You can reach Shana on her work cell phone at 401-428-4084 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find information on Jewish Collaborative Service's program on Managing Mental Health During COVID-19 here on their website.
by Tara Watkins, LICSW
Punxsutawney Phil may not have seen his shadow this year, but for some of us the hope of six potential less weeks of winter may still not be enough to stop what is commonly known as the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
About twenty percent of Americans experience some form of winter blues and an estimated 10 million experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the main risk factors for SAD are age, sex, family history of depression, distance from the equator, and a history of depression or other mood disorders. Studies have shown that young adults and women are more likely to experience SAD, with three out of four being women. However, when men do experience SAD symptoms, they are usually more severe.
So, what exactly is SAD? SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the four seasons. Symptoms may vary depending on the time of year. Typically, SAD manifests the most during the colder months of late autumn through winter – when days are shorter, darker and chiller.
The exact cause for SAD is unknown. However, there is some evidence that it may be related to the body's level of melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, preparing the body for sleep. As the winter days get shorter and darker, melatonin production in the body increases and people tend to feel sleepier and more lethargic.
Individuals with SAD may also have trouble regulating their levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences mood. Research suggests that people with SAD may produce less Vitamin D in response to sunlight. (Vitamin D is believed to play a role in serotonin activity.) Insufficiency of vitamin D is associated with clinically significant depression symptoms.
There are a range of symptoms for winter SAD, but some of the most commonly reported include: fatigue (paired with oversleeping), trouble concentrating, chronically low moods, irritability, greater appetite, strong carb cravings (which can lead to weight gain), and greater desire to be alone.
Self-care is important for everyone, but for those with the winter blues or SAD it is vital. Experts recommend monitoring mood and energy level, taking advantage of available sunlight, planning pleasurable and physical activities, approaching the winter season with a positive attitude, and, when symptoms develop, seek help sooner rather than later.
Feeling like the winter blues or SAD might be getting you down? Below are a few other suggestions/strategies that you may wish to explore:
Life often gets in the way even for the most highly motivated among us, therefore it is important to have a plan and make it part of our regular routines help prevent and manage the winter blues or SAD.
If you think you or someone you love may be experiencing the winter blues or SAD and would like help with addressing their symptoms or finding help, please reach out to email@example.com or 401-428-4084.
"How can you cope with seasonal affective disorder?" by Maria Cohut, Ph.D.
Medical News Today, November 24, 2017.
"How to Cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder," by Lizz Schumer
The New York Times, January 23, 2018.
"Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)," by Lawrence Robinson, Jennifer Shubin, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
HelpGuide, October 2019.
"Seasonal Affective Disorder"
by Shana Prohofsky
When making resolutions, many of us look to the past year to see what went well versus what needs improvement. As parents, many of us reflect on not only our own achievements and shortcomings, but those of our children, as well. This process can become especially difficult given the amount of attention that is given to parenting in our current culture. Social media posts, parenting blogs, and even parenting columns in well-known newspapers seem to be chock full of articles on parenting styles, and the subsequent judgment of parents who choose one style over another. There are articles on attachment parenting, free range parenting, helicopter parenting, mindful parenting, and bulldozer parenting just to name a few. But, for every so called scientifically backed method, there seems to be a counter method that is purported to be more effective.
In looking into this topic, I came across an interesting Psychology Today article by Dr. Stephen Mintz, who asserts that these parenting styles and associated labels have nothing to do with the actual physical or emotional well-being of children. Rather, Mintz says these styles, which are all supported and refuted by different scientific studies, play into the anxieties and fears that we have about the type of world our children are living in. He ultimately concluded that this preoccupation with parenting style has prevented parents from parenting un-self-consciously. More simply put, instead of following our hunches about what is best for our children, we are inclined to set them aside and follow whatever is the current parenting trend. We find ourselves in a mental struggle between being the parent we would like to be and the parent we are expected to be.
What are we as parents and caregivers to do when criticism, or even seemingly well-meaning comments are lobbed, whether it be following the meltdown in the grocery check-out line, a friend catching wind of misbehavior at school, or a top choice college placement not being secured? One way is to view the critique as misguided caring. Frame the comment by assuming that the person making the comment is worried and simply trying to help by doing or saying something. This person likely does not have enough information about the situation to give helpful advice, but perhaps there is no malicious intent. In this case, take the comment for what it is worth and move on secure in the knowledge that you, as the parent, are the most informed about what is going on and the best equipped to deal with the situation.
