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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak and the Fear of the Unknown

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Every day we learn more about this virus and its effects and we wonder when it will end. When will life get back to normal, back to our regular routine? This is new territory for all of us to navigate. Imagine trying to drive cross-country with no GPS and no map. You’ll eventually get there – but which route do you take? How long will it take? What do you need to bring with you on this journey? This can be very anxiety provoking and it is how many of us feel as we deal with COVID-19. The uncertainty will eventually end, but until then, we must learn how to navigate this journey and the stress that it generates.

Anxiety is often defined as the fear of the unknown. This feeling of uncertainty and lack of control over our environment can put us on edge, impact our moods, affect our relationships, and cloud our thinking. The world we thought we knew has changed dramatically. Many of us are out of work, quarantined, dealing with kids who are out of school, lacking in supplies, unable to see friends and family, and more. It can be overwhelming!

How do we deal with this disruption to our lives? First and foremost, take one day at a time. Focus on your daily activities by scheduling things that you can do so that you feel productive. Do some spring cleaning, eliminate clutter, pack up items that you can donate to those less fortunate. Spend some quality time with your kids and/or other members of your household listening to music, reading together, watching a funny movie or deciding what you’ll plant in your garden come spring! There are many websites out there that you can explore with your family including Virtual School Activities where you can tour the Anne Frank House, view the giraffe cam at the San Diego Zoo or see the Great Wall of China. See our resource page for more activities to enjoy from home.

If you are alone, reach out to friends and family by phone or via Skype, Facetime or Zoom. Limit your check-ins for news updates to once a day. And everyone needs to practice good self-care, limit caffeine and sugar intake, get adequate rest and exercise. Learn some breathing exercises or yoga and practice the calming influence of meditation and mindfulness. See our recent blog post on mindfulness and meditation for tips and resources.

If you feel you are in need of one-on-one counseling, contact Jewish Family & Children’s Services to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced clinicians who can personally help you to deal with the distress caused by COVID-19. Call us at 609-987-8100 Ext 102.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

Linda Kanner, LCSW

Have you searched for mindfulness skills to manage anxiety or depression?

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Understanding what Mindfulness is all about and developing habits

Mindfulness can sound like a good idea, in theory, but without knowing a few simple tools, it can be harder to put into practice.

Mindfulness is not simply meditation, rather, it is about learning to live in the present moment. You may have come across this quote in a counselor’s office near you…

“Worrying never robs tomorrow of its sadness, it only robs today of its joy.” This is, in a quick phrase, the heart of mindfulness. When we learn to pay attention to the present moment, we focus our energies only on what is occurring at this moment in time and thus do not worry about the past or future.

For individuals with anxiety, a focus on the past and/or future can occupy a lot of time and means that they are missing out on the good things happening right now.

The global health situation has created a heightened state of fear, anxiety, and unknown. Despite this, there are pleasant things surrounding us each day. Spring has spring and while many in our region are living in levels of quarantine or sheltered-in-place, we can take time to go outside and embrace the seasonal change. We can see the trees and early flowers blooming, feel the warmth of the sun on our faces. These may seem to be small pleasures, but they are important ones. We can all remember to seek out joy rather than being weighed down by anxiety as the days and weeks go by…joy from our children (if we are parents), joy from our pets (if we have them), joy found in a friendly voice on the phone from a loved one, a neighbor, a friend, or a JFCS staff member, joy in the warmer weather and many more small pleasures.

The above may feel easier said than done, but in reality mindfulness training does not require extraordinary efforts. There are apps online such as Headspace or Calm, or guided meditations on Youtube as well as resources listed below.

The reason that meditation is so often promoted as a door to mindfulness is because it asks us to concentrate on the breath. When we do that, we are truly only concentrating on the present moment, the rise of the in-breath, the fall of the out-breath. Will distractions arise? Of course, they will! But be compassionate to yourself – another important part of mindfulness! – and return your focus to the breath. Think of this like practicing for a sport, an instrument, or anything requiring concentration and repetition over time, your focus will begin to improve and you will find that moments of stillness and peace can arrive.

Then, when you are going about your day, remind yourself now and then, gently, to return your focus to the present moment. Perhaps you will be waiting on the phone, or cooking dinner, or cleaning and find your mind wandering into anxiety. It is in those moments that you can focus on the breath or you can focus more intently on the job at hand. Cooking, for example, can be a chore or something that is more about its end than the process, but it can also be a place to find calm and to focus on the present – the way the onion falls to the cutting board as you slice it, or the aromas that waft to your nose as you stir in spices. Using the five senses can be a wonderful and more practical way to find mindfulness!

A morning run can feel like a chore; next time, as you run, note the spring buds on the trees, breathe in the fresh morning air. Use everyday activities to practice mindfulness and it will soon become habit. You will find in those moments of anxiety, you will have some tools to bring you back to the present moment

Enjoy the journey – mindfulness is a lifelong process but you can begin to see the benefits quickly!


