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Come Back  When you catch yourself being caught up in worries about regrets about the past, the future or guilt, just notice that it is happening and simply and kindly say to yourself “ Come back. ” Then take a few calming breaths and focus on what you are doing right now.

A Simple Mindfulness Exercise

Come Back When you catch yourself being caught up in worries about regrets about the past, the future or guilt, just notice that it is...

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In our fast-paced, and often challenging world, many of us neglect opportunities to re connect with ourselves and practice self-reflection. Studies have shown that journaling can improve cognitive restructuring, improved self-understanding, and enhanced emotional regulation (Smyth & Helman, 2003; Ullrich & Lutgendorf, 2002). Additional benefits include stress reduction, lowered blood pressure, and aiding with problem solving and goal setting. While none of us are born with an innate ability to regulate our emotions, it is crucial we develop the tools to practice this. While therapy allows us a safe place to verbally communicate and explore our inner worlds, journaling invites us to share feelings through a different medium-- writing, and allows us time to organize and make sense of our thoughts and feelings in a meaningful way. While some individuals may be able to engage in free formed writing, others find it helpful to journal using structured prompts. Below are a few prompts designed to guide you towards self-reflection and understanding of emotional patterns. Give them a try today!   1. What emotions am I experiencing in the present moment? How intense is this emotion? 2. Have I felt a similar emotion in the past? If so, what were the circumstances that prompted this emotion? 3. Where in my body do I carry these emotions? 4. What are my emotions try to communicate to me? 5. What thoughts am I having about my current feeling(s)? 6. What emotions do I tend to avoid? 7. What did I accomplish today? What can I be proud of myself for? 8. How can I practice compassion towards my emotions today? 9. What am I inspired by today? 10. Identify two coping skills I can use to self-soothe.   Need more guidance? Please call our office today at 813-335-9794 to learn more about the benefits of consistent journaling and therapy! Blog created by Jade Caswell, MA, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

Benefits of Journaling for Mental Health and Wellbeing

In our fast-paced, and often challenging world, many of us neglect opportunities to re connect with ourselves and practice...

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Practicing giving thanks is often done around the Thanksgiving table, however, it is an important practice that can be cultivated throughout the year. In recent years, research has found that intentionally practicing gratitude can have positive mental, physical, and social benefits. One study, conducted by researchers Bohlmeijer et al. (2020), found that a daily, fifteen minute gratitude practice for six week boosted overall mental wellbeing of research participants. Gratitude may even have important benefits for heart health. A 2019 review of gratitude research from researchers Jans-Beken (et al) found that gratitude journaling may cause a significant decrease in diastolic blood pressure. The act of practicing gratitude activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxing the body systems. With all the documented benefits of gratitude, you may be asking yourself how this can be practiced in your own life. Below are tips to help you get started! 1. Keeping a gratitude journal.  This can be as easy as taking a few minutes at the end of each day to reflect on what you are grateful for-- try being observant throughout the day, and express thanks for even the smallest moments of life. 2. Sharing the spirit of gratitude.  Try expressing thanks to neighbor, family member, or friend. This could make a world of difference in the lives of others! Sending a thank you note can also be a way to express thanks for those you are grateful for. 3. Positive reframing.  Oftentimes, we may be tempted to look at the negative of a situation. Actively reframing our thoughts from what we don't have, to what we have and can be grateful for can shift our perspective and cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Struggling to get started? Let one of our skilled therapists help! By Jade Caswell, MA, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

Benefits of Practicing Gratitude

Practicing giving thanks is often done around the Thanksgiving table, however, it is an important practice that can be cultivated...

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Depending on the research study, an average person experiences between 6,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day, with the majority of these being negative. Frequently, these negative thoughts can have an impact on our mood and behavior. When we evaluate our thoughts, we may observe that a number of them fall under the category of cognitive distortions. The American Psychological Association defines cognitive distortions as “faulty or inaccurate thinking, perception or beliefs.” Almost everyone experiences cognitive distortions, however, for some they may be more frequent and lead to decreased wellbeing. Once we are aware of these distortions, we can work on challenging them. Participating in psychotherapy can also be beneficial, as your therapist can point out when you may be experiencing these distortions and assist you in reframing thoughts. Below are some of the most common cognitive distortions. Catastrophic thinking: You assume the worst-case scenario will occur in every situation. Example: You have a slight head cold, but assume the worst and believe you may be chronically ill All or nothing thinking: You view the world in black and white terms, and observe things, people or places as "all good or all bad". Example: You are having a bad day, and have the thought: "Everything is always terrible; nothing good ever happens.” Mental Filtering: You filter out the positive in each situation, and focus on the negative instead. Negative details are magnified. Example: You are generally a good student, but receive a "C" on your last exam. You think to yourself that you are a poor student, and disregard your past successes. Emotional Reasoning: You do not consider objective facts, but instead, believe one's own emotions reflect true reality; Example: "I am feeling anxious, so I must be in danger."; Personalization: You assume responsibility for things that are out of your control, take things personally, or believe others are intentionally excluding or targeting you. Example: Your friend forgets to text you to hang out; you automatically assume this is because "you are a bad friend". By Jade Caswell, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

