A Reflection on “Making the Most” of Your Time

From your social media feed to calls with friends, there is a lot of talk about being productive during this pandemic; but not everyone can focus during a stressful time and that is okay. It is important to recognize that in the face of any challenging time, each person will cope in a different way. For some, there is comfort in exploring a new hobby, finding a new creative space, or working on home projects. For others, additional tasks can seem daunting and they must focus simply on the day to day. Everyone’s needs are different.

Our self-worth is often determined by what we have accomplished and how productive we are, for example, a song writer who can compose five hit tunes before breakfast. These are not normal times and we must acknowledge the “act of achieving” will look different for each person.

The unsettling nature of this challenging time can make it  difficult to feel grounded in a routine or to begin a home project. That is okay. We should appreciate that each person has a different “best” and not compare, judge or argue that it is not enough. Try to understand the other person’s situation;, put yourself in their shoes.

 It is important for everyone to honor the needs of your mental, physical, emotional and social well-being. Practice self-care.

It is not a matter of IF self-care is important, it IS critical during this time. Have compassion for yourself. Give yourself permission to take time to unwind, no social media, no outside distractions, no news – sit with your emotions, breathe, and allow yourself to focus internally. Find more mindfulness practice tips in our previous blog.

You may feel productive one day and not the next; accept that each day is different. Do not underestimate the power of doing nothing, learn to be ‘okay’ with just being. Show compassion to yourself and others, recognizing everyone is going through this as best they can, in their own way.

Shirley Bellardo, LCSW, LCADC Director of Clinical Services

Should I Talk to a Therapist?

A healthy mindset is an essential component to overall wellness. If there are personal, interpersonal, or environmental challenges affecting your outlook and mental health, you can be held back from an overall fulfilled life. We all experience ups and downs, and engaging in therapy, whether for recurring downs or a short-term situation or crisis, can bring personal emotional growth and a more satisfying life.

If you are experiencing any of the following challenges, consider reaching out and making an appointment with a therapist:

  • Relationship & Family Challenges

Do you find yourself often annoyed or arguing with your partner? Are you having trouble communicating with your children? Do you have trouble setting boundaries with family?

  • Grieving the loss of a loved one

Have you experienced loss? Loss can be more than the passing of a loved one, it could be an estrangement or illness that has changed the lifestyle of our loved one. Loss can lead to feelings of sadness, depression, loneliness and isolation.

  • Depression

Depression can look like many things – feeling excessively tired, isolated, sad, an overall loss of interest in things you once enjoyed and difficulty concentrating. If you can identify that one or more of these symptoms is affecting your day to day life, it can be a sign of depression.

Similar to depression, chronic anxiety can show itself in many ways – worrying, constantly thinking about past situations, overthinking and catastrophizing (thinking the worst will occur in current or future situations)

  • Trauma

Trauma deeply affects individuals who experience it and can be from domestic violence, sexual abuse or assault, life threatening incidents or other negative impactful events.

  • Immigration Concerns

The fear of deportation – for an individual or for their loved one – can deeply impact day to day mental health. 

  • Medical Issues

Dealing with the diagnosis of a serious illness for yourself or a loved one or the responsibility of caring for a family member with a serious illness or chronic condition can be very draining on one’s mental wellbeing.

If you are ready to look for a therapist in your area, JFCS is here for residents of Mercer County to provide individual, compassionate care with licensed therapists. Our therapists can help you through the difficult times. Consider making that call to take a step towards a healthier lifestyle.

Are You Looking for Help with Anxiety?

Does your heart beat faster ahead of that big test or presentation at work? Do your palms get sweaty when confronted with an overwhelming task or looming event?

If anxiety is impacting your day to day life, it is important to recognize the signs as well as your triggers. Signs of anxiety can include intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations (Did I reply to that email? Did that person misunderstand my tone? Did I pay that bill? Should I have said something different to my child/spouse/coworker/friend?); fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and sometimes feeling tired.

Common triggers for anxiety include existing and/or ongoing health issues, financial problems, negative thinking, stress, social events, school or employment.

