Ask Adam: COVID-19 Related Therapy Questions (Part II)

Answering all of your pressing therapy questions in the comfort of your own home.

Let’s be honest, life is incredibly tough and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it tougher on us. With unemployment at 6.7%, pandemic fatigue hitting a new high, and our loved ones becoming sick with the virus, 2020 is not all that we expected- and 2021 appears to be its evil twin. I thought that it was only necessary to interview Adam on questions regarding our current global pandemic. Although Adam disclaimed that there is no “one size fits all” solution to every one of my questions, he helped me to share his guidance on some of the most common questions we are all wrestling with over the course of the pandemic. I hope that this dialogue will be as helpful to you as it was to me when I sat down with Adam for this interview!

Adam, have you seen an increase of patients during COVID?

b625d5e2796629128c2d64b2d7dc636f-removebg-previewYes. Speaking for myself and what my colleagues tell me about their practices, our client books have become very full. However, these sessions have had to be modified to adapt to our “new normal”. Primarily, therapy sessions right now are actually taking place on Zoom. From a therapist perspective, the more information you have of the person that you are working with the better, so video communication is generally preferred to telephone. For example, it helps a therapist to see physical signs, for example if a patient hasn’t showered in a long time, in order to derive meaning from the interaction. From a patient perspective, if a video call is better for the therapist, it will be better for the patient in terms of receiving guidance and attention. Phone sessions are also completely fine if video isn’t an option or isn’t tolerable to a client! Whatever both you and your therapist agree on and are comfortable with is always the right way to go. 

What are the main topics on a lot of clients’ minds during the pandemic?

There are a few things that my clients are concerned about right now some of them being an increased sense of job insecurity, concerns about getting sick and even dying, and worries around the repercussions of losing a job or family member. Tangentially, people have been thinking about their pasts a lot and reexamining their current relationships, given that so many people have more time to reflect on these aspects in their life. Marital and relationship problems have arisen, since people have been living in such close quarters. Some of my clients in their time off, for example, have also even wanted to talk through instances of childhood abuse that have been suppressed. It’s amazing that, when we stop to reflect and process, so much can become unraveled that we don’t even know we are suppressing. 

How would you consult people that have anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and are even afraid to leave the house? 

968073__39661.1564753443-removebg-previewFor people who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD, the best treatment is a combination of medication and therapy. Medications are not by any means cure alls, but they can make all the difference for many folks. Exposure therapy is also a great treatment for OCD, however, the troubling part of exposure therapy in this case is that the effects of getting COVID-19 are very real. In other words, having an extreme fear of germs is quite adaptive right now, so we certainly wouldn’t go for a walk and touch railings. I think that the most important thing, overall, is for those suffering with extreme anxiety or OCD to recognize the issue that they are facing and being open to treatment of some sort. 

How do you combat pandemic fatigue?

EntrelacKnittingTutorial1-ef838add67064bceb8b12a43ce1973d6-removebg-previewI recommend people can get outside if they can to take walks and be in the fresh air. If being social is something that you are struggling with, try to join a pod with others you trust, such as neighbors or close friends you can see on a more consistent basis. If that isn’t an option, make a point to check in regularly via Zoom or over the phone with friends and family. Zoom fatigue is definitely real, but it can make all the difference seeing those we love over just hearing them. I personally make it a point to make eye contact and say hello to those that I see out on my walks. It is easy to hide behind your mask, which is why engaging even in the smallest ways can make the most difference. The pandemic has also presented a great opportunity to try new things or do something that you have been putting off because you couldn’t find the time. Make learning a new skill a priority by setting aside some time in your calendar. Practice knitting, learn how to play the guitar, or speak a new language. Time is on your side. 

What are some strategies for not seeing an end?

What helps me to have hope is doing a historical analysis. We have overcome pandemics before and we didn’t have a fraction of the resources or knowledge we do today. Vaccines are here to help lower the rate of infection and spread, but it’s going to take educating people on the vaccine to ensure its effectiveness. Help is on the way! We just have to have patience and hope for the future. 


About Dr. Adam Brown

Follow Adam on Twitter @adamofbruce

Screen Shot 2020-12-13 at 2.15.18 PMAdam Brown, Ph.D. is an assistant professor at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, City University of New York and a psychotherapist in private practice. His research has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including “Children and Youth Services Review,” “The Journal of Interpersonal Violence,” and “Sexual Abuse,” and he is an invited presenter multiple times annually at clinical and scholarly conferences internationally. His research has been featured in Rueters, Yahoo!, and Fox news, and he has appeared as an invited expert for comment on events in a variety of media outlets, including for “The City” in New York City, and the “Shanghai Media Group” (SMG) in China.

Dr. Brown is an expert consultant for Park Dietz and Associates in Newport Beach, CA, and a consulting clinician at the Institute for Sexual Wellness in Weymouth, MA. He received his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and his Master of Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work.


Stay tuned for next week when Adam answers more pressing questions on therapy, life, and navigating our world’s current challenges. 

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Ask Adam: Finding a Trusted Therapist and More (Part I)

Answering all of your pressing therapy questions in the comfort of your own home.

For Dr. Adam Brown, the path towards receiving a doctorate at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and becoming a consultant, professor, and licensed clinical social worker was anything but straight. 

