Sep 19

"Don’t believe the part of you that wants to tell you that you’re alone with this"

Written by: The Circles Team

This week’s spotlight is on Dr. Ashley Solomon, the founder of Galia Collaborative, an organization dedicated to helping female-identified people to heal in any of the broken places, grow into the identities that they want to inhabit, and lead the wave of the future.

Can you tell me a little bit more about you and how you developed the Galia Collaborative?

I’m a clinical psychologist, and I’ve been doing this work for about 15 years or so. My background in psychology and mental health was really rooted in the treatment of eating disorders. That’s where clinically I had to focus my career and energy and research. For a really long time, I was working predominantly with women, and I was incredibly inspired by the patients and the people that I was working with, and their ambitions, dreams, and goals. I noticed that even once the eating disorder would be treated there was still so much work to be done to avoid some of those same kinds of internal patterns continuing to play out just in other parts of their lives. A few years ago, I decided to pivot my career because I was in more of a hospital-based system, doing a lot of administrative work and traveling constantly around the country. I knew I really wanted to pivot to focus on my own community, and so I decided to start Galia as a way to modernize mental health or the perception of mental health as something that we can do proactively without shame and stigma and to support women in our society to be able to live with a greater sense of mental wellness and do all the amazing things that they want to do.

How did you come up with the name?

I love that question. Part of my heritage is Lithuanian, and Galia is a Lithuanian word that means “her power.” I knew that I wanted the name to be rooted in power and femininity, but not so explicitly. Collaborative speaks to the collaboration between ourselves and the people that we serve and the communities that we serve. We’re very focused on community care, which is somewhat different in the world of mental health which has historically been focused on one-to-one therapy behind closed doors. We focus on expanding that to the community in a collaborative way.

You mentioned earlier that Galia is meant to modernize mental health. What does modernizing mental health mean to you?

We, as an organization, in terms of accessibility, are thinking about how we integrate it into existing places that people are. We focus on collaborating with workplaces, and other organizations that are doing related, but slightly different work. That’s one of the ways that we think about modernizing it, which is partly about addressing the stigma or destigmatizing it. I want people taking care of their mental health to be something that’s admired. I don’t want it to become this passive trend, but recognizing that we are all really doing the work to take care of our mental health.

I know, Galia does both coaching and therapy. What is the difference between coaching and therapy?

Therapy will always be the primary modality that we focus on, but I think that there’s certainly a role for coaching and the coaching that we do is not like general life coaching. It’s much more specific. When we offer to coach, it’s more specifically within the realm of someone’s life, and usually, that’s professional development, which obviously intersects with all different areas of life. Separate from what we do, there’s certainly a really important role for coaching. I think that it can especially be helpful for a more preventative model of care that may not need a licensed therapist to address whatever’s going on. If we think about it as a tiered or triage model of care, I think it’s really helpful, like peer support, where it has something really unique and valuable to offer and is part of this whole spectrum of care.

I noticed that you use mental strength instead of mental health, why?

Not to shy away from using mental health as the terminology because again, I really want to destigmatize the associations with that, but I like to think about it as a way to develop muscles. It’s not necessarily going to prevent us from experiencing mental health crises or mental health challenges necessarily, but I also think that we can think about it more proactively and as something that we’re developing over time. I think it also fits well with the work particularly that we do with organizations where we help their members or employees think about tools and skills that they can use to develop their overall well-being.

What is the Galia recipe for developing mental strength?

That’s such a good question. The way that we think about health, well-being, and mental health is very relationally oriented. While we all practice from different models and different modalities, we all have a very strong relational orientation that believes that we all heal through relationships, and we all grow through relationships. Leadership ultimately is about relationships with other people. So we do a lot of work around the relationship to self, relationship to others, and relationship to the world, your surroundings, and environment.

Galia aims to leave an impact on organizations and communities. Looking back at all the women you’ve collaborated with and all the organizations, what has been the biggest success story in terms of impact and having a ripple effect?

The way I think about it is, when I’m sitting with someone and I can help them feel differently in themselves and derive their own self-worth, the impact of that on their children or their colleagues is untold. We also talk a lot about intergenerational trauma and intergenerational, resiliency, so if we’re passing this on to future generations, that’s a huge success even on the individual level. But in terms of one of my favorite things, there’s a really large company here in Cincinnati that I run a women’s leadership program with, and we’ve gone through various cohorts of that program. That community-based work with a group that stays together over time has been an incredible success, because of the way that it’s impacted the individual women and their connections with each other, which they never would have developed otherwise, and how that’s going to strengthen them to be leaders within this Fortune 500 company that has such an impact on our world. If we can empower women to be the next leaders and empower them to do it from a framework of mental wellness, that impact ripples out across the globe.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to a woman who is struggling with their mental strength or their mental wellness?

Don’t believe the part of you that wants to tell you that you’re alone with this. At least most of us have that part that exists inside of us that wants to isolate us. Going back to community and connection, not connecting around these issues perpetuates the pain of it.

Sep 14

What to Tell Someone Who's Loved One Passed Away

Have you ever gone to a funeral or memorial service and been tongue-tied as you approach the griever because you’re not sure of what to say?

We’ve all been there.

Whether the person is grieving a parent, child, sibling, or friend, it’s so hard to see the tremendous amount of pain and sadness they’re experiencing. How can you find any words to alleviate what they’re going through? What if you slip up and say something that makes them feel worse?

Navigating what to say to someone who just lost a loved one can be difficult. It might even be tempting to avoid talking to them altogether, justifying it to yourself by saying they need their space. But they do need you. Offering your sympathy, empathy, and support during this emotionally tolling time is so important.

You don’t have to say the perfect thing, because the truth is the perfect thing to say doesn’t exist. Sometimes just saying a few words, giving a hug, or holding their hand can be therapeutic for them. A simple “I am so sorry” may be all they need to hear. There are a few things you can tell someone who has just lost a husband, lost a wife, lost a parent, lost a child, or lost a friend. We’ve written down a few of them.

Lost a Husband or Lost a Wife

“I am here to help in any way I can”

When someone loses a husband or wife, they’ve lost a partner. The person they’ve shared their life with. They’ve become so accustomed to having someone by their side, that in addition to the sadness and pain they’re experiencing, it can be so disorienting to no longer have them in their life. Stepping up to the plate and offering your help is so important during this time. We know a classic way of offering help is to say “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” but instead of putting the onus on the griever, take the initiative. You could say, “I’m doing some grocery shopping this afternoon. What can I bring you from there?” or “I have leftovers from dinner. When can I come by and bring you some?” Don’t make your help conditional on them. Just help. Even sending them a poem can be helpful.

Lost a Parent

“I wish I had the right words, just know I care,” or “You and your loved ones will be in my thoughts and prayers”

Losing a parent is never easy. The person who created you and raised you, and the person who has always been there, no longer will be. It’s a destabilizing and devastating time. What to say to someone who lost a parent can be a hard thing to think about. Expressing your care and being thoughtful of their experience is so crucial. Them knowing that you’re thinking of them and care for them can be incredibly comforting, especially after their primary carer is no longer with them. Make them know and feel your care.

Lost a Child

Give a hug instead of saying something, or just be with them

Losing a child is indescribable. It defies all the expectations parents set for the chronology of their lives. There are no words, truly. When there are no words, you don’t need to try to come up with them. Give the parent a hug, be their shoulder to cry on, hold their hand, or just simply be there for them. Literally, just be there. The presence of their loved ones will be comforting in and of itself.

Lost a Friend

“My favorite memory of them is when…”

Sometimes the griever wants you to talk to them about the friend that they lost. A thought that crosses people’s minds is that the griever doesn’t want to talk about the friend they lost, they want to be distracted. But the truth is, their friend is always in their mind. By talking about them, it’s like a release valve for the griever. It can also be comforting for the griever to know the impact their friend had on you. If you don’t know the person, just make it a question. Ask about them. It’s an opportunity to memorialize the person that they lost.

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 12

"No one is EVER the perfect version of themselves"

Today we’re putting the spotlight on Jennifer Hurvitz, a Certified Divorce Specialist (CDS™), public speaker, best-selling author, and host of the Doing Relationships Right Podcast. Divorced since 2014, Jennifer helps people understand what a happy divorce can look like and how to dip their toes back into the dating world. She has been featured on Oprahmagazine.com where her book Woulda Coulda Shoulda: A Divorce Coach’s Guide To Staying Married was chosen as one of the best books to read with your partner for a healthy relationship!

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

Where do I start? I was married for 13 years; never thought I’d end up divorced but when I did, I needed a career. I was a stay-at-home mom and had to start over from the beginning. So, I figured…why not a blog? They were really “in” back in 2014. I called it, The Truth Hurvitz, and the rest was HERstory! The blog was cathartic, and it resonated with people…I got hundreds of messages saying that I was writing exactly what people were feeling and thinking. After six months I got a call from an agent out in LA and was asked to write a TV pilot. That was fun! We shopped it around for a bit; won a few cool festivals. Then I decided to write my first book, start the podcast, and then my second book.

Why did you decide to become a relationship coach?

Well, I started off as a writer, then a podcaster, and then a Certified Divorce Specialist. Then, after being divorced for 7 years and in a healthy, loving relationship for 4 years I decided to pivot from Doing Divorce Right to Doing Relationships Right…it was time to move from the divorce space to the relationship & dating space which brought more positivity and hope into my life. And opened all kinds of new doors…I still coach divorced clients but more in the dating space.

What are your most rewarding moments as a relationship coach?

Who doesn’t want to see their clients strong and confident, making good choices, and feeling empowered? I love it. I just do! Nothing better than giving my clients the tools they need to find their person and the advice to help KEEP ‘em. My job doesn’t just stop after I write that awesome online dating bio or create a fantastic “picture perfect” profile! I teach my clients the skills they will use throughout the relationship and in life.

Can you tell us more about your books and your podcast?

One Happy Divorce - Hold the Bullshit was my first book baby in 2017. I wrote it as a gift to myself; to heal the wounds of my divorce, it was purely cathartic. My second book, Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda: A Divorce Coach’s Guide to Staying Married is a self-help memoir for those people contemplating a divorce or just going through one. I really wanted to give an honest (sometimes brutally) depiction of what divorce really looks like, with no filters. OprahMagazine.com chose this one as one of the Best Marriage Books to Read with your Partner for a Healthy Relationship. One of the BEST days of my life, well, after the birth of my boys. My podcast, Doing Relationships Right is good for my soul. It keeps me sane! I interview the most fabulous guests and talk about everything under the sun from dating and intimacy to finances and life post-divorce. Honestly, it began as a passion project and it’s become quite the little business. I have the most loyal and engaging listeners…I am the luckiest woman in the world.

What is your best piece of advice for people in the process of divorce or separation?

Oddly enough, I’ve changed my tune over the last year or so. I used to say it was really important to wait until you were healed and totally good being alone to start dating. But honestly, I have come to realize that’s not the case. No one is EVER the perfect version of themselves; we are forever growing and changing, working on ourselves to be better. So, while I do feel it’s important to wait a bit to get back out there into the dating pool—don’t think you have to be the BEST version of yourself. You will find a partner that wants to grow with you and loves you for your little imperfections. See, even Relationship experts learn some new stuff along the way!

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 09

Talking Mental Health With Taimi

It doesn’t matter what day of the year it is, it is always important to talk about our mental health.

That’s why we’re so excited to be collaborating with Taimi, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ social, dating and streaming platform.

Founded by Jake Vygnan and Alex Pasyov in 2017, Taimi was initially a dating app for gay men. However, after seeing a huge demand for a safe online space for people across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, in 2018 Taimi expanded and evolved into the most inclusive and versatile platform for LGBTQ+ people. Today, Taimi is a global secure ecosystem for LGBTQ+ people featuring a social network, dating app, and streaming.

Taimi nearly tripled its users in 2020 alone, growing from 3.5 million to 9 million users. In March 2021, Taimi celebrated a major milestone of reaching 10 million users on the platform.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to us. Platforms like Taimi are so important for the LGBTQ+ community.

In the United States, 1 in 5 people (20%) experienced 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.

We’re so glad that platforms like Taimi provide LGBTQ+ people with a safe space to express their authentic selves and find hope - together. Similar to Circles, Taimi provides a community of people who understand what you’re going through, and the sense of belonging that comes from that is truly indescribable.

We couldn’t be prouder to be partnering with such a vital platform, and we’re looking forward to Carrie Cantrell, one of our amazing Circle facilitators, talk to the Taimi community on the Taimi app this Sunday, September 12, at 6 pm EST about the importance of building a positive self-perception.

Her presentation will be followed by a live Q&A, so get your questions ready!

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 06

An Opportunity to Gift Care

Do you know someone going through a divorce and could use a support system?

Do you know someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one who could use a hand to hold that understands?

Do you know someone experiencing severe stress or anxiety and could benefit from learning coping strategies from people experiencing something similar?

As much as we want to be there for friends and family, and no matter how much we try to support them, sometimes there’s a disconnect between what we can do and what they need.

That changes today. We’re launching a new initiative that will help you help them with Circles Care Cards.

Sometimes we want to help our loved ones so badly, but we can only go so far. We can understand that they are going through a challenge, but we can’t understand the challenge itself. We can’t truly understand what they’re going through, because we’re not going through it.

What they really need is someone who understands. Someone who gets it. Someone who has been, or is, in their shoes and can look them in the eye and say, “I am walking your walk. I understand your tears, you don’t need to say a word”

At Circles, we match people in small groups who are walking the same path. We hear how effective this is for our members, so if you have someone in your inner Circle who is struggling and your help is limited, now you have the to truly extend your help. With Circles Care Cards, you will be able to gift three months of support at Circles for free to any one of your loved ones who you feel would benefit from it.

With three months of support at Circles, your loved ones will be in a safe space where they can share freely and be truly understood by others, and where other people’s experiences will echo their own, all with the guidance of a professional facilitator.

Give them a place where they can truly be heard and understood. Help them find relief with a group of people who get it.

Sign up for free and send them a Care Card here.

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 01

What it Means to Grow Around Grief

Time heals all wounds…right?

For those who are grieving, the idea is that as time goes by, your grief will shrink until it is no longer there. Eventually, that wound that was formed when your loved one passed will fully heal.

Well, it’s not that simple.

For some people, it may feel that way. Over time, it may feel as though their grief is shrinking until it’s no longer there. For other people, it may feel that their grief continues to shrink up until its very last morsel, which will always remain.

But “time heals all wounds” doesn’t fully encapsulate the grief process for many people. If you’ve ever lost someone, you know that time doesn’t make your grief disappear. Dr. Lois Tonkin’s model of grief challenges the idea that time heals all wounds. Many people find that instead of their grief healing over time, they have found ways to grow around their grief.

But what does that mean?

When grief counselor Dr. Tonkin was at a grief workshop, she encountered a woman who described her grief in a way that no other model or theory adequately explained.

The woman’s child had died a few years earlier, and at the time, her grief had totally consumed her and filled every aspect of her life. She drew a picture of a circle to represent her life and shaded its entire interior to indicate her grief. She initially imagined that as time went by, her shaded grief circle would shrink and become a small manageable dark circle in her life (“time heals all wounds”).

However, she found that her grief stayed just as big, but her life grew around it. There were moments, like her child’s birthday or their past milestones, that reminded her of her grief, and that dark circle felt just as intense as it ever had. But more and more over time, she was able to experience life in the space outside of that grief circle, in the larger circle.

Her grief was exactly the same size as it was at the start, but her life around it slowly got bigger. That initial circle was no longer the entirety, or most, of her life. It grew around her loss, and she was able to grow around her grief. As author Robert Frost famously said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on”.

This model may not apply to everyone. But for those it does, it’s helpful in that it relieves them of the expectation that their grief should go away (for the most part) or that growing a new life is disloyal to the deceased. It allows them to integrate their loss and their grief with their lives while continuing to move forward.

If you have ever felt that “time heals all wounds” hasn’t applied to you, that your grief isn’t shrinking but you’re learning to live with it, this analogy may be exactly what you’ve been looking for to describe what you’ve been experiencing.

Of course, if you ever want to talk about what you’re going through with people who are also going through it, there’s always a Circle for you to grow with.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 30

Supporting Teachers During This Transition

‘Frame of Mind’ discusses current events in the mental health and emotional wellbeing space. Today’s edition centers on the heightened anxiety and stress teachers are experiencing as they return to school while the COVID19 pandemic continues.

As the summer is coming to a close, a group of people is entering September with more trepidation than most: teachers. Teachers are returning to school with increased anxiety and stress levels after an unprecedented year that is continuing to be filled with uncertainties. As the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to be a phenomenon of the past, teachers are heading into the new school year burnt out and worried for what’s to come.

During the pandemic itself, according to research from the RAND Corporation, more than 75% of teachers reported frequent job-related stress, compared to 40% of other working adults, and 27% of teachers reported symptoms of depression, compared to 10% of other adults. Moreover, the proportion of K-12 educators who were seriously worried about burnout rose from 25% to 57%.

That’s not all. In a survey from the EdWeek Research Center, 84% of teachers said that teaching is more stressful than it was before the pandemic. Their jobs have become even tougher given their struggles to engage students remotely, constant changes from hybrid to remote to in-person instruction, and additional fears that they contract coronavirus and potentially spread it to their households.

These developments make it particularly difficult for teachers to take care of their emotional and mental health, which in turn makes it especially important to ensure that they receive the support they need to stay healthy.

Author Guy Kawasaki has said that “if you want to put someone on a pedestal, put teachers. They are society’s heroes.”

We couldn’t agree more. They have always been our heroes, and they always will be. There is no better time than the present to put them on the pedestal they have always deserved to be on.

Through Circles Care Cards, we’re providing teachers with three months of emotional support on our platform for free so they can have a Circle to lean on this upcoming school year.

They have always lifted us up, now it’s our turn to do the same for them.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 29

"Acknowledge where you're at with compassion"

Today we’re putting the spotlight on Sheryl and Steve Puterman, founders of Nourishment Vitality, a platform that provides online courses, workshops, and coaching programs that bring together the science of nutrition and psychology. Sherly works with people experiencing stress, anxiety, mood & fatigue, as well as with people experiencing food and body challenges including weight management, wellness, binge eating, overeating, body image, stress relief, and various nutrition-related health concerns.

Can you tell me a little bit more about your background?

Sheryl: Nourishment Vitality is a 360 Health and Wellness platform. We specialize in stress and anxiety management, as well as in holistic weight management and nutritional psychology. We are survivors of the 2004 Asian tsunami, and it was this traumatic, life-changing event that changed the trajectory and our outlook on life, and led us on this career path of where we are today. I struggled personally with a tremendous amount of overwhelm, anxiety, panic attacks, and we were living in Hong Kong at the time. I was blessed to learn with some of the world’s leading masters in the fields of mindfulness, stress relief, management, and breathing, which I truly believe is the cornerstone of stress management and really helps to regain stability and clarity. This transitioned into nutritional psychology and Mind-Body nutrition. We believe we are actually in the right place at the right time now, to be able to take many years of expertise and help so many people who are stuck in their lives. Stress is not a new concept, but it’s been exponentially amplified over this last period, and at Nourishment Vitality, we believe we’ve got a very important place in working to help these populations. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that governments have just been unable to step up to the plate, even private healthcare systems have been overwhelmed in this last period. So it’s up to the individuals to be able to create the opportunities to go out to help people.

Steve: We’ve curated our material as well into our online courses where people can take this in the privacy and comfort of their own home. Our courses are there to bridge that gap between prevention and stress-induced conditions. Not only are we in a pandemic at the moment, but we are in an epidemic of stress-related health concerns. So we believe it’s very important to add that additional value as the first line of defense.

Can you describe or elaborate a bit more about what you were doing before the tsunami in terms of your work? Because it seems that event changed your entire course.

Sheryl: Prior to that I was actually in the beauty industry for many years. I was always blessed to be able to help many people understand their true inner beauty. I’ve always been passionate about metaphysical sciences ever since I was a teenager, and I was very drawn to that mind-body space. After the tsunami, with this tremendous amount of overwhelm, I dove further into this area of stress relief, management, and mindfulness. In being able to help myself, I feel so blessed today to be able to help so many people overcome their traumas, whatever it is that they are going through, and to be able to teach through the clarity of my own example. This, I would say, is one of my greatest achievements, because I believe that when you have gone through something, you’re then able to help other people through understanding. It left both of us with a tremendously deep understanding of human vulnerability and what people need to actually overcome in order to get to that next step. I truly believe that they are traumas in life that sometimes we just never get over. We live with them. We work with them. We think with them, we move with it. But they don’t necessarily need to define us forever onwards. That’s what I feel so blessed to be able to help other people move forward from being stuck in that place. Nourishment Vitality is a shame-free non-judgmental space, where people can truly open up and let go of what no longer serves them. I know from myself that shame turns to unhealthy patterns and behaviors. I was self-sabotaging myself with binge eating and emotional eating, having had an eating disorder for decades. I kept it a secret because I was ashamed. It was shame that kept me stuck. Nourishment Vitality was born when I was able to unapologetically step into my most empowered, authentic self.

Steve: Today, people are looking to hear a voice that has actually been through experiences. Nobody is that interested now to listen to the Kardashians or LeBron James share some words of knowledge. People want to listen and hear from people with experience, they’ve got the knowledge and are authentic in their journeys. I believe that’s where Nourishment Vitality has got a tremendous advantage. People can actually listen and hear from people who’ve been there. I always say you can’t Google “been there, done that.” Now, in terms of our journey, our authentic voice, and the tremendous amount of knowledge that Cheryl has been able to accumulate over the years, we really are in an excellent space to be able to help many people who have passed through similar circumstances. When you resonate with what a person is saying to you, and you feel that that is your truth, as well, you’re then able to shift, you’re then able to move somewhat forward. That’s what we bring to the table.

Can you explain a bit more about nutritional psychology?

Sheryl: Many people, when they hear the term nutritional therapy or eating psychology, they think it’s only for clinically diagnosed eating disorders. This is actually not the case. Eating psychology and nutritional therapy affect every single one of us. It can really help to explain the way we eat individually and why we feel the way we feel about our bodies. Eating psychology sees our challenges with eating, weight, and health as a beautiful opportunity to grow and evolve. It recognizes that our relationship with food has important lessons to teach us and is intimately connected to other primary life dimensions, such as our relationships, work, sexuality, our search for meaning and fulfillment, and so much more. Our principles of eating psychology also include mind-body nutrition, which is that fascinating connection between the brain, body, and behavior. Mind-body nutrition is actually the study of how all the nutritive functions of the body are impacted by our mind, emotions, and lifestyle. It’s that psychophysiology of how our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, stress, relaxation, pleasure, awareness, and so much more, directly influences how we metabolize a meal. What we’ve seen through the pandemic is that there’s been such triggering of unhealthy habits and behaviors. What I’ve seen through my experience is that food often becomes a symbolic substitute for something else that we’re looking for, for something else that we are wanting or craving. We believe very much at Nourishment Vitality in the importance of bringing kindness. Kindness gives you that ability to face what it is that perhaps you are afraid to face and are avoiding, as well as those feel-good hormones like dopamine. It’s very important to lean in with conscious curiosity and compassion because that’s going to be able to give you that courage to look at where you’re at and to be able to reframe, reset, and move forward.

I’m glad you touched on that because I think that there’s a big misconception that the relationship between your gut or your stomach and your brain is one way. I’m reading a lot right now about how the gut is essentially your second brain. Is that something you touch on at nourishment vitality?

Sheryl: One will always affect the other. People need to realize that you can’t just take care of the body and not take care of the mind, and you can’t just take care of the mind and not take care of the body. They will spill into each other. Have you ever heard somebody say, “I have to listen to my gut, my gut is always right”? Intuitive eating is tuning into that feeling within yourself. You’re present when you’re eating. You’re aware of your physical body and how you’re feeling. When you’re eating intuitively, you’re able to actually taste your food, you’re able to notice how it feels, you savor the flavor and the textures. Interestingly enough, when people are over-eating, and most certainly when they’re binge eating, they are checked out, as opposed to checked in. They are not able to taste the food at all. Going back now to the mind-body connection and to our gut brain, we have gut microbiota, which are clusters of bacteria that are necessary for your immune system to function properly. You actually have microbiota all over your body, including in your mouth and on your skin. Studies have shown that about a third of the microbiota is something that we all have in common, which means that you have gut bacteria that will be similar to others. However, the key point is that the other two-thirds of your microbiota is unique to you individually. It has been influenced by your environment, your experiences, your story, your history, your genes, and more. It helps you digest your food, produce vitamins, combat illness, and stay healthy. So the foods that we eat impact our healthy bacteria levels and so does the way that we eat, which takes us back to intuitive eating. If we can slow down, if we can turn off distractions, if we can pay attention to food, taste, and really feel how one’s body is feeling when we eat, you set up your second brain for success. That second brain in the belly is something that we often ignore, and why do we ignore it? Because we so often think that thinking comes from our head. But our second brain in our belly is very important for us to be able to actually tune in to our intuition.

What would be your best advice to someone who is dealing with a lot of stress right now?

Sheryl: I think the first thing to help yourself is to learn to become more self-aware. When you’re self-aware, you become the authority in your life. So firstly, slow down. Sometimes we have to slow down in order to speed up. Take a deep breath. Like I mentioned, breathing is the cornerstone of stress management. A simple inhale is able to put the body back into a more relaxed state, and we know that healing, maintenance, and repair takes place in a relaxed body. Once you’ve done that, become more aware. Tune in to how you’re feeling. Where is stress sitting in your body? Are you harboring too much stress upon your shoulders or in your belly? Once you slow down, tune in, and become more self-aware you become the authority in your life, and you get to choose how you can transform that experience into something else. Each and every time, lean in with conscious curiosity and compassion for where you’re at. Because where you’re at is where you’re at, and where you’re at is perfect for you in your journey. There is no right or wrong way to feel. We feel as we feel and our emotions, all of our emotions, the good ones and the ones that we don’t really love, are worthy of validation. Acknowledge where you’re at with compassion, validate the way that you’re feeling, and take it from there.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 26

Five Accounts To Help You Go From Distress To Destress

With the summer coming to an end, and coronavirus still very much present, we think we speak for a lot of people when we say our stress levels are higher than they were this time last year. Whoops, we mean this time two years ago.

Yeah, it’s been a while since we felt completely stress-free. As we’re approaching fall and putting the summer behind us, it’s important we adopt attitudes that keep us grounded and remind ourselves that we can get through this (we really can).

We don’t know about you, but we tend to follow people on Instagram that regularly post really insightful advice that help keep us motivated and optimistic (and no, we don’t just mean inspirational quotes with sunset backgrounds).

There are so many amazing people out there who use their platform to help people worldwide, and we have to share at least a few of them. Here are five:

@selfcareexpress

We mean it when we say that when we visit their profile we immediately feel at ease. Not only are they extremely artistically talented, but they offer really good life advice. Although the genius behind the page is only 25, their wisdom truly applies to everyone. A recent post that highlighted that “happiness is not the destination, it’s the journey” is a great reminder to appreciate the smaller moments in life as we go.

@worrywellbeing

If you follow us on Instagram (and if you don’t, please follow us), you’ll know that we repost worrywellbeing A LOT and that’s because their advice is always applicable. We all have our moments when we need a little pick-me-up, and this page is a great place for it. One of their latest posts is a great reminder that doing your best is good enough, and boy do we need to hear it every now and then.

@millennial.therapist

Sure, there are so many millennials you could follow on Instagram, but if you want to follow one that will help build your mental health on a day-to-day basis you absolutely must follow Sara Kuburic, aka the millennial therapist. Sara shares tips and content that normalizes our experiences and encourages us to self-reflect. Her profile is both insightful and inspiring, and we always look forward to reading her latest.

@therapyforwomen

The genius behind this amazing page is Amanda White, a self-declared former party girl and currently a relatable therapist. What’s great about her page is that she speaks from both experience and expertise. When you read her posts you genuinely feel like she’s speaking directly to you, which is a rare find on social media these days. Good luck finding a page more relatable for women than this one.

@igototherapy

Needless to say, this page is perfectly open about the importance of seeking help when you need it and destigmatizing going to therapy. If you’re struggling with your mental health and you’re debating whether or not to go to therapy, or if you do go to therapy and feel stigmatized, this page is for you. It is okay to not be okay, and it is more than okay to get additional support if you feel you need it. If there is a virtual equivalent to shouting that from the rooftops, it’s this Instagram page.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 25

What Are Healthy Relationship Habits?

We all know that perfect couple. The couple that is seemingly (almost) always happy, that (almost) always gets along, that adores each other, and are perfect complements to each other.

We look at them and think to ourselves, “how on earth are they so great together? What is their secret?” Well, we have it, and we’d like to fill you in. Are you ready?

Drum roll, please…

They’re not perfect (gasp!) AND they do have their moments, moments that we all have: arguments, frustrations, annoyances and all. But what healthy couples have and implement are ingredients that together complete the recipe of a healthy relationship.

These ingredients come in the form of habits, and they’re crucial to creating and maintaining a healthy relationship. Having these regular and repetitive behaviors are the keys to sustaining a healthy relationship.

There are so many healthy habits you can adopt in your relationship to move it from surviving to thriving. We’d like to highlight a few that you can start applying to your day today as soon as you finish reading this.

Recognize That “Me” Time Is Just As Important As “We” Time

Your relationship is part of your identity, but it isn’t your identity. We know we like to call our partners our “other half” but the truth is you are whole on your own. You were your own whole person before you met your partner, and that’s still true.

You have your own interests, hobbies, and passions, and it’s important for you to continue to explore them independently. Have some separate friends, take a trip somewhere by yourself, or go to a yoga class and bring one mat. Just because you’re sharing your life with someone doesn’t mean there’s any less of your life. Keep living it.

Remember what made you you, because that is what drew your partner to you in the first place, and that is what drew you to them.

Speak Their Love Language

Speak their what language? Their love language.

Author Gary Chapman wrote a great book a while back theorizing that there are five love languages through which people express and experience love: acts of service, quality time, receiving gifts, words of affirmation, and physical touch.

It’s important to consider together how you feel most loved and how your partner feels most loved, and on the flip side of that coin, how you like to express your love and how your partner does. When it comes to healthy relationship habits, speaking in your partner’s love language on a daily basis will ensure that the love continues to flow.

If your partner’s love language is an act of service, get him a coffee before work instead of telling him how great he is. If your love language is quality time, let your partner know that physical touch isn’t the way to your heart. If you become fluent in each other’s love languages, you’re on the right track.

Check In

Grand romantic gestures are great. Who doesn’t love them? But occasional grand gestures aren’t going to make your relationship long-lasting. Do you know what will? The little gestures.

Ironically, the small gestures are what make the biggest difference. It’s really all in the details, and a key detail is to check in. No, we don’t mean asking if they picked up the dry cleaning or if the grocery delivery arrived. We mean sending a message that they’re in your thoughts.

“Hey, just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you” “How is your day going?” “I’m looking forward to seeing you later, hope you’re having a great day”

When life gets hectic, it’s easy to activate autopilot and start going through the motions rather than being present with each other. Make it a point to regularly check in with each other, whether it’s meeting for a 20-minute coffee or simply sending a text asking how their day is going. One of the best feelings is knowing that someone thought of you. Make it a habit to give your partner that feeling.

These are only a few habits that will help get your relationship to optimal health. Start implementing them in your relationship, and check back here for more soon!

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 23

Bracing for Back to School

‘Frame of Mind’ discusses current events in the mental health and emotional wellbeing space. Today’s edition centers on the anxieties surrounding returning to school, as parents and their children brace for this new transition as the COVID19 pandemic continues.

“Are masks mandatory?”

“Is everyone vaccinated?”

“Will social distancing be enforced?”

“I’m worried about the pressure to go to events and be social”

“I got used to online classes, what if I can’t adapt to in-person classes?”

As the summer is coming to a close, all of these thoughts, and more, are swirling through the minds of both students and their parents across the country as they weigh the consequences of returning to school.

After an unprecedented year that is continuing to be filled with uncertainties, a return to pre-pandemic life, if we can even call it that, is overwhelming for a lot of people.

For parents of younger students, there are concerns because their children, and that of other parents, aren’t of age to be vaccinated. This worry is heightened given many schools do not have a mask mandate.

For parents of older students, the concern is whether the other students opted to receive the vaccination, or whether their parents did.

For students themselves, in addition to the aforementioned health concerns, there are also social concerns. If you haven’t been surrounded by hundreds of people in over a year, being in that type of environment again can be overwhelming. If you’re trying to be socially distant, there may be social consequences for not going to an event.

On the flip side of that coin, how can schools receive their students who have just undergone a year of stress and deterioration in their mental health?

A March 2021 report found that nearly half of Chicago parents had talked with their child’s doctor about mental or behavioral health concerns they had for their child within the last 6 to 12 months.

A recent study found that ​​during the pandemic, depression, and anxiety in youth doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels. One in four adolescents globally are “experiencing clinically elevated depression symptoms, while one in five youth are experiencing clinically elevated anxiety symptoms.”

For families who don’t feel confident in their school’s precautionary measures, it’s not clear if remote options will be available. Many districts across the country, like New York City, have said they will not allow students to remain to learn remotely, despite the preference of many families, especially in communities of color, who have said they prefer remote learning during the pandemic.

All of these considerations heading into the fall have made the “back to school” routine far from what it used to be, to say the least. That being said, the idea of starting in-person school again doesn’t need to feel as daunting as it has.

Both parents and students can reach out to school administrators and teachers to assess what they can do together to ensure a safe transition back, both physically and mentally.

As we like to say at Circles, we get better together, and communicating our concerns and sharing resources can alleviate the stressors that are arising as we head back to school.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 22

Spotlight: Terrible, Thanks For Asking

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on the award-winning podcast “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” created by Nora McInerny. Nora is also the best-selling author of the memoir It’s Okay To Laugh, Crying Is Cool Too and the founder of the nonprofit Still Kickin.

On October 3, 2014, Nora McInerny lost her second pregnancy.

On October 8, 2014, her dad died from cancer.

On November 25, 2014, her husband Aaron died from brain cancer.

A typical response when hearing this is “I can’t imagine.” But as Nora mentions in her must-see TED Talk, you can, and you should, because of this one absolute fact: everyone you love has a 100% chance of dying.

Death is an unavoidable part in the trajectory of our lives, and in order to heal, both for ourselves and those around us, we need to be honest about it.

That year changed the course of Nora’s life, and today her work is helping so many others around the world process their grief and heal. Nora has made a career of talking about death and grief, through her books, her nonprofit, and her podcast, to as she describes it, “make more people comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

Nora is, needless to say, amazing, and although we’d like to discuss everything she’s worked on, today we’d like to focus on her absolutely-need-to-listen-to podcast.

