Kendra Miguez is CEO and founder of Colorado Women’s Center, where everyone from women to teens, to young adults and couples, can access help for life’s myriad challenges and discover their innate value. Miguez herself overcame a difficult upbringing, leaving home as a teen and eventually earning two master’s degrees while a single mom to a toddler son. Her journey to, as she says, “turn my shame into gratitude” culminated in the launch of CWC, a collective of therapists across five locations in the Denver metro area. Here, she shares affirming ways to welcome the new year; keep moving even when it’s dark out; and the reason why everyone seems to be in therapy these days.
After a traumatic couple of years, we've been forced as a culture to extend ourselves a lot of grace. In light of this, is it time for an alternative to cold-turkey “resolutions”?
There is energy to new beginnings, and that can bring positive change. But resolutions can be limiting. At the end of the year, we are so ready after the holidays’ indulgence and triggers with family. Try small changes—those tend to be most successful. People want to lose weight, but they go on a crash diet that’s hard to sustain, and they fail and then the negative self-talk begins. But studies show that small changes can stick. Drink more water. Add more vegetables to your diet.
We know from pandemic life that "balance"—the perfect pie chart of all the roles we need to play on a given day—is rarely possible. What self-talk is most helpful in times when things feel out of whack?
The first thing that comes to mind is acceptance of reality. When we fight reality, we create suffering. If you can’t go on a vacation because you got COVID, the resistance that it shouldn’t be this way creates suffering. Instead, name how you are feeling. “I am really disappointed. What does that feel like in my body?” That can help separate you from your thoughts, and separate from the stories you are telling yourself. “Maybe I shouldn’t have gone out! Where did I go wrong?” Forgiveness is another part of this. Forgive yourself.
The opinion of others can be so loud, how people are thinking of us. It is ingrained in us to care about how others think, but instead you can look at areas where you can build confidence and self-esteem. The way to build self-esteem is to play on your strengths and add bricks of success in small areas. Then it becomes internal.
Every year around this time, we see news stories about seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression due to the change in seasons. How widespread is it, and can you share what you recommend to clients?
S.A.D. is a real thing, and the lack of sunlight really does affect us. Luckily, here in Colorado, we have days filled with sunlight. Vitamin D is so crucial and gives us more energy for the long, dark evenings. I recommend supplements of Vitamin D if your blood levels test low for it. Make sure you get exercise and eat healthy in these days of darkness, but there is also something about natural changes in the seasons that allow us to go inside, get cozy and have hot chocolate by the fire—and not feel like we need to conquer the world. It’s another opportunity to embrace change, and also knowing how to have those “I don’t want to do this” feelings and doing it anyway, like going for a walk after dark. We can work with those edges and go past them.
Thanks (?!) in part to COVID, these days it seems like more people are speaking openly about going to a therapist. Has the stigma around mental health care really shifted that rapidly and why?
Yes. We are becoming more self-aware, which is why you’re seeing so many more people seeking therapy. We now have 20-year-olds calling us to work on their mental health and personal growth. The stigma has changed so much, particularly in the 18-to-45 age range. We are seeing it more than ever, and for women in general, it’s so important. They are so used to focusing on others, and we don’t give ourselves permission to focus on ourselves. Women need time to step outside of caretaking and turn toward themselves.