COUPLES – 5 Important Relationship Questions You Need to Answer

You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but here it is again: Relationships are tough and they require constant work. You and your partner have to be ready to put in the work every single day, and one way to do this is through constant evaluation of your relationship.

Here is a list of some important questions to answer both individually and as a couple. These questions will give you a clearer picture of your relationship.

1.     Do you feel safe in the relationship? – In your relationship, you should be able to really be yourself without fear of being judged. Do you feel like your partner has the capability to stick with you through tough times? Will they be there if you had cancer or depression? If it is difficult for you to answer this question, seeking professional help can provide a safe place to talk about this.

2.     Are you both happy? –  As humans, we rely on our romantic relationships to provide us with some level of happiness. Having bad days is normal, but if your relationship is fraught with anxiety and tension then there might be a problem.  If you find yourself feeling sad or angry more than you feel happy, then you need to do some evaluation. Relationships require work but they shouldn’t drain you emotionally or affect your mental health.

3.     Do your plans and visions for the future align? –  To strengthen your commitment, you need to agree on your vision and goals for the future. Is your partner ready to show up, do the work every day and accept you fully without harsh criticism? You need to be sure they are in it for the long haul and you’re on the same page about what’s important to you in life.

4.     Are your arguments healthy? –  Arguments are normal, but how you argue matters. Are you able to keep your arguments from getting out of hand, find a way to calmly discuss and reach a solution? You need to argue in a way that makes both parties feel heard. If things get violent often, then you need to rethink things.

5.     Are you sexually compatible? – Sex is important in any romantic relationship. Are you physically attracted to each other? Do you agree on issues relating to sex such as when and how it occurs? If one person feels sexually deprived or pressured to do things they aren’t comfortable with, it could lead to conflict. It’s a great idea to create a safe space in your relationship where you can openly talk about your sex life.

If you answered yes to most/all of the questions above, then you and your partner are probably in a great place. If not, carefully reflect on the questions and revisit them when you’ve had time to think about them properly.

It’s also a great idea to have a third party ask questions that are too tough to ask yourselves. If you’re struggling with these questions, and need a therapist to talk to, please give me a call. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

A Parent’s Grief: Coping with the Death of a Child

The natural course of life is that a parent passes on, and their child grieves their passing. The antithesis of this is not only the most unnatural, but the most devastating for everyone affected.

If you’ve experienced the death of a child, then the grief you’re experiencing will be a lifelong process of getting through, rather than getting over. While a simple blog post is inadequate in helping you through the grief, hopefully these words will provide some relief.

Accept How You Feel

You may feel anger, exhaustion, anxiety, profound sadness and a myriad of other emotions; you may even be experiencing some physical symptoms. What you’re feeling is normal and natural; and if you’re not feeling some or all of those emotions, that too is normal and natural. Grief is a personal, individual process, and everyone grieves differently. Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling.

Whatever emotions you’re experiencing, it’s important to allow them to come up rather than suppress them. You cannot get through grief by avoiding dealing with your feelings. It may seem impossible to survive this devastating loss, but if you allow yourself to grieve, in time you will gradually begin to see and feel the light and warmth that comes from healing.

When you lose a child, you may at times feel a deep yearning or an aching emptiness that brings on immense sadness or anxiety. It may soothe you to journal about what you’re feeling, or write a letter to your child.

Honor Your Child’s Memory

Honor the memory of your child by putting together a scrapbook or creating a slideshow with photos and a favorite song. Plant a tree in their memory or make a donation to a charity or foundation in their name. If it feels right, hold a memorial gathering or celebrate their birthday.

Honoring your child’s memory also includes living a full, happy and complete life. Your child would not want the memory of their life to be your anguish and suffering. Honor their memory by accepting happiness and laughter back into your life.

Take Care of Yourself

It’s important to take care of yourself to aid in the healing process. Take the time to get out in the sunlight. Try to get some extra exercise in, and remember to eat.

Be patient and gentle with yourself as you grieve. Negative self-talk can cause anxiety, depression and sometimes even physical symptoms. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend or loved one. Realize that you were and still are a loving parent.

