two women on a bus wearing face masks looking at their phones

Love in the Time of Covid-19

Well, that came out of left field, didn’t it? For most people, I mean. You may have felt the tremors, but I’ll be honest with you: I certainly wasn’t expecting it. But that’s how life-changing (really, truly life-altering) things go, really: they’re sudden, even when you know they’re coming. There’s always a before, and then an after. Right now, I suppose we’re experiencing the during. But there will be an end, and then will come the befores and afters.

This cosmic blend of same and different – I’ll give you an example: I observed my neighbor getting into the car and backing out of her driveway. Same. She stopped the car to stretch blue medical gloves over her hands. Different. Here’s another: my kids learn during the day. Same. At home now, with me, rather than at school. Different. A hundred million little transitions that we need to make, and are making, sometimes without even thinking of them.

One of my mother’s favorite things to do while she was still alive was make us watch all of her favorite movies. Some were great fun (“The Birdcage”) and some were considerably less fun (“Spartacus”). The all-time great was (and I actually agreed with her) “The Sound of Music.” And now that I’m a mom, I get to make my kids watch my favorites, too. So, with great effort, I removed my much-screen-refreshed phone and settled in with them for three hours of merriment, humor, telegrams, and a wonderful puppet show. The VonTrapps, they too dealt with the same and the different. They too dealt with evil, and fear, and heartbreak against all of that beautiful mountain scenery. 

Humanity experiences suffering. Same. Humanity experiences COVID-19. Different. It is okay to feel every emotion you feel about it. It’s okay to cry when Fraulein Maria marries Captain VonTrapp, even if you’ve seen it fifty times. It’s okay to wonder what happens to Max at the end of the Austrian folk festival, because you know Herr Zeller wasn’t going to let that go. And it’s okay to be afraid when you’re fumbling around in the darkness, stumbling blindly toward the first light you see.

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As part of their new educational experience, my kids watch one episode of “Our Planet” on Netflix per day. The episode on forests was particularly striking, because it shows the resiliency of our wonderful, absolutely amazing planet. There is a segment on a forest fire, and only a few months after hundreds of miles of forestland was absolutely devastated from fire, the floor was blushing again with green, with vines, with life.

As we go through our own, very particular fire of fear and uncertainty, don’t look down only in sorrow, and in regret, and in fear. Look down to see the life that is growing just below, underneath. Invisible, but certain.

Same.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

 

Hand hygiene. Person in the bathroom is cleaning and washing hands with soap

Anxiety, Stress, Social Distancing, & Healthy Control

By Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk MSPC, NCC

Anxiety, frustration, change, and uncertainty are a realistic and at times, a stressful part of life that humans grapple with. Currently, society as a whole is in a pandemic with many feeling highly anxious, fearful, and uncertain of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the long-term impact on society, the economy, loved ones, and the outcomes of overall health and wellness. It’s natural to have fear and anxiety of the unknown; to feel your healthy controls are being taxed and possibly becoming depleted.

During this time of uncertainty in the weeks to follow, there are ways to feel reasonably prepared while decreasing stress, anxiety, and worry.

Consider the following:

Grappling with Anxiety & Stress

For those experiencing anxiety, that have anxiety disorders, and/or a predisposition to stress, the fear and worry about the health and wellness of you and your loved ones, the economy, finances, having essential medications and supplies over the next few weeks or longer can feel overwhelming for some. Others are frustrated with feeling society is over preparing. Most are hoping for a level of preparedness and a positive outcome without mass hysteria.

During times of chaos and confusion, many seek out information from the news, social media, and other sources. It’s important to stay informed, it’s also vital to find good information based on statistics, data, and facts. Choosing how much to engage in information and when to disengage (put your phone down) assists with lowering feelings of uncertainty, of being out of control, and catastrophizing what is happening in the world around you. It’s normal to feel a sense of uneasiness, vulnerability, anger, confusion, and cognitive dissonance about the future.

It can be stressful for families and for parents to know how to talk with children about what’s happening. Being open, honest, and factual is important on an age appropriate level.  In addition, it’s important to balance your own fears during conversations and to do your best to monitor your own anxiety, anger, and stress to keep from instilling an unnecessary foundation of anxiety in children to potentially grapple with. It’s an opportunity to open a dialogue for critical thinking about individual feelings, values, the meaning of exploring those feelings moving forward, and how a person can learn and grow from what is happening.

It’s natural to feel the physiological and psychological impact of anxiety, it’s a protective mechanism; the fight or flight response in humans and animals. However, it’s what you do with the anxiety and stress you’re experiencing. Check in with yourself on how intense your feelings are, how long symptoms are lasting, and how your daily life is impacted. Implementing realistic expectations, allowing for flexibility, tapping into positive coping, tolerating frustration, and adapting for what is within your healthy controls day to day can help with lowering symptoms and the long-term impact. It’s beneficial to spend time in the present moments, practice gratitude, and enjoy yourself as much as realistically possible.

