Be Mindful About Burnout

Burnout

“I'm as mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore!” is a famous quote from the movie Network, where the on-air news anchor just can't take the stress anymore. A feeling I’m sure we can all relate to!

It’s a well-known fact, that the workplace can be a hotbed of stress, and that stress can lead to burnout. Deadlines, lack of control, unclear job expectations, bosses, and a dysfunctional environment are work pressures that can all lead to both mental and physical symptoms that, if left unaddressed, can make it difficult to function in day-to-day life. 

Recognizing Burnout

Are you feeling exhausted at the end of your workday? Have you started to hate your job and dread going in? Maybe you have begun to feel as if you are less capable of doing your job? These may all be signs of burnout.

Most of us spend the majority of our days working and when we don't get any satisfaction out of what we're doing, it can take a serious toll. Here are a few “symptoms” that may indicate burnout at work:

  • Stress and frustration

  • Headaches or stomach aches

  • Feeling drained or emotionally exhausted

  • Difficulty concentrating and feeling negative and cynical about work tasks

You can find a more in-depth definition and signs of burnout in this article by Steven Gans MD. 

The Fallout of Burnout

Ignoring the symptoms of job burnout may result in fatigue, insomnia, irritability, high blood pressure, and a lowered immune system. You may even find yourself dealing with your job stress with alcohol, drugs or even food.

Carrying that stress over into your home life can also happen.  Typically, when we’re not happy at our place of work, our relationships tend to suffer as well. As we all well know, ignoring something does not make it go away.

I absolutely love this quote from my friend and colleague Cayce Howe  - which really encapsulates what we can do to move forward through these times. 

Being Mindful

There are many ways of dealing with work pressures. Evaluating a job/career change and seeking support from co-workers, friends or loved ones might help you cope.  Another path that can help is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).  Let’s delve into what MBSR can do for workplace burnout and stress.

These two studies looked directly at whether mindfulness meditation might improve job satisfaction, work-related stress, and anxiety. They used MBSR training, sitting meditation, integration of mindfulness into their daily life, and other mindful tools to teach the participants how to deal with their work pressures. At the end of the trial, participants reported improved focus, “less perceived stress, improved physical and emotional health, enhanced sleep, better health-related habits and behaviors, and more self-compassion. What’s more, they also showed significant declines in blood cortisol levels and systolic and diastolic blood pressure, suggesting that both their minds and bodies were less stressed following the program.”

How It Works

Another study found that mindfulness meditation stimulated areas of the brain that may help control emotional reaction and attention and decreased blood levels of interleukin-6, which is associated with inflammatory disease risk. Through these studies, we have learned that meditation is a simple, scientifically validated exercise for your brain that enables you to put space between you and your emotions.  

All of this is to say that taking the time; through Mindfulness, can help to center and relieve stress and anxiety. We often speak about “having a moment to myself” and that is, at its very core - what mindfulness is. Carving out that time to be calm, present, self-aware and alert can carry over into work & home life, with many strong benefits to your health, career, and relationships.

Please remember you are not alone. There is so much strength in asking for help and working towards the life you want.  As always, if I can be helpful in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out! All of my information can be found here

Picture Perfect

Have you ever noticed that when things don’t go to plan there are those who can just roll with it, adapt and get over it? Then there are others we may label “perfectionists” who aren’t able to take things in stride and go with the flow.  Often times, that perfectly imperfect “nit-picker” or “micromanager” may even be the person we see in the mirror….. ourselves.

By definition, perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by a person's striving for flawlessness and setting high-performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others' evaluations.  That’s a lot to manage!

As a perfectionist attempts to be perfect and produce flawless work they may also set inflexible and excessively high standards for themselves and others. They become extremely self-critical about their performance and they have an ‘all-or-nothing’ mindset about their work.  Many studies have found that perfectionists have higher levels of stress, burnout, and anxiety. Check one of them out here.

Where Did It Begin?

THIS is a great question.  When we are very young we can develop perfectionist tendencies as an adaptive coping strategy.  It’s a survival adaptation we take on as a way to preserve and ensure we get the love and support we need from our primary caregivers.  When something we do provokes a negative response, like displeasure or anger, from our parents/guardians that can cause us to feel less than, not good enough we may come to believe that our self-worth is contingent on performing perfectly.

Essentially, we feel that our natural self isn’t good enough, which can be a very strong and profound experience. This is where the belief develops that if we are always perceived as perfect, people will see us as loveable.  It can get complicated.

"It's not that perfection cannot be achieved. It's that it's so hard to stop there."-Robert Brault

Perfection Can Feel Imperfect.

This Instagram post from Dr.Soph really struck a chord with me.  She talks about how perfectionists will often give 110% to a project, but only when they know they can make it absolutely perfect.  They are more apt to back out of something when they believe that they cannot complete it to their highest standards.  In the therapy world, this is referred to as the “fight or flight” scenario.  Typically, the person’s anxiety increases as they feel that this imperfection “endangers” their relationships {this is usually all unconscious.}

Dropping out of school, giving up on an exercise routine or sport, and even walking away from relationships seems to go contrary to what a perfectionist strives for.  Yet it is also a very strong indicator that the perfectionist is in crisis and fleeing from the imperfection. 

Ask yourself.

Do you see yourself in the perfect mirror described above?  Do any of these perfectionist traits sound familiar to you? You may pride yourself on getting things right, only to be confused and demoralized when you can’t cope with their incompletion. This can be a vicious cycle of self-critique that is often very crippling.  As a recovering perfectionist myself, it’s a constant dance, unlearning patterns and habits from childhood with implementing new, healthier ways of being.  

So let’s face it, you may never become a proponent of the belief that there is beauty in the “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete” and that’s okay.  Just remember to be gentle with yourself during the process and know that there are therapies out there that can help in discovering, working through and coping with feelings of helplessness to strengthen your relationships.

As always, if I can be helpful in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out. All of my information can be found here


Ageless Bullying

what to do about bullying

As we grow up we are often teased by others. That seemingly harmless behavior becomes bullying when it's repetitive and/or when there's a conscious intent to hurt another. Whether it is name-calling, excluding another person/child or being physically abusive… Researchers have estimated that between 20%-30% of school-age children and teens are involved in incidents, as either the bully or victim.  Not sure about you, but that number is way too high to me!

When to Be Concerned.

There are signs that you can look for if you think your child may be affected by bullying. 

Are they becoming more withdrawn from you and at school? Is that withdrawal in tune with a sudden drop in their grades? Are they wanting to avoid school completely?  These are just a few behavioral changes that may indicate that your child is being bullied. 

Some thoughts to help.

Showing your child empathy and a willingness to listen to their feelings will give them a space where they can recount incidences of teasing or bullying. Gently encouraging them to verbalize what they are going through enables them to share their experiences with you and move forward towards problem-solving. You can find a more comprehensive list of symptoms and ways to assist your child here from Scholastic Parents Magazine.

Online Bullying is also a thing.

When your child becomes a teenager, the bullying (often referred to as Cyberbullying) can occur where the teen bully uses social media platforms to tease their victims. Interestingly enough, research shows that adolescent girls are more likely to have experienced cyberbullying than boys.  In addition, teen girls are also more likely to spread rumors, while boys are more likely to post hurtful pictures or videos. All this being said, experts don’t believe that forbidding technology from your child is the answer.  The best approach seems to be simply teaching your kids right from wrong. This post on Cyberbullying digs into the research more, and offers ways to help guide your teen and work with your schools to put a stop to this harmful behavior.