When Adam graduated from Colby College with a degree in English, his goal was to become a professional working actor. With this in mind, Adam moved to New York City, Boston, and finally to Los Angeles in order to chase his dream. Shortly after arriving in LA, he also began performing stand-up comedy and eventually working as a comic. Approaching 30 years old, Adam began to reevaluate what he was striving for, imagining his future working in the industry. To Adam, it boiled down to becoming famous and acquiring the privileges of those with whom he rubbed shoulders. Thinking about it further, having known members of the rich and famous personally, Adam did not see them as any happier than he was. Adam realized that even if he did achieve the fame he was looking for, it would only make him more unhappy if he didn’t feel fulfilled internally. 

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Adam soon packed up and moved back in with his mother in Rhode Island, taking a job from his uncle who owned a construction company. In taking this job, Adam had access to health benefits which he used to pay for psychotherapy, hoping it would help him in figure out his next steps in life. To Adam’s surprise, the therapist recommended that he come more than once a week, his visits turning into regular occurrences 3 to 4 times a week. Adam cites his experience in therapy as being such a transformative time that it helped him to realize a lot about his priorities, perspective, and values. More than that, Adam saw himself as being interested in doing the work of his therapist. 

Adam felt compelled to go back to school, attending Smith College School for Social Work to get his Masters of Social Work (MSW), which has an outstanding reputation for training psychotherapists. After Smith SSW, Adam worked at a foster care agency, which had an opening for a clinician to work with kids as a psychotherapist. Through this experience, Adam worked with many children and adolescents that committed sexual offenses. Adam became troubled by the way in which the system treated the youth, as perpetrators more than victims, and found that he wanted to become part of the solution to the systematic problems that he saw.                                                   

With that in mind, Adam went to get his doctorate at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Now, Adam is a professor of clinical social work at the Silberman School for Social Work Hunter College. He is a sexual abuse prevention researcher who focuses his research on youth and young adults who have committed acts of sexual harm. Adam also has clients that he sees regularly for general therapy. 

It is safe to say that Adam is the expert when it comes to social work, which is why I have enlisted him to answer some therapy questions on the blog. So, let’s jump right into it. 

How do you know that you need or should see a therapist?

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Everyone in some way could benefit from seeing a therapist, but some specifics include individuals that could need help getting some perspective, are stuck in a job or a relationship, it could be anything. Going to therapy is not going to solve your problem, but it will shorten the process- maybe even shave off some years if not months. It is all about getting you somewhere where you are already headed in terms of problem solving. A therapist does not give advice, they really help you ask yourself the good questions to enable self-discovery. 

What are things you look for in a good therapist? What makes a therapist a good one? 

Even though it’s hard, it is really important to take at least two to three sessions to decide how you feel about your therapist. A good therapist will encourage you to do that and shouldn’t make you feel that you are pressured into seeing them. Therapy is such a personal journey, if you are uncomfortable after the first session, it may be that the therapist is pushing you to confront the tough questions. It might be a good test to say to your therapist on your next visit “I almost didn’t come back because… XYZ reason” and see how your therapist reacts to this statement. If you feel ashamed, sad, uncomfortable, or don’t want to tell the truth to your therapist, that is a different story. Then, you should consider looking for another therapist. 

It is a therapist’s job to provide a “holding environment” for you, where even if life is uncomfortable you feel like you are in a safe place. 

What is the average duration of a relationship with a therapist?

It really depends on the presenting issues and on your readiness. If you come to a therapist with a very specific and identifiable issue or goal to address things might take a shorter time, like three months. It is more common for therapy to last a year or longer. Sometimes, many years. There is really no definitive way of knowing when you start. 

What is the best way to prepare for a therapy session?

To not prepare. You really need to go in and be ready to be yourself in a therapy session. When you first arrive, your therapist is going to say things like “how can I help you” or “what brings you here”, don’t over think what it is you are supposed to be doing there. If you have a specific goal in mind then that’s always great, but there is no need to “prep” necessarily. 

What are some resources you recommend for people that are looking to seek help?

If you have a very specific issue, a good place to start can, surprisingly, be Google. You can use your zip code to find support groups and specialists in your area of need oftentimes. Most of the therapists I know have a page on www.psychologytoday.com. I don’t have a page there now because I only work on a referral basis, but if I were going to accept more clients, I would. Another place to find a therapist is to ask a friend that has been in therapy. In some cases, your friend’s therapist could talk to you about what’s going on and act as a referral. 

If you are not ready for in person therapy, there is online texting therapy. 7cups.com, betterhelp.com, and talkspace.com are good ways for people to dip their toe in. You can pay one month at a time and see how it goes. 

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For resources, Brene Brown’s podcast “Unlocking Us” could also be a great resource. She talks about many things related to mental and behavioral health that most folks can relate to. Additionally, these are books I always recommend to those I work with:

“How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. This book provides really wonderful models for having difficult conversations and how to engage with people that are typically hard to engage.

“Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen, and Roger Fisher is also an incredible resource.


Stay tuned for next week when Adam answers more pressing questions on therapy, life, and navigating our world’s current challenges. 

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Hugh Thompson on Becoming a Doctor during COVID-19

Hugh on answering the call to step into the field of medicine.

Entering into the field of medicine is a noble act, which only very few are cut out for. Hugh Thompson, however, is just one of those people that was born to practice medicine. Having grown up visiting and engaging with doctors, Hugh knew that he wanted to impact the world in the same way that medicine had impacted his life- for the better. Hugh’s story is not one without its challenges, but one that is inspiring because of its challenges. If you have ever considered becoming a medical professional, this article is definitely for you. If you are interested in the field of medicine and healthcare in America, this article is also for you. Hmm… if you have ever seen a doctor, this article is just for you.


