by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 29, 2016 counseling, educational, holidays, meditation, mindfulness, popular culture, psychology, psychotherapy, therapist, therapists, therapy, wellness0 comments
Our 4 Favorite Mindfulness/Meditation Apps
Its that time of year when stresses are high and the promise of a new year will start the search for which shiny tools and objects to help us reach our most Mindful and Meditation Zenned-Out Enlightenment. Our therapists have collaborated to compile a list of meditation and mindfulness based apps that we believe do a great job at assisting wellness seeking users in the creation of greater peace, clarity, awareness, and stress relief. The benefits of mindfulness and stress relief are a ten-fold and apps are an excellent resource to hone in on the merger of technology and wellness, here is what our therapists have come up with for you!
Headspace is a guided meditation and mindfulness app that offers users a variety of mediation styles to begin their practice. This is suitable for those who are interested in starting their meditation journey and gives the added benefit of graduation to various levels after having mastered each step. This app also has a feature to choose the kind of mediation that you are wanting to focus on with options such as anxiety and stress reduction or performance enhancement. User friendly and readily available in your app store. check it out at https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app
This is one our absolute favorites for helping the user foster greater mind-body awareness. In addition to various meditation settings we are also able to set reminders which sound an alert at various times through the day and then cue our attention to pausing and taking a moment to breath or to assess our feeling state. check it out at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mindfulness-app-meditation/id417071430?mt=8
This is an excellent tool for kids as well as teens and adults. With exercises and devices to enhance compassion and kindness this is an empathy building app that devotes itself to making the world a better place, one head space at a time. Additionally, this one is free, who could argue with that! check it out at https://smilingmind.com.au/
This is designed specifically for advanced meditators and mindfulness aficionados, the options are a plenty where you can choose to use music or without music, as well as options for chanting. What is especially helpful about this app is the option to track your heart rate, with the ability to slow the heart rate being one of the best benefits reported by long time meditators this hones in on the development of that stress relieving, longevity enhancing potential. check it out at https://www.sattva.life/apps
Mindfully, Meditated, and always yours,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh Team!
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenDecember 1, 2014 counseling, holidays, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
Holidays offer a time to renew hope as we become enamored with the sparkle of the glimmeringly bedecked pines and spruces in all of their exalted luster. The fa,la,la,la of Christmas carols blaring on the radio while baking cookies, pies, and perhaps even a bit of gingerbread to share with loved ones and guests. It’s the time of year when I want to hug a little longer in escape of the winter chill, and most importantly its the time to remember that dreams do come true. Do you want to restore your bounty of belief in magical goodness? This task is simple my friend, stare into the eyes of a young child and ask the age’s old question, “What do you hope that Santa will bring for you this Christmas.” Watch the delight and make a note of what should be placed high upon Santa’s list, maybe now you are beginning to remember that Christmas dreams do have a way of coming true. Beneath the rising crime rates, tendencies of avoiding intimately connecting with others, even deeper than our capacity for fear, we can believe in magic, we are able to be propelled by faith, we can marvel in miracles, we can offer kindness and exude love too. Just give it a try and notice what happens when with wide eyes and voices slightly above a whisper, you say “I think I heard something, is that Santa’s sled?”
We all know about broken hearts, loneliness and only one limited time span of life to live, but once again with the light displays and holiday party’s maybe we can allow ourselves to “catch the Christmas spirit” and drift along on the currents of hope and love for a while. When elves and reindeer whirl about the night air, it is indeed an act of true love to make hundreds of millions of dreams come true. Little ears stretch to listen for the sound of Santa lurching down the chimney or through the front door, only the crumbs are left from the feast of cookies serving as a token of gratitude for Santas affectionately hard work. Remember that feeling, the sheer delight of surprise and wonder as your feet flurried down the stairs on Christmas morning, and the excitement of brightly wrapped presents and piled beneath the tree. Every scrooge can have his day to embrace a little magic, love a little more, recall with a soft smile those early days when anything could happen, those days are now. It’s the day of year when we can eat cookies for breakfast and magic becomes reality. The snowflakes sparkle just a little more or maybe they reflect that twinkle in our eye.