Social Distancing

Social distancing puts individuals at risk for social isolation; especially when depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues are present.  It’s important to have awareness of the differences between social distancing and social isolation by checking in with yourself on how you’re feeling day to day. Consider what activities you’re engaging in or not doing at all. This is a good opportunity to carve out time to rebuild a relationship with yourself, reflect on what’s important, watch the sunrise or sunset, and connect with family and friends via phone, social media, or through email. Getting back to basics can feel healing and reaffirming; especially when focusing on significant and already established relationships. Make family time fun by keeping it simple. Hopefully, this is a time for children, adolescents, and adults to take a break from the high stress and pressures of a few daily responsibilities and obligations.

With that being said, if you’re in a stressful situation at home whether it’s due to a strained relationship with your partner or feeling overwhelmed by stress and responsibilities, take time away to rebalance. Consider listening to music, going for a walk or run, spend time with your furry friends, laugh and enjoy yourself, and do your best to focus on who and what you do have in the present moment, which includes your relationship with yourself. Check out online options in your community for working out, yoga, supports, and keeping up with physical and mental health. Focus on your strengths, tap into your supports, and treat yourself with compassion.

Healthy Controls

It’s beneficial to be present and work within what is in your healthy controls. Healthy control is different than attempting to control uncontrollable factors and attempting to control those around you in unhealthy and damaging ways. Healthy control is an internal sense of strength, presence, and balance. It’s trusting yourself and valuing where you are, what you’re feeling, and what is best in moving forward. Therefore, it’s making decisions that work well for you and your loved ones in ethical and healthy manners. Putting life in perspective, having a level of preparedness, and moving forward from there realistically.

Allowing some time to decompress and enjoying time with those in your shared environment as much as possible is within the realm of healthy control.  Check in with yourself and your loved ones; if your mental health or your loved one’s mental health is suffering and/or you or a loved one is struggling, feeling overwhelmed, and need to talk, reach out for support. Therapy where you’re meeting face-to-face online through a HIPAA secure site from the comfort of your own home is a safe, healthy, confidential, and convenient way to work with a therapist and to begin the healing process.

In conclusion, find ways you can feel content, ways you can help yourself feel balanced, and reasonably safe without adding undue stress, anxiety, and social isolation. Do your best to plan in realistic areas and to take one day at a time when planning isn’t possible. Consider where your information is from, look for statistics and data to assist with keeping anxiety and the stress of the unknown as low as possible.  There are many opportunities for self-reflection, growth, connecting with loved ones, and to engage in healthy and beneficial ways. Seek out the support of an online therapist if you’re feeling overwhelmed; even in the midst of a pandemic you can get the help you need. It’s important to treat yourself well, with compassion, and to check in on how you’re feeling.

Keep first responders, medical professionals, and individuals at increased risk for direct exposure in your thoughts, and individuals with higher risk for complications too. It’s important to come together as a community in safe and healthy ways to increase feelings of belonging and to decrease anxiety, stress, fear, and social isolation.

Stay safe, healthy, and well!

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

***

MandiTurk[1]Mandi Dalicandro-Turk writes about a variety of topics related to mental health, behavioral health, relationships, stress, anxiety, aging, grieving, self-care, therapy, and improving one’s overall quality of life.

girl running through flowers in spring time

We Get Spring

There’s a catchy pop song that was a big hit a few years back, and part of it echoes so plainly in my ears now: “How am I going to be an optimist about this?”  That song was about Pompeii, and what’s swirling around us these days is, no doubt, just as much of a candidate for the history books.

I don’t really know how I’m going to be an optimist about this, but I may have one little idea: I will sleep when the baby sleeps.

For those of you who aren’t parents, the phrase “sleep when the baby sleeps” is given to new* parents to remind them that they too need rest, and that you’d better get while the getting is good.  Of course you want to stay up and fret about whether your baby is breathing in the night. Of course you want to gaze for hours at their features while you hold them in the moonlight. But babies wake up, and cry, and nurse, and because you didn’t sleep while the baby slept, you’ll be tired and cranky the whole time, and possibly want to throw anything within arm’s reach at your napping husband.

And so it is in these long, languishing days of quarantine, I will sleep when the baby sleeps. Not really sleep, of course, because my kids are much too fond of crawling all over me and incessantly asking me questions, but I will just focus on what the immediate need is, at this moment. It’s all I can do. It’s all anyone can do.

Farmers have a similar saying: “Make hay while the sun shines.” There’s no point in making hay while it’s raining; it’d get ruined.  So instead, you clean the dishes or wash the walls or count raindrops sliding down the window. You do what you can with what you have in front of you.

We all want to make hay, I get it. We all want to watch the baby sleep. But most, if not all of us reading this will need to pretty much be sitting in their homes, where those things just cannot – or should not – get done. So what can you do? How can you be an optimist about this?

I can’t answer that for you. But for me, it’s truly getting down to the brass tacks. The minutiae of it all – what’s in front of you.

We have more time for walks, the kids and I, because we’re homeschooling now and there’s no one to tell us no. The smallest buds are coming out, and the robins have soared back into the yard, looking for bits and bobs to feather their nests. My kids are excited that Spring is earlier this year. “Because the groundhog didn’t see his shadow!” Says the oldest. “Yeah!” chimes the younger. “Punkshatawney Film didn’t see it! We get Spring!