The name really says everything you need to know. When you’re grieving and people ask you how you are doing, we think we speak for a lot of people when we say a bunch of thoughts cross through our minds, all of them a variation of “terrible, thanks for asking.” But instead, we look at the person and say “’ I’m doing fine, all things considered” or “I’m doing okay under the circumstances,” even if we’re not.

So on “Terrible, Thanks for Asking,” Nora has a refreshingly honest conversation about grief with others who are also grieving. There is no sugarcoating, no fine-tuning or tweaking. Just the real, raw, honest truth about the experience.

When we say you must listen to it, we mean it. Whether you’re grieving or know someone who is grieving, it’s one of the most important podcasts you can listen to about bereavement. She brings heart and levity to conversations most of us try to avoid, and she makes the unavoidable anything but. So stop avoiding it. Give it a listen.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 19

Five Podcasts to Listen to After a Breakup

Whether you’re the breakup-er or the breakup-ee, breakups are hard to process and the adjustment period almost inevitably leads to a soul-searching period. You will probably be asking yourself a lot of difficult self-reflecting questions that you’re not sure how to answer.

Luckily for you, there are people out there with answers, and if they don’t have answers, they have amazing advice that can help get you to them. You may now be single, but you’re not alone, and there are people out there who can guide you on this new journey. Many of them bestow their post-breakup wisdom through their podcasts to help get you through this challenging time, and all you need to do is press play.

Here are five great podcasts to listen to if you’ve recently gone through a breakup:

Just Break Up

Self-proclaimed as a podcast with “all the relationship advice you don’t want to hear,” Just Break Up is for those who want some levity on the things that you find hard to talk about. Through this podcast, hosts Sam Blackwell and Sierra DeMulder hope to convey what they’ve learned throughout their own romantic journeys to bring comfort and support to others who might be going through similar situations. Sam and Sierra’s down-to-earth attitude and common sense approach make it one of the most relatable podcasts about modern love.

This Is Why You’re Single

After you’ve experienced a breakup, getting back into the dating game can feel challenging, to say the least. Dating is a numbers game, and it’s easy to lose motivation to go on what could likely be another “meh” date. Need some encouragement? Tune in to This Is Why You’re Single. Hosted by Brooklyn-based comedians and authors Laura Lane and Angela Spera, this hilarious podcast will make you laugh and give you some actually useful dating advice. It also features real stories from people to remind us that we all sometimes struggle with our love lives.

Breakup Boost

Needless to say, after a breakup, we could all use a little…boost. Enter the Breakup Boost podcast. Hosted by certified breakup coach Trina Leckie, Breakup Boost is one of the best podcasts to listen to while on your healing journey. Trina helps you stay strong, recover from a breakup or divorce, and see things through a different and more realistic perspective from what you may have been initially thinking. Not only that, but she also throws in some great relationship advice and will guide you in getting back on the dating horse.

Doing Relationships Right

As the old saying goes, it takes one to know one. That’s what makes the Doing Relationships Right podcast both relatable and credible, host Jennifer Hurvitz has really been there. A bestselling author and certified divorce specialist, Jennifer Hurvitz pulls insights from her own divorce and career to teach you how to have a successful marriage or navigate divorce. This podcast is filled to the brim with tips on parenting, communication, intimacy, and all things relationships.

How To Get Over Your Ex

The gist of this podcast is really on in the title. Hosted by Break Up Coach Dorothy, this podcast will do exactly what it says it will: help you get over your ex. Combining her background in psychology, her life coach certification, and her own breakup experience, Dorothy will provide you with actionable insights to get over your ex as opposed to platitudes like “it just takes time.” You won’t regret giving this podcast a listen.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 18

"No one will be left alone to deal with emotional challenges"

This week we have a very special edition of our spotlight. We’re putting the spotlight on the one and only Irad Eichler, CEO and Founder of Circles. When Irad’s mother was battling cancer, he noticed how lonely she felt, and that she only felt relief when speaking with others going through the same thing. After she passed away, he felt lonely with his grief. These moments were the inspiration behind Circles, and after raising $8 million in seed funding, Irad and the Circles team are going to ensure no one will be left alone while dealing with emotional challenges.

Can you tell me a little bit about your background? Who was Irad Eichler before he created Circles?

I’ve been building social businesses for the last 20 years, mostly operational. What I learned is that you can reach a third of the amount of growth and acceleration when you’re building an operational organization. For someone whose motivation is to restructure society in a better way, in terms of people that are really struggling every day, to reach millions and millions of people you need to leverage technology. So I think that’s why I chose to do a career change in terms of switching to build something that is based on technology and based on my own experience. When I look at my first organization, Shekulo Tov, and see its growth in Israel for assisting people with disabilities, and then I look at France, for example, and see that they’re 20-30 years behind in that area, I realized there wasn’t much more I could do. With Circles, we can change the world because our solution is scalable and accessible wherever you are.

Can you elaborate a bit more about Shekulo Tov and why you decided to move on to Circles?

Shekulo Tov is an organization that solves the problem of including people with disabilities in society. Today it is the biggest organization in Israel in this field. It provides services to 7000 people every year, which is three times more than that of the state of Connecticut. Being a founder and entrepreneur, I felt that my mission there was completed. I’m still contributing wherever I can, but I wanted to start over. I missed the intimate relationships that you have when you’re on a founding team, working shoulder to shoulder with people and really getting to know them. Second, as I mentioned before, is that I really want to change the world in a scalable and effective way. I also want to set an example for people so they understand that you can do good while making money. There aren’t that many examples out there of successful companies that really changed the world for the better and made a lot of money. At Circles, we want to kind of build a fast-growing company that both makes money and saves people’s lives. Product-wise, why specifically Circles? Because I experienced loneliness when I lost my mother to cancer, and also when I witnessed her dealing with loneliness while she was battling cancer. Nobody really got what she was going through except a friend who was battling the same cancer. When I was grieving the loss of my mother, I felt that. We have WhatsApp groups, one with my father and one without my father. The one with my father was kind of like a desert, nobody spoke there. With my siblings, it was busy, because the three of us lost our mother. My father lost a spouse. It’s a different kind of grief. I witnessed the loneliness that comes with it. Losing my mother was groundbreaking for each one of us. Our mother died. My father’s wife died. That’s why we’re building Circles. We can’t save my mother, we can’t save people from dying, but we can save people from suffering from it, or at least give them a way to deal with the pain that comes with it.

And how has Circles evolved since you started it compared to where it is now?

It started out as an anonymous chat that I built with my friend. I pushed it out via Facebook to people that are dealing with social anxiety and want to kind of chat. It was amazing, because people signed up, joined the group, and started chatting. But within the first 20 minutes, one of them said, “Wow, this is a really crappy app, let’s move to WhatsApp’’ and everybody wrote their phone number and moved to WhatsApp. A week later I got a notification, someone logged in and wrote, “Hey, is anybody here?” and then it struck me how meaningful it is that this is the go-to place for people. So it started like that, with small experiments, and then I met Dan, my business partner, and co-founder. He was a pilot and had an epileptic episode, and he could no longer be a pilot because they didn’t want to take the risk. Nobody really understood what that experience was like for him, and he was off the grid. A few years later, he met a woman who, in a mysterious way, was a pilot as well who had epilepsy and could no longer be a pilot. He was so lonely for years and suddenly he felt so much relief from having this basic experience of understanding. So I met Dan and he immediately knew what I was talking about. That was the moment Circles was born as a company. It was just the two of us and this developer, and we set up this small product and pushed it out. There was so much interest in it. That was the start, and more people joined. Fast-forward a year and we have already provided 100,000 hours of support to people around the world.

Fast forward, and we just received $8 million in funding. Where do you see Circles going from here?

So I think within 10 years, we will sit here and you will interview me again and we will go, “Really? People that were battling cancer, people that went through a divorce, or people who were grieving had to deal with it by themselves? The world was like that?” It will no longer make sense to us. We’re building a world where it will not make sense for people to deal with any kind of emotional challenge on their own. In the past, we lived in tribes where it took a village to raise a child, everybody was involved. And then we moved from villages to cities where all of a sudden we were by ourselves. We’ve been living in cities for more than 1000 years and people are dealing with loneliness. No, let’s get back to this experience of a woman having a baby and other women being there to support her. That’s where we’ll be and the way it’s going to work is connecting in a virtual place that is dedicated to emotional support. That’s what we are building. At the end of the day, the answer is out there. How do you solve loneliness? By connecting people. Sure, there are social platforms out there, but that promotes communicating, not connecting. We are building what we call a belonging platform. We help people belong to a group that can meaningfully support them.

Over the years, what has been your most meaningful or memorable experience at Circles?

Stepping into the office in the morning and looking at all the super talented and dedicated people that are passionate about the purpose is the moment that I will always cherish. You know that there is something broken in the world, and there are so many talented people that are working on fixing it. In the early days, it was just Dan and myself, and now we have this amazing team. I feel humbled every time I walk into the office.

And is there a story from a member that really struck a chord with you and you thought, “I’m really doing something special here”?

There are a few, but there is one that was particularly meaningful. We did a holiday campaign where we provided free Circles for three days over Christmas and New Year’s for people who lost a loved one. There was one woman from Mississippi who shared that she lost her husband and two sons. She joined the Circle from Hawaii, and she was there because couldn’t stand being in her empty home during the holidays. She was so grateful for the opportunity of having people saying “Merry Christmas” and caring about her. She said, “I have no one in the world.” So that was a moment where I said, “Okay, we’ve done our part in the world.” It was all worth it. No matter what else happens, that moment made it all worth it because she felt connected. She wasn’t alone anymore. People really cared about her. Five women, in the first 10 minutes, all of them crying. It was amazing.

What would you tell someone who is really hesitant about joining a Circle? How would you pitch Circles to them?

First of all, I would definitely acknowledge how frightening it is and how stressful it is to join a Circle. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to step into a room with people that you don’t yet know and talk about something that is painful. It is really challenging. I think the best way to describe it is this metaphor where you’re on a cliff and you want to jump into the water. Once you jump and land in the water it’s going to be this amazing and meaningful experience, but you have this initial hesitation where you need to take a deep breath before taking that first step. But once you take the step, you’ll feel immediate relief. There is no way to take out the stress. For some people, it will be easy and for some more challenging. But there is tension there for all of us, no doubt about it. It’s not about trying to take the tension out, it’s about trying to live with the tension. Acknowledge the tension that comes with joining the Circle, take a deep breath, and join for five minutes. You don’t have to talk. People will greet you and it will be an amazing experience. You just need to breathe, click on “join the meeting” and join the Circle. After that, it will be worth your while. Having said that, what we’re doing to reduce the tension a little bit is encouraging talking with the facilitator or a Circle member before, read and write in the group chat, or read other members’ profiles. Take all the friction out and we will help you do that. We will help you reduce the tension by connecting you with others.

When you think about the Circles we have now, are there any Circles that we don’t have that you’re already thinking of opening?

For sure, there are so many. Think of the 40 million caregivers in the United States, people that are taking care of their aging parents. There’s so much emotional burden there that nobody is taking care of. Think of veterans, people that have been out of the country for years and have experienced war, and who come back and no one really understands what they went through or how they feel. Only other veterans do. Think of new moms, or parents of children with special needs, nobody can really get what they’re going through. Choosing who we want to help is like choosing your own child - you don’t choose one. We will take care of every person I mentioned and much more.

Last question, it’s your birthday today (at the time of the interview). What is your birthday wish for Circles?

Be present. Be present in what we’re going through right now. Because the stage of the company that we’re in, and the number of people that we are helping, will never be the same. Tomorrow we’ll have a different product, a different team, the number of members will grow, and the challenges will be different. So for us, I wish we could all be present in what we are doing right now because Circles moving forward isn’t going to be the same.

It’s only been a year and we’ve already accomplished so much. With this new funding, we’re ready to do so much more and bring Irad’s vision of a less lonely world to life.

Stay tuned.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 17

Circles Reaches A New Milestone

It started with a moment.

A few years ago, when our CEO Irad Eichler’s mother was battling cancer, he noticed that no matter how often friends and family tried to make her feel better, she still felt lonely.

But then there was a moment when he saw her smiling and laughing while speaking to a friend on the phone who was also battling cancer. In that moment, he realized the power of connecting with someone in a similar situation. That the only people who can actually understand what you’re going through are the people who are going through it too.

In that moment, Irad witnessed what would later become known as a Circle.

Since 2020, our platform matches people going through the same situation and provides Circles led by professionals facilitators. In these intimate and private Circles, members can be understood in a way that no one else can. We’ve matched thousands of people facing similar challenges and facilitated more than 100,000 hours of support.

We’ve put together a dedicated team whose expertise, talent, and passion go hand in hand with their deep belief in our mission of making this world a less lonely place.

We’ve created Circles of support for people experiencing the loss of a loved one, parenting or divorce, stress or anxiety, depression, burnout, chronic pain, and LGBTQ+ issues, and we want to bring more support to the world at a time when we need it most.

Today marks a major milestone in making that vision a reality. We are so happy to announce that Circles has raised $8 million to expand our one-of-a-kind platform so more and more people, facing a variety of challenges, can receive emotional support.

We all go through issues in our lives where we need someone to talk to, to be seen and heard, and the best way to do that is to speak to someone who actually gets you, who can truly empathize with what you’re going through. With Circles, people never have to face their struggles alone and that longing for connection is replaced by belonging.

“Without the group, I would have not recovered my will to live. Thank you for walking us through step by step what seemed to me as impossible.” - Sherie, Grief Circle

“It’s great to hear from people at all stages of divorce. Even the ability to tell someone new to divorce that they are going to get through helps me know that for me there is healing and joy coming.” - Lauren, Divorce Circle

“The benefit I have gained from this group is immeasurable. I quickly felt I wasn’t alone. There REALLY were other people out there experiencing my very same feelings!” - Karen, Anxiety Circle

These are just a few member experiences that speak to the power of being in a Circle, and we’re looking forward to hearing so many more. We plan on using this new funding to expand into new support services for people struggling with other personal challenges, including LGBTQ issues and those suffering from disease or caring for a sick loved one.

At Circles, we make emotional support accessible to anyone, anywhere and it’s as easy as simply opening our app. We are revolutionizing emotional support so no one has to overcome life’s challenges alone, and we are on our way to completely change the world for the better.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 15

"Healing was never meant to be done in isolation"

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on Monica Mo, the Founder of WellSeek, a community organization for women’s mental health. A former biotech scientist, Monica found herself feeling more disconnected from herself and how she wanted to make an impact in her community. When she left the biotech industry, she recognized the powerful influence of social constructs on our well-being. Fed up by society’s definition of ‘wellness’, she joined forces with women changemakers from across the country culminating into what is now WellSeek.

Can you tell our readers a little bit more about you, your background, and what led you to create WellSeek?

7 years ago, I was working as a biotech scientist in R&D and I started to feel disconnected from the reason I went into my work in the first place. Though I loved science, it just wasn’t doing it for me being so far upstream from directly helping others in their health. I just knew that I wanted to help people seek their own path of health and happiness, whatever that may look for them. So I jumped straight into entrepreneurship without a clue on what it was like to build a business - guided only by a gut instinct that I needed to do it. To most of my family and friends, it was quite possibly one of the most irresponsible things I’ve ever done.

No, not at all. If anything, it was arguably one of the most responsible things you’ve ever done.

Well, at the time, let me tell you, everyone around me questioned what I was doing - and rightfully so! But it was through that learning process of listening to what people had to say and reading between the lines that helped me better understand the universal experiences we all strive for in our wellbeing.

I still remember, in the beginning, I looked at health from the lens of a data scientist and bioengineer - accuracy and precision were the main goals. But as I delved deeper, my views started to change. I began to understand how our choices are far more influenced by emotional drivers, and what we’re exposed to in our social and cultural surroundings is far more powerful in influencing our behaviors than any information or data. In other words, our wellness is shaped not only by our personal choices but also by the communities we’re in. It was during this time that I was working through my own experiences of disordered eating, anxiety, and depression as I struggled with the challenges of being a working mom trying to ‘do it all.

That’s how the ecosystem of WellSeek slowly came to be - a community of advocates, brand allies, and organizations connected through our mission of helping women thrive in their work and life. By working together, we are redefining what health, beauty, and identity mean in this modern world. More specifically, I wanted to help more women answer the question: how do we take back agency in our own lives and move forward with the work we’re most passionate about?

To go from what you were doing before, to creating WellSeek, that’s a huge shift. What was that first step? What was the first ingredient that went into the recipe that is now WellSeek?

From a tactical standpoint, getting organized was the first step. Project management and systems thinking were in my DNA through my days in science and biotech. I identified the components that are needed to get from A to Z, and methodically mapped out the steps that were required to get to my goals. It was about understanding what is needed and what are the gaps I needed to fill to make it work.

But behind the logic, there was an even more important driver: staying true to my purpose and core values. I had to really dig deep to know what I stand for and develop my own inner compass. It’s something that continues to ground me so I can continue to wake up day-in- and day-out knowing that what I’m trying to accomplish is bigger than me. That’s what keeps me going, despite obstacles and setbacks.

Your website mentions that despite a rapidly growing global wellness market worth over $4.2 trillion, mental health disorders are still on the rise and disproportionately impact women. Why do you think there’s that discrepancy?

I’m so glad you brought this up because we need to understand the forces at play. Mental health challenges aren’t just happening to us, they are happening at a higher rate for a reason. This gender gap in mental health is actually recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the most pervasive issues that must be addressed at the intersection of gender equality and health. More specifically, these mental health struggles stem from a lack of support systems, social constructs & gender roles, societal pressures on beauty standards and ideals, and many other invisible stressors that women are subconsciously internalizing. And they’re putting an enormous amount of pressure on women to conform to what we believe we “should” be.

Another way to look at it is through the lens of our innate human need for safety & belonging: women don’t feel safe in our daily lives by the societal structures in place. These are having a severe impact on how we are able to feel safe and have agency within our bodies, roles & identities, and in our livelihood. The mental load is real, and we need to start actively addressing the issues at the root and not just in reaction to it when mental health struggles come to the surface.

What needs to fall into place for there to be a paradigm shift in how women become well, and how do we prevent the opposite?

Simply put, there are many structural and cultural shifts that need to happen in our society to better support women and their well-being. With that said, these bigger changes won’t happen overnight so what we CAN do is to focus on how we react to our lived experiences.

The first step is self-awareness and practicing acceptance. It’s knowing that it’s OK to experience overwhelm and stress and that the emotions and feelings you’re experiencing are completely human. We can be honest with ourselves and acknowledge “I don’t like this reality”, while also recognizing that these painful moments don’t take away from everything else in your life that is going right.

It’s a powerful way to take a step back and see the experience for what it is. That’s when you can redirect your energy away from fighting a reality you can’t change and towards the next right step - no matter how small.

WellSeek has initiatives focused on advocacy, community, and media, which are gaps identified by the World Health Organization. Can you elaborate on how you go about filling those gaps?

What’s most exciting in these current times is the shift towards community care. It’s about providing compassionate, supportive ways to help our neighbors, friends, and family - and let them know that they are never alone in their lived experience.

That can look like advocacy work, where we’re speaking up and activating public support for change at the local and systems level. This is something we’re actively doing with our non-profit project, SeekHer Foundation, through our social advocacy campaigns with our corporate partners and investing in more women-led communities that are bridging those gaps locally. After all, it’s the small ripples we make today that build momentum to make the bigger waves tomorrow.

It’s also important to have community spaces where people can open up and explore the narratives they’re trying to rewrite. Whether it’s through social media, learning workshops, or inspiring event gatherings, my goal at WellSeek is to create opportunities where we can stop, check-in, and be held in a space where you know others get it too. That’s the humanized element we’re constantly missing in our mainstream self-care and wellness industries that overly emphasize quick-fix, one-size-fits-all solutions. We have to understand who we are first and how we connect to our communities - that’s what helps us tap into our ability to live authentically.

And lastly, we all know the way the media drives our perception of value and worth. From beauty to motherhood to career success, we’re constantly bombarded with unrealistic ideals of perfection. We have been conditioned to think that in order to be viewed as someone respectable, we have to strive for that ‘superhuman’ potential. But we are human.

We’re going to make mistakes, we have struggles, we have challenges that we have to address. It is not about living perfectly, it’s about how we are going to be resilient in the moment and keep moving forward, even when we are struggling. We’re starting to see this shift in our mainstream conversations when Simone Biles bravely withdrew from her Olympic events to prioritize her well-being. That was huge! And the stories and perceptions shaped by our media must continue to support these changes in rewriting the superhuman narrative. I hope the content and messaging we continue to amplify through WellSeek will play a big role in that shift.

Do you already see things changing? Like the example you mentioned with Simone Biles, it was a monumental moment in sports for the greatest gymnast of all time to say, “I can’t compete because of my mental health.” Do you see something like that happening in the wellness industry?

Yeah, absolutely. The wellness industry is taking notice and recognizing that what we’ve been doing so far isn’t sustainable. We can’t go on living feeling like we’re always at a deficit, and it’s important to start addressing our needs - physical, emotional, spiritual - from a place of wholeness and connection. The fact that Simone was able to self-advocate, and to do it on such a big stage, is incredible. That really shows that people are now recognizing the power of speaking up to say, “I need to take a step back, and I need help.”

When you look back at how WellSeek started and where it is now, what has been the most memorable or meaningful moment for you and how do you see WellSeek moving forward?

100%, it’s been connecting with so many amazing women in my community, from the advocates to thought leaders to corporate partners who want to support our shared mission of helping women thrive. It’s just been so rewarding to come together behind a social cause that is meaningful to us individually, so we can make a bigger difference as a collective.

Moving forward, I’m most excited about working alongside business leaders and organizations that are invested in advancing women in their work and life. Because at the end of the day, this gender gap of mental health is really limiting our human potential to move forward. Data already supports the fact that when we uplift women, we help the world. Now is the time to do it.

Lastly, what would you tell a woman who is struggling?

Don’t do it alone. Healing was never meant to be done in isolation, which is why I really appreciate what Circles is doing as a mental health platform. That was a big lesson for me when I was going through my own personal struggles. I thought I was the only one suffering and that there was something wrong with me. We often put so much pressure on ourselves, yet we can lessen the load by simply saying “I need help.” And that’s when we recognize we’re never alone in the dark.

Yes, absolutely. Monica, it’s been such a pleasure speaking with you, thank you!

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 12

Five Things You'll Feel When Receiving Group Support

The first step to getting better is realizing you need support. If you’ve reached that point, we’re so proud of you. You’re on your way to finding the relief you’re seeking. The next question is choosing the type of support.

Many people debate whether one on one or group support is more suitable for them. Naturally, we’re big proponents of the latter We can write endlessly as to why, but in a nutshell, we love group support because of the emotions you’ll feel after connecting with people in your group.

When you are in a space where you can share what you’re going through with people who are also going through it, or have been through it, that pit in your stomach that you’ve been carrying shifts into warmth in your heart.

We know that sounds too good to be true, but it really is true. The emotional responses that people have in a group foster so many positive feelings within you that you immediately start your journey to getting better.

What will you feel when you start sharing your story and listening to others in your group? Here are five of them:

Empathy

Empathy is our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to truly understand how someone feels. It’s a feeling of sameness. To quote John Steinbeck, “You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.” When you’re in a group of people who are going through a similar experience you experience true empathy. They can’t not understand you because they’re going through it too. They get it. They really get it. When you hear them share their story, you feel it too. Together you are seen, heard, and understood. There is no “Oh, that must be hard, I’m sorry you’re going through that,” there is only “This is so hard, I know how you feel, but we’ll get through it.” You’re not feeling for someone, you’re feeling with someone.

Compassion

If empathy is the seed, compassion is what grows from it. When you feel with someone, when you put their shoes on and know what it feels like to walk in them, you develop a desire to help them. That’s compassion. By being compassionate with people in your group, you become more resilient and improve your wellbeing. Ironically, one of the best ways to make yourself feel better is to help someone else feel better, and that’s exactly why groups are so powerful. Since everyone knows what it’s like to be in your situation, everyone is intentionally looking out for each other, and when you help each other you help yourselves.

Relief

Naturally, with everyone in your group going through something similar and being there for each other, you’ll find relief in knowing that you’re not alone. Those thoughts and feelings that you assumed no one else had? Others are experiencing them too. You have evidence literally right in front of you that what you’re experiencing is normal. If you’ve been holding back tears, someone in your group is letting them out. If you’ve been hesitant to laugh, someone in your group looks at their situation with levity. It’s relieving to know that it’s okay to not be okay, and you can get back to being okay in whichever way works best for you.

Belonging

With empathy and compassion, you have the two crucial ingredients in the recipe of belonging. Why? Because you can be yourself without fear of being judged. As Brene Brown says, “when we feel a sense of belonging we do not have to change who we are, rather we are able to be who we are.” As the old saying goes, it takes a village, and finding that village is such a surreal experience. As humans we are hardwired to seek belonging, and when you feel that in a group you suddenly feel whole.

Hope

Needless to say, when you combine all of the feelings and experiences above you can’t help but feel a sense of hope. If you have people in your group who are near the end of their healing journey, you know that you can get there too. If you have people in your group that have just taken their first step to getting better, you can look at them and see how far you have come since you first took yours. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you are getting there together.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 10

Healing Process of Grief

It goes without saying that grief is an extremely difficult process filled with ebbs and flows. Some days may be filled with terrible sadness or anger, while others may be calmer and more accepting. Regardless of what you’re feeling each day, grieving is hard and healing can take time.

In 1969, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist theorized in her book “On Death and Dying” that grief could be divided into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial is a state of shock, it’s our brain’s way of putting up a wall and only letting in as much as we can handle. But eventually, these walls slowly crumble, and all the feelings you were denying begin to enter.

Anger is an indication of the intensity of your love for both the person you lost and the people that remain. After a loss, some bargain with the universe to bring that person back. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?” We try to negotiate our way out of the pain. When we can’t, we feel the depression of experiencing such a great loss. Eventually, we accept that our loved one is truly gone, and we need to adjust to a new reality without them.

Reading the above makes it seem that grief is a linear progression, that you go through the stages chronologically with each stage having an estimated length. It’s easy to forget that the stages are responses to feelings that come and go. Our feelings don’t have a set timetable or a prescribed order. We may feel one, then another, and back again to the first one.

We may also only feel some of the stages and not others, or some more prominently than the rest. Moreover, the five stages of grief may be the most widely known, but there are other theories of how we process grief, such as ones with seven stages and ones with just two. These stages can help you navigate grief’s terrain, but there may be other emotions you explore.

All this to say, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to grief nor is there a set timetable or structure you need to compare yourself to. One of the best ways to think about the grief process is an analogy we recently heard. Imagine your life is a jar, and the grief you feel is a ball inside of the jar. You probably think your grief ball shrinks over time, but in actuality, your jar gets bigger because you learn to grow around your grief. You learn to carry it and find joy in other things, whether that be through your family, friends, or sharing with people who are also experiencing it.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 09

Opening the Employee Wellbeing Window

‘Frame of Mind’ discusses current events in the mental health and emotional wellbeing space. Today’s edition highlights a new shift in priorities for human resources professionals as their focus changes from physical wellbeing to mental, emotional, and social wellness in the workplace.

As companies have adjusted to their employees working remotely following the pandemic, employees have had their own adjustments as well. The line separating work and life have never been more blurred and navigating when to say when has been proven to be a lot more difficult than previously thought.

Because of this, burnout and deterioration in mental health are prevalent. The American Psychological Association’s survey “Stress in America 2021” reports people are experiencing their highest levels of stress since the beginning of the pandemic, showing a lot of stress-related symptoms such as changes in sleep, and increased alcohol consumption. One in five surveyed workers says their mental health is worse than it was this time last year.

Now HR leaders around the world are prioritizing employee well-being and mental health more than ever. The timing of these initiatives is crucial to develop workplace resilience. The Future Workplace 2021 HR Sentiment survey found that 68% of senior HR leaders rated employee well-being and mental health as a top priority. This makes sense given the corporate well-being market is now estimated to be $20.4 billion in the U.S. and is forecasted to grow to $87.4 billion by 2026.

In fact, Gallup recently asked employees what they look for most in an employer. The data showed that employees of all generations rank “the organization cares about employees’ wellbeing” in their top three criteria. For millennials and Generation Z, it was ranked first.

Many talented workers are leaving their jobs to work in environments that demonstrate a genuine concern for their wellbeing. With record-high resignations and a labor shortage, HR leaders now realize that they need to do more to highlight and care for the emotional and mental needs of their employees. Companies are starting to take these steps to de-stigmatize mental health in the workplace and elevate wellness, and that trend must continue.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 08

"Who you are as a person isn't defined by your results"

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on Andrea “Andi” Murez, who swam for the Israeli swim team at the Tokyo Olympics. Andi and the rest of the Israeli swim team qualified for the Olympics’ first-ever mixed medley relay final and set a new Israeli record, finishing in 3 minutes and 43.94 seconds.

Congratulations on completing and representing Israel. How do you feel?

It feels different at different times, but I just feel it was such an amazing experience. So many people have reached out and supported me, particularly over the last week, and I just feel very grateful to have that support and the opportunity to represent and compete at the highest level.

Yeah, you literally competed at the highest level, which so few people can say. What was this year like for you in terms of preparation? Because the Olympics were pushed off a year, what was that like for you mentally and in terms of training?

When the pools were shut down, I was training in San Diego, and I went to LA to my parents’ house. No one knew what was happening. One of my teammates came with me, and we ended up training there for three months. We searched every corner of my house to find a way to continue doing gym workouts and swam a bit. I was very fortunate. Obviously, it was totally different, but I was able to still train. At first, when the pools were shut down, the Olympics hadn’t been postponed, and it was stressful because how are we ever going to be able to keep up our training? So when the Olympics were postponed, it was kind of a relief, because then we could take care of our safety and put things on pause. I am in medical school right now at Tel Aviv University, so I have taken two years off. I was planning to just have one year to prepare for the Olympics, and this gave me an extra year. I felt like it was an opportunity. I think this Olympics has shown that some of the veterans that you thought were going to either qualify for their Olympic team or perform super well at the Olympics, had a hard time. Because they were so set in their routine, and then it was postponed, I think it was hard for people. But for me, it was good to kind of get out of it, to still have something else to focus on. But also, our coaching staff did a really good job of finding pools. As annoying as it was that our schedule was constantly changing and being updated, at least we had pool space. I think the big thing is that I was out of the sport for two years, so I had a little more motivation and was thankful for the extra time. That kept me going and really helped me to stay focused. I was just happy to be swimming. Even just leading up to the games, we had several competitions in a bubble-type situation, with no fans in the stands, so I got used to what it was going to be like, and that helped me be able to swim at the Olympics without the huge crowd.

You mentioned earlier how debilitating it could be for singularly focused athletes to push something like this off for a whole year. Is that something you recognized with the other athletes? And how big of a toll does that take on an athlete, when you have this routine, you have this plan, and then it just gets completely derailed?

So we kept having Zoom meetings, like once a week or every other week, just to stay connected and check in with everyone, which I think was super important. David Marsh, our coach, also encouraged us to do other things, like study in some online program, something to just keep our mind off of swimming because there was so much downtime. We had also talked to psychologists, mental coaches, and past swimmers to bring in all of these other resources. I was able to study, which kept my focus on something else, and gave me something to do because I think it was tough. There are people who quit and didn’t want to swim throughout the year because it was hard, no one knew exactly what was gonna happen, or they didn’t perform as well as they wanted to because it was hard to get into a new routine and a new normal. But I’m super thankful that my coach pushed us to find something else to do. That’s where I think having that balance in your life is super important.

Yeah, absolutely. When Simone Biles withdrew from the competition due to mental health concerns, all of a sudden there was so much attention on athletes’ mental health. What was that like for you? What was your reaction to it?

I was very surprised to hear it. I just think it’s really good to talk about and normalize that this is something people go through. Competing at the Olympics can really affect you, there’s even something called post-Olympic depression, just because you go from such a high and to being at home a few weeks later and that all dies down. I think for some people it’s really hard to go from being on the top to just being back to normal. My family has always told me that swimming isn’t the end, as in, it’s not the only thing you’re going to do. You need to have balance. Coming back from Rio 2016, I had just been swimming for the past three years, and my parents pushed me to apply to medical school. I had done all of the requirements, all I had to do was apply, but I just hadn’t done it yet, because I wanted to keep swimming. I think it was good to have that as something to look forward to. I also think just having a good support system is the number one thing. It was interesting because I actually think having social media during the Olympics was helpful. Hearing how excited and impressed my friends were and people from school, or from my high school swim team, or whoever. Even when I had swims where I wasn’t excited about the result, I would go to sleep that night and see all these messages from non-swimmers who told me how fast I was and it made me take a step back, have some perspective, and realize what I’m doing is great and not get so caught up in the details of being a professional swimmer who wants everything to be perfect. But having that balance of having something else to fall back on, you realize who you are as a person isn’t defined by your results, or even necessarily your sports career.

Yeah, absolutely. One more question: how important is it to be having these conversations about mental health and do you feel a shift from Rio 2016 to now?

Having the conversation is super important and just making it become something that people are aware of. Having it in the news for two weeks of the games is great, but where does it go from there? It’s definitely a start. Hopefully, people are seeing it on the news and having conversations with whoever they’re surrounded by, but I think you have to have more than that. Hopefully, schools are talking about it. At the Olympics, they did have places that you could reach out to for support, so I think it’s becoming more of a topic, which is good. We also had a sports psychologist with us, which was super helpful, because on the day-to-day basis is where it starts. But the more it is in the news, and the more these big stars talk about it, it shows that it is real and it can happen to anyone. I think we’re moving in the right direction.

So true. Andi, thank you so much, and congratulations!

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 05

How Do I Connect With People In A Group?

We don’t know if you’ve heard, but at Circles we’re all about connection. We’re big believers that being with people experiencing a similar emotional challenge can help you find connections, and in turn, will start the healing process.

Simply put, being with a group of people going through the same thing is so important to feel better about your situation. That being said, by being with people you’re unfamiliar with, it can initially seem difficult to form bonds or to know if what you’re saying is resonating with anyone in the group.

Don’t worry, it’s a pretty common thought that crosses peoples’ minds. But the truth is, by virtue of going through something similar as everyone else, whether it’s divorce, grief, anxiety, or any other emotional challenge, you already have that initial connection before even walking through the door (virtually speaking).

