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New Year’s Resolutions Always Don’t Work. Here’s Why You Should Commit to Your Mental Health Instead

New Year's Resolutions Don't Work. Commit to Your Mental Health Habits Instead.

December 21, 2022

Every year an estimated 800,000 U.S. adults make New Year’s resolutions in the hopes of improving their lives and developing healthier habits.


Despite the popularity of New Year’s resolutions, they may not be the best use of your time and effort. For one thing, they are rarely effective. Studies suggest that 91 percent of New Year’s resolutions are not successful. For another, the pressure of sticking to these resolutions can cause heightened stress and anxiety levels. To make matters worse,  if you do fail to achieve your goal, you might experience feelings of shame and guilt. 


This year New Year’s, rather than making the regular resolutions, commit to your mental health instead. Here are four strategies for building and maintaining your mental health in the coming year. 

#1 Examine How You Approach Goals (Before Even Setting On!)

Even though New Year’s Resolutions are often unsuccessful and prone to cause stress and anxiety, goal setting is still critical to mental wellness. Everyone has goals they are trying to achieve regardless of whether they are setting New Year’s resolutions. Following through with them can help you feel more competent and resilient, which can have positive downstream effects on your mental health. 


The goals people set for their New Year’s resolutions fail for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, psychologists have identified general strategies for formulating goals in ways that help you achieve them. Victor Furtick, LCSW, an Austin-based therapist here at Heading Health, recommends the “SMART” technique.


I would encourage those seeking to make goal-setting more effective and less stressful to consider implementing  SMART goals–Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. 


Anit Kaur, Heading’s community outreach manager, echoes Victor’s remarks and suggests making short-term goals to make goal attainment more specific, achievable, and timely. 


I create short-term goals in all areas of my life and work on a plan to reach them. For me, it is more realistic than making a New Year’s resolution. Don’t pressure yourself to make a change overnight. Break it up into steps with monthly goals. 


By following these two goal-setting tips, you’ll have an easier time sticking to your mental health plans, which will help you stay committed to your mental wellness journey. 

#2 Remember, It’s Okay to Get Off Track (and Sometimes Beneficial)

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can throw off your mental health strategies. Whether you’re too busy for your appointments or can’t find the time to implement your therapist’s recommended tips and tools, you may find that your mental health has taken a back seat to other priorities as the new year rolls around.


This is a perfectly normal reaction, and it’s important not to judge yourself if you’ve gone a little off course. “Guilt and shame will only serve to keep you from making progress,” shares Helena Hernandez, PA-C. “The key is to be mindful of whether your focus on your mental health has changed and to re-orient yourself if it has without judgment or self-criticism.” 


Throwing in the towel when the resolution doesn’t pan may not really be a failure after all.  As life shifts and grows, priorities change, and making space for flexibility if your desires or priorities shift too can be a very positive experience. 

#3 Focus on Supportive Relationships

After so many gatherings and get-togethers, you might be all socialized out. While the New Year’s festivities can deplete your social batteries, they can also serve as a reminder of who your close connections are and who you really enjoy spending time with. “Take stock of how you felt after your holiday and New Year’s gatherings.” Andrea Marquez, LCSW, tells Heading. “Make specific, actionable plans to spend more time with those who made you feel revitalized, valued, and uplifted.”


You may also want to make a note of who you weren’t really looking forward to seeing. You are not obligated to stay close to people who bring you down. If the holiday gatherings shed light on who isn’t supporting your mental well-being, you may want to adjust those relationships accordingly. 

#4 Overwhelming Yourself with Change Can Backfire

Mental health advice is often about adopting habits and dispositions that will make you happier and more resilient. For example, you may be told to practice mindfulness to learn how to deal with unpleasant emotions or do some cognitive behavioral therapy  (CBT) to rid yourself of negative thinking patterns. But going overboard with self-improvement can also leave you feeling exhausted and overly critical of yourself. 