But what if the comment is indeed hurtful? Advocate for yourself and your child. Let the person know that what has been said or done was upsetting. Although this could lead to an uncomfortable conversation, not saying anything leads to continued hurt feelings and even resentment. How do you start this difficult conversation? Hold off on giving an immediate, emotionally charged response. Once you have had a moment to regroup, put your feelings into words, and constructively address the comment with clarity. You can even suggest an action that would be constructive in the given situation, if you can. However, if the comment from another is truly ill-intentioned and mean-spirited, ignore it as purposeless negativity. By not responding to these harmful comments in a hasty, negative manner, you are in fact modeling self-control and positive behavior for your children.
Parenting would be easier if everyone kept in mind that there is no one “right” way to successfully parent, and that no two children are exactly alike. Consistency, clear expectations, good listening skills, setting a good example, and seeking outside or professional support when needed are all important components of parenting. While there will most certainly be things that do not go well, it is important to focus on the big picture, not the minutiae of day to day life.
Are you hitting bumps in the road on the journey of parenthood? Are you looking for resources? Let’s talk. Please contact me by phone at (401) 428-4084 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some other sources on this topic:
Kira Asatryan, "Five Ways to Survive Criticism from Family Members," Psychology Today, November 16, 2015
Maurice J. Elias, Marilyn E. Gootman and Heather L. Schwartz, The Joys and Oys of Parenting: Insights & Wisdom from the Jewish Tradition. Springfield, NJ: Behrman House.
Apple Sauce or sour cream on your latkes? If only this was the question when everyone talks about the December dilemma.
Winter holidays can provide shared experiences ripe with warmth, joy, and caring through the collective partaking of food, music, ceremony, and tradition. Yet, for many, the days surrounding Christmas and Chanukah can be a time of emotional turmoil and struggle for harmony. The choice to observe Chanukah or Christmas, both, or neither can weigh heavily on the minds of individuals and families. There is often the desire to avoid hurt feelings, and even disapproval from others, within families, or even in the larger community.
If you are wrestling with the December dilemma, or you just want to learn more about it, the following links address the topic from many different perspectives, and there is an abundance more easily found on the internet:
Redefining the So-Called December Dilemma by Rabbi Josh Brown https://reformjudaism.org/blog/2012/12/06/redefining-so-called-december-dilemm
A Rabbi’s Take on the Whole Celebrating Christmas-and-Hanukkah Thing by Rebecca Einstein Schorr https://www.kveller.com/a-rabbis-take-on-the-whole-celebrating-christmas-and-hanukkah-thing/?_ga=2.188360296.1783103058.1571159694-822958029.1571159694
Happy Hanumas? Ditch Season’s Greetings by Linda K.Wertheimer https://reformjudaism.org/blog/2010/11/18/happy-hanumas-ditch-seasons-greeting
Actually, You Can’t Celebrate Hanukkah AND Christmas by Jordana Horn https://www.kveller.com/actually-you-cant-celebrate-hanukkah-and-christmas/
I’m a Rabbi and I Love Christmas by Howard Goldsmith
My Orthodox Jewish Kids are Obsessed with Christmas by Rivki Silver
We at the Kesher program do not advocate for any one position. There is no one size fits all answer that applies to every person or every family’s situation. However, we do feel it is important to feel at peace with your decisions and practices. The Kesher program is available to offer emotional support and practical resources to guide you through the winter holiday season.
Compiled by Tara Watkins, LICSW
Struggling to fight an invisible battle with suicidal thoughts may make us feel that we are alone. During these moments, a personalized suicide prevention kit which includes concrete objects and steps to help us get through the day, may be essential.
A suicide prevention kit is a collection of items that help us remember our reasons to live — even when we may feel that all hope is lost. If this sounds like something that might be useful, but you don’t know where to start, the following ten suggestions from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and The Mighty (an online community offering peer support for those experiencing mental health challenges) may be a good place to begin.
(*** Please note that this list is not all inclusive and any suicide prevention kit should be explored first and foremost with your personal therapist or clinician. If you do not have a therapist or clinician and are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For local support please reach out to the Providence Center’s Emergency Services line at 401-308-2139. This line is answered by a trained clinician 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)
Potential things to include in a suicide prevention kit.
Above all else remember- your life does matter, and you are not alone! Every small step you take – sometimes simply just putting one foot in front of other- will help get you through the toughest moments and continue to live.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. All calls are confidential.
