Be Your OWN Valentine!

Happy Valentine’s Day 2019!  We are all being bombarded with advertisements and store displays reminding us to get our sweetheart the “perfect” Valentine’s Day gift such as candy, cards, flowers, jewelry, to just name a few of the most popular items.  Valentine’s Day has not always been associated with romance.  In fact, some of the history of Valentine’s Day is rather gruesome.  However, most of us focus on love and romance when it comes to Valentine’s Day and frankly, that is much better in my humble opinion.  

What is love?  That is a great question with so many descriptions and interpretations.  One definition found in Merriam Webster is “warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion; to hold dear”.  Sounds like a good summary of what many of us believe love is.  However, many descriptions  include “towards another person” in the definition.   Loving and being loved by others is great; however, many definitions lack “loving yourself”.   Is loving yourself not very important?  Well, of course it is!

Lucille Ball stated, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line”.  How perfect is that!  How can we love someone or be loved by someone else if they first do not love themselves?  That is an easy answer… they can’t!

Loving ourselves sounds so easy; yet, for many of us, it is very hard to do!  Instead, many of us focus on loving others and relying on others to love us in return; that is, if we even can believe or accept that we deserve to be loved.  This sounds very sad and, it is!  The reality is, each one of us deserves to be loved no matter how many mistakes we have made and continue to make in life.   We need to love ourselves!  Robert Morley stated “To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness”.  Again, many find truly loving ourselves very challenging, and again, I ask, why?  I do not believe that there is one single answer or explanation as to why we struggle with loving ourselves for it tends to be very complicated and deep rooted.  However, it is very important to learn to love ourselves for who we are.  Sahaj Kohli said “The fact that someone else loves you doesn’t rescue you from the project of loving yourself”. This is such an amazing quote to believe and live by!

  Let’s explore and practice ways to love ourselves. Here are 8 strategies to help us learn to and to continue to love ourselves:

1.     Look into the mirror daily, yes, daily! When you are looking in the mirror, and say at least 3 positive things about yourself.  It will likely be hard to do at first but with continued practice, it will become easier.  Be sure that you identify and state different things each day!  Each of us have so many good qualities!  I love the quote by Byron Katie ”Do you want to meet the love of your life?  Look in the mirror.”

2.     Practice self care daily, such as taking a nap, exercising, dancing in the rain to name just a few.  See a previous blog post on other self care ideas here.

3.     Establish and maintain boundaries such as saying no and standing up for yourself. Do not let others push you into things or bully you.  This too will take practice but once you do it once and keep doing it, the feeling is so great that you will want to continue to do it all the time!  

4.     Accept you for you!  You are you and you are awesome!  Don’t compare yourself to others- instead cherish your uniqueness and your personal growth.

5.     Forgive yourself!  We all make mistakes but instead, let’s view them as learning experiences and celebrate what you have learned from them.

6.     Avoid perfectionism!  No one is perfect and if someone would be, how boring would that be!  Trust me, I struggle with it too.  It can be my worst enemy at times!

7.     Avoid negative people and instead surround yourself with others who value you and love you for who you are!  They see the true you and love you for it!  Quality of friends is so much more rewarding than quantity of friends.

8.     Treat yourself!  I love to purchase a new book to read.  Maybe you will do the same or maybe you will buy a new video game or something else, the point is, do something for you!

So, now that we have identified some strategies to love ourselves, what are we going to do for ourselves to celebrate us being our own best Valentine?  Does a nice dinner out sound good?  Maybe a nice quiet night in curled up in PJ’s with a pizza and watching a movie is more your style?  Whatever it may be, please treat yourself not just on Valentine’s Day, but on a regular basis such as once a month.  You certainly deserve it!  

We would love to hear how you practice loving yourself and what you love about yourself.  If you are struggling with loving you, we are here for you. Please reach out to us because we care!

How to know if you are communicating effectively

“Why are you not getting it? Are you even listening?”