Resist the urge to isolate yourself and reach out to a support network. Contact friends, family or clergy to talk about what you’re going through. If you need someone to talk to and help you get through this difficult time, please contact me today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.

COUPLES – Feeling Angry and Frustrated With Your Partner? These Tips May Help

A lot of couples who come for therapy usually cite frustration with their partner as one of the major issues they face. This frustration usually stems from unmet expectations.

Expectations play a huge role in relationship satisfaction. Couples who are frustrated say things like ‘You weren’t very supportive of me when I quit my job to freelance’ or ‘You didn’t plan any special activity for our anniversary’. Constant frustration can lead to resentment and create an unhappy relationship.

Here are some practical tips to help you reduce frustration towards your partner.

1.     Communicate – You need to inform your partner of your expectations ahead of time because they can’t read your mind. If you want them to text you more often, or take you on more dates, tell them why it is important to you.

2.     Manage your expectations – Beyond the basic things that are necessary for a happy relationship, decide what’s really important to you and let go of some frivolous things. Remember that your happiness is directly related to your level of expectations. No expectations, no disappointment.

3.     Appreciate – Be grateful for everything that your partner does for you. Appreciate your similarities and differences, and your gratitude will help you unlock a whole new level of love, passion and satisfaction in your relationship.

4.     Don’t keep score – Keeping a mental scorecard of what your partner does or doesn’t do based on your expectations will only cause hurt and frustration. Kill your mental scorecard and remember that if they aren’t aware of your expectations, they can’t possibly live up to them.

5.     Accept your partner – Acceptance is key. Love your partner for who they are, not who you imagine them to be. Accepting your partner’s differences and peculiarities, makes them feel safe and respected. Judgement, however, causes them to feel blamed and become defensive.

6.     Understand your partner – Understanding your partner’s personality and motivations could help you be less frustrated when they don’t meet expectations. For example, if they hate sports they’re probably not going to take the initiative to buy you tickets to see your favorite team play unless you’ve told them how important it is to you. Rather than keeping score, aim to understand your partner’s way of seeing the world.

7.     Learn to calm yourself – Controlling your emotions and response when your expectations aren’t met can be the difference between a happy relationship and an unhappy one that’s bound to end. This means you need to take out time to settle and soothe yourself before talking to your partner about it.

Decide what expectations are important to you, and communicate them to your partner properly. If you are able to accept and appreciate your differences, then you still have a shot at having a loving and fulfilling relationship.

I can help you resolve frustration and anger in your marriage or relationship. If you would like marriage counseling or relationship counseling, please contact me.

GRIEF – Coping with a Loved One’s Serious Illness

When a serious illness strikes a family, everyone’s life is thrown into turmoil. Whether the illness is chronic or acute, no one can really prepare you for the responsibility of caregiving and the emotions that go with it.

Unfortunately, as we throw ourselves into overdrive, doing everything we can to deliver the best care to our loved one, we typically put our own self-care on the backburner, which ultimately leads to caregiver burnout.

If you’re feeling worn out, here are some ways you can care for yourself while caring for your loved one:

Give Yourself Space

You’re no doubt overwhelmed and inundated with activities that surround your loved one’s care. It’s important that you take time to get away for some quiet reflection. Take a walk in nature or a long drive to clear your head and catch your breath.

Eat Right

If there were any time in your life you craved comfort foods, now would be it! But loading up on carbs and sugar is not what your body needs. Do your best to forego donuts and pasta and instead opt for fruits and vegetables.

Connect with Others

It’s easy to become isolated during this time. You’re tired and emotional, and besides the goings-on at various doctors’ appointments, you may feel you have little to offer in the way of sterling conversation.

It’s important that you remain socially active and connect with others. This could mean finding a local support group, or grabbing a latte with friends every Thursday morning. You need to remember who you are as a person, not just a caregiver, and social interactions will help you feel human.

Get Help

Many family caregivers feel it’s their entire responsibility to provide care for their loved one. But you don’t have to do everything by yourself. Reach out to other family members and friends for help. Look into getting a home health aid who can step in for you so you can have a couple hours off each week.

