally. However, repressing and ignoring the event could lead to even more painful feelings in the future.

It’s best to allow yourself to go through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. Despite what other people may tell you, feeling shocked and sad is perfectly acceptable and normal after losing a pet. In Circles’ Grief over Pet groups, you can find people who are going through the same pain as you.

Set Up a Memorial

Just like a family member, a pet deserves to be memorialized and honored. Setting up a memorial for your pet can be a great way to remember the love they shared with you during their life and help bring some closure to their passing.

Give Yourself Time to Heal

It’s essential to understand that healing and recovery is an individual process. There is not a specific amount of time you need to get over a loss.

Understand that grieving should not be rushed, and don’t get frustrated with yourself if you’re still mourning weeks or even months after the event. Grieving takes time.

Talk to Someone About It

Don’t try to wrestle with grief and negative emotions alone.

One of the best ways to heal after losing a pet is to speak to others about it. When you’re part of our Circles of support, you’re surrounded by people going through a similar situation as you are, and they will always be there for you.

People in your support Circles can help you process your feelings and slowly go through the stages of grief on your way to healing.

Don’t Forget Your Other Pets

Just because you lost one pet, doesn’t mean you should neglect or forget about your others.

Many people who own multiple pets realize that the other pets are emotionally affected after one passes away. Not only should you make sure to keep up with their usual care routine, but consider spending extra time with them. You will all benefit and help each other cope with the loss.

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Professional Help

Everyone has their own timetable for dealing with grief, but if you feel that it’s significantly interfering with your ability to function, consider seeing a professional therapist or joining a support group.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking support after losing your beloved pet. Our Circles of support are all led by professional therapists, who can provide you with the right tools to feel better.

Adopt a Pet in Need (When you’re Ready)

Your pet was one-of-a-kind and can never be replaced. However, just because the loss was painful doesn’t mean you should never adopt another pet again.

In fact, many people who have lost a pet say that one of the best ways to help move forward was to honor their lost pet’s memory by adopting a new pet in need.

When you feel that you’re ready for it, adopting another pet from a shelter may be a winning situation for all.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 12

How to Deal with Political Anxiety

Among the many difficulties this past year has brought with it, an uncertain political climate is also something that’s impacted our lives. With the pandemic, the social movements over the summer, the election, and recent events in the capital, many Americans report high levels of anxiety connected to the social and political climate in the country. What’s the good news? Our team of experts at Circles have some easy tips to deal with the stress and anxiety you may be experiencing right now:

  1. Set boundaries Staying connected and informed can reduce anxiety and fear of the unknown, but there’s such a thing as too much news. Set some boundaries when it comes to your daily news intake. Find a solution that will keep you informed, but not too overwhelmed and consumed by the never-ending news cycle. Decide on the times and channels where you want to consume your news, and stick to it. This way, you’ll be in the know, but won’t be greatly affected by the repeating news.

  2. Take a social media break Social media is a major time-consuming activity and source, though not necessarily the most trustworthy source for breaking, current events. Take a break from social media and from looking at your phone. If something major happens, you will know. Fill your spare time with relaxing and enjoyable activities, such as reading, working out, watching a fun TV show, or speaking with a friend on the phone.

  3. Change what’s changeable and control what’s controllable — and understand the difference. Understanding what we can control and what we can change is a powerful component in controlling our own stress levels. Accepting the notion that we can only control ourselves and change things for us is a powerful reminder not to get caught up in trying to change things that are beyond our control.

Feeling like you can use some support? Join our Circles!

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 06

Coping with the Loss of Loved Ones

A loss, in any situation, is a difficult emotion to understand and process. Loss can take on a whole new level of pain when associated with our loved ones, including our partner, child, parents, and siblings. One might experience a deep sense of sorrow, emptiness, depression, disbelief, and confusion while grieving their loved ones. Grief is a journey to restore hope and cope with your pains.

Our human nature calls us to gather and attach for survival. We’ve long evolved to connect ourselves more deeply to our social surroundings rather than survive alone. Perhaps, the severe pain of grief is explained by the significant loss of our existential need for one another.

Grief is a very normal response to a loss. There is no correct timeline or structure for it. It is an individual experience in which you learn to cope and find new meaning in the loss and life after that. The experiences, circumstances, situations, and support systems can impact your loved ones’ grieving process.

If you have a hard time carrying out your daily activities due to overwhelming feelings of sadness and sorrow, consider these tips to help you cope with your day.

Recognize when you are judging yourself There are so many emotions you will be experiencing each day. One thing to always remember is: It is not your fault. If you find yourself stating, ‘If only I had…’, you are entering into a rabbit- hole spiral of guilt and shame. Recognizing that this is happening in the first step towards avoiding the sense of responsibility and self-blame. Death comes in many different ways, so allow yourself to mourn the loss, be angry, and cry it out, but catch your thoughts when you begin to judge yourself.

Maintain your daily routine It’s never easy to try to go on with your life in the absence of your loved one. However, it is essential to find your sense of control and grounding through your daily routines. Try your best to wake up when you used to, maintain your daily tasks, and work towards filling those gaps routinely through self-care. Take things one thing at a time and one day at a time.

Celebrating the life of your loved ones You might never feel like you can ‘move on’ with your life as you used to, but you can learn to live with the absence. Find ways to celebrate your loved one. Their bodies have left, but their rituals, love, and presence in your life can still be remembered, enjoyed, and shared. Talk about their favorite foods, jokes, bad habits, and ways they were part of your life with the people around you. Their legacy can still go on through your life.

Take a break and ask for help. It’s okay to take a break from all the grief and sadness. It’s a very overwhelming time for you to juggle all the roles you must take on. Try to engage in small activities you used to enjoy, such as cooking, crafting, gardening, or biking. Whatever it is, figure out who can help you to unload and participate in these activities. Different people can help in different ways. If someone offers to bring you food, allow them to, and if you need emotional support, let them know.

At Circles, we understand that the depth of your pain can only be understood by those who have experienced it. You are not alone.

Join us today to restore hope in your life with a supportive community.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 04

Is Group Therapy as Effective as Individual Therapy?

You have decided it is time to get support for the challenges you are facing. You have already done the most challenging part by recognizing that you no longer want to face what is challenging you alone. The decision to start therapy can be scary. It can be even more terrifying when you are unsure of what to expect or feel overwhelmed by all the different therapy types out there.

Perhaps, you are new to therapy. Sometimes, it can be challenging to know what type of treatment will work best for you and the issues you are facing. A quick Internet search will show seemingly unlimited options. It can be not easy, not to mention overwhelming, to decide on the right approach for you. You may even be wondering, are my challenges better suited for individual or group therapy? Research shows that both modes of therapy are equally effective. There are, however, significant differences in the focus of these therapies and how they can best help you best navigate your unique life challenges.

It is also essential to recognize that individual therapy and group therapy are not mutually exclusive. It is often a common practice that both therapy modes go hand in hand and can be used as a “two-fold” approach. So just what are the benefits of group therapy?

What is Group Therapy?

First, what exactly is group therapy? In its simplest definition, group therapy gathers like-minded people who meet regularly to offer mutual support and discuss ways they are coping with life challenges. Groups may meet for several weeks, months, or even stay connected for years. Groups may be open - new members are welcome to join at any time or closed, where all members begin at the same time. Groups can also be peer-led or be led by a therapist.

What Will I Gain From Joining a Support Group?

Whatever form of therapy you choose, you are likely to receive a wide range of benefits. Professionally facilitated online support groups are unique in that they rely on the support of the group and the therapists’ input. Here are five additional services associated with joining professionally facilitated support groups.

Group Therapy is Cost-Effective:

Individual therapy can be expensive, and group therapy can be offered at just a fraction of the cost. Individual sessions can cost up to 200.00 per hour, whereas group therapy can cost as little as $15 per hour.

Groups Therapy Provides the Power of Universality:

It is common when you are suffering from feeling alone with your feelings. But when you join a support group, it can be tremendously comforting and a huge relief to learn that you are not the only one facing this problem or the only one who feels a certain way about an issue. At Circles, we have learned the more homogenous the group, the easier it is for members to connect and find hope and comfort together.

Group Therapy Allows You to See Yourself in Others:

Discussing your issues in a group setting can reveal insights about yourself that, in the past, you may have been too close to see. Discussion topics are organically generated by the group allowing for varying perspectives to common problems. Group therapy also allows you to model successful behaviors while reflecting on your own.

Group Therapy Allows You to Tap into a Social Network and Beat Loneliness:

Whether you have recently lost a loved one, are facing a divorce, a cancer diagnosis, or any other life challenge, you may be facing newfound loneliness. Becoming a member of a support group will help you gain a sense of belonging and acceptance. Friendships also develop and extend outside of the formal group meetings, many continuing for years to come.

Group Therapy is More Than Peer Support:

Therapists who lead professionally facilitated group sessions can help group members navigate issues with specialized expertise. Whereas group members and peers are valuable support, professionally facilitated groups offer benefits beyond forums or informal self-help groups.

Group therapy can be a helpful resource no matter the challenges you are facing. The good news is the different types of support groups available are plenty. So, whatever challenges you are facing, there is likely a support group waiting for a valued member, just like you.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 03

The Importance of Self Care While Grieving the Loss of A Parent

Nothing can truly prepare you for the loss of a parent.

No matter your age or if the death was sudden or expected, the pain felt from losing a parent is like no other. The depth of connection to your parents can be one of your profound relationships. You have shared so many memories, and your relationship likely is one of your longest. Your parents have seen you reach your most important milestones. They have laughed with you, cheered you on, and cried with you. Sometimes, the relationship can be complicated, but you will never have another mother and father, no matter what your relationship was like. The gaping hole left by a parent’s death is one that can never be filled.

Losing a parent is the most common form of grief and likely something we will all face at some point in our lives. As we enter adulthood, we expect it as a standard life passage. However, when a parent dies, our culture rushes us to accept what has happened quickly. We are told to bury the pain and return to life without missing a beat.

According to Elisabeth Kubler Ross, when a loved one dies, a person goes through five states of emotions during the grieving process. These emotions are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. She believes that skipping any of these steps can lengthen the grieving process. Not taking the proper time to grieve can cause more harm than good.

Taking the time to nurture yourself when grieving is an essential step toward healing. For many who have lost a parent, you may have begun the grieving process long before death arrives. Perhaps, your parent had cancer or another terminal illness. The thing about grief is it can start as soon as you become aware that death is possible. This type of grief is called anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief carries many of the same symptoms as regular grief. These symptoms can include depression, anxiety, sadness, anger, and exhaustion.

When grieving, neglecting your emotional and physical needs can happen regularly, especially when you are exhausted and feel guilty for prioritizing yourself. There are, however, many ways to take care of yourself when grieving. Here are some ideas that will help you take care of yourself while grieving a parent’s loss.

**Eat Well, Sleep Well and Move Your Body: ** Grief can affect your body, and now more than ever, it is vital to prioritize your physical health. Remember, a healthy body creates a healthy mind. You may have little energy while you are grieving to prioritize your physical health. But taking small steps each day to take care of yourself can help ease your grief in the long run. If you are having trouble planning healthy meals, ask a friend or family member to help with shopping or meal planning. Sometimes it can be challenging to ask for help. But asking a friend to set up a meal-train or shop for you can remove the burden of daily meal planning while you take the time to heal. Your body and mind need to rest to recover. Make sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Be mindful of your caffeine and alcohol intake. Both can be sleep disrupters. Take a nap or rest during the day if you need it. Lastly, remember to move your body. Go for a walk, do some yoga. Anything that will get you moving. Exercise produces endorphins, which are the body’s natural mood lifter.

**Be Kind To Yourself and permit Yourself to Grieve: ** Remember to take time to check in with yourself. Be patient with yourself and your pain. Honor your feelings and connect with your emotions. If your relationship with your mom or dad was complicated, give yourself the gift of forgiveness. Your grief is unique to you. Try not to compare your grief to anyone else’s grief or their expectations of what you should be feeling or doing. Allow yourself to be less productive during this time. Allow yourself to be angry. Allow yourself to cry. If you laugh and find joy in a moment, that is okay too. You will have good moments and difficult ones as you move through your grief. Remember to be present and take the time to listen to your heart and what it is telling you that you need.

**Connect With Fellow Grievers: ** Connect with those that also had a special connection to your loved one. Share stories, photos, and memories. Speaking of the deceased and remembering them can help with your healing. If you are not finding the support you need in your family and friends’ circle, connect with other grievers. For many, grief support groups are one of the best resources out there. Support groups will help you feel less alone and connect you with others facing similar emotions and challenges.

At Circles, we have Circles of Support open to people going through the loss of a parent. You’ll be surrounded by people going through similar challenges and by a professional therapist who will guide you through tools and methods while you navigate your life in the light of your loss. Join us and be surrounded by support.