*****For local Support/help: Providence Center Emergency Psychiatric Services 401-308-2139. A clinician is available to speak with callers by phone 24/7 and may also be able to respond in person for support, depending on time of day of the call (generally, 8:30-4:30pm weekdays and 12-8pm on weekends.) *****
Reference Sources: World Health Organization website The Mighty.com. September 10th edition focusing on Word Suicide Prevention Day (The Mighty is a safe and supportive peer lead community for those experiencing mental health challenges.)https://save.org/about-suicide/suicide-facts/ SAVE uses the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization; Rhode Island Chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.https://afsp.org/chapter/afsp-rhode-island/
Free Event for Survivors of Suicide Loss: November 23, 2019
Rogers Free Library
525 Hope Street (Route 114)
Bristol, Rhode Island 02809
To register or for more information please contact: Missy Ames
It’s about the journey,
not just the destination
By Tara Watkins, LICSW
For many, the High Holidays are a time for reassessing goals, those achieved as well as those that remain unfinished. We might ask ourselves, “would our (unfinished) goals align with our core values, be realistic, or hold meaning in our lives?” If the answer is “no” then perhaps they were created for the wrong reasons and therefore not truly useful for us.
Studies have shown that the more we align our goals with core values and principals the more we are likely to find satisfaction in goal setting. Meaningful goals involve values, bind us to reality, and call for self evaluation. They help us more fully understand what is important. (Chowdhury, 2019.)
Meaningful goals also play an important part in the development and maintenance of our psychological well-being. When we are making progress on our goals, we are happier emotionally and more satisfied with our lives (Pychyl, 2008).
Unfortunately, too often we might find ourselves focused on the end result, rather than the process it takes to get there. The goal process, or journey, is itself full of rich opportunity for personal growth. Some experts suggest that the journey towards our goal is even more important than the ultimate completion of the goal itself (Robbins, 2014). When we ignore the process and focus only on the attainment, we lose sight of what we are trying to achieve.
Studies show that goal progress is related to positive emotions and overall wellbeing. (Pychl, 2008) When we make progress on our goals, we experience positive emotions and more satisfaction with life. This in turn increases our sense of overall well-being.
Positive emotions also contribute to our motivation to act. Thus, working towards our goals is a win win situation, if we can just begin the process.
The following are four simple steps to help us get started in goal setting:
1) Make a plan (and write it down). As the famous saying goes, “Begin with the end in mind.” The most crucial aspect of goal-setting is to build an effective plan. Plans, especially written ones, make habit forming and maintaining easier.
Research shows that goals that are not kept only in our heads but rather written down have a higher completion rate. Personal goal setting might be as simple as writing up a daily “to do” list (depending on the complexity and time frame of the goal).
2) Explore resources. The more we educate ourselves about the goal itself, the easier it will be to see it through. For example, we might begin to broaden our knowledge base by talking to experts or engaging with others who have also completed this goal.
3) Be accountable. We tend to succeed with goal setting more often when we are held accountable by/to someone else. If we must be accountable only to ourselves, keeping a log or journal of our progress can help with accountability.
4) Use rewards. Rewarding ourselves – whether it’s spending time with a friend or engaging in a special activity we have really wanted to do – motivates and boost us up. Using a rewards system, particularly when we are trying to achieve a difficult goal, may help continue with the plan and not lose motivation. (Chowdhury, 2019)
Remember that there may be set backs along the way. Realistic expectations should factor in a certain amount of getting off track. But, please do not allow yourself to remain stuck here. Accepting ourselves as we are – both our strengths and our weaknesses – helps in maintaining realistic expectations. By allowing ourselves to bend sometimes, we are able to adapt to the changing needs of our lives while not losing sight of the goal.
Need a little help with getting started with goal setting or figuring out what went wrong with a particular goal? As the Kesher social worker for the temple, Shana Prohofsky is available to help with exploring any obstacles or barriers in achieving goals as well as other personal challenges. Please contact her at email@example.com or at 401-420-4084.
Breuning, Loretta G. Ph.D “Four Common Obstacles That Interfere with Goal Setting” Psychology Today posted on March 17, 2013.
Chowdhury, Madhuleena Roy. “A Look at the Psychology of Goal Setting” PostivePsychology.com June 6th 2019.
Clear, James. “Goal Setting: A Scientific Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals.” Jamesclear.com https://jamesclear.com/goal-setting
Mitchell, Marilyn Price. Ph.D “Goal Setting is Linked to Higher Achievement” Psychology Today. March 14, 2018.
Nowack, Kenneth, “Facilitating successful behavior change: Beyond goal setting to goal flourishing.” Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol 69(3), Sep 2017, 153-171.
Pychl, Timothy, Ph.D “Goal Progress and Happiness” Psychology Today, June 7th, 2008.
Robbins, Stever. “How to Set Goals for the Life You Actually Want.” Work Smart April 29, 2014.