 Are these the questions you routinely ask yourself when talking with others? Do not worry -these are common questions that come up when two people are struggling to communicate. These feelings of frustration can show up in a conversation between spouses, siblings, and parents with their children! If you're having these frustrations, both of you are probably struggling with ineffective communication.  What might cause ineffective communication you might ask?  Well, one of the quickest ways we end up communicating ineffectively is by not listening the other person. How many times have you found yourself responding to something the person did last week, last month, and sometimes years ago? When that happens conversations can get negative and confrontational quickly! When talking to someone feels like a negative experience, it can actually cause us to not see the benefit in communication and instead avoid talking about tough topics. 

But how do I know if I'm specifically bad at communication? Well, how often in heated conversation do you resort to talking over someone, placing blame, or even bringing up past incidences where they hurt you? We usually do these things because we believe we know what the other person wil say, do, or even think next. Those kinds of assumptions can be very wrong and bring about the thing we feared the most, causing our own negative thoughts to come true. That kind of communication causes people to be defensive and they will either stop talking to you or lash out to protect themselves. I mean think about it, if we bark at a dog and blame it for barking back, what are we really doing? So, let's stop and take a closer look at what communication really is. Communication is one of our primary ways of talking with someone to accomplish a goal, whether that goal be to get work done, feel closer to others, or just learn something new. This is why ineffective communication is so frustrating- nothing gets accomplished!  Ineffective communication blocks any progress that could have been made in conversation which then defeats the purpose of communicating with each other. So, if your communication isn't accomplishing its goal due to the other person feeling attacked or defensive, you could be communicating ineffectively.

Now let's talk about what effective communication is, and some small fine-tuning tips that can help you and your loved ones effectively communicate. The first thing is to remember that what both people have to say is important. Each person should be ready to hear out the other person whether you agree or not- everyone's feelings are valid even if they have different perspectives. Making good eye contact and repeating back to the person what you heard is always helpful so you know you aren't misunderstanding them. Also letting the person know what you're feeling while talking to them is important. You can do this by using “I” Statements, which can help the other person to not feel blamed or attacked and can help both of you to be on the same page about how you are feeling  and leave out any assumptions. “I” Statements are simply comments about how you are feeling that start with “I feel….”.

Example 1:

Possible assumption of wife when husband seems to be avoiding her- “He doesn’t want to talk to me again today!”

I-statement from husband- “I feel frustrated when we talk about the bills so I avoid that conversation.”

 

Example 2: 

Possible assumption of parent when teen doesn’t want to talk about school-“He probably wasn’t paying attention or was goofing off in class again!”

I-statement that teen could say“I feel overwhelmed when I think about school work.”

When you use “I” statements, it allows the person to ask “why” or “how come” and possibly increase both peoples’ interest and motivation to understand each other. Also setting boundaries helps when you want to communicate effectively.  Identifying the goal of the conversation, tone of voice, locations, and statements that will be the most helpful and/or damaging to your efforts to communicate effectively is important. Writing down these rules and making them readily available and helps each person to remember what makes your communication effective. You can talk with your family and decide what rules work best for everybody a write them down so each person knows how they can stay focused on effectively communicating.

Example of rules: 

The Don’ts- No yelling, no talking when one person is angry, no name calling, no placing blame, no talking in front of the kids, in the living room, in public, or over the phone. 

The Do’s- Talk in the car, bedroom, face to face, or in private space. Talk calmly, use I statements, be supportive, listen and wait my turn.

It's true communicating effectively can be very hard work, but it's worth it in the end so that both people feel heard. That’s why most of the problem is how we talk about the problem and not what the problem actually is. With effective communication, most problems can be solved. I hope these tips will be helpful the next time you need to communicate with one of your loved ones!

New Year...New You

Are you looking to make that lifestyle change of better health for 2019?