Remember, the loss of a parent is one of life’s most stressful events. Practice compassion for yourself by taking the time you need to prioritize your needs. Be gentle with yourself while grieving. Taking care of yourself is essential and a necessity during this most difficult time.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 02

How to determine when it's a good time for you to join a support group?

Have you been told that you should join a support group by your doctor or your family members? Are you trying to figure out when you should join a support group? These are signs that it may be time to start looking for a support group today.

You are isolating yourself One of the first experiences for many people that are struggling in isolation. You may be spending more time in your room, avoiding your friends, and creating excuses for family gatherings. This can become an easy pattern for avoiding your negative emotions and people trying to assist you. At a certain point, you might even find yourself feeling comfortable with being alone.

Research has found isolation to have adverse health effects, including insomnia, memory issues, impairments in decision making, cardiovascular health issues, and a decline in the immune system(1). If you find yourself feeling more lonely and isolated, it’s time to find you the support that you need today.

No one seems to understand what you are going through There is a wide range of responses to your hardships and difficulties from family members and friends. Some reactions are helpful, and others might not be as supportive. You might find yourself feeling tired of explaining your situation or your emotions again and again. If you are struggling to find a sense of understanding from others and feeling alone through your process, it’s a sign that you need a different type of support.

Your emotional journey is unique to your situation, and it may seem that the only people that can thoroughly understand are those struggling with the same difficulties. If you are starting to feel your support system’s limitations, there is a community for you. Support groups are a space where you will share a common ground with others.

You need new ways of coping with your situation One of the commonly shared emotions while going through tough times is being out of control. You might find yourself spinning out of control with your emotions as you feel a sense of loss of control over your situation. When this happens, it’s normal to attempt to regain control through different coping mechanisms. Some coping strategies you are using might be helpful and healthy, while other methods might be causing more problems in your life and current situation.

It is essential for you to find a healthy way to cope with your unique situation. It can help you discuss these coping skills with others that are also in the same situation as you are. Don’t be afraid to seek help and find new ways to deal with your situation before things spin out of control.

Here are the top reasons people find it helpful to join a support group:

You are looking for an understanding of your situation: You have questions about yourself, your situation, and the future. If the why’s and how’s of your difficulties are ruminating at night and interrupting your daily activities, it’s time to understand what you are going through. If you are unsure where to ask specific questions about your situation, you will find support groups to be a safe place to find the answers. Support groups are a place where you will gain in-depth knowledge about your emotional process, practical tips for coping, and resources for your situation. The group facilitators are equipped to guide you through your emotional journey, and other group members are present to share their knowledge of the journey.

You want accountability for change: You want improvements in your life and have intentions to feel different; however, if your situation has taken over and you are finding yourself on the same downward spiral, you might need a gentle reminder to move forward towards change. You will find a group of people who desire you to feel better and need your support for their change. Checking in each week and discussing the topics related to the shared emotions can be an effective way to find accountability. Find a support group today to bring about the change that you are looking for.

Circles is a great place to start your journey of healing with others that understand your struggles. With the option to stay completely anonymous and access the support from the comfort of your place, you don’t ever have to feel alone again.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jan 01

Empathy vs Sympathy

The term empathy and sympathy are used interchangeably in our culture today.

According to the American dictionary, both words have roots in the Greek term “páthos,” meaning “suffering.” Empathy is commonly confused with sympathy, but there is an essential distinction between the two words.

Sympathy is a word that describes a feeling of pity and sorrow for another person’s suffering and pain. Sympathy is when you feel bad for the person from afar. It indicates a caring emotion of your acknowledgment of the other person’s pain.

Empathy is a word that was developed to describe a shared emotional experience with another person. Empathy takes an imaginative part of you to place yourself in the shoes of another and experience the suffering expressed by the other person.

To share another person’s emotional experience takes a lot more work than portraying sympathy, where the other’s emotions stay separate from your own.

Both sympathy and empathy displays care for the other’s suffering. The significant difference between the two is that empathy requires courage for you to access your pain and share it with the other person’s suffering.

Social worker and researcher Brené Brown distinguish the two as the following.

“Empathy fuels connection, and sympathy drives disconnection.”

It takes vulnerability to express pain to others. You can carry the expressed suffering and decide to either take part in the painful experience by accessing your despair or to stand apart from the pain. Empathy is a choice that you make when you decide to take part in the suffering.

Often, when we hear about another person’s suffering, we are looking to fix the issue at hand and lift their pain away. This is a way of trying to escape our own painful experiences and feelings of helplessness. What people are looking for is to know that they are not alone. They are looking for a connection.

Empathy is the connection that suffering individuals are searching for. Many times, they received sympathy from their supportive members of the community. This will result in the person feeling more alone, and it validates that no one understands.

We encounter suffering individuals every day to find a space where they can be accepted and understood. At Circles, we know that this is a cry for a genuine connection. This connection starts when you can freely share your pain with others accessing their suffering stories. We are ready to meet you wherever you may be in your journey of healing.

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 27

The Pandemic Isn’t Over: How to Handle COVID-19 Fatigue

Are you feeling anxious and exhausted? Well, you are not alone. Coronavirus cases are increasing across the country. It is normal to feel worried, anxious and exhausted during this challenging time. New data shows that Americans are suffering from unprecedented levels of mental stress. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently shared that most American adults believe that the pandemic is taking a toll on their mental health.

It would appear that we are still in the depths of this very challenging marathon. Now more than ever, it is important to check-in with ourselves and our emotional needs. We can do the best thing to pace ourselves as we enter this next stretch of the pandemic. As the pandemic continues, here are some tips to check in with yourself and nurture your mental health.

Do Things That Make You Happy: It may seem like the world has shut down, and yes, many things have, but there is still a lot of joy to be found. Remember to find the time EVERY day to do something that makes you happy.

Engage in Physical Activity Every Day: Research shows that exercise has an immediate and positive effect on our moods. If you are a seasoned athlete, set a goal and GO FOR IT. If you are not, it doesn’t matter. There are so many ways to get started. Even a little bit of physical activity goes a long way – a 30-minute walk or stretching each day will quickly lift your mood.

Talk to Someone: It can be difficult to handle stress alone, and we shouldn’t have to. Stay connected to family and friends, and remember to offer your support too. If you are having trouble managing stress or staying connected, consider joining an emotional support group for advice and connection.

At Circles, we have special programs that will help you learn tools to manage your stress levels better and navigate this weird world we are now living in a while, finding your balance and peace of mind. Join and be surrounded by support from people like you.

Stay Informed, but Limit Exposure to Social Media: It is essential to stay informed with accurate information from trusted sources. Remember, your risk is unique to you and your family. Making choices that are best for your situation might look different than those of a loved one. That is okay. Understanding the risk to yourself and the people you care about can make daily decisions less stressful. Try to limit exposure to media, especially when children are present, and self-monitor your time on social media if that impacts your level of stress.

Stress is inevitable. It affects everyone, especially during these unprecedented and challenging times. But stress does not have to lead to stress-related disease or adverse health consequences. Remember to check in with yourself and your loved ones daily. Remember there are many tools and resources out there to help keep your stress in

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 23

Five Tips To Mindfully Calm Your Anxiety

Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hahn said that we should “Smile, breathe, and walk slow when feeling anxious.” Much truth is held in these simple actions. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try, controlling anxiety is more manageable said than done. If getting rid of stress appears so easy on the surface, why is it that 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety each year?

What is Anxiety? Anxiety is feelings of worry and stress that won’t go away. It can show up as intense nervousness and fear. Anxiety is sneaky and can manifest itself physically, causing increased heart rate, sweating, muscle tension, or nausea. It manipulates and lies to us. It causes self-doubt, worries, what-ifs, and worse case scenarios.

If we aren’t careful, anxiety can make our thoughts spin out of control. The good news is that by adding little bursts of mindfulness throughout our day, we can gain the power we need to reduce feelings of anxiety and calm our worries.

How to Be Mindful When Anxious:

Whether your anxiety is mild or intense, felt occasionally, or felt every day – these five proven tips can calm your anxiety in no time. The good news is that you will have the ability to outsmart your anxiety and worries everything single time with a little practice.

Let it Go: There is so much in life that we can’t control. We can’t control these things to disrupt our calm and peace of mind if we let them. The only thing that we really can control is how we react to uncertainty and life’s challenges. One of life’s best lessons is letting go of the need to control the things we have no control over.

**Breathe in and Out: ** Breathing, it’s the simplest thing we can do, and it works almost instantly in calming our nerves and anxiety. No special skills are required. We can do it anywhere, at any time. It is that simple. Take a deep breath. And repeat. Again, and again and again.

Interrupt Your Anxiety: Anxiety moves out of my way. There is no place for you here. Interrupting your anxiety with an activity you enjoy is a sure way to calm your worries. Find what works for you and change it up. Reading a good book or going for a walk are excellent ways to find a distraction. Connecting with a friend and sharing in positive conversation can take your mind off your troubles in no time.

Soothe Your Soul With Sound: Take the time to make a playlist of the sounds most peaceful to you. Is it a specific song or artist? The sound of water flowing or birds chirping? Music or sound has the power to lift our moods almost immediately. Anxiety and negative emotions can be difficult to sustain when surrounded by the soothing sounds we love.

At Circles, our Circles of Support will help you find balance in your life challenges by surrounding you with like-minded people and professional therapist in small, virtual groups. Join our Circles to be surrounded by support.

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 22

The Holiday Circles Miracle

We are very moved.

We’re moved by the tremendous response we’ve gotten for our Holiday Circles program.

And we’re moved by the courage shown by so many reaching out for help during this holiday season. We recognize and appreciate their motivation to learn new tools to cope with grief and their openness to connecting with others in a similar situation.

We created Holiday Circles precisely for this reason – to make sure no one feels alone with their grief during the holidays. Especially this year, which has been such a difficult year for us all. We know this can be a hard couple of weeks. And while everyone else is getting ready to take off, we realized this is precisely the time we need to be there for others. That’s why we created the ‘Grief Over the Holidays’ workshops, available for free this week for anyone who feels like they could use a bit of support to get through the holidays.

We know how it can feel when you’re surrounded by holiday cheer and you’re missing that person who’s no longer here. We know because we’ve been there. Thousands of people have responded to our Holiday Circles program and signed up to join the workshops. The first day of the workshop has been a humbling experience for us. People from all walks of life, from across the country. It’s amazing and humbling to see so many dealing with the challenge of coping with grief over the holidays - people who lost a loved one to COVID, people who lost someone close to them several years ago, people working out how to get through the holidays without their spouse, adult children who miss their parents, and parents who are going through the holidays without their child. While everyone’s loss is different and everyone’s grief is intensely personal, there is a common experience and recognition we can share with others. That is the power of the group.

And people are realizing it. Comments we’ve received from participants in the* Holiday Circles* so far include:

“Thank you so much. The meeting was such a comfort. I really appreciate you providing that for us!”

“You are my Christmas gift. I’m so blessed to have this group!”

“You are making a difference in my life for the better.”

It’s having an impact not only on participants, but also on the group leaders. As one therapist who led a Holiday Circle told us, “It was such a humbling experience. I’m blessed to be doing it.”

This year, when so many of our social interactions have moved online, we are using technology for good. It can be isolating to be on your own with your grief during the holidays, and Holiday Circles allows us to connect with others, from coast to coast, for mutual relief and support. Others who we may never have had the chance to connect with through our usual social circles. Others who know what we’re going through.

We are touched and humbled.

Thank you to all participants who have opened up their hearts and shared their experiences with the Holiday Circles. We wish you love and strength during the holidays.

We’re here for you,

Irad,

Circles CEO

Written by: Irad Eichler, Circles CEO

Dec 17

Five Tips for Facilitating an Online Support Group

Facilitating an online support group can be very different than facilitating an in-person support group. There can be many additional barriers and challenges. Still, at the same time, online support groups can act as spaces where people find safety, solace, and connection, which is essential, especially at a challenging time like the present. As a group facilitator, you play a fundamental role in promoting safe spaces for healing to take place, and the following helpful tips can support you along the way.

Here are five tips from Circles group facilitators team:

1. Acknowledging the strength involved in seeking support: For many individuals deciding to seek support of any kind can be a very brave and courageous action to take. That can be due to a variety of reasons. There is so much power in acknowledging this and sharing with group members that, as a facilitator, you are glad they could find the group and reach out for support. This can help welcome members into the group, make them feel more comfortable, and even reaffirm their decision to seek support in a safe place filled with a caring community.

2. Setting rules for creating safety within the group: Group rules are a vital component of any support group. In addition to going over the group rules, it is essential to ask members if they have any questions about the rules. In some support groups, facilitators welcome group members to suggest or share any other rules they believe are essential for enhancing their safety. In online support groups, it is vital to share the group rules in the group area to go through them at their own pace or refer to them if they need to throughout the meeting.