Cognitive Distortions

Depending on the research study, an average person experiences between 6,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day, with the majority of these being...

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When living with your partner, you will most likely share many things such as your bed, your finances, household chores, raising children, having pets, common friends, etc., how could you not have some complaints about your partner once in a while even though you love them. It reminds me of a movie I once watched and the quote seems to be very fitting here “Only because I love you doesn’t mean that I have to like you right now”. I’m also pretty sure that some of you can relate :)  What is important though is to remember that there is a big difference between complaints and criticism. Complaints are focusing on a specific behavior or event whereas criticism is expressing negative feelings or opinions about the other person. Such as, if the dishwasher has not been emptied out when you get home from a long day at work and you think to yourself ‘Geez, why couldn’t he or she just put the dishes away’ and might say these exact words. Most often, we like to add ‘evidentiary support’ such as ‘Well, you never help keep the kitchen clean’ just to strengthen our claim. However, my dear friends, this is considered criticism because it expresses a negative judgment of your partner.  A complaint now would be fine and could be expressed as “Oh I was hoping you get to the dishwasher before I got home” which is a nicer way of saying it and asking for help as constructive criticism is meant to be. Starting a conversation when you get home by using a soft start-up and to complain without blame is a healthy and much more productive way to engage in conflict. I highly recommend reading the book ‘The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work’ by Dr. John Gottman. He is one of the leading relationships experts of our time – hands down!!

Complaints or is it criticism???

When living with your partner, you will most likely share many things such as your bed, your finances, household chores, raising...

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by Jade Caswell, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern Have you ever found yourself trapped in destructive behavior patterns or unable to get what you really want out of life? Negative core beliefs may be getting in the way. By definition, core beliefs are deeply held assumptions that guide our behavior, how we see ourselves and perceive the world. For instance, if we hold the core belief that we are boring and unattractive, we may never have the confidence to try to meet new people or progress in our career. Because core beliefs shape how we see ourselves and the world, we may ignore any evidence that is contrary to them, and only accept information that sustains these negative core beliefs. Core beliefs are often formed early in life, and develop in response to a person's experiences. For example, if an individual's childhood caregivers did not attend to their needs, they may form the belief that they are 'unlovable'; or that the world is a 'dangerous place'; Carrying these beliefs may inform future life choices. Core beliefs may additionally contribute to negative automatic thoughts, or thoughts that pop into our heads in response to a trigger. If we hold negative core beliefs, chances are our automatic thoughts will also be negative. Core beliefs may sound fixed and unchangeable, but the good news is that we can change these negative core beliefs using principles of cognitive behavioral therapy. The first step to changing negative core beliefs, is first identifying them. This may look like identify patterns of thinking, or fixed patterns of thinking about yourself, others or the world. Look for absolute, rigid or; black and white thinking. Once you identify your negative core beliefs, it may be helpful to look at areas of your life where these beliefs may be limiting you, or holding you back from achieving your goals. It can also be beneficial to look at past successes, or evidence you have against these negative core beliefs. As mentioned previously, core beliefs tend to cause us to filter out any information that doesn't support them. We can take back control by looking at positives or successes we may have had that directly challenge our negative core beliefs. Additionally, using personal affirmations that are directly opposed to our negative core beliefs can be helpful in changing them. For instance, if we hold the negative core belief that we are 'worthless'; we may practice an affirmation such, "I am enough as I am"; These are just a few ways that negative core beliefs may be challenged. Participating in psychotherapy can also be beneficial, as your therapist can help you explore, uncover, and further challenging these negative core beliefs that keep us stuck. Call our office today to set up an appointment!

Core Beliefs

by Jade Caswell, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern Have you ever found yourself trapped in destructive behavior patterns or...