The similar situation that everyone is facing is a stepping stone for you to continue to grow from. If you’re worried about where and how to start, it starts with being vulnerable. Why? We’ll let the one and only, Brene Brown, explain: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. The key to connecting to people in your group is being honest about where you are. We know it seems scary, but the truth is, everyone in your group is there or has been there. It feels easier to be vulnerable when everyone else is too, and that’s what makes a Circle or a group such a safe and special place: sharing is tried and true.

Opening up about your experience is a great starting point to connecting with others. It gives them an opportunity to learn more about your story and find commonalities. Conversely, you can still form connections with your group without initially opening up.

Actively listening is an excellent way to connect with your group members and for them to feel connected to you too. What’s active listening? We’re so glad you asked. Active listening keeps you positively engaged with the speaker by listening attentively while they speak and then reflecting back on what they said without judgment. It ensures the speaker feels heard and valued, the same way you would want to feel when you share with someone.

If you’re hesitant to share your own experience, active listening is an excellent way to connect with the people in the group. All we really want is to feel seen, heard, and valued, and by extending that to your group members, they will feel more connected to you.

We know we mentioned a couple, but there are so many ways to connect to people in a group. The best way to discover them is to join a group, like a Circle, and participate. You can’t connect unless you try.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 04

Grappling With Gray Divorce

When Bill Gates, 65, and Melinda Gates, 56, announced they were divorcing after 27 years of marriage they completely shocked the world. After spending nearly three decades together, it felt like the power couple would stay together forever.

Their divorce was officially finalized a few days ago, and while we don’t know the reasons behind their decision, what their divorce highlights is an upward trend in gray divorces.

Gray divorce, also known as “Silver splitters”, is a term designated for divorces of couples who are over the age of 50. Surprisingly, it’s a lot more common than you think.

Although divorce in America hit a record low in 2019, with only 14.9 marriages out of every 1000 marriages ending in divorce, in 2017 Pew Research found that the rate of divorce after age 50 nearly doubled from 1990 to 2015. Past research found that more than 1 in 4 people getting divorced in the United States is over age 50, and over half of those divorces happen after 20 years of marriage.

Moreover, another study found that attitudes have shifted in people over 50 towards being more supportive of divorce from 1994 to 2012. Nearly two-thirds of adults over 50 agree that divorce is the best solution when couples can’t work out their marriage problems, compared to less than half of younger adults.

Experts have given a number of reasons for these changes. For instance, women are much more empowered and educated than they were two decades ago, providing them the freedom to end their marriage if they so choose. Additionally, as the data has shown, with attitudes toward divorce becoming more relaxed, it’s a lot easier for both partners to walk away without feeling societal pressure.

Another factor that has played a role is an increase in life expectancy. We are living longer than ever before in history, and that trend will seemingly continue. If you’re 65, you could realistically expect to live for another two decades, which is a long time to spend in a relationship that is no longer fulfilling. Throw in the factors mentioned earlier, and the opportunity has never been riper. In fact, matrimonial attorneys are already seeing an uptick in divorce inquiries.

Going through a divorce after so many years of sharing a life with someone can be incredibly difficult. The process itself can be complicated and draining, and once it’s done the adjustment to your new normal can be tough, as well as the accompanying grief for the time that was once.

At Circles, we recognize that speaking to people going through a similar experience can be incredibly helpful. For couples going through a gray divorce, speaking to other couples also in this process can bring you so much relief, and luckily there are so many platforms through which couples can get the support they need.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 03

Five People That Will Help You Feel Less Alone While Grieving

It goes without saying: grief is a difficult and complicated process. Simply put, it sucks. Everyone experiences it in so many different ways, there is no one size fits all approach for coping with it.

That being said, one of the main pain points for people experiencing grief is the feeling of isolation. You can share and vent to your friends and family, but at the end of the day, no one knows what you’re going through unless they’ve been through it themselves.

At Circles, we strongly believe that sharing how you’re feeling with people who are also experiencing a loss can be extremely therapeutic. In fact, some of the most prominent figures in the grief space started their platforms and initiatives for that very same reason: the need to share with people who actually understand.

With that in mind, we highlighted five of these amazing individuals who are helping people experiencing a loss feel less alone:

Megan Devine

Megan is a psychotherapist, writer, grief advocate, & communication expert dedicated to helping you live through grief. In the summer of 2009, Megan’s partner, Matt, drowned. In the early days of her grief, Megan struggled to find real help as there were few people openly talking about grief and the experience of losing a loved one. Not wanting others to have a similar experience, Megan created Refuge in Grief, an online community with resources that help people cope with their grief. Refuge in Grief is a place for understanding, compassion, validation, and the skills you need to survive.

Benjamin Brooks-Dutton

On November 10, 2012, Ben, his wife, and his two-year-old son left their best friends’ house when an elderly driver lost control of their car and crashed. He managed to get his son to safety, but the car struck and killed his wife, the woman he’d married just the year before. Ben found himself wanting to share his experiences and find answers from people just like him: widowed young and caring for grieving children. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find the people he was looking for, leaving him feeling even more isolated. So around a couple of months later, in January 2013, he started his blog, Life as a Widower. Within four months the blog generated widespread media coverage, amassed a devoted UK and international audience, received in excess of half a million views, and won a blogging award. Ben’s blog gives real insights into the raw experience of grieving and is an important read for anyone in this process.

Nora McInerny

2014 was a big year for Nora. In October of that year, she lost her second pregnancy and a few days later her father died from cancer. A month later, in November, her husband Aaron died after three years with brain cancer. Her obituary for her husband went viral, and she received tons of messages from strangers going through similar struggles. Realizing there was a hole that needed to be filled, she then created Terrible, Thanks For Asking to get right into the hard stuff. Nora provides valuable information on how to process your grief so the next time someone asks you how you’re doing, you don’t have to lie and say “I’m fine”. If you’re looking for inspiration for being honest about your experience with grief, rather than pretending like everything is okay, Nora is THE person.

Cariad Lloyd

Cariad is a British comedian, actor, writer, and podcaster. Her father passed away from pancreatic cancer when she was 15. Since 2016, Cariad has hosted Griefcast, a podcast that examines the human experience of grief and death. Griefcast won three awards at the 2018 British Podcast Awards: Best Entertainment Podcast, Best Interview Podcast, and Podcast of the Year. Griefcast is a series of conversations Cariad has with people about experiencing grief and dealing with the loss of a loved one. Because most of her guests are fellow comedians, the podcast tackles loss with more levity than one would expect and can help you immediately find relief.

Rebecca Soffer

When Rebecca was 30, her mother, Shelby, was killed in a car accident, one hour after dropping Rebecca off from a family camping trip. Four years later, her father died of a heart attack. Suddenly, she was an orphan. Together with Gabrielle Birkner and some other friends, Rebecca formed a monthly dinner party called WWDP (Women With Dead Parents). It was an opportunity to spend with people who understood the particular nuances of going through profound loss way before they expected to. Together with Gabrielle, she founded Modern Loss, a place to share and find resources about navigating your life after death, so you can learn from people who actually get it.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 02

Coping With Divorce Post-COVID

‘Frame of Mind’ discusses current events in the mental health and emotional wellbeing space. Today’s edition centers on online divorce startup Hello Divorce, which recently announced a $2 million seed round, as well as the impact of COVID19 on divorce rates.

Hello Divorce, a platform dedicated to making the divorce process more affordable and efficient, recently announced a $2 million seed round. Founder Erin Levine, a family law attorney, told TechCrunch: “Right now, lawyers are the keeper of information, and clients keep paying until the divorce is done,” she said. “Divorce is more than forms. It is a challenging time, and most people need or want support. I saw a big hole there to use technology and fixed fees to put couples in the driver’s seat and take down that level of conflict.”

Interestingly, over the past year, the California-based startup received 2,000 inquiries related to contemplating divorce and co-parenting during the lockdown. “The inquiries increased about staying or going, and what divorce will look like,” Levine said. “It will be a while before we see the total effects of what divorce looks like following the pandemic.”

COVID-19 has undoubtedly exacerbated many challenges couples face, leading them to make major life-changing decisions, like divorce. Being stuck at home has forced couples to recognize their relationship problems that didn’t previously get any attention.

According to a recent survey about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on couples, 31% say that quarantine has damaged their relationship. Similar to Hello Divorce, a number of matrimonial attorneys reported a 50% increase in inquiries from potential clients. In the United States, sales of online self-help divorce agreements rose by 34% in Spring 2020 compared to 2019, and family lawyers surveyed in April and July 2020 reported a 25% to 35% increase in requests to start divorce proceedings compared to the same time in 2019.

Love doesn’t always last forever, and although the process of divorce is difficult, couples can now pursue a healthy trajectory for themselves. Separating is life-changing, and it’s important to remain resilient as we re-enter normalcy. There are a number of avenues through which people in the process of divorce or separation can receive support, such as therapy or group support, like at Circles.

As we see a decrease in pandemic restrictions, it seems likely we will see an increase in the number of couples separating, and it’s paramount they receive the support they need.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 01

"Being single isn’t a huge hindrance on life"

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on Instagram page tinymoron. Darya’s drawings relate to just about everyone, and we guarantee a few will resonate with you. If you’re struggling through a breakup, this London-based creator’s page should be your new go-to virtual spot.

Can you tell me a bit more about you and what led you to create tinymoron?

When my sisters and I were younger, we would always play this silly game: if we were in an American high school, which clique would we be in? My oldest sister was always the goth, my youngest was the jock, and for me, we always came to the conclusion that I would be the nice girl in quotation marks, the Lizzie McGuire type, the girl who’s on good terms with everyone and tries a lot of different stuff, she’s cool but a bit of a nerd. I think a lot of that was because I am very close to my sisters and my family, and I had friends whom I was really comfortable with, but on top of that, I have Crohn’s disease. I was diagnosed when I was 11. That always held me back from doing anything to any extreme, so I was never super into anything. That also feeds into how I started tinymoron because when I was 22 I had just finished university and my health got really bad. I was hospitalized for pretty much a year on and off, and during that time I was literally doing nothing and I was really inspired by some other comics on Instagram, and I thought I could make some too, so I just started just doodling. I bought some Sharpie pens and a notebook, started drawing, and my sisters convinced me to put them up on Instagram. So I did, and it just kind of went from there.

And how did you come up with the name?

A lot of crowdsourcing with my sisters. I wanted it to be short and snappy and I tried a few different combinations. Can’t remember what the top contenders were but tinymoron was my favorite and it was available. I am tiny and I am a bit of an idiot, so it works.

I think that’s what’s great about the name. We’re not all tiny, but I think we all have our moronic moments. That’s probably what attracts so many people to the page - your relatability. Can you tell me a bit about the features of tinymoron, like dating dilemmas, for example?

So many people right from the start would send me their problems. They would send me long messages, like “here’s what’s going on in my love life, what do I do?” The first couple of years I would just ignore these messages, because I was like, why are they asking me? Literally in the name is moron, I am very naive and I’m completely aware of how naive I am. I don’t think I’m in a position to give someone advice on their dating life. I think people assume that I’m very, well-experienced in the world of dating, but I’m not, I just have an overactive imagination. But I got so many messages that eventually I decided to make a feature out of it and I really enjoy it. I think it’s so interesting seeing the variety of issues that people can have or how niche different problems can be or how common different problems can be. So I kind of took this idea and ran with it.

Do you also get really positive feedback? What’s been really meaningful or memorable feedback that you get on your page?

I get really, really, really lovely messages and it honestly fills my heart with so much love. I think I’ve been getting even more kind messages since I’ve started posting stories, being more personable on the page, being more interactive, and actually putting a face to the name. I get a lot of DMs from people saying that they consider me a friend, which is so sweet and my absolute favorite ones are when they say that me living my life and just making light of being single and doing whatever I want while being single really inspires them and makes them realize that being single isn’t a huge hindrance on life. You can still do so much. It’s actually pretty wonderful. I don’t think not having a partner has ever stopped me from doing anything that I want to do. I think my life is pretty great, and if anyone were to join me on it, that would be fun too, but it’s not a necessity. I guess I’m subconsciously expressing that in my stories and people seem to appreciate it.

You’re so right. What would be your best piece of advice for someone who’s experiencing heartbreak? When people say, “I’m dealing with this breakup, I don’t know what to do,” what do you tell them?

I do get a lot of messages like this. There’s no cure for heartbreak. There’s no fast-track ticket to get through it quicker. You just have to ride it out. I have a playlist that I made during a breakup that I once had that was very sad. I was sad, but I was also relieved, and a little bit annoyed and confused. I had a whole range of emotions and I have a playlist that reflects that range of emotions. I like to send the link to people when they’re going through heartbreak because I think that’s a good way to demonstrate that you’re going to feel so many different things right now, and all you can do is allow yourself to feel them. You can’t get angry at yourself for having these emotions because that’s just your body and your mind’s way of telling you that you are grieving something or you are processing something in whatever way, shape or form. Do whatever you need to do to mourn, to process, and don’t get mad at yourself for it.

That’s really good advice. What is your creative process like and how do you see tinymoron moving forward?

A lot of my posts are based on personal experiences, but I would say more of them are completely based on my own imagination. I guess I take personal experiences, as minor as they were, and I just run with them. I also hear stories from friends, siblings, cousins, and I’ll be inspired by them and turn them into posts. When I think of something I just write it down on my phone as a note and then later I’ll just draw it up. I did have a merchandise store, which I put on hold and I really need to bring it back. That’s a step that I need to take. I’m also really enjoying making this podcast “Sorry, love you, bye” which is a spin-off of dating dilemmas as well as a chance to talk to creators and share some of my experiences. I have conversations with a guest and we talk a bit about dating, and then the first segment is called “brilliant or baloney” where we talk about a piece of advice that someone’s told me over the years because I get so much unsolicited advice. People love telling you why I’m single. So I basically recount a piece of advice to the guests and then we can discuss it. Is it brilliant? Is it baloney? And then the final segment is dating dilemmas. I pick three dilemmas for each episode and we offer long-form advice since on a podcast we can dive a bit deeper and talk a bit more about the nuances of dating. I think that’s a lot more interesting in many ways than just yes or no on an Instagram poll.

Absolutely. I’m definitely subscribing. Darya, thank you so much for chatting!

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 29

Five Instagram Accounts to Follow After a Breakup

ehtLet’s be real: Breaking up sucks. Whether you’ve broken up with your partner, they broke up with you, or it was mutual, ending a relationship with someone you love isn’t easy.

What makes it even harder is that before smartphones and social media we were able to cut off that person from our lives entirely, but now we’re forced to live with their presence in our pockets. With unlimited access to your previous texts, pictures, and social handles, it’s easy to fall into the trap of virtually reliving the past.

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: looking at your ex’s profiles will sustain the pain and keep you from moving forward. We know shutting them out entirely may sound extreme, but those pesky social media algorithms aren’t on your side. Free yourself from seeing them on your feed.

We’re not saying to stay off social media entirely, actually, we’re saying the opposite. There are so many Instagram accounts that can help you feel better after a breakup and provide some perspective, much-needed advice, and motivation to get yourself back out there. There’s no such thing as too much support after a breakup.

Check out five Instagram accounts you should follow after a breakup:

@tinymoron

Scrolling through 27-year-old Darya’s doodles is just what the doctor ordered. Her down-to-earth drawings relate to just about everyone, and we guarantee a few will resonate with you. Her posts include a post-breakup bingo chart, a list of texting-only dating dilemmas, hilarious listicles, and much more. If you’re struggling through a breakup, this London-based creator’s page is the place for you.

@_lisaolivera

Now we know we said breaking up in the 21st century is tough because of social media, but on the flip side of that coin, one of the major benefits of it is that we have access to so many therapists, coaches, and other mental health professionals who have so much wisdom. One of these wise women is Lisa Olivera. The California-based therapist posts actionable advice on moving on and taking care of yourself during rough patches in life, including breakups.

@selfishladies

If you’re in need of a self-esteem boost and lessons on not settling in relationships and establishing boundaries, Kim Grevler’s Instagram page is the place for you. If you’re someone that gives too much to others and not enough to yourself, this Brooklyn-based life coach and clinical social worker’s feed will teach you to be a little more selfish. You deserve it.

@alex_elle

If you’re feeling heartsick, we’d like to prescribe you a dose of Wellness coach Alex Elle’s awesome Instagram page. Consider it like having tiny therapy time over the course of your day every time you scroll through one of her posts. It’s also one of the most aesthetically pleasing Instagram feeds out there. We feel better just looking at it.

@yourbreakupbestie

Everyone could use a breakup bestie, and Kendra Allen is your go-to. Kendra has experienced A LOT over the course of her relationships and uses her experience to help people heal and thrive from their breakups. Her Instagram gives you practical tips, actions, and tools to be able to let go of your ex and leave with peace of mind.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 28

Simone Taught Us To Share Without Shame

In arguably the most shocking turn of events at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles, the most decorated American gymnast and considered by many to be the GOAT (greatest of all time), withdrew from the women’s gymnastics final because of a “medical issue” which she later explained was related to her mental health.

"I have to put my pride aside. I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. That’s why I decided to take a step back,” the 24-year-old told reporters after following her withdrawal. "It’s OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are, rather than just battle through it,” she continued.

Japanese-American tennis star Naomi Osaka, 23, the first Asian woman to hold the #1 ranking in the world and the lighter of the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony, withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon this year for the sake of her mental health. “I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s OK to not be OK, and it’s OK to talk about it,” she later wrote in Time magazine.

American Olympic sprinter Noah Lyles, 24, openly shared on Twitter that he takes anti-depressants and also told People magazine he sees both a sports and a personal therapist.

Simone Manuel, the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic gold in swimming, has openly spoken about taking a break prior to the Tokyo Olympic games after being diagnosed with overtraining syndrome this year that caused her depression and anxiety.

Australian WNBA star Liz Cambage withdrew from this year’s Olympics due to mental health concerns, and American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was barred from competing at the Tokyo Games after testing positive for marijuana, which she said she had used to cope with the recent death of her biological mother, which she said sent her into “a state of emotional panic”.

We could go on and on, and that’s the point.

We describe Olympians as superhumans, and in a way, they are. Whenever we watch Simone Biles do flips and turns a double-digit amount of feet in the air, we need to pick our jaws up from off the floor because it truly feels super. But we forget that the other half of superhuman is being human.

When the entire world is watching you and when the entire world expects you to be nothing but perfection - or super - the human half inevitably comes out. Unimaginable athleticism comes with unimaginable pressure, and the biggest stage in all of sports comes with the biggest spotlight. We should give athletes gold medals just for being able to carry the weight of the world, and we should applaud them when they recognize that it’s too heavy to hold.

At Circles, we highlight that there is no shame in sharing your struggles because when you do, you realize that what you’re experiencing is actually normal. When superhumans share their Olympic-sized struggles, we remember that they are normal too, because they too are human.

Knowing when to take a step back is actually taking a step forward. A key to being great is recognizing when you can’t be. There is no shame in sharing that. That’s why Simone Biles is the greatest of all time, and another medal doesn’t change that.

The only people that can understand what elite athletes endure are elite athletes themselves, and that’s why we’re working to create Circles for them to connect, find mutual support, and share without shame.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 27

How to Support Someone Who's Grieving

When we were speaking with Emma Payne, the Founder of Grief Coach, she mentioned that a few years after the loss of her husband, she reconnected with family and friends whom she hadn’t heard from in a while. She found out why: they couldn’t think of what to say or how to support her after her husband’s passing.

We’ve all been there. When someone you care about is grieving a loss, it can be so difficult to know what to say or do. We’re afraid of intruding, saying the wrong thing, and making them feel even worse, or we think there’s nothing we can do to make things better. All of these feelings are understandable, but unfortunately, they can lead us to avoid the needs of the grieving person altogether. We can get so caught up in worrying about doing the wrong thing, we miss the opportunity to do the right thing.

But what are the right things to do? How do you support someone who is grieving?

A good place to start is knowing that you don’t need to have all the answers and you don’t need to give advice. Why? Because there is no right way or wrong way to grieve. Everyone grieves differently.

We know there are the famous “five stages of grief” but the emotions a griever experiences don’t always manifest in orderly chronological stages. It can be an emotional rollercoaster, and all you need to do is simply be there with them. That’s it (really). One day they may want a shoulder to cry on, on another day they may want to vent, or sit in silence, or share memories. At Circles, we recognize that one of the main pain points for people experiencing grief is feeling isolated and alone. Just being there and listening to them can be a huge source of support.

If you’re in a position where you need to speak and share but you’re really unsure what to say, you can actually just say that. Simply saying “I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care” still allows the griever to know that you support them and are there for them.

That being said, sometimes the griever wants you to talk to them about the person that they lost. If you’re worried about making them feel worse by bringing up their loss, don’t be, because as Emma told us, the person is always in the mind of the griever. By talking about them, it’s like a release valve for the griever. It can also be comforting for the griever to know the impact their loved one had on you. If you don’t know the person, just make it a question. Ask about them. It’s an opportunity to memorialize the person that they lost.

In addition to emotional support, something that can be incredibly helpful for a griever is practical support. It can be difficult for many grieving people to ask for help, and they may not have the energy to help themselves. We know a classic way of offering help is to say “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” but instead of putting the onus on the griever, make it easier for them by making a specific offer. You could say, “I’m doing some grocery shopping this afternoon. What can I bring you from there?” or “I made lasagna for dinner and I have extra. When can I come by and bring you some?”

It’s also important to remember that your loved one will continue to grieve after the cards and flowers stop coming in, the tupperwares are emptied, and the other mourners have gone. Everyone’s timetable is different - whether it’s weeks, months, or years - and they may never feel the same, but after the initial shock, your support is more valuable than ever. Periodically checking in and being there when they need you is a strong sign of support, and one they will be grateful for.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 26

The Importance of BIPOC Mental Health Month

“Once my loved one accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can’t we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African-Americans. The message must go on billboards and in radio and TV public service announcements. It must be preached from pulpits and discussed in community forums. It’s not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.”

That is what Bebe Moore Campbell, an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate said in an interview with NPR in 2005. Prior to her death in 2006, she worked tirelessly to shed light on the unique mental health needs and barriers of the Black community and other underrepresented communities.

In commemoration of her visionary work, on June 2, 2008, the U.S House of Representatives formally designated the month of July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to bring awareness to the unique struggles that people of color face in regard to mental illness in the United States.

Now known as BIPOC Mental Health Month, every July the mental health community highlights the unique mental health challenges and needs of these underserved and underrepresented populations, as well as amplifying their voices.

Although anyone can develop a mental health problem, Black and Indigenous people and other people of color (BIPOC) have unmet needs and barriers that have historically prevented them from receiving the help they need. This has major implications.

Serious mental illness rose among all ages of Black and African American people between 2008 and 2018. According to the CDC, Adult Blacks and African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than adult whites.

Mental Health America has put these numbers in perspective:

13.4% of the US population identifies as Black or African American, and of those, over 16% reported having a mental illness in the past year. That’s over 7 million people, more than the populations of Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia COMBINED.

18.3% of the US population is estimated to be Latino or Hispanic, and of those, over 16% reported having a mental illness in the past year. That’s over 10 million people, more than the number of people who live in New York City.

1.3% of the US population identifies as Native American or Alaska Native, and of those, 19% reported having a mental illness in the past year. That’s over 827,000 people, which is enough to fill every Major League Baseball stadium on the East Coast TWICE.

These numbers are staggering, and they’re particularly concerning as stigma and judgment prevent Black and African American people from seeking treatment for their mental illnesses. Research indicates that Blacks and African Americans believe that mild depression or anxiety would be considered “crazy” in their social circles. Furthermore, many believe that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among their families.

These beliefs have ramifications for the community. In 2018, according to the CDC, 58% of Black and African American young adults, 18-25, and 50% of adults 26-49 with serious mental illness did NOT receive treatment. Especially given the year we just had, it is more important than ever for the BIPOC community to access the services they deserve and to break down the barriers that they face in receiving treatment.

We’re glad that July has been dedicated to highlighting the mental health needs of the BIPOC community, but every month should see this effort. If we want to destigmatize mental illness in the BIPOC community and beyond, we have to follow in the footsteps of trailblazers like Bebe Moore Campbell. She placed the first stone on the path, let’s continue to pave it.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 25

"I honestly had no idea how underserved widows were"

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on Carolyn Moor, the President, Founder, and Development Director of Modern Widows Club. Widowed on Valentine’s Day 2000 and with two young daughters to raise solo, Carolyn struggled to find the mentors she needed to model the healing and growth she desperately sought. This ultimately led to the founding of Modern Widows Club in Carolyn’s very own living room in 2011, becoming an official nonprofit in 2015.

Can you tell me a little bit about you and your background, and what led you to create Modern Widows Club?

I actually see it as it created me. I became a widow on Valentine’s Day 2000. So this was pre-911 and there weren’t very many great resources for women in general, and there certainly weren’t any empowerment resources for women. That was just not even a concept that was culturally understood. I honestly didn’t know what was missing, back when I was newly widowed, I just knew something was missing. During my journey of volunteering at the local grief center where I took my daughters, I learned a lot about nonprofits. I’m actually an interior designer by profession, my late husband was an architect, and we had a fifty-person interior design firm when he died. There was no nonprofit or activism or advocacy in me. After becoming widowed, I received grief services for one year, and after that one year, you sort of graduate. As time went on, I thought there needs to be somewhere else to go, and I started exploring what that would look like. In 2005, I was on the board and already speaking for New Hope for Kids about how important it was for children’s grief, but there wasn’t really anyone talking about me and the women like me, that just wasn’t happening. I was then on this TV show on TLC called “Shalom in the Home” with Rabbi Shmuly Boteach, and I was the only parent episode on the show, and it was the most popular one. Someone from the Oprah Show saw it and invited me and Shmuly to the Oprah Show in 2006. At the time, I was a single parent running a new interior design business, and there was no margin for volunteering really, except for New Hope for Kids for board meetings. There was no margin to give back, mentor, or do anything to even think of that. Interior design was what paid my bills and I threw myself into that. But being on The Oprah Show brought thousands of widows in my direction through emails, showing up at my house, and sending me things. The Oprah effect happened to me. It was a wonderful thing that people felt endeared and reached out to me, but it was hard. So many friends wanted to introduce people to me to mentor but I’m a solo parent, raising two daughters and managing a home and a business. But when I was backstage during the show, Oprah spent some personal time with me and said, “Your story is so powerful, and I hope that you will do something with it, because I think that you have in you the ability to be a wounded healer. I don’t know what that’s going to be, but I would really encourage you to explore what that would be.” So my life really started at year six or seven, because it was truly just building a new life for the first seven years. So when Oprah went off the air, I saw it as my opportunity to control the situation. There were two widows in Central Florida in Orlando, that were kind of at their last straw, and I said, here’s what I’ll do, I’ll have Thursday afternoons available, and I’ll meet with these two ladies. That’s how it started, and it just never ended because those two widows wanted to bring two other widows the next time and so on and so forth. So thousands of widows have come to my home. And then widows started flying to Orlando to ask if I can help them do the same thing in Kansas City, Seattle, and Houston, and I just never stopped saying no because how do you say no to something so beautiful? Then that grew into becoming a nonprofit and actually going through the process of becoming an official nonprofit in 2015, and it just really grew into what it is today. I honestly had no idea how underserved widows were, I don’t think it’s common knowledge. No one’s training them to be really great mentors or leaders. When I went to the UN for the launch of the Global Widows Report in 2015, that was when my life changed. When I met widow advocates from Africa, the Philippines, the UK, and India, everything changed, because I realized how this is such a small subgroup of women but this is an international human rights and a women’s health issue. I don’t know how to change that, but I do know that what we’re doing is empowering more women, giving them tools and resources to find hope, heal and grow. The Seven Pillars of healthy widowhood that I constantly talk about, it’s just from listening to tens of thousands of widows. I started finding people and volunteers that could create because we just didn’t have any funding. Then in 2019, we found one seed funder who had actually made it possible for me to leave my interior design career and come and do this full time. We hired Gina, who was someone who was served by our community for three years, who had executive director experience. That was really the game-changer right there because we now had funding to be able to hire widows. It really has been a big social experiment. We try things, and then we learn from them, and then we improve. We’re on that path.

That’s incredible. You mentioned the pillars of empowering widows. Can you elaborate a bit more about that?

We have this proprietary program that we created ourselves from being around so many widow mentors and leaders. The Hope Heal Grow Lead is about explaining the process because people want to know what the process is of becoming newly widowed and where to go from there. So women really were able to identify where they were along the path. We developed Hope Heal Grow Lead and underneath that is our Empowerment Quiz on our homepage, developed by a mental health counselor, who is also a social worker and a widow. A lot of what we have at Modern Widows Club is very much that three-layer: what’s your profession, what’s your personal experience with widowhood, and bring your talents to MWC. That level of understanding builds trust, and that trust is the number one thing that’s really hard, so we have to meet them right where they are. So whether they’re brand new and grasping for hope, they’re welcome. If they’re in a heal stage, which is where all the work happens, we’ll meet you there. If you’re really wanting to uplevel and grow in areas and be challenged, we’ll meet you there. And if you want to become a leader, we’re going to meet you there too. Do the empowerment quiz, decide what you want to do, and we’re going to have different tracks for different people at our events and we’re also going to have e-courses. We really want women to identify where they are so they can have a starting point. Our goal is to get women to the point where they are empowered to be able to make confident decisions. When a woman does that she makes fewer mistakes, and when she’s in a community, she learns faster, because she’s learning from real lived experiences from other women who are right there with her. That’s, in a nutshell, what we’re doing at MWC. We also work with Dr. Steven Southwick from Yale School of Medicine. He’s the foremost researcher in PTSD, and resilience science in psychology. He’s been on our advisory board for six years and he’s really been instrumental in creating the Hope Heal Grow Lead process. We know it’s working because of our ladies. We have 10 years of ladies who are success stories. Our website is also translated into 39 languages because in the Global Widows Report from 2015, the most comprehensive widows report, it said there are 39 countries with more than 1 million widows. So we chose those 39 countries so that if they find our website, they can see that there are other widows that care about them, other widows organizations fighting for them, and they can understand in their native language that there is hope out there. There’s someone carrying the torch, and we’re that.

I saw that you have a very big advocacy effort in terms of fighting for the rights of widows. What do you think are the most pressing issues right now for widows in the United States and globally?

I attended the Commission on the Status of Women this year with UN Women and I also spoke at the International Widows Day official event, and I can tell you that financial insecurity, hands down, is number one. In the global south and in third world countries, it’s starvation. Families are committing suicide because there’s literally no way for these women to be able to provide anymore. So the stories that I heard at both of those events are harrowing. There’s definitely not enough focus on the fact that the poorest of the poorest women in the world are widows. No one’s willing to call that out or identify that. UN Women has estimated that since COVID there are 2 million new widows in the world. That’s staggering. Why is it not being recognized? Why isn’t it recognized by our government in the United States? Widows aren’t seen as a demographic group. There’s no office for widowed persons at the administration of children and families in the Health and Human Services Department of the government. Why is that? There are almost 14 million widows in this country. There’s an office for trafficked persons, but there’s not an office for widowed persons. We know that 49% of the 14 million widows in the United States earn less than $25,000 a year. This is the United States. We have social security, we have programs, so why are these women grasping for resources? There’s no money or power to protect or to provide for widows, they just sort of slip through the cracks of the system. We need a national day to recognize widows. Until we get a day to nationally recognize the hardships that are happening in these widows’ lives we’re not going to get any media and we’re not going to get the government to look at social security differently, or that maybe widowed status needs to be longer than two years. No one is protecting widows and no one’s lobbying for them. So we went to DC and to find pro bono law firms that cared, and we have two of them. Next year, we want to march in DC on International Widows Day and demand to be heard. If they’re not going to pay attention after a pandemic, then we’ve missed a huge opportunity. So, there are four reasons why all widows struggle, financial insecurity is number one, and number two, which was shocking to me, is disinheritance. In this country, we have laws that prevent your kids from being taken away, you can’t take your property away, there’s a legal process. But in other countries, kids are taken. A lot of cultures around the world are not in favor of protecting widows. The third is government neglect. There’s not one country going, “we are going to stand up for widows and be the example.” I want the United States to be that. I want to meet our president and have a very long conversation about how he can be the tip of the arrow on this worldwide. The fourth thing is social exclusion. In Africa, they’re not even welcome back in churches, because culturally they are seen as a curse. So financial instability, disinheritance, government neglect, and then social exclusion. So it’s the combination of those four things that make it extra hard. These secondary losses are actually what creates the cascading impact of driving you to poverty. Last year we did a really comprehensive survey, and we found that if someone experiences a sudden death, loss of health insurance, and feeling pressure to make important decisions, they have a four times chance of being diagnosed with PTSD, three times the chance of being diagnosed with depression, two times the chance of being diagnosed with anxiety, and three times brain fog. This is a women’s health issue. We were shocked by these findings, and so now we’ve written a medical paper that we’re trying to get into medical journals to get more people interested. No one is recognizing what happens when we don’t see the value in coming alongside someone in distress. When we don’t take the responsibility of actually recognizing what these women experience, it impacts families, communities, healthcare systems, and social systems.

What would be the best advice you could give people who are grieving the loss of their spouse?

First, realize that so many people love you and want to do something for you. If you allow them to do that then you’re inviting them to be a part of your healing. Women are so resourceful and are used to doing so many things at once. Widowhood is a perfect opportunity to micromanage everything. You don’t understand that you’re a brain frog and can get burnt out. That’s why we don’t interview anyone who is not in their second year. Those first two years you need to do the work of getting to the point of giving to yourself and giving back. The second and third are proven in resilience science. There are ten components that build resilience, eight of them you can do yourself and two things require going outside yourself. You have to find a community that understands you and you have to find resilient role models to imitate. I created Modern Widows Club because I needed those two things. Let people help you because you don’t understand how exhausting grieving can be and how healing a new circle of support will be for you. If you have those things, there’s nothing else you need to do.

Last question: Modern Widows Club is 10 years old this year. What has been the most memorable or meaningful part of leading MWC so far?

The most memorable thing is going from having hardly any support to having literally hundreds of solid new friends that no matter what happens to me in my life, these women will show up. I actually had an incident, I was getting engaged, and during COVID it blew up, and all these women showed up, and I experienced what Modern Widows Club does. There’s one thing to create something and another to experience what you created. This is how it should be. I went through my normal grieving process and I’m out of it now, and I can return to being the voice of a movement knowing that what we’re doing is truly revolutionary.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 22

Five Benefits of Online Group Support

In our smartphone-centric society, there is now an app for basically everything. We now have the tools in the palm of our hands to take greater control over our health, and we’re not just talking about the physical kind.