In order to cope with recurring anxiety it can be beneficial to eat balanced meals, exercise, and limit alcohol and caffeine intake.

When you find yourself in a moment of heightened anxiety, try these approaches:

4 – 7 – 8 Breathing Exercise:

The following steps should be carried out in the cycle of a single breath

First, let your lips part. Make a whooshing sound, exhaling completely through your mouth.

Next, close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.

Then, for seven seconds, hold your breath.

Make another whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.

The Five Senses Exercise:

Take a breath and look around you, wherever you are, try to notice…

5 things that you can see,

4 things that you can feel,

3 things that you can hear,

2 things that you can smell,

And 1 thing you can taste.

This technique can help focus your senses on your surroundings instead of your anxiety.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

Identify a specific muscle group – your hands, arms, neck, shoulder – and hold that muscle tense for five seconds then release. Work head-to-toe, tensing and releasing your muscles. By honing in on each group, you will better understand all of the muscles that can be affected by anxiety.

When you’re feeling anxious on a regular basis, about recurring commitments or events, a long-term option to help reduce your symptoms is journaling. Journaling can be narrative, as in jotting down a few experiences you had during the day and how those events, interactions or moments of inspiration made you feel. You can also try gratitude journaling, making a note of the things you experience during the day for which you are grateful. You can choose and vary how long that list is each day and how much detail you want to write.

What if journaling and breathing exercises are not helping?

Occasional anxiety is an expected part of life, however, anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. If symptoms interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, or relationships, the best step for you is to seek therapeutic services.

When is it Time to Talk to a Therapist?

The world we live in is quite stressful. When life feels a little out of control either because you are feeling a depressed or anxious or believe that anxiety and depression are causing problems in your life, our therapists can assist you in building the skills to get back on track.

Anxiety:  How are you going to pay the rent, get promoted, help your child…when these thoughts run through your head it can cause a significant amount of stress and anxiety that keeps you in a state of panic. This anxiety can make you uncomfortable and possibly shut you down from moving forward. We understand and can help you start to put systems in place to not only make your situation better but also relax into enjoying life.

Depression:  Everyone is sad every now and again…and a few days can be normal. But if you suffer from prolonged periods of sadness, it is time to talk to a professional. Depression looks like many things and our counselors help those in the Greater Mercer County area start to move forward a bit and combat or at least learn to deal with the sadness and lead a happy and productive life.

Couples Therapy: Marriage and relationships, in general, can be difficult to navigate at times. All marriages have bumps in the road including infertility, financial struggles, differences of opinions in raising children.  It can be tough. Sometimes talking through your issues with a marriage counselor can work wonders. Without taking sides our psychologists can help you and your significant other some different ways to communicate to ease tension and focus on building your loving relationship. 

When you are looking for a therapist there may be a crisis that you or your entire family is trying to handle. And if you are looking for a provider who accepts your insurance, those options are even more limited. Here in Mercer County, NJ, our therapists can help with a variety of issues and provide coping skills to get your life back on track. We are able to take most private insurance plans as well as those with Medicare, Medicaid and the uninsured.

The day to day of life may seem overwhelming to manage and we are here to help. 

Don’t Let Back to School Be Back to Bullying

Don’t Let Back to School Be Back to Bullying.

For many children, the anxiety of a new school year is not of nervous excitement but severe concern of potential bullying.

We live in a society where bullying is prevalent among authority figures, adults in the workplace, and even at home.  Helping your child identify what bullying is, informing them of the best actions to take when facing a bully or witnessing the behavior, and acting as a role model can mitigate the impact of bullying.

What Does Bullying Look Like?

There are many different types of bullying; physical, verbal, psychological, cyberbullying, sexting, sexual, and/or targeting others based on their religion, ethnicity, race and/or sexual orientation.  Bullying is NOT the occasional teasing or name calling, bullies engage in frequent, ongoing attacks aimed at controlling, humiliating, and hurting others.  Any child can be bullied, and many children who have been victimized by others, become bullies in turn.

You’re No Bully, But Are You a Bystander?