We are excited to announce one of our therapists (who is also a certified personal trainer) will be running a group that focuses on whole body wellness. Starting in February, the “Beat the Winter Blues Fitness Group” sessions will be held once a week for 4 weeks. It will be held on Saturdays from February 2 to February 23, from 1pm-2:30pm. It will be held at Crossfit Lititz, located at 37 W. Millport Rd, Lititz, PA 17543. The group will be 45 minutes of exercise, followed by 45 minutes of group therapy. Some examples of topics that will be covered are healthy coping skills, depression, anxiety, healthy relationships, and self-care. The sessions are $60 a week, and you must commit to all 4 weeks. This group will help your overall mental health, by improving your physical and emotional health while being in a supportive environment. 

For more info or to register, contact Stacy at stacy@DiscoverCounselingCollective.com
or (717) 723-8040, ext 300

To support the premise that working out is good not only for your physical wellbeing but also your mental wellbeing, here is a reprisal of Stacy’s blog from last year on how working out is good for your mental health:

How Physical Exercise Benefits Your Mental Health

Make Lifestyle Changes, not New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year 2019!  

What are your plans for the new year? Let’s see, mine are watching Penn State win the Citrus Bowl and then having the traditional pork and sauerkraut dinner for luck throughout the year. 

Ok, so that is not exactly what I meant when I ask what your plans for the new year are; although you likely will be doing some traditions that are very special to you and I encourage you to continue celebrating them!  I am talking about the New Year’s resolutions which have been drilled into our heads since being young children. I will be frank here, I dislike the idea of New Year’s resolutions. I believe it sets us up for poor follow through with the changes and often making unrealistic resolutions “goals” that are not well thought out and lacking steps to accomplish and maintain the resolutions “goals”. Some of the most common resolutions I’ve heard are “I will eat better”, “I will exercise more”, or “I will save more money”. These are great; at least they are in theory. However, my questions are...how are we going to achieve these and how long will we maintain these “resolutions”? I personally prefer to call them life style changes. It makes them more realistic, attainable, and sustainable. I also prefer to and encourage others to make positive life changes throughout the year instead of waiting to make them on New Year’s. It is always a good time to make positive life style changes.

January 1, 1994 someone very dear to me did not make a New Year’s resolution but instead made a life style change which he continues to this day, 25 years later! He stopped consuming alcohol entirely. He was what many call “a functioning alcoholic”. He maintained employment and relationships. He paid his bills and supported his family. However, much of the time beer was his best friend and what he did to celebrate good things, to “numb negative emotions”, to socialize, and to relax. The reality is, everything was a reason or time to drink. He did not think about potential consequences related to drinking but rather the good feelings associated with drinking.  He shared that his drinking continued to increase and that he remembers drinking in excess during college.  He shared that his drinking decreased some when he had a family; although, he now understands and accepts that his drinking never decreased enough to be healthy until he stopped drinking entirely January 1, 1994.


He started his life style change when he was told by his family that they would not continue to watch him drink and that it was damaging their family more than anyone could know.  Despite his family’s desires, insistence, and ultimatum; he had to make the decision himself to stop drinking.  This was not easy for him, but he made the commitment to doing so.  He began by contacting Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and that day, an AA member came to the house and dumped all alcohol down the drain.  He then made conscious daily, and sometimes minute to minute decisions, to not consume alcohol.  He attended and participated in AA meetings.  However, what worked best for him was a commitment to change which meant changing his responses to thoughts and urges to drink and avoiding people, places, and things that were triggers for him to drink.  This was not always easy; especially after life stressors such as death of immediate family members and job loss.  However, he was more understanding and accepting that to return to drinking to numb his feelings and emotions would just make him feel better for a time but then his feelings, situations, and thoughts would be just as bad if not worse.  This life style change will be something that he will work on and towards for the rest of his life.  


Making positive life style changes is not just about addressing drinking too much or using illicit substances.  People can be addicted to anything, including working, exercise, sex, shopping, and social media, to just list a few. Caffeine is a major addiction for most people, for it is in coffee, tea, chocolate, and many other things that most of us consume at least once daily, often consuming it throughout the day. However, it seems that few people acknowledge or associate addictions with daily activities and socially accepted actions such as consuming too much caffeine.  Many say they could change these patterns and behaviors if they wanted to but don’t because either “I don’t want to” or “it isn’t a problem”.  Life style changes can and often include better self-care and maintaining boundaries as noted in previous blogs.  Making positive life changes is not easy, but anyone can make and maintain positive changes.  It takes much time and effort but the positive results are very rewarding and worth it.  Also, it is important to remember to not get discouraged about any set backs but instead learn from what has caused the set back and make different decisions and change actions in the future so that you can continue with your progress to a new and healthier you.  I know you can do it just as I knew and still know that the friend I mentioned can do it! Here are some steps to help you start your positive life changes.