We all use online fact sheets and symptom checkers whenever we’re feeling physically unwell, but there are amazing resources online for our mental health as well, including online group support.

That being said, we know that some people can be quite skeptical about online group support. Talking to strangers online can be daunting, especially about thoughts and feelings you keep close to the chest. Additionally, speaking to strangers can be difficult in person, so how can you form a meaningful relationship online?

These are pretty typical thoughts we hear, but the truth is, there are loads of benefits of receiving online group support. To be honest, we could write endlessly about all of them, but here are five that are worth highlighting.

Accessibility

First and foremost, online group support is accessible, way more accessible than in-person groups or individual therapy. By being online, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home (or even your bed!). This is incredibly beneficial for people living with chronic pain or chronic illness, people living with debilitating anxiety, depression, or burnout, people who work multiple jobs, parents who are always juggling a million and one things, and so many others. If you find travel difficult or impossible, you can still receive the information and emotional support that you need.

The accessibility of online group support has never been more true than during the last year and a half. With lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing, if you had access to in-person support, it was mission impossible to get there. The beauty of online group support is that you can access it anywhere and anytime, even during a pandemic.

But before COVID19, what made the accessibility of online group support so beneficial is that in-person support was, and still is, out of reach for many. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, there is an unequal distribution of psychiatrists and psychologists across the United States. In other words, there aren’t enough mental health professionals for people that need them. Online group support is a great accessible option to close the gap.

24/7

Through online group support, communication never ceases. In addition to your regular group meeting, you can send texts or emails at any time you feel you need help or someone to lean on. If you’re having a particularly bad day and your regular group session is a while away, you still have an outlet and someone to talk to. We said it once and we’ll say it again, one of the best things you can do when you’re having a hard time is to let it out. Through online group support, there is always someone on the other end who is there to listen.

Affordable

Another perk? Online group support is affordable. Individual therapy generally costs 65-250$ per hour or more. If you have insurance, ​​you typically have to pay a co-pay, which can be either a few dollars to $50 or more. Most online group support platforms, like Circles, charge a fraction of that. In fact, one full month of group sessions at Circles costs less than one private therapy session.

Safe Space

What makes participating online even better is that you can branch out from your bubble and meet people from all walks of life. If you live in rural Wisconsin, you can meet someone going through a similar struggle who’s living in New York City. Meeting people from diverse backgrounds will actually help you gain better insights into your experience. Being with strangers also grants you the ability to be true to yourself. Because they don’t yet know you, they don’t have any preconceptions or expectations of you. You don’t have to worry about them changing how they feel about you because they don’t have anything to compare.

Moreover, because they’re also going through something similar, you can be free to be true to yourself and your experience. It’s truly a safe space because it’s a completely judgment-free zone. How can your group judge you if they’re going through the same thing?

Belonging

The objective of online group support, ultimately, is to help you feel less alone by connecting you with others facing the same challenge. The ability to access people in the same situation, just from the touch of a button, can help you feel less isolated and more hopeful.

No one can understand your situation better than people who are also going through it. There is no greater sense of belonging than knowing people can truly empathize with you. Platforms for online group support, like Circles, are a fantastic medium through which you can start your journey to getting better with people who actually understand what you’re going through.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 21

Setting Up Relationship Boundaries

The word “boundary” can have negative connotations to it, simply because “boundary” can remind you of a “barrier”, something that blocks you from getting somewhere.

The truth is, a boundary is a different type of block: it’s a building block. Instead of seeing a boundary exclusively as a limit, see it as an indication of where one area ends and another begins.

Although it seems counterintuitive at the outset, when you look at it that way, it becomes clear how important boundaries are for our relationships. Drawing metaphorical lines will help to define where you and your partner begin and end as individuals.

We all have our preferences, pet peeves, and the necessity for personal space. By setting boundaries with your partner, you’re not creating separation or keeping yourselves apart, you’re actually creating space for your relationship to flourish.

As clinical psychologist Nick Wignall says, “If you want healthy relationships, you need healthy boundaries.”

Figuring out what your boundaries are is step one, and that comes from the relationship you have with yourself (the most important one of all). Clinical social worker Vicki Tidwell Palmer highlights that knowing your needs and setting boundaries to protect them is a powerful act of self-love and self-care and allows you to stay true to yourself. If you don’t know your boundaries, how do you expect your partner to know what they are?

Naturally, you can’t just snap your fingers and everything will fall into place. You’ve probably heard this a million times before, but communication is key. Brendon Burchard, the world’s leading high-performance coach (according to Forbes) emphasizes that boundaries need explicit communication. Communicating your boundaries early on is essential in preventing your partner from breaching them.

On the flip side of that coin, since you expect your partner to honor your boundaries, you need to do the same for them. Relationships are a two-way street, and openly communicating the boundaries they want to set is equally important.

Once boundaries are recognized and communicated, the only thing that remains is sticking to them. It’s not a walk in the park, but slowly but surely you’ll get there. It starts with taking the first step.

At Circles you can speak to others who are also finding it difficult to set and navigate these boundaries. Always remember you don’t have to deal with these challenges alone.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 20

Cultivating Connection Through GoodGrief

Very few blogs begin by talking about grief, but the truth is, we should talk about it. Grief is inevitable, we will experience it sooner or later, and unfortunately for many, it happens sooner. Especially now, following the peak of the COVID19 pandemic, during which so many lost and are still losing loved ones, it’s becoming more important than ever for grievers and their loved ones to open up about their experiences.

At Circles, we provide a number of Circles of support to help people cope with their grief. We strongly believe that one of the best ways for the bereaved to receive emotional support is to speak with others who are also experiencing a loss. Knowing that someone understands what you’re going through can really help you feel less alone. Thankfully, there are others that feel the same way.

GoodGrief, launched in 2018, connects people mourning the loss of a loved one so that they don’t feel alone. The self-declared “social network for loss” allows new members to create profiles based on the loss they suffered, and then they can start text conversations with others or vice versa. Just like at Circles, the idea is that pain shared is pain lessened.

In fact, GoodGrief’s founding story is Exhibit A. Robynne Boyd, GoodGrief co-founder, was introduced to co-founder Kim Libertini via text. At the time, newly single parent Robynne was struggling with her mother’s terminal breast cancer, and Kim, also a single mom, lost her partner from a heart attack. Eventually, their text messages turned into a digital friendship, and in hindsight, the blueprint for what is now GoodGrief, which is now fostering similar connections.

Whether you lost a parent, sibling, child, relative, or friend due to a variety of causes, you can text someone experiencing a similar loss through GoodGrief. You can also use additional filters to narrow your connections by age, gender, religion, time frame, type, and cause of loss, so you can find others more like you.

Whenever we encounter other apps like GoodGrief, our smile gets so big it basically becomes a Circle, because we know others are following our mission to help those struggling with their loss feel less alone. As we continue to deal with the effects of the pandemic, the loneliness epidemic is still escalating, and it’s more vital than ever to stay connected.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 19

Stepping in at Surfside

‘Frame of Mind’ discusses current events in the mental health and emotional wellbeing space. Today’s edition highlights the emotional support dogs that are providing support to families and first responders following the tragic condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, that has killed 97 people and has left many unaccounted for.

Hundreds of first responders and search and rescue teams are working around the clock in Surfside, Florida following the collapse of a condo building almost a month ago that killed 97 people with more casualties still to be determined.

The emotional toll is extremely heavy for both the loved ones of people who perished as well as the rescue teams who have spent weeks searching for remaining casualties.

The unspeakable tragedy in the southern Floridian town has led to numerous organizations and communities offering their support to everyone involved. However, one such source of support that has seen quite the therapeutic effect for both families and first responders has been of the four-legged variety.

The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue has brought in a team of dogs for mental health support. Their job is to care for the mental health of first responders on the frontlines, part of a program started just five years ago by Captain Shawn Campana, a 24-year veteran of MDFR.

Surfside marks the first incident in the department’s history that their peer support K9 team is part of the command structure. “We are now very well aware that we can potentially be affected by stress like PTSD, like suicide ideation, and that is what this team was designed to prevent,” Campana told local10.com. “I think there has been a shift in the culture for fire departments now, with a realization that we do get affected by things like this,” he continued. There have been 31 suicides in the department’s history. Campana was friends with six of them.

Additionally, nine golden retrievers from Florida, Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina, and Tennessee were sent by the Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry with the goal of helping first responders process their grief from the grueling search. “We’re very concerned about their mental health,” Bonnie Fear, the LCC K-9 crisis response coordinator, told NPR.

United Hatzalah, an Israeli rescue team, and Boriquas de Corazon, a local non-profit rescue team, also brought in therapy dogs to the bereaved cope. One dog, a King Charles Cavalier breed named Lucy, is sticking close to families inside a family assistance center to help families process their grief. Boriquas de Corazon President Linda Perez says the dogs met with 93 families during the three days they spent in Surfside. “We need the dogs, emotional dogs. That at least alleviates the pain that the families are going to be receiving with any kind of news, good or bad," she told Spectrum News.

Emotional support dogs are an excellent source of support and their benefits are undisputed. Emotional support dogs can help people diagnosed with depression get out of bed and interact with others by giving them a sense of purpose. Moreover, emotional support dogs help people with psychotic, mood, or anxiety disorders reduce stress.

Man’s best friend has been dubbed so for a reason, and it’s encouraging to see that they’re helping the families and first responders who have been shaken by the shock and sorrow of this disaster.

Unfortunately, the world is continuing to face tragedies, but traditional organizations are also understanding that peoples’ emotional state is crucial to recovery. Embracing alternative forms of support, like emotional support animals or group support like at Circles, is becoming of utmost importance.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 18

"The better we are, the better we are to those around us."

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on Lisa Brookman, MSW, PSW, t.s., psychotherapist, and the co-director of the West Island Therapy and Wellness Centre, a private Canadian clinic promoting mental health and wellness. For over two decades, Lisa has worked with individuals, couples & groups for issues surrounding anxiety, depression, infertility, postpartum depression, parenting challenges, marital conflict, self-esteem/confidence building, self-compassion and self-worth, bereavement, and lifecycle issues.

So before we get into the nitty-gritty of everything, can you tell me a little bit about you and your background, and about the West Island Therapy and Wellness Center?

I’ve always been in the helping profession, even when I was young, I was always volunteering. It was a no-brainer going into social work and then doing my master’s of social work. Yaniv and I met when we were 19 and 20, so we’ve been together for most of our lives. Working in the public sector has always been great, but we knew that we wanted to go into the private sector of therapy, wellness, and psychology because we didn’t want to have parameters on the type of work that we did. We wanted to be able to really feel out what the community means and not have any boundaries on what we can offer. So in 2001, our first child Alexandra was born, and I went on maternity leave, and that was the year that we launched West Island Therapy. We rented a space and we kind of said, “Okay, let’s see what happens as long as we each get one client, we’ll be able to cover our rent.” That’s how it started. We just wanted to break even and not feel like we had any overhead. Fast forward 20 years later, we have almost 45 staff and a wonderful, warm, nurturing group of people. We do everything from pediatrics right up to geriatrics and everything in between. It was our dream come true. We slowly built it over the years, we brought on like-minded staff who bought into our value system of everyone feeling like a family member when they join our practice. So it starts from us, but all the therapists that work with us, buy into that same theory of making people feel safe. It’s been fabulous. So I’ve had these wonderful and great experiences. Part of the work that I do with my clients, whether it’s in individual therapy, or whether it’s in group work, it’s to really help people come out of their comfort zone and learn to be purposeful and feel good and be in a place where they want to be. I felt like I needed to practice what I preach, if I’m going to be working with clients like that, I need to do that for myself. That’s why I did these big huge challenges of TV and radio shows and blogging. All very out of my comfort zone, but have been really really wonderful life-changing experiences that I think have helped me get to where I am.

There’s actually something I wanted to touch on which is, you’re called the West Island Therapy and Wellness Center, and I think a question that’s emerging now is the difference between mental health and mental wellness. So how do you differentiate between the two?

So it’s interesting because we used to be called just the West Island Therapy Center and about two or three years ago, I was driving in the car, and I said, we’re missing the mark, even with our name, because what we’re really promoting is wellness. Psychological wellness, mental health, and wellness. So I see mental wellness as the umbrella and everything else kind of falls underneath. And I remember literally that day when I had that thought I called our web designer, and I called our branding person, and I said, change our logos, change everything, I can’t go another day without having the word wellness as part of our brand. So to me, everyone needs to practice mental wellness, everyone should have wellness as part of their daily health routine. What’s been really interesting for us is that the work that we’re doing, we’re also doing in pediatrics, and we’re being able to explain the purpose of wellness even to five and six-year-olds and their parents. So our hope is that with this push that the world is having about prioritizing wellness on many levels, we’re going to teach really young kids what it means to be healthy and well. By the time they get to be adults, they’ll have so many tools and techniques under their belt, I think it’s going to be wonderful.

Adding on to that, wellness has also become a very stereotypical term. When people hear wellness they think, meditating, journaling, and a face mask. What does wellness mean to you? How does one become mentally well?

I think all those things are part of it. Having a healthy lifestyle, being mindful, and practicing meditation and yoga are a nice portion of it. But if I really had to look at what wellness means to me, it’s about self-worth and self-compassion. It’s about learning to love yourself, learning to treat yourself with kindness. To understand what your worth is. I think when we really learn to practice and embrace that, that’s when we’re truly well. The other part is great, but sometimes it becomes a bit superficial. It’s very important to have a self-care routine, but if you don’t get to the depth of what wellness means, and it’s really about caring for your being, like who you are as a person, I think we missed the mark. The better we are, the better we are to those around us. So to truly be well means to be able to care and nurture ourselves first, and to care and nurture the people around us if we choose to. So I think it’s deeper than the self-care routine.

Yeah. 100%. You’ve done online therapy, in-person therapy, individual therapy, and group therapy. When you think about all of those different mediums through which people can receive therapy, what do you think the differences are, in terms of the benefits?

It’s interesting because, before COVID our team had never really done any virtual therapy, everything was face to face. Our clinic prided itself on having beautiful aesthetics and comfy pillows and cozy blankets and clients could come and lie on the couch and wrap themselves up and feel really nurtured for therapy. Then COVID hits, and as a team, we completely pivoted. The entire team was trained and all the clients transferred over to zoom. What I ended up realizing, over the months after we got used to the change, is that it’s not so much the environment that our clients are in, it’s the feel of the relationship that you create, online. So I have found that it’s just as nurturing, cozy, and comfortable to do a therapy session in my office as it has been for a client to do it in their own bedroom. There have been those perks of that. Then if you look at the question of which therapy works best for who, I have clients who have done individual therapy for years who very much were looking for a like-minded group of people to connect with. They’ve transferred into one of our workshops or our groups and wanted to stay there and wanted to give therapy a break. Then I’ve had the opposite of people who have been in group therapy, who have loved it, and then sometimes come in for therapy, and say, you know, what, I think I want a little bit more individual. So I think it really has to do with the headspace of where the client is. I always have felt that group therapy, individual therapy, they’ve always kind of gone hand in hand. So to be honest, I love the combination of both. One thing on my bucket list was to teach a course at McGill School of Social Work. That’s where I graduated from and my daughter’s a student there now. It was really important for me to challenge myself and get a job there, and I did in 2016. I actually taught social work group work to a group of social workers. Of all the courses that I could have fallen on, it was that one. To be able to teach budding social workers the importance of doing groups, and what it means, and what the impact is, that was when I got that moment that we needed to start incorporating groups more into our practice. So I think the combination is what really makes it attractive to people and for them to be able to choose what feels best for them.

Yeah, exactly. And what would you tell someone who’s hesitant about joining a group?

What I would say to someone is, first of all, it’s worth a try. It’s worth the challenge of putting yourself in an uncomfortable position. The nice thing about groups is, you could be an active participant and talk, or you could be an active listener and just sit back and listen. You can choose what you want. It could change from week to week. That’s the beauty of group work. When you’re in one on one therapy, it’s all on you. You’re forced to be interactive at that moment. The nice thing about groups is you find a like-minded group of people who are probably going through something similar or might be two steps ahead or two steps behind you. There’s something very comforting about being in that type of environment. I’ve had clients who have reached out to me or the clinic to say, “I’m skeptical” or “I’m a little bit scared to try it.” There’s a want, but they’re very nervous. I always say it doesn’t hurt to try. Most people are pleasantly surprised with how warm, nurturing, and encompassing that sense of community is. After that first time going, they ended up going and kept going. So I think it’s about putting yourself out there and living the experience of what it means to be in a group. So I always encourage people to just try, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you end up feeling.

Yeah, for sure. You mentioned earlier that you really had to adjust following the onset of the pandemic, but what do you see as the long-term mental health impacts of the pandemic?

That’s an interesting question, because not only did I get to be a therapist during the pandemic, and a business owner during the pandemic, but I’m also a mom of three and I’m a person who lived through the pandemic. So I think there’s going to be a lot more health anxiety. I also think that for teenagers, there’s been a social impact on them. It’s only a year and a half, but a year and a half is crucial for a lot of kids at certain ages. There’s going to be an impact on social skills, on people’s ability to learn how to communicate, be good listeners, and just how to interact. We’ve seen a big impact, and I’m sure it’s going to continue, on couples. Couples having to be together and live together very intensely, we’ve had a surge in couples therapy. What I’m seeing more of our couples that have realized that it’s not the relationship they want to be in. So I think that we’re going to have a lot more couples splitting up and the impact that that has on the family. I think that there’s going to be lots of effects. I also think we’re going to see a lot of social anxiety for kids who are starting daycare or nursery school since they’ve never really interacted with another person before, only their parents. I think the mental health community is going to be for many, many, many years, very impacted by the effects of COVID.

How do you see the mental health space and wellness space evolving following COVID?

Just with regards to virtual versus in-person, I know that our plan is to continue virtually. I think it has provided ease for clients to be able to come for therapy, even if they’re working, or they have kids at home. So that part will remain the same or the same since COVID. So I definitely think the virtual will be very important. Therapists are working a tremendous amount, that was one of the reasons why we instituted some group work, to be able to give people a therapeutic environment to be in with a facilitator where they can talk about their issues, and maybe cut down the waitlist of them waiting a month for therapists when they can just enter a group. So I think that the combination of group work and individual work is going to help us touch many more clients. We’re trying to collaborate with other clinics, and I think that’s very, very important. I really think it’s time for everyone to come together. We can’t all do it all. So I really think that collaboration of people coming together and working together to support the community will make it easier for us as clinicians, and also make sure that clients get the services that they need. Just during COVID, we’ve brought on a dozen new staff. What’s been wonderful is we’ve been able to bring people in from other provinces. So we have therapists now that work with us from Ontario, and we have someone who’s potentially coming on from British Columbia. So the virtual platform has allowed us to have a broader reach. It used to be that all of our therapists were from Montreal because we were brick and mortar, but we now have the leeway to be across Canada with a lot of ease, which has been fabulous for us.

Amazing. I want to come back to you for a second and all the things that you do. Can you tell me a bit about #Iloveme and WiseWomen Canada?

So for WiseWomen Canada, many years ago I called my best friend, and said to her, I have this idea but I need to do it with someone because I don’t want to do it by myself. I dragged my friend who’s a teacher by profession and a mental health advocate. It was a platform for women to be able to share their stories and connect with like-minded women. It was a wonderful platform across Canada. The same thing with #Iloveme. #Iloveme has been my favorite little project that I’ve been working on. It’s a women’s wellness workshop program, where like-minded women gather. I was doing workshops throughout Montreal but unfortunately, when COVID hit, both WiseWomen and #Iloveme were put on hold. They were both like amazing projects. I always like to have something that I’m working on.

Wow, amazing. So do you also live 24 hour days like the rest of us? Or do you have longer days?

I’m very, very good at setting boundaries. I’m good at work-life balance. I do everything, you’re right, but I do it within moderation, and I do things that feel right to me. I don’t know how I do it all. I wish I had more hours in my day. I always say to my husband, I wish someone could just grant me six, eight more hours, I’d get a lot more done. I think it’s all about balance. But it really comes with experience in challenging yourself. You know, if you don’t challenge yourself to have a lot on your plate and try all kinds of things, you don’t realize what balance looks like. I always say to people, the more you end up trying and dipping your toe in and trying to figure things out, the more balanced you actually become. People think that if you do less, you’re balanced. But it’s actually if you do more you become balanced. It’s that experience of pushing the limits and seeing what feels comfortable and what doesn’t feel comfortable. That helps you truly realize what works for you.

It’s ironic but true. Well, Lisa, I think that’s everything. Thank you so much for starting your day with me. I appreciate it.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 15

Can I Be Honest In A Group Support Setting?

Life is hard. Going through grief, divorce, burnout, anxiety and other struggles make it harder. But the roughest part? Feeling like you are alone while going through these struggles.

Why do we fight our mental battles solo? Why do we lie to our friends and family about what we are truly feeling and with a smile say, “I’m fine” and “I’m okay” when we’re not?

A lot of us tend to avoid the truth when we face a difficult or awkward situation. After all, it seems easier to sweep what you’re going through under the rug. The thing is, it’s difficult to make any sort of progress unless you can openly recognize and discuss your challenges.

So let’s be honest about how we are doing and feeling, and let’s be honest with others about the hardships we are experiencing. It’s okay to cry and to be vulnerable. We should not endure our struggles alone, and it can be very helpful to share with someone who knows exactly what you are going through.

Unfortunately, the challenges we face often come with shame. One of the biggest things that hold people back from receiving group support is the fear of being honest with their fellow group members.

“How can I be honest with strangers?” “I don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable with people I don’t know”

If these thoughts have crossed your mind, you’re not alone. These are pretty common hesitations prior to joining a group. The truth is if you’re feeling embarrassed, angry, sad, or disheartened about your situation, like you can’t open up or share your story, group support is actually a great place to start because here’s the thing: they’re not complete strangers, and you do, in a way, know them.

You may not yet know their names, what they do for work, or what their favorite color is (in case you didn’t realize yet, ours is purple), but you do already know one important part of their life, arguably the most important part: the challenge they’re facing.

Whether you’re seeking group support for grief, divorce, stress, anxiety, or whatever challenge you’re dealing with right now, they’re experiencing the same thing. Because of this, they probably understand what you’re going through better than your family member, friend, or colleague.

If you feel uncomfortable talking about your divorce, Tina also just went through a divorce and isn’t sure how to navigate it either. If you’re burnt out and had to quit your job, don’t worry, Bob also just left for the same reason and is also struggling.

Do they still feel like strangers?

That’s the magic of a Circle. No one can judge you because everyone is going through the same thing. When you see other people dealing with similar struggles, you realize that what you’re going through is normal, and there’s a way out. All it takes is one honest step to get there.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 14

Get AppClose and Personal

Ask any parent and they will probably agree with us that parenting is a hard job even under the best circumstances. Parenting during and after a divorce, on the other hand, brings that difficulty to a whole new level. Even though you’re not together anymore, you’re both committed to doing the best for your kids, but it’s not what it used to be. Life and schedules make this even more difficult.

“We have to be where, when?”

“Whose week is this?”

“I can’t today, can we switch days?”

It’s a lot to handle. Finding emotional support from others who are also going through a divorce, like the kind you can find at Circles, is incredibly beneficial, but we know it takes more than that to get you back on track. Luckily, in today’s smartphone society, there are apps to help with clear communication, documentation, and scheduling between co-parents. You’ll be much more organized and much less likely to send your ex a frantic “ARE YOU FREE TO DO PICKUP THIS AFTERNOON?” text.

One of those apps is AppClose. AppClose’s mission is “To provide co-parents and caretakers alike with tools and innovative technology that delivers simple, yet effective ways for families to co-parent better together through the ease and convenience of a mobile device.”

Based in Austin, Texas, AppClose was created in 2016 by a team of professionals with a desire to provide parents (married, divorced, single, or otherwise) and the professionals that work alongside them with tools designed to engender positive communication and keep all child-related needs in one, easy to access place. So what does it do? Here are some of its best features:

Calendar

Life is busy in general, and it’s even busier when you’re co-parenting. Synching calendars can be overwhelming, but not with AppClose’s multi-functional calendars, designed to keep everyone on the same page. With their easy-to-use parenting schedule templates, preset calendar options, statistical features, and more, your record-keeping abilities are endless!

Messenger

AppClose enables you to enjoy the convenience of having all of your parenting and professional communications all in one location! This includes the ability to group chat AND communicate with your attorney confidentially. Moreover, to ensure all records are accurate, AppClose prevents you from deleting or editing chat conversations between parents.

Requests and Expenses

Need to be reimbursed for something or need to swap parenting days? AppClose allows you to submit your requests to the other parent or a third party and notifies you when your request is approved, paid, or declined. They also make it easy to scan and attach documents (like receipts) to requests to ensure that nothing gets lost! You can get paid and send payments for expenses using ipayou, ApplClose’s built-in payment solution.

Your Circle

This is our favorite feature (we know, we’re biased). AppClose allows you to create multiple Circles in the app (think WhatsApp group chats) so you can talk to more people beyond your co-parent. AppClose recognizes that it takes a village, and creating a circle allows you to communicate with stepparents, grandparents, other caregivers, and even third-party professionals. This makes it super easy to share important information with everyone in your circle, all at the touch of a button!

We understand that going through the process of separation or divorce is difficult, whether you’re in the beginning stages or later stages. You can always get the emotional support you need at Circles from others also going through this process, and AppClose is a great way to organize your day-to-day. With apps like these, you’re all set for your future.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 13

Top 5 Podcasts To Help You Cope With Grief

All of us will experience grief at some point in our lives, it’s inevitable, but we don’t all experience grief the same way. Grief comes in so many different shapes and sizes, and by extension, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to feeling better. One day you could be going about your day as you normally do, and the next you may not be able to get out of bed. You may cope with your grief by staying busy, whereas someone else might cope by taking time and space to reflect on the person’s life.

Needless to say, grieving is a hard and complicated process, and it’s important to find what makes you feel best. At Circles, we strongly believe that sharing how you’re feeling with people who are also experiencing a loss can be therapeutic. If you’re not ready to share, even just listening to someone who’s been there and knows what you’re going through is helpful. With that in mind, here are our top five grief and bereavement podcasts to help get you through this difficult time:

1. Good Mourning

Besides the excellent pun, what makes the Good Mourning podcast so great is that they tackle a taboo topic head-on. Sally and Imogen, Good Mourning’s two hosts, are both in their early thirties and unfortunately unexpectedly lost their mothers in the last two years. They struggled to find resources that approached the topic of grief in a relatable way, so they created one themselves. Both women recognize it’s time we had a more honest conversation around what loss is really like and make the conversation around grief more mainstream.

2. What’s Your Grief

If you’re grieving and feel you’re getting tangled in this difficult web, mental health professionals Eleanor Haley and Litsa Williams “seek to leave no stone unturned in demystifying the complicated and sometimes crazy experience of living life after loss” on What’s Your Grief podcast. Covering topics ranging from grief theory, to expectations, to coping strategies, and providing resources and personal stories, the podcast is useful for anyone who is grieving as well as anyone who has a loved one going through this difficult time.

3. Terrible, Thanks for Asking

After Nora McInerny’s unborn child, father, and husband died in 2014, her husband’s obituary went viral and she received tons of messages from strangers going through similar struggles. She then created ‘Terrible, Thanks For Asking’ to get right into the hard stuff. When you’re grieving and people ask you how you are doing, it’s easy to tell everyone that you’re doing fine or that you’re okay, even if you’re not. Nora provides valuable information on how to actually process your grief so the next time someone asks you how you’re doing, you don’t have to say “I’m fine”. If you’re looking for a podcast that explores what it means to be honest about your mental health, rather than pretending like everything is okay, this is for you.

4. The Grief Gang

The Grief Gang podcast normalizes talking about grief. Hosted by Amber Jeffrey, the podcast aims to break down barriers we put up when it comes to discussing grief. Amber shares her own experiences of loss along with phenomenal guest hosts who share theirs too. It will be a rollercoaster of emotions (in a good way) that will help you learn about your own experience and that you’re never alone.

5. Griefcast

Similar to Where’s Your Grief, Griefcast uses comedy to help you explore and manage your feelings while grieving. “Griefcast is a podcast that examines the human experience of grief and death – but with comedians, so it’s cheerier than it sounds,” the website states. Hosted by comedian Cariad Lloyd, who lost her father to cancer when she was 15, Griefcast is a series of conversations with Cariad’s fellow comedians and performers as they discuss their bereavement experiences. It’s definitely unconventional, but sometimes unconventional does the trick, as it won Podcast of the Year in 2018. Give it a listen.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 12

Tacking Mental Health Before Tokyo

‘Frame of Mind’ discusses current events in the mental health and emotional wellbeing space. Today’s edition centers on tennis star Naomi Osaka’s recent piece in TIME magazine and tackling mental health prior to the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“It has become apparent to me that literally everyone either suffers from issues related to their mental health or knows someone who does. The number of messages I received from such a vast cross-section of people confirms that…I communicated that I wanted to skip press conferences at Roland Garros to exercise self-care and preservation of my mental health. I stand by that. Athletes are humans.”

That is what tennis star Naomi Osaka wrote in her TIME magazine cover story aptly titled “It’s O.K. to not be O.K.” Currently ranked as the #1 female tennis player in the world (and the first Asian woman to hold the title, if we may add), Osaka made waves in May when she announced she would no longer be attending press conferences at the French Open, citing concerns for her mental health. She later withdrew from the tournament after receiving a $15,000 fine from Roland Garros.

The incident single-handedly brought mental health in sports to the center of the conversation, with news outlets and leading figures from all over the world chiming in. Osaka’s TIME cover story is her first public statement since announcing her withdrawal from the French Open, renewing the ripples she created in the athletic world as more and more athletes are discussing their mental health.

Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback for the Greenbay Packers, recently said in an interview that he’s been working on his mental health during the NFL offseason. “The mental side of it is so important for all of us athletes,” Rodgers said. "I don’t think it’s talked about enough.”

Lindsay Vonn, an American gold medalist in skiing and holder of 20 World Cup crystal globes (an all-time record), recently opened up to CBS Sports and USA TODAY about her struggles with mental health. “I feel like, honestly, everyone should have a therapist,” she said. “It should be like having a dentist or going to a pediatrician. We should all take mental health seriously and do our best every day to make sure we’re taking care of it.” Vonn has been speaking on behalf of Allianz, an Olympic sponsor that is providing mental health resources for athletes.

Research suggests that the prevalence of anxiety or depression in elite athletes is 34%, whereas the prevalence of any mental illness for adults in the United States in a given year is 20%. At the college level, more NCAA student-athletes will experience psychological issues severe enough to warrant counseling than their nonathletic counterparts.

With the Tokyo Olympic Games less than two weeks away, there is no better time than the present to discuss a long-ignored issue in the sports sphere. Osaka created the current, and it’s up to the rest of the sports world, both athletes and spectators alike, to ride the wave.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 11

"I want to be the person that I needed when I was 15"

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on Annette de Armas, the brain behind the popular Instagram page, theburntoutbrain. Her unique illustrations and relatable content has garnered over 62,000 followers in less than two years. Combining her artistic talents and personal experience, Annette has created a go-to page for mental health advocacy, awareness, and support.

Can you tell me a little bit more about you? Who is the person behind theburntoutbrain?

So whenever I introduce myself, I always say I’m the brain behind theburntoutbrain, because on social media I think people tend to forget that there’s a human behind the content that they see. I’m 24, I was born and raised in Miami, and I moved to Brooklyn, New York last year in May. I was in a long distance relationship for, at the time, six and a half years, so we broke the distance. She has always lived here in Brooklyn, so I was like, I need to be the one to move. We have a cat named Rosie, and I just live my life every day dedicated to mental health advocacy, whether it’s through my shop, through different opportunities, being able to talk to people, or through my art.

And what led you to create theburntoutbrain?

Almost two years ago, in August 2019, I was trying to figure out a new way to deal with my struggles at the time. I was going through a little bit of a rough patch. I was already following, at the time, a bunch of artists that would post really relatable stuff. It’s really weird to say that they’re all my friends now, but at the time I would admire them and I thought to myself, if they’re able to beautifully put down their emotions on digital or through art, I think I could do the same because I’ve always been art-inclined. So I went out, bought an iPad, and I just started. Then somehow, two years later, there’s 62,000 people following me and care about what I have to say. It’s really cool.

It is really cool. You mentioned that you were dealing with your own struggles and that’s what led you to create theburntoutbrain, do you feel comfortable elaborating about that?

Sure. I have been struggling with my mental health since I was 15. Mainly the reason why it happened, or things kind of went south, because I’m gay and I had a really hard time accepting that. I thought, back in my 15-year-old brain, I was never going to be able to love anybody. My family was never going to accept me. I was never going to be loved and I didn’t deserve to. So after this revelation, I quickly developed depression, and then anxiety, and I’ve been dealing with those for basically 10 years now. I started getting help, like actual professional help, when I was 20. So for five years, I was going untreated. I’ve been with the same therapist for almost four years now. Therapy has made a huge difference in my mental health journey.

That’s amazing, thank you for sharing. Is theburntoutbrain a full-time job, or are you up to other things as well?

So I actually quit my full-time job in March to do this full-time.

Congratulations!

Thank you! It was a really bad job, and I was there for two and a half years. It made my mental health tank to the point where if I didn’t quit I was going to end up at a hospital. I had already been saving money because I knew the time was going to come for me to quit. So I had a good amount of money saved and said “You know what? I’m going to do this because I can’t put my happiness over anything anymore.” My mental health is the most important. So this is all I do. I live and breathe theburntoutbrain.

How did you come up with the name for theburntoutbrain?

I like to say that I have just been in a perpetual state of burnout since I was 16. Because I’ve always been really accelerated academically I started college when I was 16 and I haven’t had a real vacation since then. I haven’t had a break. So I have been burnt out since then, for a long time.

That’s a long time, that’s almost a decade! Everybody needs a break, so definitely take a break, if you can. Do people DM you and say “I’m dealing with X and looking at your feed has really helped me”? What has been the most memorable feedback you’ve received so far?

When I started my account in August 2019, things really didn’t start picking up until December 2019. Since then, I have been receiving messages and responses from people almost daily thanking me for what I do. My response is always the same, with every single person every single time that it happens, it feels like my heart is going to pop. I think a lot of it has to do with imposter syndrome. Sometimes I’m just like, “I don’t know how I did that.” Because all I do is draw what I feel, and I don’t know how I can impact people. But I do know, but it’s just really strange, like what goes on inside of me. But it’s mostly just a lot of gratitude, and it makes me feel like this was what I was put on this earth to do. I spent a lot of my time in my younger years being so lost and confused about what I wanted to be. I had no passion because I was severely depressed, and now I found it, and every single time I get a message like that it’s confirmed to me that this is what I was meant to do.