Adult Bullying is also a thing.

Many of us think that as we become adults we outgrow the bullying behaviors and culture. Yet the statistics showing the amount of adults who experience bullying in the workplace are alarming. The research from Dr. Judy Blando (University of Phoenix) has proven that almost 75% of employees surveyed had been affected by workplace bullying, whether as a target or a witness.  Perhaps you have witnessed this?

Workplace bullying by supervisors, superiors, and co-workers is often a form of power struggle. As there is no legal definition of bullying,  the Trade Union Congress (TUC) states that "usually if a person genuinely feels they are being singled out for unfair treatment by a boss or colleague they are probably being bullied.”  According to the Workplace Bullying Institute the definition of abusive conduct is: threatening, humiliating, intimidating, sabotaging behaviors which prevents work from getting done.

Making it Stop.

Documenting the abusive behavior, addressing the bully directly and bringing your concerns to a supervisor are just a few beginning steps you can take.  Christine Comaford with Forbes Magazine, outlines several helpful ways here to confront the work bully and change the work culture that developed to enable the bullying in the first place. 

It’s important to remember that neither you, a working adult, nor your child should put up with bullying in any form.  As I wrote in last month's, The Gossip Effect blog post, learning how to confront and communicate with the people in your life directly, can teach you and your child, how to work through difficult situations. As daunting as conflict and confrontation can be, the end result is healthier communication styles for all involved.

As always, if I can be helpful in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out! 

All of my information can be found here

The Gossip Effect

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"If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all." -Aesop (c.620-560 BC)

This is a quote we’ve  all probably heard since we were very young and it goes to show that gossip has been around as long as we humans have gathered in social circles.

Did You Hear?

When we think of gossip we probably think of it as someone in our life sharing malicious talk and stories about someone else in our life. Recent studies show that most people gossip for an average of 52 minutes per day. That’s a lot of time!

Let’s take a moment to understand what gossip really is. The textbook definition is the sharing of information about someone who isn’t there. The info can be positive- “Did you hear,  Olivia had her baby?” It may be work-related- “The boss is going to be making budget cuts.” And it can also be negative- “He’s been drinking way too much.” As humans, we’ve developed this method of communication, naturally, as we’re social animals and sharing news about other members of the group is a way to protect and connect with one another.

Some Thoughts.

Typically, someone sharing negative gossip with you is doing so because they are feeling uneasy or tense about the person they are talking about and are looking for you to join in their negativity and validate their feelings.

However, this isn’t your job. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to ease their conflict, act as a mediator or even take on their anxiety. Ideally, they need to resolve their uneasiness on their own, and your involvement may be keeping them from doing so. The two people involved are the two who should be resolving and communicating about the issue at hand.

A post came up recently in my Instagram feed that really resonated. Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT shared in the image below, noting this idea that you can prepare a “script” for yourself to ease your way out of the situation by clearly stating your boundaries.  In other words, a few “go-to lines” that you can repeat to yourself, to remind both you (and them), that they should be taking their concerns directly to the person they’re speaking about.

Gossip Image.jpg

Some Questions.

How do you know if you, yourself are just letting off steam or maliciously gossiping?  It would be important to dive deeper into your beliefs and intentions to discover your authentic feelings.  You can start by asking yourself the following questions.

Am I working toward a solution and committed to helping the situation? If so, then confront the problem head on, by making sure you are talking to the right person about it, and that they’re comfortable with you sharing the information.  Another question to ask yourself... If this person were here, would they be ok with me sharing this? If not, then it’s probably best to stay mum.

In the end, if sharing malicious and hurtful gossip is the only way you know to connect with people, you may be avoiding dealing with something.  This would be a helpful avenue to explore in talk therapy or with a close friend who values self-improvement and growth. Learning how to confront and communicate with the people in your life directly, can teach them (and you) how to work through difficult situations. As daunting as conflict and confrontation can be, the end result is healthier communication styles for all involved.

As always, if I can be helpful in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out! All of my information can be found here.

Teens + Meditation

teens and meditation for mental health

Did you know that May was Mental Health Awareness Month? And May 9th, specifically, was Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day? It’s been a very special month for the mental health community so if you didn’t hear, now you know for next year!

Though I don't work directly with children, I do work with many parents, teaching them behaviors that are often a wonderful model for their kids and teens. I believe that as children grow and mature, their mental health becomes just as important as their physical health. I see this as a consistent theme for my parental clients and something they are challenged with on a daily basis. Let’s face it- Raising kids is hard work and teens have enormously high standards set by society these days; especially with social media being so readily available.

The Facts

Statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America show that around 80% of teens have a diagnosable anxiety disorder and 60% of teens with diagnosable depression are not receiving any help at all to deal with these, frequently, crippling conditions. The teen years are often fraught with anxiety and depression in varying degrees. Perhaps it is a phase that they’ll grow out of-However often, it can be something much more serious.

On a daily basis the teenage mind, which is yet to be fully formed- is dealing with grades, homework, sports, extracurricular activities, social interactions with their peers and perhaps even heartache. 1 in 8 of these teens has anxiety or depression that could be diagnosed. Teaching, modeling and supporting your child with coping mechanisms to deal with these stresses that are coming at them from all sides, may be a start towards a healthier mind set (for both of you)!

Meditation

I frequently suggest meditation as a tool for my clients to help with the overwhelm they feel as parents, as I have found it has helped me both personally and professionally in so many ways. Incorporating a meditation practice into my own life has provided me with insight into myself and also helps to set a firm foundation for how I start my day. I enjoy sharing this with my patients and find most are very receptive.  

For example, a colleague of mine, Dr. Monisha Vasa is the Psychiatrist who is referenced here which suggests using meditation as a tool for teens to work through anxiety.  There are meditation apps, classes, coaches and therapists that can give both you and your teen the mental resources you need. The article goes into more detail on these supportive methods; however, I highly recommend reading it for ideas on how to help if you have a teenager who’s struggling.

Joining with your teen and sharing their journey may help to allay the fear and uncertainty they’re feeling about the process of starting a meditation practice. Approaching them in a collaborative, rather than combative way, is a positive step you can take to start. Taking small steps to begin your own meditation routine will also help the beginning of their practice be less arduous and they’ll be less apt to add onto the stress and anxiety they’re already feeling. Setting manageable goals, with leniency when needed, will ease the pressure they are feeling.

Sticking with a consistent meditation practice has the opportunity to bring about many positive shifts for you both. One of the most important, is a closer bond with your child- as you are right there by their side! You and your teen may begin to feel more centered, calm and empathetic towards one another.  And, especially for them, learning how to regulate their emotions at a young age can assist with so many aspects of their future relationships, leading to healthier more fulfilling lives.

Final Inspiration

I found this insightful quote that does a wonderful job of explaining what meditation can help you and your teen. “The goal of meditation is not to get rid of thoughts or emotions. The goal is to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions and learn how to move through them without getting stuck.” - Dr. P. Goldin

As always, if I can be helpful in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out! All of my information can be found here.