Screen Shot 2020-10-27 at 3.16.32 PMHugh, tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hello everyone! First of all, I want to say that I am truly honored and humbled that you would ask me of all people to chat!

In terms of a little bit about me: I graduated from Wake Forest University in 2017. After graduating, I moved back home to central New Jersey for 3 years to build up my resume and save up a little bit of money before going to medical school. During those 3 years, I volunteered as an EMT in my hometown as well as worked as a scribe in the Saint Barnabas Emergency Department, ultimately becoming the ‘lead scribe’ for the final 2 years of my time there. I was offered an acceptance at New York Medical College in Westchester County, New York in the Spring of 2019 with a deferment – meaning that instead of starting in the fall, I would start in the fall of 2020. And here we are!

What made you decide to go to medical school?Screen Shot 2020-10-27 at 4.37.24 PM

I can’t say there was one of those “ah-hah” moments that made me decide to want to pursue a career in medicine. For as long as I can remember, having the opportunity to care for others has been something I have wanted to make my life about. I was born with a genetic condition that meant I was around medicine quite a bit as a child, and what child wants to be in hospitals or at doctors offices? One of the moments that has stuck with me that represented the power that medicine can have on an individual arose from one of those trips to the hospital. 

Preface: I am incredibly lucky to have parents who stopped at nothing in their pursuit of ensuring that I received care from world-class practitioners of all sorts, and for this I will forever be grateful. After a variety of hospital trips, tests and the like, my mother ultimately settled on following up with a physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. We had only been there a couple of times and I was probably only in 5th or 6th grade when I was visited by another practitioner during my regular visit. I was- and still am- a huge baseball fan, and I must have had a copy of Sports Illustrated with me, because the practitioner noticed and told me that he couldn’t wait to see me playing third base for the Phillies when I got older.

Now, my condition has never been life threatening or even significantly debilitating, but it does ensure that playing sports at more than a recreational level is not really possible for me- and this is something that that practitioner would have known. Nonetheless, the fact that someone like that took the time to express interest in me and in doing so, communicate a genuine and profound kind of empathy was an incredible confidence boost as well as an eye opener for me. I am sure that the practitioner doesn’t realize the kind of impact such a small statement made, as there was no way for him to have known that the child he engaged in was at the time having self confidence issues. I am less sure whether that practitioner was consciously aware that his positivity and empathy made more of a difference in my care than any medicine could have. Either way, having had the time to reflect on my experiences as a patient including moments like these, I have come to realize that it is positivity, a smile, even just a shared interest with a patient that can change a persons day, week, or life. By definition, for a patient to be a patient, something likely has gone wrong and the patient has made the decision to entrust their vulnerability to said physician. This trust, this faith in the physician’s ability, this hope that is inextricably linked to the patient-provider relationship is a privilege, and personally I can think of no higher honor than having the opportunity to improve the lives of others through medicine. That is all just a long way of saying that being able to possibly impact someone in a similar manner as I was has been a dream of mine for quite a while. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted how you view medicine and the healthcare industry at all?

Screen Shot 2020-10-27 at 4.38.39 PMI was able to witness the work that emergency providers put in during the height of the pandemic in our area firsthand and it was truly inspiring. To watch providers of all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs band together to fight for our communities made me wish I was through medical school and able to fight with them. From my viewpoint, Saint Barnabas never reached the depths that many hospitals in New York City experienced, but we were pretty overrun and hard hit nonetheless. Single use masks were being rationed and reused several times over. The hospital was out of hospital beds, almost out of ventilators, and short on capable providers. A lot of the providers weren’t allowed to return to their homes while they were in the middle of the pandemic, at the risk of infecting their loved ones. And yet, everyone came to work day in and day out, ready to fight with and for every single patient that came through the doors. I can honestly say that being able to witness the compassion, resilience, and strength of the providers at Saint Barnabas Medical Center was one of the most inspiring ‘moments’ in all of my living memory. So while the pandemic has been saddening on many levels, it has reinforced my faith in and desire to be a part of the medical community.

Is there a lot of discussion in the classroom about the pandemic and, if so, what is the conversation about?

Honestly, there has not been quite as much discussion in our academic classes regarding the pandemic so far. However, I have no doubt that once I transition into our classes regarding disease processes, the SARS-CoV-2 virus will get plenty of airtime in our lectures. 

Laboratory_art_print_cimestry__laboratory__vintage_science__flower_print__wall_art__vintage_print_on-removebg-previewI will say that beyond the classroom, the pandemic has definitely been a significant talking point. The school itself seems to have made concerted efforts to address how the pandemic and all of its side effects (isolation, Zoom classes, etc.) has affected us as students. Specifically, my school has what is called the “Resiliency Curriculum Committee” which existed even before the pandemic as a means for training the medical students in healthy emotional and psychological choices. I obviously cannot speak to what the topics covered in prior years Resiliency Curriculum were, but the discussions during the small group sessions this year have had a distinct COVID-19 pandemic flavor, which I think is extremely important. The pandemic is the elephant in the room here: a year ago, it would have been absurd to think that students would be attending lectures given by professors sitting in their home offices. To that end, the fact that the school wants to address how this is affecting its students and try to guide students through such a stressful time is something I appreciate. 

What is one thing that you wish you knew before you committed to going to medical school?