That must be an amazing feeling, to wake up every day to messages from people expressing their gratitude for you. You mentioned that it was sort of like a slow increase until December, and now you have over 62,000 followers, which is a huge amount to have in such a short amount of time. What do you think was the difference-maker?

I don’t know. Honestly, I have no idea. I know that what helped a lot was being shared by bigger artists, which was happening quite frequently. I think one of them just got really popular, and since then the algorithm picked up my account and kept showing it to people. At the time, when things started picking up significantly, I was on vacation in Orlando, even though it wasn’t really a vacation since my boss was still messaging me, and I was in my hotel room, watching Harry Potter, drawing on my iPad, and all of a sudden, my post had gotten 700 likes, and that’s never happened before. I realized this is the life, this is what I want. Maybe that energy kind of helped too. I don’t know.

That’s awesome. Also, watching Harry Potter in a hotel room in Orlando sounds like heaven right now. But I want to segue a bit because I also know that you’re the co-host of the WeMind podcast. You’re basically the busiest 24-year-old in Brooklyn. Can you tell me a little bit about the podcast?

It’s a little bit of a passion project between me and my cousin, Janet. Both of us struggle with our mental health. We both have a story to tell and feel like people’s voices are most important in the de-stigmatization of mental health. We talk all of the time on FaceTime for hours, and we said, let’s just talk on a podcast. The thing is, it came to a halt before we even started. Back in March, we were both in really bad places, and that’s when we filmed our first episode. We never posted it. But we spoke this week and talked about re-recording because we were both in very different places than we are now and I think it’s going to be even better. We’re both clear so we can keep rolling out what we intended to do. So the intention is to bring people on, tell their stories and amplify their voices because that’s what’s most important.

That sounds great, and who are you bringing on the show?

So right now we’re inviting anybody, anybody who feels like they have a story to tell with their mental health, we want them on. We’ve been compiling a list because even though we haven’t started we still get DMs from people with these amazing stories that want to come and talk. That’s who we want, and eventually, we would love to have a lot of big creators come and talk.

I can’t wait to listen to it. You mentioned you’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety since you were 15. What would be your best piece of advice to someone who is experiencing something similar?

I feel like this answer changed within 24 hours. I would usually say, make sure you take care of yourself, have a self-care routine, and things like that. But lately, I’ve been realizing that I think we, as people who struggle with our mental health, have been placed with this burden of taking care of ourselves and making sure that we do everything under the sun before actually getting help. Because accessibility is just a big issue when it comes to getting treatment. So I would say try as best as you can to find any sort of resource where you can go get professional help. But if that’s not the case, if you can’t, then try to see what makes you feel better, try to set up a self-care routine. But it’s important that we try to advocate for our lawmakers and other higher-ups to try to make things more accessible for us because we shouldn’t have to rely on bubble baths, journaling, and things like that to get in a better mental health space. It can help a little bit, but not entirely.

That’s really good advice. The inaccessibility of therapy is actually one of the reasons Circles was created, so I totally understand where you’re coming from. Last question: you’ve come a long way with theburntoutbrain, from August 2019 to almost August 2021. Where do you see it going in another year?

Well, I have a lot of goals, I have big, big dreams. I think that’s what happens with a lot of creatives like myself, we want to do everything under the sun. I have a small business, and right now it is my main source of income, but it’s not enough. I’m hoping that, as time goes by, I keep creating more products, get more visibility, and then different opportunities. I recently got an email where a messaging app wants to license my artwork, so I just hope that more of these opportunities keep coming up. Then I can just help people, that’s my whole why. I want to be the person that I needed when I was 15 for people. I’m not a professional, that’s a disclaimer that I think is very important. Instagram is not a substitute for therapy. The artists that we see and the creators that we see are just people. Unless there’s “doctor” in the bio or name, we are not professionals. We’re just people putting stuff out there that we feel would relate to everyone else. I just want to keep making people feel seen, and hopefully, I don’t know, maybe one day do a TED talk. That’s the goal.

You should definitely do a TED talk. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us, it’s been such a pleasure.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 08

Top 5 Books for Personal Growth

Every year we always challenge ourselves to be better. Whether it’s to exercise more, eat healthier, be more organized, socialize more, or learn something new, we’re constantly giving ourselves to-dos to self-improve.

The thing is, leveling up isn’t so easy. Personal growth is all of our goals, but when it comes down to it, we tend to talk the talk without walking the walk. Of course, everything sounds great in theory, but we seem to get stumped putting everything into practice.

Thankfully, there are amazing resources we can use to get infused with inspiration. Leaders in various fields have put pen to paper to write amazing books about understanding who we are and how to achieve personal growth.

We recommend you read all of them, but since there are so many options and only so much time in the day, we’ve narrowed them down to our top five.

1. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly

We know you’ve heard the phrase “go with the flow” time and time again, but the word “flow” doesn’t just mean a steady stream. You know those moments where you’re at the top of your game, where you feel energized, happy, in control, and ideas are coming into your mind just like that? Dr. Csikszentmihaly refers to this state as “flow”. A leading researcher in the field of positive psychology, Dr. Csikszentmihaly shares his knowledge and research about everything “flow” encompasses. The flow state happens to everyone from time to time, but you can actually get it to happen more frequently, and when it does it can have a lasting effect on our lives. Half-scientific and half-philosophical, this book teaches you how to get more done and how to live a happier life.

2. Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

No, you don’t actually have to eat a frog. There’s an old saying that if the first thing you do in the morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re done with the worst thing you’ll have to do all day. For Brian Tracy, eating a frog is a metaphor for tackling your most challenging task—but also the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your life. We all have big tasks we have to do where just the thought of them triggers resistance. We get overwhelmed and distracted and then all of a sudden hours have gone by. We’re still in the same position as before, but with so much less time, and much more guilt. For Brian Tracy, eating a frog is a metaphor for tackling your most challenging task—but also the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your life. If you struggle to complete dreaded tasks on your to-do list each day, then this book is for you!

3. The Friendship Formula: Add Great Friends, Subtract Toxic People and Multiply Your Happiness by Caroline Millington

Our friends are a staple in our lives, but how much do we really know about friendship? In her first book, Caroline Millington introduces the concept of kindfulness: a blend of mindfulness with being kind to yourself. What does that mean? Making your emotional wellbeing a priority to create and maintain long-lasting, nurturing, and functioning friendships. Everyone has toxic people in their lives, but what would your world be like if they were no longer around? The Friendship Formula will help you navigate the people in your life, like recognizing when friendship becomes toxic, how to break up with a friend, what to do if a friend "ghosts” you, and how to cope with losing a friend. This book shows you how applying “kindfulness” to the difficult side of friendship can help you get the best out of the friendships that really matter.

4. The Little Book of Big Lies: A Journey into Inner Fitness by Tina Lifford

No matter who you are, life is hard. We may all be in different boats, but we all reach a point where we’re facing a similar storm. A symptom of being human is experiencing fear and pain. That being said, another symptom is our resilience. We continue pressing forward, even through the toughest of times. In her book, Tina Lifford, founder of The Inner Fitness Project, shares practical, meaningful insights about facing life’s curve balls head-on. If you like story-driven life lessons then this book is perfect for you. This book has 14 personal stories from Lifford that will help you change the way you see not only the world but yourself. This book will help you change your perception and build the life you want.

5. Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets To Success One Relationship At A Time - Keith Ferrazzi

Do you want to get ahead in life? Yes, of course, you do, but how? Well, Keith Ferrazzi claims that the secret is in reaching out to other people. Ferrazzi discovered in early life that what distinguishes highly successful people from everyone else is the way they use the power of relationships. In his book, Ferrazzi outlines the mindset and steps he uses to reach out to his network. Chief among them? Never eat alone (shocker, we know), because “invisibility is a state worse than failure.” His book was published in 2005, but the rise of social media and new collaborative management styles have only made Ferrazzi’s advice more essential than ever. Like “pinging” constantly and not keeping score, over the course of his book Ferrazzi outlines the timeless strategies that are secrets to your success.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 07

The Healing Power of a Group

When you hear “group therapy” or “support group” what goes through your mind?

If you thought of an AA meeting, support groups are commonly associated with substance abuse, however, they are also beneficial for other challenges as well. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. We all have gone through or will go through a major loss, heartbreak, and so much more. Even though we’re inherently resilient, some of us have more trouble coping with the curveballs life throws at us.

A lot of us have trouble trying to communicate what we’re going through. Many of us bottle up our feelings and try to put on a brave face, but sooner or later the feelings come out in other ways. The best way to deal with it is to let it out. Support groups encourage people to talk and share with others. Even if someone is apprehensive about sharing their feelings, listening to others can convince them to do the same. The most important thing you can bring to a support group (besides yourself) is an open mind. You don’t have to spill your guts out on the first day, but you do have to be open to listen and grow.

We know it might not feel ideal to open up to a group of strangers. It’s pretty common for a myriad of thoughts to cross your mind, like:

“I don’t want to sit and listen to everyone’s pain!"

“I’m afraid that I’ll cry.”

“I’m a very private person and I’m not comfortable sharing”

“I’m a strong person and don’t need to wallow in my feelings.

“I have my family and friends around me. They’ll help me.”

Fortunately, after joining a support group, you’ll more often than not find that your initial fears were unjustified. A support group can actually be tremendously helpful for your mental health. As the saying goes, “there’s strength in numbers,” and group therapy and support have been proven, in study after study, to be more effective than individual therapy.

Groups are a safe space for people to learn, share, and grow. When you see others opening up about what they’re experiencing, you realize that what you’re experiencing is completely normal. What other people go through is what you’re going through every day. You have concrete evidence right in front of you that you are not alone.

Additionally, sometimes our pain is so intense we do not know how to explain our experience with words. Listening to others share and describe their experience can help us make connections and identify emotions that can describe what we’re going through. Moreover, witnessing others dealing with your same struggles can expose you to new coping strategies that your group members use. These insights that your group can give you could be life-changing, and the success you see from the people around you will also help you feel more hopeful.

The power of the group is that members are intentionally looking out for each other. One of the best ways to make yourself feel better is to help someone else feel better. With everyone in the group acting by this philosophy, you’re completely safe to be you without fear of being judged.

All in all, a support group can give you the motivation to keep getting better. Even though you start with those initial hesitations, you leave with a bunch of revelations:

“We’re more alike than I knew.”

“Even though my friends and family are there for me, they don’t quite understand - but my group does”

“It’s okay to share feelings. The group is a safe place to share and not be judged.”

“I’m strong but even strong people feel the pain of losing someone”

“The act of giving to others in the group brings hope to me.”

Human beings literally need connection and want to feel a sense of belonging. Receiving support, supporting another, and by extension, forming connections, are powerful methods for healing and the foundations of belonging. As Brene Brown says, “when we feel a sense of belonging we do not have to change who we are, rather we are able to be who we are.” All of the above is why we created Circles, a safe space to connect with people experiencing similar struggles. That’s the healing power of a Circle: hearing other people’s experiences echo your own. What you hear in others exists in you.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 06

Give Happify A Try

At Circles, our mission is to end the loneliness epidemic, and, by extension, increase peoples’ emotional wellbeing and mental health. Especially following the coronavirus pandemic, resources for support are more important than ever.

We’re glad that there are other amazing companies in the mental health space that complement our services to ensure that everyone has access to support. One of our companions pushing forward this mission is Happify.

Happify was founded in New York City in 2012 with the belief that technology should be used to make peoples’ lives better. Happify uses positive psychology - the scientific study of what makes people thrive and lead meaningful lives - to help their uses strengthen their happiness. In a world that’s increasingly stressful and complex, Happify provides fun, individualized, and science-based pathways to help you take control of your feelings and thoughts and reach greater happiness.

Happify’s techniques are developed by experts who’ve been studying evidence-based interventions in positive psychology, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy for decades.

What Happify recognizes is that the brain you’re born with isn’t set in stone, it can be changed (the technical term is neuroplasticity). You can teach an old brain new tricks by training it as if it were a muscle. All of us have negative thoughts because we’re technically hard-wired to have them (blame evolution!), but by learning to adopt new thought patterns you can overcome them.

So how does it work? You begin by answering some basic questions about yourself as well as questions about how you deal with adversity or stress. Based on your answers, Happify identifies areas in your life that could use support and recommends a number of “tracks” for you to choose from (out of around sixty). Each track is themed and divided into parts, with each part composed of research-based activities such as guided meditations, reflective writing assignments, games, and more.

Once you select your activity there is a selection of three tabs: “You Decide How” (how to complete the activity), “Why it Works” (the research behind the activity), and “Benefits” (what area it will help you in). Not only are you flexing those positivity muscles, but you’re also enriching yourself with the how and why. You can then keep tabs on the skills you improve, such as gratitude, empathy, and aspirations, amongst others. Each skill has a corresponding status bar that fills up like a thermometer the more activities you do, so you can visualize the gauge on your emotional wellbeing. Happify also provides levels and badges that track your progress to keep you motivated to fulfill your goals!

So if you regularly use your phones or computer (who doesn’t?), Happify is a great way to shift your attitude. If you’re looking for something to complement your Circle sessions and exercises, we think Happify will brighten your day.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 05

Frame of Mind - 07/05/2021

‘Frame of Mind’ provides 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 tech…

Tinder India Offers Users Free Access to Emotional Wellness

Tinder India launched a new initiative in collaboration with VisitHealth to offer free mental health resources to all its members. The initiative will give members access to two free therapy sessions until the end of July, as well as emotional wellness content curated by VisitHealth including guided meditations, fitness videos, and more via the dating app. “We recognize that every once in a while, one needs to pause and check-in and hope that with this initiative, our members find comfort in the fact that now support is just a click away on Tinder,” Taru Kapoor, general manager of Tinder India, said in a statement.

Gympass, A Corporate Wellness Unicorn, Raises $220M Gympass, the corporate wellness unicorn, announced a $220 million Series E. The company has seen tremendous growth recently as more and more people are vaccinated and returning to the gym. Gympass exclusively partners with employers who pay a flat fee for the app which allows their employees to choose from several wellbeing plans that give them access to gyms and studios, and a directory of health apps, such as Calm. The offerings are broken up into a number of categories such as physical health, emotional health, nutrition, and sleep.

In sports…

NCAA Athletes Say Mental Health is Top Priority At a recent symposium on “Perspectives on College Athletics” hosted by Elon University, student-athletes said athletic departments nationwide should place greater attention on mental health. The Elon symposium had panels of experts, administrators, and coaches to discuss the problems facing college sports, as well as student-athletes offering their perspectives. In the last few years, terrible tragedies like the suicide of Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski have highlighted the mental health struggles of student-athletes. The NCAA has stepped up its efforts in this area, with the organization’s Sports Science Institute publishing Mental Health Best Practices for schools to follow.

NBA All-Star Scottie Pippen Opens Up About Son’s Death

NBA All-Star Scottie Pippen is reflecting on grief two months after the death of his oldest son, Antron Pippen. “I’m good. I still have my moments of ups and downs, but I’m good,” Pippen told PEOPLE magazine in an interview. “I will continue to gain strength because today there is none.” Antron, who played basketball in college, died unexpectedly, with the cause of death still unknown to the public. The 55-year-old announced Antron’s death in April with a post to Instagram that included a heartfelt message that described how the two bonded over their love of basketball. “I’m heartbroken to share that yesterday, I said goodbye to my firstborn son Antron. The two of us shared a love for basketball and we had countless conversations about the game,” Pippen wrote at the time. “Antron suffered from chronic asthma and if he hadn’t had it, I truly believe he would’ve made it to the NBA. He never let that get him down, though — Antron stayed positive and worked hard, and I am so proud of the man he became.” Pippen played 17 seasons and won six championships with the Chicago Bulls.

Colts QB Carson Wentz Discusses Mental Health in the NFL

Colts quarterback Carson Wentz says every NFL player — and every person — needs someone they can open up to. Asked about NFL players’ mental health in a recent interview, Wentz said it’s becoming more acceptable for players to reach out to someone when they need help. “It’s sad that it wasn’t socially acceptable, but I think it’s more understood because I think everyone can relate,” Wentz said. “I think it’s OK, and people are realizing that it’s OK, to not be OK and to talk about it. Everyone’s got somebody in their life, whether it’s a counselor, teammate, friend, brother, wife, pastor, whatever that is, and if they don’t have that hopefully, they can find that. I’ve been fortunate to have people in my life when things are going south or I’m struggling, to have an honest conversation, to refocus and reframe my mindset, and I think that’s so important for everybody, but especially in the NFL with all the pressures and all the things that get thrown at us it’s definitely been acceptable. You see guys being honest and open and vulnerable, not all the time, but it’s becoming a little bit more normal and OK and I think it’s encouraging for people to see that, you know, us big strong football players can be vulnerable, can be real people that go through real stuff and that it’s OK to say ‘I’m struggling.’”

In Entertainment…

Actress Alyson Stoner Releases New Wellness Book for LGBTQ+ Community Alyson Stoner recently reflected on her experience in conversion therapy while she struggled with her sexuality, calling it so painful that it is “legitimately difficult” for her to revisit. Stoner told Insider that she admitted herself to an “outpatient variation” of conversion therapy as she sought to understand her sexuality and veer away from being queer. “The dangers are measurable,” Stoner explains. “They are measurable. Even if someone comes out of it on the other side and says, ‘Hey, no, I’m living a great life,’ there are scars there. There are shadows.” The actress, known for her roles in "Cheaper by the Dozen,” “Step Up,” and “Camp Rock,” and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, recently released her new book "Mind Body Pride.” The book is available to purchase now on Stoner’s website, with 100% of the proceeds going to LGBTQIA+ youth wellness.

New Film ‘The Fall’ to Focus on Mental Health of Jockeys

Equine Productions have released a trailer for The Fall, to be shown on television later this year. The short film focuses on the mental health of jockeys and aims to raise awareness of mental illness within the sport of horse racing. The 22-minute film centers on a jockey having to deal with the aftermath of a high-profile fall at the final fence in an important race. The film follows the jockey’s journey home to encapsulate how athletes suffer in silence from mental health issues, stemming from the “necessity” to hide the pressures of what sport brings.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 04

"It's a pivotal time right now to change the way we do things"

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on Cara de Lange, an international burnout expert, speaker, founder and author of Softer Success, empowering some of the world’s leading organizations and their employees to proactively prevent burnout. Cara’s powerful techniques and tips, based on her studies, research, and experimentation, are transforming the lives of thousands of people.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I’m based in London, but I am a bit of a world citizen. I was born in South Africa, was raised in the Netherlands, went to school in Belgium, and then after a time in Australia and New Zealand, I moved to London. I speak multiple languages and worked for international companies in tech, retail, business operations, and admin all over the world. I spent about 11 years at Google. During the years that I was working for big international companies, I was always a bit interested in our human relationships. What is it that’s causing us stress? Why are we always stressed and busy? It wasn’t until my own burnout quite a few years ago, which I never saw coming, that I realized that it’s so easy for this to happen to us, and we often don’t see the pathways. I then realized that I wanted to dedicate my working life to helping people avoid going through the same thing. Helping people prevent burnout, and sharing and creating awareness about it. This led me to write my book, Softer Success, which was published in 2019, with the subtitle of “prevent burnout, find balance and redefine your success.” I talk a lot in the book about what is success for us and why we push ourselves so hard, and what if we can live a successful life but feel peaceful, balanced, and joyful at the same time. So I share techniques on that, and how I’ve managed to do that myself. And then I set up the business, Softer Success, where we help individuals and companies to prevent burnout. We do this by a burnout assessment tool, and we really look at helping businesses revolutionize their wellbeing framework. I believe that it’s a pivotal time right now for people to actually change the way that we do things.

Can you tell me a little bit about Softer Success?

Softer Success is a mental health and wellbeing consultancy. What we mainly do is establish the level of toxicity and burnout risk in organizations through our tool, and then we go in and provide consultancy and training. We have a couple of courses that are really effective that are aimed at preventing burnout, finding balance, and practicing compassionate leadership. We’re not robots, but we’ve learned to react as robots in the working environment, and I’m trying to get people to veer away from that. The consultancy is about helping businesses build and revolutionize their wellbeing framework because we need to do things differently and make the workplace more humane. We work with startups, small tech companies, but also larger businesses. Google is now one of our clients. We also run a podcast called “Work Reset Revolution” which is all about showcasing scientists, doctors, and experts that are at the leading edge of this revolution and changing the way we’re doing things at work.

You mentioned that you had a burnout experience. Can you tell me a little bit more about what that felt like for you? So many people say “I’m burnt out” so lightly, but I don’t think people really know what that means. So what was your experience like?

I think burnout has become a bit of a buzzword that people use. The World Health Organization officially diagnoses burnout as chronic work-related stress that hasn’t been properly managed. Now, I see that all the time, but I often see there are other things that contribute as well. So there’s maybe a lot of stress in the working life, but there may be some personal things going on, and eventually, that bucket gets too full. Now burnout would need symptoms and signs to look out for by the World Health Organization. There’s chronic physical and mental exhaustion, and when I say absolute physical and mental exhaustion, my own example was that I had to take time off work. I always say to people who are functioning in their lives and say, “I’m burned out,” I say, “Well if you were really burnt out, you’d have to be resting right now.” I had to take time off work. The physical point, I remember, was I couldn’t turn the taps for my children’s bath, because my body was just physically exhausted. I struggled with some day-to-day tasks. That’s the real sign of absolute exhaustion. Another sign that came up was the real negativity and cynicism towards the work. This disengagement is a way of us protecting ourselves so you’re not taking on any more. There’s also some science behind that. I was in denial for quite a bit of time and that’s also what I think it’s really important for people to realize. You either get people that say, “I’m burnt out, I can’t,” but then they continue, or people that are heading towards the burnout and are saying “I’m just exhausted because of this or that and it will be fine” even though your body is giving you some significant warning signs. My signs were that I had a really bad neck and back, I had insomnia, and my hormones went really haywire. Those were all signs that I would’ve acted on but I didn’t realize. I remember going into work one morning and got a takeaway coffee and feeling quite unwell after having had the coffee because my cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone, was already so high that when I had that coffee my body kind of went into a sort of “what are you doing to me” and I started shaking. It was too much, it put too much stress on my body. I did remember thinking there’s something wrong here, maybe I’ll switch to decaf, but I went on again. Then anxiety came up as well and at one point I went to the doctor who said “you can either take some time off or we’ll work out a schedule to work a little bit less” and I took the time off which I think I did really need. It was then that I just realized the enormity of how far I’d pushed myself. One of the big lessons I learned was to be a bit more gentle with myself and take a step back. That was the kickstart to my recovery. Now I am able to help other people in the same situation. For instance, a few months ago, a lovely lady had returned back to work after having had a baby. Within weeks of being back at work, she was already struggling. I helped coach her through this and now she’s got a really nice place where she’s comfortable with the work that she’s doing. That’s what I want to be for people.

You mentioned that when you were experiencing burnout, you were initially in denial. That reminded me of the five stages of grief, with denial being the first one. Does burnout work in a similar way? Do you see that there are stages to burnout?

Burnout can take months, years even to build up. There are usually some unhealthy patterns that we determine. If somebody is chronically overworking that is one that you can adjust probably more easily, but if you’re finding it hard to concentrate, or there’s the desk creativity, or there is this negativity or cynicism, that’s when your body’s going into this protective mode, and we got to be really careful. I’d say that that’s one of the stages that you got to watch out for. We use this burnout curve to identify where people are in the curve to help reverse them back to get to a point of flow. What you don’t want to get is that ongoing exhaustion and negativity because then it’s very easy to get to burnout. I wouldn’t say that denial is this part of the process for everybody. It’s very, very different. Some people are like that, and other people are not so I like to look at the individual.

Yeah, for sure. Everybody is different. This might be a very reductive question, but how much is involved in terms of the mental and the physical when it comes to burnout? What’s the interplay of those two aspects when it comes to burnout?

Well, I like to say three aspects actually. The mind, body and soul, and they’re all interrelated. For someone who’s working a lot, there could also be things nibbling away at your soul that have not been let go of or not being processed. They have a lot of pressure and a lot going on in their personal life, so these things all sit together. It could be that if they had just been working hard on their own, they may be all right, but sometimes when these other things are added, it just builds up the risk of burnout.

There’s this famous quote, “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” So let’s say someone is working 15 hour days but they love what they do, can that person still get burnout?

Yeah, that burnout can still happen that way. What I think the good thing is there is you can tweak some things more easily to reverse the curve and the risk of burnout. It’s important that we want to find that meaning and enjoy our work. For me, for example, I love my job, but there are also things about it that I don’t like, let’s be real. What I do is I just make sure that I find joy, I have been planning some joy every day. You can’t really necessarily plan joy, it’s more spontaneous, but I do actually have these moments. This morning, I was doing a session, and then I kept half an hour free to go for a mindful walk. I make sure that I have these little things throughout the day so even for somebody that’s working 15 hours to plan the night before, where your little breaks are going to be, even if it’s two minutes, helps that person get through those 15 hours in a more balanced way and in a more mindful way. Even those micro wellness breaks can make a difference.

You mentioned earlier in our conversation about the fatigue following the pandemic. Can you discuss a little bit more about how the pandemic and being at home has actually increased burnout?

University of California Irvine and Imperial College London have been doing some research on the effects of the anxiety that we felt around the pandemic and they found that it’s causing more tiredness and memory loss. This has taken a big toll. What I encourage people to do is take even better care of themselves than ever before. I had one client that said, “I find everything so noisy.” Yeah, it’s because we’ve been working in isolation for quite a time. So really take it slow, and give yourself that time to adjust. If that’s months, that’s months. Don’t rush into everything again just because we can. Otherwise, there can be potential burnout risks, and that’s what we want to avoid.

Absolutely. That’s why this time is being called a “new normal” because it’s not the normal we were used to. On that note, we mentioned that burnout is different from person to person, but what are the most common signs of burnout?

I’ve got a few questions that people can ask themselves that we’ve established to show the signs of risk:

Do you feel exhausted all the time?

Do you feel a strong aversion towards your job?

Have you been stressed for a long period of time?

Are you less productive?

Do you find it hard to concentrate?

If they all come back with “yes” they need to be taking a step back and giving themselves some rest. We have a burnout tracker tool, actually, we call it a burnout scorecard, which is really helpful and scientifically backed. And that’s the kind of thing that people could use to check.

Amazing. Last question: can you tell us about your Circle and what people can expect?

I’ve called it “Healing from pandemic burnout and fatigue” because I think it’s very apt. I want to help people that are really struggling and feeling quite overwhelmed at the moment with an approach that’s going to share techniques to help soothe them a bit and help them recover. It’s about showing what burnout actually is and ways to find balance as we go forward. There will also be space for sharing knowledge as I want to give people the chance to share their experiences as well. The goal is that people leave feeling balanced and calm, and with an understanding of burnout so they can make the right choices.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jul 01

Top 5 Relationship Coaches

Relationships are what make the world go round. Well, not literally, but they’re what form the fabric of our society and are integral to our lives. They’re so important that close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keeps us happy throughout our lives. Our relationships are the strings through which our lives are weaved, and if we want to create a beautiful tapestry, we need to take care of them.

That being said, many of us occasionally have relationship trouble, whether it’s personal or professional, or romantic or platonic. No path is paved perfectly, and sometimes we can get thrown off by the bumps in the road.

Luckily, there are a few amazing people who literally specialize in relationships. Whether you need help developing the confidence to create a relationship, how to grow and sustain a relationship, or relationship remedies when sh*t hits the fan, these coaches got you covered.

Each with their own unique coaching style and expertise, here are our top 5 relationship coaches transforming lives:

1. Therelationshipexpert

Known as “The Relationship Expert,” Los Angeles-based Jaime Bronstein has close to two decades of experience in helping people from around the world navigate the peaks and valleys of dating and relationships. in relationship coaching and is the host of “Love Talk Live” on LA Talk Radio. Jaime teaches her clients how to heal their past, love themselves unconditionally, how to be vulnerable, tap into their inner strengths and intuition, and live more authentically to achieve their relationship goals. Jaime empowers her clients to become aware of the fact that they were born to have love in their lives and see each challenge in life as an opportunity to evolve as an individual.

2. thearicaangelo

Arica Angelo is a dating and relationship coach with over a decade of experience. She works with men across the world to help them become the kind of men that women desire. After a divorce and her own journey towards healing herself and self-development, she came up with powerful methods that she now teaches her clients. Arica reminds her clients that they can attract women if they invest in themselves both emotionally and physically, but also ensures that physical attraction will also be covered in their coaching sessions. Arica’s transparency says a lot about what you can get from her as a relationship coach, and her results speak for themselves.

3. therelationshiprecovery

Certified Life & Health Coaches Tiffany Denny and Kierstyn Franklin, the minds behind ‘The Relationship Recovery’, both experienced the aftermath of a traumatic divorce. They co-founded The Relationship Recovery to offer unique tools and support to deal with the recovery from domestic abuse, emotional abuse, poor dating trends, codependency, poor self-esteem, and everything in between. Tiffany and Kierstyn provide a ton of value through tips, tools, resources on their Instagram and are passionate about helping people find support, love, acceptance, and growth. They are committed to helping as many people as possible recover from abusive relationships and provide them the resources to re-establish themselves and find joy in their lives.

4. bryanreevesinsight

At 26, Bryan Reeves was a Captain in the US Air Force. After leaving the USAF he gave away his belongings and traveled the world. During his travels, he met and married a woman but got divorced shortly after, which is when it dawned on him he didn’t know how to love or be happy. He returned to the US and after finding a lot of success managing businesses, he started consulting artists, visionaries, and business owners, which transformed into his life coaching practice. The self-declared “Life & Relationships Insight Ninja,” Bryan coaches individuals and couples to accomplish their goals, breakthrough life’s challenges, create healthy relationships, and shift from fear to empowerment.

5. estherbmft

Esther Boykin, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) based in Washington, D.C., is the CEO of Group Therapy Associates and TherapyIsNotADirtyWord. In her role at GTA she works to make mental health accessible, innovative, and culturally relevant for all people, and through TherapyIsNotADirtyWord she aims to bridge the gap between relationship and therapy resources. While some of her posts are relationship-focused, the majority of them are applicable to any kind of challenge you’re going through in life. Her posts are composed of thought-provoking questions to help you reflect as well as tips to help you overcome hurdles and get better as you go. She has also authored two books on relationships and is a sought-after relationship and mental health expert.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 30

How To Stay Emotionally Well After A Breakup

Breakups are hard. There’s no sugarcoating it. Whether you’ve been with someone for six months or six years, losing someone you love sucks. All you want to do is climb in bed and pull the covers over your head.

But even though we sometimes fall into the “my life is over’’ trap, the world doesn’t end just because your relationship did. Your life isn’t over, it’s changed, and how to deal with that change and the emotions that come with it is entirely up to you.

Like Florence and the Machine sing,“It’s always darkest before dawn.” But how do you get through the dark and stormy night?

Like we’ve mentioned in the past, emotional wellness is our ability to accept our emotions and effectively manage them through challenge and change. Staying emotionally well while enduring a heartbreak isn’t a walk in the park - no one says it is - but there are things you can do to keep your head up high.

Throw Out Your Phone

…not literally. But you absolutely cannot fall into the trap of checking on your ex’s social media profiles. It will keep you looking to the past and not towards your future. You may need to mute, block, or unfriend your ex, as painful as that may feel, but doing so will remove the temptation to see what they’re up to and the inevitable emotional triggers that come with it. Blocking your ex may seem extreme, but those pesky social media algorithms aren’t on your side. Free yourself from seeing them on your feed. If there are any social media pages you should be looking at post-breakup, it’s the ones that will help you get through. One of our dating and breakup favorites is tinymoron, whose comics about dating dilemmas and heartaches are filled with digestible truths and advice.

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

We know, you’ve heard this before, but the reason you keep hearing it is that it’s true. Don’t fight your feelings (they will win). You lost someone, it’s sad! You need to allow yourself to feel sad about what you lost. You can - and should - grieve over everything, from the date nights and inside jokes to the future you’ve already planned out in your mind. Anger, sadness, anxiety, etc…allow yourself to experience all of these emotions, even when they’re uncomfortable. Suppressing them or numbing them (been there) to escape them is a short-term unsustainable solution that will inevitably leave you with long-term pain. Let it out! Cry, vent, squeeze a stress ball. Express and manifest these emotions so that you can recognize you’re experiencing them and you can get the catharsis you need. Remind yourself that although heartache hurts, you’re going to be OK. If you’re a human (you are, right?) you’ve been through hardship before, and since it’s in the past you have the ability to overcome it. As Glennon Doyle says, you can do hard things. Remember that.

No, Your Life Isn’t Over

Like we said, expressing your emotions is a key ingredient in the post-breakup recipe, but letting them out doesn’t mean a few thoughts we’re left behind. The rage or sadness may have dissipated, but the negative thoughts may still remain. While feeling sad is part of the grieving process, self-pity is different. “I’ll never be happy again” or “My life is ruined forever” are exaggerated negative thoughts that need to be evicted from your brain ASAP. Hosting your own pity party prevents you from getting better. Period. Life is not always going to be easy, so you can either support yourself through it or punish yourself and make it significantly harder (shout to selfishladies for this gem). So don’t make it hard on yourself, and a good first step is to change your attitude. As the yourbreakupbestie says, see your breakup as a blessing. If it wasn’t meant to be, it means you’re meant to do something else. Follow that path.

Put Yourself First

No, we don’t mean a pint of ice cream, Netflix binges, and a bottle of wine. Practice caring for yourself. On the physical side, make sure you’re eating right, exercising regularly, showering consistently, and getting plenty of sleep. On the mental side, spend time with good friends, go for a walk in nature, listen to music, read a favorite book, or experiment with mindfulness (mindfulnessmatters is a great place to start). Even indulging yourself a little can be a real mood booster. Think about things that bring you joy and try to incorporate them into your life. Learning to take care of yourself can be one of the most valuable lessons you learn following a breakup.

Ask For Help

If you’re having a difficult time mending your broken heart on your own, there is no shame in seeking additional help. Friends and family can offer support and help you feel less alone, but sometimes it’s just not enough. Therapists can assist you in moving through the grief process in a healthy way by helping you identify unhealthy coping methods and replace them with positive ones. If therapists are too pricey (they are), there are other ways you can receive support. Support groups, both online and in-person, can help you connect with people going through a similar experience. Ironically, being with other people going through a breakup actually helps you gain more insight into yours.