Steps to make positive life style changes include:

1.    Identifying what you would like to change for example “I want to spend more time doing self-care activities.”

2.   Identify strategies to make the change for example; “I will read daily and I will maintain boundaries.”

3.   Identify what may not be working with regards to making the changes and learn from them- for example deciding to exercise for an hour a day 7 days a week may not be realistic or even the best practice initially so first try small steps such as exercising for 15 minutes a day at least 3 days a week.

4.   Review and celebrate your progress, acknowledging even the small progress such as “I said no to working overtime when in the past I would have agreed to do so.” 

5.   Seek and accept support, help, and encouragement from others.  Positive self-change is most successful when you have a positive support network in place which often includes family, friends, and other peers making similar positive life changes. 

6.   Most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP OR GET DISCOURAGED!!!!!!!!!  We are all “a work in progress” and we can and will do this! 

If you are struggling with addiction or have a desire to make positive life changes, I encourage you strongly to seek help doing so and we are here to help you!  What are some areas of your life that you would like to change?  

But I'm Just A Teen...How Can I Set Boundaries?

I am writing this post for teens to read, and for parents and caregivers of teens to read. It can be difficult for teenagers to set boundaries in relationships, whether it is a friendship or an intimate relationship. It is hard for teenagers to know what their personal values and beliefs are, and furthermore, to stand up for those values and beliefs when they engage in a relationship. However, it is a very important thing to do. With alcohol use, drug use, and the growing population of young people engaging in sexual activity, it is easy to let their guard down and give into peer pressure or “what’s cool and popular”. It could be hard for teenagers to be leaders, especially if they feel like they are outnumbered in their beliefs. 

Anyone in a relationship has the right to stand up for what they believe in and say “no” if they don’t agree with something. If you tell a friend or a partner how you feel, and they decide not to listen to you or understand your opinion, then it may not be a good relationship. A true friend or partner would listen and respect what you are saying. 

Some qualities of a good friendship or relationship are:

Listening- Actively listening to the person who is talking means using eye contact, body language such as head nodding to show that you are paying attention, and rephrasing pieces that they talk about when responding.

Talking to each other- Not yelling, taking turns, expressing yourself.

Respecting each other- Actively listening, giving feedback, and understanding each other’s perspectives even if they are different.

Compromising- If you have different beliefs about something, find a way to make both of you happy.

Trust and honesty- You want the other person in the relationship to feel like they can tell you anything, and you won’t share it with others if they ask you not to.

Sharing- In any kind of relationship, it is important to share time together, things that each of you have, and communicate about things that happened to each of you.

Being supportive- No matter what the other person in the relationship says, show that you support their opinion or belief.

Not teasing them- If they have a different belief or opinion, you should listen and respect their viewpoint, not tease or make fun of them for it.

Apologize if you are wrong- We all make mistakes, and that’s ok, it’s part of life! It is important to apologize when we are wrong if the relationship is important to you.

In romantic relationships, whether it is an emotional or physical attraction, it is also important to express how you feel about something. If your partner does not respect your word or your belief, then it is not a healthy relationship to be in. Talking about your beliefs and boundaries is a great way to communicate with your partner, to make sure the relationship will be healthy and that you feel safe in the relationship.

Setting boundaries defines what your property is- physically, emotionally and mentally. It defines what is yours. You have control over your body, mind and heart. Boundaries protect you. They keep the good in and the bad out. You have control over how others treat you. And, you have control and choice over what boundaries to set. You deserve to be yourself and be respected for who you are and what boundaries you choose to set.  You have the right to be treated with respect, no matter what your values, opinions and beliefs are.

