Alyza Berman: “Here Is How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”
Those that suffer from anxiety often fear they’re being judged or shamed by others. Being untruthful can exasperate those feelings and cause someone to feel even worse about themselves. Instead of trying to protect someone’s feelings all the time, it’s best to be honest with them and have an open conversation to ensure their long term success in dealing with anxiety issues.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alyza Berman, LCSW, RRT-P who is the Founder, Executive Director and Clinical Director of The Berman Center.
Alyza has extensive experience as a mental health expert, therapist, and clinical director. Since 2002, she has worked as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice and as a Clinical Director of several treatment centers. Alyza started The Berman Center three years ago to provide a welcoming, homelike environment to help clients feel part of a community as they travel their journey to recovery. She uses a variety of therapeutic modalities with her clients to treat mental illnesses, addiction, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Berman is also a Rapid Resolution Therapy trauma specialist, as well as an individual, group, couples, and family therapist.
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?
I was born and raised in Atlanta, GA, and once receiving my Bachelor of Art in Sociology from Indiana University as well as my Masters of Social Work from The University of Pennsylvania, I decided it was time to move back home and help support my community. After working since 2002 as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice and a Clinical Director of several treatment centers, it was time for me to create my own clinic which reflected my personal vision to help support those suffering from mental health and/or substance abuse issues.
In 2017, I established The Berman Center which has grown into a CARF-accredited and nationally recognized mental health, wellness, and substance abuse treatment center in Atlanta. The Berman Center provides a welcoming, homelike environment to help clients feel part of a community as they travel their journey to recovery. It’s crucial that our clients feel accepted and loved as they undergo their therapeutic process and find meaning, purpose, and hope for their lives.
This is accomplished through a variety of therapeutic modalities we use at the center to treat mental illnesses, addiction, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’m personally also a Rapid Resolution Therapy trauma specialist, as well as an individual, group, couples, and family therapist.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There is never a boring day in my life. I truly have a passion for what I do, and I never feel like I’m working. Every day is more “interesting” than the day before, but my most impactful day was when I lost my first client to an overdose. I was working with a 20 year old beautiful, artistic woman. She was living at a treatment center that would not allow her to practice her Judaism and join her family for the Sabbath. Her family understood until it was Passover. She asked the treatment center permission to leave and prepare for the holiday with her parents. Her request was declined. Her parents took her out of the treatment center and brought her home. Shortly after, she found heroin on the dark web and overdosed. Her death was extremely impactful in that I began working with her mother and opened up a treatment center based on the Jewish values of connection, community, and wholeness. Our logo of the blue dove was taken from a piece of artwork she completed and the opening of the center was dedicated in her memory.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
The most important lesson I’ve learned from running my own treatment center is to trust your staff and support system. Over the past four years, I’ve worked tirelessly to build a strong, dedicated, educated, and capable staff to help me provide the best mental health and substance abuse resources in the metro-Atlanta area. It can be hard to loosen the reigns, especially when it’s your business, but once I learned to delegate responsibility and allow my staff the opportunity to do what they do best, the center culture flourished and became one of community, trust, and positivity. That’s important because this behavior then translates into how we treat and deal with patients.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Interestingly enough, I’m not a big reader. I really get all of my research from working with my clients and my therapists who work for me. I feel that listening to people and trying to understand them in a real life, day to day setting provides the most significant impact on me.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
Mindfulness is a hard state of mind to accomplish, especially in today’s world where our attention and time is pulled in dozens of directions from work to children to personal commitments and general activities. Being mindful is an awareness of the present moment and tuning into your body and mind’s needs. Very rarely do we get the opportunity to engage in this behavior on a daily basis. But, if we’re lucky enough to reach this meditative state, mindfulness allows us to be more willing or inclined to do what’s best for ourselves and others around us.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Three main benefits of becoming mindful include:
- Release of physical tension
- There’s a physical change that comes with mindfulness; people carry stress in various ways, whether it’s tension in muscles, recurring headaches, or even something like the constant grinding of teeth. Becoming mindful can help ease these types of tensions as your mindset is altered and you reach a state of calmness rather than unease.
- Openness to communicate
- Sharing your feelings or expressing yourself can be difficult for many people. Reaching a state of mindfulness can help some people see that communication is not a form of vulnerability but actually a way to create and sustain positive and lasting relationships with friends, family, and loved ones.