3. Sharing the structure of the group meetings: Considering that for some group members, it may be their first time attending a support group, it may be helpful for you as the group facilitator to briefly share some information about the structure of the group meeting at the start. This can also reduce any apprehension or fears members have about what to expect from the group, so they feel at more ease.

4. Participant visibility for monitoring safety and creating safe space: With online support groups, it can be more challenging to monitor safety within the group. You cannot observe body language and expression in the same way as in-person groups. That is why it is a group rule in Circles to have the camera turned on. This not only allows you as facilitators to assess for any risk and monitor the safety of members throughout the meeting, but it also helps to enhance safety for all members within the group. To reduce any reluctance surrounding this, explain that when all members are visible on the screen, it can show that members are being attentive and are present for one another. This will affirm the idea that support groups are a place to give and receive support in a safe and non-judgemental space.

5. Sharing resources for psychoeducation or additional support Lastly, it can help share some type of resource with the group members at the end of the meeting. You can let members know that it is up to them to decide if they would like to access or utilize the resource because sometimes the group process itself can feel overwhelming or can provide enough catharsis. Be mindful about how many resources you decide to share and the type of resource, considering that the group member may be alone when accessing the resource’s content. It may evoke a range of thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Every support group is unique in its way, and all group facilitators have their styles. Please consider which of these tips could enhance the quality and level of support you can provide within your groups.

The work you all do is significant and can make a massive difference to the lives of many. As you do this work, remember to take some time to practice self-compassion and self-care throughout this particular season in all of our lives.

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 09

Holiday Circles of Support

The holidays can be wonderful. They can also be very, very hard.

Especially if you’ve lost someone close to you.

I know. My mother died six years ago. And ever since then, the holidays have been hard. I could be sitting around a holiday table, filled with good friends and family, with great food and drinks, and it can feel like something is missing. Someone is missing. Surrounded by my closest friends and family, I can feel alone. Alone in my thoughts, my grief, and missing my mom.

It doesn’t matter how long ago you may have lost someone - during the holidays, it can be even more challenging.

One of the reasons we started Circles was to make sure people do not feel alone when going through a difficult time. We believe in the power of community, of human connections, and the value of professional guidance to help people feel better.

So, this holiday season, we’re doing something new.

Circles is opening our virtual doors to make sure everyone’s surrounded by support during the holidays. We’re running special workshops for people dealing with grief over three days in December. For free.

Professional therapists will lead the workshops, for small groups of people who are all dealing with grief. Participants will have the opportunity to share their feelings, gain mutual support and relief, and learn tools for coping with grief during the holidays.

This year in particular, as so many of our interactions have moved online, we can go through the holiday season pretending as if everything is ok. But that could make it even harder. Instead, we invite you to use the virtual world as a tool to find support and ease your pain.

Because we know how it feels. Especially during the holidays.

And even more, during the holidays this year.

If you feel like you could use some support this year, please join one of the Holiday Circles.

We’re here for you.

Irad, Circles CEO

Written by: Irad Eichler, Circles CEO

Dec 07

Experiencing PTSD and Complicated Grief After Traumatic Loss

What do you think of when you hear the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Perhaps you imagine images of soldiers who have experienced unthinkable trauma first hand? But, did you know that grieving the loss of a loved one and PTSD can go hand in hand? Mainly when a loved one’s death occurs traumatically or unexpectedly.

The myths surrounding PTSD are plenty. The stigma surrounding PTSD is strong. The symptoms and treatment of PTSD, especially as related to grief and loss, often goes misunderstood. At the same time, the importance of recognizing the symptoms and warning signs of PTSD is crucial for diagnosis and subsequent treatment options.

When Grief Becomes Complicated Grief is the experience of loss in one’s life. The death of a loved one is marked as one of life’s most significant stressors. Pain from loss can be overwhelming, and these feelings are normal and expected. Experts define grief as being either “normal” or “complicated.”

Grieving is unique to each of us—most people dealing with loss exhibit intense symptoms that fade with time. Healing ultimately occurs, and individuals can return to their daily life. For some, grief is complicated, and healing does not happen promptly. Complicated grief occurs in about 7% of bereaved people. Studies show that PTSD and other anxiety disorders coexist in bereaved individuals with complicated grief. Individuals with PTSD need the help of a professional. As a result, it is vital to recognize symptoms and strategies for providing support.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD? No one truly knows why some people have PTSD while others do not. Grievers who are experiencing PTSD have symptoms which dramatically affect their ability to function in their day to day life. Symptoms will often linger for more than one month.

Common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Reliving the Event
  • Flashbacks of the trauma or hyper-focusing on what the individual might have gone through in their final moments
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Physical symptoms can include heart palpitations, sweating, or hyperventilating.
  • Persistent avoidance of things or events that remind us of the person or place where the tragedy occurred.
  • Feelings of Guilt or Self Blame
  • Anger or Rage
  • Feeling Numb or Detached

The Importance of Reaching Out and Finding Support After a traumatic event, such as sudden or violent death, it’s normal to feel emotional pain and out of sorts. Most individuals, who experience the loss of a loved one, will start to feel better after a few weeks or months. Suppose the emotional pain becomes too much to bear. In that case, you experience intense physical symptoms. You cannot function in your daily living. After a few months, you are not feeling any relief. Please reach out to your doctor or a mental health care provider for advice and support.

Professionally facilitated emotional support groups can be a great addition to treatment for PTSD and complicated grief. Support groups can give you a sense of connection to people experiencing similar types of loss. Many support groups connect you with individuals who have experienced similar kinds of losses. This makes the connection even more valuable.

Despite feelings of loneliness, it is essential to remember that you do not have to suffer alone. Start by recognizing your feelings are important and valuable.   Acknowledging and sharing them are an integral part of your healing. Reaching out for help is a courageous act in itself, and connecting with others going through a shared experience can be transformative.

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 01

Treat Yourself Kindly This Holiday Season

This year has been tough. And now the holidays are coming up. It can all be a bit daunting, especially if you’ve lost a loved one. Nearly **60% **of Americans have experienced the loss of an immediate family member in the past three years. That is a lot of people dealing with grief that is relatively new.

In a year full of ‘new normals’, when social distancing became socially accepted, and when so many of our interactions moved online, it can be especially hard to process feelings of loss and grief. It’s been a year that’s given new meaning to being alone and staying apart from others, even our closest family and friends.

As the holidays approach, many of us are thinking how can we do this? How can we get through it this year? How can we not miss our loved one even more after such a hard year?

If you feel like this, know you’re not alone.

88% of our members say they are struggling during the holiday season. And 67% report that the holidays trigger painful memories for them. In a season that’s supposed to be full of joy and celebration, many are hurting. As one member said, “I’m dreading the holidays. I don’t know how to keep pretending that I’m ok.”

We hear you.

Which is why we’re opening our virtual doors for three days of free grief workshops leading up to the holidays. From December 21-23, we will be offering live online workshops for small groups of people, led by professional therapists.

You can go through the holidays virtually and pretend everything is ok, or you can use online technology as a platform to find a real circle of support. Instead of feeling distant and exhausted from Zoom, it can be part of the solution that actually helps you feel better.

During the workshop, you’ll have the chance to connect with others who are dealing with grief during the holidays and learn how to maintain self-care during the holidays, while still dealing with grief.

Treat yourself kindly this holiday season.

Join our Circles of Support.

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 01

The Benefits of Joining a Support Group

Support groups offer a space where people can share common issues, ranging from health concerns to emotional needs. In well-formulated groups, the members can express their honest thoughts and struggles without the fear of judgment. Support groups can be utilized as supplemental to medical treatments or individual therapy services to cultivate healing or personal growth.

Talking to others about our difficulties helps us see our situation clearly by reflecting on our own needs and emotions. At times, our immediate circle of support may not be equipped enough for the amount of emotional pain that we are encountering. Joining a support group can be beneficial in many ways, whether dealing with an emotionally challenging situation or suffering from a mental and physical health issue.

Support groups come in various formats and structures. Some groups may be informative, while others might be emotionally-process-oriented. There are groups for people looking for targeted behavioral changes, specific situational issues, health issues, and groups that serve therapeutic purposes. We are all in need of a support group of a proper shape or style.

Support groups are offered in many different settings, including religious organizations, nonprofits, therapy offices, health clinics, and online platforms. The other locations provide options for diverse support groups to find the necessary care. You will find a sense of comfort in being able to listen and discuss your emotional challenges with others.

These are just a few of the benefits of joining a support group:

  • Fewer feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Gaining knowledge about the emotional process of your difficult situations
  • Feeling understood by others.
  • Discovering coping skills
  • Gaining resources from others going through similar situations
  • Provides a sense of belonging and validation
  • Empowerment
  • Stimulating new thoughts and feelings about your situations
  • Gaining the ability to manage your emotions
  • Sharing accountability
  • Affordability

We all need a place to share our tears and laughter with a community of people that understand our expressed emotions. Circles support groups offer the opportunity to have a balanced integration of sharing information, building coping skills, and processing emotions.

You will find that Circles offers a unique approach to connect you with your emotional community. Find your support group led by a mental health professional today.

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 01

Qualities of a Good Online Group Facilitator

When facilitating online groups, various qualities allow a person to succeed and enjoy their work. Exploring these qualities will help us see how we can relate to our strengths and expand ourselves to incorporate more skills. Here are a few rates that you will probably relate to in some ways. Which qualities help make your work most fulfilling?

Self-Disciplined We all know that being self-disciplined brings benefits in almost every situation. There are a few ways that this quality can help with group facilitation, like pushing through our struggles and keeping up to date on best practices. Most days facilitating a group is a pure delight. At the same time, we all have days where we are tired, busy, or otherwise distracted. Self-discipline helps us show up with an empathetic approach and be fully present for our members, even on our worst days. Additionally, a self-disciplined approach to our self-care and continuous education will help us model self-care for our group members and pursue ongoing education that will allow us to deliver effective facilitation for our groups.

Insightful In school, we must understand ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses to best serve our clients. This could not be truer than during group facilitation. To operate successfully as a group leader, we must understand where we fit into groups and how we relate to others. Having this knowledge and insight, doing our inner work will allow us to connect in a very human way to others’ struggles and triumphs. Also, every time we facilitate a group, we have an opportunity to expand our self-knowledge and insight.

Accessible When keeping in contact with group members, it’s important to remember that we are not operating as an individual therapist. We are facilitating each member’s potential to improve their functioning by relating to and interacting with a group of their peers. With that said, the facilitator must be the group’s cheerleader, encouraging members to show up, and responding timely to their questions or concerns. This means contacting members by phone, text, email, whatever way will engage them so that they have an opportunity to connect and group with their peers. Sometimes members will have extenuating circumstances that may require extra contact with the facilitator, such as a death in the family or other loss/emergency. These situations may require a few additional minutes of individual contact with the facilitator. The facilitator’s goal in these situations would be to encourage the member to share the news with the group and continue with the group process amidst their struggle.

Flexible Whether it is technical difficulties, or fewer group members than expected, facilitating an online group always manages to throw a curveball of some sort. Sometimes these difficulties may force us to improvise on the spot with adjusting meeting content and managing our feelings of frustration. These struggles can be seen as a chance to work flexibility and emotional regulation. When fewer group members show up than expected, it is good to spend more time on specific comments and ask more follow up questions. Whatever comes up, there is always a way to facilitate and complete the group in a meaningful way.

If you are interested in learning more about online support groups, please apply to join Circles’ amazing Group Facilitator Team, and join us in helping people find a sense of relief!

Written by: The Circles Team

Dec 01

Your Circles of support

We launched 7Chairs a little bit over a year ago, aiming to make emotional support accessible to everyone, everywhere. After experiencing personal challenges myself, I recognized the real need and value of connecting with others while you’re going through a difficult time.

That led me, together with my partner, to create 7Chairs - a digital platform for support groups. The idea was to connect seven people who are all dealing with a similar challenge, in a group led by a professional therapist. We had one mission - to make sure that no one around the world feels lonely with their struggles.

We soon realized how deep the need is, and how wide the gap is - you may be surrounded by people, but still feel alone. People facing life challenges are eager for human connection, especially with others who are dealing with similar situations. We saw how profound the impact of a group can be, and how meeting other people can bring a person relief and show them they’re not alone.

On top of this, almost a year of dealing with a global pandemic has shown us the power of community support, and in the process of developing our platform, we realized that we offer more than just a chair to sit in - we offer a full circle of support.

7Chairs is now Circles. We changed our name to better represent what we offer: circles of support, in the form of small groups of people who understand you, with professional therapists who carefully guide you through your journey. It’s your safe place to grieve, to cry and laugh, to listen and share, to support and be supported.