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Hugh along with his co-workers

I can’t say there is a particular piece of advice that would have changed how I did things. The one thing I find myself wishing for was an advisor – none of my family are involved in medicine of any kind, so at times I did feel as if I was flying in the dark in terms of building my resume for medical school. I never knew what types of jobs to apply to, when to take what classes or tests, how to make myself a better applicant, etc. The pre-health advisory system at my undergraduate college was great – they were more than happy to provide specific answers to many of my bigger questions, but because they were dealing with literally hundreds of students, there was really no way to go to them with little questions or concerns. I ended up relying on the two or three of my friends that were also planning to go to medical school for guidance, and I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today without their patience and advice so I am lucky and grateful to have them around (shoutout Ryan and Mike!).

What excites you most about medicine in general?

Screen Shot 2020-10-27 at 4.40.18 PMHmm, thats a great question. At the risk of sounding like a nerd, I am super excited about a lot of the science behind medicine. It is truly amazing how ‘well designed’ and finely tuned the human body is. And then when things go wrong, the creativity that scientists and physicians have implemented in coming up with solutions and treatments is incredible. Being able to spend the rest of my life learning about all of this and implementing it to help patients is super exciting. 

That being said, the reason I wanted to go into medicine is for the people. I love people and their stories, and medicine provides a great way to simultaneously build relationships with a huge range of people, while also having the chance to positively impact the lives of those people. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur when it comes to being able to ‘fix’ everyone’s medical issues. I realize that often, physicians do not have the answers, can’t solve the problem, or have to be the bearer of bad news. But where I feel that physicians make an impact is in how they are able to handle these types of moments. I recently finished reading both Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, and one of the sentiments that really stuck with me from those books was the importance of physicians in speaking candidly with their patients, no matter how uncomfortable it may be at the time. Being able to help guide patients through these tough moments is just one of the ways that I hope to be able to make an impact down the road, and it is these types of moments that I am excited to play a role in one day. Though admittedly, I could go on and on about everything I am excited about with regards to becoming a physician… 

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone interested in going to medical school?

Don’t let anything stop you. If you know that you want to be a physician, you can become a physician. 

So many people get discouraged by the amount of work that the application process takes: the pre-requisite classes during undergraduate years, studying/taking the MCAT, school application essays or fees, or any of the other barriers. If you want it bad enough, none of that matters. Hard work and passion for the field of medicine are the single two most important factors in getting into medical school, because they will always help you overcome the barriers that are put in place. 

One last thing on this question: one of the best physicians I have had the pleasure of working with applied to medical school 3 times and had started podiatry school before he was ultimately accepted to medical school. 

My Journey as a Runner

Not all races end at the finish line.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I recruited my friend Lance, an incredible human and marathoner, to give you his expert tips for beginner runners!

I have always loved running since I was little. I remember being one of the fastest kids in Elementary School and every year appointed the captain of the girls relay race at our annual field day. Sprinting was a strong suite of mine, which got me involved in track and field and field hockey when I entered High School. However, it wasn’t until I was a Junior in High School that I decided that I wanted to run cross country. The supportive environment of the team was something that I always loved, despite the sport being relatively individualistic. Running these long distances was something that I was never proficient at, but I knew that I wanted to push myself- if I was able to compete on the team I would be showing myself that I was capable of doing something I had never thought I could do. A few races into the season, however, I was out of commission. At one of our 5k races, I left the start line feeling O.K., pacing myself and focusing on my breathing. Yet, as I entered the middle of the race, I could feel a sharp pain in my left ankle, as I was entering the steep woods portion of the race. What I thought was mere tightness in my ankle, I would later find out was a stress fracture in my left Fibula bone. I was out for the season after that, having to walk in a boot for several weeks. I remember dreaming of running again every day I drove past our school’s vast fields going to and from school. 

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Upon entering college my Freshman year, I remember the gym as being a place of solace for me. My college gym had an indoor track on the second floor that I would frequent and found an immense stress relief. Whenever I felt bummed about not having plans on a Friday night or could feel my anxiety creeping up on me, I would shuffle my way to the gym for a run, music blasting on high. Sometimes, it was the only way that I could make it through the week- a way for me to just be present. When Sophomore year rolled around, I became incredibly busy with a new on-campus job and friends that I put off my regular running for a bit. Yet, when my anxieties ramped up again Junior year, I knew I had to return to my running for some much needed sanity. But, I needed a way to stay committed. I decided to sign up for the New York City Marathon, something that I never thought that I could do, but was on my bucket list. I began training in January of 2019, knowing that I would need a head start if I was going to complete this thing. I spent hours training, going on runs in the pouring train, indoors on the track, and outside in the Boston Spring air. As the summer came, I was really hitting the ground, coming home from my internships in New York City to run in the summer heat or running along the West Side highway after work. I went from barely being able to run over two miles without stopping, to running eight miles in one shot. I became the runner I never believed I could be. Until I hit a wall. After many bouts of heat stroke, constant stress in trying to balance my two internships, and an ankle injury, I knew enough was enough. I was going to have to put my dream of running the New York City Marathon on hold that year. I would complete the marathon at another time, and that would be O.K. 

06D70FBC-F6C3-4BCD-A1E8-3BF3AF7D5816I share my story because I want you to know that, even if you think that they can’t, you can become a runner too. Even during my runs, I would question how I could be doing all of this running. How could I mentally, physically, and emotionally get up and run almost every day? But, I just did. Forcing myself into my workout clothes also helped!

It is important to recognize that any progress is some progress. Every run of mine was hard in some way or at some point, which is a reality that is important to grasp. If you know that at some point the workout will be hard and you will want to quit, it becomes an inevitability that you know will pass once you get over that wall. And once you do that is where the magic is. Sometimes I would surpass that mental wall and find myself being able to run for miles- feeling a “runners high” that was altogether unexplainable. 