Your journey to mental wellness will almost certainly require you to make some internal changes. However, it’s important to practice self-acceptance and to consider how your surroundings or routines could better support your happiness.  


New Year’s resolutions typically require people to think about what they want to change internally. But it can be equally important to look around and see what’s currently present in your life and also what you might want to bring in that fosters a sense of pleasure, calm, or ease. 


Switching the focus from constantly assuming something about you needs to change and instead acknowledging what’s working for you, what you love, and what you want to see more of can positively impact your life.


Consider whether there are small upgrades you could make to your environment or routine that would improve your mood, as opposed to ways you need to change internally. Whether it be adding some greenery to your apartment or embarking on a new career search, setting out to change your environment can be just as powerful a tool as working on yourself.


Above all, be kind to yourself as you make your way through your wellness journey.

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I’m Anxious about Talking to My Therapist. Is that Normal?

I'm Anxious about Talking to My Therapist. Is That Normal?

December 12, 2022

Over the past several years, one in four young adults in the U.S. sought mental health care. If you’re like many of the millions of Americans starting therapy, plenty of emotions may be running through your mind. While you may be excited about taking this really bold step (and you should be!), you may also feel nervous about meeting your new therapist – especially if this is your first time starting therapy.


The good news is that there are ways to approach nerves, awkward feelings, or anxiety about starting therapy.  Here are some ways to increase your mental health awareness and work with anxiety when embarking on a relationship with a therapist.


Four Tips for Managing Therapy Anxiety


Ken Brown, LPC – Heading Health

#1: It’s Okay To Tell Your Therapist (and Yourself) That You’re Feeling Nervous

Trying to ignore your anxiety won’t help it go away. Acknowledging and accepting one’s anxiety is so important to overcoming it that it’s at the heart of one of today’s main therapies: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.


“Be honest,” shares Ken Brown LPC, a Heading therapist in Texas. “It’s totally okay to tell yourself and tell your therapist that you’re nervous about talking.”


After all, therapy is a team effort, which can be a totally foreign experience, especially if talking about feelings and experiences is not something you often do in your day-to-day life. 


For many, therapy is the first time they have entered a space in which being completely open is not only tolerated but celebrated. Talking about the therapy environment’s impact on your thoughts and feelings is part of the process. 


#2: Set Aside Your Preconceptions

It’s easy to go into therapy with preconceived notions about what it will be like, what you should be getting out of the process, what it would mean to have a mental health condition, and so on. With all these expectations rolling around in your head as you prepare for therapy, it’s natural to feel anxious.

“My advice to anyone anxious when starting therapy is to approach it with an open mind,” Ken shares.


In other words, it’s important to set aside any general beliefs you hold about therapy and mental health. Your therapist will guide you with warmth and compassion throughout the entire process, and they’ll be able to do so more freely and effectively when you come in with an open mind.


#3: Remind Yourself that Your Therapist is There to Help​

In our day-to-day interactions with our friends, family, and coworkers, there’s often an unspoken pressure to put on a happy face. When someone asks how you’re doing, you say “good,” regardless of what the truth is.  It can feel weird to open up, especially to a therapist you’ve never met before, after holding back how you really feel for so long.


“It’s important to remember that it is okay not to be okay,” Ken shares, “Remember that therapy is a safe, non-judgmental place for a person to process their thoughts and feelings.”


There’s nothing wrong with feeling unwell. Therapists are there to listen and provide you with the tools needed to work through whatever problems are bringing you down. They have years of training and have decided to dedicate their lives to helping individuals work through their mental health struggles.


#4: Recognize Your Strength and Bravery

Though therapy is no longer as stigmatized as it used to be, it can be hard to let go of years of harmful messages about mental health maintenance. As a result, people may experience feelings of shame or embarrassment over their decision to see a therapist and talk about their thoughts and emotions to improve their mental health. Recent mental health statistics indicate that 47% of adults feel seeing a therapist is a sign of weakness.