You see, I believe in magic, I know that its as real as you and I for I have seen tear drops evolve into loving and exuberant smiles. I have seen hatred and ferocity in action, upon the news headlines, in the news feed, but I also know of random acts of kindness, a loving hand extended towards our brothers and sisters near and far. I have seen greed and thirst for material objects, tight fists grappling with stacks of paper money but too I have seen boundless generosity and selfless investments of time and care towards the betterment of our human race and the earth. I have seen the dark days and felt the chill of December’s air but I too know the exhilaration of a well-placed ray of sun upon the skin. Maybe too this is what this Christmas time means in its distilled and essential version, all of the gift giving and frenetic purchases, we want to believe. We want to believe in others as pillars of goodness and ourselves as givers of happiness, mounds of good cheer. We want to elevate our neighbors and friends to the fullness of bright smiles, we want to believe in love at first sight, in tradition, in hope, in the birth of merciful demigods, in salvation, for we can see it now, with the coming of the lights and the scent of baking cookies, pine freshened air, it’s with the wrapping of the bows, and the long embrace of hugs, the outstretched warm hands to hold, yes, yes, I remember now, we believe, the Christmas spirit is here…
In Holiday Hope and Love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Couples Therapy
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 25, 2014 counseling, holidays, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
Oh its the holiday season and if you’re like me then you may have already started to take note of perfect present options for the people on Santa’s list. Some of us are extremely adept at choosing excellent and meaningful gifts for everyone on our list without even breaking the budget, understanding the person enough to project what they could enjoy or want is a skill. By the time I was a teenager I had caught on to my grandmother’s tactic for unfailingly choosing an excellent gift. Around September or October as Sunday dinner was wrapping up, she stood her vigil at the counter placing the dishes in their places, she would drape the kitchen table in lots of advertisements and suggest that we go through them. Nanny would pretend to only half hear while my sister and I perused the pages of toys and games, the objects which drummed up the most aghast and emphatic squeals always found their way under the tree. Nanny is a great gift giver indeed. While we express gratitude for each gift that is given and received, as it truly is a privilege to be able to exchange presents, still there is no harm in wondering, what is it that separates the excellent gift from the things that find their way to the rear wall of the guest bathroom? Low on my personal preference for wonderful gifts are envelopes of cash unless of course the gifter has asked for or made some overture that this would be a most enchanting and preferred present for them. Because when we consider it, the point of gift giving is to delight someone that we care about. On the inverse, a budding business mogul may especially enjoy a cash present by honing their tycoon skills turning the 50.00 into hundreds more! To delight another we must have an understanding of the person that we are gifting because we each come with difference preferences. Very high on my list of excellent choices for presents are activities or adventures. Anything which the giver and givee are able to do together. Let’s admit that most of us have more objects than we can even store and the acquisition of even more stuff may not really add any value or meaning to our lives. Yet the promise of time together and memories made does add that extra dose of joy. From hot air balloon trips for the thrill seeker, cooking classes for the domestic goddess or god, dance instruction, acting class’s for those who adore the spotlight. Activity presents are things that provide a jolt of joy and the promise of time spent together enjoying and growing together.
Handmade crafts are a great idea for children to partake in the blessing of giving and enhancing creativity, this allows them to participate in the holiday gift exchange without the thought of money. Adults too sometimes exchange handmade crafts, something that I would never attempt as I am not particularly skilled in painting, knitting, or collaging but kudos to you if you are! The sentimental are especially likely to be touched by a handmade gift. Personally I prefer to forget about finding out what someone “needs” for Christmas and instead consider what would they really “want?” What better way to delight the foodie on your list that with the food of the month clubs which are a great way to enjoy the holiday cheer all year long with such clubs as the wine of the month club to the chocolate of the month and even the salt of the month! This is perfect for those who indulge in sensual pleasures and are forever seeking new tastes to indulge. Finally we should always remember that while some enjoy the luxury of gift giving and choosing presents suited to each person on Santa’s list, there are others who may not be able to participate for financial hardships. For the social work student on your list may love a donation to a charity of their choice in their name. For the rest of us, finding great gifts which are within our means are the key to having a great holiday. Even if you’re not able to participate in gifting this year, then baking some holiday treats are an inexpensive way to share your love. That really is the message beneath all of the commercials and advertisements, to share in the tradition of bringing happiness to others during the December holidays. How do you bring yours? Happy Holidays, Stephanie McCracken MSPC Nicole Moneteleone LPC, NCC, NBCC Reviving Minds Therapy 1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 412-322-2129Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 11, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, holidays, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy0 comments
The holidays symbolize time to be close to those who we hold near and dear, the sentimental stuff of greeting cards, television series, and memories to be made. In later years we may recall the time that the snow fell 8 inches on Thanksgiving Day and Aunt Margaret perfected her best version yet of caramel apple pie, while baby Charlie was just learning to crawl. The Griswold style celebrations, the kind in which we run to each other with open arms to gleefully share in discussion of all of the incredible things that we have been doing with our ultra-successful lives. Stop, cut! Perhaps you are like many of us who struggle during the holidays, maybe it’s been a tough year or a tough life and thinking of the holidays fills you with dread. Just maybe there can still be some way to encounter some of the most common impasses in a compassionate and constructive way.