It just starts with one small step, then a leap, then a jog.

 

Here are some tips that have helped me:

  • Remind yourself that you will hit a “wall” on your runs- acknowledging this is half the battle. Once you get over the “wall” of sluggishness you will feel amazing. You have to convince your body that you are deciding to spend your energy and calories on this run, the sluggishness comes from your body wanting to preserve the energy and calories you are spending. Basically it’s your body asking “Are we really doing this?”. 
  • Get a fanny pack to store your phone and keys while you run. They are way better than arm bands, as the weight is equally distributed to your center. 
  • In your mind, set a goal before you start and commit to it, you can surpass the goal or slightly modify it, but try to stick with it every time.
  • Keep track of your progress, this will motivate you when you are feeling down and show how much you have accomplished so far.
  • Share your progress with someone that can celebrate the small wins with you.
  • Take it slow, progress in running can take a long time and ramping up too much in the beginning will only lead to discouragement and injury. 
  • Get good running shoes, the less that is inhibiting you from being comfortable, the easier it will be to get out there and run.
  • Find a go-to song that will get you hyped up and energized when you are feeling sluggish in the middle of your run that can activate some much needed energy to help you get through. 
  • The best thing about running is that you can always convert the run to a walk and still be exercising, its O.K. to slow down sometimes when you aren’t feeling too hot.
  • Go for time not for milage if you are aiming to run long distance. My goals were running for an extra 5 to 10 minutes at a time, slowly increasing as I was able to run farther. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I recruit my friend Lance, an incredible human and marathoner to give you his expert tips for beginner runners!

Jenna Willis on being a Personal Trainer to the Stars

From actor to personal trainer, Jenna keeps fit and her clients fitter in sunny California.

Jenna Willis is a Jersey girl, born and raised, who grew up with three older brothers. With familial competition running deep in her veins, Jenna notes that athleticism was not a choice for her. While attending college, Jenna was the shortest Division 1 collegiate volleyball player in the nation, a credit to her natural knack for sports. However, Jenna involved herself in competitive sports as much as in theater and dreamt of becoming an actor one day. Jenna’s pursuit of professional acting led her to ultimately move to California to chase her dreams. 

Working as an actress in Los Angeles, Jenna never abandoned exercise and used it as a coping mechanism to deal with stress and anxiety. She mentions that exercise was especially crucial for her when she was dealing with a difficult break up a few years ago. Jenna began exploring strength training and lifting more during this time, which helped to strengthen her body and clear her mind. As Jenna’s career took off and she was able to book more jobs in TV and modeling, she noticed that she was also attracting greater attention in the gym. On three separate occasions, Jenna had fellow gym-goers ask her for help with fitness techniques, using machines, and targeting parts of their body. Jenna took this as a sign that all of her dedication to fitness had led to a greater purpose: helping others achieve personal success in their health and wellness journeys. 

Jenna BandsImmediately, Jenna signed up for a course to become a certified personal trainer. Soon after, along with auditioning and booking acting jobs, Jenna started to train clients on the side in 2017, getting paid for what she loves to do. A win-win I would say! Jenna credits hard work and preparation in enabling her to be successful in her personal training business as well as the support she received from her friends. Since she started personal training, Jenna’s business has been growing tremendously, capturing the attention of celebrities like Tara Reid, Lala Kent, and Liza Koshy, all of whom she has trained.  

What differentiates Jenna from other personal trainers? Not many incorporate the mind, body, and spirit as she does, Jenna says. Jenna is adamant about the fact that what you see on the outside is only a fraction of what is important. The true magic is when the mind, body, and spirit are aligned in terms of healthy and holistic living. Jenna also wasn’t shy to mention that she is a natural goofball that isn’t afraid to show people who she truly is in front of her audience. Like all of us, she pokes fun at herself and embraces the awkwardness that can come along with working out. “We are all growing together. Fitness is not perfection” she states during our conversation, an important reminder for all of us to take to heart. 

IMG_5995 (1)Even before the COVID-19 pandemic started, Jenna was doing virtual training sessions to people all over the world, which has made her exclusive transition to digital so smooth. Yet, Jenna notes that her biggest motivation in starting her newest program “Don’t Sweat It Alone” was her lack of motivation in the beginning of the pandemic. Jenna was having a hard time getting excited about doing her training and couldn’t imagine that if she couldn’t get up and do some squats, what others must be feeling like. As a result, Jenna made a promise to show up, not only for herself, but for her followers by going live on Instagram with her workouts. Jenna received such positive feedback from doing those sessions, which motivated her viewers to get out of bed in the morning, that she turned the Instagram Live sessions into a regular occurrence. Jenna has since formalized “Don’t Sweat It Alone” into a virtual fitness and healthy living membership and community that is all online. Jenna goes live three times a week within the community, with workouts that are tailored to working out home with minimal equipment. Jenna also ends every workout with a meditation and brings in nutritionists and experts from across the fitness spectrum to talk on the platform. If you sign up for the program get ready for sweaty selfies, free giveaways, and a lot of plank rows and squat presses- two of Jenna’s favorite at-home moves! 

What has been the most challenging part of starting this venture of personal training? Jenna mentions that there is always going to be road bumps, but it’s figuring out how to pave them. Every time you take two steps forward, be prepared to take five steps back, but be motivated enough to make the leap forward again. “Trust the process” is what Jenna says, a mantra that we can all use to benefit from.


Want to get in on all that “Don’t Sweat It Alone” has to offer?