You may also want to consider seeking the guidance of a family therapist who can help you navigate your emotions and offer tools to help you cope with your new day-to-day reality.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I might be able to help you and your family during this difficult time.

 

DEPRESSION – Coping with Depression During the Holiday Season

During this time of year, radio and TV ads would have us believe we should all feel merry and bright. Sadly, that’s not always the case. According to the National Institute of Health, many people experience depression during the holiday season.

Some of the most common reasons people experience depression during this time of year are:

  • Financial hardship – ‘Tis the season to be jolly, unless your bank account is overdrawn and your credit cards maxed out. Not having a budget to buy loved ones presents, especially our children, can feel devastating.
  • Stress – It’s easy to become overwhelmed from the added stress of shopping, planning and travel. Studies have found this is particularly true for women.
  • Grief and loneliness – Many people feel incredibly lonely during the holidays. Whether it’s from being single, recently divorced, or having just lost a loved one, the holidays are often a reminder of what we don’t have but wish we did.

If you can relate and are looking for some relief, here are ways you can cope with your depression this holiday season:

Feel Your Feelings

If you are grieving a loss, it’s important that you’re honest about your feelings. Your instinct may be to put on a brave face for friends and family, but forcing yourself to be happy for the sake of others will only make matters worse. Sadness and grief are a part of life, no matter the season, and it is 100% okay for you to feel your feelings.

Give Something Besides Money

If a lack of finances is the primary source of your mood, look for other ways you can give to others. You can volunteer at a local charity. Are you a good cook? Offer to cook for friends and family. If your talent is writing, write your kids a bedtime story or, if it’s painting, paint a beautiful mural on their wall. At the end of the day, thoughtful gifts from your heart will leave the greatest lasting impression.

Focus on Self Care

It’s important that you care for yourself during the holiday season. Eat right, drink filtered water, exercise, and get plenty of rest. While these steps are important for everyone throughout the entire year, they are particularly important for those suffering from depression during the holidays.

Seek Help

Depression is nothing to take lightly. If your depression has lingered, is getting worse, or you’re having suicidal thoughts, it’s imperative that you seek help from a qualified mental health professional. They will be able to help you navigate your overwhelming emotions and offer tools to manage symptoms.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. You don’t have to suffer alone. I would be more than happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

PARENTING – Hey, Dads! Need Some Help Embracing Your Role as a Dad?

Fatherhood is more than providing food, shelter and enforcing discipline. Fatherhood is the consistent presence of strength, wisdom and love in your child’s life. Many dads struggle to be more involved in their child’s life, confused by old ideas of gender roles that conflict with their desire to connect and bond with their children.

As the idea of family continues to change and more fathers are staying at home taking care of their children, the traditional expectations of mother and father have also evolved. Contrary to old paradigms, mothers are not the only ones who can nurture: fathers can also develop a bond early on with their children.

The benefit a child receives by having an active father in their life is far-reaching. Research shows that children with engaged fathers grow up to have healthier relationships, are more confident, are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and do better in school than their counterparts. With the benefits of an involved dad weighing so heavily on a child’s success, what can fathers do to be a positive influence in their child’s life?

It’s important to let go of stereotypes and expand your idea of what dads “can” do. Like mothers, fathers can also rock and hold their babies. Holding your baby to your chest and rocking them will help them feel more secure. Fathers can also talk or sing to their babies. Even in their earliest weeks, children are able to differentiate between their mother’s and their father’s voice. Additionally, your baby will learn to trust you as he hears your voice.

Participate in your child’s daily routines such as bath time, dressing, preparing meals for them and helping with homework. It’s these types of simple but intimate daily interactions that will help you foster a closer relationship with your children.

Get to know your child by listening to their favorite music or watching their favorite shows together. Do something special with your child that only the two of you do, such as designating one day a month where you go to lunch or participate in an activity together. Use this one-on-one time to talk about their goals and dreams and offer encouragement.

Taking the time to engage yourself in your child’s life will benefit both of you, and leave your son or daughter with a loving, lifelong impression.