Often that relationship concern, family rift, lost job, death, or defeat has a way of haunting the landscapes of that which would otherwise be a charming holiday season. This ominous considerations often lead to a preoccupation with stress during the holidays, we balefully note the slipping away of our glittering joys topped with an extra serving of sadness for not being as happy as we expect that we “should” be. For instance, since the lay off at the office, you have not been feeling quite yourself and grief keeps you from even telling your perfectionist mom about the loss. Yet with thanksgiving it will now become impossible to avoid the situation and anxiety is heightening with each approaching day. Perhaps it is time to allow the people that care about you to be a support? It is often helpful to remember that we imagine others to be in ways that may be less of a reflection of them and more a reflection of us, mom may not become angry or critical when hearing our woes, look carefully at those parts of yourself which cause anxiety at the thought of revealing humanness and vulnerability.
Maybe you have a very small family, no family, a family that lives across the country and not enough of a work break or airfare to get there. For you, the holidays end up being a time of aloneness, in fact when your coworkers ask what you are doing for the holidays you always make up a story about being with Great Aunty Mildred, the shame in admitting the truth is most easily shrouded in deception. Instead you will be sitting inside watching ancient reruns of the Brady Bunch submerged in a dialogue of your general unworthiness towards companionship. Perhaps this could be approached differently, honest discourse demands courage from ourselves but it often opens doors, maybe even doors to holiday gatherings. Remember, although you may feel that you’re the only one alone on the holiday, you’re not, there are others who are in the same position. Maybe by summoning your inner Gandhi and “being the change you want to see in the world” and host your own “Friends-giving.” This is becoming a popular way to celebrate with others, particularly if done in the evening or the day after the holiday. If neither of those options sounds like a fit then accept the challenge of donating your time for the day towards helping a charity or creating something that you can donate with the idea in mind, “how can I help someone today?”
If your concerns aren’t about bringing together people but being surrounded with people who you have been seeking to avoid then read on. For instance, entering into grandma’s house, many hugs and hellos exchanged, the scent of crisp turkey skin intermingled with sage wafting through your nostrils as you see the infamous Aunt Carol approach. Your stomach lurches as you start to feel the anxiety coming on, she is that one family member who always criticizes everything that you do. In previous years “why aren’t you married, you will end up old and alone” “when will you have children, the clock doesn’t tick forever you know!” “why haven’t you been promoted yet?” and on and on, you end up leaving feeling simply terrible about yourself and no matter what you try to say in your meek defense she just doesn’t take the hint. Many of us know the type of meddling in which the inquisitor seems to be blissfully unaware of the sensitive nature of the questions which he or she is asking. With this sort of encounter sometimes it can elicit some compassion to remember that this person is reflecting to you their own inner dialogue and her misguided ability to connect with others in a welcomed and comfortable way. There may even be a bit of pity to think that this is how Aunt Carol has probably talked to herself all of her life and maybe some of the reason that she is here all alone. While it is hurtful to hear her litany of unwelcomed suggestions she may be trying to warn you of markers that she missed in her own life as often advice has more to do with the givers perceptions than the receivers needs.
