3 Ways to Communicate Better With Your Partner

If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship, you know firsthand how frustrating it can be. Once two people start sharing more and more time together, perhaps even begin living under the same roof, arguments are bound to happen from time to time.

Sure, you both started out on your best behavior – you both believed the other could do no wrong. But as the days, weeks and months passed, and as the shiny newness of the relationship wore off, that’s when the arguments and bickering began.

But here’s some good news: just because you both find yourselves frustrated with the other more often, that doesn’t mean your relationship is in big trouble. Arguing is not a sign of a hopeless relationship, but how you handle yourself during those arguments is an indicator of the health of the relationship.

If you and your partner are frustrated with one another, here are some tips to help you communicate better:

  1. Be Direct

Indirect communication leaves much to be desired. It also leaves one or both parties very confused. Don’t beat around the bush when you have something to say or when you want to share with your partner why you are frustrated with them. If it is your partner who has initiated the conversation, don’t try to evade it and switch topics, face the music head-on. It takes directness to problem solve.

  1. Talk, Don’t Blame

How you speak to your partner is key during times of frustration. You want to be clear and direct, but you never want to point the finger. Doing so will only cause your partner to become defensive and the conversation will go off the rails.

For instance, if you are frustrated with your girlfriend who tends to be jealous when you innocently talk to other women, you wouldn’t want to say something like, “You are totally out of your mind!” That will only invite defensiveness.

Instead, try using “I statements” and pair them with “behavior descriptions.” This is a constructive strategy because I statements focus on how you feel, without blaming your partner, and behavior descriptions focus on a specific behavior your partner is engaging in rather than a character flaw.

So, for example, you might say something like, “I get frustrated when you think I am flirting with someone when the conversation is completely innocent.” This allows you to be clear and direct without drawing your partner’s character into the line of fire.

  1. Stay Focused

A constructive discussion will demand both partners’ full attention. By this I mean it’s important to stick to the issue at hand and not drag other frustrations and resentments into the conversation. Try to solve one relationship issue at a time.

If both of you have been keeping your frustrations pent up and now can barely speak to one another without completely blowing your top, you may want to consider seeking the help of a couple’s therapist. They will be able to help guide the conversation, keeping it loving and constructive.

Interested in exploring treatment options? Get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

Can Eating Fruits & Vegetables Boost Your Mood?

You know you’re supposed to eat more fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet, but did you know that the nutrients in fruits and veggies are essential for balancing your mood? It’s true and science is now proving it.

Researchers and economists from the University of Warwick in the UK, in conjunction with Dartmouth College in the US, studied the eating habits of 80,000 adults living in Britain. What they found was that the more fruits and veggies participants ate, the happier they reported feeling.

If you’re looking for a way to naturally boost your mood, start eating more fruits and veggies. Here are some to consider adding to your grocery list.

Bananas

Did you know that all of that potassium in a banana helps improve brain function? But beyond better cognition, the tryptophan in bananas eventually gets converted into serotonin, the “feel good” hormone.

Broccoli

Besides being responsible for cell growth and the production of healthy red blood cells, folic acid is essential for proper mood regulation. Folic acid is actually responsible for boosting serotonin levels and it just so happens that broccoli is a rich source of folic acid.

Spinach

And speaking of getting enough folic acid, spinach, as with most leafy veggies, boasts an impressive amount of the stuff. On top of that, spinach also contains a significant amount of magnesium. Magnesium is known to relax our muscles and calm anxiety. When you are deficient in magnesium, you may feel tired and irritable and find it hard to concentrate.

Olives

Olives: people tend to love them or hate them. If you’re someone who loves them, good news – olives contain “good fats” that are essential for lowering anger and anxiety levels. Don’t like olives? No worry, just start incorporating more olive oil into your diet. To receive all of the benefits, eat olive oil cold, as in a salad dressing.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are chock full of complex carbohydrates. Not only are these types of carbs better for glucose levels, they also increase our serotonin levels, making us feel calm and happy.

The even better news is, when you begin eating more fruits and vegetables to boost your mood, you’ll also increase your antioxidant intake. As you know, antioxidants are what fight the free radicals in our body that cause us to age and get sick. So, eating more produce is a significant win/win.

While nutrition can greatly impact your mood, if you think you may be suffering from depression, it’s best to seek guidance from a therapist who can help you manage your symptoms and work through any issues you may be having.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

3 Essential Listening Skills to Improve Your Relationship

One of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship is communication. When both partners understand how to communicate properly, they feel loved, connected and secure. But when effective communication is lacking, both people can become defensive, and the relationship can be mired down in distrust, misunderstanding and resentments.