Head to the website and follow her on Instagram

Don't Sweat It Alone MONTHLY corp FLYER (1)

Advice on a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul during Quarantine with Christine Porr (Part III)

Self-care is important, which is why Christine and I have brought you our favorite ways to navigate the challenges of quarantine.

Time sure flies when you are having fun! We have finally come to the last post of Christine and my series on wholistic health during quarantine. It has been such a joy to share some of the things that we are doing to make this time more manageable and constructive. Christine is a wealth of knowledge and I am so happy to have collaborated with her on these posts- trust me I have learned more in these few posts than I have all of quarantine. This week, we talk about one of the most important aspects of our being: our spirit. Whether you are a religious person, spiritual person, or you are just going along for the ride, there is something nestled in this post just for you. 🙏

Spirit

Christine

  1. Find a quiet uninterrupted place, and set aside time each morning, noon, or evening to read the Bible and pray. I know I’ve had times when I’ve struggled with loneliness during this period, but it helps me to remember that I can find fellowship with God, anytime, anywhere.
  2. Identify an accountability partner to do a Bible Study with you. I recently did Breaking Free by Beth Moore with one of my friends. We each completed the daily studies on our own and then texted each other screenshots of the parts that challenged us most or just our general reflections on the content.
  3. Stay consistent with attending church, even if it’s virtual. Pour your morning cup of coffee, sit down, and prioritize this period of worship, as you would in person. If your church offers virtual connect hours and/or small groups, I would highly recommend attending these as well. Each Sunday morning, I tune into my church’s virtual service and then join the Zoom “coffee hour.” It’s been such an encouraging time of meeting new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and praying over our respective requests and praises.

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A few final thoughts. It’s okay not to be okay some days and to just cut yourself some slack. The world and our personal worlds are all in flux. Everyone is going through something. Don’t feel like you have to minimize your own experience because someone else “has it so much worse.” Take time for yourself and turn for support to family, friends, and most importantly God. He has the world in His hands and will always supply your daily bread, whether you anticipate it or not.

Ursula 

During this challenging time we are facing, getting in touch with our spirituality is super important, thanks for reminding us Christine! It is crucial for us to be able to clear our minds and find stillness, which can come through prayer, meditation, yoga, or some deep belly breathes. When we hold tight to things, it can only bring on more frustration and anxiousness. Sometimes it is best to just let go and see what happens. I have also found that talking it out with someone can really help bring light to the stresses I am facing. In doing so, I have felt that some of the things that I was so stressed about, were all made up in my head! I am no stranger to the fact that I often stand in my own way. It is important to find someone you can speak to and confide in to help with your mental well being. Trusted therapists, family members, and close friends are important people to have on standby that can help you to gain a new perspective, offer some helpful advice, and lend an ear. 

Calm and Headspace are two popular meditation apps that might be useful to you. Headspace’s Chief Music Officer is John Legend, so if that doesn’t spell success I don’t know what does!


My parting words? 

 
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The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on in this post are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this post.  If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), both of which are staffed by certified crisis response professionals, or call 911.

Carlos Brandt on Running his Podcast Dear Queer People and being Part of the LGBTQ+ Community

An advocate and trailblazer, Carlos is taking the world by storm, opening up the conversation around LGBTQ+ narratives.

When I first met Carlos, it was clear that there was something so special about him. Carlos is an incredible human, LGBTQ+ advocate, and entrepreneur that has a calm and gentle way about him. Carlos has taken the world by storm, working for RuPaul’s Drag RaceWerq The World Tour,” creating his own social media and branding company, and starting his podcast Dear Queer People, we wonder when he finds time to sleep! I am happy to call Carlos a close friend of mine and I couldn’t be more happy to share him with you all right here. I hope this post inspires you to change our world for the better and advocate for what you are passionate about, just as Carlos has.


Carlos, my long lost brother, tell us about yourself!

My lost sister, so happy to be connected with you and be part of your wonderful family.

I was born in Venezuela and raised in Spain. I grew up in a very Catholic family and always knew that I was different from others. When I was a teenager I accepted the fact that I was gay and came out to the world. I moved to New York City 3 years ago, fell in love, made mistakes, grew as a gay man, and have never turned back. I use my past experiences to motivate me to continue to learn and grow throughout my life. Here, I built a support system that I never had in my life and I met the greatest love that I could ever feel and see- the person which I experienced many ups and downs with that has allowed me to grow and learn the true meaning of love. Here, I built a company out of my passion for journalism and audio-visuals, in a place that is not my home country and proved to myself that I could. Here, I’m learning and shaping who I am. 

What the inspiration behind starting your podcast Dear Queer People and what is the podcast all about?

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Dear Queer People is a call to action, it’s a call to be better as a community and understand the whole spectrum of LGBTQ+. I started this podcast because I wanted to ask questions and know how queer folks navigate different aspects of life. Also, the podcast served as a way for me to save myself and put my thoughts out, to claim a voice and break from the stereotype of how I look. It was to show the world that I also have a brain, passion, and things to say.

The main purpose here is to inspire people to show up better and do more, for themselves and for our community- no matter who you are, where you are, or what gender you identify with.

I bring guests from all different background, from transgender to those who are disabled, to tell their stories. The purpose is to break the bubble you live in and realized that there is more to see and learn. 

What was some of the feedback that you received from the podcast? Was any feedback surprising to you?

So far it’s been both amazing and overwhelming. Folks from Japan, Russia, Africa, and Mexico have all shared their thoughts with me, explaining how listening to the show’s has inspired them to come out to their families or get involved with local organizations. It’s a great feeling knowing that what you produce is having an impact on someone somewhere in the world. 