Yet still a tiny thought for the all doing and typically matriarchal figure who may have wielded cutlery and cooktop for days to prepare this thanksgiving feast, with matching napkins and table centerpiece she has created a vision that would make Martha Stewarts jaw drop. Yet the cooking and the cleaning take so much attention that she ends up missing the togetherness of the day. For this sort of host or hostess, remember that everything doesn’t need to perfect and also to keep the gathering well within your financial means. It is easy to go overboard with tons of eats and treats and obsessing about the perfectly rendered pumpkin pie but the point isn’t to create to the point of stress and exhaustion but to enjoy each other in good times together. Step away from the turkey and have a seat, even if only for a bit, allow others to help as they will surely be excited about the opportunity to contribute to this day of thanks.
No matter where you are or what you’re doing our wish for you is to encounter something or someone which allows gratitude to unfold into you on this Thanksgiving and Holiday Season. Often we become confused by our seemingly unique life circumstance and would be best served to recognize that in experiencing our life situations we aren’t really as unusual as we imagine. With the hope that you too will enjoy this holiday season, gobble-gobble!
With an extra serving of love & mounded with hope,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
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by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 27, 2014 costumes, counseling, halloween, holidays, mindfulness, psychology, psychotherapy, sexuality0 comments
It is that time of year, high autumn, with the emblazoned oranges cascading upon the tree lines, carved pumpkins checkering the streets and yards of American homes. All of the store isles, featuring costumes of frightening ghosts and skeletons. We venture out to enjoy the pumpkin patches, haunted houses, costume parties and more the Halloween season is the first of our holiday celebrations. Yet by comparison Halloween is far different from the other holidays in tradition and practice. Its origins in Celtic and Gaelic traditions to honor the dead. Modernly for Halloween we maintain the deathly focus when we parade as any number of frightening and decrepit beings. Typically we nurture great distance from gore and death, often we are not as playful as our spirit may like for us to be. On Halloween we pay homage to our inner opposite. We display skeletons and zombies, we participate in ghost walks and haunted houses. During this very special time of year we allow to emerge these typically unconscious impulses towards fascination of the eternal sleep, blood and guts. It is a truth that just as we are composed of loving, caring, and altruistic impulses, our minds are also teeming with darkness, impulses of aggressive and sexual natures yet many of us may bury those considerations sometimes leading to unhealthy behaviors and feelings. For ourselves as well as the collective thinking and being of our American civilization it is vital to contemplate that which is normally distant from our minds, It was Carl Jung who said “I would rather be whole than good.”
Beyond the candy corn, Halloween provides the chance to glorify our inner shadows. For example, it is widely known that many women sport a “sexy______ costume.” Jenna Marbles does many skits on this, the librarian may masquerade as a bondage queen, and the conservative mother of two flaunts herself as sexy midcentury fairy. On this evening those of us who may be quite conservative in dress and sensual expression are allowing ourselves to accentuate a different part on our inner world, the sexy seductress. The seductress which may lay dormant during most of the other 364 days of the year, yet on the night of tricks and treats she will shed her skin and prevail. It doesn’t end with the sexy costumes, consider too the pocket protector wearing accountant, he may usually be quite shy but not for Halloween, he spends months in preparation for the night when he will become a cinema worthy zombie, complete with protruding eyeballs and missing limbs. What an excitement for him, to become the master of death and also to be in touch with that part of himself which enjoys the spotlight and fascinated attention of admiring costume party goers. Yet another great example of nurturing the inner opposite is Heidi Klum’s award winning 2013 costume where she disguises herself as a very old woman. I would speculate that it provides a certain sense of victory over aging for the stunning supermodel to create her own ancient self and don it proudly. There may be a part of her which is able to lessen some anxiety about the process of becoming older by being the master of it, at least for that night.
So perhaps before casting aside the costume wearing process as childish fun maybe we should all think again, after all, doesn’t everyone love candy treats? By practicing that which we have been doing for the last couple hundred years and allowing creativity to flow deep into our mind’s eye as we entertain the thought of what part of our inner being is often unexpressed? What do we loathe? What do we admire, what by expression can lead us towards wholeness? What will we be for Halloween??? Don’t let the skeletons and ghosts catch you! BWHAHAHAAHAHAHA!
In great fun and love, Happy Halloween!
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100