Recovering from a breakup is hard and takes time, but remember: it’s always darkest before the dawn. You can get through this.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 29

Feel Better Wherever You Go - With Sanvello

Have you ever wanted your own sensei? Someone to guide you through a hurdle you’re trying to overcome or help you pave a path you’d like to follow?

What if I told you that you can have a personal sensei in the palm of your hand?

Meet your new mental health sensei, Sanvello. It may not have a black belt in karate (it’s not that kind of sensei), but Sanvello gives you clinically proven therapies and methods for dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, or whatever you may be going through.

Sanvello has so many tools in its arsenal, and just like a real sensei, it will teach you how to equip yourself with those tools in your daily life.

Unsurprisingly (mainly because we hinted at it earlier), one of the big benefits of Sanvello is its one-on-one therapy feature. Your Sanvello therapist is someone you can develop a trusting relationship with to dive into what’s going on in your head so you can thrive. All you need to do is fill in some basic information, Sanvello will then provide you with a bunch of options based on your criteria, and then you can choose the therapist that feels right for you.

It gets better. If you feel your therapist isn’t quite enough, you can also get a coach to guide you through your journey and help you with questions in between sessions.

Sanvello also keeps tabs on your emotional health by monitoring your mood day by day. Relieving stress, anxiety, or depression starts with taking note of how you feel. By monitoring your mood and sensing patterns, Sanvello will identify the positive and negative influences and help you make changes to modify your behavior, and by extension, your mood.

Similar to a real sensei, Sanvello guides you on a chosen path and helps you improve the skills you need to reach the end of the road. Think along the lines of those Choose Your Own Adventure games, but for your mental health, and with a guide (so way better).

Designed by psychologists for a range of needs, Sanvello Guided Journeys use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other proven techniques to help you manage stress, anxiety, or depression, at your own pace.

Sanvello will provide you with tools to meditate and calm your mind, track health habits (yes, you need those eight hours of sleep), help you create a Hope Board to be the ultimate inspo (that’s how the cool kids say it, right?), and set goals so you can focus on what’s important for you.

Speaking of looking ahead, sometimes it’s important to look back to look forward. Based on your data, Sanvello will present you with assessments to show you how your experiences, activities, and emotions are all connected. This way you can see what happened, how you felt, and therefore be better prepared in the future.

Just like how senseis can be trusted based on their experience, Sanvello’s methods are rooted in widely-used and empirically-supported treatments for anxiety, depression, and stress. In fact, in a randomized study of 500 adults with anxiety and depression, Sanvello’s tools were shown to decrease their symptoms, with effects that lasted even after people stopped using it.

As we at Circles believe that everyone should be surrounded by support, we’re happy to see apps like Sanvello help push that mission forward.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 28

Frame of Mind - 06/28/2021

‘Frame of Mind’ provides 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 Culture…

NeuroCoach Rachel Kozy Releases First Book

California-based NeuroCoach, Rachel Kozy, MPH, MBA, recently released her first book, You’re Welcome. After decades of suffering from anxiety, insomnia, and depression, Rachel devoted her life to studying human physiology, cognitive neuroscience, bioenergetics, and public health. You’re Welcome pulls from Rachel’s own mental breakdown and journey to help improve her readers’ well-being. According to Rachel, each one of us responds differently to different interventions, meaning we all must assume personal responsibility to understand our own body, mind, and goals. "It took me a paralyzing mental breakdown, thousands of dollars in experimental therapy, and a decade of intense trial and error for me to master cognitive performance and emotional well-being,” says Rachel. “I certainly don’t want this to be the case for any of my readers, which is why I am sharing my story.”

Retired Olympian Lindsey Vonn Opens Up About Previous Mental Health Struggles

Retired three-time Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn recently opened up to USA TODAY Sports about her previous mental health struggles. “I wish I had been able to – or been strong enough to – talk about it back in the early parts of my career,” Vonn told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “But I think the older I got and the more support I got from others, the more I realized there’s no shame in it.” That’s why, leading up to the 2021 Summer in Tokyo, Vonn is eager to talk about mental health and the unique stressors that athletes face, both before and after the competition. “I feel like, honestly, everyone should have a therapist,” she said. “It should be like having a dentist or going to a pediatrician. We should all take mental health seriously and do our best every day to make sure we’re taking care of it.” Vonn won two medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and a third at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018. In 2012, she revealed that she had been quietly fighting depression, which runs in her family, for more than a decade and had been taking antidepressants to manage her symptoms.

93% of Managers Find Poor Employee Mental Health Affects Production

According to a new Verizon Media white paper, 93% of managers are finding that the mental health of their employees is negatively affecting their bottom line. Common mental health issues mentioned included grief, burnout, discrimination, and stress. Moreover, all of those issues are in parallel with the added strain that families and caregivers are feeling due to the pandemic. Naturally, when employees miss work, are less productive and communicate less clearly, their teams’ performance dips. The crux of the problem though seems to be managers, as less than a third of global managers indicated they felt equipped to handle the mental health needs of their teams. “It’s a long and evolving road ahead to prioritize mental health at work, but industry research like this helps leaders to better understand gaps and identify solutions to build better mental health standards," said Guru Gowrappan, CEO of Verizon Media.

In politics…

Iowa Set To Create A Mental Health Center For Schools

Iowa is set to use $20 million in federal relief dollars to fund a new mental health center that will provide resources to Iowa schools for the upcoming school year. “This new center will help teachers and schools across the state meet the mental and behavioral health needs of K-12 students, a role that’s increasingly important in the post-pandemic world that we live in,” Gov. Kim Reynolds recently announced. The Iowa Center for School Mental Health will be a partnership between the Iowa Department of Education and the University of Iowa.

New Mental Health Law in Honor of Congressman’s Son

Maryland has unveiled a new state mental health support program nearly six months after Rep. Jamie B. Raskin lost his son to suicide, with the law enacting the program named in his son’s memory. The Thomas Bloom Raskin Act, which goes into effect on July 1, expands the state’s 211 crisis call center so trained counselors can periodically check in with people who need mental health support instead of waiting for them to call during a crisis. Raskin’s son died on New Year’s Eve after a long fight with depression, telling his family in a note, “Please forgive me. My illness won today” and asked to “Please look after each other” — a plea that his father and fellow state lawmakers took to hear and applied in the new mental health support program.

In events…

Mental Health and Families Do you support a relative/friend that is living with a mental health condition? Croydon BME Forum is having a free workshop where you will be exploring how mental health problems can affect the needs and experiences of families with special guest speaker Dr. Juliana Onwumere, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at King’s College London.

Mental Health First Aid Just as CPR helps you assist an individual having a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid helps you assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis. In the five-and-a-half-hour Mental Health First Aid course, you will learn risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations, and where to turn for help.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 27

"People are good. We want to support each other."

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on Emma Payne, Founder and CEO at Grief Coach. Emma spent two and a half decades leading mobile and online development projects. Following the loss of her husband, and a decade later the loss of a dear friend, she came up with Grief Coach, a text messaging service that is now supporting thousands of grievers and supporters globally

Before we get started talking about Grief Coach, can you tell me a little bit about you and your background, and what led you to create Grief Coach?

I had been working in mobile and online development for about 25 years when my friend died. It was a very difficult time. He was father to my godson, and I was with him when he died. Before he died, he had asked if I would deliver the eulogy at his funeral. And I said, sure, of course, anything you want. But after he died, I really was nervous about it, because he was the best friend and second cousin of my husband who had died 10 years prior by suicide. So essentially, what I agreed to do was fly across the country and speak in front of both friends and family who I hadn’t seen, and oftentimes hadn’t heard from, for a long time. So it was nerve-racking. But I did it, and as soon as I sat down in my pew, the person next to me asked my name, and I said, "it’s Emma,” and she just started crying. “Oh, my goodness, are you Barry’s widow?” and I said, “Yes, I am.” She said “I’ve always wondered how you were. I’m so sorry we didn’t reach out back then, we couldn’t think of what to say.” I essentially spent three days hearing some version of that: “I’m sorry I didn’t reach out. I really wondered about you. How have you been doing? I couldn’t think of what to say.” So on my plane ride home from the funeral, I started thinking in my “work” head. I’ve used mobile and tech for all these other things, and it just seemed like there must be a way to make sure that people don’t have that experience because it was crappy for me to not hear from people for 10 years, but it turned out it was pretty awful for them as well. They spent a lot of years feeling really uncomfortable, awkward, guilty, and ashamed of themselves, and instead, we could have been connecting and supporting each other. So I used my plane ride home to map out Grief Coach, I assumed that as soon as I landed and got on WiFi I’d see that it existed already. But then once we were taxiing into the airport I couldn’t find anything like it online. It didn’t exist. I was shocked that there weren’t already tools for supporting not just the griever, but the people around them who don’t know what to say.

Wow, that’s amazing. I cannot believe you did that on a plane ride. I saw on your website that Grief Coach is entirely text-based, which caught my attention because as you know at Circles we’re mainly video-based to emphasize the human connection. So I’m curious why you went the text route?

I actually think it is the best decision I made. I spent lots of years doing mobile development and I wanted something accessible, affordable, and digestible. So as soon as you require high-speed internet or even a certain kind of phone, you’re drastically limiting the number of people who’ll be able to access what you’re providing. So I see Grief Coach as an accessible, scalable, affordable way to get grief support into everybody’s hands. That’s also the reason that we support the griever and the friends and family who are around them. It seems kind of obvious to me that that’s the only way that we could ever make sure that everybody gets supported after death. There’s never going to be enough therapists, and even if there were, most people can’t afford it. There never are enough support groups in everybody’s towns, and even if there were, a lot of people don’t want to sit in a room with strangers. I have yet to talk to a single person that doesn’t want their husband, or best friend, or colleague, to understand a little bit more of what they’re going through. So for me, that had to be text. I actually think text is underutilized. It’s just so easy.

Awesome, and from what I understand people have a lot of customization options, it’s very much a personal experience. People aren’t talking to a generic bot or anything like that. How does it feel on the user’s side of things?

One of the things that is, in a way, surprising, is how people find it to be very private and personal, just for them. A girl, who was a teenager when her mom died, said, “Oh, I just love that they’re just for me. I wait until after third period to read all the messages about my mom. I haven’t deleted any of them.” She said, “I don’t even use the web. If I try to do a search for ‘grief after your mom dies’, you just get a barrage of generic information and resources, and you’re grieving, so you can barely read, so you can’t even think about wading through all of it.” She said that she’s an introvert and she couldn’t imagine talking to strangers about it. So for her, it was very private, personal, and specific to the journey that she’d been on. We customize messages based on lots of things, but notably age. Messages for a young widow would be different than someone in their seventies. We have messages based on the cause of death, so everything from stillbirth to suicide tracks of messages. We have a COVID series that we added last March. We also customize based on relationships, so sibling loss versus spouse versus child versus parent versus grandparent. The messages are short, digestible, and specific to the loss that you’re experiencing.

Wow, that’s incredible. And that leads me to my next question, which is twofold. The first is what would be the best advice you could give people who are grieving, and on the flip side of that coin, what’s the best piece of advice you can give to someone who has a loved one who is grieving?

I love the question. It is to me, every single day, astounding how crippled we are when someone we care about is hurting. But also, how much wisdom there is about what to do is just putting those two things together. For the supporters, what resonates every single time, no matter how many times we do it, is that the grieving person wants you to talk about the person who’s died.

“Oh my gosh, remember when your dad took us out for ice cream? That was hilarious, right?” “Oh, she was so little, that beautiful smile she had when she was a baby”

The person is always in the mind of the griever, but yet as supporters we worry that we’re going to somehow upset the griever by bringing them up. No, it’s in there already, constantly. So in a way, it’s like a release valve. If you don’t know the person, just make it a question.

“What grade would Sam have been in going into this year?” “What did you usually do with your dad on Father’s Day?”

When someone dies, our relationship with them as the grieving person changes, but it doesn’t end. It’s almost like, pretend they’re still in their world, and just talk about them. And it actually gets easier and easier. It feels kind of weird the first time and maybe the second time, but then you see the responses and you realize that that’s just the thing that you can do. So that’s my advice for the supporters. And that’s, I mean, there’s a million things, but that’s a muscle that we all need to flex. Let’s just get better at it. I have a real pet peeve at the moment about all the things not to do, like “Top 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone Who’s Grieving.” I think the absolute last thing we need to do is make people feel fearful that they’re going to say the wrong thing or cause pain. We have to come in on the side of the supporters because it is hard, it is super hard to sit with someone who’s in the depths of grief. So making them feel that they might screw up or say something wrong is not helpful at all. It’s hard to do. It takes some practice, but it’s also incredibly fulfilling and connecting and can be appreciated. And if someone starts crying, you know, we always hear, “what if they start crying?” If they’re crying, they’re healing. It’s okay. It’s not your job to make them feel better, because you cannot. You cannot make a grieving person feel better. So let go of that idea. That’s not going to happen, but you can listen to their pain.

Yeah, absolutely. You can give them momentary catharsis, but you’re not changing their situation.

You can’t change it, you can’t fix it. It’s terrible what’s happened. For the griever, I think my top one really is about just letting go of timelines. This is, I feel, the biggest mistake I made and something thousands of people tell us. “I should be feeling better by now” or “it’s already been three months. I don’t know why I’m still crying.” Society or our friends and family want us to feel better, or be doing better, because it’s hard for them to see you in pain, so you try to apply some sort of arbitrary pressure on yourself. Time is healing, but it’s time, it’ll just happen. You don’t need to really think about it. It’s a thing that happens. And that’s not your job. But it’s more about slowing down than it is about getting back to work or finding someone new to date. Just be in it and the time will happen anyway. Try to just be more gentle with yourself in terms of your expectations for what you should or shouldn’t be feeling at any particular point.

Yeah, as they say, “time heals all wounds,” but it’s not linear. It’s just this rollercoaster of a line that’s progressing but not in a step-by-step process that you think it is or want it to be.

Yeah. Megan Devine has a great line where she says, “Grief is not something to be fixed. It’s something that we carry.” It’s not going anywhere, but we do get better and better at carrying it. And there’s a visual that’s been kicking around social media the last couple of weeks, where there’s a black ball inside a jar. So the idea of grief is that the jar stays the same size and the ball changes size, like it gets smaller over time. But in fact, the ball stays the same, and the jar gets bigger. You will not find somebody whose son died in a car accident when he was 16, who 30 years later says “time heals all wounds, I’m feeling better now.” But that’s not really true. The pain of losing their son is always with them. They always know what was going to be the birthdays and the weddings, and they wish that he was at this event and that event, and they can relive that night when the police came to the door forever. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not learning to carry the grief. They’re not fixing it, but they are carrying it and finding joy in other things.

Yeah, absolutely. Given the year we just had, what this year saw was a lot of tragedy, a lot of death, and a lot of grief. How has this year impacted Grief Coach?

The CDC in July put out a number saying that for every COVID death, an average of nine people are left grieving. I think it’s informing people’s understanding of the scale of grief because that’s just COVID deaths, we also had an increase in pretty much every other cause of death in 2020, so we’re talking about tens of millions of newly bereaved just in the US. COVID has shined a very hard light on grief in a way that we just can’t turn away from it anymore. So I think what the pandemic has done is there’s been a ton more media coverage. One of my grief experts was in Rolling Stone. I can tell you that bereavement professionals who’ve been doing this work for years and years and years were never in Rolling Stone before. So there is a sort of public willingness to look with open eyes at a thing that has always been true, it’s just that now it’s so true and so pervasive, that it does seem to be getting more play, which I think is good. We all want to be getting better at sitting with grief and talking about it. What do we actually do to support people when someone dies? Because we know that grieving is bad for us with lots of negative outcomes. When you’re grieving, you’re more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, illness, more hospital visits, higher suicide rates, sleeplessness, substance use, etc. So we know that grief is a time when we’re at risk for a lot of negative health outcomes. But because it’s so hard to talk about, we have no policies and procedures. We don’t understand that bereavement care is health care, even though it is. So grief is now getting the airtime that it should have been getting many moons ago. In terms of the business, our subscriber base has picked up, but we were only a year old before the pandemic hit, so I think that would have happened anyway, hopefully. We did have to stop everything to add COVID as a cause of death. I think our whole program for employers was really triggered by a big piece of coverage last April. Before we even had a package for employers, we were getting approached by everything from a police station in Florida to a flooring company in Washington, and really amazing managers trying to figure out how to support grieving employees who are coming back to work. That led to a program for clinicians, so healthcare providers who experienced all this grief at work, and helping their hospitals and hospices support them, their grieving employees, as well as the family members they care for. I think that the employer and bereavement benefits space has really opened up because big companies have taken the lead like Facebook, Airbnb, and MasterCard in expanding bereavement benefits for employees. We obviously need to support grieving employees coming back to work, not just to be nice, but because we’re also going to see less attrition, more loyalty, and fewer workplace accidents.

Just to hear all the changes that are starting is quite incredible. Obviously, we wish things were better, but it’s important that we’re learning and adapting.

Yeah, and we are. It’s the same as what you hear from environmentalists who’ve been fighting for climate legislation forever. It would be better if we didn’t have to wait until our backs were against the wall to make a change. But having said that, our backs are against the wall and we are doing it. Things are happening.

On that note, I just have one last question for you. What has been the most memorable or meaningful story that you’ve heard from one of your Grief Coach members?

Oh my gosh, we got some really good ones this week, but I’m going to share one of the very first ones I got because it was amazing to get this feedback early because right out of the gate I was like, “Oh, Emma, you built something good. This is going to work.” This was a woman who was a banker, and her son was stillborn. Her first child, stillbirth, and she was just devastated. She was also preoccupied with how alone she felt because her husband wouldn’t talk about the baby at all, and her best friend, who had flown across the country to help with the baby, said, “I don’t know how to be with you when you’re like this” and left. So this woman, who’s supposed to be with her new baby, doesn’t have the baby, but also doesn’t have her husband and her best friend by her side at this incredibly painful time. She was one of the very first people to ever buy a Grief Coach subscription. She signed up for herself as the griever, but she was also allowed to add up to four friends and family. She added her husband and the friend, the friend who got on the plane. A couple of days later, the friend writes to us and says, “Thank you for understanding this is hard for me too. I don’t know what to do.” It was the truest thing. I feel like that friendship cemented when it could have fractured. A really important situation was supported in a way that it clearly wasn’t going to be. So I always talk about that one, it’s just so poignant to hear from both the supporter and the griever. I mean, I’m definitely happy that we support grieving people. That’s what we do. But I think the fact that we’re also coaching the friends and family around them is the magic. It was so early, and I was so lucky to get that story early.

Yeah, wow. I feel like my heart skipped a beat when you were saying it. That’s amazing. It’s probably the most rewarding thing you could have received right at the get-go. And it really goes to show how meaningful your platform is and how beneficial it is for people.

People say, “Oh, your work must be so depressing.” It’s not. Every day my inbox is full of gratitude. Because I believe, and I see it every day, that people are good. We want to support each other.

I’m really blown away by everything you just said, I think you’re really making a difference in people’s lives. This has honestly been the highlight of my day. Thank you so much for taking the time.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 24

Top 5 LGBTQ+ Mental Health Advocates

As we’re reaching the last few days of Pride Month, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight members of the LGBTQ+ community who have been vocal about mental health awareness.

This is an important cause for everyone, but it hits especially close to home for the LGBTQ+ community. The unfortunate fact is that in the United States 44 percent of the LGBTQ+ population experiences a mental health issue, more than double that of the general population.

There are amazing people in the LGBTQ+ community who use their platform to amplify mental health awareness, are honest about their own struggles for mental health, and advocate to end the stigma against people experiencing mental health issues.

We’re proud to present our Top 5 mental health advocates in the LGBTQ+ community:

1. AC Dumlao

AC Dumlao is a transgender non-binary Filipino-American activity and educator. Their Instagram is full of inspiration and education, as well as openness about how they’re navigating their mental health, with posts candidly talking about their struggles with depression and adjustments to new treatment methods. In 2019, AC was named a NYC/WorldPride Community Hero by Heritage of Pride, during the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Uprising.

2. Hannah Daisy

Hannah Daisy is a queer London-based Mental Health Occupational Therapist and artist. Her art often covers mental health activism, intersectional feminism, queer identity, and chronic illness. She has been open about her struggles with mental health, as well as endometriosis and PCOS. She is especially well known for creating the hashtag ‘#boringselfcare’ to highlight the less-acknowledged ways you can practice self-care, like getting out of bed or going outside. She frames the responsibilities that can feel burdensome as triumphs instead of givens.

3. Naomi King

Naomi King is a non-binary asexual Filipino-Canadian content creator based in Vancouver, Canada. In addition to all of their creative work in music, writing, photography, and art, Naomi is known for their down-to-earth and straightforward approach when it comes to discussing their struggles with anxiety, depression, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, Aspergers, and abuse. In 2018, they began a YouTube series called “Advice For When You Feel Like Shit” and has since turned it into a self-help book to heal your mind, body, and soul.

4. Blythe Baird

Blythe Baird is a Minneapolis-based queer poet, youth educator, and actress. Her work has been featured by GLAMOUR, The Huffington Post, NEDA, EverydayFeminism, TEDx, Mic, and more. She has gone viral on YouTube for her honest and moving spoken word poems on being a rape survivor as well as her struggles with eating disorders. Following the release of her book “If My Body Could Speak”, which digs deep into sexuality, acceptance of the body, survival of trauma, and learning to love yourself, Blythe is currently working on her next book.

5. Yolo Akili Robinson

Yolo Akili Robinson is the executive director and founder of Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM), a collective of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists and activists committed to the emotional and mental health and healing of Black communities. In addition to his emotional health work, Akili has written for numerous publications including the Huffington Post, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Ebony and Everyday Feminisms.

If you’re LGBTQ+ (and even if you’re not), we highly recommend following these inspiring leaders who aim to make the world a more accepting place.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 23

Weaving Emotional Wellness Into the Workplace

Now that the pandemic is mostly a phenomenon of the past, we’re back in the office full-time doing the 9-5 grind and a lot of us are asking ourselves “how the hell were we able to do this before?” The commute, the hours, the in-person meetings… things that we were able to do routinely pre-COVID now feel like we’re climbing Mount Everest and we only just got to Basecamp 1.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 2020, and we’re only realizing now how draining the pandemic really was on our wellness. In an April 2020 survey, nearly half of Americans reported that the pandemic was harmful to their mental health, with rises in social isolation (75%), anxiety (57%), stress (67%) and emotional exhaustion (53%). In another survey, more than 70 percent of workers described the pandemic as the most stressful time in their careers. That was over a year ago. It’s been over a year of that. No wonder we’re having a hard time returning to work. We’re emotionally exhausted.

Pre-COVID, emotional wellness wasn’t exactly a top priority for a lot of companies, despite the fact that the workplace is often our main source of stress. Typically, one in four Americans say work is a source of anxiety. Given the year we just had, ignoring the emotional wellness of your employees now not only puts their wellbeing at risk, but puts your business at risk as well.

Companies and their staff are in an unprecedented position, and it’s up to everyone to take unprecedented action. It’s up to both the employee and the employer to navigate how to reach emotional wellness in the workplace, and there are a number of skills that can pave that path.

Reframe Failure

Sometimes, things don’t turn out the way we expect them to, and we’re sure we’re not the only ones who sometimes take these failures personally. When this happens at work, it’s important to interpret failures as learning opportunities and move on. If we don’t, especially if we’ve given 110%, it’s easy to fall into a defeatist attitude that will surely decrease our future work ethic. Employers should frame every failure as an opportunity to improve. Equipping employees with resilience in the face of adversity will imbue them with skills to find the positive in the negative, and in turn, will make something from what seemingly felt like nothing.

Break > Burnout

Even in the most positive and supportive workplaces, stress is inevitable, but many of us have a hard time handling it. We can get overwhelmed, and if we don’t find relief, we can easily get burnt out. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to not do anything at all. Some employees and employers perceive taking a break equals not doing your job. But sometimes you need to step away from something to figure out the next step - and that’s okay. Both employees and employers need to recognize that resting means rebooting. Employers should teach employees effective ways for dealing with everyday stress, like taking regular breaks, going for walks, meditating, etc. Any one of these strategies can help employees calm down and get creative. When her students had writer’s block, the late Toni Morrison advised “it’s blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven’t got it right now.” That applies to our jobs as well. Employers and employees need to recognize when we need to say when, and when we do that, we’ll be better off.

Personal Precedes Production

Emotional and mental wellness is often overlooked simply because you literally can’t see it, and neither can anyone else. But the truth is we all have our sh*t, and sometimes we can be reluctant to share our personal struggles with our bosses out of fear they’ll see us as weak, unreliable, or unstable. Oftentimes this can lead us to disengage from our work and our communication with our colleagues and managers. So what appears to be a performance issue in a supervisor’s eyes is actually a personal issue in disguise. Employees need to feel like they can be open with their management, and management needs to promote a company culture that encourages openness, and by extension, acceptance. On top of that, employers have a responsibility to check in with their employees, especially now. To prevent disengagement, employers need to do the opposite: engage. Check in with your team on a daily or weekly basis. Flex those empathy muscles so your staff knows they can be honest. Check in so they don’t check out.

Employee wellness should’ve always been a top priority, and if it wasn’t before, there is no better time than the unprecedented present to weave it into your workplace.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 22

Keeping Memories Alive With Keeper

It goes without saying, but when someone leaves us, they don’t really leave us. The experiences shared, the feelings felt, and your memories together are etched in your heart forever.

As the late author Terry Pratchett once said, “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”

But how do you ensure someone’s history doesn’t live on silently? That’s where Keeper comes in.

Founded in 2013, Keeper is a social online memorial platform dedicated to memorializing the lives of those you lost, with a mission to help create more meaningful and interactive experiences for those who remain.

As they say on their website, they’re more than an online obituary, they’re an interactive memorial. Keeper offers families both virtual and hybrid in-person memorial services, but with an unmatched focus on the fine details, as well as attentiveness to your needs. From finding the right words to say, to hosting the video conference, to professional multi-media creation, event invitations, and guest list management, their team is with you every step of the way.

But what’s special about Keeper is that the memorialization doesn’t stop when the service is complete. Like we said, they’re not just an online memorial platform, they’re a social online platform. This element is guided by the idea that if we can share our favorite moments with our loved ones on social media during life, that doesn’t need to stop when they pass. You don’t need to keep your last memory with them frozen on a Facebook post.

Through Keeper, users can create a collaborative memorial in a similar way you can collaborate in a group on social media platforms: you can post messages, upload photos and videos, like, share, comment, and connect. You have the ability to continuously preserve the past to always keep the person you lost in the present.

As Keeper President Mandy Benoualid said after visiting her grandfather’s grave and seeing someone else’s epitaph:

“All I would know about this man was his date of birth, date of death and the “dash” in between. This experience made me recognize that every dash has a story to tell.”

Keeper allows you to keep telling that story.

If you’d like to learn more about the meaningful memories you can manifest with Keeper, we’re collaborating with them for a free Circle about “Celebrating the memory of your loved one.” Attendees will not only receive a 10% discount to Keeper’s services, but an opportunity to share how your loved one spent their dash, and what they meant to yours.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 21

Frame of Mind - 06/21/2021

‘Frame of Mind’ provides 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.

In Case You Missed it…

California Launched a New Advisory Council on Physical Fitness and Mental Well-Being

With most COVID-19 restrictions lifted, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced last week the launch of the Advisory Council on Physical Fitness and Mental Well-Being. The Council will explore healthy strategies to ensure Californians can thrive following the pandemic. “As California reopens, we must address the impacts this pandemic has had on physical fitness and mental health,” said Governor Newsom.

Mental Wellness Platform OPUS Creates New ‘SoundBed’

OPUS has partnered with renowned Swiss designer Yves Béhar to create ‘SoundBed’. SoundBed blends targeted and full-body vibration with spatial sound to create a personalized, immersive “SoundHealing” experience. “The SoundBed is a healing product and platform that my team and I designed with OPUS to empower users to take control of their emotional health and alleviate physical tension through immersive SoundHealing.” says designer Yves Behar. The SoundBed is now available for pre-order.

What’s Happening This Week…

In the News….

Former NHLer Rollerblades to Raise Mental Health Awareness

Stephen Johns, a recently retired National Hockey League defenseman, is currently doing a rollerblade road trip across the country to raise awareness about mental health. The aim is “to hopefully help others facing their own battles…I know what it feels like to be alone,” he said in an Instagram post announcing the planned trip. The 29-year-old recently opened up about experiencing suicidal thoughts while dealing with post-traumatic symptoms. He hung up his skates after dealing with post-concussion syndrome for nearly two years.

Survey: Affectionate Fathers Lead to More Resilient Kids

A survey of more than 2,500 American fathers found that nurturing fathers have a long-lasting impact on their children, and the differences between the least nurturing and the most nurturing fathers is stark. Surveyed fathers who reported that their own fathers were withdrawn tended to be hypercompetitive, emotionally stoic, and unappreciative of women’s contributions outside the home. In contrast, surveyed fathers who said they had nurturing dads were much more likely to achieve their goals in a healthy manner, be more emotionally open, and believe in equitable partnership. Moreover, their parenting partners are healthier and happier when fathers are highly engaged with their kids.

In Events…

Ann Arbor’s Annual ‘Fly and Remember’ Event

Ann Arbor’s fifth annual ‘Fly and Remember’ kite flying event is taking place this Saturday, June 26. Organized by Arbor Hospice, GrieveWell and Ele’s Place, the event allows you to reflect and remember loved ones who have passed. A virtual service will offer individuals and families the chance to reflect on their relationship with a loved one by personalizing and flying a kite in their honor. Participants are encouraged to build and decorate a kite before joining the virtual ceremony on Zoom. After the memorial service, participants can then take their kites over to Lille Park South where professional kite fliers will also be there for participants to watch as they fly large kites across the sky.

NJ Mental Health Players - LGBTQ+ and Mental Health Matters - June 23 The NJ Mental Health Players is the longest-running community education program of its type in New Jersey. The mission of the NJMHP players is to increase education and awareness, decrease stigma and break the silence often associated with mental health. The NJMHP program combines performance art and advocacy, demonstrating how current world issues impact our emotional wellbeing.

Avonda Wellness - An Introduction to Mental Health and Starting a Conversation - June 25

Avonda Wellness is providing an online webinar on an Introduction to Mental Health Awareness. The webinar will cover topics such as the mental health continuum, mental health conditions, protective and risk factors, self-care, how to recognize the signs of poor mental health, and how to start a conversation.

Happy Moments - Free Mental Health and Wellbeing Workshop - June 25

Happy Moments provides an hour devoted to listening and learning ways to improve your mental health. Each month they focus on different aspects of mental health such as self-harm, depression, eating disorders, suicide, and more. The sessions are run and facilitated by Sean Liddel an Adult Mental Health Instructor, and Onika Moses, a Youth Mental Health Instructor.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 20

You Don't Need To Do Everything On Your Own - You Can Get More Support

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on Alex Frenkel, Co-Founder and CEO at Kai.ai. After over a decade of experience in clinical psychology, Alex dived into the tech world so he could provide millions of people with mental health support. That vision was realized through Kai, an AI-based companion to keep you mindful, grateful, and happy.

Alex, can you tell me a little bit more about you and your background? Why were you interested in working in the mental health sphere?

I majored in clinical psychology and then practiced for a few years with children, teenagers, and adults in clinics and school settings. Around a decade ago, I switched to high tech almost by mistake. I started a startup with a childhood friend as a weekend project on Saturdays. Suddenly, we had investors and we decided we were going to do it full time. So I told my team at the clinic that I was leaving to work on the startup for the next year, I’ll sell it for a few million dollars, and then come back to work at the clinic. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But I fell in love with building a team and this magical way of using technology to reach millions of people around the world, something you can’t do in a local clinic. Over the last decade, I’ve run product teams and was part of the global executive team at companies like Gett, Colu, Sears and Zlango. I felt ready to go back and build my own company taking all the things that I learned and experienced. Going back to the starting point, I wanted to use technology to help people with their well-being, happiness, and mental health.

So you really have come full Circle (no pun intended)…

Exactly, and I have two amazing co-founders. Ziv actually majored in clinical psychology with me so we studied together, and Nate, who I worked with at Sears, is the pure engineering lead. Once we started playing with different solutions, we saw the immediate response of having a text-based, 24/7 available companion that can ask the right questions and can help introduce you to new practices. We’ve been working for a year now, and that’s how we started.

Amazing. And how did you come up with the name Kai?

That’s a funny story. Originally, it was Kairon. Kairon was a centaur, half-human and half-horse. In mythology, he was the healer and teacher for some of the Gods. It sounded like a good background story for something that has a positive impact and is this personal therapist, mentor, coach, or almost personal digital Buddha. Then I spoke with Shai Wininger, the Co-Founder of Lemonade, who is super smart and experienced, and he said “it’s a wonderful story, but you should probably call it Kai because it’s shorter and easier.” It also has so many positive meanings in so many different languages, plus it has “AI” in the word, and it’s an AI. For some users Kai is female, for others, it’s male. You have this ability to decide what Kai is for you, as a user. So we’re not building an avatar with its own personality. It’s literally about you. In many ways, people feel more open sharing with an AI because there’s no judgment, no stigma, and its super, super private.

Very interesting. So you’re creating your own companion?

That’s one of the main strengths of the AI: the more you engage with it, the better it becomes, and the better it can adapt to your needs. So from early on, Kai would ask you, “Hey Julia, why are you here? What would you like us to focus on for the next few weeks?” You can choose between different tracks: you can work on reducing stress, or work on building a positive mindset, or work on habit-building and productivity. This constant data learning allows it to know what works best for each user and that is something that is very, very unique. And we see a very high level of engagement when personalization happens. So those are small, positive, magical moments, almost where you can create your own experience. And it’s different from user to user.

That’s really incredible. And I saw on your website that Kai uses Acceptance Commitment Therapy (CBT), which really caught my attention, because most, if not all, of the wellness apps I’ve seen use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). So what what made you decide to use ACT?

So ACT is a modern evolution of CBT. It combines both the cognitive side of observing your thoughts and labeling your thoughts, but also a very important aspect of acceptance, like, not judging yourself or being harsh with yourself. It also combines many elements from mindfulness. We’re also using techniques from positive psychotherapy, like journaling and gratitude. Kai is super good at getting users to get that into a daily habit. ACT just felt more relevant both to our thinking but also to our users.

That leads me to my next question. Given the year we just went through, a lot of people have experienced mental health struggles, not only during the pandemic, but adjusting to normalcy afterwards as well. How has that affected Kai?

