New Year, New Day, New Page!

Dr. Ngo Taffe, Ph.D.

I don’t know about you but 2020 kicked my butt! It deprived me of the joys of spending time with my loved ones, kept me dealing with the constant worry and fear of catching a potentially deadly virus, worrying about keeping my family and friends’ safe, job security, the ability to freely move around mask-less, and of course the inconvenience of running from store to store in search of paper towels and toilet paper!

And yet here we are! We made it to a new day, a new year. We get to leave parts of the past year behind and make decisions that will help shape this year. In the past year, we have learned that though many things are beyond our control, i.e. the pandemic, there are aspects of our life we can still mold and we can find joys in the little things. As we step forward into the New Year, let’s deconstruct the traditional New Year’s resolution. Consider some of the lessons we’ve learned:

Gratitude: In as much as the past year and for some, the past several years have been challenging, we made it to 2021! We get to see a new day and we have the opportunity to try something new, something different, to start over and for that, I am grateful. I still have the chance to get things right, to – like they say, smell the roses and see the first snow fall of 2021.

The Smallest things Matter: This year, I am choosing not to engage in any grandiose new year’s resolution. No promises to join a gym and go five times a week! No resolutions to lose 15 pounds! Rather, this year, I choose to listen to my body, to be kind to myself, to nourish my body, mind and soul. I’ll be more intentional about taking time to relax, to enjoy a nice meal with friends and family and to take the time to listen to and enjoy good music. 

Be Kind to Me: We all possess unique traits, skills and abilities that make us who we are. These unique traits helped us persist through the years and especially though the past year. And so, I plan to spend time focusing on these traits, perhaps honing a few of them and dusting off/rediscovering others. Concentrating on skills that bring me joy, letting go of conflicting thoughts and emotions and forgiving myself in areas I fall short.

Lastly, I will spend a good portion of my time Visioning – Dreaming of a time, after the pandemic when we can travel, mask-less and free! Where will I go? what will I do? A trip to the shores -exploring light houses? A trip to a thousand islands? A hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia? 

I know we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over. There will be stressors along the way, there will be challenges. But just as we did in the past year, step by step, breathe by breathe, heads down in gratitude and focusing on what’s to come, we’ll persist!

In solidarity,

Dr. Ngo Taffe

Holiday Hopes

The holiday season is upon us! Feelings of warmth, love and hope fill the air as we wrap gifts, decorate our homes and prepare delicious recipes all in an attempt to replicate the nostalgia of our childhood. The holidays can be a wonderful time for many–connecting with friends or family, listening to carols, and watching classic holiday movies–but for others, it can be a time of loneliness, family dysfunction, and financial difficulty. Especially this year. Whatever our situation, this year gives us an opportunity to make it memorable and start new traditions. If there is one good thing that has come from coviding [(verb): abiding in the time of the Covid] is that we’ve all been forced to slow down and take stock and determine our priorities. This applies to the holiday season as well. Let’s consider the following:

What are our priorities? What matters most to us? Is it giving to those we love? Giving to those in need? Connecting with family? Connecting with friends? Making memories? Following traditions? Only through thoughtful consideration can we determine what our priorities are and make intentional decisions about how we spend our time this year.

Why do we do what we do? Why do we feel the need to buy all 100 cubby mates a gift? Why do we attend that annual Christmas party where our boss gets a little too close for comfort (even if he’s masked…and why is he still our boss anyway?) Why do we go to Aunt Penny’s house when we’d rather be at Uncle Jim’s? Regardless, of the decisions we make, we need to know our why and own our choices. And if our why no longer makes sense, this can be the year we choose something different……………….. something quieter (or more raucous) ……………..something more enjoyable………..

Must we spend so much to feel good? Giving is a wonderful privilege but we want to have boundaries when giving. If we are giving beyond our capacity then we should ask ourselves why. Are we trying to impress? Are we hoping someone will like us more? Will we be even slightly annoyed or disappointed if we receive a pair of socks from the person we give $100 gift to? Will we struggle to pay our bills next month? Will we wake up with dread on December 26th? If we answer yes to any of the above (or similar questions) then we may want to take stock and make different choices.

Are there relationships we would like to repair? Perhaps we haven’t spoken to our brother (or insert your favorite estranged relative here) in years. Perhaps we recognize that fighting over that sweater really was not worth losing a friendship over. Or maybe we need to sit down and have a real heart to heart with someone we are worried about or by whom we feel taken advantage of? Whatever the issue, if we have relationships that need repair (and we feel confident in our ability to navigate them in a healthy fashion) then we might want to reach out and make attempts at fixing them.

