Value’s Compass

By: Tanya Kramer

Everyone wants to “live their best life” in alignment to their values.  But to do this, we have to take some time to figure out the value structure so we can make life decisions based on that information.

Here are some simple steps to create your own Value’s Compass.  I recommend doing this exercise at least once a year as a self-check-in.  Before sharing the steps, here are some definitions to help the process.

Values – “a person’s principles or standards of behavior, one’s judgments of what is important in life.”

Integrity – “quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.”

Compass – “an instrument containing a magnetized pointer which shows the direction of magnetic north and bearings from it.”  People use a map and compass to navigate and move over land, sea, or wilderness. It can be used to reach a destination.

So, why do we call this exercise a Value’s Compass?  The answer is that we use our personal integrity to identify “our” core values (not necessarily the values of our parents, friends, school, community, etc.), and by doing this, we create a tool which we can use to make important decisions in our life.  If we make decisions in our life based on our personal Value’s Compass, then we increase our potential for life happiness and decrease the experiences of regret.

Creating a Value’s Compass:

  • Using this website, review the different values listed in the “card sort” list. Write down each one that is a value to you.
  • Add to the list characteristics that are important to you (ex. trust, respect, etc.), entities that are important to you (ex. family, friends, pets, etc.), experiences that are important to you (ex. education, adventure, travel, quiet, etc.), and anything else that you value.  ***This could be a BIG list.
  • Take this list you have created and circle the top 20 Values. This does not mean the other Values are unimportant but take time to discern which ones are most meaningful to you.
  • Now, put a star by your top 10 of the 20 Values circled.
  • Take these 10 top Values and see if any naturally group together (ex., physical and emotional health, adventure and travel, etc.)
  • Finally, identify 4 top Values or groupings of values and fill them in the visual below, but instead of writing “north, east, south, west,” write in your 4 top Values.
  • Create an arrow similar to an arrow that exists on a Compass used for navigating, and write the word “Integrity” at the end of the arrow.
  • Put this Value’s Compass somewhere you will see it often, and screenshot it for your phone.  Whenever you make a difficult decision, consider your top values.
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Setting Healthy Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries for yourself is an important part of self-care. 

Those personal boundaries allow you to be open about your limits and clearly define what you’re comfortable with. 

Write Your Boundaries Down

When a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, you can write it out to better understand why. 

Reflect on the emotions you felt at the time and be honest about what could have triggered them. 

Writing your thoughts down on paper can give you a healthy outlet to vent and organize your thoughts. 

Talk To A Loved One

It can help to reach out to a friend, family member or peer you trust when thinking about your boundaries. 

Talking your feelings through with someone who respects and values you is a great start. You can communicate what boundaries you want to set and let them know where you are coming from. 

It can also help to hear the boundaries they have set for themselves and build on the connection you share with them.

Build On Your Boundaries

You can set your boundaries in stages. In time, you can compile a list of your needs and think about what is beneficial for your mental health. 

Over time, you can build on your boundaries by thinking about your past or present experiences. 

“Boundaries are, in simple terms, the recognition of personal space.” – Asa Don Brown

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International Day of Non-Violence

By: Betsy Pownall, LPC

On October 2nd, we can recognize the International Day of Non-Violence. This day was established in 2007 by the General Assembly to spread the message of non-violence and promote a culture of peace, tolerance, and understanding. 

The basis of non-violence is to achieve social and political change without causing physical harm or violence. Throughout the years, our society has adopted this way of protesting to fight for social justice worldwide.

Violence can affect millions of lives and impact communities all over the world. According to the CDC, there are over 1.4 million people treated for assault in emergency rooms, and nearly 25,000 lives are lost to homicide. It’s important to note that violence is the leading cause of death, especially for people ages 15 to 34. 

Yet there are social causes of violence that are also a factor, including systemic racism, bias, and discrimination, that can be a driving force or violence – making violence a greater risk for people of color.

When we take the time to educate ourselves about the violence in our communities, we can develop plans to reduce violence. Many organizations strive to put an end to violence and transform social norms. 

Together we can work to advocate for a safer community for our family, friends, and peers. For more resources, check out the links below.

