Healthy Relationships: Spark Notes Version

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Relationships aren’t about having another person satisfy or fulfil you.I say this often but learn to appreciate solitude. You need to be comfortable being alone, and to accept and be at peace with the person you are, in order to be healthy in relationships. Relationships are about building each other up, and appreciating each other’s uniqueness while  also enjoying togetherness. It’s important that you see your partner  for who they really are. We all have our shortcomings and weaknesses. When you first start dating you may be under the influence of infatuation. However, you can learn about who your partner is and what motivates them. This is accomplished by being willing to learn and grow with your partner. Instead of being defensive, or demanding your own way, take the time to understand your partner’s perspective – and, hopefully, your partner will learn from you, too. All relationships have differences and disagreements. Instead of getting defensive pay attention to the patterns of when and why you fight – which points to buried issues, to hurt and unmet needs. Finally, I encourage you to embrace the ordinary in your relationships. In time, the original excitement settles and things will feel normalized. But the day-to-day has meaning when it’s shared with those you love. Photo Photo: by Ivanna Salgado on Unsplash

How to Interrupt Negative Self-Talk

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Photo by Fernando @dearferdo on Unsplash

Those who people who struggle with depression or anxiety often have an internal audio track of self-hating thoughts. These can sound like:

– I am worthless.

– I deserve the pain from my mistakes.

– I am weak and need to get over this.

What can you do if you are struggling with depression and self-hating thoughts,  it is important to see a therapist who can assist you. Additionally, you can replace The following things are commonly used to interrupt negative self-talk and thoughts of despair and worthlessness:

– Treat yourself the way you treat your friends. You deserve better than hating yourself.

– Do something different – stand up, take a walk, sing – to interrupt the negative self-talk.

– Take a few moments and breathe deeply, breathing in your surroundings.

Please remember that speaking to a therapist can be profound step in your healing to overcome depression and feelings of self-hatred.

Seeking A Relationship Because You’re Lonely

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Photo by Montse Monmo on Unsplash

The  most important relationship you’ll ever have is your relationship with yourself. Feeling whole  and satisfied in your being is crucial to a healthy relationship with another. You can’t receive nor give what you don’t offer to yourself. In other words, how you feel and care for yourself sets the foundation for the other relationships in your life.  If you don’t love yourself, it’s harder to love others and receive actions of love in return.

When you’re in a romantic relationship, you bring with you all of you (that includes past hurts, traumas, biases, unhealthy patterns, etc ) and therefore unresolved and unhealed parts of you can influence future relationship whether by choosing an unhealthy partner or by potentially sabotaging a relationship 

In my opinion, the key is to recognize you’re a complete  individual. Meaning that you don’t seek a relationship to complete you. If you are looking to be in a relationship to fulfill a void, you may find yourself disappointed and heartbroken. Learn to be happy and fulfilled as a single individual. Make sure you have goals, interests, all on your own and when dating that this person adds to your life and not simply becomes your life.  (Single simply means you are without a romantic relationship. It doesn’t refer to all the other relationships that surround you.)

Be mindful that if you seek a relationship because you’re lonely you will attach yourself to the first person that comes along (whether they have a genuine interests in you or not!).  Therefore, have a strong and secure sense of self.  Present that self to whom ever you court.

 

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Photo by Valentin Antonucci on Unsplash

As a couple’s counselor and someone who studied and continues to study relationships, I am often asked how to engage in a healthy relationship and/or identify that you are in a “right” relationship. When it comes to relationships there aren’t any guarneteed certainties, however, if you are intentional in seeking and courting a partner, ask questions, and mindful of your relationship; you will learn whether your relationship is healthy and has a future. Although there are no absolutes, I have identified 6 principles that are applicable when reflecting on your relationship. These are:

1. Knowing yourself is important! The the time to know   what you want, and do not want. Who do you envision as a partner (qualities not necessarily physical attributes). 
2. You deserve respect. No matter what make sure you are in agreement in every aspect of your relationship (in all its stages). You have the right to say “no” at any time. 

 

3. Have knowledge on healthy boundaries. Be aware of what behaviors cross the line and impose on those boundaries. Unsure what is healthy boundary? Then go out and talk to relationship experts on the topic. Make a list of questions and ask for a consultation. 

4. Take a risk! In order to meet people you have to be willing to get out there and people. expose yourself to new things and  meet a wide range of people you might be pleasantly surprised. 

5.  If you box people you might not notice someone who is an ideal partner. Be open to being surprised! Sometimes people get fixated on their “type” and although you should be attracted to your partner solely focusing on their physical attributes could limit you to meeting people.

6. Pay attention to how they behave towards you and others. Are they kind? Do they make (equal) time to get to know you? 

 

Relationships are an important part of life that we are never taught. We are born straight into relationships (caregivers, families, friends, etc). Despite not learning about relationships, they are extremely influential to our wellbeing. Therefore, if you are unsure and unclear of what is a healthy relalaitonship it is completely appropriate to seek a professional’s teachings and be intntial in having a strong and healthy relationship. 