With Circles, you are always surrounded by care and support. You have the opportunity to find mutual relief and encouragement, to develop coping skills, and build personal resilience. We offer you circles of support, so you are never, ever alone dealing with life’s challenges.

Thank you for your trust, Irad Eicler, Circles CEO

Written by: Irad Eichler, Circles CEO

Nov 30

Stronger, Together

We’ve all been there.

We’ve all faced difficult times in our lives. And sometimes, it can feel like no one in the universe can really, truly understand what we’re going through that no one can know how we feel.

It can make us feel really lonely.

As much as our experiences differ, and even though we all experience them differently as individuals, there is, however, some common ground. That’s the beauty of life – it’s complicated and diverse, yet we’re all human. And human nature has the capacity for empathy and sympathy, and we often experience and feel similar things.

Talking to strangers can be strange at first, especially when dealing with your most personal thoughts and feelings. Still, there are also specific benefits, especially when you’re talking with others facing a similarly hard time. Your inner circle of friends may be the closest people to you, but if you’re dealing with anxiety or depression or grief, and they are not, it can be challenging to connect. But if you speak with others who are also going through the same thing as you are, it can be a real epiphany to realize there are people out there who know how I feel.

When you speak with others in a similar situation, you can get relief hearing what they’re going through and realizing you’re not alone. Not only that, but you can provide them with relief by talking about what you’re going through - you support and learn from each other. The diversity of life experience is also a benefit since it can help us discover different ways of coping or provide us with a whole new perspective on our situation.

Connecting with others going through similar hard times, especially in a small group led by a professional therapist, can be a beneficial method for helping people feel better and learn new coping skills. Groups such as these can help reduce feelings of isolation and alienation and give us a sense that “we’re all in this together.”

Another benefit is the opportunity to express your feelings and practice new coping skills in a safe, secure environment. When you are part of a supportive circle and surrounded by people who can relate to what you’re going through, you can rely on their support. This can give you strength and confidence, even between group meetings.

So, even though we all face our life challenges, so many people are dealing with similar things. Whether it’s a feeling of stress or anxiety or dealing with a specific life transition, we can take comfort knowing others are going through the same thing. When you find these others, and when you can connect with them in a meaningful way, it can make all the difference.

Written by: The Circles Team

Nov 28

What Should I Say to Someone Who is Grieving?

“When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than a million, empty words.” Dr. Therma Davis

Grief is not pretty.  It can be raw, painful, messy, and awkward.  We know it as a normal and natural response to the loss of a loved one.  We will all experience it at some point in our lives, yet despite its universality, we are not always well equipped to deal with it or know how to best offer support to those going through it.

Imagine you have just learned that someone you deeply care about has lost a loved one.  Maybe it is their spouse, their young child, or an aging parent who has battled a chronic illness for many challenging months. You want to share empathy and show support, but it can be hard to know what to say – or perhaps more importantly, what not to say to them during their time of loss. Your intentions are good, and your heart knows that your loved one needs your care and support, yet you stumble to find the right words or right actions to comfort them.  Sometimes we fear saying or doing the wrong thing, so we withdraw and do nothing, leaving our loved ones to face formidable challenges alone and without support.

The truth is that we as humans need to share the everyday experience of grief with others.  Those experiencing loss need the gentle comfort and availability of friends and loved ones, not just for the immediate days following the loss, but often for months and years to come.  We know it can be hard to find just the right words, so here are four tried and true ways to support a loved one who is grieving in their time of need.

Let Them Be Sad: Our natural response to feeling sad is to try and cheer them up and make them feel happy.  We often try and distract or minimize their pain associated with grief.  We may encourage our loved ones to reengage with daily living and move quickly past their sorrow.  Remember, though, that an essential part of healthy grieving is experiencing the pain and suffering associated with loss head-on courageously.  Despite good intentions, we need to recognize that being sad, angry, mad exhausted or moody are natural responses to loss. They are a necessary part of processing and healing. No matter how difficult, put aside your feelings of discomfort, and take the time to validate your loved one’s emotions.  Let them know that you feel sad too. Please help them to express their pain and sorrow.  Hold them when they need to cry. Scream with them when they are angry and say that life can be cruel and unfair. Let them know that there is no time limit to their grieving and that you will be there with them through the hard times, for as long as it takes.

Give Love, Not Advice: Remember that grief belongs to the griever, and it is not about you. This is their unique experience and journey, and you are there to support them.   The words that you say do matter, so try and choose them carefully and with intent.  Be an active listener to show support and be wary of offering unsolicited advice. Active listening involves being focused and letting your body language show that you are open to what they are saying.  Sit close to your loved one, maintain good eye contact, and reach out and hold them when needed. The power of touch can be very healing to the griever. Try to avoid sayings that minimize their pain, such as “your loved- one’s suffering is over, and they are in a better place” or “you are so young, you will be able to move on and can always remarry.”  Avoid comparing stories of grief.  Remember that part of healing can be sharing beautiful memories about the lost loved one.  Encourage your loved one to mention the deceased by name and when they want to share, listen openly to stories about their lives and even more difficult and painful aspects of their death.

Remember Big Dates and Little Dates: Time will move on, seasons will change, and there will be specific personal dates and calendar reminders that will trigger emotions for your friend or loved one throughout the year.  Remembering significant dates and little dates can be incredibly supportive and appreciated as your loved one grieves.  Try and make what might be difficult dates a little bit easier for your loved one.  Set yourself reminders of birthdays, anniversaries, and other essential days into your calendar.  Reach out to your loved one on those important dates and let them know that you remember and that you are thinking about them and available to listen.  When holidays approach, extend an open invitation for your loved one to join your family for dinner or other events so that they are not alone.

**Remain Available:  ** All too often, the funeral ends, and friends and loved ones will move on with their own lives, leaving the mourner to grieve alone.  Remember that the pain and trials your loved ones are facing are just beginning.  Grieving is a long process, filled with many peaks and valleys. Instead of asking your loved ones to let them know what you can help with, be specific in how you will help.   Remember that your loved one might be hesitant to ask for help, or she may be so overwhelmed that she does not know what she needs.  Offer your time to them by saying, “I am available on Monday, and I will come over to walk your dogs or do your grocery shopping.”  Offer to do a load of laundry or some cleaning while you are visiting.  Organizing a community meal train with friends can also help take some of the stress off of completing daily chores.  As the months pass, continue to check-in.  Take the time to call to share a beautiful thought or memory that reminded you of their lost loved one.  Send a handwritten card or note to let them know that you are thinking of them.

Your loved one might fear that the person who died will be too soon forgotten, but it is equally as important to let them know that as the days turn to weeks and then to months that YOU are standing by their side and have not forgotten about them.

Written by: The Circles Team

Nov 26

The Healing Power of Gratitude

“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” Hansa Proverb

With the current state of affairs, so much uncertainty on the horizon, and our ever so busy lives it can be easy to focus on the negative. In fact, as a culture, depression and anxiety rates are at an all-time high and people are unhappier than ever before. But did you know that there is an easy way to bring more happiness into your daily life?

You may have heard that starting your day with an attitude of gratitude can have positive mental and physical health benefits. This is certainly true and the benefits of practicing gratitude are limitless. Better yet, incorporating a daily practice of gratitude is easy. It just takes a little time, effort and creativity to get started. To help you on your gratitude journey, here are a few simple activities that have the potential to bring more gratitude into your life.

What is Gratitude?

We all know the saying, “Take Time to Stop and Smell the Roses.” Simple and to the point, this saying has some excellent advice:

  1. Slow down and stay in the present moment
  2. Enjoy the beauty and sweetness that life’s simple pleasures bring

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful. It allows us to recognize and focus on the good in our lives. Gratitude can be tangible. I am thankful for the apple tree in my yard – as in the late summer afternoons I can pick delicious apples to eat. Gratitude can also be intangible. I am thankful that I am able to hear the laughter of my child, as it brings me great joy.

Gratitude allows us to savor the moment in the present. Gratitude also allows us to focus on the good, while blocking the negative voices in our mind which are trying to be heard.

How is Gratitude Healing?

Happier people lead healthier lives and gratitude has been shown to make us more joyful and happy. When we focus on the positive we tend to take better care of ourselves physically and emotionally. When we feel good we tend to make good physical and emotional choices. Gratitude has been shown to:

  1. Reduce Depression
  2. Strengthen our Immune System
  3. Helps us to Sleep Better
  4. Improves our Relationships with Others
  5. Increases our Self Esteem
  6. Increases Empathy
  7. Increase Resiliency

How Can You Bring More Gratitude into Your Daily Life?

Bringing more gratitude into your daily life is easy. And not only is it easy, it can also be fun.

-** Write a Gratitude Letter**: Writing a gratitude letter can be a very powerful exercise. It can also bring much happiness to the recipient. Did you have a favorite teacher, colleague, or boss that you never had the opportunity to thank? Is there something special you want express to a family member or a loved one? Why not write them a gratitude letter? Writing can be cathartic and meditative. If you are feeling down, depressed or unmotivated this is a great exercise to immediately lift your spirits.

Remember, there are so many different ways to harness the power of gratitude every day. There is no right or wrong way – what matters is that it works for you. Why not make it a priority today and find the ways that you can bring gratitude into your life on a daily basis? We promise with a little practice, finding gratitude in the little things will become routine and you will be reaping the benefits of a happier more purposeful life in no time.

Written by: The Circles Team

Nov 16

How Can I Benefit From Just One Session With a Support Group?

Reaching out for help can be difficult for many of us. We must first come to terms with the fact that we are struggling and then accept that someone else can help us.

Seeking emotional support can be even more testing. Facing our emotional challenges and finding a way to express them can be a daunting task. We might find ourselves feeling guilty from explaining our situation and emotions to our family and friends. Sometimes, we find ourselves struggling to repeat the same story to the same people over and over again.

Finding an understanding of our emotional process is a challenge.

We might find ourselves being more reserved and isolated after feeling misunderstood by our friends and family. It seems that we are not meant to be facing life difficulties alone, yet there are only a few people around that might understand our unique struggles.

Support groups provide a safe space to be with others who are struggling with similar life challenges. A support group is designed, so others fully understand your situations with common emotional difficulties. It can also be an opportunity to gain the skill sets you need to move forward and learn coping strategies from others while dealing with your unique situations.

Why Join a Group for One Meeting?

If you feel overwhelmed, stressed, lost, or experiencing difficulties understanding your situation, I invite you to join a support group for just one session. Entering the first session at Circles online is risk-free and an opportunity to feel a sense of belonging.

At Circles support groups, we provide flexibility and complete anonymity for you to unload the emotional burdens. The complexity of the problems you face is shared with others and understood by other participants on a deeper emotional level.

It just takes one session to create meaningful connections on our chat-based group, gain information, and ask questions from others going through similar difficulties. You may find a sense of relief after just one session.

There is no commitment or challenges that you might face from on-site meetings. We provide a nonjudgmental gathering space for you to meet with people from different backgrounds and locations to connect. Connections happen quickly and effortlessly as you have no barrier or awkwardness similar to face to face meetings.

Take the first step into your relief by joining one of your personally matched groups today.

You only need one session to know that you are not alone!

Written by: The Circles Team

Nov 10

How Can Support Group Therapy Ease the Pain of Grief?

Have you recently lost someone you loved?  Are you having trouble moving through the stages of grief?  Do you feel like you are paddling upstream, through Class V rapids, and don’t know how to catch your breath?  Grief, like love, may be the most powerful emotion we as humans feel.  When we lose a loved one the feeling can be crushing and very difficult to move on from.

Grief is not only paralyzing, but grief can also be so very lonely.  Grief is personal and unique to each and every one of us.  And at times it may seem like you are the only one who could possibly feel such, deep and gut-wrenching pain.  The truth is that there many others out there suffering the pain of grief, alone just like you.

Talking about death and grief openly in our culture is at best awkward.  Death reminds of us of our own mortality and it is commonplace for our culture to avoid the discussion at all costs. After the funeral, we are expected to neatly move on.  Get back to work. Get back to living.  The truth is grief is messy.  It is disruptive.  It lasts a long time.  And there is no straight forward easy path to healing. For healing to truly take place you must work hard and diligently through the stages of grief.  At Circles, we have seen firsthand that one of the best ways to work through grief is to work through it with the support, kindness and care of others going through the same challenges.

Finding support with others in a group setting can make moving through difficult times in a nurturing environment much easier.  There are many specialized support groups which focus on grief.  These groups, often led by a professionally trained grief therapist, help those who have experienced loss move through the stages of grief collectively and in healthy, productive ways.

If you have never been part of a support group before – it is natural to have questions.   Here are a few frequently asked questions that we often get with regard to joining one our online professionally facilitated grief support groups.