We started to work before the pandemic, and the pandemic really accelerated everything, because I think that public conversation started to change, talking more about mental health and stress and the importance of taking care of your mental health. Before the pandemic, if someone was going out for a run, people would ask “Who’s chasing you?” and now going out for a run has become healthy and normal. Today, I think mental health is more accepted as something that you need to work on. There’s so many amazing tools and so many techniques, and you don’t need to do everything on your own, and you can get more support and learn more about the different things that work for you. So the pandemic really accelerated everything for us. It made the need even clearer for many investments in mental health and well-being. And I guess it also impacted how quickly we reached over a thousand users, with many users asking, “How can I share it with someone else?‘’ And the usage is very, very unique, because many of the users will message Kai every single day, on average, more than six to eight messages each day, and they will do that for weeks over weeks. Another interesting thing we started to use is the five questions in the World Health Organization’s Well-being Index (WHO-5). So Kai is helping almost to create this emotional KPI, sleeping KPI, screen time KPI, and a heart rate KPI. There is an ongoing measurement of your wellbeing. So on your Kai dashboard you’ll see your happiness score and change over time, and the different topics you discuss with Kai.

Like you said, during the pandemic you reached over a thousand users and people are using Kai on a daily basis. Have you ever received any meaningful feedback from some of your users?

Building your startup, early stage is always always challenging, but we get thank you letters and feedback from users, which makes everything worthwhile. One letter mentioned that her mum went through an operation during the pandemic, and going through an operation a second time was so different thanks to Kai, which provided this ongoing positive practice. So this is really, really encouraging. And the other thing, which again, like we see an improvement over time, on levels of happiness on the World Health Organization wellbeing score, we’ll see people inviting each other. So this means a lot and there’s tons of user feedback. In many peoples’ conversations with Kai, when they’re asked “what are you grateful for?” Some of them will say I’m grateful for you Kai, for having Kai in my life.

Wow. That’s amazing. Well, I’m definitely downloading it. As soon as I finish typing up this interview.

You don’t even need to download anything.! You just need to choose how you want to connect with Kai, on iMessage, Whatsapp or Telegram, and that’s it. Everything else happens through the conversation itself. I really believe that Mental Health 3.0 is going to be AI-powered and millions can receive support.

Amazing vision. Well, Alex, thank you so much for taking the time. You are making a difference in people’s lives. Especially now.

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 17

Top 5 Instagram Accounts for Self-Care

Self-care. Caring for yourself. What a concept.

Sometimes we get so swept up in helping others, we forget to care for ourselves. Other times, self-care feels selfish. If you’re caring for yourself, you’re not caring for others. Don’t be so self-centered, you tell yourself.

Flight attendants really say it best: “Put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.” You’re of no help to anyone if you’re running on empty.

It’s an important reminder. This is the mentality you should have, ourselves included. Take time to replenish yourself so you can nourish others. How you do that is entirely up to you. You know you best.

That being said, we all need some motivation and inspiration every now and then, so we came up with our top five Instagram accounts to follow specifically for self-care.

1. Doing Well

Daphne Javitch’s Instagram is filled with tidbits on how to holistically do well for yourself. Daphne is a Health Coach, Health Educator and a new mom (!), and uses her expertise to guide her content. Her feed is filled with videos on how to make healthy meals, stories on how to be more self-aware and add structure to your life (amongst other topics), as well as slivers of advice you can adopt in your daily life. We feel like we’re doing well just by looking at her page.

2. theburnoutbrain

Burnout. We’ve all experienced it (especially during this last year), and we know how tough it can be to cool off. The genius behind theburnoutbrain is mental health artist Annette De Armas, whose simplified content perfectly exemplifies the expression that “less is more." Her daily wholesome reminders and tips help you feel powerful enough to get through burnout and life’s stresses, and her candor really resonates beyond the screen, like a virtual hand to hold.

3. Selfcarevisuals

It’s easy to forget to care for yourself. Not with selfcarevisuals. By following their page your feed will be full of reminders on how to best practice self-care. From listicles like “6 things you should not apologize for” (preach) to affirmations like “you deserve the love you give” (preach x2), selfcarevisuals ensures not a moment goes by without you knowing how to look after yourself.

4. Selfcareisforeveryone

We’ll say it louder for the people in the back: SELF-CARE IS FOR EVERYONE! With arguably the most apt name on Instagram, selfcareisforeveryone truly does its best to ensure that everyone practices self-care. Their beautiful illustrations perfectly depict the importance of checking in with yourself and remind us that, as Rosie the Riveter says, “we can do it!” If their page isn’t enough, they also sell amazing merchandise so you can literally wear their affirmations on your sleeve.

5. Thrive

“You are the CEO of your own life, hire, fire, and promote accordingly.” If you’re looking for more mind-shattering insights like that, Thrive is the page for you. Their entire feed is aimed at helping you do exactly as their name suggests: thrive. With posts that nudge you to remember that you are in charge of your own destiny, you’ll feel ready to do what’s right for yourself.

Now put on your oxygen mask.

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 15

Time to Get (Mood)Fit

Fitness. It’s a word that appears everywhere, from your gym to the Instagram influencers you follow. We’re flooded with information on how to get fit.

But what about getting… mentally fit?

If our arms, legs and core are muscles we can exercise, the same can hold true for our mind. That’s exactly the idea behind Moodfit, and it does exactly as its name suggests: fitness for your mood. It gets your mind in shape, like how a fitness app gets your body in shape.

There’s a lot to like about Moodfit, namely that they recognize that there isn’t a one-size-fits all solution for good mental health. That recognition guided the blueprint for the entire product, which has the most comprehensive set of customizable tools and insights to help you learn what works best for you.

So what exactly does Moodfit do? We think the better question is what doesn’t it do. When they say they provide the most, they mean it, so much so that we had to break it down for you in bite-sized bits:

Reflective

Moodift allows you to set customized daily goals to keep you on track with practicing self-care so your mind can adapt to new ways of thinking. Similarly, they also provide you with a mood journal to help you gain more awareness of your thoughts and emotions AND a gratitude journal to help you more easily see life’s positives.

Therapeutic

Everyone’s thinking gets distorted from time to time. By using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Moodfit helps you identify these distortions and see more clearly. For people who already have a therapist, Moodift allows you to easily share your information with them so they can better understand how you’re doing between appointments. But wait, there’s more! If you’re taking any mood-related medications, Moodfit will track what you take and let you know which medications are helpful.

Exercises

Can it even by a mental health app without mindfulness and breathing practices? Moodift will help you understand the how-to’s of mindfulness meditation and will guide you through slow abdominal breathing, both very effective ways to deal with stress and help you relax.

Tracking

We mentioned earlier that Moodfit helps track the effects of the medications you’re taking, but that’s not the only thing they track. Sleep, nutrition, exercise and socializing - the most important parts of our lifestyle - are all tracked by Moodfit so you can see how they’re respectively affecting your mood. Which brings us to…

Insights

Everything Moodift does wouldn’t be complete without learning what works. You can analyze your data in a bunch of different ways to gain more insights about yourself. Have you ever wondered what happens to your mood when you go to bed an hour earlier? Now you can. You’ll also get weekly and monthly reports that summarize your activities and identify your patterns, because everything up to now just wasn’t enough, obviously.

Are you also picking your jaw up from off the floor? There’s a reason Verywell Mind ranked them the best mental health app of 2020. So, what are you waiting for? Go download it!

Written by: The Circles Team

Jun 14

Frame of Mind - 06/14/2021

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

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 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 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: It’s 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 wonderfully 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

Sep 19

"Don’t believe the part of you that wants to tell you that you’re alone with this"

This week’s spotlight is on Dr. Ashley Solomon, the founder of Galia Collaborative, an organization dedicated to helping female-identified people to heal in any of the broken places, grow into the identities that they want to inhabit, and lead the wave of the future.

Can you tell me a little bit more about you and how you developed the Galia Collaborative?

I’m a clinical psychologist, and I’ve been doing this work for about 15 years or so. My background in psychology and mental health was really rooted in the treatment of eating disorders. That’s where clinically I had to focus my career and energy and research. For a really long time, I was working predominantly with women, and I was incredibly inspired by the patients and the people that I was working with, and their ambitions, dreams, and goals. I noticed that even once the eating disorder would be treated there was still so much work to be done to avoid some of those same kinds of internal patterns continuing to play out just in other parts of their lives. A few years ago, I decided to pivot my career because I was in more of a hospital-based system, doing a lot of administrative work and traveling constantly around the country. I knew I really wanted to pivot to focus on my own community, and so I decided to start Galia as a way to modernize mental health or the perception of mental health as something that we can do proactively without shame and stigma and to support women in our society to be able to live with a greater sense of mental wellness and do all the amazing things that they want to do.

How did you come up with the name?

I love that question. Part of my heritage is Lithuanian, and Galia is a Lithuanian word that means “her power.” I knew that I wanted the name to be rooted in power and femininity, but not so explicitly. Collaborative speaks to the collaboration between ourselves and the people that we serve and the communities that we serve. We’re very focused on community care, which is somewhat different in the world of mental health which has historically been focused on one-to-one therapy behind closed doors. We focus on expanding that to the community in a collaborative way.

You mentioned earlier that Galia is meant to modernize mental health. What does modernizing mental health mean to you?

We, as an organization, in terms of accessibility, are thinking about how we integrate it into existing places that people are. We focus on collaborating with workplaces, and other organizations that are doing related, but slightly different work. That’s one of the ways that we think about modernizing it, which is partly about addressing the stigma or destigmatizing it. I want people taking care of their mental health to be something that’s admired. I don’t want it to become this passive trend, but recognizing that we are all really doing the work to take care of our mental health.

I know, Galia does both coaching and therapy. What is the difference between coaching and therapy?

Therapy will always be the primary modality that we focus on, but I think that there’s certainly a role for coaching and the coaching that we do is not like general life coaching. It’s much more specific. When we offer to coach, it’s more specifically within the realm of someone’s life, and usually, that’s professional development, which obviously intersects with all different areas of life. Separate from what we do, there’s certainly a really important role for coaching. I think that it can especially be helpful for a more preventative model of care that may not need a licensed therapist to address whatever’s going on. If we think about it as a tiered or triage model of care, I think it’s really helpful, like peer support, where it has something really unique and valuable to offer and is part of this whole spectrum of care.

I noticed that you use mental strength instead of mental health, why?

Not to shy away from using mental health as the terminology because again, I really want to destigmatize the associations with that, but I like to think about it as a way to develop muscles. It’s not necessarily going to prevent us from experiencing mental health crises or mental health challenges necessarily, but I also think that we can think about it more proactively and as something that we’re developing over time. I think it also fits well with the work particularly that we do with organizations where we help their members or employees think about tools and skills that they can use to develop their overall well-being.

What is the Galia recipe for developing mental strength?

That’s such a good question. The way that we think about health, well-being, and mental health is very relationally oriented. While we all practice from different models and different modalities, we all have a very strong relational orientation that believes that we all heal through relationships, and we all grow through relationships. Leadership ultimately is about relationships with other people. So we do a lot of work around the relationship to self, relationship to others, and relationship to the world, your surroundings, and environment.

Galia aims to leave an impact on organizations and communities. Looking back at all the women you’ve collaborated with and all the organizations, what has been the biggest success story in terms of impact and having a ripple effect?

The way I think about it is, when I’m sitting with someone and I can help them feel differently in themselves and derive their own self-worth, the impact of that on their children or their colleagues is untold. We also talk a lot about intergenerational trauma and intergenerational, resiliency, so if we’re passing this on to future generations, that’s a huge success even on the individual level. But in terms of one of my favorite things, there’s a really large company here in Cincinnati that I run a women’s leadership program with, and we’ve gone through various cohorts of that program. That community-based work with a group that stays together over time has been an incredible success, because of the way that it’s impacted the individual women and their connections with each other, which they never would have developed otherwise, and how that’s going to strengthen them to be leaders within this Fortune 500 company that has such an impact on our world. If we can empower women to be the next leaders and empower them to do it from a framework of mental wellness, that impact ripples out across the globe.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to a woman who is struggling with their mental strength or their mental wellness?

Don’t believe the part of you that wants to tell you that you’re alone with this. At least most of us have that part that exists inside of us that wants to isolate us. Going back to community and connection, not connecting around these issues perpetuates the pain of it.

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 14

What to Tell Someone Who's Loved One Passed Away

Have you ever gone to a funeral or memorial service and been tongue-tied as you approach the griever because you’re not sure of what to say?

We’ve all been there.

Whether the person is grieving a parent, child, sibling, or friend, it’s so hard to see the tremendous amount of pain and sadness they’re experiencing. How can you find any words to alleviate what they’re going through? What if you slip up and say something that makes them feel worse?

Navigating what to say to someone who just lost a loved one can be difficult. It might even be tempting to avoid talking to them altogether, justifying it to yourself by saying they need their space. But they do need you. Offering your sympathy, empathy, and support during this emotionally tolling time is so important.

You don’t have to say the perfect thing, because the truth is the perfect thing to say doesn’t exist. Sometimes just saying a few words, giving a hug, or holding their hand can be therapeutic for them. A simple “I am so sorry” may be all they need to hear. There are a few things you can tell someone who has just lost a husband, lost a wife, lost a parent, lost a child, or lost a friend. We’ve written down a few of them.

Lost a Husband or Lost a Wife

“I am here to help in any way I can”

When someone loses a husband or wife, they’ve lost a partner. The person they’ve shared their life with. They’ve become so accustomed to having someone by their side, that in addition to the sadness and pain they’re experiencing, it can be so disorienting to no longer have them in their life. Stepping up to the plate and offering your help is so important during this time. We know a classic way of offering help is to say “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” but instead of putting the onus on the griever, take the initiative. You could say, “I’m doing some grocery shopping this afternoon. What can I bring you from there?” or “I have leftovers from dinner. When can I come by and bring you some?” Don’t make your help conditional on them. Just help. Even sending them a poem can be helpful.

Lost a Parent

“I wish I had the right words, just know I care,” or “You and your loved ones will be in my thoughts and prayers”

Losing a parent is never easy. The person who created you and raised you, and the person who has always been there, no longer will be. It’s a destabilizing and devastating time. What to say to someone who lost a parent can be a hard thing to think about. Expressing your care and being thoughtful of their experience is so crucial. Them knowing that you’re thinking of them and care for them can be incredibly comforting, especially after their primary carer is no longer with them. Make them know and feel your care.

Lost a Child

Give a hug instead of saying something, or just be with them

Losing a child is indescribable. It defies all the expectations parents set for the chronology of their lives. There are no words, truly. When there are no words, you don’t need to try to come up with them. Give the parent a hug, be their shoulder to cry on, hold their hand, or just simply be there for them. Literally, just be there. The presence of their loved ones will be comforting in and of itself.

Lost a Friend

“My favorite memory of them is when…”

Sometimes the griever wants you to talk to them about the friend that they lost. A thought that crosses people’s minds is that the griever doesn’t want to talk about the friend they lost, they want to be distracted. But the truth is, their friend is always in their mind. By talking about them, it’s like a release valve for the griever. It can also be comforting for the griever to know the impact their friend had on you. If you don’t know the person, just make it a question. Ask about them. It’s an opportunity to memorialize the person that they lost.

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 12

"No one is EVER the perfect version of themselves"

Today we’re putting the spotlight on Jennifer Hurvitz, a Certified Divorce Specialist (CDS™), public speaker, best-selling author, and host of the Doing Relationships Right Podcast. Divorced since 2014, Jennifer helps people understand what a happy divorce can look like and how to dip their toes back into the dating world. She has been featured on Oprahmagazine.com where her book Woulda Coulda Shoulda: A Divorce Coach’s Guide To Staying Married was chosen as one of the best books to read with your partner for a healthy relationship!

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

Where do I start? I was married for 13 years; never thought I’d end up divorced but when I did, I needed a career. I was a stay-at-home mom and had to start over from the beginning. So, I figured…why not a blog? They were really “in” back in 2014. I called it, The Truth Hurvitz, and the rest was HERstory! The blog was cathartic, and it resonated with people…I got hundreds of messages saying that I was writing exactly what people were feeling and thinking. After six months I got a call from an agent out in LA and was asked to write a TV pilot. That was fun! We shopped it around for a bit; won a few cool festivals. Then I decided to write my first book, start the podcast, and then my second book.

Why did you decide to become a relationship coach?

Well, I started off as a writer, then a podcaster, and then a Certified Divorce Specialist. Then, after being divorced for 7 years and in a healthy, loving relationship for 4 years I decided to pivot from Doing Divorce Right to Doing Relationships Right…it was time to move from the divorce space to the relationship & dating space which brought more positivity and hope into my life. And opened all kinds of new doors…I still coach divorced clients but more in the dating space.

What are your most rewarding moments as a relationship coach?

Who doesn’t want to see their clients strong and confident, making good choices, and feeling empowered? I love it. I just do! Nothing better than giving my clients the tools they need to find their person and the advice to help KEEP ‘em. My job doesn’t just stop after I write that awesome online dating bio or create a fantastic “picture perfect” profile! I teach my clients the skills they will use throughout the relationship and in life.

Can you tell us more about your books and your podcast?

One Happy Divorce - Hold the Bullshit was my first book baby in 2017. I wrote it as a gift to myself; to heal the wounds of my divorce, it was purely cathartic. My second book, Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda: A Divorce Coach’s Guide to Staying Married is a self-help memoir for those people contemplating a divorce or just going through one. I really wanted to give an honest (sometimes brutally) depiction of what divorce really looks like, with no filters. OprahMagazine.com chose this one as one of the Best Marriage Books to Read with your Partner for a Healthy Relationship. One of the BEST days of my life, well, after the birth of my boys. My podcast, Doing Relationships Right is good for my soul. It keeps me sane! I interview the most fabulous guests and talk about everything under the sun from dating and intimacy to finances and life post-divorce. Honestly, it began as a passion project and it’s become quite the little business. I have the most loyal and engaging listeners…I am the luckiest woman in the world.

What is your best piece of advice for people in the process of divorce or separation?

Oddly enough, I’ve changed my tune over the last year or so. I used to say it was really important to wait until you were healed and totally good being alone to start dating. But honestly, I have come to realize that’s not the case. No one is EVER the perfect version of themselves; we are forever growing and changing, working on ourselves to be better. So, while I do feel it’s important to wait a bit to get back out there into the dating pool—don’t think you have to be the BEST version of yourself. You will find a partner that wants to grow with you and loves you for your little imperfections. See, even Relationship experts learn some new stuff along the way!

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 09

Talking Mental Health With Taimi

It doesn’t matter what day of the year it is, it is always important to talk about our mental health.

That’s why we’re so excited to be collaborating with Taimi, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ social, dating and streaming platform.

Founded by Jake Vygnan and Alex Pasyov in 2017, Taimi was initially a dating app for gay men. However, after seeing a huge demand for a safe online space for people across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, in 2018 Taimi expanded and evolved into the most inclusive and versatile platform for LGBTQ+ people. Today, Taimi is a global secure ecosystem for LGBTQ+ people featuring a social network, dating app, and streaming.

Taimi nearly tripled its users in 2020 alone, growing from 3.5 million to 9 million users. In March 2021, Taimi celebrated a major milestone of reaching 10 million users on the platform.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to us. Platforms like Taimi are so important for the LGBTQ+ community.

In the United States, 1 in 5 people (20%) experienced 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.

We’re so glad that platforms like Taimi provide LGBTQ+ people with a safe space to express their authentic selves and find hope - together. Similar to Circles, Taimi provides a community of people who understand what you’re going through, and the sense of belonging that comes from that is truly indescribable.

We couldn’t be prouder to be partnering with such a vital platform, and we’re looking forward to Carrie Cantrell, one of our amazing Circle facilitators, talk to the Taimi community on the Taimi app this Sunday, September 12, at 6 pm EST about the importance of building a positive self-perception.

Her presentation will be followed by a live Q&A, so get your questions ready!

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 06

An Opportunity to Gift Care

Do you know someone going through a divorce and could use a support system?

Do you know someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one who could use a hand to hold that understands?

Do you know someone experiencing severe stress or anxiety and could benefit from learning coping strategies from people experiencing something similar?

As much as we want to be there for friends and family, and no matter how much we try to support them, sometimes there’s a disconnect between what we can do and what they need.

That changes today. We’re launching a new initiative that will help you help them with Circles Care Cards.

Sometimes we want to help our loved ones so badly, but we can only go so far. We can understand that they are going through a challenge, but we can’t understand the challenge itself. We can’t truly understand what they’re going through, because we’re not going through it.

What they really need is someone who understands. Someone who gets it. Someone who has been, or is, in their shoes and can look them in the eye and say, “I am walking your walk. I understand your tears, you don’t need to say a word”

At Circles, we match people in small groups who are walking the same path. We hear how effective this is for our members, so if you have someone in your inner Circle who is struggling and your help is limited, now you have the to truly extend your help. With Circles Care Cards, you will be able to gift three months of support at Circles for free to any one of your loved ones who you feel would benefit from it.

With three months of support at Circles, your loved ones will be in a safe space where they can share freely and be truly understood by others, and where other people’s experiences will echo their own, all with the guidance of a professional facilitator.

Give them a place where they can truly be heard and understood. Help them find relief with a group of people who get it.

Sign up for free and send them a Care Card here.

Written by: The Circles Team

Sep 01

What it Means to Grow Around Grief

Time heals all wounds…right?

For those who are grieving, the idea is that as time goes by, your grief will shrink until it is no longer there. Eventually, that wound that was formed when your loved one passed will fully heal.

Well, it’s not that simple.

For some people, it may feel that way. Over time, it may feel as though their grief is shrinking until it’s no longer there. For other people, it may feel that their grief continues to shrink up until its very last morsel, which will always remain.

But “time heals all wounds” doesn’t fully encapsulate the grief process for many people. If you’ve ever lost someone, you know that time doesn’t make your grief disappear. Dr. Lois Tonkin’s model of grief challenges the idea that time heals all wounds. Many people find that instead of their grief healing over time, they have found ways to grow around their grief.

But what does that mean?

When grief counselor Dr. Tonkin was at a grief workshop, she encountered a woman who described her grief in a way that no other model or theory adequately explained.

The woman’s child had died a few years earlier, and at the time, her grief had totally consumed her and filled every aspect of her life. She drew a picture of a circle to represent her life and shaded its entire interior to indicate her grief. She initially imagined that as time went by, her shaded grief circle would shrink and become a small manageable dark circle in her life (“time heals all wounds”).

However, she found that her grief stayed just as big, but her life grew around it. There were moments, like her child’s birthday or their past milestones, that reminded her of her grief, and that dark circle felt just as intense as it ever had. But more and more over time, she was able to experience life in the space outside of that grief circle, in the larger circle.

Her grief was exactly the same size as it was at the start, but her life around it slowly got bigger. That initial circle was no longer the entirety, or most, of her life. It grew around her loss, and she was able to grow around her grief. As author Robert Frost famously said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on”.

This model may not apply to everyone. But for those it does, it’s helpful in that it relieves them of the expectation that their grief should go away (for the most part) or that growing a new life is disloyal to the deceased. It allows them to integrate their loss and their grief with their lives while continuing to move forward.

If you have ever felt that “time heals all wounds” hasn’t applied to you, that your grief isn’t shrinking but you’re learning to live with it, this analogy may be exactly what you’ve been looking for to describe what you’ve been experiencing.

Of course, if you ever want to talk about what you’re going through with people who are also going through it, there’s always a Circle for you to grow with.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 30

Supporting Teachers During This Transition

‘Frame of Mind’ discusses current events in the mental health and emotional wellbeing space. Today’s edition centers on the heightened anxiety and stress teachers are experiencing as they return to school while the COVID19 pandemic continues.

As the summer is coming to a close, a group of people is entering September with more trepidation than most: teachers. Teachers are returning to school with increased anxiety and stress levels after an unprecedented year that is continuing to be filled with uncertainties. As the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to be a phenomenon of the past, teachers are heading into the new school year burnt out and worried for what’s to come.

During the pandemic itself, according to research from the RAND Corporation, more than 75% of teachers reported frequent job-related stress, compared to 40% of other working adults, and 27% of teachers reported symptoms of depression, compared to 10% of other adults. Moreover, the proportion of K-12 educators who were seriously worried about burnout rose from 25% to 57%.

That’s not all. In a survey from the EdWeek Research Center, 84% of teachers said that teaching is more stressful than it was before the pandemic. Their jobs have become even tougher given their struggles to engage students remotely, constant changes from hybrid to remote to in-person instruction, and additional fears that they contract coronavirus and potentially spread it to their households.

These developments make it particularly difficult for teachers to take care of their emotional and mental health, which in turn makes it especially important to ensure that they receive the support they need to stay healthy.

Author Guy Kawasaki has said that “if you want to put someone on a pedestal, put teachers. They are society’s heroes.”

We couldn’t agree more. They have always been our heroes, and they always will be. There is no better time than the present to put them on the pedestal they have always deserved to be on.

Through Circles Care Cards, we’re providing teachers with three months of emotional support on our platform for free so they can have a Circle to lean on this upcoming school year.

They have always lifted us up, now it’s our turn to do the same for them.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 29

"Acknowledge where you're at with compassion"

Today we’re putting the spotlight on Sheryl and Steve Puterman, founders of Nourishment Vitality, a platform that provides online courses, workshops, and coaching programs that bring together the science of nutrition and psychology. Sherly works with people experiencing stress, anxiety, mood & fatigue, as well as with people experiencing food and body challenges including weight management, wellness, binge eating, overeating, body image, stress relief, and various nutrition-related health concerns.

Can you tell me a little bit more about your background?

Sheryl: Nourishment Vitality is a 360 Health and Wellness platform. We specialize in stress and anxiety management, as well as in holistic weight management and nutritional psychology. We are survivors of the 2004 Asian tsunami, and it was this traumatic, life-changing event that changed the trajectory and our outlook on life, and led us on this career path of where we are today. I struggled personally with a tremendous amount of overwhelm, anxiety, panic attacks, and we were living in Hong Kong at the time. I was blessed to learn with some of the world’s leading masters in the fields of mindfulness, stress relief, management, and breathing, which I truly believe is the cornerstone of stress management and really helps to regain stability and clarity. This transitioned into nutritional psychology and Mind-Body nutrition. We believe we are actually in the right place at the right time now, to be able to take many years of expertise and help so many people who are stuck in their lives. Stress is not a new concept, but it’s been exponentially amplified over this last period, and at Nourishment Vitality, we believe we’ve got a very important place in working to help these populations. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that governments have just been unable to step up to the plate, even private healthcare systems have been overwhelmed in this last period. So it’s up to the individuals to be able to create the opportunities to go out to help people.

Steve: We’ve curated our material as well into our online courses where people can take this in the privacy and comfort of their own home. Our courses are there to bridge that gap between prevention and stress-induced conditions. Not only are we in a pandemic at the moment, but we are in an epidemic of stress-related health concerns. So we believe it’s very important to add that additional value as the first line of defense.

Can you describe or elaborate a bit more about what you were doing before the tsunami in terms of your work? Because it seems that event changed your entire course.

Sheryl: Prior to that I was actually in the beauty industry for many years. I was always blessed to be able to help many people understand their true inner beauty. I’ve always been passionate about metaphysical sciences ever since I was a teenager, and I was very drawn to that mind-body space. After the tsunami, with this tremendous amount of overwhelm, I dove further into this area of stress relief, management, and mindfulness. In being able to help myself, I feel so blessed today to be able to help so many people overcome their traumas, whatever it is that they are going through, and to be able to teach through the clarity of my own example. This, I would say, is one of my greatest achievements, because I believe that when you have gone through something, you’re then able to help other people through understanding. It left both of us with a tremendously deep understanding of human vulnerability and what people need to actually overcome in order to get to that next step. I truly believe that they are traumas in life that sometimes we just never get over. We live with them. We work with them. We think with them, we move with it. But they don’t necessarily need to define us forever onwards. That’s what I feel so blessed to be able to help other people move forward from being stuck in that place. Nourishment Vitality is a shame-free non-judgmental space, where people can truly open up and let go of what no longer serves them. I know from myself that shame turns to unhealthy patterns and behaviors. I was self-sabotaging myself with binge eating and emotional eating, having had an eating disorder for decades. I kept it a secret because I was ashamed. It was shame that kept me stuck. Nourishment Vitality was born when I was able to unapologetically step into my most empowered, authentic self.

Steve: Today, people are looking to hear a voice that has actually been through experiences. Nobody is that interested now to listen to the Kardashians or LeBron James share some words of knowledge. People want to listen and hear from people with experience, they’ve got the knowledge and are authentic in their journeys. I believe that’s where Nourishment Vitality has got a tremendous advantage. People can actually listen and hear from people who’ve been there. I always say you can’t Google “been there, done that.” Now, in terms of our journey, our authentic voice, and the tremendous amount of knowledge that Cheryl has been able to accumulate over the years, we really are in an excellent space to be able to help many people who have passed through similar circumstances. When you resonate with what a person is saying to you, and you feel that that is your truth, as well, you’re then able to shift, you’re then able to move somewhat forward. That’s what we bring to the table.

Can you explain a bit more about nutritional psychology?

Sheryl: Many people, when they hear the term nutritional therapy or eating psychology, they think it’s only for clinically diagnosed eating disorders. This is actually not the case. Eating psychology and nutritional therapy affect every single one of us. It can really help to explain the way we eat individually and why we feel the way we feel about our bodies. Eating psychology sees our challenges with eating, weight, and health as a beautiful opportunity to grow and evolve. It recognizes that our relationship with food has important lessons to teach us and is intimately connected to other primary life dimensions, such as our relationships, work, sexuality, our search for meaning and fulfillment, and so much more. Our principles of eating psychology also include mind-body nutrition, which is that fascinating connection between the brain, body, and behavior. Mind-body nutrition is actually the study of how all the nutritive functions of the body are impacted by our mind, emotions, and lifestyle. It’s that psychophysiology of how our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, stress, relaxation, pleasure, awareness, and so much more, directly influences how we metabolize a meal. What we’ve seen through the pandemic is that there’s been such triggering of unhealthy habits and behaviors. What I’ve seen through my experience is that food often becomes a symbolic substitute for something else that we’re looking for, for something else that we are wanting or craving. We believe very much at Nourishment Vitality in the importance of bringing kindness. Kindness gives you that ability to face what it is that perhaps you are afraid to face and are avoiding, as well as those feel-good hormones like dopamine. It’s very important to lean in with conscious curiosity and compassion because that’s going to be able to give you that courage to look at where you’re at and to be able to reframe, reset, and move forward.

I’m glad you touched on that because I think that there’s a big misconception that the relationship between your gut or your stomach and your brain is one way. I’m reading a lot right now about how the gut is essentially your second brain. Is that something you touch on at nourishment vitality?

Sheryl: One will always affect the other. People need to realize that you can’t just take care of the body and not take care of the mind, and you can’t just take care of the mind and not take care of the body. They will spill into each other. Have you ever heard somebody say, “I have to listen to my gut, my gut is always right”? Intuitive eating is tuning into that feeling within yourself. You’re present when you’re eating. You’re aware of your physical body and how you’re feeling. When you’re eating intuitively, you’re able to actually taste your food, you’re able to notice how it feels, you savor the flavor and the textures. Interestingly enough, when people are over-eating, and most certainly when they’re binge eating, they are checked out, as opposed to checked in. They are not able to taste the food at all. Going back now to the mind-body connection and to our gut brain, we have gut microbiota, which are clusters of bacteria that are necessary for your immune system to function properly. You actually have microbiota all over your body, including in your mouth and on your skin. Studies have shown that about a third of the microbiota is something that we all have in common, which means that you have gut bacteria that will be similar to others. However, the key point is that the other two-thirds of your microbiota is unique to you individually. It has been influenced by your environment, your experiences, your story, your history, your genes, and more. It helps you digest your food, produce vitamins, combat illness, and stay healthy. So the foods that we eat impact our healthy bacteria levels and so does the way that we eat, which takes us back to intuitive eating. If we can slow down, if we can turn off distractions, if we can pay attention to food, taste, and really feel how one’s body is feeling when we eat, you set up your second brain for success. That second brain in the belly is something that we often ignore, and why do we ignore it? Because we so often think that thinking comes from our head. But our second brain in our belly is very important for us to be able to actually tune in to our intuition.

What would be your best advice to someone who is dealing with a lot of stress right now?

Sheryl: I think the first thing to help yourself is to learn to become more self-aware. When you’re self-aware, you become the authority in your life. So firstly, slow down. Sometimes we have to slow down in order to speed up. Take a deep breath. Like I mentioned, breathing is the cornerstone of stress management. A simple inhale is able to put the body back into a more relaxed state, and we know that healing, maintenance, and repair takes place in a relaxed body. Once you’ve done that, become more aware. Tune in to how you’re feeling. Where is stress sitting in your body? Are you harboring too much stress upon your shoulders or in your belly? Once you slow down, tune in, and become more self-aware you become the authority in your life, and you get to choose how you can transform that experience into something else. Each and every time, lean in with conscious curiosity and compassion for where you’re at. Because where you’re at is where you’re at, and where you’re at is perfect for you in your journey. There is no right or wrong way to feel. We feel as we feel and our emotions, all of our emotions, the good ones and the ones that we don’t really love, are worthy of validation. Acknowledge where you’re at with compassion, validate the way that you’re feeling, and take it from there.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 26

Five Accounts To Help You Go From Distress To Destress

With the summer coming to an end, and coronavirus still very much present, we think we speak for a lot of people when we say our stress levels are higher than they were this time last year. Whoops, we mean this time two years ago.

Yeah, it’s been a while since we felt completely stress-free. As we’re approaching fall and putting the summer behind us, it’s important we adopt attitudes that keep us grounded and remind ourselves that we can get through this (we really can).

We don’t know about you, but we tend to follow people on Instagram that regularly post really insightful advice that help keep us motivated and optimistic (and no, we don’t just mean inspirational quotes with sunset backgrounds).

There are so many amazing people out there who use their platform to help people worldwide, and we have to share at least a few of them. Here are five:

@selfcareexpress

We mean it when we say that when we visit their profile we immediately feel at ease. Not only are they extremely artistically talented, but they offer really good life advice. Although the genius behind the page is only 25, their wisdom truly applies to everyone. A recent post that highlighted that “happiness is not the destination, it’s the journey” is a great reminder to appreciate the smaller moments in life as we go.