Guilt: noun, \’gilt\, 1. The fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving penalty, 2. The state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously, 3. A feeling of deserving blame for offenses.*
It is the punchline of many a Jewishly-themed joke, but feelings of guilt as a caregiver for an aging parent can become no laughing matter. While a small dose of guilt can serve as a great motivator, too much can overwhelm and become unhealthy. Caregivers, who experience high levels of guilt and feelings of inadequacy, are more prone to depression, risk physical exhaustion, and can become resentful. Those caregivers, whose loved ones have passed, yet who continue to second guess their caregiving, often experience prolonged, more complicated grieving.
Professionals in the field of aging acknowledge that it is unrealistic to achieve a caregiving relationship that is completely guilt free. No caregiving situation is ever going to be perfect. End of life decline is a process that cannot be fixed or reversed.** Furthermore, seeking to provide complete relief or a cure from suffering is an impossible goal. It is however recommended that caregivers manage guilt by setting realistic goals for themselves, as well as the person for whom they are providing care. Although it is difficult, it is necessary to come to terms with the fact that what you think you should do is not always equal to what you can or are even willing to do.*** A wealth of supportive services exist to alleviate the burden on you, as the caregiver. As your temple’s Kesher worker, I can assess your family’s unique caregiving needs and link you to appropriate programs at Jewish Collaborative Services, as well as services in the greater RI community that are available to assist you and your family members on your caregiving journey.
In addition to seeking help from others and utilizing available services, it is important to practice self-care by taking time for yourself in order to achieve a balance between caregiving tasks and other personal objectives and relationships. This could include exercise, meditation, reading a book, taking a walk, or visiting with friends. Moreover, occasional negative feelings such as anxiety or even dread associated with caregiving tasks are normal and do not mean that you do not care about or love your family member. Caregiver support groups, as well as individual counseling can be helpful in addressing feelings of inadequacy, guilt, anger, or resentment. As always, I am available through the Kesher program to provide support free of charge by lending a compassionate, confidential ear. I can also assist in making referrals for caregiver support groups, or ongoing private counseling.
Below is a listing of program areas within Jewish Collaborative Services that may be suitable to meet your family’s specific needs:
Are you looking for volunteer opportunities? Partners in Care, Tamarisk, The Louis &Goldie Chester Full Plate Kosher Food Pantry, and the JERI program could always use a helping hand. Please contact Jessica Murphy at 401-331-1244 for more information.
* - Guilt. 2019. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved July 6, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/guilt.
** - Capuzzi Simon, Cecelia. (July 14, 2008). Guilt by Association: Even Caring Adult Children Don’t Outgrow Feelings of Guilt. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/whos-caring-mom/200807/guilt-association.
*** - Jacobs, Barry J. (June 1, 2016). Caregivers: Living with Guilt. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/life-balance/info-2017/living-with-guilt-bjj.html.
Shana Prohofsky is the Kesher social worker at Temple Sinai and Temple Torat Yisrael. Kesher is the congregational outreach program of Jewish Collaborative Services of Rhode Island, funded by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and private donors. Shana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-428-4084.
It was wonderful to see everyone from Temple Sinai and Temple Torat Yisrael join together for shabbat services at Goddard Park, finding communality and celebrating similarities. Closing out the week with song, prayer, and reflection is just one of the many ways we can set the weeks’ events behind us, allowing us to rest and reset before entering a new week full of possibility.
While the dog days of summer are upon us, I want to remind everyone that I am still available to assist with any problems that might be troubling you. Please feel free to reach out to me by phone at (401) 428-4084, or by email at email@example.com.
By Tara Watkins, LICSW
Grief is a complex personal journey. We may think, or be told, that we need to "get over it” or "move on.” At times we may struggle with ways to find closure or say goodbye. We may feel a range of emotions from deep sadness and loss to relief, remorse, or even betrayal. All are normal grief reactions. Giving ourselves space to feel the emotions without judgment is important.
Most of us are familiar with the five stages of grief by David Kessler and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. According to Kessler, “these stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages.” He explains, “They (the five stages) are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss. Most of us do not experience all of them or in a prescribed order. At times, people in grief will often report more stages. Just remember your grief is as unique as you are.”
Some of us may feel a strong sense that part of ourselves is now missing or died with our loved one. As a result, it may be hard, if not impossible, to remain the same person we were before the death. We might find ourselves asking, “who am I now that this person is no longer physically in my life?” As we walk our grief paths we may discover a new personal identity slowly emerging. Sometimes it might take time, even years, to really know and identify with this new sense of self.
At times, we may feel “set back” in our journey, perhaps after experiencing a trigger such as a special anniversary, familiar scent, or finding a treasured memento. It is during times like these that leaning on personal supports such as members of our own social networks, a trusted rabbi, religious leader, professional therapist or grief counselor may be restorative.
