As a society, we take great pride in productivity. Often times when we struggle with emotional distress, we try and find ways to stay busy so we don’t have time to notice thoughts and emotions that may be causing us distress at the moment. 

There is tons of information on how we can increase our productivity and efficiency at work, in our homes, and in life in general. Unfortunately, as much as we like productivity, it may not be the answer when dealing with our emotions or mental health. 


Jon Kabat-Zinn

Many times when we are looking for ways to address mental health issues, we focus on “feeling better”. This can lead to the false perception that if we feel better, we must be better, which is not always the case. We can experience temporary relief from emotional distress related to mental health or life circumstances, but it does not mean the root or cause of our distress has been resolved. 

If we simply focus on feeling better temporarily, we may prevent ourselves from experiencing true inner peace. Many therapeutic exercises and practices are focused on short-term relief from symptoms. Sometimes this is useful, but may not be a long-term solution to struggles with may be experiencing. The best example I can provide is grief. 

The loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences we can have as humans. When experiencing grief simple tasks like just waking up or taking a shower can feel unbearable. In order to make it through the day, we find ways to distract ourselves from our thoughts and what we are feeling. 

While this is necessary and useful, it is also important to give our minds, hearts, bodies, and souls space to feel the emotions that scare us. There is a phrase “there is no around, but only through” and when it comes to our emotions and feelings that is often the case. 

Being productive can be a good thing and we all have to find ways to be as productive as possible in order to manage the million things we have going on at once. Balancing work, school, family, community, and self is not easy, and being as productive and efficient as possible can help us get things done. 

However, intentionally not doing anything and allowing ourselves time to sit with ourselves, our thoughts, and emotions can be one of the most productive things we can do for ourselves and our mental health

Buddhism refers to this as non-doing. I think this practice and challenging what we consider “productive” is a wonderful tool to support our emotional and spiritual well-being. 

The Complicated Issue of Prejudice.

Recently the topic of racism has come up frequently in my sessions with clients, which obviously is reflective of what’s going on in our society. There is a lot going on right now in our country related to this topic, and whether you feel impacted by issues related to race or not, we all live in the same society.

“Fish did not discover the water. In fact, because they are completely immersed in it, they live unaware of its existence. Similarly, when a conduct is normalized by a dominant cultural environment, it becomes invisible.”

Marshall Mcluhan

Within our society, our cultures, religions, and experiences differ; nonetheless, we all have been impacted by these societal challenges and struggles. I have seen how prejudice and discrimination seep into people’s lives without their awareness.

Sometimes they are the ones that are targeted through microaggressions, or sometimes they are complicit in supporting prejudicial and racist ideas without any awareness. I say this because we all have our own biases that we are not aware of.

Richard Schwartz, the developer of Internal Family Systems Therapy, discussed in his book of the same name that in our culture, we have been marinated with ideas that support many of the issues our society is confronted with and don’t even realize it.

I feel that it is important for each of us to be able to look at ourselves in a nonjudgmental, compassionate, and open-minded way in order to truly understand those parts of ourselves that we may not be aware of and how they impact us, the people around us, and the world as a whole.

When I was younger, I struggled with seeing the world as black or white, good or bad. As I got older and did work to address my internal struggles that shaped my views, I came to realize that the world and people are much more complicated than that.

Just like the issues of prejudice, racism, heterosexism, transphobia, and intolerance are much more complicated and multifaceted than we may acknowledge. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all hold biases and pretending they do not exist does not help ourselves or our society.

Dare to Risk

The first topic that came to mind when thinking about what I should write in this blog was “risk.” Taking risks was never easy for me, and fear stifled my growth as a person many times in my past (and sometimes still does). In my work with clients, I realized that reaching out for help can be risky. Allowing oneself to be vulnerable and share difficulties and challenges with another person can be risky. I know the fear of pain and being hurt oftentimes makes me think twice about taking a risk, even when not taking the risk may hurt more. I want to share a poem a good friend and colleague shared with me several years back that helps give me strength when fear tries to stop me from taking healthy risks in my life:

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place, your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To hope is to risk pain.
To try is to risk failure.
But risk must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

William Authur Ward

I hope this can offer you some strength when it is necessary for you to risk reaching out, laughter, hope, cry, or love. Taking these risks can be scary, but they are the very things that can make life joyful and worth living.