Make sure you surround yourself with loving people — if family and friends aren’t supportive and drain your energy, set boundaries.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Lapides LMFT.
Melissa Lapides is an Integrative Psychotherapist and Trauma Specialist with over 15 years of experience.
She has devoted her life to support people to overcome emotional trauma and heal themselves.
Through her private practice, she has supported hundreds of clients to overcome trauma and she educates practitioners to do the same in her Certification program, SafeSpace.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
My own unresolved trauma and mental health issues brought me to this career path. I knew there had to be a way to achieve emotional freedom, and so I deeply immersed myself in every kind of mental health training available to me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I once worked in a transitional home at the very beginning of my career and did art therapy with the residents. I had no idea what I was doing and was totally thrown in the with some severe mental health issues. I look back at it now and laugh thinking about how unprepared I was for that experience.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
I worked as a school counselor and I would give some of the kids my phone number because I felt like I wanted to provide a deeper level of support. I soon realized it was not okay to work outside of work. The kids were calling me all the time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
One of my therapists, Patricia Meadows. I have seen many therapists in my life, and she was the one who introduced me to somatic work. It was the first time I saw the clouds part and the sun begin to shine through. I remember leaving sessions with her and really feeling so tapped into the possibility of happiness.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
The advice that I would give to my colleagues would be to make sure that you put the oxygen mask on yourself first. Self-care for mental health practitioners is not negotiable.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
For other leaders, I highly suggest that they work through their own mental health issues and trauma thoroughly. Their work culture is going to reflect any of their own relational issues that they have not processed.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.
1) Acknowledge your struggles — “I am experiencing anxiety.”
2) Don’t judge yourself — “I am experiencing anxiety and that is okay. I am not broken.”
3) Seek support — Mental health practitioners, wellness providers, and coaches are great options.
4) Make sure you surround yourself with loving people — if family and friends aren’t supportive and drain your energy, set boundaries.
5) Make self-care a priority — allow yourself to rest, take a bath, have a massage, etc.
Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
After retirement it’s going to be important to still keep active mentally, physically, and spiritually. Join classes or groups that will feel nourishing, such as: book clubs, art classes, or personal development workshops.
How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?
As far as teens and preteens go, it is so important for them to stay away from comparison. I notice when things on the Internet actually make them feel bad about themselves versus inspiring them. They also need to choose their friends wisely, and make sure they are around supportive and nurturing peers versus those who are competitive and judgmental.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
I absolutely loved “The Alchemist”. It is a beautiful story and portrayal of how to follow your purpose and passion. I believe that mental health issues stem from a lack of purpose and passion, as well as unhealed trauma.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to get trauma education into the masses. I believe the world is never going to change unless we heal, and eradicate, generational and systematic trauma.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi
For so long I thought that everything in my environment needed to change in order for me to find freedom and happiness. I went on a lifelong journey of healing to realize that I had the ruby slippers on the whole time, and that the change I was seeking had to come from within.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!