 

Relational Detox

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There are seasons where I think we need a good detox. If you are not sure what detox means it’s “a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances.” Substance can refer to anything that is not healthy for you: screen time, social media, food, a cluttered space, etc.  Any time you clean out your body, home, mind; you become aware of the other things in your life that may not be healthy for you, this can include relationships.

Before you go cutting people off, take a good and thorough look at yourself. Are you in need of healing? If so seek it!

Second, take some time to reflect on the people around you. you may find it helpful to look at the relationships in your life and identify weather or not they are healthy relationships. Generally, a healthy relationship is defined by a giving and taking of resources, energy, and time. In healthy relationships there is a shared valued system, prioritization and an investment in the bond of the relationship.

Once you have identified whether the relationship is unhealthy, ask yourself do I want to restore the vitality in this relationship? If so, then outline the steps to do so. If the answer is “no”, then establishing boundaries is he next step in detoxing from unhealthy relationships. Once severed, it is important to process and grieve the loss of the  relationship.

Connections with other have the potential to influence who you are and how you act. It is of the upmost important that these individuals are alined with your values and priorities.

 

Disclaimer: I know it’s not that easy to detox from people especially relationships where there has been a lot fo time invested. It is more than reasonable to seek guidance and processing whenever you are unsure of how to navigate a situation. Photo by Maid Milinkic on Unsplash

 

What To Do When You Are Overwhelmed

 

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Photo by kike vega on Unsplash

Overwhelmed can be an understatement for some in crisis. When things begin to pile up it can feel like we are literally drowning. It can be difficult to think of what will help in those situations. I recommend having a toolbox or a list of actions that have helped you in the past manage feelings of overwhelm. If you are unsure of where to begin, here I have outlined some actions to try.

1.Unplug from social media and, if possible, switch off your phone.

2. Try to drop all non-essential commitments.

3. Make sure you get out of the house. Deliberately change your environment each day.

4. Make a list of the things you CAN do, and begin by changing at least one of them.

5. Get a grip of the negative thought patterns. Try to focus on something positive.

6. Ask for help from someone who is safe, either a professional or someone you know cares.

The purpose of these actions is to remove anything that is not essential to you to your life at the present moment. Why? In doing so (removing the excess), you will give yourself breathing room and strictly focus on what matters to you and what is a priority in your life and for you.

How Unplugging Helped Me Connect

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Photo by Nicholas Santoianni on Unsplash

I had a plan. I even blogged it. While away I would still post. I would show my presence in the internet world in some way. Technology is amazing. I will not argue about its effectivness in connecting people. I am able to work with clients virtually, I connect with colleagues nationally. When used responsibly, it really is an amazing tool. Yet, when the time came to post. I did not want to. The thought of posting, checking emails, doing some kind of work was too much for me; even posting or connecting for fun in my personal accounts. I just did not want to do it.

Of course, after giving birth one is tired: psychically and mentally. Yet, my exhaustion was more than that. I just craved the need to unplug. So, I listened to what I needed and in doing so, I was able to be present with my husband and children. I focused on the self-care that I needed. I found a rhythm that benefits my overall well being and therefore that of my family’s.

We are bombarded with so much noise and input that we risk missing and  listening to our own intuition.  As a business owner,  I admit there was a latent fear that if I did not connect, I would lose clients. I would lose my “place” in the ranks and would have to start over. (I am happy to report that all of my clients gladly waited for me-thank you, I am humbled!) But the point is that in unplugging from the noise, I connected ever more powerfully with myself. Therapists are not exempt from natural life occurrences and happenstance; I view myself as a role model of what is possible and therefore help guide others.

I find myself more connected to my mission as a therapist, invigorated to begin again. So, I encourage you to unplug in order to tune inwards. I promise it will feel amazing.

6 Steps To Creating A Self-Care Lifestyle

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Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

As I mentioned in my previous post, taking the time to engage in self-care while your therapist is away from the office can be a wonderful practice to really implement and adhere to. Self-care is more than getting your nails and hair done or fitting in the occasional massage. Although those are nice, self-care is a comprehensive lifestyle approach that really blends your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Therefore part of the self-care plan (whether your therapist is out of the office or you’re looking to really improve you well-being) that I want you to develop is one that really takes all 3 of these areas into consideration.