When couples are hitting rock bottom, it’s important they relearn critical communication skills, primarily how to listen to their partner.

If you find you and your partner are struggling in understanding each other, below are three essential listening skills that can help improve your communication.

  1. Validate Your Partner’s Feelings

To validate your partner means to understand what they are saying and feeling from their point of view. This does not mean you have to agree with them. It simply means you can see their point.

When responding to something they said, you can validate them by saying something like, “That makes sense because…” or “I can see how you might think or feel…”

You may not always understand your partner’s point of view. In these instances, it’s helpful to ask for more information in a way that is positive and inviting, not negative or defensive. This could sound like “Can you tell me more about…” instead of “I don’t understand what you mean.”

  1. Mirror Their Own Words

This exercise will require you to reflect or “mirror” everything your partner is saying in their own words. Yes, it can feel a bit awkward at first, but it is an incredibly effective technique.

When you repeat what your partner has said, you may start your response with something like, “I hear you saying…” or “It sounds like what you’re saying is…”

By starting off with this type of language, it allows you to slow down, process what your partner is saying, and can make the entire exercise feel more comfortable.

The longer you practice this skill, the more you will actually hear what your partner says and understand how they feel.

  1. Empathize With Your Partner

The final step to hearing your partner is recognizing the emotions they are experiencing in the moment. This will require you go deeper than thoughts and head into the vulnerable territory of feelings. You will want to use phrases like, “It sounds like you were feeling really upset when….” Or “I can imagine you felt hurt…”

Empathizing is extremely important because it shows your partner that how they feel matters to you.

Though it will take some time to get the hang of these new listening skills, the effort is worth it. And remember, when your partner practices these same skills, you will feel equally loved and respected!

Some couples may find they need a bit of help from a neutral third party. Couples therapy can provide a safe space for each partner to practice these listening skills. A trained therapist will be able to guide you and offer advice and adjustments.

If you and your partner are interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

How to Cope with PTSD While Pregnant

Pregnancy can be an emotionally overwhelming experience for just about anybody. But for women with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it can be downright scary. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information to be found about how PTSD can impact a pregnancy, leaving many moms-to-be with even more questions and concerns.

The few studies that examined how PTSD affects pregnancy are mixed. Some say women with PTSD experience fewer symptoms when expecting, while others cite higher risk of complications due to PTSD. However, the studies did find that PTSD symptoms during pregnancy require treatment and care just as much as the pregnancy itself.

Self-Care During Pregnancy is Key

Self-care during pregnancy is important for all women, but it is particularly necessary for those suffering from PTSD. Without a keen sense of how you are feeling and putting your emotional needs first, you may find your mental health will begin to deteriorate.

If you are living with PTSD and are pregnant, here are some things you can do:

Make Coordinating Your Psychiatric and Prenatal Treatment a Priority

It is really important that you are completely transparent with all of your doctors during this time and share critical information. For instance, maybe you’ve told your therapist that you are pregnant, but neglected to mention that you’ve stopped taking your medications at the recommendation of your OBGYN. Maybe your OBGYN knows you have taken antidepressants in the past, but does not know you are currently battling PTSD. Not sharing pertinent information with your specialists will make it difficult to determine the right treatments at the right time.

Be Realistic with What You Can Handle

Now is not the time to try and be superhuman. Instead, be realistic and set your priorities. Do the dishes really need to be washed? Do you really have to return those emails? What about painting the nursery? The answer is no, those chores can wait. Focus on getting rest and relaxation while you can.

Talk with Family and Friends

Keeping your emotions and concerns inside will not help you manage your pregnancy. You will require a loving support group of family and friends that understand what you are going through, as best they can. Openly discussing your pregnancy and PTSD can provide strength and comfort during those particularly rough times.

If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD and are pregnant, but are not currently working with a therapist, consider doing so. They will be able to help you navigate your anxiety and depression during this very crucial time.

If you would like to explore treatment options, please contact me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How to Help a Loved One Suffering from Depression

Watching a loved one suffer from depression is incredibly difficult. All you want to do is help them feel better. But when it becomes obvious you can’t take their pain away, you can become frustrated.

As a friend or family member of someone suffering from depression, it’s important to remember that your loved one is dealing with a real medical condition and you are, most likely, not equipped to handle their recovery alone.

Having said that, there are things you can do to support your loved one and help them on their journey back toward health and happiness.

Understand Treatment is Key

As we mentioned, depression is a medical condition and it requires treatment from a professional therapist. Do not try and take on someone’s depression by yourself. Yes, lend support, care, and compassion, but understand that they will need medical treatment, just as they would if their leg was broken. If they themselves do not recognize how important treatment is, do your best to help them understand.

