Monday, January 01, 2018

Decrease Your Stress in 2018

Our lifestyles today are packed with personal and professional deadlines.  We can find ourselves overwhelmed with the “To Do” lists and racing against the clock to get the last project completed.  Ruminating over these deadlines or obsessing about what needs to be completed can often lead to anxiety and depression symptoms. This year make the goal to find time for yourself and the things that you enjoy doing.

Schedule time for yourself

Taking care of yourself is essential to taking care of your family.  If you are that Type A personality that is prone to worry about getting things done, you might want to try the following coping tools to stop the ruminating thoughts that anxiety and depression can create.

  1. Put on the music and dance, watch a comedy, call a friend, or clean the kitchen.  Do a task that takes about 10 minutes.  That is the minimum of time needed to break the cycle of negative thinking.
  2. Allow yourself 5 minutes to ponder the list you must tackle and then move on with your plan of action.
  3. Meditate for a minute by taking that cleansing breath, closing your eyes and just focus on your breathing with a slow count to three. Breath in clean oxygen through the nose and exhale carbon dioxide out through your mouth brings the best results to calm your nervous system.
  4. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that can happen in this situation.  Accept that and then move forward to overcome those obstacles.
  5. Use your support system to brainstorm ideas when you feel stuck or do an activity together to relax and take a break for a while.
  6. Accept that you are human and will make mistakes.  Sometimes we are kinder to strangers than we are to ourselves.

Daily self-care

Practicing these ideas to reduce your daily stress and anxiety can be very helpful in remaining emotionally balanced.  Create a lifestyle for yourself and your family that prioritizes self-care with exercise, appropriate nutrition, and 8 hours of sleep.  Always seek professional advice if your stress affects the quality of life you desire.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Holiday Stress for Children

Children and parents look forward to the winter break from school to have a reprieve from the hectic schedule and academic demands.  During the holiday season children can experience different stressors if they are faced with family financial hardships and strained relationships from divorce or blended families.  Some children may have a parent in the military service that is deployed, or a recent family member may have passed away that is causing sorrow. Whatever the concern is in your family there are ways to support and comfort each other during this season.

Activities to relieve stress

The American Psychological Association completed a recent stress survey which reported 49% of teens felt that they were under more stress this year.  They stated that their worry was affecting the quality of their lives: 42% headaches, 49% difficulty sleeping and 39% are eating too much or too little.  There are several things parents can do to help their child feel cared for and understood. 

A younger child that has experienced a loss could draw a picture about what is making them feel sad or mad.  Then have the child verbalize their thoughts so that you can affirm their feelings. Families can gather together and play holiday music, sing carols or dance to their favorite songs to forget their worries for a while. It might be fun to visit extended family members and discuss the memories of past holidays when you are missing individuals who are no longer with you. Then bundle up to build a snowman or walk around the neighborhood to look at the decorations.  When there is a lull in the festivities take holiday pictures to send to family members that are not present and let them know how much they are missed.  If you are artistic be creative and make an advent calendar for each family member to write the small things they are grateful for each day. This will change your thinking from what you don’t have to what you do have.  To end the holiday season your family could have a candle lighting where each child lights their own candle in memory of those who have passed or to share their hope for the New Year.

Season of hope 

The Independent Sector study (1996) reports that children who volunteer do better in school, feel more positive about themselves, and avoid risky behaviors like drugs and alcohol.  It can help them develop career goals, learn how to respect others and understand people who are different.  Children that have participated in service activities are more likely to vote, have a positive work ethic, and live a socially responsible life.  Helping others less fortunate this holiday season can make a difference in your community.  It can also make a lifelong impression on your children and family as you work together to help make your community a better place to live.

The holidays can be a lonely time for some people.  Helping others in their time of need can also make your worries much smaller.  Spread the love and joy you feel to others you encounter each day.  You can make a difference this holiday season. The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and remembered by all family members.  So, try some of those ideas to help you manage your stress.  It will be the best present you ever gave yourself.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Separation During the Holiday Season

People who are divorced and lost the most important relationship of their life will spend time thinking about what went wrong. Most individuals think marriage is the finish line and really it’s just the next starting line. An established couple can easily get into a rut and just drift apart from each other. Managing your expectations of marriage and the ebb and flow of passion in a long-term relationship should not place a higher importance to the history and compatibility of the couple.

Routine of life

Couples feel that if the heat isn’t blazing in their bedroom that their marriage is dull, diluted and unfulfilling. Many individuals will leave their marriage too quickly because they are intoxicated by the “sugar high” of a new relationship. The momentary high from being with someone new often blinds people to the reality of what life is after divorce, especially when children are involved.

