Tune in to NBC5 Wednesday mornings and you might see a familiar face. Oak Park resident Kelley Kitley is now a weekly contributor, educating viewers on the significance of mental wellness in living a healthy, balanced life.
Every Wednesday at 6:45 a.m., Kitley goes on air to give professional tips and share exercises for working through anxiety, stress and more. She’s been doing the segment since April, but the contents of what she shares changes each week. Lately, Kitley’s focus has been on end of summer stressors.
“The last couple of segments have been about back to school and managing the stress and anxiety – and how parents can set the tone and be a role model for their kids,” she told Wednesday Journal.
Kitley, who is not an employee of NBC Chicago, brings a level of practical experience, as well as professional training, to her two-and-a-half-minute segment. She is a licensed clinical social worker and a cognitive behavioral therapist, plus a mom to four children, ranging in age from 11 to 17. Kitley documented her own mental health journey in her autobiography “MY self.”
In her segments, Kitley maintains a level of creative control over what she covers week to week. She often chooses her topics based on what is happening in the news cycle or the time of year. And while she said NBC 5 “really likes to focus on kids,” she wants viewers to know that all of what her teachings are applicable to people of all ages, even if a particular segment appears tailored for parents.
“During the pandemic and in the post-pandemic time period that we’re in now, mental wellness issues have increased and it’s affecting people of all ages. We have a responsibility to be there for our viewers and to deliver important tips and information to them from experts like Kelley,” said Sally Ramirez, senior vice president of news at NBC Chicago and Telemundo Chicago.
It’s Kitley’s goal to provide viewers better ways of dealing with life’s more unpleasant feelings. Kitley often presents those better ways in the form of little tweaks easily implemented.
“We can’t ask people to fit more into their already busy schedules, otherwise that feels overwhelming and defeating if people can’t follow through on it,” she said.
For example, to disconnect from the anxiety-inducing hustle and bustle of life, Kitley recommended taking small moments throughout the day to focus on yourself. Instead of drinking coffee while checking your email or scrolling through your phone, try simply drinking coffee without any distractions. Your unread messages will still be there after.
This philosophy works for lunch breaks too. Kitley wants people to be present in the moment while being mindful of the food you’re consuming. No more working through lunch.
“We’re constantly multitasking, which makes us feel more anxious and depressed,” she said.
She also recommended focusing on your breath because breathing can do more for the body than circulating oxygen. Focused breathing serves as a calming, centering practice if done properly, she said. When the body is stressed, individuals inhale shallow breaths into their chests, rather than deep, nourishing breaths that fill the diaphragm. Sometimes people actually hold their breath while experiencing anxiety.
Inefficient breathing happens in both adults and children. The latter may be feeling nervous about returning to school after the long summer break, for example. Kitley has a tip for fixing that which can be done as needed throughout the day.
“Maybe you’re not going to be breathing deeply at your desk but go into the bathroom and take a couple of deep breaths,” she said. “That can be a reset.”
She also said she believes it’s helpful to imagine yourself breathing in positive energy and exhaling negative thoughts.
Kitley doesn’t get paid for her weekly contributions to the Wednesday morning newscasts. She’s just grateful to the NBC 5 network for giving her a regular platform to educate others.
It appears her segment is already having an impact.
“The feedback we’ve received from our staff and viewers has been very positive. It’s relatable content and deepens our connection with our viewers,” Ramirez said.
“We wanted to put a bigger spotlight on health & wellness as a whole in our newscasts,” she added. “Simply put, everyone is connected to it and it was important to us to put the time and resources behind it. Mental health awareness segments on Wednesdays are a very important piece of our overall focus.”
You can also view her segments on her YouTube channel, @Kelleykitley, each week.