Are there any stories that you have featured on your podcast that changed your perspective and outlook on life?

Every story is special, every voice that you hear in this podcast means everything to me.

Carson Tueller speaking about advocating for better disability laws in his local area and how he faces love and sex as a disabled gay man. Jake DuPree, a fantastic entertainer and actor, on how he learned to overcome his battle with depression and suicide to conquer his life. Every story is a hard conversation to have, but that is where the beauty happens, because that’s where you learn. Shequida Hall, Evan Katz Ross, and Jiggly Caliente, every story is unique, starting with my own.

You were recently featured in Out Magazine– congratulations! What was that experience like and what did the feature mean to you?

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It was very overwhelming. I wasn’t expecting anything and when I saw a two-page spread in the most important LGBTQ+ print and digital magazine it was a moment that was so honoring. Being a gay immigrant and having this type of validation that what I’m doing someway, somehow is right- it’s a very cool feeling. 

What is one thing that you wish more people knew about the LGBTQ+ community and the journeys of people within this community?

Be one community. We need to learn so much from one another and accept everyone within our community. From our trans brothers and sisters to non-binaries to value entertainers, it is important not to discriminate and create separations because of labels and stereotypes. It is my hope that some day this utopia will see the light. The fight continues!

What is a dream project that you would like to work on or collaborator that you would like to work with?

 A documentary and a coffee table book. Both are in my mind already, let’s see when I am ready to sit down and work them out, but, as for now, I’m calm, working on myself and taking one day at a time!


Where to find Carlos

Out Magazine Article: How Carlos Brandt Is Helping Queer Immigrants Tell Their Stories

Instagram

Dear Queer People Podcast

Advice on a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul during Quarantine with Christine Porr (Part II)

Self-care is important, which is why Christine and I have brought you our favorite ways to navigate the challenges of quarantine.

Yes, we are back with Part II and, yes, I got out of my pajamas. I hope everyone was inspired by last week’s post to go purchase a puzzle or read a new book! In this week’s post, Christine and I explore fun and interesting ways to stay active during this time when we are working from home, overwhelmed by the job search, or binging on Netflix. Mental, physical, and emotional health are so important, which is why we have shared some helpful tips to shake the off those quarantine blues using an infusion of endorphins. Before it gets too cold outside, make sure to prioritize that difficult venture from your comfy bed to your front door and get outside! Your body will thank you. Trust me, you’ll sleep better I promise. (Stay tuned for next week’s post on maintaining a healthy soul, our last of this three part series)

Body

Christine

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Take free virtual fitness classes to keep your body moving. I kept a pretty boring workout routine prior to quarantine but it’s been fun to switch it up and have someone else motivating me to stay fit.

    • Chrissy Stanley – LOVE the Barre and Abs classes! You will work up a sweat in 5 min (free on YouTube)
    • Bar Method Online – So many classes to try, ranging from 15 to 60 minutes in length. (14-day free trial)
    • Pure Barre GO – Kaitlyn is my favorite instructor! (7-day free trial)
    • Peloton Online Classes – I am obsessed with Kristin McGee’s yoga classes, but you can’t go wrong with any of them. (30-day free trial)

Get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Take a 10-minute break in between work calls to stretch your legs on a short walk, or go on a longer walk with family/friends after dinner- preferably with ice cream as your end destination ;). Make running fun by setting distance goals- 5K, 5 miles, half marathon, etc. You can even sign up for a virtual race with friends as accountability partners for training. Pull that bike out of the garage and find a nice neighborhood or scenic path to explore. Go on a social distancing hike with a picnic lunch. 

Ursula

BC29D0ED-4995-49D3-B38B-F96B61096346Like Christine, I have taken advantage of this newfound time to take a break during the day to go on long walks, bike rides, and runs. I find that going outside for an hour a day can really refresh my mind and provide a boost in my day. Although, I have found online workouts a bit intimidating, I have fell in love with 30 Day Ab. With this app, consistency is definitely key, but it only requires about 10-15 minutes per day- sometimes even less if you are feeling extra motivated- and I have seen pretty incredible results. I have also found that incorporating fun outdoor activities like badminton, which my family was obsessed with at one point, volleyball, and swimming can alleviate stress, promote some family bonding, and provide an equal amount of exercise to an online class or strict workout. 

Christine

Since many of us are eating out less than we normally would, this is a great opportunity to try out some new recipes (both healthy and indulgent because everyone needs a treat now and then).

Ursula

I have always loved cooking, however, over the course of quarantine I have felt less inspired to create in the kitchen. That being said, instead of trying new recipes out, I have stuck to making some of my tried and true favorites, which has helped me focus on being creative and productive.  

Christine’s Favorite Food Blogs

Ursula’s Favorite Quarantine Recipes

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Christine has shared a recipe of her own!


Christine’s Smoked Salmon Poached Egg Ciabatta Toast with Everything Bagel Spice Recipe

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 ciabatta rolls
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tsp dried dill (or to taste) + for topping
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • Tomato
  • Red onion
  • Everything bagel spice
  • 4 oz. smoked salmon
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 T. white vinegar

Instructions

  1. Stir together mascarpone cheese, dill, lemon zest, and lemon juice
  2. Cut 4 slices of tomato
  3. Cut 2 slices of red onion
  4. Put each egg in a small bowl of water horizontally
  5. Cut ciabatta rolls in half
  6. Toast rolls under broiler for 3 minutes
  7. Bring two pots of water to soft boil
  8. Add 1 T. white vinegar to each pot
  9. Slowly pour two eggs into the center of each pot and cook for 3 minutes
  10. While the eggs are cooking, spread mascarpone cheese on rolls
  11. Add 1 slice of tomato to each roll half
  12. Add 1 oz smoked salmon to each roll half
  13. Add red onion to taste
  14. Lift eggs out of pots using slotted spoon and put on top of rolls
  15. Add everything bagel spice and dill to taste
  16. Enjoy!