International Day of Non-Violence

Futures Without Violence

National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence 

National Family Justice Center Alliance

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Tips on Talking to Loved Ones in a DV Relationship

By: Betsy Pownall, LPC

It is difficult to know what to say when someone shares that they are in an abusive relationship.

Whether it be a friend, family member, or client, there is this moment of pause~the thought of, “How I respond right now will really matter.’

Here are some tips on what to and not do to/say when someone discloses this vulnerable fact of their lives.

What to say:

  1. “I’m sorry this has happened (or is happening) to you.”

Acknowledge you have heard what has been said, that you heard it and are listening. Acknowledge the courage it takes to disclose abuse and the strength it takes to survive. This is your opportunity to empathize.

  1. “No one deserves to be abused.”

This is a universal statement and an opportunity to connect with the survivor.

  1. “It’s not your fault.”

Don’t minimize the violence or blame the victim. The batterer is accountable and responsible for his/her choices and behaviors.

  1. “You are not alone.”

Violence in relationships is a widespread social problem, yet the victim often feels very alone. By generalizing, we can help the survivor understand that the abuse is not about who they are or what they did but about their partner’s attempt to maintain power and control.

  1. “There is help.”

Empower the survivor by offering information choices, safe space and support.

What not to say/do:

  1. Give advice.
  2. Change the subject.
  3. Ask trivial questions.
  4. Intellectualize the problem.
  5. Become emotional.
  6. Make decisions for them.
  7. Be evasive or elusive.
  8. Handle everything yourself.
  9. Ask ‘why’ questions.
  10. Pity them.
  11. Indulge in silly witticisms.
  12. Become insensitive or cold.
  13. Cut communication.
  14. Be judgmental or rejecting.
  • Don’t blame. The survivor is not at fault for the violence. It is never okay for one person to use force against another. Avoid questions that may sound blaming, such as “why don’t you just leave?”
  • Don’t participate in the denial. Violence does not change on its own; it often escalates. It will not simply ‘get better’.
  • Keep in mind: Battering is against the law.
  • Don’t ignore the danger. Is there a gun in the house? Are there children in the home?
  • Don’t focus on leaving if this does not seem to be a safe option. Help the survivor find ways to be safe.
  • Encourage developing a safety plan.
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To-Do Lists For Couples

Creating a to-do list can help keep us accountable and get things done throughout the day.

But with that said, it’s also okay to be flexible with our lists.

Just because a morning starts out smooth sailing doesn’t mean it will stay that way. 

Sometimes last, minute tasks can pop up that take priority.

Or a certain task at hand can take far longer than initially anticipated. 

No matter how flexible or busy your day might be, writing down tasks can help keep you organized and on the ball.

Joint to-do lists work similarly for couples. 

Creating a couple’s to-do list requires the attention and participation of both partners.

Creating a to-do list with your partner can help you both stay on track and accomplish joint goals. 

Tackling Large Jobs

If you are your partner live together, it is only a matter of time until a large project around the house needs to be taken care of, such as full-on renovation, painting a room, or paying the bills.

Since those projects impact both of you, they should be tackled together to ensure nothing gets done twice or even forgotten about.

You and your partner can sit down and write out everything that must be done in the near future to make sure the project gets done.

And then, you can split up the tasks in a way that works best for you as a couple. 


When a project is so big, successfully completing all the steps can take weeks or even months.

For example, you may not be able to complete task C until task A is 100% done.

Exactly why it is crucial to know how to prioritize more urgent and/or time-sensitive tasks. 

Working together and collaborating can help couples grow and thrive.

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What Does it Look Like to Have Peace? From the Perspective of the “Father of Peace Studies”, Johan Galtung

By: Christina Bein, MSW, LCSW

“Peace is something you make with your adversaries, not with your friends.” This quote is taken from Johan Galtung’s book, “Johan Galtung: Pioneer of Peace Research.” Johan Galtung is a sociologist from Norway who has dedicated his life to peace studies and founded Peace Research Institute Oslo, Journal of Peace Research, TRANSCEND, and the first online peace university. He has put his research and work in sociology into action by helping countries progress into finding agreements and creating peace treaties to end years of war.

I often think about what it would truly look like to have “peace.” What does peace even mean? Especially with the state of the world and the country in the year 2022, is peace even attainable? 