Is It OCD?

OCD and Therapy.jpg

There are moments in our lives when many of us say to ourselves, or to others, “I know that’s a little OCD,” about one of our seemingly quirky behaviors. There are people that have to put 18 blueberry’s on their oatmeal every morning. Some have to touch their phone 3 times with each pointer finger, before hanging up. Others clean their stove top to bottom thoroughly every single day. These behaviors may sound a little silly, and sometimes they can be.

The question is when are these unusual actions actually the symptoms of something more serious? How do you know when a behavior has become more of an obsession than a quirk? What are the signs that you actually have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?

OCD Explained:

First and foremost, let me explain what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder constitutes. According to Psychiatry.com, “Obsessive-compulsive disorder...is an anxiety disorder in which people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven to do something repetitively (compulsions). The repetitive behaviors, such as hand washing, checking on things or cleaning, can significantly interfere with a person’s daily activities and social interactions.”

To clarify, OCD transfers anxiety into compulsive actions to such a degree that often your day to day life is consumed by them. Getting out of bed, through your morning and out the door is often impossible, without completing these all-consuming tasks or behaviors over and over again. Your personal and work life may be so disordered that others may have pulled away from you or shared how alarming your compulsions are to them.  If this is the case, you are not alone. Around 2.3% of the US population has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That correlates into roughly 1 in 40, adults no matter their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background.

Once you begin to begin to question your behaviors,  you can ask yourself a few questions to get you started toward deciding if you need to seek help.

A Helpful Tool:

Eric Hollander MD has a more in-depth list of questions you can ask yourself in the following article from Psychology Today. Again this isn’t an actual diagnosis, the questions are meant as a  tool for you to see if you feel the need to find a therapist to help you.

Briefly, ask yourself:

  • Am I spending more than an hour each day on these behaviors?

  • Does this anxiety cause me overwhelming distress?

  • Am I able to stop the obsessive actions and go on with my day?

  • Is the life I am living so affected by these obsessions that I am no longer living the life I want to live?

Ultimately the last question is the most important one. If you find yourself so overwhelmed by repeated actions and are not able to enjoy your life, and they are adversely impacting you, then it’s time to reach out. Finding a therapist who specializes in OCD and asking for help is the next step. You can learn healthy ways to cope with your anxiety and deal with what brought you to this point.

Please remember you are not alone. There is strength in asking for help and working towards the life you want.  As always, if I can be helpful in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out! All of my information can be found here.

 


Misconceptions

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Let’s be honest: there are a ton of misconceptions about what therapy actually entails. And Hollywood has had a field day with their portrayals of what a therapy session looks like.  The most common visual shown, is of a client laying on a couch, looking at the ceiling and talking about whatever comes to mind.

In reality, though, therapy doesn’t always resemble its Hollywood portrayal. The result of the Hollywoodification of therapy has been loads of misconceptions about what people who are seeking help perceive therapy to be.

In my own practice, I see a lot of misconceptions, but especially as they relate to couples’ therapy. Today, I want to dispel a few common misconceptions of couples therapy that I see quite frequently.

Couples’ Therapy Doesn’t have to be “Last Ditch Effort”

By the time many couples enter my office, it’s a “last ditch effort.” In other words, they’ve tried working through marital issues on their own, devoured every Self Help book or blog they can get their hands on, and their gas tanks are nearly empty.

First off, there’s nothing wrong in trying to work through issues together without the help of a professional or reading books or blogs to get educated on the various schools of thought in couples’ therapy.  However, when it comes to making strides in your relationship, however, having an unbiased third party can work wonders.

Far from a last-ditch effort, couples’ therapy can be extremely useful at various stages of any relationship. If one or both sides are struggling with finding fulfillment or are experiencing frustration or betrayal, couples’ therapy can be extremely helpful.  Whether you’re just getting the initial inklings of something being “off” in your relationship or you’re weeks away from separating, couples’ therapy has been proven to help bridge the divide that has entered your relationship.

Learning to Listen

One observation I commonly see when couples are in my office is a lot of talking at one another and very little listening.

Instead of waiting for the other person to finish to get their own point across, I encourage couples to actively listen to their partner. Active listening manifests itself in a number of ways, but I try and ask my patients to repeat parts of what their partner said back to them to ensure understanding. From there, I ask each partner how these issues make them feel before having the other person respond with what has been bothering them.

This act of back-and-forth listening can help build compassion and empathy for both partners in a way that simple “getting things off the chest” doesn’t do.

No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

I like to let people know that therapy is unique to each couple since everyone brings in their own unique histories and perspectives. Not to mention that some couples have children while others don’t, and this factor alone drastically changes the way I approach couples’ therapy.

I believe in the power of couples’ therapy, because of the intimate nature of the sessions. While people can learn different techniques from a book or blog, having a licensed therapist who is actively helping to introduce new skills for communication etc., can be incredibly valuable. And while couples’ therapy doesn’t always result in salvaging a relationship, it often does.  In my experience, regardless of the outcome- both partners come out the other side with more insight and clarity.

When In Doubt, Reach out

If you and your partner are going through a rough patch, consider reaching out to a couples’ therapist.  Just starting the conversation can actually be quite beneficial. And once you decide to seek therapy, I suggest that you ask lots of questions- nothing is off limits. This initial dialogue is a great way to dispel any preconceived notions or misconceptions you may have about couples’ therapy.  Please feel free to be in touch if I can be helpful in finding you a therapist or therapy resources!

Working Through Insecurity

working through relationship insecurities

Lately my practice has been presenting with couples who have a lot of insecurity issues.  Why is this? Both partners are very successful, emotionally aware and appear to be great parents!

As much as I know that self-doubt and insecurity affect people in a variety of ways, and for a number of reasons; as a clinician, when a couple walks into the room with insecurity issues, I still wonder where the root of the issues lie.

Here’s what I see: when it comes to insecurity in a relationship, it can feel incredibly jarring and is emotionally unsettling when one partner is behaving in a way or acting out for some reason. But what causes such anxiety in these relationships? And if the causes are known, what can be done to lessen the feeling of insecurity people feel in their relationships with their partners?

If you’re feeling insecure in your relationship, there are definitely ways in which you and your partner can build or regain confidence that may be missing right now. I’ll outline them below.

Anxiety and Insecurity in Romantic Relationships

Feeling anxious and insecure in a relationship is more common that people think. In fact, hundreds of studies have been commissioned to understand why this feeling is so prevalent. One of the leading theories behind this is called Attachment Theory. To paraphrase the premise of attachment theory:

Attachment theory is the proposition that affectional bonds between individuals and patterns of early life interactions between caregivers and children produce internal working models that serve as templates guiding interpersonal expectations and behaviors in later relationships. Caregivers who are stable, consistent, and predictable tend to encourage the development of internal working models of the self as valued and others as trustworthy and reliable sources of nurturance. Unstable, inconsistent, or unpredictable caregiving in early life can produce maladaptive internal working models that are reflected in insecurity and anxious forms of attachment.(1)

In other words, there is a direct link in how people approach their adult relationships, and it is usually tied with their upbringing. People brought up with predictable caregivers tend to view adult partners in the same way: with positive, unconditional regard. On the other hand, people who have unstable or inconsistent upbringings may bring more insecurity to their adult relationships. Of course, neither upbringing is a guarantee that someone will have anxiety in a relationship or not, so it’s important to have compassion either way!