Be Vocal

Often loved ones suffering from depression are the topic of conversation, but not part of it. It’s not enough to talk to other family members and discuss how concerned you are about your sister or uncle, let your sister and uncle know you see them suffering and you’re there for support. Offer to drive them to therapy or simply lend an ear. Those suffering from depression often feel lonely and isolated, so reach out as best you can.

Help Them Stay Part of the World

Those suffering from depression typically lose interest in activities they once found enjoyable. You can help your loved one by getting them active and part of the world once more. The key here is to be patient and stay committed. You can’t force your loved one to take you up on an invitation. Don’t bully them, just encourage them as best you can. Should they say “no” to your invite 50 times, don’t give up on them. Be patient, stay committed, and continue to extend your hand. Through weekly treatment they will eventually come around and say “yes.”

Get Educated

One of the best things you can possibly do to support your loved one who is suffering from depression is to learn as much about the condition as you possibly can. It’s a good idea to speak with their therapist to get recommendations of resources that will help you learn more.

Watching a loved one suffer from depression is not easy, but knowing there are ways you can help them will lighten the load for you both.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

Do New Moms Struggle with Low Self-Esteem?

Having a child is one of life’s most incredible experiences. It is also one of the most challenging situations that come with mood swings and psychological changes.

If you’re a new mother who has been experiencing low self-esteem, you’re not alone. A group of researchers recently took a look at why new mothers experience low self-esteem and dissatisfaction with their romantic relationships.

Analyzing data from over 80,000 Norwegian mothers, the researchers uncovered some significant patterns that represented how pregnancy and motherhood changes a woman’s attitude about herself and her partner.

The Self-Esteem Roller Coaster Ride

The study found that women’s self-esteem comes and goes. During pregnancy, a woman may experience a dip in her self-esteem. However, once the baby is born, her self-esteem begins to rise again. But only for a short time, then it dips again, only this time the dip is more gradual but prolonged.

Relationships Take a Hit as Well

New mothers don’t seem to be excited by their romantic relationships either! The researchers found that during pregnancy, first-time mothers tend to be very satisfied with their romantic relationships. However, once the baby is born, these same mothers experience a gradual decline in relationship satisfaction over the next few years.

The pattern is fairly similar for mothers having their second, third or fourth child. Though a bit less pronounced than new mothers, experienced moms gradually become less and less satisfied with their relationships once the baby is born.

The biggest takeaway from the study is that self-esteem and relationship satisfaction are definitely linked. While the researchers did not uncover exact mechanisms for these mental health changes, we can safely surmise a fluctuation in hormones and a big lack of quality sleep most likely contribute.

Having said that, motherhood is hard enough without having to battle low self-esteem and relationship dissatisfaction. Here are some things you can do:

Have Realistic Expectations

New mothers have an idea of what motherhood will be like, Sadly, they’ve gotten this idea from Hollywood and Madison Avenue. The reality is, motherhood is not one big bouquet of flowers. In fact, at the very beginning, all you may really notice are the big, prickly thorns. Later, once the baby sleeps through the night and stops waking you every two hours, you may notice how lovely the roses smell.

All of this is to say you have got to have realistic expectations. Breastfeeding may not come naturally to you – and that’s okay. You may not like your baby at first – and that’s okay. You may not feel like you know what you’re doing most of the time – and that’s okay. In fact, all of these things are perfectly normal.

Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself as a mother will only cause your self-esteem to take a nosedive. Don’t try and be the perfect mother, they don’t exist (sorry Mom). Just try and do your best and enjoy the experience as best you can.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Mothers

Nothing pokes at our self-esteem quite like unfair comparisons. If you’re a brand-spanking-new mother, it is hardly fair to compare yourself to someone who’s been doing it awhile. So what if your sister, who’s on her third child, makes motherhood seem like a breeze AND bakes her own scones? She’s had time to practice, you haven’t.

While it’s fine to seek advice from other moms, never make comparisons or you’ll just set yourself up to feel badly about your own mothering abilities.

Consider Couples Counseling

If your relationship has taken a hit, it’s important that you and your partner try and reconnect. This is sometimes easier said than done, which is why seeking the guidance of a therapist is often the best way to heal the relationship.

A therapist can help the two of you communicate respectfully and effectively, something that’s not always easy when you’re both averaging 3 hours of sleep per night!