What Can I Expect From A Grief Support Group? In Circles grief support group, you can expect a safe and nurturing environment where you are encouraged to share your feelings openly and honestly.  Support groups are a safe, confidential space to speak from the heart about your lost loved one.  If it is difficult to talk about your emotions you have the availability to remain anonymous.  It is expected that your emotions will run freely and openly.  It is encouraged that feelings and difficult emotions are expressed and received with support, kindness love and care. Circles support groups are more than just a peer support group.  All our groups are led by a professionally trained and licensed facilitator.  Over a matter of weeks your facilitator will get to know you and share important insights for your healing and progress.

What Will Talk About During Our Weekly Group Sessions?

At Circles, we follow an evidence based curriculum for each of our support groups.  Our experienced facilitators listen to you, your expectations and your needs.  The topics discussed are individualized and are relevant to you and your peers.  The first few sessions of your support group will be about getting to know one another and building the trust and rapport needed to share openly and confidently about your feelings and grief.   We have heard from many of our participants that their weekly group meeting highlights their weekly calendar. They look forward to the consistent, non-judgmental support available to them each week.

What are the Benefits of Joining a Grief Support Group?  One of the best things about attending a grief support group is an essential reminder that you are not alone.  Although we have been leading support groups for many years, we still find it amazing that group members report that they feel more hope and meaning in their lives after just one or two sessions.  Other benefits that are group members report include:

Feeling less lonely  Having reduced feelings of distress, anxiety, and depression  Finding increased coping skills  Increased sense of self -empowerment  Increased knowledge and resources  Positive emotional, mental, and physical health outcomes  Having an increased sense of happiness and hopefulness

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Swiss American psychiatrist and author of “On Death and Dying,” said the reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to."   Our mission at Circles is to find the best in you to help you cope, find resources, and heal within our emotional support groups.

Written by: The Circles Team

Nov 08

Community: Together, Even from Afar

So many of us are currently living lives far from what we’re used to.

We may not be going to the office every day, seeing family members in person, or taking that long-planned trip to visit friends across the country. Instead, many of us find ourselves seeing a close network of people and living much of our social and community lives online, through screens. We’ve discovered the joy of connecting with college friends over Zoom and doing family birthday parties virtually. And it is joyful! But it can also be challenging.

As COVID continues to impact our lives and shape our daily routines, we are still getting used to the new normal, even if it takes us a few months! Part of this is recognizing and accepting the importance of community, no matter how we tap into it - virtually or in person.

While meeting people over a virtual platform is not the same as sitting together with them in the same room, so many of us are doing exactly that and realizing that it has the power to forge and cement real connections. Though the setting may be virtual, the relationships are genuine.

So, while we continue being careful about our physical health, we also have the opportunity to be mindful of our emotional health. A crucial part of that is continuing to seek out friends, family, and a support network. One way we can do that today is by taking advantage of the opportunity technology gives us for being together, even from afar.

After all, we can find communities – people with whom we share something in common – many different ways. And the gift of finding a community online is that we can overcome the boundaries of our immediate networks and geography. Think you’re the only one who’s going through a hard time? Does it seem like no one else can relate to what you’re going through? Well, it might be the case for the people in your immediate network. But there are others out there who do know what it’s like.

That’s what we do at 7Chairs. We help connect you to others who know what you’re going through because they’re going through the same thing. Whether it’s dealing with COVID-related anxiety or grieving the loss of a loved one, others face similar challenges. These people can be your allies, your circle of support - your community.

We’re here for you.

Because we know together is better, even from afar.

Written by: The Circles Team

Oct 23

Say Goodbye To Stress with These Simple Tips

Feeling stressed? You are not alone. Stress and anxiety are common experiences for most people. We all know that feeling when your muscles start aching, your heart starts beating a bit too fast and you find it increasingly difficult to concentrate. That’s stress talking. And once again it is trying to rear its ugly head into your space of calm.

Are you ready for the good news? You don’t have to welcome the physical effects of stress into your world. You have the power to wave goodbye to your stress in minutes. These stress-busting strategies are simple and readily available to everyone. They make a real difference in how you manage stress. So, take a moment for yourself and for your health. Stop whatever you are doing. We encourage you to give these tried and true stress busters a try.

Stress Busting 101

**Relax Those Muscles: ** When your body is relaxed – it is more difficult for tension to take hold. There are a number of ways to get immediate relief from tension and stress that is being stored in your muscles. A great exercise for reducing the effects of stress on your body is to try Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This exercise can be practiced anywhere. You can try it while sitting at your desk or for added benefit stretch out on the floor, your couch or your bed. Focus on one area of your body at a time. It doesn’t matter where you start. All you need to do is tense a group of muscles as you breathe in, and you relax those same muscles as you breathe out. Work your way through all the muscles of your body, continuously being mindful of your breath. For added benefit, repeat the exercise 2-3 times until you feel completely relaxed.

Stop and Smell the_______? Have you ever noticed how you feel when you smell something beautiful like lavender, freshly baked caked, rain on a warm summer day, or peppermint? Don’t underestimate the power of smell and the impact it can have on reducing your stress while promoting a state of relaxation. In fact, studies have shown that aromatherapy does indeed have an effect on brainwaves and can alter our emotions in positive ways. Think of your favorite smells and incorporate them into your stress-busting routine. Next time you are at the store pick up a scented candle. An essential oil diffuser situated next to your office desk can help restore calm throughout your busy workday. Or perhaps at the end of your day relax in a nice bath filled with scented bath salts or bath oils. There are so many options, the choice is yours.

Pour Yourself a Cup of Tea: Its true, tea has many benefits that relate to overall health. Scientific studies prove that drinking a cup of tea can reduce your levels of stress too. With so many different teas to choose from, it can be hard to know which one will have the best result. Try to stick to decaffeinated tea if you can. Decaffeinated green tea, in particular has been proven to not only decrease your stress levels but improve your quality of sleep as well. The good news is that with so many flavors to choose from your palate will never get bored. So why not try a cup of peppermint, chamomile or lavender tea today and relax and breathe in the soothing aroma of this wonderful hot and delicious treat.

Written by: The Circles Team

Oct 15

5 Tips to Becoming More Resilient

Many people talk about building resilience or grit, but what exactly does it mean? How can we develop resilience, especially when we’re going through a hard time? Though it may seem like a difficult, abstract thing to do, there are certain beliefs and mindsets we can put into play and practice every day to help ourselves feel better and build resilience.

What does resilience mean?

The theory of resilience holds that adversity occurs to all of us, but what is important is how we deal with it. Strength can help us deal with difficulties or misfortune. It can have different meanings across cultures and societies, and individuals can be more resilient at specific points in their life than others.

Resilience is closely related to positive psychology, which says that specific characteristics can help us deal positively with challenges in our lives. It has been defined as “the process of adapting well” in the face of adversity or significant sources of stress, such as family and relationship problems, health issues, or financial stress.

Can we learn resilience?

How can we transform an idea into something we can implement in our daily lives? The good news is that it’s been found that resilience can be built – it’s not something we either have or don’t have. It’s something we can practice every day, just like we learned how to ride a bike, how to be a good friend, and what works best for taking care of ourselves. It’s something we can work on and develop, just like building up our muscle strength.

So, the answer is yes, we can.

5 Tips to becoming more resilient

There are many ways to build resilience. By understanding how our thoughts and beliefs affect our feelings and experiences, we can begin to recognize our own role in how we react to things. And we can start becoming more resilient and bouncing back from challenges.

-** Be aware of personalization.** This refers to holding ourselves accountable for all the bad things that happen, blaming ourselves, and saying that it’s our fault. This can be an automatic response sometimes. Notice it. Know that it’s not always the case, and we can begin to recognize there are other possible reactions.

  • Notice pervasiveness. Pervasiveness is the belief that a negative situation can spread across all areas of our life. Acknowledge that bad feelings don’t impact every aspect of our lives, or ourselves.
  • Recognize things are not permanent. A feeling of permanence, especially as it relates to bad events, can prevent us from improving our situation. It can overwhelm us and make it seem that we can’t go on. Change is an ever-present part of life. Things change, situations change, and we change, too. It’s a natural part of life.
  • Share our emotions. Sharing emotions, both positive and negative feelings, can help us be open and honest about how we’re doing. It helps with our communication processes and can not only bring relief through expressing ourselves but also help us clarify our situations and start working on feeling better. -** Build connections**. By purposefully connecting with others, we know that we’re not alone in dealing with our situation. We can ask for help, gain other perspectives, check in with others about how we’re doing, and feel less alone. This helps us build strength and support for dealing with things and moving forward.

Resilience isn’t about ignoring the bad things in life or pretending they don’t matter. It’s about reflecting upon ourselves and our situations and creating a positive mindset to help ourselves feel better. We can all practice resilience every day.

Written by: The Circles Team

Oct 01

The Healing Power of Grief Journaling: 10 Writing Prompts to Get You Started

After the loss of a loved one it is common to feel that you are going through the movements of life with very little purpose. Grief can be overwhelming, lonely and long lasting. The emotions of grief are all encompassing and oftentimes it may feel difficult to find a safe space to let your feelings out. After the loss of your loved one you may have many things you want to share with them. For others you may feel that while they were alive you have left important things unsaid. Writing or grief journaling can be an excellent tool to express your emotions in a safe and healing way. Writing can be therapeutic, cathartic and can help you to organize feelings or sort through conflicting emotions.

Writing may come easy to you. Perhaps, it is something that you find enjoyable. Or you may be thinking I have never been a writer. I am not very good at it. I don’t know even know how to get started with grief journaling. The good news is that grief journaling is a healing tool available to everyone.

Whether you are a seasoned writer or new to the practice, here are some writing prompts to get you started. Feel free to use a computer if you are more comfortable. Paper and pen work equally as well. Or if you are super tech-savvy, there are even journal apps to get you started, such as https://journey.cloud. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. This grief journal is for you and does not need to be read by anyone else. Let your thoughts, emotions, and even tears flow freely.

Ten Writing Prompts For Grief Journaling

  1. The hardest time of day for me is…………
  2. My favorite memory about my loved one is………….
  3. If I could speak to my loved one right now I would say……………
  4. The three things my loved ones loved about me were……
  5. The hardest part of grieving is………………
  6. Who can I reach out to when I am sad. My support system includes……
  7. The things that help me the most right now are?
  8. How have you changed since your loved one died?
  9. If you had one more day with your loved one what would you do?
  10. How can you best honor the memory of your loved one?

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 15

This Simple Mindset Shift Can Help You Feel More Happiness Everyday

The Dalai Lama shares a straightforward but important message “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” It would seem that happiness does have a pretty important role in our lives. In fact, our happiness can have a huge impact on the way we approach our day to day, how we relate to others, and most importantly on our overall health.

One thing is for sure, we all want more happiness in our life. And in order to find more happiness, you need to define what happiness looks and feels like for you. Take a minute and ask yourself are you happy? I mean really truly happy. Are you happy with the way your life is right now at this present moment? Or do you have a running mental list of things you think you need in order to be truly happy? You are not alone if you feel like you are always chasing happiness. A recent study from NORC at the University of Chicago found that just 14% of American adults say they’re very happy.

What is Happiness?

Defining happiness is difficult. It means and feels something different to each and every one of us. Perhaps the best place to start is to understand what happiness is not. Happiness is not losing ten pounds. Happiness is not a bigger paycheck. Happiness is not right around the corner. Happiness is right in front of you. Happiness is the warmth of sunshine on your face. Happiness is the joy you get from helping others. Happiness is the hug you receive or give to a loved one. Happiness is the satisfaction of time well spent. In this sense, happiness comes from a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment. It is a sense that no matter what life throws at you – life is as it should be. Happiness is not about never feeling sad or challenging. Happiness is not about feeling happy at every single moment.

Happiness is Good For Your Health

Studies show that happiness really can influence health. We feel happy in a variety of ways. It can make us feel relaxed, euphoric, and content. When we are happy we tend to take better care of our physical and emotional needs. We find the time to move our bodies, eat well, stay connected, and get good sleep. On a cellular level, when we are happy, there is a lot of important stuff going on. Some of the benefits of happiness include:

  • Happiness boosts the immune system
  • Happiness fights stress
  • Happiness lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Happiness promotes longevity
  • Happiness promotes a healthier lifestyle

Finding Happiness

The best advice I have ever received in my life is that happiness depends on you. It depends on the internal dialogue that you are having with yourself. Your spouse, your shiny new car or your new career is not going to provide happiness for you. When you open your mindset to this new way of framing happiness – you will find that happiness has always been there waiting for you – right under your nose.