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Favorite Quotes

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The topic of health has always been important, but over the last year and a half specifically there has been an increase in interest towards health and immune system building. Many people decided during quarantine to improve their health, and for some that was the only distraction while being stuck at home. An important part of mental health is our physical health. Overall, we need a balance in life between our mental and physical health in order to live happy and healthy lives. Along with the obvious things that increase physical health like exercising, there are other things we can incorporate into our lives to improve our health. I think COVID-19 has made many of us look for ways to improve our immune system and overall help with our health to hopefully avoid getting sick, or at least help our bodies build a resistance. One great product that can help facilitate healthy habits is green tea. Green tea is a wonderful way to detox the body, plus it tastes great! This tea is full of antioxidants that can help improve brain function, decrease our risks of cancer, and help improve our metabolism to facilitate weight loss. The antioxidant in green tea is called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, but let's just call it EGCG for short. This can help prevent aging by decreasing cell damage. It’s important to note that green tea contains caffeine, for all the caffeine lovers out there! Now, no it does not contain as much caffeine as coffee, but it’s a great alternative if you need a break from coffee, don't like the taste of it, or if you want to reduce your coffee intake. Yes, it is less caffeine but it won't leave you feeling jittery and will give you a more consistent boost of energy,  plus don't forget the EGCG! If caffeine isn’t your style, you can also buy decaf green tea just like you can with coffee. Another great benefit of green tea is its ability to aid in increasing metabolism and lowering our risk of heart and brain disease. It does this by increasing our bodies ability to improve blood pressure and prevent production of plague in the brain that can cause alzhiemers. Other than these wonderful physical benefits, it can also help our mental health by incorporating green tea into our self care routines. Taking the time to make tea and enjoy it is a great way to take a few minutes to ourselves. Another bonus is green tea has a chemical called Theanine that is a natural chemical proven to have a calming effect, which can also help reduce stress. Now that you know a little bit more, go out there and buy some green tea! Add fresh lemons for an added bonus of vitamin C or some peppermint for an added freshness. If you are interested, you can also take a look at the resources listed below with even more information on the benefits of green tea. There is also an article that lists some different brands of tea, in case you are overwhelmed with the store's selection. Sincerely, Christina Labazzetta, Graduate Student Class of 2022 Resources: https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/health-benefits-of-green-tea https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea ​​ https://bestproducts-4u.com/best-green-tea-brands/

Health Benefits of Drinking Green Tea

The topic of health has always been important, but over the last year and a half specifically there has been an increase in interest...

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While most of us know that frequent exercise is a part of a healthy life, it may be challenging to know where to start with attaining this goal. Fortunately, gaining more physical activity can be as simple as walking for thirty minutes per day, no gym membership needed! Walking is free, can be done anywhere, and is low intensity; you can even walk with a friend! 	Research indicates that walking thirty minutes a few times per week may boost cardiovascular health, induce greater quality of sleep, boost immune health, support joint health, lower Alzheimer risk, and help shed unwanted pounds. Furthermore, walking may deliver a host of benefits for mental health, including staving off mental decline in older adults, and improving overall mood (12 Benefits of Walking, Arthritis Foundation).   	While walking, it is even possible to practice mindfulness, a counseling skill that is used to find balance and assist in emotional regulation. To complete this exercise, try focusing on natural sensations during your walk, and bringing attention to positive aspects of your surroundings. Using your senses, it is possible to feel the warm sun on your face, smell the bloom of fresh flowers, or hear the chirping on birds. After taking a mindful walk, not only will your body, but also your mind will thank you for this act of self-care. Need more help on starting a healthy routine, or practicing mindfulness? Call us today at 813-335-9794  We look forward to hearing from you!

Health Benefits of a Daily Walking

While most of us know that frequent exercise is a part of a healthy life, it may be challenging to know where to start with attaining...