Some values to set boundaries around about are:

How physical or intimate to get with each other- In a healthy relationship, your partner should respect you if you do not want to “go all the way”, or become sexually involved. 

How fast to say “I love you”- One partner may feel this way faster than the other, but that does not mean the other partner has to say it. Say it when you are ready, not just because you feel like you need to.

Time together vs. time apart- It is important to have time away from your partner, even when you are in a relationship. If your partner wants to be with you or talk to you constantly, this is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

Being around alcohol and/or drug use- Whatever your values and beliefs are about alcohol and/or drug use, communicate them and your partner should respect them. Do not give into peer pressure! Communicate how you feel about alcohol and/or drug use, and being around others that use these substances.

Social media use and sharing- With all of the social media out these days, it is important to set boundaries and express how you feel about being “tagged”, following each other’s friends, commenting on each other’s posts, posting pictures, and sharing passwords, etc.

If you are a teenager, or a caregiver of a teenager and you want help identifying your beliefs and values, there are some activities you can do. You could do role playing where you act out a situation where the teenager is put in an uncomfortable situation, and talk through what they would do and say. You could look at your values, beliefs and opinions and how you can use them to set boundaries in relationships. You could watch or read something, and talk about the relationships in that movie or book, and discuss if they are healthy or unhealthy, or what boundaries are being set between the two people.

Do you have any personal stories or advice for teens having difficulty setting boundaries in their relationships?

Sources:

https://www.livestrong.com/article/560486-activities-to-reinforce-healthy-boundaries-in-teenagers/

http://tentotwenty.com/teaching-teens-boundaries-and-harmful-relationships/

How To Revolutionize Your Self Care...just in time for 2019!

It is that time of year again…..Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and now 2019 is staring at us!  So much hustle and bustle and stress.  We are all bombarded by pressures to cook large meals, bake cookies, attend all the parties and holiday activities, decorate our homes, and purchase and give the perfect gift for everyone including donations to charities. Of course, we also are expected to maintain daily functioning of our lives such as working, caring for family, and the all too familiar paying the mounting bills.  If this all seems overwhelming, well, it is!  Our lives are busy during “normal” times of the year let alone a time of the year that has so many celebrated holidays in a 2-month time period. Please don’t get me wrong- I love all the festivities and excitement of this time of the year, but failure to set boundaries and limitations will lead to burnout and wishing the holidays would just be over instead of celebrating the joys of the season with our friends and loved ones.  

We cannot forget that this time of the year is also very hard and challenging for those who are not feeling the excitement of the season whether it is due to struggling with addiction, mental health symptoms, incarceration, financial strains, or grief and loss.  It is hard to be cheery when such sadness and stress is affecting us so deeply.  Often people will say “this is a wonderful time of the year, you should be happy”. True, it is a wonderful time of the year, but it also brings out much sadness and anxiety.  For those of us who are facing our first or umpteenth holiday without our loved ones for whatever reason, we are faced with the question, “how do I get through the holidays?”  Sadly, there is not an answer to that question.  Many people offer platitudes such as “your loved one would want you happy” or “they are in a better place”.  Be that as it may, it doesn’t change the fact of the sadness and loss facing us.  I have learned through the years that we honor those we’ve lost by continuing some traditions and creating new ones.  We still grieve and miss our loved ones, but we can also again enjoy the holidays. The holidays will never be the same, but we will learn to “survive” the holidays.