What to Do to Feel More Secure

When one or both partners in a relationship feel insecure or anxious, it’s important to know that no one is alone.  Typically, both people are experiencing similar feelings and are just acting out in different ways.  A few ideas to consider:

Open Communication

Clear lines of communication come easier for some than others. Having an open and honest discussion about relationship insecurities can often be the quickest route to feeling more confident and secure. When feelings are discussed openly and respectfully, root issues can be identified quickly and (ideally) actively worked through in therapy.

For instance, if one partner feels inadequate in their partner’s eyes, simply bringing it up may help the partner realize that their actions are contributing to this anxiety.  In other words, “normal” behavior for one partner may unknowingly be exacerbating insecurity in their partner. By addressing this together, one partner may be able to change small aspects of their behavior, which in turns builds confidence and security in the relationship.

Step Out of the Comfort Zone

If a relationship is approaching--or is already in--the zone of insecurity, sometimes doing something out of the ordinary can be helpful. When couples find an activity they can share where both people need to step out of their comfort zone, it can actually help with the feeling of insecurity. When both partners are out of their comfort zone, it can open the lines of communication and in turn; that vulnerability can help with the insecurity, too.

Be Kind +  Be Strong

Bottom line: working through insecurity takes trust, strength and patience. However, finding ways to talk about relationship insecurity with your partner is a step in the right direction.  And from what I’ve seen; with time, it is possible for partners to rekindle that spark that led them together in the first place.

Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3330635/


Managing Expectations & Practicing Gratitude

Taking control this holiday season

While I try to make it a habit to practice gratitude throughout the year, I find myself reflecting more on just how fortunate I am in my life and in my practice this time of year. Every day, I am fortunate enough to work with strong, brave, intelligent people as they work through the challenges that life presents. And while I would like to thank you - my wonderful community - for all of the support you’ve shared with me this year, I also want to acknowledge that the holidays can be a very difficult time for many people. Between end-of-year work deadlines, tight budgets, travel, and visits with family... the holidays can be physically and emotionally taxing on everyone.

This month, I’d like to offer a few ways you can be more mindful with your time this holiday season both at work and home.

Manage Expectations

It seems like everyone needs something during the holiday season. Whether it’s a demanding boss at work or a mother-in-law who insists on doing everything “her way,” it is easy to become overwhelmed by the number of things that are thrown at you.

This holiday season, though, the key to managing expectations is to be proactive and anticipate demands, deadlines, and requirements from colleagues, family, and friends alike.

At Work

If you’re feeling the stresses and pressures of year-end deadlines at work, you’re not alone. Since many companies (or clients) end their business year on December 31, there’s a scramble to get as much done in as little time as possible. That often means that you and your colleagues are left with all of the responsibility and little time for anything else.

If you’re starting to feel the mounting pressure, here are a few things that may help you to be proactive and manage work expectations.

  • Ask for (in writing, if possible) all outstanding deliverables and their expected deadlines;

  • Remind your supervisor/boss of any time off requests you’ve already submitted. If you are comfortable with them, ask them how the aforementioned deadlines can work around your schedule;

  • If you plan on taking time off around the holidays, remind colleagues when your last day in the office will be. Gently remind them that if they need anything from you, they need to submit any requests by a specific date, which will give you enough time to complete the tasks. After all, no one wants to be working on their “time off!”

At Home

Managing expectations with family and friends are just as important to your holiday stress levels as they are with work.

If you find yourself hosting family or friends for the holidays this year, feel free to start thinking about menus/meals ahead of time. You’ll often find that with a little bit of forethought, you can whip of meals ahead of time and freeze them until the day you want to serve them. Doing so accomplishes two things: For one, it is less to worry about once family starts showing up on your doorstep; and secondly, it provides you more precious time to spend with loved ones while they’re in your home.

Taking Time for Yourself

With so much activity around the holidays, it’s easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle. But going 1000 miles an hour for days in a row is exhausting. That’s why it is so important to take a few moments each day to focus some time and thought on yourself.

Meditation

One effective way to take a “time out” during this busy time is to spend 5-10 minutes meditating. This could be early in the morning while the rest of the house is sleeping or at night when everyone is going to bed. Regardless, a few moments of solitude can do wonders for recharging your batteries before the start of another day or at the end of a long one.

Keeping Routines

If there are any routines you hold special in your daily life, hold onto them! Perhaps you find that a brisk morning jog or an afternoon yoga class is a great stress reliever. Don’t skip! If you’re afraid of being away from family or friends too long, invite them to join you. There’s a chance that they’re sacrificing their routines and an invitation to join you may be just what they need, too.

When you keep your routines intact, you’ll find that you’re not losing control of some of the activities you love or need, and holding onto those routines also manages expectations, too.

Practice Gratitude

Whenever you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or just plain tired this holiday season, I encourage you to take a step back and find something to be grateful for.

Practicing gratitude doesn’t need to be a long drawn-out process. In fact, some studies have linked the feeling of gratitude to an overall improved sense of well-being. (1)

If you can find the time and get into the habit, writing down what you’re grateful for is a nice way to reflect on some of the positive aspects of your life. It can be as simple as “It was a beautiful day today” or “Everyone complimented the dish I made.”

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year

As this year draws to a close, I hope that some of these tips are helpful for you through the holiday season and into 2019.

Wishing everyone a happy & healthy holiday!

[Sources]

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010965/


Managing Divorce when Kids are Involved

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For many couples, few days are as special as their wedding day. Surrounded by family and friends, the newly married couple often feels as if they have the whole world ahead of them. For some, however, that joy is short-lived or fleeting. In fact, current research posits that 40-50% of marriages end in divorce (and 2nd and 3rd marriages have a higher rate than that).1 And while divorce is never easy on those who are separating, when children are involved it can be even more difficult.

Going through a separation can be emotionally taxing any time of the year, but the holidays can be especially trying on everyone involved. Sometimes, there is an urge to keep up appearances, whether it be holiday cards, social media posts, or any number of other things.

If you find yourself in a position where you and your spouse contemplating divorce and children are involved, below are some tips I give my clients who are going through this challenging time.

Little Ears are Listening

Some marriages end amicably, but that isn’t the case for everyone. When confronted with the tough reality that a relationship isn’t going to last, it is easy for soon-to-be exes to argue frequently.

While conflict is bound to happen in any relationship — especially those that are falling apart — it is important that you and your partner be mindful of where and when these arguments or disagreements take place.

Arguing in front of your kids should be avoided at all costs. When parents argue, it’s natural for kids to think they’re somehow to blame for the discord in the household. Even if you have young children who you don’t think “understand” what’s going on, it is still important to be mindful of your tone when having disagreements.

If you and your partner are trying to do what’s best for your children, consider seeing a therapist who specializes in co-parenting after divorce. Marriage therapists are great for troubled marriages, but if you and your spouse have settled on a divorce, a co-parenting therapist is a more appropriate venue to air grievances regarding visitation, parenting philosophies, and so on. These environments are not only conducive to helping you and your ex co-parent better, but it also provides your child the freedom from not over-hearing mommy and daddy arguing.