In the book Make up, Don’t break up by Dr. Bonnie Eiker Weil states “only 7% of people who separate end up getting back together, the pain of rejection shatters so much trust. If the cheating spouse is deluded by the thrill and excitement of an affair he or she may truly believe they are no longer in love. This starts the spiral of divorce, instead of realizing that their spouse may not be rational at this moment of time.”

Commitment -vs- Lust

Lust is an important component of a relationship as that heart beating passion makes you feel alive but it can also make you impulsive. Dr. Mark Banschick psychiatrist and author of The Intelligent Divorce observes, “Lust is a binder and intimacy maker early on when you have little else holding you together. But the muscle and bone structure of a long-term relationship are formed by compatibility and history. You can’t replicate the wife being there for the father’s illness, the birth of a child and the funny moments on a Sunday morning, disappointments you’ve worked through and family birthday parties. People will miss the history if it’s just about lust.”

There are situations when the marriage isn’t able to survive the destruction of multiple affairs, addiction or abuse. Couples who work on themselves and their relationship can often hurdle their current conflict and emerge to a stable relationship to raise children and comfort each other. That’s why it is best not to make a rash decision until you’ve explored your options. Many couples will give up too quickly, especially during the holiday season when emotions can be volatile at times. It is best to seek professional help to discuss your options and determine if there is any possibility to rebuild your relationship during the season of hope.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Financial Anxiety

Americans are currently losing sleep over concerns about their financial status. Recent research from Northwestern Mutual states that nearly 23% of millennials report that financial anxiety makes them feel physically ill. The survey discloses that Americans worry about losing their job, adequate insurance and financial security during retirement. The individuals interviewed agreed that financial stress affects their relationship with a spouse or partner hourly, daily or weekly.

Financial Goals

Regardless of your income there are times in life when you fall behind in your financial responsibilities. Whether you are trying to get out of debt, save enough money to retire or pay for repairs on your home you will have to manage your financial stress. Doug Hughes a Partner and Lead Consultant of Comprehensive Financial Consultants gave the example of being 45 years old and receiving bi-weekly paychecks. Doug stated if you want to retire at 67 years old you have 572 paychecks “to pay off your mortgage, put your children through college, save for your retirement and enjoy life. This creates stress.”

Experts suggest that you build an emergency fund that would provide three to six months of income for you and your family. Even if you can only save $10 to $20 dollars a paycheck it will provide emotional security to know that your money is there for you. This cash buffer for medical care, transportation concerns or home repairs will help to reduce your stress. Many people continue to spend more than what they make which creates the cycle of “never having enough” cash flow so they resort to credit cards. Bypass this stress by purchasing items you only have the cash for or can pay off at the end of the month to avoid the finance charge. 

Financial Plan

To build a stress free financial life, start with a monthly budget. Ben Barzideh , wealth advisor at Piershal Financial Group suggests that we “start by looking at your current situation, analyze the cash flow that comes in and the cash flow leaving. Then build in some goals for the future and fill in your assets with some growth assumptions. The plan will be a blueprint for how much you will need to live comfortably now and into retirement.”

Couples and families must be mindful of managing their expenses to improve their financial health. Being mindful will help you purchase things with a decision-making process to detour impulsive purchases. People tend to spend less when they pay with cash. Current studies are reporting that when we are mindful it can benefit the brain to perform better and reduce stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is also linked to increased creativity, helping you discover solutions and solve problems. So be mindful and get a good night’s sleep, eat nutritiously and set aside thirty minutes a day to exercise to be at your optimum each day.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Finding Compatibility in Relationships

Psychologists define personality as a “collection of emotional, thought and behavioral patterns unique to a person that is consistent over time.” People tend to like others who seem similar to their own characteristics of attitude, belief, personality and attractiveness. Individuals who share similar attitudes will have less conflict in their relationships and more opportunity to validate their own opinions. Compatibility is valued in a relationship especially when we feel threatened or insecure. Knowing your personality type can help you to improve communication and interpersonal relationships. Understanding your personality strengths and weaknesses can also guide you to a career that will suit you better professionally or to a more compatible partner.

Personality types

There are several assessment tools utilized to identify different personality types. An Enneagram is a diagnostic tool to determine an individual’s emotional outlook on life.  It can also enlighten you on how other people see the world differently. The Enneagram theory believes people do not change from one personality type to another. Your personality doesn’t change after early childhood but change will occur as you understand your inner strengths and weaknesses that you’ve always had. The test identifies 9 personality types: reformer, helper, achiever, individual, investigator, loyalist, enthusiast, challenger and peacemaker.