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on in this post are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this post.  If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), both of which are staffed by certified crisis response professionals, or call 911.

Advice on a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul during Quarantine with Christine Porr (Part I)

Self-care is important, which is why Christine and I have brought you our favorite ways to navigate the challenges of quarantine.

If anyone knows how challenging quarantine can be, it’s me. In college, I was used to being super productive, social, and on the move at all times. It wasn’t unusual for my Google Calendar to be filled with classes, Professor office hours, work, lunch meetings, dinner plans, and roommate bonding (I am looking at you season 5 of Love Island). However, my life at home in quarantine has come to a complete stand still. Therefore, it can be tempting to let my self-care take a backseat; who would know if I stayed in my pajamas all day or spent hours staring at a wall, overthinking the past few months where life was chaotic and busy? That being said, mental, physical, and emotional health should be top priorities to help us navigate this challenging and unprecedented time. I have enlisted my good friend Christine Porr, who is always someone I trust for life advice, to provide some insights as to how she has been staying in tip-top shape over the quarantine period. You’re a lifesaver Christine! (Stay tuned for next week’s post on maintaining a healthy body!)


Screen Shot 2020-08-29 at 6.16.39 PMI was born and raised in suburban New Jersey and apparently I liked it so much I decided to stay put for college. I graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Economics in 2018 and have been working in Human Resources at Barclays Investment Bank in New York City. When I’m not working, I’m usually cooking or baking in the kitchen, running along the Hudson, watching West Wing reruns, or exploring the City- namely ice cream shops- with friends.

Since COVID-19 hit, I’ve been spending most of my time in Midcoast Maine with my parents, discovering beautiful hiking trails and beaches and finding new healthy ways to occupy myself outside the hustle and bustle of the City. I’m not going to lie, it was a tough transition from the fast-paced city to the slow, laid-back rural environment, not to mention going from having a jam-packed schedule during the week and weekends to spending nearly 24/7 inside with few, if any, open establishments to visit. After a few weeks, I became intentional about prioritizing maintaining my mental, physical, and spiritual health. At this point, I would even go so far as to say that in some ways I think I’m actually healthier now than I was before quarantine. I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned in hopes that a few people find one or two of these ideas helpful in their own quarantine experience and beyond.

Mind

Christine

The number one thing I would say is stay connected with friends. The nice thing about quarantine is you don’t have to stick to scheduled meetings. Pick up the phone and give someone a call. Chances are they wanted to talk to someone too, and it’ll make their day. Also, keep your mind going by reading books or listening to podcasts. Check if your local library offers e-Books. I downloaded the Kindle app and Cloud Library app on my phone, and then read books from my library on them. I literally now walk from one room to the next in my house while reading, or even read while going on walks (probably wouldn’t recommend if you’re prone to walking into things…which ironically I am).

Favorite Books Christine Read During Quarantine

  1. Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff
  2. Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
  3. Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls by Lauren Graham
  4. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller
  5. Love & Gelato by Jenna Welch

Favorite Books Ursula Read During Quarantine

  1. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  2. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  3. The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay
  4. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
  5. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp

Ursula 

I could not agree more with Christine on the point of keeping in contact with friends during this time. Although it can be tricky- especially for me with friends located across the globe- make sure to schedule Zoom calls and FaceTimes with the ones you love! Texting, emails, and calls go a long way, but there is something different about seeing faces during this isolating time. Also, get creative with your methods of contact! I have sent hand written letters, açaí bowls, and gifts to friends and have gotten so much enjoyment in Face-timing my friends when they get my goodies in the mail. Like Christine, I have also had the time to sit down and read all of the books that I have been meaning to dive into. Thanks to my college’s virtual book club, I was also able to have a group of people hold me accountable for finishing each novel! 

Christine’s Go-To Podcasts

  1. How I Built This with Guy Raz
  2. Live to Eat by Candace Nelson
  3. North Point Community Church with Andy Stanley
  4. CCEF Podcast: Where Life & Scripture Meet

Ursula’s Go-To Email Newsletters

  1. Morning Brew
  2. Vogue Business
  3. Wall Street Journal
  4. Business of Fashion Professional

More on the mind…

Christine

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Learn a new skill (needlepoint, cooking, etc), language (try Duolingo!), or concept (browse classes offered by Coursera or any number of universities). Maybe even play a mentally stimulating game or do a puzzle! I love playing Scrabble, Big Boggle, and Codenames with my family, and they all definitely test my brain power. I also think I’ve now done close to 20 1000+ piece puzzles during quarantine. Does that make me obsessed?

Ursula 

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During this time, although I haven’t been as motivated to try new recipes, I taken some time to make my old favorites, including this banana bread, these muffins, this healthy snack, and this amazing grilled caesar salad. I have also taken the time to curate some playlists to listen to while on long walks, bike rides, or doing some work. Having some go-to things to do when I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed has helped me to manage the stress of quarantine. When you know what you like to do, you can easily turn a sluggish morning into a purposeful and fun one. 


The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on in this post are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this post.  If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), both of which are staffed by certified crisis response professionals, or call 911.