There is one major way to get through the holidays and every other day of our lives-good self-care!  Sounds simple, right?  If it was only as simple as it sounds, then we would all be “experts” at good self-care. What is good self-care?  That is the million dollar question.  I am sure many of us have some ideas about what good self-care is such as eating healthy and balanced meals and getting enough sleep. That certainly is a part of good self-care.  However, self-care encompasses several aspects of our lives including spiritual, physical, and emotional health.  Now this adds some depth to what good self-care is.  I know, I am repeating “good self-care” but perhaps if it is said enough, all of us, including myself, will pay more attention to it and focus on it more. We must have good self-care to live fulfilling lives and to be able to care for others. We must gain a better understanding of how to take care of ourselves.  Some suggestions include the following:

1.      Just say no: Yes, it sounds like the anti-drug commercials in the 1980’s ,but it is true.  It is ok to say no, and we should do so more often.  For example, it is Saturday evening and a friend calls and asks you to help them move on Sunday, I am sure many of us would want to help despite being tired or having other plans.  If we say yes, we face resentments and frustrations of having to change our plans at last minute.  To say no often leads to feelings of guilt.  Why do we feel guilty for saying no?  Good question and the answer is, there is no reason to feel guilty for saying no when that is what we want to say!  In case you forgot, we also wrote about saying no in this blog post.

2.      Stop comparing yourself to others:  Again, easier said than done!  We all have compared ourselves to others and have been groomed to do so in all areas of our lives….salary, education, relationship status, etc.  So instead of comparing ourselves with others, focus instead on our growth and positive changes that we have made within ourselves.

3.     Make good self-care activities a priority daily:  Practicing good self-care is not something you do once a week or once a month as a reward for hard work. Rather, it is a must to do daily. Some examples include taking a lunch break away from work, eat ing balanced meals, and getting enough fulfilling sleep each day.

I am challenging each and everyone of us to 14 days of self-care activities and I encourage you to continue to do them well past 14 days!  Some suggestions include:

Day 1:  Look in the mirror and say 10 things you like about yourself.  This may be challenging at first but keep practicing and it will become easier to do.

Day 2:  Go to the zoo.   Enjoy nature and seeing the awe of children.

Day 3:  Read a book or at least a chapter of a book.  Chicken Soup for the SoulBooks are great for those who do not like to read long books but prefer stories and as a bonus, they are very warming and motivating.

Day 4:  Stay off all social media…yes you can do it and I am sure you will enjoy it more than you realize.

Day 5:  Make a snow angel and if there isn’t snow, find a puddle and jump in it.  Let your inner child out.  

Day 6:  Call a friend that you haven’t talked to in a long time and I mean call, not text or email.  We have gotten too far away from direct contact.

Day 7:  Listen to soothing music. I love to listen to Orla Fallon or Chicago, but you will find what you like best.

Day 8:  Find and do a new hobby. Perhaps arranging flowers is something you will enjoy or maybe a game of flag football is more your style but the point is, just do it!

Day 9:  Sit still, even for 15 minutes and focus on nothing but breathing in and out. 

Day 10:  Laugh!  Whatever you need to do to get a good laugh, do it. Laughter is so very therapeutic!

Day 11:  Cuddle with your pet. Ok, some of us do this daily which is great, so for those of us who do this routinely, add an additional 30 minutes of doing so.  Nothing quite as calming as that of a purr of a cat, at least to me that is.

Day 12:  Do some volunteer work. Helping others in need and seeing their joy is one of the most rewarding things in life.

Day 13:  Dress up to just dress up and to feel good.  

Day 14:  Take time for a long soothing shower or bath.  It alleviates aches and is quiet time.  Sing in the shower if you choose, but just do it!

What are some of your self-care activities?  We would love to hear your ideas and experiences.

An Easy Way To Practice Gratitude Daily

In honor of Thanksgiving later this week, I’d like to address the topic of gratitude by reminding you of a previous blog post. This blog post from earlier this year addresses the idea of keeping a daily gratitude journal as a way to help you stay focused on what is going well in your life. This is a technique I often mention to my clients, because it can help shift your thinking. It’s just so easy and powerful, it’s worth revisiting, especially since it’s Thanksgiving time. If you’ve been keeping a gratitude journal since I first mentioned it, I’d love to hear how it’s going for you. If you have never heard of this idea before and want to learn more, read on!

Click here to read the blog.

And, to put this into practice……please comment to share with us one thing you grateful for this Thanksgiving.