Joining a community of peers who are also on grief journeys is another way to help strength and sustain ourselves during the difficult moments. It helps us remember that although our personal loss is individual, grief itself is a universal human experience. We are not alone in experiencing grief.
Above all else, please remember to be gentle with yourself, give yourself time to grieve- take one step at a time, and just keep on stepping.
Would you like help with navigating a grief journey challenge? Temple Sinai’s Kesher social worker, Shana Prohofsky, is available should you like help with finding grief resources, an ear to listen, or guidance and direction around another personal situation. Shana is available to speak by phone, in person, or by email. Please reach out to her at 401-428-4084 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Website: https://whatsyourgrief.com/ What's Your Grief: Grieving Someone You Didn’t Like (because it happens) - 2017-02-02 09:34:13-05
Therese A. Rando, “How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies.” New York: Bantam Books, 1991.
David Kessler and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, “On Grief and Grieving” New York: Scribner, 2014.
Tara Watkins, LICSW, is the Kesher social worker at Temple Emanu-El. Kesher is the congregational outreach program of Jewish Collaborative Services, funded by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, and private donors. Currently, Kesher is active at Congregation Beth Sholom, Temple Torat Yisrael, Temple Emanu-El and Temple Sinai.
“Did Bubbe let YOU do that as a kid?”
“That is DEFINITELY not the same woman who raised me!”
“Oh, this is the time to spoil them, we just don’t see them often enough.”
“Family get togethers cause just as much strife as they do pleasure…”
These are just a few of the phrases I heard floating around Seders and synagogues this Passover season. Holidays and vacations are often a time for families to come together, which can bring forth pleasure but also stress or hard feelings. So, as summer approaches and family vacations are being penciled onto calendars, how do Jewish grandparents view themselves, what is their role these days as families evolve, and how do we keep peace in our homes?
Earlier this spring, The Jewish Grandparents Network released findings of the first study of Jewish grandparents. They found that 94% of the 8,000 respondents were positive about their experiences as grandparents. Yet, 19% reported feeling under-appreciated in their role as grandparents by their adult children, 16% reported difficulty in achieving balance between grandparenting and other roles, and 11% reported grandparenting as stressful.(1) The findings show that grandparenting experiences are multi-faceted; and that as with most things in life, there are negatives along with the positives. What if you find yourself experiencing the same feelings, either as the grandparent or parent? What can be done to achieve more positive experiences going forward?
While the study has not yet addressed these questions, a good starting point is to examine the why’s behind the negative feelings. As cliched as it sounds, are there unresolved issues from raising the parents as children? Is there a difference in expectations between the parents and grandparents? Is there tension because of family dynamics? Is there a lack of boundaries between parents and grandparents? To gain a greater perspective, try to consider the particular issues from different points of view. First and foremost, examine the issues from your point of view. Determine what is really the cause of some anxiety and what you would like to change. Next, try to view the issues from the perspective of the other side. How would the other person see it? Finally, and often the most difficult, is to look at the issues as if you are an unbiased third party. Would an outside observer see the issues in the same light? (2)
After examining the whys, it is time to move onto the hows. How are these feelings going to be resolved? Open and honest communication is always key, but mindfulness about the approach is necessary. The conversation should take place away from grandchildren. Also, it is best to try not to start the conversation in a heated moment. Wait until things are calm to open the dialogue. Begin the discussion from a positive place. A good way to start off could be by saying, “I know we both want what is best, and we both agree on…,” or “we both love…” Be open to hearing the other person’s point of view. Be careful to not assign blame when discussing the particulars, which can quickly shut down the conversation. Be flexible in finding a resolution, even if this means agreeing to disagree. Most importantly, be respectful of each other’s role as grandparent and parent. Grandparents are essential to our families and communities. Let’s keep them involved.
Are you finding yourself in a similar situation? If something in this article strikes a personal note with you and you would like to explore your thoughts in a confidential and private manner, I am available. As the Kesher worker for the Temple. I can help provide support to congregants and their families on a variety of concerns, including those related to familial or intergenerational conflict. I may be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 428-4084.
1 Hendler, Lee M. and Raphael, David. (March 25, 2019). Who’s Your Bubbe Now? Some Surprising Findings from the 1st National Study of Jewish Grandparents. Retrieved from https://ejewishphilanthropy.com/whos-your-bubbe-now-some-surprising-findings-from-the-1st-national-study-of-jewish-grandparents/
2 Civico, Ph.D., Aldo. (June 4, 2015). 3 Steps to Resolving Conflict Within Your Family: The Perspective Triage Strategy Allows You to Master Your Emotions. Psychology Today.