Happiness and joy become elusive when we attach it to an external force and when we give that external force power over our emotions. Finding happiness is not easy, but the steps to happiness are simple. Here are a few steps to get you started to a happy, more fulfilling life:

Step One: **Acceptance **: The key to happiness is accepting where you are today. Accept where you are at this very moment. Love yourself and be kind to yourself. If you have gained ten pounds, so be it. Do those ten pounds make you any less loveable? Should it make you any less happy? Accept that some days will be harder than others. Accept that life will have emotional and physical challenges and hurdles. Accepting life as a winding path with detours will allow you to have space to embrace the joyful, happy things that life throws your way.

Step Two: ** Choice**: Remember you own your feelings. You have the choice to be happy or angry or sad. Take the time to do things that you enjoy. Surround yourself with loving supportive people. Draw boundaries around things in your life that need boundaries. Focus on the positive and make a conscious effort to have gratitude for the little and big things that life brings your way.

**Step Three: Coping **: No one ever said that life is easy. Times will get tough. You will have challenges. What are the tools and resources that are there for you to help you through difficult times? Stress is not always unavoidable. It can build up. What daily routines can you incorporate to manage your stress to make more room for happiness? Nurturing a circle of supportive friends can help you feel happier and less stressed in many facets of your life.

If you feel like you need some support, join our Circles of Support. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded people and a professional therapist that will guide you through your journey.

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 01

How relating to others going through similar life experience can be helpful

Life throws unexpected adversities your way, and at times, it may feel as though you are the only one dealing with such a tragedy. Support groups are a place to meet with others going through similar life challenges.

Meeting a group of strangers can be intimidating at first, but sharing a common complicated process has benefits that even your family or friends may not understand. There might be an adjustment period of opening up to the group, but you will experience a sense of relief that you might not have found elsewhere once you feel comfortable enough to do so.

Here are some benefits of relating to others going through similar life situations.

You will feel less lonely. With the social distancing and stay-at-home orders, relationships feel farther away than they have ever felt before. There seems to be no hope for those who suffer from chronic loneliness as much as those newly dealing with societal disconnections.

Fostering connections is a way to fight your loneliness and promote health amongst the emotional stressors. We may be limited in our ability to connect physically, but it is still possible to build healthy connections. Relating to people will lessen your loneliness, especially with those who will understand your pain the most.

You will be able to process your emotions safely. Our current society provides rare opportunities to relate deeply and intimately with others concerning our struggles. Honoring your complicated story and processing the emotions that arise from your situation is an essential part of your healing journey.

Processing one’s emotions is a way of recognizing, understanding, finding appropriate ways of expressing them. It takes a safe space to accept and receive all spectrums of your feelings from negative to positive. Most of us are used to suppressing our emotions, especially the negative ones, in a way that develops into an unhealthy relationship with ourselves and even others. Meeting with others that understand your uniquely painful situation creates an opportunity for you and all your emotions to be accepted and processed.

It improves motivation in your day today. When stress is overwhelmingly taken over our daily lives, we are left exhausted and unmotivated. One’s willpower is tested from the first thing in the morning; if activities such as getting out of bed turn into a struggle, motivation in your day can be found within an empowering community.

A community is where you feel a sense of belonging and understanding. Going through a challenging situation gives you a new lens through which you view your life. There is a community of others that also share that lens with you. You will cultivate motivation for healing with people that share similar life experiences.

It alleviates mental distress. Challenging life events position us in a spot of emotional ‘stuckness.’ We become frustrated, angry, and stressed with the negative cycle we are trapped in. Hearing other people’s struggles and ways to deal with their challenges can unfold ways to deal with the distressing situation that you haven’t thought of.

Once you hear about similar experiences coming from others, you feel validated and accepted. There is an alleviation associated with sharing your distressing emotions. You will be able to share your heavy load with people who can understand and help you carry it.

There is a powerful healing that takes place when you share your story with others. Your emotional challenges matter to us, and at Circles, we are here to provide a safe space for your account to be heard.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 30

Back to School Anxiety? 3 Tips Parents Need to Know for Managing Their Family’s Mental Health During the Pandemic

Stay healthy. Stay calm. This is a little mantra to keep in clear view for this year’s back to the school calendar. With so much going on, it is normal to feel stressed. With a situation filled with so much uncertainty, it is normal to feel anxiety. As we begin the back to school season, it is clear that this is a year like no other. So, whether your child is going back to kindergarten or college or whether your school is going hybrid, remote, or fully in person, you’d better buckle up your seatbelts and get ready for a wild rollercoaster ride.

To begin, remember that you are doing you and you are making decisions based on what is right for your family. Try not to spend time comparing your decisions to those of others. Refrain from making judgments. Everyone is trying to navigate during this crazy time the best that they can. Have empathy for those who seem to be struggling a bit more. Regardless of what your family’s individual situation may be, here are three creative strategies for managing the symptoms of stress and anxiety as you face the new school year ahead.

Focus on the areas that you can control: There are so many things out of your control right now. Think about it. We are unable to control whether the school will open or close. We are unable to control the global rate of disease spread. We cannot control if the supermarket will have the groceries that we need. And we cannot control when businesses open or close. And perhaps the most frustrating part? We have no idea how much longer this pandemic will last? Weeks? Months? Half a year? Your guess is as good as mine. But until the said time, let go of the things that you cannot control. Spend your time and energy, focusing on the things that you can control. You can control your thoughts and attitudes. You can control how you spend your time. Try turning off the news and watching a program for enjoyment. Pick up a book or go outside and celebrate the beauty of nature. Help others and spread kindness. There are many amazing ways to find enjoyment during this unprecedented time. Establish Routines: Covid-19, working from home, and homeschooling children have created a lack of structure for many. Routines are an excellent tool to help us cope with change and uncertainty. When you set up a routine, you know exactly what to expect. With so much on your plate to manage, setting up a routine can ensure that you are not leaving out important components of self-care from your day today. For kids, a chalkboard or whiteboard is an excellent place to help them visualize routine. Give the kids some control by adding fun items to the calendar. For everyone’s health and sanity, keep mealtimes and bedtimes on schedule. Make your routine fun! And remember not to over-schedule. It’s important to leave some room for spontaneity and silliness in there. Have Regular Mental Health Check-ins and Reinforce Ways to Cope: Check-in regularly with your loved ones to make sure they are managing their stresses okay. Remember, children often show stress differently than adults. Changes to eating, sleeping, and loss of interest in things they once enjoyed are common ways for kids to show stress. Normalize the routine of talking about feelings. As parents, our natural ability is to solve problems and lessen our kids’ pain and discomfort. However, our kids need to develop their own solutions on ways to cope with their stress. Try listening to your kids’ frustrations without giving advice. Ask them to find their own coping mechanisms, which are self-soothing. Put the power in their hands to find ways to cope with a challenging and frustrating time. Remember, you are your children’s greatest teachers and their most adored role models. The better plan you have to manage your own Covid related stress and anxiety, the better your children will do. For additional information, the CDC has excellent resources for families on managing COVID-19 related stress.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 26

How to Have the Ultimate at Home Self-Care Day

The truth is the best relationship you can have is the one that you have with yourself. Self-care is a critical part of maintaining this all-important and nurturing relationship with yourself.
The truth is – life gets busy. And sadly, self-care is all too often the first to go. You are not alone if your job, family, and household responsibilities take precedence over your own needs.
In fact, studies show that 1 in 3 Americans feels bad about taking time for themselves, even though 67 percent desperately want more time for self-care.

We don’t hesitate to call out of work sick when we have a sore throat or cold. It is acceptable and expected. Our mental health is equally as important as our physical health. Yet, our mental health takes a spot on the back burner. The thought of calling out for the day when we need to relax or feel burned out or run down is looked down upon and not common place at all. With the average American working harder than ever and having relatively little vacation time compared to the rest of the world – taking a “mental health” day every now and again makes sense. In fact, taking a day to care for your mental health will leave you healthier, refreshed and more productive at work in both the short and long run.

What is Self-Care, Anyway?

Self-care is doing good for the mind, the body, and the soul. It doesn’t need to be expensive. It doesn’t need to be luxurious. It simply needs to be time spent focusing on restoring health, reducing stress, and enhancing energy.

The benefits of self-care are far-reaching. They include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Lessened anxiety and depression
  • Increased production of “feel good” hormones
  • Increased happiness and joy
  • Positive physical health benefits

Taking care of yourself is easy. Finding the time to prioritize yourself can be difficult. This week set aside some time for just you. If you don’t have a full day, focus on yourself for an hour. Small increments of less time-consuming activities that focus on just you can be equally beneficial. We hope you enjoy these ten ways to get started with self-care.

  1. Don’t set the alarm. Wake up to your body’s own natural sleep and wake rhythm.
  2. Enjoy a cup of herbal tea and a fresh fruit salad.
  3. Surround yourself with people who make you smile.
  4. Write down at least ten things that you love about yourself.
  5. Take a warm bath with essential oils.
  6. Give yourself permission to draw boundaries and say no the things that no longer serve you.
  7. Take a walk outside. Breathe deeply in the fresh air. Enjoy the sunshine!
  8. Buy yourself some fresh cut flowers or pick your own bouquet.
  9. Read some feel good poetry or inspirational quotes.
  10. Ask yourself: What do I need? And make plans to make self-care a priority every day.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 24

The Power of Human Connection

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Fred Rogers.

As humans, we need social connections. We especially need to feel connected when we are sad or when times are tough. Interestingly, social relationships seem so readily available to us when times are good, and we are at our best. Yet, when times are tough, when we feel vulnerable and in need of support and care, that real human connection that we are so desperate for can sometimes be challenging to come by.

Imagine for a moment that you have recently lost your spouse to a long illness. In the days and weeks leading up to and surrounding your spouse’s death, you were rarely physically alone. Friends stopped by day and night to deliver your meals, to sit with you, and to offer you company and support. So many loved ones surrounded you, and you might wonder why it seems strange then that you feel so very lonely. Yet, when you think about it during this time, you were never physically alone. Sadly, this feeling of loneliness is all too common when we face a life challenge, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Importance of Human Connection When we are young children, we are taught the importance of and how to live healthy lives. Nutrition, exercise, and making healthy life choices all rank high on the scale of healthy living, but what do we learn about the importance and value of developing a deep, meaningful human connection. Interestingly enough, we are taught very little about this and the importance of nurturing it. Human connection, it would appear, is supposed to come naturally to us and be readily available. Yet, our lives are so busy in today’s day and age, and our social connections play second fiddle to work, school, hobbies, and household responsibilities.

Research shows that despite the increased connection to others via technology, loneliness is on the rise. A recent report found that more than 60 percent of Americans report feeling lonely, left out, poorly understood, and lacking companionship. Research also shows that loneliness can be detrimental to our health and many researchers fear that it may be more harmful than obesity or smoking. Research also suggests that individuals who feel lonely are 50 percent more likely to die prematurely than those with stable, healthy social relationships. So it would seem then that connecting with others is more important than we might like to think.

What Does Connecting Mean? Brene Brown, a professor who specializes in human connection, believes, “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.”

Connecting means being open and available and being present in time and space with one another. It requires both learnings how to give and how to receive. For connection to occur, it is essential to create a safe, nurturing space where compassion, empathy, and trust are readily available.

Finding Real, Authentic Human Connection in Emotional Support Groups

It is hard to connect, and it is even harder to connect when we feel vulnerable. Our culture tells us to keep our feelings inside to be healthy, to talk about happy things and not the things that cause us emotional pain and discomfort.

At Circles, we understand the struggle of finding real human connection, and we recognize the benefits that come from connecting people who are experiencing similar life challenges. We believe in the power of human connection, and we know that individuals and communities are most potent when all members are valued, listened to, nurtured, and heard.

Making an Online Support Group Work for You Suppose this is the first time you have participated in a support group. In that case, it is expected that you might be feeling hesitant or apprehensive about sharing your darkest moments with a group of people you just met. Don’t worry; everyone feels this way at first, and in no time, sharing in the group will feel cathartic and second nature to the healing work you are doing together as a group.

Circles make it easy to find the connection and support you need from people who can genuinely relate to what you are going through. We hope that you will find the support you need in one of our group sessions.

We are glad that you took the first step throward help for our members, new and old.

Here are some quick tips to help you get the most out of your experience with Circles:

  • Be open and present
  • Attend all group sessions if possible
  • Remember, your facilitator is always there for you to guide you along the way. Reach out to your facilitator and communicate openly with them if you have any concerns about the group dynamics or if you will be missing a session.
  • Nurture your group relationships. Learn to give and receive feedback from the other members of the group.
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Let your feelings out, cry, laugh, get angry.
  • Remember, this is a safe, supportive, and confidential space.
  • It is okay to take risks!
  • Find a quiet, peaceful place free of distractions to log into your group session each week.

Do you want to learn more about our programs? Find out here.