Are there ways we can engage in better self-care this holiday season? Can we make a concerted effort to let go of the things we can’t control? Can we decide that we will not do more than we can handle? Can we free ourselves from the “shoulds” and “coulds” and commit only to what we can reasonably manage? Can we be sure to take care of our selves (light candles, take a hot bath, read a good book, watch a good movie) even if our time is limited? Self-care requires us to live with intention. We must intend to be good to ourselves.

Can we be grateful? This year has been difficult for many. But if we are honest with ourselves, it has been good in some ways as well. Can we find gratitude for our health and wellness? Can we find gratitude for the simple pleasures in life? Can we find gratitude for the simplified lifestyle that covid has required of us? Can we find gratitude for time with those we love? Can we find gratitude for the fact that 2021 is right around the corner? Lets find things to be grateful for as we contemplate this holiday season.

May we find the joy, love and peace we all desire this holiday season!

Warmest Regards,


What Does it Mean to Live Well?

We humans are an interesting breed. We grow, learn, accomplish, and meet a variety of developmental milestones throughout our lifespan. From the outside looking in, unless we are struggling with abuse, addiction, poverty or some terminal illness, most people will assume all is well. Many people in therapy will say things like, “I really have no reason to be depressed or anxious.” Yet, the rates of anxiety and depression continue to rise (this trend began even before COVID) and our youth tend to be struggling more than ever (thinking the rates of self-harm here). Some will blame technology, not enough structure, too much structure, the Democrats, the Republicans and _______________(insert your favorite scapegoat here)! I will not pretend that I have THE ANSWER because I recognize that living well means different things for different people; however I will say that through my experiences personally and as a therapist I find the following to be helpful in living well:

  • Spending time in nature. There is nothing more invigorating than capturing a sunrise, a sunset, waves crashing at a beach, leaves crackling under your feet, or snow crunching behind you. Take advantage of the simplicity, stillness and wonder nature has to offer.
  • Making our space our haven. Surrounding ourselves with things we love provides us a great deal of contentment and serenity. Whether it’s our garden, office or bedroom, we need to make sure that when we look around, we feel like it is a reflection of ourselves.
  • Exercising for health. Although exercise is great for our body image, confidence and appearance, I am advocating for the health benefits of exercise. Believe it or not there are a handful of psychiatrists who will not give meds for depression or anxiety unless the client is exercising. Why is that? Because there is so much research that points to the psychological benefits of exercise. This is not necessarily defined by vigorous exercise. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise and can be done by most people.
  • Eating well to live well. It is no secret that we must nourish our bodies to be healthy physically and mentally. Non-processed foods give us the best chance of absorbing nutrients and vitamins. Drinking water is great for our metabolism and cleanses us from toxins.
  • Taking time for gratitude. I learned a few years ago that believing “it just can’t get any worse” is a falsehood. I was in a situation where after saying that, it did get worse… a lot worse. Since then I have learned to appreciate that in every situation there is something to find gratitude for because it can always be worse.
  • Taking a risk…Trying something different…Trying something new. I’m not advocating for impulsive risks here. I’m suggesting reaching out to the person we have been afraid to talk to, committing to something we’ve always wanted to try, booking that trip we’ve been contemplating, or risking rejection by injecting our personality into that latest project. Because ultimately we want to be…
  • Living without regrets. Realistically, we will all have some regrets but the choice of how much we regret about our lives will be up to us. Perhaps we shouldn’t wait until tomorrow to fix broken relationships, begin that Master’s program or start exercising. Perhaps if we want to live without regrets we need to seize this moment and make a change.
  • Being true to ourselves. This means making decisions that will make our hearts swell with pride as we give little to no consideration to the negative judgments of others. It means saying “no” because it’s what right for you or saying “yes” because you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Giving Back. Volunteer. We’ve all had our good times and hard times. Giving back is about recognizing that there are those less fortunate than us at this moment in time and that we would like to soften their blow as others perhaps have softened ours. Volunteering to help others provides us with purpose and appreciation for what we have.
  • Being Mindful. This is about recognizing that right now if we open our eyes, minds, and hearts to the present, we will experience life richly and fully as we take in this very moment.

There are many additional possibilities that could and should make the list, but I will open it up to you to suggest the next bullet points. Email to expand this list.