Political parties in the U.S. are at even more extreme odds than I have seen in my lifetime. Gun violence continues to permeate the news headlines, one horrific mass shooting after the next. The law appears to be stripping people of basic human rights that blatantly tells its citizens – your life is in the hands of the few in power, and therefore you are expendable.

There’s been a collective feeling of overwhelm. And yet, is this time any different than the country borderline wars, civil wars, religious wars, human rights wars, depressions and recessions that have dotted the timelines in our history books? 

Johan Galtung built a wealth of research on peace, but first, he had to define violence. He broke down violence into three categories: 

Direct violence, structural violence, and cultural or symbolic violence. 

By understanding these terms, it gives examples to understand the importance of the social connections we all have with one another. Galtung describes peace to be “a relation between two or more parties.” Peace becomes the property relation of two or more parties for which they all work to cultivate and care for.

Johan Galtung describes peace in two ways: 

  1. Negative Peace as being an absence of war and violence. 
  2. Positive Peace as “The integration of human society.” He brings these two forms of peace into consideration when applying his approach to creating an agreement for peace.

Identify the conflict: Communicate with curiosity to explore the goals of each party.

Mapping: Design a project that is conflict sensitive, respecting their legitimate goals. The “project” is a form of a creative solution that is presented as a question for the involved parties to consider engaging in or identifying how it can be incorporated in the agreement of respecting all parties’ goals.

Use empathy, nonviolent communication, and creativity.

Allow for legitimizing to bridge goals that help the involved parties to feel comfortable.

Legitimizing focuses on promoting human rights (ethics and basic needs) as the key to successfully building peace.

Be aware and address if other parties are involved and necessitate inclusion towards communication for peace.

While the “Father of Peace of Studies” has been tapped to help with creating peace on a macro and global level, his approach is also familiar in how we can use nonviolent communication and assertive requests to meet needs when directly communicating with another person or in our smaller communities. 

His approach to creating communication for peace gives us all a tool in how we can problem solve and foster some form of harmony with those around us. The more we can become familiar with the language of communication towards peace, the more practiced we can be in handling conflicts in a productive manner, wherever we go in our world. Link to the description of violence and the violence triangle:

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Gun Safety as a Public Health Issue

By: Elizabeth Pownall, LPC

Gun violence is an epidemic that affects the heart, soul and public safety of all Americans. 

In 2019 alone, 40,000 Americans were killed by gun violence. To put this in perspective: there were 58,220 soldiers killed in action in the Vietnam War. (Vietnam War U.S. Military Fatal Casualty Statistics)

In the year 2019-2020, U.S. gun deaths increased by 35%: (A Year in Review 2020 GUN DEATHS IN THE U.S. 

  • Gun violence was the leading cause of death among children, teens, and young adults under the age of 25. 

Young people under 30 were nearly 10 times more likely to die by firearm than from COVID-19 in 2020. 

  • More than 24,000 people died by gun suicide. 
  • There were 45,222 gun deaths, the highest number of gun deaths ever in the U.S. 
  • Black males ages 15-34 were 20 times more likely to be victims of gun homicide than white males of similar age. 
  • Someone living in Mississippi, which has weak gun laws, was 8.5 times more likely to die by gun violence than someone living in Hawaii, a state that has some of the strongest gun laws in our nation. 

It is easy to jump to a simple answer: just remove the guns. But that response will not work. This is a complex problem interwoven into American culture and history. So what can be done about this? 

Researchers and policy-makers with John’s Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions advocate a public health approach to reducing gun violence and gun death. 

A public health approach looks like this: Stakeholders, experts and institutions come together to define and monitor the problem, identify risk and protective factors, develop and test prevention strategies, and ensure widespread adoption of effective strategies.

What is public health? Public health works to address the underlying causes of a disease or injury before they occur, promote healthy behaviors and control the spread of outbreaks. 

We have a strong track record in the United States, where the public health approach proved effective. It is because of this approach that there is a great reduction in smoking-related deaths, infant mortality, automobile-related death, to name a few. 

Consider this: when I started driving in 1975, there was no seatbelt law, nor was there a big emphasis on drunk driving. We drove with open containers and might or might not wear seatbelts.