Educate Yourself as Co-Parents

This idea of co-parenting while being in different households is hard to grasp for many families. However, if you and your ex are committed to making the transition as easy as possible for your children, consider taking a parent education course in order to help your little ones best cope with the transition.

Studies show that children who grow up in a “happy home” are more likely to have fewer mental, physical, and educational issues than those who grow up in homes with unhealthy marital relationships.(1)

Parent education classes provide an unbiased perspective and offer support, while keeping the children’s best interest in mind.  Additionally, these sorts of programs have been shown to improve the way children cope with their parents’ divorce not only immediately after the divorce, but for subsequent years, too.(2)

In essence, when parents present a united front, the kids pick up on that. When Mom and Dad are working together,  being consistent in rules, parenting, and so on, it is easier for kids to focus on just being kids rather than being brought into Mom and Dad’s relationship problems.

It Still Takes a Village

Even after you and your spouse separate, if you’re both dedicated to raising your children to be as happy and healthy as they can be, it is possible for your communication to improve over time. While you may not be in-love anymore, the shared love for your children can serve as a guiding light to put your differences aside in the best interest of the kids.



Sources

  1. https://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/

  2. Velez, C.E., Wolchick, S.A., Tein, J.Y., and Sandler, I. (2011).  “Protecting children from the consequences of divorce: A longitudinal study of the effects of parenting on children’s coping processes.” Child Development, 82 (1):244-257.


Sex and relationships? Let’s talk.

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Sex is a major component of intimate relationships, whether you’re married or in a committed partnership… intimacy problems among couples happen more than you think.

If you and your partner are experiencing intimacy issues, you’re not alone. In fact, “positive intimate functioning contributes approximately 15-20% to a marriage, while problematic intimacy holds much more weight, approximately 50-75%.(1)” Simply put, this means that couples who reported positive intimate relationships with their partner say their sexual relationship only contributed 15-20% of their overall happiness, whereas couples who reported problematic intimate relationships say their sexual relationships contribute 50-75% of their overall unhappiness. That’s a big difference.

I recently worked with a couple that reported having intimacy problems. The wife felt that her sexual needs weren’t being met, while the husband said he was often too tired at the end of the day to engage in sex. After discussing the situation with the couple, I was able to provide them a few suggestions that could improve their intimacy, which I will share with you.

Putting “Me” Before “We”

Intimacy — and sex — is a two-way street. While it may seem obvious, if partners are out of sync with one another, it can lead to intimacy issues. If your partner is frustrated by the lack of intimacy in your relationship, is it because they’re wanting “too much” intimacy as far as you’re concerned or are you desiring less intimacy? It could also be something in the middle, too. Regardless, when each individual reflects on their role in an intimate relationship, that can serve as the springboard for a larger conversation about what “we” want or view as a healthy intimate relationship as a couple.

Talk is Important

Intimacy is different for every person, and by extension, every couple. When a couple comes to me with intimacy issues, one of the first questions I ask is “Have you talked about it?” I find that couples frequently say “Yes,” but when we explore those conversations further, it turns out that they’re often talking “at” one another rather than engaging in a constructive dialog.

Talking about intimacy and sex can be difficult for couples. “Sex” is loaded with other factors like self-esteem, confidence, and love, to name a few. So talking about this topic-head on isn’t always easy.

But nonetheless, it is important. When couples actually talk about their intimacy, sexual needs and desires, they often learn something new about their partner. I’ve seen instances where one partner feels deep satisfaction after a snuggling session, while the other spouse felt frustration at the end of the same snuggling session because it was lacking a sexual component.

There are plenty of self-help books and resources out there. If you don’t feel comfortable bringing the subject up to your partner, you could always bookmark articles that speak to you. After your partner reads them, you could then discuss it in context of the resource first and then your relationship.

Only when you and your partner can talk openly and free of judgement can you begin to discover the right balance of intimacy in your relationship.

Keep it Physical

Even when I see couples struggling with intimacy issues, I encourage them to not stop being physically intimate with one another. This doesn’t always mean sex, either. It could be as simple as holding hands or kissing, or giving one another massages.

This type of contact and expression is vital in order for you to keep your physical and emotional bonds. As people grow and evolve, so too does their relationship with intimacy. Sex drives change over time, as do preferences for physical contact.

It’s crucial to be honest with each other as your tastes and preferences change. Neglecting these types of conversations can lead to tension, frustration, and further relationship issues if they’re ignored.

Striking the right balance in any relationship is a constantly moving target. But like many things that are worth doing, it takes practice. It also takes a willingness to make the situation better, and by talking about it and remaining physically intimate with one another, intimacy issues can get better and improve the overall relationship with your loved one.

 

Sources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3807599/

Nurturing Relationships

shelby castile

Summer days used to last forever...or so it seemed. These days, it seems like summer is never long enough. Weekends quickly get booked up with events with friends and family, and the demands of work are ever-present.

With so many things competing for time and attention during the summer, setting aside time to focus on relationships and spending time with one another is vital to a healthy relationship. Relationships need constant care and attention, hello!?!

Let’s face it, every relationship goes through highs and lows. They can be tough times or even just times when one or both people are just going through the motions. Wanting change? Easier said than done.

Try Something New can be a great starting point.

At a certain point in a relationship, it is easy to fall into routine. There’s nothing wrong with routine, but every now and again, it's necessary to get out of that routine and try something different.

This looks different for everyone. For some, getting out of a comfort zone could mean trying a new restaurant their partner heard about. For others, it could mean going to a foreign country where neither of them speak the native language.

Sharing these experiences with a loved one can help reignite the spark.

Time for Two & growing together.

Having kids—and sharing the bond of parenthood—can be an amazing thing! However, it’s so easy to get caught up in the daily details of running a household, dropping the kids off at school-practice-recital-games, and working {to name a few} that finding spare moments to nurture a relationship can be hard. Trust me, I get it.

That’s why scheduling time to work on the relationship is so vitally important. This can take on many forms. Sometimes it just means taking a day off and finding a sitter for the kids. For some people, it can be finding a summer camp where the kids can thrive while every night transforms into date night for Mom and Dad… Hoorray!

However the time is made, it will be time well-spent.  

In the end, growing together is a critical element of a strong relationship. It takes time and effort, but nurturing the relationship is most always, rewarding and bountiful.

Slowing Down this Summer

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Let’s face it. When someone asks, “How are you doing?” the immediate response might be, “Sooo busy!” Many wear it like a badge of honor, but is being so busy really healthy? The longer people stay “busy,” the more likely it is they’re going to burn out. And when people burn out, it's hard to be helpful for anyone, especially themselves. 

That’s why it is essential everyone learn how to find time away from the hustle and bustle and take a moment to check in on how they’re feeling. Not sure how to go about that? Here are a few ways to slow down and re-center amid the busy days.

Meditate for 15 Minutes

Set aside 10 or 15 minutes first thing in the morning to meditate. “First thing” means before coffee & before breakfast.  Why? Because scheduling it into a daily routine (before the rest of the day’s needs and distractions creep in) means that it’ll happen. And when it becomes part of a daily routine, the benefits will start soon after.

Meditation has been around for thousands of years and those who practice it regularly extol its virtues. Meditation has been linked to better self-awareness, relaxation, and stress reduction, to name but a few.