Bullies and victims are the minority in comparison to the bystander.  A bystander watches bullying, both face-to-face incidents and cyberbullying, and does not intervene to deescalate the situation, help the victim or report the behavior.  Bystanders enable bullying by sending a message that they accept the behavior.

What Can I Do To Send The Right Message To My Children?

  • Be a role model. Be mindful of how you act towards others including peers, other parents, co-workers, family members and spouses. Children pick up on the behaviors of those around them.
  • Do not tolerate bullying in your family. Teach siblings positive ways to manage difficult emotions so they do not lash out at each other.
  • Do not minimize bullying. If your child reports an incident of bullying, do not brush it aside, whether they are the victim, the bystander, or the bully.  Teach children how bullying impacts the feelings and self-worth of victims.
  • Be anti-bully. Teach your children to discourage the bully. Educate your children in safe methods of supporting the victim without engaging the bully or giving into their attention.  Encourage your child to reach out to victims and have others do the same.
  • Be informed on resources. As a parent, understand what your child’s school is required to do in bullying situations and advocate for your child.

If you or your child is struggling with the effects of bullying or you are concerned your child is exhibiting bully behavior, JFCS can help.  JFCS offers confidential counseling for individuals and families for a range of concerns including anxiety, self-esteem, coping and more. Contact our offices at 609-987-8100.

Where Can You Learn More?







JFCS Earns a 4-Star Rating from Charity Navigator

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County is proud to announce that we have received Charity Navigator’s top rating of 4 stars.

Charity Navigator is an online rating system that donors can use to intelligently decide where their money is best directed. The 4-Star rating means that JFCS has passed a stringent vetting and has come out fulfilling all of the necessary requirements for the award.

A 4-star rating from Charity Navigator proves that JFCS is an exceptional charity and that we exceed industry standards and outperform most charities in our category.

Of note, The New York Times quoted Sandra Miniutti, a spokeswoman for Charity Navigator, as saying “Generally, a good benchmark for a worthwhile charity is having at least 75 percent of income spent on programs, or the nonprofit’s mission.” You will be happy to know that JFCS spends 89.6% of every donated dollar on programs and services for the local, Mercer County community.

We thank our loyal donors and hope future donors will take this information and choose JFCS as their charity of choice.

Have you considered Planned Giving?

We know that Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County is important to you and we are grateful that you have supported the agency, maybe for many years or maybe just a few. We also know that there will continue to be vulnerable members of the Greater Mercer County community. They are young families struggling to make ends meet and need the Healthy Food Pantry and case management services; older adults longing for social connections so they participate in our Kosher Cafés; and finally, individuals dealing with depression or trauma who need mental health counseling

You want to make certain that JFCS continues to have the financial resources to take proper care of your neighbors and community for the long-term. But how can you guarantee this will happen?

Planned Giving is a charitable vehicle that many non-profit organizations offer. Through Planned Giving, you guarantee that the values you cherish will continue at JFCS.

What a wonderful legacy you can create!

March 2017 is Life & Legacy Month here at JFCS. JFCS has been an active partner since 2013 in the community-wide Life & Legacy program that educates donors on the ease of Planned Giving. The program is developing a culture of Planned Giving in the Jewish community in Greater Mercer County.

We invite you to join with JFCS’ other Life & Legacy donors and safeguard our future. There are a variety of financial options that will suit your interests and needs, as explained in the Life & Legacy brochure. Just sign a Promise Card today, stating your intentions, and you can finalize the gift at a later date. JFCS offers special recognition and benefits to our Life & Legacy donors.

Will you be our next member?

For more information about the program, please view our website at https://www.jfcsonline.org/life-legacy/.

Life & Legacy is a partnership program with The Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Mercer, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and local Jewish nonprofit organizations, including Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County.

This is Hunger – An Interactive Experience on Wheels.

This Is Hunger Comes to Our Community!

The faces of hunger in America are both familiar and hidden from view, yet they are all too real and far too many.

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County is proud to host This Is Hunger, an interactive experience on wheels (literally, it’s a big rig!) brought to us by MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

The 53-foot-long double expandable trailer is parked and open on both sides and provides almost 1,000 square feet of interior space to take participants on a voyage of awareness and activism: to help them understand the stark reality of hunger in America and to spark their commitment to taking action that will help end hunger once and for all.