By using a comprehensive public health approach to car safety, the United States reduced per-mile driving deaths by nearly 80% from 1967 to 2017. Car safety has been one of the greatest American public health successes in our nation. 

No one thinks twice now about putting on a seatbelt. 

And getting caught drunk driving? One’s social life, professional life and family relationships are threatened when this occurs, such is the humiliation and legal consequences involved, thanks to Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the public health approach. To reduce gun violence, a similar public health approach must be applied. 

To repeat, Gun violence was the leading cause of death among children, teens, and young adults under the age of 25. 

This seems highly preventable, unnecessary, and so very tragic. We are an industrialized nation, and we are losing our own to gun violence because there is so little prevention. 

Politicians are talking about the Right to Life these days? Okay, then, let’s talk about the right to live without the fear of gun violence. When a child is shot and killed, they lose decades of potential: the potential to grow up, have a family, contribute to society, and follow their dreams. In 2019, 925,023 years of potential life were lost before the age of 65, more than diabetes, stroke and liver disease combined. 

Here is how a public health approach looks:

  1. Define the problem of violence through data collection; collecting data is essential 
  2. Identify risk and protective factors: why violence occurs, who it affects 
  3. Develop and test prevention strategies and see what works 
  4. Ensure widespread adoption of effective strategies The success of auto safety relied on research, regulations, licensing, registration, preventing risky individuals from driving, manufacturing standards required to make cars safer (installing seatbelts and airbags), age requirements, license renewal, ongoing monitoring and regulation, and liability. 

Without exception, each of these steps can be taken to reduce gun violence. (All information from Learn More about Gun Violence) The lethality and availability of firearms drive our high homicide rate. At this point, there is not a lot of attention paid to the prevention of gun violence. 

In the latest Supreme Court decision on New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc v Bruen (overturning NY State’s concealed carry permit law), it is reported that in the six concurring opinions, public health was disregarded while the three dissenting justices focused on public health as the way to reduce gun violence. (The Supreme Court’s Ruling on Guns | Johns Hopkins John’s Hopkins leaders

How do we stop gun violence in America suggest the steps our country can take to address the epidemic of mass shootings: 

  1. Make it harder to turn violent thoughts into violence. Violent thoughts are not unique, but easy means to quickly turn violent thoughts into action is. “America suffers more shootings because it is much easier for even fleeting violent thoughts here to be immediately translated into deadly action thanks to easy access to military-grade weaponry”. (Paul Nestadt
  2. More police in schools don’t solve the problem of easy access to guns. While data shows a 10-year decline in reports of students with weapons at school, rates of gun-related injury and death have increased over the past seven years and are currently higher than they have ever been recorded. “Making schools safer requires policymakers to address how young people access firearms”. (Odis Johnson
  3. Focus on humiliation in schools as a driver of withdrawal, confrontation, and violence. Humiliation is a factor in bullying, fear, violence, hate, discrimination, vengeance, and self-harm. It is a barrier to social inclusion, yet it has received limited attention in research, policy, and teacher and administrator education and training. (Sheldon Greenberg
  4. Ensure buildings are secure. “One conversion to emerge (following Uvalde) from this tragic period is how we can make small yet consequential building upgrades to school doors so that every child can be safe and healthy in school”.(Annette Anderson
  5. Leaders who fail to act are culpable. “As a professional working on federal policy to prevent gun violence, I am frustrated by the inaction. Leaders who fail to act are also culpable in these situations.” (Spencer Cantrell
  6. There are policies that work to prevent gun violence —if we deploy them. Public health means prevention. The John’s Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions “will continue to educate policymakers and the public about preventive measures to curb this epidemic”. (Lisa Geller
  7. Turn heartache into action. “We can prevent violence. Through comprehensive firearm licensing policies, large capacity magazine limits, safe firearm storage, and extreme risk protective orders but also hospital-based and community-based violence intervention programs, police reform, addressing social determinants of health and dismantling structural racism. 

But to do this, we must all turn our heartache into action.” (Katherine Hoops) Information from the article: How do we stop gun violence in America?

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How Much Screen-Time is Too Much?

Have you ever asked yourself…

“How much screen time is considered too much?”

Well, right now, there is no set-in-stone answer to that question. 