Learn to Say No

One of the leading factors contributing to the feeling of being depleted and drained is overcommitting to things. Whether those commitments are big things or little things, the bottom line is that it requires one major thing: time.

Time is precious and should be guarded. But the more frequently people say ‘Yes’ to attending events, get-togethers, or taking on that extra project; means less time to focus on the ‘self.’ Understandably, it is hard to say no, especially to friends, family, and employers. However, before taking on yet another big project, the prudent question to ask is: “How does this improve my current state?” If that question can’t be answered question convincingly, then it might be time to politely say, “No thanks. Maybe next time.”

Make a List

Trying to keep track of everything going on in life is hard. Especially if you’re keeping it all in your brain. There is a saying that goes, “Let the paper worry.” It means that when something is written down—especially in a list—it isn’t bouncing around in your head anymore, which can be exhausting!

In addition to freeing the mind from extra stress, lists help people visually prioritize what is important and what isn’t. When prioritizing a list, add in a few “easy” things that need to be accomplished. This will motivate you to attack the other top items in your list. When you start completing things, you’ll feel more in control. The result? You’ll feel more relaxed and more likely to take time out for yourself, too. These are just a few ways to begin realigning daily activities in order to get more time to focus on you.

My wish for you this summer is to take a step back, enjoy the sunshine, and focus on what brings you joy.

As always, if I can be helpful in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out! All of my information can be found here.

 

 

Source

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1125975/

Summer Self-Care

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It's the time of year where kids--and teachers--can’t peel their eyes away from the clock. As each minute passes, they’re another minute closer to that sweet release: summer vacation. But while your kids are eagerly awaiting a 2 month break from homework and tests, your reality is about to change, too: no school means the kids are home more frequently. And that means less “you” time. Right?

Well, maybe not.

Summer vacation is one of the few times during the year where it is easy (or at least, easier) to get the family together for a road trip or family vacation. After all, since the kids are out of school, there’s no need to worry about missed assignments or falling behind in class. There’s no doubt that time spent together as a family is valuable.

However, if you’re a parent of school-aged kids, you’re probably used to having a bit more time to yourself, at least during normal school hours. But summer vacation changes all of that. No school means you don’t have those precious few minutes of quiet time between getting the kids out the door and heading off to work.

As much fun as it is to spend extra time together as a family during summer vacation, it's important to make sure you’re taking some time to yourself during these months, too.

Here are a few ideas:

Set Quiet Times

One easy way to make sure you’re getting enough time for yourself this summer is to set up Quiet Times for the family. Depending on how old your kids are, this could be anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour. During this time, everyone must be involved in a quiet activity. This could involve reading quietly, working on a puzzle, or drawing for the kids, and a nap, coffee, or cocktail for you. Quiet Time not only gets you some much-needed alone time, but it is also great for the kids to figure out ways to entertain themselves without Mom or Dad having to do all the leg work.

Play Dates

As the parent of school-aged kids, remember that if you want quiet time, so do your kids’ friend’s Mom and Dad. A great way to get some R&R is to coordinate playdates (or better yet--sleepovers) with the parents of your kids’ friends.

The beauty of this is that you’re essentially getting a free babysitter for anywhere from a few hours to a whole night! This, of course, comes with the expectation that you’ll return the favor to the other parents at some point during the summer, but isn’t that small price to pay for some peace and quiet?

Adult-Only Nights

Whether it is time with your spouse or going out with friends, getting some adult interaction is also considered “me time.” Coordinate with friends and arrange a babysitter to come to the house for a few hours so you and your spouse can get out of the house on a double date or just be partners in crime for a little bit. The kids will be well-taken care of, and you’ll revel in the freedom that comes with Date Night.

As the days get warmer and the sun sets later, be sure to enjoy the time with your family, but don’t forget that recharging your batteries is essential to being the best parent and spouse you can be!

Relationships + Change

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As humans we are constantly evolving, growing, and changing. As couples, we’re constantly evolving, growing, and changing, too. This growth and evolution can be great for couples, but what happens when this growth and evolution moves in opposite directions within a relationship?

There’s no question that the person you are today is different than the person you were years ago when you met your partner. Even when you started your relationship, you were a different person then than you are now...and the same is true for your partner. And with all of this change, there is bound to be some tension and tough times, but learning to accept your partner for who they are now--and who they will become--is the foundation of the next stage in your relationship.

Observing and Understanding Change:

There are times when change seemingly happens overnight, but those times are generally infrequent. Instead, change happens slowly over time, almost invisibly. If too much time goes by without addressing small changes, before you know it, these gradual changes have warped into giant chasms between you and your partner.

Whenever possible, attempt to (delicately) bring up these perceived changes with your partner. Ideally, this conversation isn’t confrontational in nature. Instead, it is more of an observational conversation. You may wish to approach your partner and state a few facts that you perceive have changed. If these are changes you’re observing in your partner (rather than your own changes), it is important to be supportive of your partner as you bring this conversation up. Depending on how you approach it, your partner may get offended or defensive, which has the potential to end the conversation before it even begins.

An idea:

You may want to start out by telling your partner about your love for them, and share a few fun, uplifting, loving memories from years ago. This will remind your partner about times when you were both deeply in love and in sync. Then, you can gently bring up some of the changes you’ve seen in your partner. During the course of this conversation, it’s important to be open to the fact that you have changed, too. If your partner wants to talk about those changes, it is important that you listen to them completely, and hear them out.

Relationships are a lot of work, and taking the time {together} to actively talk about your relationship and love for one another is important.

Where Do You Go From Here?

Well, it depends! If your conversation(s) went well, it's important to keep them going. Remember: part of the reason you had to have the “big” conversation in the first place is because you didn’t address the small changes until they became so big they were too hard to ignore.

So, now that you’ve had the talk, what can you do is schedule time where the two of you spend time with one another on a weekly basis. Turn off your phones and other distractions, and just be together. You can participate in each other’s hobbies, relive fun moments from your past, or just talk about your dreams and aspirations as a couple. These moments, though small, can really be beneficial for you and your partner in the long run.

If, however, your earlier conversation highlighted some larger rifts in your relationship that need mending, consider reaching out to family, friends, or a licensed professional for help. Sometimes, having someone with an outside perspective can be a huge benefit. If you’re not comfortable reaching out to family or friends, a licensed professional might be the best bet. Not only are we trained to help couples sort through these changes, but we’re also an unbiased third party, who has no agenda other than to help you as best as we can.

No matter what, remember that you both deserve to feel joy and happiness in your lives. Please reach out to me directly here if I can be of benefit.

Refresh + Rejuvenate for Spring

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Spring is just around the corner and Daylight Savings will be here before you know it! Spring is a time of rebirth, renewal, and a perfect time to get “out with the old and in with the new!” This year, think BIG with Spring Cleaning: it doesn’t just refer to cleaning up a home (though we’ll touch on that, too.)

Daylight Savings Time

After the short days and dark nights of winter, Spring is always a welcome respite, because it not only gives us longer days, but it reminds us that warmer summer months are just around the corner. (Personally, my favorite time of the year!)

When Daylight Savings hits this year, what are you going to do with those few precious, extra hours of daylight? This year, challenge yourself to spend that time wisely. Whether you’ve been meaning to pick up a new hobby, rekindle old friendships, or read more and Netflix less, Daylight Savings is an excellent time of year to start something new.