Myers-Briggs is another personality inventory based on Carl Jung’s theory (1920’s) of psychological types. The test was developed by Isabel Briggs Meyers (1940’s) and states there are 16 different personality combinations. An individual is either extraverted or introverted, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving. There are no superior personality types.

A less scientific approach is the Ice Cream Theory by author Steff Deschenes who compares people preferences to ice cream flavors. She states that personality preferences can change with age, experiences and mood. She believes that we explore the exotic flavors when feeling adventurous to more comforting flavors when seeking solace. Some flavors like personalities are acquired tastes and others will always be our childhood favorite.


The studies are unsure of the role of personality when choosing a partner but all agree that it is a natural selection that ensures successful reproduction. A person is usually attracted to someone in their own socio-economic group, same level of intelligence and physical appearance. Sometimes you will fall in love with someone who will never return that emotion due to their own mindset and chemistry. Overtime relationships will move from physical attraction to the deeper emotional intimacy of commitment and trust.

The more you know about your partner and work to understand their behaviors the stronger your relationship will become. It’s recommended that a couple date a minimum of one year before they consider marriage. Pre-marital counseling can be an impartial way to assess a couple’s compatibility by discussing individual values, philosophy of child rearing, enjoyment of leisure activities and expectations of sharing a life. It is also important to discuss how the couple resolve’s conflict and manages their differences. Relationship skills can always be improved and that can help any two personalities discover how to get along better.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Childhood Separation Anxiety

If you are the parent of a shy or anxious child, starting the school year can be a difficult time for both of you.  The child can be excited about the concept of school but at the same time display fear of leaving the safety of their home. When the parents become aware of this fear they can become over protective or “helicopter” parents which can intensify the emotions and escalate the tension.

A step toward autonomy

It will be important for the parent or caregiver to not display their anxiety about the concern or become over protective when in social situations.  Knowing your child’s triggers and preparing them for the experience is a good step to take in helping them learn how to cope with the separation.  It is important that the parent support the child but not enable them to continue their pattern of distress.

Start with small gatherings that are structured so that your child can build on their small successes.  You could attend a story hour at the library, church function or trade childcare with a friend while you run errands.  These short absences will build trust with your child and assure them that you will return.  It will also help them to build confidence by developing social skills with their peers.

Building confidence

When you enroll your child into school you can show them where their classroom will be so that they can visualize going to school each day.  Focus on the positive aspects of returning to school and that you will be there at the end of the day to hear about the fun that they had while learning.

Most children will out grow these concerns as they establish a strong sense of self and confidence in their abilities.  Their family will always be an important place of safety through their growth and development to learn the skills for a happy childhood.  Separation anxiety affects 4 percent of children 6 to 12 years old.  If you don’t see progress after attempting these suggestions you will want to seek the advice of your pediatrician for a professional referral.         

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fall in Love with Your Partner Again

Divorce rates are remaining steady at 50% survival rate for first marriages. Couples now ranging from fifty to sixty years of age are in the highest percentile of divorce which has doubled since the 1990’s. This age group is classified as the Baby Boomers with ages ranging from 51 to 69 years old.

Divorcees at this age have been termed as “gray divorces”.  Research indicated that many of the individuals report that they had become unhappy in their marriage and seek to fulfill their own interests and independence for the remaining time of their life. Grey divorces can create other issues for both men and women. Individuals can be less financially secure than married or widowed adults. Also, living alone at an older age can create more social isolation and other health concerns.

Steps for change

  • Be the model for change.  If you believe your partner is not loving, understanding or appreciative of your concerns then model those behaviors for your partner. You will get what you give in a relationship.
  • Own your 100 percent. Own your part of the problem that occurs in the relationship and then take the necessary steps to correct them.
  • Initiate sexual contact.  If you want a more passionate sex life then initiate the contact with your partner and work to make that happen.
  • Talk about your needs in a positive manner.  Stop the blame game and speak to your partner in “I” messages. Explain your needs and work together to resolve them.

Be adventurous

You can be the agent of change by taking the initiative to stay connected to your partner. As a couple, you could take turns making plans for a date night.  Sit down together and make a list of new experiences you would like to try together. When you are together try not to focus only on your day to day stressors. Discuss what dream and short-term goals you would like to accomplish individually and as a couple. Relationships are a constant work in progress.  It doesn’t get easier, you just need to be more creative.