Thank you for your trust in Circles. We are in this together.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 11

The Importance of Finding Emotional Support And Connection During Divorce

Going through a divorce can be an incredibly stressful event. Divorce is ranked as the second most stressful event an individual can go through. It is ranked second only to the death of a spouse. Divorce can bring to the surface all sorts of unsettling feelings such as grief, anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, fear, depression, and loneliness.

The Loneliness of Divorce Feeling isolated or lonely during a divorce is normal, and it can be an excruciating and unsettling feeling. For many people, the loneliness or feelings of isolation from your partner may have started long before the divorce or separation began. Emotional distancing from someone you once loved or still love hurts, mostly when the divorce results from broken trust or betrayal. During the divorce process, you may feel lonely because your happily married friends don’t seem to understand the stress and pain that the divorce is causing you. If you enjoyed time with your friends as a married couple, you might begin to feel like a third wheel or feel uncomfortable socializing with them for a while. After the divorce, as you start to accept and build your new life, it is quite common for the loneliness to continue for some time.

After divorce or separation, it can be difficult and even scary to move on with your new life. But remember, like any significant life-changing event, it is essential to be kind to yourself and acknowledge and prioritize your feelings and your needs. As you begin a new chapter in your life, here are some tips to help you move forward at a time when you may be feeling stuck or unsure of what your future may hold.

Allow Yourself the Time and Space to Grieve Remember grieving is a necessary step in the healing process. So, please permit yourself to grieve. It may be painful and messy, and you might be feeling angry. Give yourself the time and the space to grieve. If you have a hard time letting your emotions out, try writing what you are feeling out. Try journaling as it can be an excellent way to process feelings and set them free.

Talk it Out There are many benefits in starting therapy, individual or group, during or after your divorce. Individual therapy can help you unpack your emotions in a safe, supportive space, and a therapist can help you set goals for yourself to rebuild your life. Emotional support groups can be an excellent tool to connect with others going through a shared experience. Those who have joined Circles support group report that the shared experience has given them more hope and fewer feelings of loneliness moving forward.

Find Ways to Stay Connected Finding ways to stay connected after divorce can be an essential component of your emotional well-being. If you do not have children or your children are grown, you may be wondering what to do with the newfound time on your hands. Start by making a list of the things you enjoy or new things you always wished you had time to do. If you are not sure where to start, perhaps start by volunteering your time where it might be needed in your community. Volunteering has many benefits that you might not be aware of. Research shows that the more we give to others, the happier we feel. By volunteering, you will increase your sense of accomplishment and build a new identity moving forward.

Moving on may be a long winding path for you, with many detours and forks in the road along the way. Starting your new life takes time, courage, and conscious effort. Reach out to others for support along the way. Set goals for yourself and take the time to check in with yourself to see how you are doing. Remember, true happiness is out there waiting for you – you just have to go out and find it.

Join our Circles of Support for anyone who’s going through a divorce or spreation

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 18

Father’s Day: 5 Thoughtful Ways to Honor Those Dads Who Are No Longer With Us

Losing a father can be devastating, and celebrating Father’s Day can be bittersweet, especially for those of us who have lost our dads.  Sadly, I’ll admit I am a member of this club too, having lost my own wonderful dad to lung cancer many years ago.  Additionally, my daughter’s father tragically passed away when she was just a baby, leaving me to bravely and creatively find ways to honor and keep the memory alive of the father she never met.

I am sure that many of you feel the same way, but what I wouldn’t do to do to share just one more smile, laugh, or “I love you” with either of these amazing dads that I was blessed to have in my life.  Dads certainly plan an essential role in our lives.  They are ordinary men turned by love into fearless and playful superheroes.  They love us unconditionally with love so genuine that they never expect anything in return for all the kind, supporting beautiful things that they do for us. Dads are amazing because they are our protectors. They hug us when we are sad. They show us how to navigate the tough times. Their laps make the best couches. They sneak downstairs late at night with us to share a bowl of ice-cream over talk, even after our mothers have warned us “no dessert and to go to bed.”  They share giggles, stories, and games. They are our teachers, wise and knowledgeable.  And when they are no longer with us, the void is impossible to fill.

On Father’s Day, many of our friends will be able to Facetime or Zoom call their fathers to celebrate this important day.  The lucky ones will be able to visit their dads face to face, share a card or a thoughtful gift, and maybe even a meal together.  But just because your father is no longer with you doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate the day by honoring their memory.  Remembering can make us feel better, more connected, and it allows us to celebrate beautiful memories and experience positive feelings related to those that have passed on.

Here are some ways to celebrate those terrific dads who are with us in spirit.

Write Your Dad a Letter: Is there anything you want to tell your dad?  Perhaps, it is something you wished you had said while he was still alive or maybe, it is something that has happened since his passing that you have been longing to tell him.  Writing a letter is a great way to express your emotions in a positive, meaningful way.

Connect with Family and Friends Who Loved Your Dad: Spending the day with others who loved your dad is a great way to honor his memory.  If your dad loved having a bar-b-q, why not get the family together for one and share stories and memories.  If your dad loved hiking, why not go for a hike with those who loved him.  Gathering with others during difficult days is a great way to offer you the emotion you need on what is likely a difficult day.

**Make a Scrapbook or Photo Album:  ** Spend the day taking a trip down memory lane. You likely have many photos on a camera or your smartphone waiting to be downloaded into an album or scrapbook.  Sorting through old photos is a sure way to make you smile and bring back beautiful memories of your dad.

**Cook Your Dad’s Favorite Meal: ** Perhaps, it seems like forever since you cooked your dad’s favorite meal.  What did he love a nice steak?  Or a special meal only you had the recipe to? Why not honor your dad this year by cooking up some of his favorite dishes?  Cooking can be relaxing, and putting the time, effort, and love into something he enjoyed so much can make you feel closer to him at a time when you are missing him.

Heal by Helping: Sharing your time with others in need today can be a great way to honor your dad.  If your dad was in a nursing home, why not deliver donuts or a special treat to the dads there.  If your dad was involved with charity work, why not honor him by sharing your time this week or financially donating to his favorite cause.  Ask yourself if you know of any dads you know who might have experienced loss themselves and might be feeling lonely today.   Reach out to them and connect. The power of healing found in simple gestures of kindness often goes understated.  If you have the opportunity to find ways to be helpful to others in your community, reach out and do so in your dad’s memory.

Remember, to grieve is to love. Feeling sad or feeling lonely is a normal part of the grieving process. Finding the strength to take the time to honor your dad and celebrate your memories on Father’s Day is a beautiful opportunity to discover sources of power that you may not have known were available to you.  So this Father’s Day, let us remember all those dads no longer with us, who spent their lifetime cheering us on!

Dads – we remember you – and we honor you on this special day!

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 16

Sound Body, Sound Mind

Your mental health and physical health might be more connected than you think. Envision your mental health and your physical health as two sides of a shiny new coin. On the mental health side is your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Flip it over, and you and you will find your physical well-being. This includes things like your genetics and lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise. Each side might seem uniquely different and have isolated needs at first glance, but when we look at them a bit closer, we see just how related they are to one another. No matter how hard you try, you cannot separate one side of the coin from the other. What happens when we keep one side shiny and clean, and the other side becomes dirty and dull?

In the last few months, the coronavirus pandemic has dealt life a blow as we know it. As we entered the new decade of 2020, pandemics were indeed not on our radar, and terms such as social-distancing, flatten the curve, and self-quarantine was not rolling off the tongues of the masses. But now, we feel a direct threat to our physical health. Daily counts of those infected are updated hour by hour on our news channels, and millions of Americans are at risk of catching it before all is said and done.

We have joined a new normal. We all know what taking care of our physical health looks like. We obsessively wash our hands for thirty seconds in hot water, we wear masks and gloves outside the home when we need to buy essentials, and we obsess over every cough, sneeze, and body ache. We think back if we may have had exposure during an outing, and we always wonder if we are coming down with the coronavirus. Many of us try to focus on staying healthy in other ways, as well. We practice social distancing. We take care to eat healthy immune fighting foods, including foods high in anti-oxidants and fresh fruits and vegetables. We try to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep at night, and we try to walk or get some other form of exercise every day. We want to feel safe, and by focusing on the tangible, we have a sense of control over our lives and well-being. This feels comforting and good.

But what about our mental health? Are we taking time to focus on this all too neglected aspect of total health? Do we even have the tools, resources, and know-how to take care of it. What happens when we do neglect it? Will it make us sick in other ways, not directly related to the coronavirus.

Anxiety and stress are at an all-time high. Not only are we scared of ourselves and loved ones getting sick, but many of us are juggling the pressures of remote work while tending to our children’s needs and schooling. Some of us have lost our jobs, and the future economy seems so uncertain. Some of us, our devastated, grieving the loss of a loved one. Still, many of us cannot even pinpoint why we are feeling so stressed and on edge.

We are feeling anxiety and stress, not just mentally but physically as well. For many of us, this feeling of fear is new or so unpleasant that we might need a suppressor to “talk” ourselves out of our anxiety. Holding emotions in can be very dangerous to our health in the long run. Acute stress can turn into chronic stress, and chronic stress can decrease our life span.

Recognizing the Physical Effects of Anxiety Anxiety and depression look different in different people. Some people function so well we might be surprised to learn they are even suffering from anxiety or other emotional challenges. It is essential to recognize the physical effects of stress because when we can recognize and acknowledge the physical symptoms, it is easier to control them moving forward.

Short term physical symptoms include:

  • Sense of impending doom
  • Racing heart or heart palpitations
  • Feelings of panic
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeplessness
  • Irritability

Studies have shown that longer-term impacts of stress and anxiety on physical health can include:

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Weakened Immune Systems
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Frequent Migraines

The good news is that once we understand what anxiety looks and feels like, there are simple steps that we can take to reduce the symptoms and regain control over our life.

Here are three tips to get us started:

Be Mindful of Trigger Events A trigger event is an experience that draws us back in time to an unpleasant thought, feeling, or experience. Be aware of what is causing the physical symptoms of anxiety in your day to day life. Remember that you have the power and control to disconnect from many things that bring you. It may help disconnect from the constant news cycle on the television, social media, or your smartphone. Watch something on tv that brings you pleasure and a sense of calm and relaxation, or curl up with a good book instead.

Make Friends With Your Fear It is essential to recognize that the feelings and emotions you are experiencing are normal and valid. Pandemics and the uncertainty that comes with them are scary. Remember, you are not a superhero, and understanding your feelings is a big part of feeling better. Remember analysis over paralysis. Simply put, fear is not your enemy. It is a natural response to scary things we can’t control or don’t fully understand. Remember, fear feeds itself. Instead of letting your thoughts spiral out of control and get the better of you, think about what a healthy relationship with your anxiety looks like. Sit in a calm setting and write a list of what you are fearful of. Putting your fears on paper can allow reframing your thinking and the pause you need to think about what you are terrified of.

Focus On The Here and Now Focusing on what you are missing can make you feel depressed. Looking too far into the future can make you feel anxious. But being in the present is enjoyable. Keeping your thoughts and mind in the present makes you feel centered and relaxed. Structure and routine are vital to keeping you grounded and focused. Try to create a daily schedule that includes little things that bring you joy and calm. Try that new recipe. Read that book you have been longing to read. Do something meditative like a puzzle or a craft. Up until now, our lives have likely been so busy. Appreciate the pause and allow yourself to focus on the now.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 07

Finding Support in Your Circle

“Cancer is a journey, but you walk the road alone. There are many places to stop along the way and get nourishment – you have to be willing to take it.” Emily Hollenberg, cancer survivor

Sunday, June 7, marks the 33 annual National Cancer Survivors’ Day. On this day, people worldwide join together to raise awareness around the challenges of cancer survivorship, celebrate those living with a cancer diagnosis, and gather support and lend outreach to those impacted by Cancer.

In 2020 alone, roughly 1.8 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Individuals and their families may feel a wide range of emotions, including shock, anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, guilt, and hopelessness. In addition to feeling emotional distress, many cancer patients are also managing physical symptoms, including pain and fatigue, Cancer, and subsequent treatment. Sadly, a cancer diagnosis can be a lonely and isolating experience for many, mostly if the diagnosis was sudden, and the individual or family has little experience navigating Cancer. The good news is that emotional support is readily available, and no one should walk the path of a cancer diagnosis alone.

Living With Cancer Shouldn’t Be Lonely. Cancer patients and their loved ones share that being diagnosed with Cancer feels like “being forced into a club that no one wants to join.” People report that being diagnosed with Cancer seemingly changes their life, as they knew it, overnight. No doubt, a cancer diagnosis will significantly impact a person’s life and daily routine and even plans and hopes for the future. But knowing what to expect, having an action plan on how to proceed, and having a healthy support system can help make this difficult time much more manageable.