Claire Brown LSW


What is a Social Worker? Celebrating Our Staff during Social Work Month

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), “Social work is a profession for those with a strong desire to help improve people’s lives.”

I have the joy of working with driven, compassionate social workers every day at JFCS. In our agency, the social work profession is represented in every program and service. Our counseling department is staffed with licensed social workers and licensed clinical social workers providing therapy to those battling depression, anxiety, trauma and more.

We employee social workers across our senior services to provide geriatric care management, helping older adults and their families navigate the choices to remain in their home or seek assisted living. The Holocaust Survivor program is delivered by a social worker who works one on one with survivors to ensure they are receiving the care they need as they age.

Social work interns interact with seniors at our Kosher Cafes and help clients in the Yvette Sarah Clayman Kosher Food Pantry.

JFCS, at our core, is about empowering individuals make to care for themselves and others. For a social worker, that is just a day at the office.

We thank and appreciate all social workers for the service they provide to their communities.

Michelle Napell




JFCS is here for the health of our community. In line with directives from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as local leadership for the state of New Jersey and County of Mercer, we are moving our programs and staff to remote schedules effective March 16 – 27. We understand this situation is evolving day by day and will continue to assess our remote service delivery during these two weeks and beyond as prudent and safe for our staff, our clients, and all constituents. 

 Please note the following changes to programs & services:  

  • No clients or visitors will be allowed inside JFCS offices through March 27. 

  • Counseling services will be provided through tele-therapy. We are continuing to take new calls for clients interested in services. If interested in counseling services, call us at 609-987-8100 Ext 102.

  • Seniors enrolled in our programs will receive regular check-ins and phone support to connect them with needed resources. There will be no in-home visits and/or geriatric assessments provided by Senior Services. 

  • Food delivery programs will continue to the extent our resources are available.

  • Gesher LeKesher and Jewish Community Youth Foundation (JCYF) recruitment and programmatic gatherings are canceled through April 1.

  • J-Serve, International Day of Jewish Youth Service is canceled.
  • All community events and days of service are canceled through April 1.
  • All volunteer activities are canceled through April including Shop & Stocks, Chore Corps, Cooking Companions, Friendly Visitors and all individual and group opportunities
  • All on and off-site support and therapeutic groups are canceled through April 1 including Bereavement groups, Caregiver Support group, and Youth Mindfulness group.

Administrative staff will be available by phone to answer any questions Monday – Thursday 9 AM – 5 PM and Friday 9 AM – 4 PM.  

Loss of a Legend

Much has been said about the sudden death of basketball great, Kobe Bryant.

The words we keep hearing are heartbreak, shock, devastating, hero and legend, inspiration and grief.

Our Princeton community had our own heartbreaking loss on December 24, when our beloved Rabbi Adam Feldman passed away suddenly while on vacation with his family in Hawaii. This left many, beyond the Jewish community, shocked and devastated. He maintained very close friendships with members of the Princeton Clergy Association, provided chaplaincy to the Princeton Police Department and to patients at Penn Medicine Princeton Health hospital.

He was a hero to Princeton Chief of Police Nicholas Sutter, who saluted as the hearse left The Jewish Center for burial. He has inspired his B’nai Mitzvah students, who have now been dedicating their Torah portion to him. As rabbi of The Jewish Center, he tended to the spiritual needs of 500 families, offering comfort and support during challenging times. Members of his congregation, who already miss him so much, are grieving the loss of a dynamic, energetic, engaged and very caring rabbi.

There were 1,000 attendees at his funeral and about 2,000 more who joined by live-video stream from all parts of the world. Quite a legacy for our local rabbi.

Rabbi Feldman adored sports, so he probably wouldn’t have minded being compared to a basketball legend, although he was a 76ers fan.

How to Cope with Sudden Loss

A message echoed from our community to news stories, the passing of Rabbi Feldman and Kobe Bryant serves as a reminder that anything can happen at anytime. Grief can be a challenging time, especially when it comes unexpectedly and without notice. 

  • Find a Support Group: Do not feel you have to cope alone. Find others to connect with and share in the grief process.
  • Do what feels right to you: Everyone processes loss differently and on personal timelines, if you are not ready to talk about the loss or join a group, then do not feel obligated. Always feel empowered to tell family and friends about how you are choosing to express your grief so they can support you in an appropriate way.
  • Write: You may find it helpful to write down your emotions or even write a letter to your loved one who has passed away. Writing is a safe space to express your range of emotions that can come with grief – sadness, anger, uncertainty.
  • Ask for help: Speak up to family and friends and let them know if you are having trouble processing your emotions. Look for resources in your community including support groups or individual therapy.

The JFCS team is here to support our community through challenging times with counseling and support. If you want to talk to a member of our team, call us at 609-987-8100.

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.

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.