If you are interested in exploring treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

3 Reasons Why Play Therapy Is So Effective

Through play, children discover the world around them and their feelings about it. Play is also how children communicate these often-complex feelings. This is what makes play therapy such a powerful treatment. Pretending offers children the opportunity to “finally” be in charge and express what if feels like to be them.

Here are some more reasons why play therapy is so effective:

Play Reveals the Child’s Emotional Life

Though the characters of the real world and play world may be different, the storylines tend to be the same. A young girl may walk into a therapist’s office, spot the plethora of toys, grab a stuffed horse and kitten and make the horse hit the kitten repeatedly, all the while the kitten begs the horse to stop. While some adults might watch and perceive this young girl to be aggressive, a trained therapist recognizes this child is revealing a world of pain; the pain of living in a home where one parent routinely abuses the other.

Feelings can overwhelm children. Add to this their lack of a developed vocabulary to express these feelings and you have a young person with pent up emotions and nowhere to put them. Play therapy helps children reveal their inner emotional world.

Play Therapy Explores Other Options

Children are instinctual and impulsive. They haven’t yet developed the ability to stop, reason, and determine best courses of action.

Play therapy allows young people to explore different options, behaviors, and ways of feeling and thinking about things. Through play, a child may learn, for example, that aggression isn’t the only reaction, or even the best reaction, to a particular situation they are facing in home or at school. Understanding this is an area the child needs to work on, the therapist can assume a role or character and guide the dialogue and action of play toward a beneficial resolve and lesson.

Play Therapy Helps Children Feel They Will Be Okay

Children are often sent to therapy because they have been acting out at home or at school. By helping them work through their complex emotions, as well as making them feel heard and respected, play therapy helps children feel safe and okay, which results in the development of acceptable social behavior.

If you feel play therapy might be right for your child and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I might be able to help your child work through their emotions.

4 Reasons We Judge Others and How to Break the Habit

One of the things most of us are taught as children is to never judge others. “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” And yet, despite our best efforts, many of us fall into the trap over and over again. Why do we do it?

Here are four common reasons that explain this particularly bad habit of judging other people.

It Lets Us Feel Superior

Tearing other people down is one way people prop themselves up. By judging others harshly, we compare ourselves to them and find ourselves superior. Compared to their life, their behavior, their physique, we look pretty good! But this kind of comparison is false and unhealthy. Instead of finding faults in others, we would do much better to focus on how we can become our best selves.

It Helps Us Recognize Our Goals

Judging is a way for us to perceive the world and figure out where exactly we fit in. When we form opinions of others, we are able to recognize what we like and aspire to be, as well as what we don’t like and want to avoid.

It Uncovers Our Own Faults

More often than not, we are bothered by the qualities in others that we choose not to see in ourselves. We rail against another’s habits, appearance or lifestyle choices because they are the very ones we dislike in ourselves.

It Makes Us Feel Part of a Group

Occasionally, judging can make us feel part of a club. Let’s say there is a work situation where one person complains about something, and then another person agrees, and then another and another. Before you know it, a group has formed around negativity. Sometimes this negativity can be funny and based around a silly situation, but often the negativity can be at the expense of another.

How to Break the Judgement Habit

If you’ve recognized your tendency toward judgement, here are a few tips to break the habit:

  • Try to take a moment to understand where other people are coming from, and why they may look or behave the way they do.
  • Try to recognize your own insecurities, and work on building yourself up instead of tearing others down. Does their behavior mirror your own?
  • Examine your friendships and associations. Are they based on positivity or demeaning others? If the latter, disassociate yourself and focus on building connections based on positivity and mutual respect.

If you discover you have a tendency to judge others based on your own low self-esteem, it may help to speak with a therapist who can help you uncover the reasons behind it and offer coping strategies.

If you or someone you know is interested in exploring treatment, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.Bottom of Form

If you discover you have a tendency to judge others based on your own low self-esteem, it may help to speak with a therapist who can help you uncover the reasons behind it and offer coping strategies.

If you or someone you know is interested in exploring treatment, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

4 Ways to Change Your Thoughts and Relieve Depression

Did you know that on most days, the average person has between 25,000 and 50,000 thoughts? That’s an impressive amount of thoughts.

But when happens when the majority of these thoughts are negative? Imagine the impact on your psyche and your life if you had thousands and thousands of negative thoughts each day?

This amount of negative thinking is a hallmark of depression. Negative or pessimistic thinking is depression speaking for you. It is the voice of depression. What many people don’t realize is that depression is manifested in negative thinking before it ever creates a negative thought itself.

This is why it is imperative for those suffering from depression to become acutely aware of their thought patterns. If not checked, negative thinking becomes a habit, one that has the potential to completely shape your life.