If you’ve been wanting to get more exercise, take time this spring to start walking around the block or going for a quick hike after work. The fresh air, new smells, and budding flowers are an excellent reminder that spring is here...and you’ll be reinvigorated with that spring energy!

Spring Cleaning

For some people “spring cleaning” is reminiscent of moving decrepit old cardboard boxes out of your garage or cleaning grime in the bathroom...not exactly appealing images! But this year, in addition to some cleaning up around the house consider a few other areas of your life that could use a good “refresh!”

Around the House

Cleaning the house doesn’t have to be seen as a chore. Believe it or not, it can be fun. Really. After you’ve cleaned up a room, take a step back and consider rearranging the furniture. If it has been a few years since you last reorganized your living room, for example, see what happens if you swap the sofa and loveseats, face the area rug in another direction, or just change a few of the pictures hanging from the walls. You’ll be amazed how quickly your rooms feel clean and fresh, with a new vibrancy and sense of life.

Spring Cleaning in Your Day-to-Day

Take advantage of the spring cleaning frenzy and think about what areas of your day-to-day life could be improved, and how you can improve them.

Perhaps there are a few relationships in your life that are a bit toxic or not very healthy. Think about how you can reduce the amount of time spent with these people and how not being around their negativity will enhance your mood and make your days even better. You don’t have to ignore them, but you can think of creative ways to slowly reduce the amount of time you’re spending with them.

Spring is also a great time to ensure you’re eating well. With gardens being planted and early blooms popping through the soil, let the rejuvenated life inspire healthy eating habits. Spring also marks the return of many farmers markets, so look for local event calendars where you live to find one near you.

Let Spring Spring!

No matter how you decide to spend those few extra hours of daylight or whatever you decide to “clean” this spring, do so with intention. The more you reflect and act on things that will improve you, the better off your whole year will be. Set goals, take small steps, and always be kind to yourself. Happy Spring everyone!

 

The Power of Intention

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As 2018 begins, it is nearly impossible to make it longer than a few minutes without some mention of a New Year’s Resolution. Whether it’s an ad on TV, radio, or online, we are constantly bombarded by the concept of a big, grand resolution. Many New Year’s Resolutions are made with the best of intentions, but are quickly abandoned. Why is that? Perhaps it is because people set huge, almost-impossible resolutions for themselves.

This year, instead of the over-the-top resolution, consider being more mindful + intentional in 2018.

What does it mean to be intentional?

Living your life intentionally means something different for everyone. At its core, though, living intentionally means being purposeful in what you do and what you say. How can you be purposeful and intentional in the things you do? Consider this: when you live intentionally, you approach each day with a fresh perspective, ready to embrace what the day may bring. It also helps you guide your daily actions and routines.

If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been in a toxic place, a place where you are not in control, or where life happens to you, this mindshift will come as a breath of fresh air. When you live intentionally, you are actively making choices that you want to make and that ultimately bring you fulfillment and happiness.

How can you live more intentionally?

Living intentionally doesn’t require a a grandiose personal makeover or an overnight change. The beauty of being intentional is that it comes in small, deliberate steps. What makes these deliberate steps so effective, though, is that each one is done with a specific goal in mind. What that goal is is up to you. Perhaps you are trying to live a bit more simply or you want to spend more time with friends and loved ones.

As you embark on your journey to living more intentionally, every step of the way you can ask yourself, “Does this action get me closer to my goal?” By continually framing your words and actions in this way, you’ll experience the transformative effect of  living intentionally can have on your life.

First + foremost, be kind to yourSELF.

To quote an old cliche, remember: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Changing the way you go about your day-to-day is not something that will happen overnight. But remember that it won’t happen at all if you are not able to forgive yourself for the missteps and mistakes that are bound to happen as you begin to live your life with intention.

Sometimes, you will say or do something and look back on it and say, “That is not how to live intentionally.” And that is okay! When that happens, own it, recognize it, and most importantly: Learn from it! These are not mistakes or missteps, but important moments for learning and self-growth. Allowing yourself to be forgiven will only help you on your new path to growth and intention.

Whatever your overarching goals to getting the most out of this year may be, remember: good things come in small packages! By remembering that small, incremental changes can make a big difference over time, you will be well on your way to living your life with more intention. And when you do, you will be amazed at how your perception of the world (and how you interact with it) will change.

Wishing you a very healthy + happy New Year!

Holiday Self-Care

The holidays are often filled with visits to and from friends, family, and loved ones, both near and far. And while it is wonderful to see so many people you care about, it can be a lot to handle, too. That’s why it is important to be mindful during this busy season to make sure that you’re taking time for yourself. I’ve put together this list to help you discover ways to recenter yourself away from the hustle and bustle of the season to take care of yourself.

Meditate right when you wake up.

That’s right. Before the coffee, before you check your phone, meditate. Meditation can help you organize your thoughts and just be with yourself before you head out into the world or a home full of guests. These moments of serenity can then be called up later in the day when things are getting a wild around the house or at work. Focus on your breathing, be aware of your body, and just be.

Be in Nature.

Head outside and get some fresh air and observe the beauty of the world around you. Taking a walk around the block or to the store to pick something up is a great time to unwind and recenter yourself. If there is a dog to walk, you may even be doing someone (especially the dog!) a favor by getting them out of the house, too.

Be honest.

If you are someone who needs a lot of time to yourself on any given day, chances are very good that you’ll definitely need some alone time during the holidays. If this sounds like you, do your best to communicate with your guests or your hosts ahead of time that you like to take some time and just be alone. Let them know that it isn’t a reflection on them, but it is just part of your routine that you cherish and desire. You’ll be surprised at how warmly people receive that message.

Write in a journal.

This doesn’t have to be page after page of your thoughts (though those are fine, too). But when you take a few minutes to commit words to paper about the day's’ activities, ups and downs, and other musings, you’re not only getting some time alone, but you’re also committing your thoughts to paper, which can be incredibly therapeutic and empowering, especially during the holiday season. Not sure what to write about? Start out by writing down something that you’re thankful for every day, and see where it takes you.

Do something for someone else.

This may seem to run counter to “Take time for yourself,” but helping others is a wonderful way to reflect on your year and spend some time with yourself. Whether you’re volunteering, writing a letter to an old friend you’ve lost touch with, or shoveling the snow from an elderly neighbor’s walkway before they wake up, doing something nice for someone for its own sake is incredibly gratifying, and at the end of the day, you’ll feel like you’ve really made a difference in someone’s day.

No matter where you find yourself this holiday season, take time to be with yourself, even if you’ve got a million people buzzing around you. By being mindful of the time you need to be a better you, you’ll improve your interactions with those you surround yourself with over the holidays. Taking time for yourself is one of the best gifts you can give yourself this year.

Expressing Gratitude

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With Halloween behind us, it is natural for us to start looking ahead and begin to think about the upcoming holiday season. Thanksgiving will be here in no time, and with it the stress and frenzy that often accompanies it. Whether you’re traveling to see family or friends or you are hosting people at your home, Thanksgiving can be incredibly stressful. However, as much as possible, this season especially is a time to practice being thankful and showing gratitude.