4 Tips To Be A More Assertive Communicator

Do you feel like you overcommit to doing things?  Do you feel like you are always giving to others but are worn out by it?  Do you feel like others take advantage of you and your kindness? 

If you said yes to any of these questions, you might struggle with assertive communication. Oftentimes, we think we should help out anyone who asks, and say “yes” to doing anything asked of us.  We might feel guilty if we don’t help out. But, if we don’t have good self care and balance, though, this overcommitting can wear us down. 

Being assertive means standing up for yourself, your needs and your wants.  It means possibly setting limits with others-outlining for them how they can (and can’t) treat you or what they can (and can’t) expect of you.   

Even if you aren’t naturally assertive, you can learn some skills! Here are some 4 suggestions of things to think about and try to be a more assertive communicator: 

  1. How do you feel? : Paying attention to how you feel is the first step of all of these suggestions.  Do you feel stressed?  Overwhelmed?  Do you feel others really care for you and show you concern?  Journaling is a great tool to help you to recognize your feelings, and patterns with how you feel in certain situations or with certain people.  

  2. Communicate : After you know how you feel, you can express those feelings to others.  Clearly state how you feel, and/or what you need from the other person, especially when you are feeling upset.  Saying “I feel you aren’t listening to me” is a better option than walking away, feeling as if what you say doesn’t matter to your partner or friend.  Repressing your feelings is the tendency to not share your feelings, and this can harm you in the long run.  Saying something is usually better than holding those feelings inside. 

  3. Say “no” : Practice saying no, starting in situations where you don’t feel obligated to help.  Things like your child’s preschool asking for a volunteer on a day where you already have a doctor’s appointment, or participating in the neighborhood yard sale might be situations where it may be easier to say “no”.  Notice how you feel after you say “no”.  There might be feelings of guilt or disappointment, but there also might be feelings of relief and pride.  After you have had practice saying “no” in a variety of situations, then challenge yourself to say “no” to things you don’t REALLY want to do.  Remind yourself it is not your responsibility to help out everyone all the time, even if they try to make you feel like it is. 

  4. Ask for help : Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance yourself.  Let those in your life know if you need help getting both kids to their sports practices at the same time on the same night, or if you are working late, ask your partner to start dinner.  Being able to admit that you could use some help to lighten your load is a key in being an assertive communicator. 

Hopefully these tips can get you started in thinking through the things you commit to doing, and why, and will help you to be more assertive in the long run.  If you’ve tried these suggestions, let us know how it is going for you! 

How Physical Exercise Benefits Your Mental Health

Are you experiencing…

-Headaches?

-Tense muscles?

- Depression?

- Weight gain and decreased metabolism?

- Blood pressure problems?

- Hair loss?

-Being sick a lot?

-Stomach aches?

-Trouble sleeping?

-Lowered sex drive?

-Jaw pain?

Stress is a part of everyday life. There are many ways to cope with stress, but exercise is an important part of coping. Besides improving your overall health, exercise helps us have more energy, improve alertness and the ability to concentrate, and increase our thought processing. These things can be very helpful when stress has made it difficult to concentrate, or zapped your energy. It has been found that regular exercise will decrease levels of stress, help to increase mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.

Exercise produces hormones called endorphins, which act as natural painkillers, and also help with sleep, which can in turn, reduce stress. Exercise also decreases stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline.

We often suggest meditation as a way to cope with anxiety and depression. Meditation is the practice of focusing on one thought or movement and clearing your mind to an emotional state of calmness. This allows you to free your mind of all negative thoughts and stressors in the past and future, and only focus on the present thought or movement. Exercise acts as meditation in movement, as you focus on your body movements. When you exercise, you focus on your movements, your breath, and how your body feels. Your attention is taken away from the stressful events of the day, and focused on the present moment. You are able to detach from the negative thoughts or events of that day. Learning how to focus on a single task, added to the energy that exercise gives you, may help you remain calm in everything that you do. Even 5 minutes can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. You don’t have to be an athlete or in top shape, to add a little bit of exercise to your daily routine.

Along with an improved self-image and self-esteem, exercise will improve your physical health. All of these things will improve your overall mental health and happiness. 