  1. Take care of your physical health as this affects your mental health. Whether that is committing to a 15 minute walk everyday or a yoga class 3 times a week.
  2. Find the time to quiet the noise. In my previous post I suggest that you keep an appointment time that is non-negotiable. If your therapist is out of the office and you meet with them Fridays at 10 am then do not schedule anything during time, Keep this time for you. Keep this time to decompress and process the previous week. Get away from all the noise. 
  3. Do not compromise on the things that bring you joy. Invest time in hobbies and doing things you love. These help you to switch off and get in touch with yourself.
  4. Create a calming space in your home, this can help you to feel less stressed. This area doesn’t have to be a big space but rather a soothing place you can go to and decompress. 
  5. Identify who do you have a support network: friends, church, work out partners, colleagues, babysitters, etc. Have at least one friend you can turn to when you’re going through a difficult time, as we all need someone who we know is there for us,
  6. I can not stress this enough: stay away from toxic  people or a toxic situation who may leave you feeling depleted. If you find that you are experiencing an overstimulation to a situation (aka triggered) it’s okay to acknowledge that this is difficult and you may not be able to fully support them at this time.

Creating a self-care routine is one that will not only be nourishing in times of stress but also uplifting in the every day busyness. It can change in time but the focus is on maintaining wellness and valuing your mental well being.

What To Do When Your Therapist Is Unavailable: 5 Tips To Consider

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Photo by Craig Garner on Unsplash

There are many reasons why your therapist may be out of the office. Maybe they have a personal or family emergency, they are going through a major life transition, or simply they are away on vacation. The client and therapist relationship is one that is cherished, valued, and respected. So, when your therapist is out of the office and unavailable to you for an extended period of time, it can be difficult and can be met with some struggle. In my years of practice, I have been out of the office for a variety of reasons and each time, I not only prepare but have learned a lot in the process (both for myself as a clinician and from a client’s perspective). Therefore, I wanted to offer some suggestions, that will hopefully help you during your therapist’s absence.

  1. Please keep in mind that we are human, too. Meaning that outside of the therapy office, we have myriad of roles and responsibilities that require our attention. I often say, I practice what I preach.  Therefore, establishing boundaries and a self-care routine is of the upmost importance to me. As a result, it allows me (and other therapists) to be at our best and optimal self.  Therefore, I value my own mental health and wellbeing.
  2. We continue to care about you and your circumstance. The fact that we are not  available is  not a sign of indifference. You are not forgotten. We very much care about you and what you are going through. In fact, I can share that I have a list of clients that I will be contacting as soon as I get into the office to start our working together.
  3. Prior to leaving the office make sure that you and your therapist have discussed a plan of self-care, action, and resources that will be of support to you during their absence. I can’t stress this enough: don’t skip this conversation. I know that a lot of my clients resisted this conversation because they didn’t want to think of me out of the office, however, it is necessary because as mentioned above: WE CARE. Sometimes, a therapist will have someone “fill-in” for them while away and sometimes they won’t. Sometimes, they will have to do work to connect you with another practitioner in their absence. Each client is different and part of the plan is to create a plan that is best for you and your situation. So, it’s important that you get your plan prior to their leave. Additionally, identify a wider support network, maybe this includes a nutritionist, personal trainer, group therapy, etc. Always, have emergency numbers available in case of a crisis.
  4. See this time as a chance to practice and implement everything you have learned while in therapy. Take the time to focus on the skills you have discussed and really highlight the strengths you have developed while working with your therapist. Keep the same appointment time with yourself and take that time for self-care! Take the time to journal and process the previous week; jot down your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors as a result of what you have lived in the past week. What are some possible solutions that you can brainstorm and put into an action plan for the following week.  A lot of growth can occur during these times of self-reliance and you may very well be surprised of how much you have growth. This doesn’t mean that you are done with therapy but can really take the time to bask in your personal growth!
  5. If your therapist informs you of an impending leave of absence, I suggest don’t ignore the message. Schedule a self-care session and prepare just in case. You never know what may arise and when you reach out to your therapist you receive an out of office email. I really don’t want that to happen to you. Be proactive. Each therapist has a policy on how often they will contact someone before they close their file. Of course, you can always resume contact with your therapist, at your initiation.

These are not an exhaustive list but merely some suggestions that I thought would be helpful a time when you do not have regular access to your therapist. What do you think you need to better prepare for your therapists absence?

The Road to Recovery

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The second listed definition of the word recovery is the action or process of regaining
possession or control of something stolen or lost. It’s synonymous with the words: ”
retrieval, regaining, recapturereclamation, recouping, retaking, redemption; to list a
few. I find that the word recovery describes the journey of mental health and wellness.
They synonymous alone elicit a certain sense of power. This is a process that ebbs and
flows. You can be in recovery in many ways: eating disorder, trauma, depression,
anxiety, etc. The use of this word elicits hope, in my opinion. There are beliefs that you
must hold on to in order to nurture this hope. First, believe that you can have a healthier
future. This may be challenged by your current circumstance but hold on tight to the
the belief that you can work at processing events that have affected you.  By giving
yourself the time and believe that you can get there – one step and day at a time. Please
allow yourself to really feel your feelings and don’t judge yourself for how you feel.
Challenging negative (self) beliefs of worthiness are the first steps.  Instead, have a plan
to cope with things that cause emotional dysregulation. This may mean seeking out
healthy and inspiring people and or professionals. By doing you prioritize your recovery
and the path to wellness.