Change How You Think

One of the most powerful ways people can lift themselves out of the darkness of depression is to change their thinking patterns. This is why cognitive therapy is such a profound change agent. The approach is based on the fact that thought-processing errors contribute to a depressed mood.

By changing how you think, you automatically change how you feel. Once you become aware that changing your thinking is important, you are presented with an active choice you can take to benefit your mental health.

You will no doubt find that changing your thought patterns can feel about as easy as changing a tire in the rain with nothing more than a hardboiled egg and a paper clip. But it can be done.

Here are some tips on how you can begin to change your negative thoughts:

Keep Track of Your Thoughts

Many people are in denial about their thought patterns. They don’t want to believe they are overly negative or pessimistic. Catching yourself and recording as many negative thoughts as you can will help you to see your own mental patterns.

What will these thoughts look like? You could write things like, “I hate my feet.” “My boss is an idiot.” “I hate spring.” “I hate getting up this early.” “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Be particularly mindful of making sweeping generalizations from one specific event so that your entire future looks doomed. For example, a generalized thought such as, “My girlfriend broke up with me so I’m doomed to spend the rest of my life alone.” This kind of extreme, black and white thinking is a sure sign of depression.

Identify Triggers

Once you get an idea for the frequency of your negative thoughts, try and pinpoint the triggers for them. Your journal will also come in handy here, because it will point out certain types of events that set off a chain of negative thoughts. Triggers can include being rejected or ignored, or having an unkind remark said about or to you.

Positive Conversion

You have so far learned that the human thinking process is habitual. But the good news is, you can create good thinking habits.

To do this you’ve got to start converting all of those negative thoughts into positive ones. It will be hard at first, and you will most likely feel as if you’re lying to yourself and pretending to be a glass-half-full Pollyanna.

But, as they say, “You’ve got to fake it until you make it.” Though thinking positively may feel foreign to you and like a waste of your time, you are retraining your brain to think (and feel) good.

Every time you have a negative thought, stop, recognize it as negative, and immediately flip the switch and create the positive opposite thought in its place. This could look like:

Negative thought: “I’ll never get this report done on time.”

Positive Switch: “I’m making great progress and being careful to always check my work.”

To get the hang of how to do this, go through your negativity journal and create a separate column in which you will write the positive opposites of your many negative thoughts.

If you feel too dark and down to complete these exercises, please consider reaching out to a trained therapist who can prescribe medication, should you require it, and help you work through your negativity.

If you or a loved one are suffering from depression and are interested in exploring treatment options, please contact me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

Healing from Childhood Emotional Neglect

Many of us were raised with the notion that kids are meant “to be seen and not heard,” meaning ‘don’t speak until you are spoken to.” While this idea may have only meant to keep the volume down at the Thanksgiving table, it can have negative ramifications on a child’s psyche.

Worse still, there are many children who suffer from Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). These children were raised to believe that not only do their ideas not matter, but neither do their feelings or needs.

Though the words may never have been said, the actions, or lack of, announced loud and clear: You don’t matter.

These children grow up to become adults who still believe they don’t matter, and that they shouldn’t burden others with their needs or feelings. But this cycle of worthlessness can be broken.

Here are 3 ways you can heal from childhood emotional neglect:

  1. Embrace Your Needs and Emotions

You most likely grew up believing your own needs and emotions were the enemy. You may have even been made to feel ashamed because of them.

In order to heal you must embrace your needs and emotions and invite them to play an active role in your life. You can do this by listening to yourself and honoring the way you feel. When understood and managed, emotions can propel us and help facilitate positive change.

  1. Invite People into Your Life

Growing up, you might have felt like adults were the enemy. After all, it was the adults in your life that made you feel worthless. As an adult, you may have a natural instinct to keep people at a safe distance, to “protect” yourself. But, in order to heal, you have to stop pushing people away and, instead, invite them into your life. When we form relationships with genuine, caring and honest people, we feel good about ourselves while adding value to our lives.

  1. Get to Know Who You Really Are

Survivors of CEN all have one thing in common: they don’t really know themselves. That’s because the people in their lives who should know them the best, their family, never really took the time to get to know them.

But now is the time for you to fully recognize the truth, you are absolutely worth knowing and it is your responsibility to get to know yourself. Knowing who you are, what you like, want, need, love, value, desire in this life will give you a firm foundation from which to propel yourself into an awesome future.

Recovering from any kind of emotional trauma is not easy. It is a personal journey that will contain many highs and lows. But taking the journey, one step at a time, will lead you to a wonderful life, one that you deserve.

If you or a loved one is suffering from CEN and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.