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Validation from others is something we all seek, however, sometimes we forget that it is important to validate ourselves, and our own feelings as well. If we struggle with low self- esteem, we may obsess over being validated by others, or constantly seek approval from others around us-- including parents, friends, partners or bosses. In the absence of external self- validation, we may question our own value. Additionally, if we didn't have caregivers validating our feelings growing up, we may struggle to understand how to give ourselves this validation now that we are adults or may continue to invalidate our own feelings. By definition, self-validation means accepting your own thoughts and feelings without judgement. To self-validate, we do not have to believe that our thoughts or feelings are justified, but we do need to acknowledge they are there and accept them just as they are. Denying or fighting against these thoughts and feelings can intensify emotional suffering. Self-validation can also be a tool for managing our emotions, as we may become more able to identify our feelings, strengthen our emotional connection with ourselves, and soothe ourselves in times of emotional distress. Listed below are a few simple steps to practice self-validation in our own lives. 1. Become Mindful of Thoughts and Feelings. The first step towards practicing self-validation is to be mindful of our own thoughts and feelings, and mindfully observe these. It is important not to judge or try to push away these emotions, but accept that you are experiencing them in the moment. You may realize the thoughts you are having are irrational, however, validate that they exist and are powerful in the moment. Try to fully experience these feelings that may come up, and locate them in the body, if possible. 2. Practice Self-Validating Statements. After acknowledging and mindfully accepting our emotions, it can be helpful to practice self-validating statements that affirm our own worth. Below are examples of some statements:  It’s normal to feel this way.  My feelings are valid.  This is hard. What do I need to cope or feel better?  It’s okay to cry.  I’m making progress.  I gave it my best effort.  I’m more than my accomplishments or failures.  My self-worth isn’t based on other people’s opinions.  My feelings matter and I will listen to what they’re telling me. 3. Normalize Feelings. It is important to understand that everyone may become upset, sad, or anxious sometimes. Emotional reactions are a natural part of life, and attempting to suppress or trying to not feel emotions may do more harm than accepting emotions as a part of life, and normalizing our own emotional experiences. Put simply, it can be more beneficial to acknowledge our feelings, accept them, and allow them to be there rather than pushing them away or invalidating ourselves. By Jade Caswell, MA, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

How to Self-Validate by Jade Caswell, MA

Validation from others is something we all seek, however, sometimes we forget that it is important to validate ourselves, and our own...

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The one constant thing in life is change. That doesn't mean we get used to it or fully embrace it, though. Here are 10 tips for coping with big changes in your life and coming out a better person for it. 1.  Acknowledge things are changing. Sometimes we get so caught up in fighting change that we put off actually dealing with it. Denial is a powerful force, and it protects us in many ways. However, stepping outside of it and saying to yourself, "Things are changing, and it is okay" can be less stressful than putting it off.  2.  Realize stress can even come from good change. Sometimes when people go through a good life change, such as graduating or having a baby, they still feel a great deal of stress—and even dread. Keep in mind that positive change can create stress just like not-so-positive change. Stress is just your body's way of reacting to change. It's okay to feel stressed even when something good has happened—in fact, it's normal. If you've just had a baby, talk to your doctor about possibly experiencing postpartum depression.  2.  Keep up your regular schedule as much as possible. The more change that is happening, the more important it is to stick to your regular schedule—as much as possible. Having some things that stay the same, like walking the dog every morning at 8am, gives us an anchor. An anchor is a reminder that some things are still the same, and it gives your brain a little bit of a rest. Sometimes when you are going through a lot of change it helps to write down your routine and check it off as you go. It's one less thing for your brain to have to hold inside.  3.  Try to eat as healthy as possible. When change happens, a lot of us tend to reach for carbs—bread, muffins, cake, etc. This may be because eating carbs boosts serotonin—a brain chemical that may be somewhat depleted when you are undergoing change (stress). It's okay to soothe yourself with comfort foods—in moderation. One way to track what you are eating is to write it down. You can either do this in a notebook or use an app. When you see what you are eating, it makes you take a step back and think about whether you want to eat that second muffin or not. (If you have a history of eating disorders, it is not recommended that you write down what you are eating.) Also notice if you are having an increased use of alcoholor other substances—your use can sneak up on you when you are under stress. 4.  Exercise. Keeping up regular exercise may be a part of the "keep up your regular schedule" tip. If exercise is not currently part of your daily routine, try adding it. Exercising two to three times a week has been found to significantly decrease symptoms of depression (Barclay, et al. 2014.) Even just walking around the block can help you feel better. (Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.) Remember, you don't have to feel like getting some exercise—just get out there and move. You'll find that many times your motivationwill kick in while you are active. 5.  Seek support. No one gets through life alone. It is okay to ask for help—it is a sign that you know yourself well enough to realize you need some assistance. Think of your trusted friends or family members. The chances are they are happy to help if you need them to watch your kids while you run some errands, or if you just need some alone time. There may a neighbor that has asked you for help in the past—now maybe you can ask them for help. Apps like NextDoor have been helpful for connecting neighbors. If you are thinking about hurting yourself or killing yourself, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or 1-800-273-8255.  6.  Write down the positives that have come from this change. Maybe due to this change in your life you have met new people. Maybe you started practicing healthier habits. Maybe you became more politically active. Maybe you became more assertive. Maybe the change helped you prioritize what is most important in your life. Change presents us with the opportunity to grow—and it's important to acknowledge how things have become better as a result.  7.  Get proactive. Being proactive means taking charge and working preventatively. This means you figure out what steps you need to take before something happens. Being reactive means you wait until something has happened and then you take action. Being proactive means you make an appointment with your doctor for a physical, because you know something stressful is coming up and you want to make sure you are in good health. It means becoming active with groups that help you realize that you can make a positive impact on the world.  8.  Vent, but to a point. Having a support group you can vent (let your feelings out) to can be helpful—to a point. If you and your support group are solely venting, that feeling of frustration can be contagious. Try gearing the conversation towards action—what can you do to make things better? When people brainstorm together, that creativity and feeling of hopefulness can be contagious as well.  9.  Back away from social media. When you are going through change, you may gravitate towards social media—maybe posting to your friends on Facebook what is going on in your life. First, make sure you are in a calm state when you post something—and also keep in mind that whatever you post never really disappears. Also, if you are comparing your life to your friends' lives on social media, remember that most people post only the "highlight reel" of their lives—not the stressful moments. This can give you a skewed view that everyone else's lives are going just fine. Everyone has battles they are fighting—it's just different battles with different people. Step away from social media if you are starting to compare your life to others.  10.  Give yourself a break. In a time of change, you may feel a little out of control. You may feel like you are not living up to your expectations for yourself. Remember that you are allowed to do less than what is humanly possible. Nothing says you have to function at 100 percent all the time. People make mistakes—it's one of the great things about being human. It's learning from the mistakes that really counts. And think about it like this: there are no mistakes, only good stories for later. Make a point to incorporate more laughter and fun into your life. Laughing increases dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins—and that makes you feel good (Yim, 2016). Laughing also decreases cortisol—a stress-producing hormone in your body (Yim, 2016.) Laughter can really be some of the best medicine. www.stephaniesarkis.com  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/10-ways-cope-big-changes?destination=node/1098312