As Thanksgiving approaches, try to be present with your partner, and even when the pressures of the season are at their peak, do your best to show your partner gratitude. By following some of the examples below, you will be amazed at the difference expressing and showing gratitude to your partner not only does to improve their mood and outlook, but yours, too.

Count the Little Things

Gratitude shouldn’t be reserved for the “Grand Gestures” in our life. If that was the case, our expressions of gratitude would probably be few and far between. Instead, find the little reasons to show gratitude on a daily basis to your partner.

There are times when partners surprise you: they clear the dishes without being prompted; they surprise you with flowers; or they draw a warm bath for you after a particularly grueling day. These are obvious events where expressing your gratitude goes a long way. These gestures show that they care and that they are in-tune with many of the things that make the modern relationship “work.”

But don’t forget about the other events where gratitude is appreciated and goes a long way. Every now and again, your partner may need a gentle prod or reminder to sweep the floors or put their laundry away. Even if you politely prompt them to do something, once they do it, thank them. Sure, they needed reminding, but when you go out of your way to acknowledge them, chances are they’ll be more inclined in the future to do things without being prompted.

Work Together to Prioritize

One of the key factors of stress between couples during Thanksgiving and the holiday season comes from a lack of communicating priorities. In other words, one partner may view a clean house and neatly trimmed yard as the top priority, whereas the other may feel like having a stocked refrigerator and clean sheets on the beds are the top priority. While each of these are important in their own right, if partners aren’t communicating well with each other about what they view to be a priority, there is a lot of room for assumptions and unmet expectations.

One way to avoid this is by sitting down with your partner and making a list together of all of the “To Dos” you think you need to get done. Once you have the list, you can sit down with each other and discuss the merits and priorities of each. That way, you can both be on the same page about what should be done, by when, and by whom.

While this may not necessarily be an outward form of expressing gratitude to your partner, there is intrinsic value in letting your partner know that you care about their well-being, especially during the holidays, and when you’re on the same page, you’re telling them that you care. In turn, they’ll be grateful to be able to talk through competing priorities with you. And, a little quality time together making a list can be a lot of fun, too!

Communicate Your Way

Every couple has their own spoken and unspoken language. For some, an unexpected hug after an argument says “I’m sorry” in ways that the words never could. On the flip side, other couples may need to hear those words as they work towards forgiveness.

Gratitude happens in much the same way. The go-to method of showing gratitude for one couple may seem incomprehensible to another couple. Also, understand how your partner prefers to be shown gratitude. If your partner is shy, for example, he may not be particularly pleased if you single him out to thank him during the Thanksgiving dinner toast! Instead, he may be thrilled with a sticky note on the bathroom mirror before bed at night.

Finding “your” language to express gratitude is a special exercise and may require some introspective thinking. There is beauty in this, though, because it helps you think and consider the various ways in which gratitude can be shown, and by its own right, that is something to be grateful for.

Wherever you find yourself this Thanksgiving, remember to be thankful. Thank everyone from your family to your colleagues to the tellers in the grocery store. In a busy world, a “Thank You” still goes a very long way.

Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving!

Learning to set BOUNDARIES

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From time to time, we all get the dreaded feeling that there just isn’t enough time to do everything we need to do, let alone squeeze in a few of the things we want to do. Between demands on our time from work, kids, kids’ events, spouses, and countless other activities that vie for our attention, it is easy to get so bogged down to the point where you feel overwhelmed to the point of drowning. Part of it is surely our culture. After all, we live in a society where the appropriate response to “How’s it going?” is “Oh, I am so busy.” So many people wear it as a badge of honor sometimes, but at what cost? In this post, we’ll explore a few ideas that can help you take back control of your life and your time and hopefully return some of your sanity back, too!

Set Boundaries

It sounds simple, but it is easier said than done. What sort of boundaries am I talking about? Here, I’m referring to personal boundaries; the ones that are often hardest to bring up but that have a significant impact on your mental health and well-being.

For example, do you hate attending holiday functions with your family, because someone always brings up how impressive and accomplished one of your siblings is? Or perhaps someone in the family leaves you feeling guilty that you don’t visit as much as you used to. Any variation of these can leave us feeling depressed and despondent. However, there is a way to overcome those anxieties: set boundaries.

Whether it is the dreaded family holiday get-together or something else entirely that you dread doing, try and level-set with whomever you’re visiting and tell them what is and is not okay tobring up, talk about, or share while you’re there. These are difficult conversations to have, especially with loved ones (the same rules apply for workplace functions, too), but until you express your feelings, no one may know their behavior is negatively affecting you.

Self-awareness is a major aspect of setting boundaries. After all, in order to set them, you need to know what they are. When you have clearly communicated your boundaries to those who need to be made aware, that is just the first step. If someone violates your boundaries after you’ve set them, it is equally as important to be assertive and let them know how their actions are affecting you. Whenever possible, seek the support and guidance of others whom you respect and can count on to be there for you.

Make Healthy Choices

Healthy minds and healthy bodies are key ingredients to regaining control in your life. With all of the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, though, it can be difficult to find time to head to the gym or take time to just focus on your thoughts without distraction. However, achieving a healthy mind and body doesn’t require giant time commitments, and the results will serve you well all year long.

Moving our bodies in deliberate, thoughtful ways helps connect our bodies to our minds. One great way to do this is through practicing yoga. Yoga includes physical movement, breathing exercises, and promotes an awareness of Self that other workouts simply don’t give you. By bridging the physical to the emotional and even spiritual, yoga allows your body to relax and move while calming your mind and putting you back in the driver’s seat and regaining control.

Mindfulness is another great way to regain control and balance in your life. It is also very much in line with the practice of yoga. There are a lot of great benefits associated with mindfulness, namely the ability to become fully present, aware of ourselves and our surroundings, and become more reflective and less reactive to the world around us. You can incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine in a number of ways. One of the easiest ways to start is to focus on your breathing. Since breathing is so integral to everything in our lives, deliberate concentration on breathing in and out can put your mind and body at ease, leaving you with a feeling of more control in your daily life.  Breathing is just one exercise of many, so this appeals to you, I encourage you to further your research and find more mindfulness routines that suit you.

Don’t Try to Change Everything at Once

Old habits die hard, and breaking out of them is difficult to say the least. Generally speaking, research suggests that it takes about 21 days of consistent patterns and action for something to become habit. That’s why it is so important for us to be mindful about how we’re adopting these changes into our life.

If the goal is for us to feel less stressed and less overwhelmed, what sense is there in trying to fix everything at once? That sounds stressful!

So, be mindful about creating boundaries, eating right, and getting exercise. These changes don’t have to be enormous, either. If you’re looking for an easy addition to your daily routine that is incredibly helpful, try simple breathing exercises.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed or stressed, try to pinpoint what specific things in your life that are the source of the stress. Then, close your eyes and simply focus on your breathing: Gentle inhale through your nostrils, gentle exhale through your mouth. Repeat. In. And out. In. And out. 

When you complete this exercise, your head will be in a much better place to approach your stresses rationally and head on. You’ll be amazed at how satisfying regaining control with a few simple breathing exercises can be.

I would love to hear from you! What do you do in your daily life to help reduce stress and not feel incredibly overwhelmed all the time?