Inside the truck, the experience is divided into two parts. First, participants are invited to sit at a communal table and virtually “meet” real people struggling with hunger. Portraits are projected at each end of the table, one by one, as individuals share their stories in their own voices and in their own words. At the end of part one, participants are invited to engage in activities that deepen their awareness about the complexities of being hungry and join MAZON in educating the rest of our nation and advocating for change.

This Is Hunger is open to the community and will be at located at Adath Israel Congregation, 1958 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648 from Tuesday, March 21 until Thursday, March 23. There are tours open to the entire community. To see when the truck is open and reserve your free tickets, visit thisishunger.org and click on Find Tickets. For questions, please contact: Lisa Adler, Coordinator of Community Engagement & Volunteers at JFCS at LisaA@jfcsonline.org or 609-987-8100 X113. We look forward to seeing you in the truck!

November is National Caregivers Month and JFCS Has Answers!

November is National Family Caregivers Month. But for those of you who are caregivers, you know that EVERY DAY is a family caregiver day. Whether or not you live with your loved one, your responsibility for their care is 24/7, filling your heart, mind and time.

Caregiving can be a very isolating existence. You are so busy taking care of your loved one that you may not have time for yourself—to address your own health needs; to have some “down” time for relaxation, hobbies (hobby—what’s a hobby?) or visits with other family and friends; to talk about the difficulties that you encounter and the normal frustrations that you feel. But the stark reality is that, if you do not take care of yourself, you may not be around to care for your loved one!

Support groups can provide a critical shoulder to caregivers, diminishing the isolation and allowing the caregiver to know that he/she is not alone. At JFCS, we have extensive experience with caregiver support and facilitate a wide number of support groups throughout the year.

Many of our participants attest to the value they experience in being together as a group member:

“I am not alone, other people feel the same things I do. I actually have a lot to contribute.”

“Most helpful has been simply sharing stories, worries, concerns, laughter with each other. The caring community itself is a stress reducer.”


“One doesn’t have to go through ‘trauma’ alone.”

“We identified with each other and really came to care for each other.”

I learned to “honor my feelings.”

“Honesty, directions, aid in resources…people, caring, support.”


We also understand how difficult it can be for caregivers to leave their homes and loved ones to attend a group. JFCS is excited to announce the launching of a new program to create an online video support group, employing 21st century technology to address the time-old need for connection, support and validation. All you need is a laptop with video capability and you can interact with a group on your screen in your own home with complete confidentiality and privacy.

If you are interested in the online video group or any of our other support group programs, please contact Beverly Rubman at beverlyr@jfcsonline.org or call 609-987-8100.

JFCS pledges to be #stigmafree

talkinghandsToday concludes Mental Illness Awareness Week. At Jewish Family & Children’s Service, we want to carry this critical awareness beyond one week. JFCS fosters a safe, welcoming environment free of judgments not just for our counseling patients but for all those who interact with our agency including staff, volunteers and community members.

In the spirit of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) campaign, Pledge to be StigmaFree, JFCS challenges our supporters to become stigma free with us by following the steps:

1. Educate Yourself and Others
Through simple education you will develop a deeper understanding of what causes mental illness and what does not, helping you take the first step in rejecting stereotypes. Mental illness is often dramatized in the media yet in reality conditions can present through subtle symptoms and changes. Understanding mental illness can help you recognize the symptoms, identify a name for challenges that may be facing you, a loved one, a co-worker, or a stranger, and seek critical treatment.

2. See the Person and Not the Illness
It can be all too easy to see a number instead of a person behind statistics on mental illness. One in five Americans lives with a mental illness and each and every ONE is an individual with a personal story.

3. Take Action on Mental Health Issues
Join forces with the agencies across the country pushing for better legislation and policies to support those facing mental illness. The more we learn as a population about mental health, the more we all benefit.

JFCS challenges you to take the #stigmafree pledge with us and continue spreading the important messaging on Mental Illness Awareness.

Learn more about the StigmaFree Pledge and access information regarding mental illness conditions at: http://www.nami.org.