If you’re struggling to bond with your children and would like some help and guidance, please contact me today and let’s set up an appointment.

PARENTING – A Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression and Suicide

The statistics on teen suicide are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year, an average of 8% of American teens will attempt suicide. This makes suicide the second leading cause of death for kids aged 10 to 24. In fact, it is believed that more teenagers die from suicide than from cancer, pneumonia, birth defects, AIDS, influenza and heart disease combined.

Studies have found that teens who have presented with a mood disorder or who abuse drugs are at the greatest risk of attempting suicide. While research suggests girls attempt suicide more often, boys more often die from it.

Unfortunately, there is still much stigma surrounding depression and suicide, and so often these kids keep their emotional pain to themselves.

What can parents of teenagers do to keep their children safe and healthy?

Speak with Your Kid

Many parents believe that trying to speak with their kids about their moods and feelings will only push them farther away. This is a dangerous misconception. In reality, teenagers need to know they are safe, loved and cared for.

You may want to begin your conversation by asking general questions about what’s going on in their life. When the time feels right, you can ask if they have ever had thoughts of self-harm. If their answer alarms you, ask specifically if they are planning on or intending to harm themselves.

Validate Their Feelings

Once you’ve begun this sensitive dialogue with your teen, it’s important to actively listen and validate their feelings. Your kid must really believe you are a) hearing what they’re telling you and b) recognizing the importance of it. Try and listen without judgement. This will help your child relax and open up, thereby giving you an opportunity to learn even more about their inner emotional life.

Clarify the Situation

If your teen confides they are having thoughts of suicide, it’s incredibly important that you remain calm and ask questions that will help you clarify the situation. You will want to determine if they are mentioning suicide because they:

  • Want to tell you just how bad they are feeling.
  • Alert you to something they need but are not getting.
  • Need to vocalize their desire to stop feeling so many emotions.
  • Have actually planned how and when they will take their life.

Seek Professional Guidance

Any talk of suicide is a serious matter and requires professional guidance by a trained therapist. It’s important not to force your teen into any treatment plan, but instead, allow them to help direct the course of their plan. Some of their depression might stem from an overall lack of control they feel they have in their own life, so it’s important you let them have a voice in the direction of treatment. You may also find that you will want to speak with someone through this difficult time.

If you or a loved one is seeking treatment options for a troubled teen, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help your family.

Why Intimacy May Be the Key to a Longer Life

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but an orgasm a day works twice as well! Regular sex is the key to longevity. This contradicts a lot of advice about health. In traditional Indian culture, ejaculation was seen as a drain on men’s vitality. In French, an orgasm is called, ‘le petit mort’, ‘the little death. Why would sex prolong life? There are several exciting explanations and here are some of the best.

Sex improves the immune system – When you feel a cold coming on, have sex. Researchers in Wilkes University, Pennsylvania discovered that people who have sex frequently, possess greater levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody that prevents colds.

Sex reduces the risk of heart disease– Heart disease is a leading cause of death for men and women. The New England Research Institute’s study showed that men who have sex twice a week can reduce their risk of heart disease by half. Sex is great exercise, and it gets your heart pumping. According to research from the University of Montreal, men burn 100 calories in the average sex session while women burn 69. Losing calories and getting orgasms sounds like the ultimate deal.

Sex reduces stress– We all get stressed. Stress leads to serious health problems that can shorten one’s life. Dr Stuart Brody’s researchproved that people who have regular sex exhibit lower blood pressure in stressful situations.

Sex keeps the cells healthy– Cells are the building blocks in our bodies, and sex keeps them healthy and increases lifespan. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco discovered that constant sex helps to lengthen the telomeres, the set of proteins in the cell’s nucleus that stabilizes the ends of the chromosomes.

Sex reduces the risk of breast and prostate cancer- A study revealed that women who had sex more than once per month, had a lower risk of getting breast cancer. During sex, ‘happy’ hormones like oxytocin and DHEA are released which may help prevent breast cancer. Similarly, Australian researchers published a study showing men who ejaculate often between the ages of 20-50, are less likely to develop prostate cancer.