While these reactions may be real, they aren’t grounded in reality. 


‘If you are seeking help for improving your mental health, you are not “weak,” “flawed,” or “defective,” shares  Ken. “Someone who seeks to improve their mental health is someone who is showing a high level of self-awareness and personal strength.”


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How to Support Grieving Loved Ones During the Holidays

How to Support Grieving Loved Ones During the Holidays

Julia Lopez

November 17, 2022

The spirit of the holiday season is one of joy, hope, and gratitude. Yet, for many people, it can also be the most difficult time of the year.

Be it the loss of a loved one, relationship turmoil, distance, or financial instability, there are many reasons why the pressure of get-togethers, transitions, and gift-giving can bring up heavy emotions. It’s likely that you know someone who experiences grief during the holiday season, and it is also likely that we all, at some point in our lives, will experience loss that feels more profound and intense as special dates on the calendar draw near. 

We asked clinical staff at Heading Health, a mental health care service and clinic based out of Austin, Texas, for their thoughts on how to best support loved ones who struggle with grief and loss during the holiday season. 

Be Proactive 

When people experience grief, they may not outwardly make their feelings known. It can be difficult to know exactly what to say and easy to interpret someone’s silence as “ok-ness.” 

Psychiatric Physician Assistant at Heading Health, Helena Hernandez, suggests being proactive when it comes to checking in with someone who may be hurting during the holidays. 

“Make time to talk to your loved one alone. Take time to sit with them at dinner,” Helena shares. She added, “And if your loved one is far away, make time to check on them from a distance.”

Acknowledge that Grief Looks Different for Everyone

The journey through loss has no road map. Acknowledging your loved one’s unique experience and grieving process can convey not only your love for them but also your respect. 

“It’s important to remember there is no ‘normal’ time frame for processing grief and loss,” said Victor Furtik, a licensed professional counselor at Heading who specializes in working with people who experience anxiety, depression, and those navigating big life changes. 

Victor emphasized the importance of asking questions and remaining open to the answers, “A simple question like, “What kind of support would be most helpful right now?’ can help empower your loved one to articulate and identify their needs and let them know that you care.”

Even If it’s Awkward, Reach Out Anyway

Sometimes, in an effort to avoid saying the wrong thing, it can be tempting to not do anything at all. Remember that a simple gesture, outreach, or loving sentiment can go a long way in letting people know they are not alone. 

There are never perfect words to say, but considering what is within your reach rather than what is not can stimulate courage to offer support even if you’re not quite sure of what to say.


“Reach out. Offer support within your own limits, but just reaching out helps” suggests Andrea Marquez LCSW, a therapist at Heading Health.

Finally, if you know someone who is dealing with mental illness, grief, or loss and you feel that they are in a dark place, know that help is always available. 211texas.org is a digest of resources, including hotlines for those in crisis. 988 is also the new suicide hotline offering a simple and easy-to-remember three-digit number offering support via phone or text when people need it most.

Take the first step

Want to find out if Heading is right for you? 

Complete our consultation form and an intake specialist will get in touch.

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Speaker Series: Battlefield to Civilian Life

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In this edition of our Speaker Series we sit down with Teressa Carter and Femi Olukoya to discuss mental health and our veterans. 

Many aspects of military life has unique challenges. In this conversation Sally, Teressa, and Femi discuss the difficulties of transition from military to civilian life both from the veteran’s perspective and military family perspectives, the complexity of relationships for veterans transitioning out of military service, why veteran mental health matters to civilians, and how we can do better by those who have served. 

Teressa is a licensed clinical social worker based in Texas, her family has a long history of military service and she has spent many years embedded on base and with military units offering mental health services. 

Femi is a licensed professional counselor and also a U.S. Navy Veteran. Femi’s story is special as he morning he graduated from bootcamp was the morning of 9/11. He draws upon his active duty experience to offer points of connection and care for the active duty and veteran clients he treats now as an LPC.