How to deal with big changes in your life

The one constant thing in life is change. That doesn't mean we get used to it or fully embrace it, though. Here are 10 tips for coping...

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By Jade Caswell, MA As we move into February, 'the month of love' many of us may be thinking about what we can do to strengthen our relationship and ensure our love keeps growing. Thankfully, the Gottmans have done the hard work for us, and uncovered the following 7 principles to keep our relationships going strong. John and Julie Gottman are pioneers in the field of psychology, and have published numerous works on topics such as marital stability and relationship counseling. Below are their findings, after decades of research in their 'love lab' at the University of Washington. The 7 Principles for Keeping Love Strong 1. Understanding your Partner's Love Map This principle is all about understanding your partner's inner world- their hopes, dreams, desires, and fears. Asking open ended questions and approaching your partner with curiosity and a desire to truly understand them is one way to enhance your love maps. 2. Cultivating Fondness and Admiration This principle relates to expressing appreciation for your partner and ensuring that you do not 'take them for granted'; Simple 'thank yous' or expressing one thing you appreciate that your partner did for you on any given day is a great way to practice this principle. 3. Turning Towards One Another Reflect on how you behave during a conflict with your partner... Do you seek to avoid and 'run away' or turn towards your partner, communicate how you are feeling, and collaborate towards a solution to the problem? 4. Accepting Influence This Gottman concept refers to the pursuit of compromise in a relationship. Instead of engaging in a power struggle, couples who work together, 'accept influence' from their partner, and are flexible often have increased relationship success. 5. Create Shared Meaning Building on common experiences and having a 'shared history' with your partner enhances the fabric of a relationship and creates a more fulfilling partnership. Think about your own lived experience, as well as the shared story you are creating through your partnership. 6. Manage Conflict & Overcome Gridlock According to the Gottmans, conflict is inevitable in a relationship; however, how conflict is managed is the most important factor. Happy couples often focus on the positive aspects of their partner, instead of dwelling on the 'negative' or fixating on a problem. 7. Solve Problems that are Solvable This concept refers to compromise and collaboration when it comes to problems that are solvable in the relationship. Successful couples use such techniques such as self-soothing, gentle start-ups, repair attempts, and negotiation skills to come to an acceptable solution for both parties. If you read to the end of the list, congratulations!  You have started your Gottman education and can use these principles to strengthen your relationship. If you'd like more information or would like to start comprehensive Gottman Therapy with one of our Gottman-certified counselors, please call our office today at 813-335-9794 or email us at office@smctampa.com

Improving Relationships Using Gottman Therapy

By Jade Caswell, MA As we move into February, 'the month of love' many of us may be thinking about what we can do to strengthen our...

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