With technology evolving, research has to constantly play catch-up to figure out how much screen time can potentially impact our well-being. 

And especially the impact it can have on kids.

Screen Time & Wellbeing 

For most kids, screens don’t have a significant impact on their well-being.

Kids are more resilient than we realize in multiple areas of life.

But with that said, we are all unique.

A certain activity or habit can have a greater impact on one child than another.

One child may be able to handle screen time close to bedtime, while one can’t. And that’s okay. 

As a parent, all you can do is keep your eyes open for signs and encourage open and honest conversation. 

It All Comes Down to Balance 

Too much of anything in life isn’t ideal. 

It is all about finding a healthy balance. 

Needs such as sleep, physical activity, relaxation and friendships can all be negatively impacted by our screens. 

Around 30 to 60 minutes of recreational screen time for younger kids a day can be a good starting point. 

You can also increase or decrease that number as time goes on if you’d like. 

Modelling Healthy Habits

Kids are more observant than you give them credit for.

If your kids see you putting your phone away at a certain time every day or turning it off during meals, they will be more inclined to do the same.

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Can Scheduling ‘Worry Time” Help Us?

Scheduling our days in advance can be a great thing! It can help us stay on track with our goals and help eliminate procrastination and confusion throughout the day. 

Now, most of us schedule our chores, errands and workouts. 

But have you ever tried scheduling Worry Time? 

Worry Time is a technique that involves scheduling some time during the day to worry. 

Even though this may sound contradictory, Worry Time is actually designed to help us reduce the time we spend worrying about things. 

Ready to learn more? Keep on reading. 

The Schedule 

First, you’ll want to choose a time of day that works best for your Worry Time. Keeping this time consistent is ideal. 

What sounds more pleasant? 

Scheduling 10 – 20 minutes a day to worry about things, or worrying off and on an entire day? 

You can save worries or anxiety for Worry Time by writing them down as they pop up, so you can reflect on them later.

Focus On Being Productive During The Day

Now that you’ve set your worries aside to be tackled later – you spend the day being productive and doing activities that bring you joy! 

This doesn’t mean that every single day will be smooth sailing. We can’t always control what thoughts pop up. You just have to keep reminding yourself that thoughts are not always as they seem, and they can be dealt with later on. 


During Worry Time, you can ask yourself questions such as…

  • Is this thought true?
  • Can I absolutely prove that this thought is true?
  • How does this thought make me feel?
  • How would I feel if this thought vanished? 

More often than not, the things we worry about never happen or aren’t true. 

Taking the time to truly reflect and think about our thought patterns can help us think about the situation in a positive light.

You have much more control over your thoughts and actions than you give yourself credit for.

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Enjoying Vacation Comes Down to a Science

Skipping or putting a vacation on hold may feel ideal at the moment. But ultimately, that is far from the truth.

Not only are vacations fun – but they can benefit your mind, body and soul.

Recognizing the Value of a Vacation

Have you ever felt guilty about taking a vacation? 

Have you ever felt like there isn’t much of a point or that your time would better be spent working? 

Vacations are far from a waste of time. They can improve mental health, boost job performance, and increase creativity.

A great vacation doesn’t have to be long or expensive by any means. Taking a mini weekend staycation at a friend’s house or local hotel can deliver all the benefits and then some.

Mixing Things Up

Even if you thrive on routine, mixing things up for even a few days can help increase motivation, energy and creativity.

When we do the same thing day in and day out – the activities we typically love can start to feel less exciting.

Taking a week off of television can help you enjoy it that much more down the line. 

You know what they say – absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Professional athletes schedule recovery days to let their muscles rest.

We need to do the same thing with our minds!

Above, we listed television as an example. But the activity you’d like to take a break from may be different.

What do you feel you need a break from?

Choose the Vacation Best For You

Our dream vacation may be different from yours, as we all have our own interests.

Some may enjoy a vacation full of back-to-back activities, while others may enjoy a few days sitting by the pool reading a book. At the end of the day, all that matters is your happiness and ability to enjoy yourself.

Most of us declutter our homes pretty often – taking vacations can help declutter our minds from stress. What are you waiting for? There is no time like the present to start planning your next adventure! 

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