Orgasms can add years to your life- Regular romps in the hay can lengthen your daysThis study found that men who had multiple orgasms a week had a 50% lower risk of death than those who didn’t orgasm as much. Other studies show that women who have frequent orgasms are more likely to live longer than those who don’t.

Frequent sex means an intimate relationship. These studies prove that close personal ties enhance health and extend longevity. So next time you have sex, remember that you’re prolonging your life.

How to Help Someone Who is Grieving

Few things are more sad or difficult than finding out that a loved one has suffered a personal loss. Many times we fail to reach out to a loved one in grief out of shyness or uncertainty. We worry that we don’t have the words, or know what we can do to help or console our friend.

Many times, it’s easier to offer a virtual hug or send a text instead of picking up the phone or talking face-to-face. Of course, the most difficult things for us to do are what can be the most helpful to a person in mourning.

Listen

When someone is grieving, they tend to hear clichés such as: “They’re in a better place”, “at least they’re not suffering” and “it was his time”. Instead of a cliché, offer an ear. Ask them about their loved one by name (“Tell me about Jim”) and encourage them to talk about their memories.

Share Memories

If you knew the deceased, you can offer a great deal of condolence by sharing positive memories that perhaps your loved one was unaware of.

Give a Gift or Memento

Simple gestures such as a card, a plant or other small gift can bring comfort to your friend or relative in their time of grief. It also can be easier to approach them if you have a small card or gift in tow. If your loved one is a person of faith, then be sure to get an appropriately themed card or book to encourage them to lean on their faith.

Offer Help and Hope

Instead of saying “let me know how I can help”, offer specific help such as bringing a meal on a particular day, running an errand for them or helping with child care or housework. You can also ask, “What can I do to help?”

Offer hope by believing in their ability to move forward. You can also offer to take your loved one to a grief support group at their church or a local Meetup group. It can help the bereaved to talk or listen to others going through the same thing.

Check in with them later

With our own busy lives, it can be difficult to remember to follow up, so set a reminder on your phone or calendar to check up on your friend down the road. Give them a call or drop by to visit them and see how they’re doing.

With a little love and support, you can help your loved one see that there are brighter days ahead.

If you or a loved one could use professional help through the grieving process, please contact me today.

What Postpartum Depression Can Feel Like

It’s a few days after you’ve given birth, the celebratory phone calls are still coming in all you feel is sadness all the way down to your gut. Although the emotions are unexpected and less than welcome, postpartum depression can be common among new mothers. Up to one in seven women experience PPD after their first child even though it might be the first episode of depression they’ve experienced in their life.

It’s important to remember how much the body changes during pregnancy and immediately after. Postpartum, a hormone imbalance can occur due to losing built up levels of progesterone right after birth, leaving high levels of estrogen and the mental and physical symptoms that accompany the imbalance. Previous experiences or diagnosis’ of depression can also be a risk factor that can lead to new episodes surfacing.

Aside from the physical risk factors of PPD forming, one of the biggest factors is that mothers are overwhelmed by the new challenges of motherhood and having to be physically responsible for a new life. PPD challenges can increase with breastfeeding difficulties and by having a demanding baby. Challenges like these can make you feel as if you’re not connecting with your child and exacerbate symptoms.

For many, the emotions vary from anxiety to depression, anger and resentment towards the child and family. You might fear the idea of not being a good enough mother for your child or might feel that your newborn is taking your time away from other people that you should be spending time with.

Symptoms can start a few days after birth, and last days, weeks, or longer depending on how long it goes untreated. As with other things like PPD, symptoms vary and can be highly unique to you. PPD is treatable with individual counseling, therapy, and medication, like other forms of depression. Medication usually involves anti-depressants which can take a few weeks to become effective in regulating mood.

Many women find strength in connecting with other mothers who also share their experiences. Finding others who have also experienced PPD can help shrink feelings of isolation and bring a degree of normalcy back to your life.

If you or your partner is struggling with PPD, please contact me today as therapy can be immensely helpful. Remember that experiences of PPD can be very unique and it’s important to address how you’re feeling with a professional, even if you think they might not understand.