• Anyssa Grendel, BS, LMSW

Many of us struggle with difficult conversations, situations, relationships in the many roles we play as one person in this thing called life. We are someones partner, parent, friend...insert job title here and all that comes with that. The list goes on. We often go through the motions and pick up the pieces as we go. One thing I notice that is missing is true connection, deep connection with ourselves for one but those in our life.

Recently I have been taking a new approach to my life and in my practice and sharing it with you all. I have always tried to implement and coach clients in their life in how they communicate their messages. Cognition is the most significant factor in how we feel emotionally and physically and what choices and behaviors we choose to engage in. Every choice has an aftermath of consequences both resulting in positive or negative impacts. Insert positive self talk, be your own cheerleader, affirmations etc

Yes Yes this is important to forming a healthy mindset. What is mindset? Mindset is the habits of thoughts formed by experience. We all have habits some we would like to kick I'm sure. Easier said than done. Same with our thoughts. What habits are you forming with your thoughts?

Example: Maybe you have a break up, you are going to form thoughts around that breakup such as "I am never going to find anyone" or "I learned to honor myself more in my future relationships". These thoughts create more thoughts, hence habits of thoughts. Doesn't mean the break up was great or what you wanted at all, but as you see the second example was empowering, uplifting, and HEALTHY!

A training I took recently touched on the connections we make from the heart. How can we create more heartfelt connections. The Nurtured Heart Approach focuses on building resilience, character and energizes an emotional nurturing connection to a virtue with an action and while this approach is utilized in parenting and schools with children it is so much more than that.

We crave connections! Connections bring out Oxytocin hormones that exhibit love, joy and also help us deal with stress among many other benefits. A sense of community support whether family, friends, colleagues etc reduces stress, reduces depression and anxiety symptoms.

So how does it work? First we will recognize it on ourselves. Then with children.

Example 1: "First and foremost, life is hard, disappointing at times, unpredictable, overwhelming maybe but I see you showing up for yourself each day, giving yourself a new opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself, I see you making an effort. That shows me that you are driven, you can do hard things, you persevere and don't give up and make the most of everything which shows you believe in yourself, you know your self-worth."

Example 2: At home; Child coming home from school, placing backpack where it belongs and hanging coat up instead of throwing it on floor, making snack and cleaning up after themselves. Parent says "I'm noticing how you put away your things and cleaned up after your snack without me asking and that makes me proud because you have shown responsibility for your things and our home."

In school; On playground one kid pushes another kid, reports to teacher but doesn't push back. Teacher says, "Thank you for telling me and not pushing them back, when you could have you chose not to and to follow the rules of not putting our hands on others and that shows self control and discipline.

How are the above examples a heartfelt connection? We recognize an action or behavior and attach a core value/virtue of character in someone or ourselves. It's energizing, it promotes resilience but also promotes more of what I'm acknowledging in the first place.

Example 1

ACTION = Doing your best, Believing in self, Trying again/not giving up, Showing up, Making an effort + VIRTUE = Reliant, Determination, Flexible, Reverence.

Example 2 Home

ACTION = Cleaning up/putting stuff were it belongs + VIRTUE = Responsibility, Honor, Respect

Example 2 School

ACTION = Not hitting, reporting + VIRTUE = Self-control and Discipline, Understanding of rules, Respect

For more information on the Nurtured Heart Approach visit

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  • Anyssa Grendel, BS, LMSW

I often share with clients if stress were a person and walked in the room we would probably give stress dirty looks. When you think about your stressors, what comes to mind? Maybe it's your to do list of laundry, errands, appointments, etc or maybe finances, children, school, work etc. Whatever it is I can imagine when you think about your stress you don't think happy positive thoughts about it. You think negatively, helpless, overwhelmed, anxious and maybe you even repeatedly think about these stressful things and don't necessarily get much done do you. So what's the common thread here... Thoughts!

Here is the thing, most of our stress is related to our thoughts about stress. Our thoughts are super powerful, they are the driving force behind our emotions and our behaviors. The truth is stress isn't necessarily "bad". Yes, of course lots of stress is bad over time on our health but that's because we believe stress is bad. We think about the stress we endure in a negative, unhealthy mindset. We self doubt our abilities to manage our stress, we limit ourselves and doubt our problem solving skills.

When we think stress is bad, it has negative effects on our body impacting our overall health. But what if we thought about stress as something else. What if we noticed the effects of the stress response as something normal, helpful, preparatory. Well that is exactly what researchers looked at. We find that if we think stress is bad our blood vessels constrict and we all know that fight or flight state isn't good for our health. But researchers also found that if we think the stress response is not bad but on the other hand preparing me for a challenge to rise up to it and overcome it well then the blood vessels stay relaxed. They mimic what it looks like in times of joy and courage.

So in a sense our thoughts are actually the stress we experience. So if we change our thoughts about something it changes our physiological reaction in our body. It changes the way we feel and behave. It has healthier impacts overall. The power is in our thoughts!

Here is a Ted talk explaining the research more.

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  • Anyssa Grendel, BS, LMSW

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