- Desire to live a healthier lifestyle
- It’s no secret that living a healthy lifestyle, both in physical activity and diet, can drastically change someone’s mental and physical state. If you’re able to find an exercise routine or diet that makes sense for your lifestyle, overtime you’ll begin to notice a visceral positive change in your mind and body. Reaching this state of mindfulness could take various forms, whether it’s increased energy, body positivity, and increased self esteem.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Acknowledge that we’re all going through these tough times. We’re going to have a wide array of feelings that each feeling is OK and valid. We’re in this together; it’s the strength of the community. I see many clients who have a heightened sense of fear, anxiety, confusion, anger, and sadness. My best advice is that I tell them that they’re not alone. There are times when many have felt alone in their feelings. Today, we have one huge societal support group where everyone can relate to everyone around them.
- Practice self compassion and self care. For me, I know that if I don’t take care of myself during this uncertain time, I won’t be able to take care of others. I continue to try to maintain some sense of normalcy and structure in my daily life, including things like home workouts, family time with kids, making my bed, and a lot of self awareness and compassion. We’re all stressed and anxious about the fear of the unknown. Be patient with yourself. Try not to be hard on yourself for things you cannot control, but rather, be aware of what we can control and what we can do for ourselves.
- Try instituting mindfulness practices. This can be meditating, going for a walk, coloring, community service, or just showing forms of gratitude.
- Give to others. During this difficult time, it’s important to be mindful of all the individuals out there who cannot seek shelter, cannot recover if sick, or cannot cope with what is going on. We’re completely powerless over what’s happening in our environment, but we have power over how we respond to it. Giving to others is probably my biggest mindful practice. I help myself by giving to others.
- Support those around you with small acts of kindness. For instance, I had my children write letters to the workers in a grocery store to thank them for their hard work. They also wrote to their grandfather who’s been completely isolated and quarantined since the outbreak of this virus to let him know we’re thinking about him daily.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Let someone know you’re thinking of them. This can be as simple as a text or email that says, “Just thinking of you. Hope you’re doing well!” Sometimes all someone needs is a tiny reminder someone is there for them.
- Be proactive in checking in and reaching out . Many people may think that someone dealing with anxiety or mental health issues will reach out if they need it. This is a common mistake as they’re most likely scared and ashamed to reach out and ask for help. People often choose to suffer in silence, and if you know someone struggling with these issues the best method is to be proactive and check in with them on a regular basis.
- Invite them to coffee or to join in for a physical activity. Physical interaction can be very helpful for those dealing with intense anxiety. Anxiety can cause someone to have trouble concentrating or fixate on panic or doom. Getting them out of their typical comfort zone and environment can help break this mental cycle and help them reset. Additionally, physical activity can release endorphins and help spur feelings of happiness and calmness.
- Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Those that suffer from anxiety often fear they’re being judged or shamed by others. Being untruthful can exasperate those feelings and cause someone to feel even worse about themselves. Instead of trying to protect someone’s feelings all the time, it’s best to be honest with them and have an open conversation to ensure their long term success in dealing with anxiety issues.
- Let them know they can call you, whenever they need it. A common practice for those suffering from mental health or addiction issues is to ensure everyone has someone they can rely on to speak or meet with whenever they need support. For example, how AA members all have sponsors they can lean on in times of need. This is something that can also benefit those dealing with anxiety. Reach out and let someone know you’re available to talk, meet, or do whatever is necessary to help them deal with their anxiety when they need it most.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
Utilize the resources you have around you that are easy to access. For instance, search through the Spotify or Apple Music libraries and find some podcasts that focus on mindfulness and self care. Also try to implement something small into your day to help you achieve a state of serenity or mindfulness. Sometimes when I cannot sleep, I’ll listen to a white noise machine or a book on tape to help calm my nerves and ease my mind to help me sleep better.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
There is a book called “Man In Search of Meaning,” which teaches us about the power of our minds and how we can choose how we react to things. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” — Viktor E. Frankl
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. :-)
To end the stigma associated with mental health and substance abuse. People don’t understand these afflictions are diseases people deal with every single day. If we showed greater compassion, care, and understanding as a community, we’d see a total shift in our culture to better handle these topics and ultimately save more lives.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Visit The Berman Center’s website for additional information on our Intensive Outpatient Programs and additional resources. Also follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thebermancenter/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thebermancenter/
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!