There are many excuses one can make to not start an exercise program. When I had my son, I knew I wanted to get back into exercise as soon as I could, but it was hard to find the time and energy. I felt like I did not have enough time to take care of myself, because I had a newborn to take care of that took up all my time and energy. Once I was able to commit to exercise when he was napping, or after he went to bed at night, or while a family member watched him, I was able to care for him better because I was not as stressed and my mood was elevated. 

5 Tips On Beginning An Exercise Program:

1. Decide to make an important change in your life. Don’t be afraid!

2. Consult with your doctor, if there are any health concerns or if it has been a long time since you have been physical

3. Walk before you run- start your program slowly if you are new to it, to prevent yourself from injury

4. Do what you love-it is important to find an activity that you enjoy. Some examples are running, walking, swimming, playing a sport, yoga, weightlifting, boxing. Try new things!

5. Set achievable goals and put it in your calendar- set measurable goals that you can achieve, and pencil it in your calendar so you make sure you have time to fit it in that week. Even if you have to break up 30 minutes of walking into 3 10-minute walks, still do it! Find a friend or a trainer if this helps you to stay motivated and accountable.

Anybody have experience with exercise benefiting their mental health and overall happiness? Anyone have struggles that they overcame to stick with an exercise program? Please share your stories! 

 

Guest Blog Post by:

Stacy Martinez, LCSW

Certified Personal Trainer

Certified Health coach

Field Hockey coach

 

Sources:

https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469

https://blog.spire.io/2018/03/19/how-does-exercise-reduce-stress/

https://www.activebeat.com/your-health/10-ways-stress-can-affect-physical-health/10/

How to Deal with Difficult Family Members

It's time for a quick pep talk! 

You are in charge of who you let into your life.  Just because someone is a blood relative does not give them the right to be in your life.  They must EARN the right to be in your life, to have access to you.  Do they inspire, support, encourage, and uplift you?  Or, do they just make you feel badly about yourself, physically hurt you, put you down, or yell at you often?  Are they harsh, judgmental, and critical? 

Evaluating if someone is an asset to your life, or a detriment, is hard to do.  There are specific behaviors that are easier to identify as toxic, such as physical or verbal abuse.  Insidious behaviors like always trying to one-up you, put you down, or calling you names can be just as harmful if you hear these messages long enough.  I encourage you to ask yourself if you feel better or worse after spending time with someone.  If you find you feel worse on a consistent basis, I would suggest setting limits with those difficult family members.  Limit your time with them or limit their access to you as a way to begin to stand up for yourself.  Limits could be anything from:  

-not talking on the phone for more than 10 minutes at a time, or only in person with a trusted friend present 

-designating certain topics (such as your partner, education, or job) as off limits for discussions 

-only seeing them in public.   

Let your family member know that these are your limits and if they don't respect them, that you will not continue to have contact with them.  For example, if you've decided your job is an off-limits topic for your aunt to talk to you about, then when she begins to lecture you about it, perhaps you get up and leave the room.  WARNING: Setting limits with anyone will take consistent effort to enforce.  Those close to you who are used to saying whatever hurtful or harmful thing they want will be confused by your new limits.  They will think you are joking or won't really follow through.  They will test you to see if you are serious.  So, just setting limits is not the solution.  You MUST FOLLOW THROUGH WITH WHATEVER YOU DECIDE!  Make sure you can follow through and do what you say if you are going to set limits.  Perhaps start small, with things you know you can be successful. 

It is your responsibility to look out for and advocate for yourself, because, as an adult, no one else will do that for you. Ask yourself: “Has this person earned the right to be in my life?" 

The positive side of this is that you can create a "family" of loving people surrounding you, regardless of if they are biologically related to you or not.  Surround yourself with those who you trust, who care for you, and who want the best for you.  Having cheerleaders around you can be inspiring and encouraging, especially when setting and enforcing limits with difficult people.  

If you feel comfortable sharing, I'd love to hear if you have successfully set boundaries with difficult family members.