@worrywellbeing

If you follow us on Instagram (and if you don’t, please follow us), you’ll know that we repost worrywellbeing A LOT and that’s because their advice is always applicable. We all have our moments when we need a little pick-me-up, and this page is a great place for it. One of their latest posts is a great reminder that doing your best is good enough, and boy do we need to hear it every now and then.

@millennial.therapist

Sure, there are so many millennials you could follow on Instagram, but if you want to follow one that will help build your mental health on a day-to-day basis you absolutely must follow Sara Kuburic, aka the millennial therapist. Sara shares tips and content that normalizes our experiences and encourages us to self-reflect. Her profile is both insightful and inspiring, and we always look forward to reading her latest.

@therapyforwomen

The genius behind this amazing page is Amanda White, a self-declared former party girl and currently a relatable therapist. What’s great about her page is that she speaks from both experience and expertise. When you read her posts you genuinely feel like she’s speaking directly to you, which is a rare find on social media these days. Good luck finding a page more relatable for women than this one.

@igototherapy

Needless to say, this page is perfectly open about the importance of seeking help when you need it and destigmatizing going to therapy. If you’re struggling with your mental health and you’re debating whether or not to go to therapy, or if you do go to therapy and feel stigmatized, this page is for you. It is okay to not be okay, and it is more than okay to get additional support if you feel you need it. If there is a virtual equivalent to shouting that from the rooftops, it’s this Instagram page.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 25

What Are Healthy Relationship Habits?

We all know that perfect couple. The couple that is seemingly (almost) always happy, that (almost) always gets along, that adores each other, and are perfect complements to each other.

We look at them and think to ourselves, “how on earth are they so great together? What is their secret?” Well, we have it, and we’d like to fill you in. Are you ready?

Drum roll, please…

They’re not perfect (gasp!) AND they do have their moments, moments that we all have: arguments, frustrations, annoyances and all. But what healthy couples have and implement are ingredients that together complete the recipe of a healthy relationship.

These ingredients come in the form of habits, and they’re crucial to creating and maintaining a healthy relationship. Having these regular and repetitive behaviors are the keys to sustaining a healthy relationship.

There are so many healthy habits you can adopt in your relationship to move it from surviving to thriving. We’d like to highlight a few that you can start applying to your day today as soon as you finish reading this.

Recognize That “Me” Time Is Just As Important As “We” Time

Your relationship is part of your identity, but it isn’t your identity. We know we like to call our partners our “other half” but the truth is you are whole on your own. You were your own whole person before you met your partner, and that’s still true.

You have your own interests, hobbies, and passions, and it’s important for you to continue to explore them independently. Have some separate friends, take a trip somewhere by yourself, or go to a yoga class and bring one mat. Just because you’re sharing your life with someone doesn’t mean there’s any less of your life. Keep living it.

Remember what made you you, because that is what drew your partner to you in the first place, and that is what drew you to them.

Speak Their Love Language

Speak their what language? Their love language.

Author Gary Chapman wrote a great book a while back theorizing that there are five love languages through which people express and experience love: acts of service, quality time, receiving gifts, words of affirmation, and physical touch.

It’s important to consider together how you feel most loved and how your partner feels most loved, and on the flip side of that coin, how you like to express your love and how your partner does. When it comes to healthy relationship habits, speaking in your partner’s love language on a daily basis will ensure that the love continues to flow.

If your partner’s love language is an act of service, get him a coffee before work instead of telling him how great he is. If your love language is quality time, let your partner know that physical touch isn’t the way to your heart. If you become fluent in each other’s love languages, you’re on the right track.

Check In

Grand romantic gestures are great. Who doesn’t love them? But occasional grand gestures aren’t going to make your relationship long-lasting. Do you know what will? The little gestures.

Ironically, the small gestures are what make the biggest difference. It’s really all in the details, and a key detail is to check in. No, we don’t mean asking if they picked up the dry cleaning or if the grocery delivery arrived. We mean sending a message that they’re in your thoughts.

“Hey, just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you” “How is your day going?” “I’m looking forward to seeing you later, hope you’re having a great day”

When life gets hectic, it’s easy to activate autopilot and start going through the motions rather than being present with each other. Make it a point to regularly check in with each other, whether it’s meeting for a 20-minute coffee or simply sending a text asking how their day is going. One of the best feelings is knowing that someone thought of you. Make it a habit to give your partner that feeling.

These are only a few habits that will help get your relationship to optimal health. Start implementing them in your relationship, and check back here for more soon!

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 23

Bracing for Back to School

‘Frame of Mind’ discusses current events in the mental health and emotional wellbeing space. Today’s edition centers on the anxieties surrounding returning to school, as parents and their children brace for this new transition as the COVID19 pandemic continues.

“Are masks mandatory?”

“Is everyone vaccinated?”

“Will social distancing be enforced?”

“I’m worried about the pressure to go to events and be social”

“I got used to online classes, what if I can’t adapt to in-person classes?”

As the summer is coming to a close, all of these thoughts, and more, are swirling through the minds of both students and their parents across the country as they weigh the consequences of returning to school.

After an unprecedented year that is continuing to be filled with uncertainties, a return to pre-pandemic life, if we can even call it that, is overwhelming for a lot of people.

For parents of younger students, there are concerns because their children, and that of other parents, aren’t of age to be vaccinated. This worry is heightened given many schools do not have a mask mandate.

For parents of older students, the concern is whether the other students opted to receive the vaccination, or whether their parents did.

For students themselves, in addition to the aforementioned health concerns, there are also social concerns. If you haven’t been surrounded by hundreds of people in over a year, being in that type of environment again can be overwhelming. If you’re trying to be socially distant, there may be social consequences for not going to an event.

On the flip side of that coin, how can schools receive their students who have just undergone a year of stress and deterioration in their mental health?

A March 2021 report found that nearly half of Chicago parents had talked with their child’s doctor about mental or behavioral health concerns they had for their child within the last 6 to 12 months.

A recent study found that ​​during the pandemic, depression, and anxiety in youth doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels. One in four adolescents globally are “experiencing clinically elevated depression symptoms, while one in five youth are experiencing clinically elevated anxiety symptoms.”

For families who don’t feel confident in their school’s precautionary measures, it’s not clear if remote options will be available. Many districts across the country, like New York City, have said they will not allow students to remain to learn remotely, despite the preference of many families, especially in communities of color, who have said they prefer remote learning during the pandemic.

All of these considerations heading into the fall have made the “back to school” routine far from what it used to be, to say the least. That being said, the idea of starting in-person school again doesn’t need to feel as daunting as it has.

Both parents and students can reach out to school administrators and teachers to assess what they can do together to ensure a safe transition back, both physically and mentally.

As we like to say at Circles, we get better together, and communicating our concerns and sharing resources can alleviate the stressors that are arising as we head back to school.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 22

Spotlight: Terrible, Thanks For Asking

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on the award-winning podcast “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” created by Nora McInerny. Nora is also the best-selling author of the memoir It’s Okay To Laugh, Crying Is Cool Too and the founder of the nonprofit Still Kickin.

On October 3, 2014, Nora McInerny lost her second pregnancy.

On October 8, 2014, her dad died from cancer.

On November 25, 2014, her husband Aaron died from brain cancer.

A typical response when hearing this is “I can’t imagine.” But as Nora mentions in her must-see TED Talk, you can, and you should, because of this one absolute fact: everyone you love has a 100% chance of dying.

Death is an unavoidable part in the trajectory of our lives, and in order to heal, both for ourselves and those around us, we need to be honest about it.

That year changed the course of Nora’s life, and today her work is helping so many others around the world process their grief and heal. Nora has made a career of talking about death and grief, through her books, her nonprofit, and her podcast, to as she describes it, “make more people comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

Nora is, needless to say, amazing, and although we’d like to discuss everything she’s worked on, today we’d like to focus on her absolutely-need-to-listen-to podcast.

The name really says everything you need to know. When you’re grieving and people ask you how you are doing, we think we speak for a lot of people when we say a bunch of thoughts cross through our minds, all of them a variation of “terrible, thanks for asking.” But instead, we look at the person and say “’ I’m doing fine, all things considered” or “I’m doing okay under the circumstances,” even if we’re not.

So on “Terrible, Thanks for Asking,” Nora has a refreshingly honest conversation about grief with others who are also grieving. There is no sugarcoating, no fine-tuning or tweaking. Just the real, raw, honest truth about the experience.

When we say you must listen to it, we mean it. Whether you’re grieving or know someone who is grieving, it’s one of the most important podcasts you can listen to about bereavement. She brings heart and levity to conversations most of us try to avoid, and she makes the unavoidable anything but. So stop avoiding it. Give it a listen.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 19

Five Podcasts to Listen to After a Breakup

Whether you’re the breakup-er or the breakup-ee, breakups are hard to process and the adjustment period almost inevitably leads to a soul-searching period. You will probably be asking yourself a lot of difficult self-reflecting questions that you’re not sure how to answer.

Luckily for you, there are people out there with answers, and if they don’t have answers, they have amazing advice that can help get you to them. You may now be single, but you’re not alone, and there are people out there who can guide you on this new journey. Many of them bestow their post-breakup wisdom through their podcasts to help get you through this challenging time, and all you need to do is press play.

Here are five great podcasts to listen to if you’ve recently gone through a breakup:

Just Break Up

Self-proclaimed as a podcast with “all the relationship advice you don’t want to hear,” Just Break Up is for those who want some levity on the things that you find hard to talk about. Through this podcast, hosts Sam Blackwell and Sierra DeMulder hope to convey what they’ve learned throughout their own romantic journeys to bring comfort and support to others who might be going through similar situations. Sam and Sierra’s down-to-earth attitude and common sense approach make it one of the most relatable podcasts about modern love.

This Is Why You’re Single

After you’ve experienced a breakup, getting back into the dating game can feel challenging, to say the least. Dating is a numbers game, and it’s easy to lose motivation to go on what could likely be another “meh” date. Need some encouragement? Tune in to This Is Why You’re Single. Hosted by Brooklyn-based comedians and authors Laura Lane and Angela Spera, this hilarious podcast will make you laugh and give you some actually useful dating advice. It also features real stories from people to remind us that we all sometimes struggle with our love lives.

Breakup Boost

Needless to say, after a breakup, we could all use a little…boost. Enter the Breakup Boost podcast. Hosted by certified breakup coach Trina Leckie, Breakup Boost is one of the best podcasts to listen to while on your healing journey. Trina helps you stay strong, recover from a breakup or divorce, and see things through a different and more realistic perspective from what you may have been initially thinking. Not only that, but she also throws in some great relationship advice and will guide you in getting back on the dating horse.

Doing Relationships Right

As the old saying goes, it takes one to know one. That’s what makes the Doing Relationships Right podcast both relatable and credible, host Jennifer Hurvitz has really been there. A bestselling author and certified divorce specialist, Jennifer Hurvitz pulls insights from her own divorce and career to teach you how to have a successful marriage or navigate divorce. This podcast is filled to the brim with tips on parenting, communication, intimacy, and all things relationships.

How To Get Over Your Ex

The gist of this podcast is really on in the title. Hosted by Break Up Coach Dorothy, this podcast will do exactly what it says it will: help you get over your ex. Combining her background in psychology, her life coach certification, and her own breakup experience, Dorothy will provide you with actionable insights to get over your ex as opposed to platitudes like “it just takes time.” You won’t regret giving this podcast a listen.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 18

"No one will be left alone to deal with emotional challenges"

This week we have a very special edition of our spotlight. We’re putting the spotlight on the one and only Irad Eichler, CEO and Founder of Circles. When Irad’s mother was battling cancer, he noticed how lonely she felt, and that she only felt relief when speaking with others going through the same thing. After she passed away, he felt lonely with his grief. These moments were the inspiration behind Circles, and after raising $8 million in seed funding, Irad and the Circles team are going to ensure no one will be left alone while dealing with emotional challenges.

Can you tell me a little bit about your background? Who was Irad Eichler before he created Circles?

I’ve been building social businesses for the last 20 years, mostly operational. What I learned is that you can reach a third of the amount of growth and acceleration when you’re building an operational organization. For someone whose motivation is to restructure society in a better way, in terms of people that are really struggling every day, to reach millions and millions of people you need to leverage technology. So I think that’s why I chose to do a career change in terms of switching to build something that is based on technology and based on my own experience. When I look at my first organization, Shekulo Tov, and see its growth in Israel for assisting people with disabilities, and then I look at France, for example, and see that they’re 20-30 years behind in that area, I realized there wasn’t much more I could do. With Circles, we can change the world because our solution is scalable and accessible wherever you are.

Can you elaborate a bit more about Shekulo Tov and why you decided to move on to Circles?

Shekulo Tov is an organization that solves the problem of including people with disabilities in society. Today it is the biggest organization in Israel in this field. It provides services to 7000 people every year, which is three times more than that of the state of Connecticut. Being a founder and entrepreneur, I felt that my mission there was completed. I’m still contributing wherever I can, but I wanted to start over. I missed the intimate relationships that you have when you’re on a founding team, working shoulder to shoulder with people and really getting to know them. Second, as I mentioned before, is that I really want to change the world in a scalable and effective way. I also want to set an example for people so they understand that you can do good while making money. There aren’t that many examples out there of successful companies that really changed the world for the better and made a lot of money. At Circles, we want to kind of build a fast-growing company that both makes money and saves people’s lives. Product-wise, why specifically Circles? Because I experienced loneliness when I lost my mother to cancer, and also when I witnessed her dealing with loneliness while she was battling cancer. Nobody really got what she was going through except a friend who was battling the same cancer. When I was grieving the loss of my mother, I felt that. We have WhatsApp groups, one with my father and one without my father. The one with my father was kind of like a desert, nobody spoke there. With my siblings, it was busy, because the three of us lost our mother. My father lost a spouse. It’s a different kind of grief. I witnessed the loneliness that comes with it. Losing my mother was groundbreaking for each one of us. Our mother died. My father’s wife died. That’s why we’re building Circles. We can’t save my mother, we can’t save people from dying, but we can save people from suffering from it, or at least give them a way to deal with the pain that comes with it.

And how has Circles evolved since you started it compared to where it is now?

It started out as an anonymous chat that I built with my friend. I pushed it out via Facebook to people that are dealing with social anxiety and want to kind of chat. It was amazing, because people signed up, joined the group, and started chatting. But within the first 20 minutes, one of them said, “Wow, this is a really crappy app, let’s move to WhatsApp’’ and everybody wrote their phone number and moved to WhatsApp. A week later I got a notification, someone logged in and wrote, “Hey, is anybody here?” and then it struck me how meaningful it is that this is the go-to place for people. So it started like that, with small experiments, and then I met Dan, my business partner, and co-founder. He was a pilot and had an epileptic episode, and he could no longer be a pilot because they didn’t want to take the risk. Nobody really understood what that experience was like for him, and he was off the grid. A few years later, he met a woman who, in a mysterious way, was a pilot as well who had epilepsy and could no longer be a pilot. He was so lonely for years and suddenly he felt so much relief from having this basic experience of understanding. So I met Dan and he immediately knew what I was talking about. That was the moment Circles was born as a company. It was just the two of us and this developer, and we set up this small product and pushed it out. There was so much interest in it. That was the start, and more people joined. Fast-forward a year and we have already provided 100,000 hours of support to people around the world.

Fast forward, and we just received $8 million in funding. Where do you see Circles going from here?

So I think within 10 years, we will sit here and you will interview me again and we will go, “Really? People that were battling cancer, people that went through a divorce, or people who were grieving had to deal with it by themselves? The world was like that?” It will no longer make sense to us. We’re building a world where it will not make sense for people to deal with any kind of emotional challenge on their own. In the past, we lived in tribes where it took a village to raise a child, everybody was involved. And then we moved from villages to cities where all of a sudden we were by ourselves. We’ve been living in cities for more than 1000 years and people are dealing with loneliness. No, let’s get back to this experience of a woman having a baby and other women being there to support her. That’s where we’ll be and the way it’s going to work is connecting in a virtual place that is dedicated to emotional support. That’s what we are building. At the end of the day, the answer is out there. How do you solve loneliness? By connecting people. Sure, there are social platforms out there, but that promotes communicating, not connecting. We are building what we call a belonging platform. We help people belong to a group that can meaningfully support them.

Over the years, what has been your most meaningful or memorable experience at Circles?

Stepping into the office in the morning and looking at all the super talented and dedicated people that are passionate about the purpose is the moment that I will always cherish. You know that there is something broken in the world, and there are so many talented people that are working on fixing it. In the early days, it was just Dan and myself, and now we have this amazing team. I feel humbled every time I walk into the office.

And is there a story from a member that really struck a chord with you and you thought, “I’m really doing something special here”?

There are a few, but there is one that was particularly meaningful. We did a holiday campaign where we provided free Circles for three days over Christmas and New Year’s for people who lost a loved one. There was one woman from Mississippi who shared that she lost her husband and two sons. She joined the Circle from Hawaii, and she was there because couldn’t stand being in her empty home during the holidays. She was so grateful for the opportunity of having people saying “Merry Christmas” and caring about her. She said, “I have no one in the world.” So that was a moment where I said, “Okay, we’ve done our part in the world.” It was all worth it. No matter what else happens, that moment made it all worth it because she felt connected. She wasn’t alone anymore. People really cared about her. Five women, in the first 10 minutes, all of them crying. It was amazing.

What would you tell someone who is really hesitant about joining a Circle? How would you pitch Circles to them?

First of all, I would definitely acknowledge how frightening it is and how stressful it is to join a Circle. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to step into a room with people that you don’t yet know and talk about something that is painful. It is really challenging. I think the best way to describe it is this metaphor where you’re on a cliff and you want to jump into the water. Once you jump and land in the water it’s going to be this amazing and meaningful experience, but you have this initial hesitation where you need to take a deep breath before taking that first step. But once you take the step, you’ll feel immediate relief. There is no way to take out the stress. For some people, it will be easy and for some more challenging. But there is tension there for all of us, no doubt about it. It’s not about trying to take the tension out, it’s about trying to live with the tension. Acknowledge the tension that comes with joining the Circle, take a deep breath, and join for five minutes. You don’t have to talk. People will greet you and it will be an amazing experience. You just need to breathe, click on “join the meeting” and join the Circle. After that, it will be worth your while. Having said that, what we’re doing to reduce the tension a little bit is encouraging talking with the facilitator or a Circle member before, read and write in the group chat, or read other members’ profiles. Take all the friction out and we will help you do that. We will help you reduce the tension by connecting you with others.

When you think about the Circles we have now, are there any Circles that we don’t have that you’re already thinking of opening?

For sure, there are so many. Think of the 40 million caregivers in the United States, people that are taking care of their aging parents. There’s so much emotional burden there that nobody is taking care of. Think of veterans, people that have been out of the country for years and have experienced war, and who come back and no one really understands what they went through or how they feel. Only other veterans do. Think of new moms, or parents of children with special needs, nobody can really get what they’re going through. Choosing who we want to help is like choosing your own child - you don’t choose one. We will take care of every person I mentioned and much more.

Last question, it’s your birthday today (at the time of the interview). What is your birthday wish for Circles?

Be present. Be present in what we’re going through right now. Because the stage of the company that we’re in, and the number of people that we are helping, will never be the same. Tomorrow we’ll have a different product, a different team, the number of members will grow, and the challenges will be different. So for us, I wish we could all be present in what we are doing right now because Circles moving forward isn’t going to be the same.

It’s only been a year and we’ve already accomplished so much. With this new funding, we’re ready to do so much more and bring Irad’s vision of a less lonely world to life.

Stay tuned.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 17

Circles Reaches A New Milestone

It started with a moment.

A few years ago, when our CEO Irad Eichler’s mother was battling cancer, he noticed that no matter how often friends and family tried to make her feel better, she still felt lonely.

But then there was a moment when he saw her smiling and laughing while speaking to a friend on the phone who was also battling cancer. In that moment, he realized the power of connecting with someone in a similar situation. That the only people who can actually understand what you’re going through are the people who are going through it too.

In that moment, Irad witnessed what would later become known as a Circle.

Since 2020, our platform matches people going through the same situation and provides Circles led by professionals facilitators. In these intimate and private Circles, members can be understood in a way that no one else can. We’ve matched thousands of people facing similar challenges and facilitated more than 100,000 hours of support.

We’ve put together a dedicated team whose expertise, talent, and passion go hand in hand with their deep belief in our mission of making this world a less lonely place.

We’ve created Circles of support for people experiencing the loss of a loved one, parenting or divorce, stress or anxiety, depression, burnout, chronic pain, and LGBTQ+ issues, and we want to bring more support to the world at a time when we need it most.

Today marks a major milestone in making that vision a reality. We are so happy to announce that Circles has raised $8 million to expand our one-of-a-kind platform so more and more people, facing a variety of challenges, can receive emotional support.

We all go through issues in our lives where we need someone to talk to, to be seen and heard, and the best way to do that is to speak to someone who actually gets you, who can truly empathize with what you’re going through. With Circles, people never have to face their struggles alone and that longing for connection is replaced by belonging.

“Without the group, I would have not recovered my will to live. Thank you for walking us through step by step what seemed to me as impossible.” - Sherie, Grief Circle

“It’s great to hear from people at all stages of divorce. Even the ability to tell someone new to divorce that they are going to get through helps me know that for me there is healing and joy coming.” - Lauren, Divorce Circle

“The benefit I have gained from this group is immeasurable. I quickly felt I wasn’t alone. There REALLY were other people out there experiencing my very same feelings!” - Karen, Anxiety Circle

These are just a few member experiences that speak to the power of being in a Circle, and we’re looking forward to hearing so many more. We plan on using this new funding to expand into new support services for people struggling with other personal challenges, including LGBTQ issues and those suffering from disease or caring for a sick loved one.

At Circles, we make emotional support accessible to anyone, anywhere and it’s as easy as simply opening our app. We are revolutionizing emotional support so no one has to overcome life’s challenges alone, and we are on our way to completely change the world for the better.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 15

"Healing was never meant to be done in isolation"

This week we’d like to put the spotlight on Monica Mo, the Founder of WellSeek, a community organization for women’s mental health. A former biotech scientist, Monica found herself feeling more disconnected from herself and how she wanted to make an impact in her community. When she left the biotech industry, she recognized the powerful influence of social constructs on our well-being. Fed up by society’s definition of ‘wellness’, she joined forces with women changemakers from across the country culminating into what is now WellSeek.

Can you tell our readers a little bit more about you, your background, and what led you to create WellSeek?

7 years ago, I was working as a biotech scientist in R&D and I started to feel disconnected from the reason I went into my work in the first place. Though I loved science, it just wasn’t doing it for me being so far upstream from directly helping others in their health. I just knew that I wanted to help people seek their own path of health and happiness, whatever that may look for them. So I jumped straight into entrepreneurship without a clue on what it was like to build a business - guided only by a gut instinct that I needed to do it. To most of my family and friends, it was quite possibly one of the most irresponsible things I’ve ever done.

No, not at all. If anything, it was arguably one of the most responsible things you’ve ever done.

Well, at the time, let me tell you, everyone around me questioned what I was doing - and rightfully so! But it was through that learning process of listening to what people had to say and reading between the lines that helped me better understand the universal experiences we all strive for in our wellbeing.

I still remember, in the beginning, I looked at health from the lens of a data scientist and bioengineer - accuracy and precision were the main goals. But as I delved deeper, my views started to change. I began to understand how our choices are far more influenced by emotional drivers, and what we’re exposed to in our social and cultural surroundings is far more powerful in influencing our behaviors than any information or data. In other words, our wellness is shaped not only by our personal choices but also by the communities we’re in. It was during this time that I was working through my own experiences of disordered eating, anxiety, and depression as I struggled with the challenges of being a working mom trying to ‘do it all.

That’s how the ecosystem of WellSeek slowly came to be - a community of advocates, brand allies, and organizations connected through our mission of helping women thrive in their work and life. By working together, we are redefining what health, beauty, and identity mean in this modern world. More specifically, I wanted to help more women answer the question: how do we take back agency in our own lives and move forward with the work we’re most passionate about?

To go from what you were doing before, to creating WellSeek, that’s a huge shift. What was that first step? What was the first ingredient that went into the recipe that is now WellSeek?

From a tactical standpoint, getting organized was the first step. Project management and systems thinking were in my DNA through my days in science and biotech. I identified the components that are needed to get from A to Z, and methodically mapped out the steps that were required to get to my goals. It was about understanding what is needed and what are the gaps I needed to fill to make it work.

But behind the logic, there was an even more important driver: staying true to my purpose and core values. I had to really dig deep to know what I stand for and develop my own inner compass. It’s something that continues to ground me so I can continue to wake up day-in- and day-out knowing that what I’m trying to accomplish is bigger than me. That’s what keeps me going, despite obstacles and setbacks.

Your website mentions that despite a rapidly growing global wellness market worth over $4.2 trillion, mental health disorders are still on the rise and disproportionately impact women. Why do you think there’s that discrepancy?

I’m so glad you brought this up because we need to understand the forces at play. Mental health challenges aren’t just happening to us, they are happening at a higher rate for a reason. This gender gap in mental health is actually recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the most pervasive issues that must be addressed at the intersection of gender equality and health. More specifically, these mental health struggles stem from a lack of support systems, social constructs & gender roles, societal pressures on beauty standards and ideals, and many other invisible stressors that women are subconsciously internalizing. And they’re putting an enormous amount of pressure on women to conform to what we believe we “should” be.

Another way to look at it is through the lens of our innate human need for safety & belonging: women don’t feel safe in our daily lives by the societal structures in place. These are having a severe impact on how we are able to feel safe and have agency within our bodies, roles & identities, and in our livelihood. The mental load is real, and we need to start actively addressing the issues at the root and not just in reaction to it when mental health struggles come to the surface.

What needs to fall into place for there to be a paradigm shift in how women become well, and how do we prevent the opposite?

Simply put, there are many structural and cultural shifts that need to happen in our society to better support women and their well-being. With that said, these bigger changes won’t happen overnight so what we CAN do is to focus on how we react to our lived experiences.

The first step is self-awareness and practicing acceptance. It’s knowing that it’s OK to experience overwhelm and stress and that the emotions and feelings you’re experiencing are completely human. We can be honest with ourselves and acknowledge “I don’t like this reality”, while also recognizing that these painful moments don’t take away from everything else in your life that is going right.

It’s a powerful way to take a step back and see the experience for what it is. That’s when you can redirect your energy away from fighting a reality you can’t change and towards the next right step - no matter how small.

WellSeek has initiatives focused on advocacy, community, and media, which are gaps identified by the World Health Organization. Can you elaborate on how you go about filling those gaps?

What’s most exciting in these current times is the shift towards community care. It’s about providing compassionate, supportive ways to help our neighbors, friends, and family - and let them know that they are never alone in their lived experience.

That can look like advocacy work, where we’re speaking up and activating public support for change at the local and systems level. This is something we’re actively doing with our non-profit project, SeekHer Foundation, through our social advocacy campaigns with our corporate partners and investing in more women-led communities that are bridging those gaps locally. After all, it’s the small ripples we make today that build momentum to make the bigger waves tomorrow.

It’s also important to have community spaces where people can open up and explore the narratives they’re trying to rewrite. Whether it’s through social media, learning workshops, or inspiring event gatherings, my goal at WellSeek is to create opportunities where we can stop, check-in, and be held in a space where you know others get it too. That’s the humanized element we’re constantly missing in our mainstream self-care and wellness industries that overly emphasize quick-fix, one-size-fits-all solutions. We have to understand who we are first and how we connect to our communities - that’s what helps us tap into our ability to live authentically.

And lastly, we all know the way the media drives our perception of value and worth. From beauty to motherhood to career success, we’re constantly bombarded with unrealistic ideals of perfection. We have been conditioned to think that in order to be viewed as someone respectable, we have to strive for that ‘superhuman’ potential. But we are human.

We’re going to make mistakes, we have struggles, we have challenges that we have to address. It is not about living perfectly, it’s about how we are going to be resilient in the moment and keep moving forward, even when we are struggling. We’re starting to see this shift in our mainstream conversations when Simone Biles bravely withdrew from her Olympic events to prioritize her well-being. That was huge! And the stories and perceptions shaped by our media must continue to support these changes in rewriting the superhuman narrative. I hope the content and messaging we continue to amplify through WellSeek will play a big role in that shift.

Do you already see things changing? Like the example you mentioned with Simone Biles, it was a monumental moment in sports for the greatest gymnast of all time to say, “I can’t compete because of my mental health.” Do you see something like that happening in the wellness industry?

Yeah, absolutely. The wellness industry is taking notice and recognizing that what we’ve been doing so far isn’t sustainable. We can’t go on living feeling like we’re always at a deficit, and it’s important to start addressing our needs - physical, emotional, spiritual - from a place of wholeness and connection. The fact that Simone was able to self-advocate, and to do it on such a big stage, is incredible. That really shows that people are now recognizing the power of speaking up to say, “I need to take a step back, and I need help.”

When you look back at how WellSeek started and where it is now, what has been the most memorable or meaningful moment for you and how do you see WellSeek moving forward?

100%, it’s been connecting with so many amazing women in my community, from the advocates to thought leaders to corporate partners who want to support our shared mission of helping women thrive. It’s just been so rewarding to come together behind a social cause that is meaningful to us individually, so we can make a bigger difference as a collective.

Moving forward, I’m most excited about working alongside business leaders and organizations that are invested in advancing women in their work and life. Because at the end of the day, this gender gap of mental health is really limiting our human potential to move forward. Data already supports the fact that when we uplift women, we help the world. Now is the time to do it.

Lastly, what would you tell a woman who is struggling?

Don’t do it alone. Healing was never meant to be done in isolation, which is why I really appreciate what Circles is doing as a mental health platform. That was a big lesson for me when I was going through my own personal struggles. I thought I was the only one suffering and that there was something wrong with me. We often put so much pressure on ourselves, yet we can lessen the load by simply saying “I need help.” And that’s when we recognize we’re never alone in the dark.

Yes, absolutely. Monica, it’s been such a pleasure speaking with you, thank you!

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 12

Five Things You'll Feel When Receiving Group Support

The first step to getting better is realizing you need support. If you’ve reached that point, we’re so proud of you. You’re on your way to finding the relief you’re seeking. The next question is choosing the type of support.

Many people debate whether one on one or group support is more suitable for them. Naturally, we’re big proponents of the latter We can write endlessly as to why, but in a nutshell, we love group support because of the emotions you’ll feel after connecting with people in your group.

When you are in a space where you can share what you’re going through with people who are also going through it, or have been through it, that pit in your stomach that you’ve been carrying shifts into warmth in your heart.

We know that sounds too good to be true, but it really is true. The emotional responses that people have in a group foster so many positive feelings within you that you immediately start your journey to getting better.

What will you feel when you start sharing your story and listening to others in your group? Here are five of them:

Empathy

Empathy is our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to truly understand how someone feels. It’s a feeling of sameness. To quote John Steinbeck, “You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.” When you’re in a group of people who are going through a similar experience you experience true empathy. They can’t not understand you because they’re going through it too. They get it. They really get it. When you hear them share their story, you feel it too. Together you are seen, heard, and understood. There is no “Oh, that must be hard, I’m sorry you’re going through that,” there is only “This is so hard, I know how you feel, but we’ll get through it.” You’re not feeling for someone, you’re feeling with someone.

Compassion

If empathy is the seed, compassion is what grows from it. When you feel with someone, when you put their shoes on and know what it feels like to walk in them, you develop a desire to help them. That’s compassion. By being compassionate with people in your group, you become more resilient and improve your wellbeing. Ironically, one of the best ways to make yourself feel better is to help someone else feel better, and that’s exactly why groups are so powerful. Since everyone knows what it’s like to be in your situation, everyone is intentionally looking out for each other, and when you help each other you help yourselves.

Relief

Naturally, with everyone in your group going through something similar and being there for each other, you’ll find relief in knowing that you’re not alone. Those thoughts and feelings that you assumed no one else had? Others are experiencing them too. You have evidence literally right in front of you that what you’re experiencing is normal. If you’ve been holding back tears, someone in your group is letting them out. If you’ve been hesitant to laugh, someone in your group looks at their situation with levity. It’s relieving to know that it’s okay to not be okay, and you can get back to being okay in whichever way works best for you.

Belonging

With empathy and compassion, you have the two crucial ingredients in the recipe of belonging. Why? Because you can be yourself without fear of being judged. As Brene Brown says, “when we feel a sense of belonging we do not have to change who we are, rather we are able to be who we are.” As the old saying goes, it takes a village, and finding that village is such a surreal experience. As humans we are hardwired to seek belonging, and when you feel that in a group you suddenly feel whole.

Hope

Needless to say, when you combine all of the feelings and experiences above you can’t help but feel a sense of hope. If you have people in your group who are near the end of their healing journey, you know that you can get there too. If you have people in your group that have just taken their first step to getting better, you can look at them and see how far you have come since you first took yours. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you are getting there together.

Written by: The Circles Team

Aug 10

Healing Process of Grief

It goes without saying that grief is an extremely difficult process filled with ebbs and flows. Some days may be filled with terrible sadness or anger, while others may be calmer and more accepting. Regardless of what you’re feeling each day, grieving is hard and healing can take time.

In 1969, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist theorized in her book “On Death and Dying” that grief could be divided into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial is a state of shock, it’s our brain’s way of putting up a wall and only letting in as much as we can handle. But eventually, these walls slowly crumble, and all the feelings you were denying begin to enter.

Anger is an indication of the intensity of your love for both the person you lost and the people that remain. After a loss, some bargain with the universe to bring that person back. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?” We try to negotiate our way out of the pain. When we can’t, we feel the depression of experiencing such a great loss. Eventually, we accept that our loved one is truly gone, and we need to adjust to a new reality without them.

Reading the above makes it seem that grief is a linear progression, that you go through the stages chronologically with each stage having an estimated length. It’s easy to forget that the stages are responses to feelings that come and go. Our feelings don’t have a set timetable or a prescribed order. We may feel one, then another, and back again to the first one.

We may also only feel some of the stages and not others, or some more prominently than the rest. Moreover, the five stages of grief may be the most widely known, but there are other theories of how we process grief, such as ones with seven stages and ones with just two. These stages can help you navigate grief’s terrain, but there may be other emotions you explore.

All this to say, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to grief nor is there a set timetable or structure you need to compare yourself to. One of the best ways to think about the grief process is an analogy we recently heard. Imagine your life is a jar, and the grief you feel is a ball inside of the jar. You probably think your grief ball shrinks over time, but in actuality, your jar gets bigger because you learn to grow around your grief. You learn to carry it and find joy in other things, whether that be through your family, friends, or sharing with people who are also experiencing it.

Written by: The Circles Team