A cancer diagnosis brings with it a wave of uncertainty. One common thread that can positively impact those living with Cancer is the need for an excellent and well-connected support system. Many individuals will undoubtedly receive loving support from friends and family during a cancer diagnosis. Still, they will often join a support group to relieve some of their caregivers’ burden and connect with others with a shared, everyday experience. Fortunately, there are so many different types of cancer support groups out there that are welcoming and easy to find by tapping into your resources.

Finding Your Tribe Studies show that those living with Cancer can benefit from joining support groups and receiving advice from others residing or who have lived through similar situations. Some support groups can be generalized, focusing on a wide range of cancer topics. While other groups may be more specific, for example, a group made up solely of young women living with breast cancer or men navigating the challenges of a lung cancer diagnosis. Groups can meet in person or online, and many are led by therapists who specialize in psycho-oncology (a field that focuses on the psychological and behavioral components of coping with a cancer diagnosis). The options are plenty, and even if the first group you join doesn’t feel like the perfect fit, try a few out and see which one makes sense for you and feels like an ideal fit.

How Group Support Can Help After a Cancer Diagnosis Emotional support groups can be a powerful venue for healing and personal growth. Support groups can benefit patients in so many different ways, improving the quality of life along the way. At Circles, our professionally facilitated online support groups have helped countless numbers of cancer survivors.

Our group members commonly report that our cancer-specific groups have helped them gain:

Increased Coping Skills: Sharing your feelings with others can be cathartic. Listening and learning from others going through a shared experience can lend insight into various coping skills beneficial for you.

Information Sharing: Sharing of resources, practical information, and best practices that have helped others successfully navigate their journey will relieve much of the weight from the shoulders of those living with Cancer. Information sharing can help newly diagnosed patients cope with the side effects of treatment, learn about new treatments, and other strategies for dealing with a cancer diagnosis’s physical and emotional burdens.

Hope For Today and the Future: Joining an emotional support group can help you to feel better. Listening and learning about others’ survival stories and resilience can instill a hopeful outlook for the future. Lastly, finding your tribe and connecting with others with a shared experience will help you not feel alone in your diagnosis and fight!

Written by: The Circles Team

May 25

Men’s Mental Health Matters!

“I am tired of acting as though I have something to hide.”

We are all familiar with such sayings as, “Why don’t you just man up” or “boys don’t cry.” Ours is a culture of masculinity. Adherence to masculine norms, such as self-reliance, being tough, staying in control, and not openly sharing emotions, has led to a mental health crisis among men in the United States. Sadly, every day men’s mental health struggles go overlooked and often undiagnosed due to the stigma surrounding mental health. This stigma stops many men from speaking up about their worries and life challenges and prevents them from seeking supportive help when they need it most.

June is National Men’s Health Month. The goal of marking this month is to increase the awareness of preventable health problems while encouraging early detection and treatment. Mental health issues cannot be left out of this equation. It is time to talk openly about mental health issues. We educate ourselves and others about the importance of proper mental health care and treatment. It is time that we encourage equality in how people perceive physical and psychological health challenges. Now is the time to move past this age-old stigma surrounding mental health, especially mental health issues among men.

Understanding the numbers about mental health can help us recognize just how common mental health challenges are among men. Often when we feel emotional discomfort, we think that we are alone or that no one will understand what we are going through. So, we sit in silence with our pain.

Understanding the numbers also lends essential insights into symptoms and barriers to treatment.

  • 9% of men have feelings of anxiety and depression.
  • Over 6 million men in the United States suffer from depression.
  • Men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women.
  • 1 in 5 men will develop alcohol dependency at some point or another in their lives.
  • Men are more likely to die from stress-related illness.
  • On average, men live 4.4 years less than women, with the last 11 years of life suffering from poor health or chronic health conditions.
  • Only 1 in 4 men seek treatment for a mental health challenge or condition.

Why Don’t Men Talk About Mental Health Challenges?

Research suggests that men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health issues.

Some commonly reported reasons why men don’t talk about their mental health challenges include:

  • Not wanting to burden others.
  • Learning to deal with their emotions and feelings in silence
  • Feeling embarrassed by their feelings.
  • Not knowing where to turn for help.
  • Not wanting to be perceived as being weak.

How Men Can Beat Stress and Anxiety

Studies show that men and women report symptoms of depression differently. Women are more likely to express their emotions openly and report feelings of sadness. These clinical symptoms are more readily diagnosed, leading to quick and effective treatment plans. However, it has been shown that men are more likely to express their symptoms of depression in terms of fatigue, irritability and anger, risk-taking, substance abuse, escapism, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and sleep disturbances.

Understanding these gender-based differences of expression is essential for diagnosis and gender-specific treatment plans.

Men and women also care for their mental health in different ways. We all have heard the term self-care and are reminded of its importance almost daily. When we think of the term, “self-care” we often think of it as something women do and might envision a woman in a comfy bathrobe sipping tea in a candle-lit room. Where and how do men fit into the self-care routine? Remember, there is no shame in prioritizing self-care or seeking help for challenging emotions. Here are five quick and easy tips for men to get started in prioritizing their mental health this month.

We all take sick days. Why not take a break from life’s busyness and claim a day as a “mental health day?” Prioritize yourself by doing something that you love. Open up to someone you trust and share your emotions. If you are unsure of sharing your feelings with family or friends, therapists, or support groups are excellent options. Acknowledge and accept your feelings and emotions as a sign of strength and health, not weakness. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, sleep well, and spend time outdoors. Have an open mind and don’t be afraid to explore new forms of self-care, and most importantly - find your circle of support.

Written by: The Circles Team

May 20

Grief, Loss, and Coronavirus: The Most Difficult Goodbyes

“There are three needs of the griever: To find the words for the loss, to say the words aloud, and to know that the words have been heard.” Victoria Alexander

Mourning the death of a loved one is never easy. It is challenging to navigate the feelings of grief even in the best of times when you are surrounded by the loving care and support of family and friends. But mourning the loss of a loved one during the coronavirus pandemic has created new challenges and hardships for those grieving a loved one’s death.

Safety precautions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus have mandated limited or no in-person visitations to loved ones who are sick and dying in nursing homes or hospitals. As a result, so many individuals did not or will not have the chance to hold, hug, comfort, and say their final goodbyes to loved ones in their final moments. Additionally, due to social distancing recommendations and regulations, holding funerals and burials has become increasingly complicated. Zoom funerals, something that would have been unheard of just a few months ago, have become the new norm. So how can you process the complicated emotions of grief and loss when you didn’t have the chance to say a proper goodbye? And how can you effectively mourn the loss of a loved one during the lonely reality of a Zoom funeral?

Adapting to a New Normal

The coronavirus pandemic will continue to affect so many of us profoundly in the weeks and months to come. Already, in just a few short months, our nation has witnessed challenging sights due to the coronavirus pandemic alone.

We are all familiar with the saying that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is unique. It looks different to everyone. However, this current pandemic has changed the face of grief in many collective ways. For example, as a result of the coronavirus:

Grief Support Systems Have Been Turned Upside Down In-person, face-to-face support of family and friends is essential for providing emotional care to the griever. The rituals surrounding a funeral create an opportunity for loved ones to gather in support, love, and memory to nurture those suffering from grief. Even after formal rituals, loved ones continue to compile in the days and weeks after the loss to offer support. Today, being less able to receive in-person support can lead to greater isolation and loneliness of the griever.

**There is a Lack Of Closure and Loss of Rituals Surrounding Death: ** Funeral rituals and traditions are essential for many reasons. They allow the mourner to grieve in ways that are anticipated and culturally bound.  Funerals help the griever process the reality of death, celebrate and memorialize the life of the deceased, and collectively encourage the expression of grief consistent with cultural and religious values and beliefs.

**Individuals are Experiencing Unprecedented Levels of Stress: ** To put it lightly, these are stressful times filled with many emotional challenges for everyone. Everyday routines that provide stability and comfort for many have been thrown out the window as we define a new normal during the pandemic. This, combined with high levels of stress-related to health, financial, and employment stability, can make a typical day, not filled with grief, difficult at best. Additionally, suppose a loved one was lost due to coronavirus. In that case, the daily news may trigger frequent reminders about their loved one’s death, including the fear that they may experience a further loss due to the pandemic.

Coping with Grief During a Pandemic: Taking care of yourself, your family, and your loved ones is critical during this difficult time, and coming to terms with your loss and adjusting to a new life will require new and creative ways to foster and receive support and connection. Additionally, remember to be patient with yourself and your loved one during this time. Coming to terms with loss and adjusting to a new life does not happen overnight, and suffering loss through a pandemic can complicate grief.

Allow Yourself Time to Grieve: There is no set timetable for grief, and without regular rituals and routines, the time and space to grieve may become complicated and blurred. Give yourself permission to grieve and make your healing a priority. Acknowledge feelings of sadness. Accept that you may feel more tired than usual. Take the time to nurture yourself by eating well, taking time to rest, exercise, or spend time in nature.

Let Others Help You: Asking for help can be difficult for many, but don’t let it be. Your loved ones want to be there for you to support you through this difficult time. Ask for help when you need it. Reach for the phone when lonely. If you feel alone and don’t feel that you have anyone you can connect with or who understands you, there are several ways to reach out for support, including support groups that specifically deal with grief and loss.

Treasure and Celebrate the Life of Your Loved-One: Finding ways to stay connected and honor those lost can be healing. Hold a special remembrance ceremony for your loved one. Write your loved one a letter or put together a unique album filled with memories of a life well-lived. Plant a tree or create a ritual and remembrance that resonates for you, in your heart. Marking a particular place or doing an activity for them is an act of love, and it can also help you feel better and create moments of healing.

Written by: The Circles Team

May 01

5 Ways To Strengthen Your Family’s Mental Health During The Coronavirus Pandemic

The last few months have no doubt been a struggle for so many families. Stress from Covid-19, nationwide protests, statewide lockdowns, and the completion of academic terms from home have left many families feeling like they are swimming in an ocean with no land in sight.

Recent research found that as many as seven in ten Americans (72%) find that their lives have been disrupted significantly by the coronavirus outbreak. More so now than ever, it is essential to keep family stress levels in check, as stress can take a heavy toll on individual emotional, mental, and physical health. Left unchecked can cause a variety of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Chronic stress can also contribute to several physical issues, including cardiovascular disease, weakened immunity, obesity, gastrointestinal issues, and skin diseases.

As families dive into a new normal of summer, there is no better time to reflect on how things have been going for you and to take the opportunity to reflect on where you would like something to go over the next few months. Remember that much learning comes from doing and thinking about, and reflecting on what you want to do.

As a family, you will always remember your time together during the coronavirus pandemic and how it was defined. Children can take this opportunity to learn to be adaptable, flexible, and resilient. Define the memories that you will create together. Will this summer be marked by stress and uncertainty or joy and opportunities? When you participate in new activities outside of your everyday routine and comfort zone, there is so much room for learning to take place. So, take a moment to reflect and ask yourself this summer, will you sink or swim; Will you face the challenges of still so much uncertainty head-on? At Circles, we have put together some tips to help ride the wave of stress and uncertainty.

Break up the Monotony: Day in and day out can look the same if you let it. Change, excitement; it is up to you! Although camps and summer travel vacations may no longer be in session – make up a new calendar together as a family. When you open up your mind, you will discover that there is so much to do right in your backyard. Enjoy a fancy picnic, play tourist at open venues in your town, create a family book club, or enjoy a night of painting or board games together as a family. Whatever you choose, make sure it is new, different, playful, or even silly!

Declare Time and Space as Screen-Free Zones: The body and mind need to take time and unplug from those electronics! Taking time away from your phone or computer allows you to be more present when engaging in other activities. Children will follow your lead, so establish a sound, consistent screen rules in your own house. Remember, screen time is a choice, and establishing zones and times in your home, which are screen free will open up other pathways to communication and discovery.

Regularly Check in With Family Members: Family meals are a great time to check-in and see how everyone is doing. Perhaps you have a “chatty” child always looking to engage in conversation, or you may have one that gives you quick, simple one-word answers. To encourage discussion, try asking open ended questions. In my house, we use a little strategy I call the “peach and the pit.” Ever since my kids were small at dinner time, we take turns going around the table pondering and describing the best and worst part of their day; the sweetest, juiciest moment (peach) and the tougher, harder one (pit).”

Be a Positive Role Model: It might seem as if your children aren’t listening and watching what you say and do, but the good news is that they are. Remember, you serve as their role model, so take this opportunity to show them how to handle stress, adversity, and uncertainty with strength and confidence. Show your children how to care for themselves and care for other members of your family. While you are at it, why not try some new forms of self-care during this time? There are so many free apps out there to explore or try something you might not be familiar with.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Lastly, remember the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially during these stressful times. Eating well, sleeping well, getting exercise every day, and spending times outdoors are all great stress busters.

Written by: The Circles Team
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