We get Spring. Yes, we get trouble, too. But we get Spring. Enjoy it! And take a nap, when you can.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

*This advice is only for first-time parents, because once you have more kids all bets are off…unless there’s a tremendous gap in age between your kids and you have one newborn and one teenager who works and can drive themselves anywhere they like. Well done to you, I say.

***

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

People are celebrating Thanksgiving day

Holiday Self-Care

It’s that time of year again! Pumpkin-spiced everything’s been overtaken by chocolate peppermint; the sun won’t come out all day again until March; and shopping malls are striking up the Christmas songs and lining families up for photos with Santa.

It’s time for family gatherings, class parties, and office gift exchanges – and before you know it, it’s time to meet up again for celebrations ringing in the New Year. It’s a lot, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed!

The holidays can be difficult for everyone for a wide variety of reasons.  Here are a few tips to help you through the next few weeks!

  1. Breathe. I know, I know. It sounds so basic. But aside from it being the most important thing you ever do (…because what happens if you don’t?), it’s important to do it slowly.  Slow breathing is key to calming your overexcited nervous systems and keeping your mind clear. (For a visual, it’s helpful to slowly breathe in like you’re luxuriously smelling a flower, and to breathe out like you’re blowing out a candle.)
  2. Give yourself space. If you’re at a gathering and you need a break from time to time, take one! You don’t need permission – you’re a grown-up! Just do it. When you’re eating a sit-down meal, seat yourself (or ask to be seated – I don’t know how fancy the party is!) at the end of the table or nearest the doorway so you don’t have to crawl over fifty people to get some fresh air. Take a few minutes to yourself, also with some calming breaths if you need them, and rejoin the activity when you’re ready – not when someone else is dragging you back in.
  3. Share your feelings – either with yourself by writing them down or drawing them in a sketchbook, or by opening up to someone who is close to you and who you know will try their best to help you feel better. Getting your fears, worries, frustrations, and your grief out in the open will keep you from bottling them up inside and making you sick.
  4. Drink more water. Full disclosure: water is my least favorite drink and I know how hard it is to make an effort to drink more if you don’t like to, but it really is important. It flushes out stress hormones and really cold water will give you something to focus on as a distraction from over-anxiety. It’s also a good idea to drink a glass or two in between samplings of holiday punch!
  5. Look at a calendar. Because shopping is such an integral part of the American holiday experience – and because companies essentially lose an extra shopping week due to a late Thanksgiving this year – holiday sales and holiday everything seems to be in the air for an extremely long amount of time. It’s perfectly okay to realize that the holiday season, if it is a hard time of year for you, will end this year. Hanukkah does last for eight days and there are twelve days of Christmas, but the celebrations will eventually come to an end…and there is a brand new year just around the corner waiting for you to enjoy it.

No matter how you spend your holidays, remember to find something in your life for which you’re thankful. It may be family, it may be your home or your job or something as simple as your streaming service subscription – but no matter the thing, focus on the thankfulness – and keep looking for more!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Woman hand holding a card with text can't over cement background

Rising to the Challenge

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, but November is “NaNoWriMo” (National Novel Writing Month).  Writers all across the country take up the challenge to write – or complete – a novel in only one month, relying on their wit, their perseverance, their talent, and a strong online community of other writers and editors to get the job done. Although most novels completed during NaNoWriMo challenges don’t make it to publication, some do, most famously Sara Gruben’s “Water For Elephants,” which was also adapted into a film starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon.

I have half-heartedly attempted to consider starting a NaNoWriMo challenge – I never got as far as typing a single word – but, ultimately, I’ve decided that it wasn’t for me, at least not in this particularly busy season of my life. I do appreciate the value of challenges, however, especially ones set in constrained time periods. The Whole 30 challenge was pretty popular for a while too, and on social media it’s not uncommon to see creative challenges that center around posting pictures or blog posts each day based on a particular theme.

The idea of challenges is really interesting to me. I can see the value in it – it’s neat to see how we act differently when we are exposed to things that change our routine so steadily over such a long period of time. And those changes can work for the better, too. (I’m Catholic, and I see the benefits of fasting/small acts of self-denial that we partake in every year for the weeks of Lent, just before Easter.) Community plays a big role too, and an important one: you get a great sense of “we’re all in this together.

But for people who suffer from anxiety or low self-esteem, the idea – or the reality – of not meeting those challenges can be difficult to bounce back from. Not finishing a NaNoWriMo project, a Whole 30 food challenge, or whatever you tried can bring on the negative self-talk pretty much instantly: “I’m a failure. I knew I couldn’t do it.” It’s enough to not make us want to try again.

So what’s the secret to a successful challenge? I’m not 100% sure, but I think it probably has something to do with not taking them too seriously and adapting more of a “so what?” attitude. “If I don’t write a whole novel, so what? I wrote a lot more than I would have!” “If I eat some cheese on the elimination diet, so what? It’s helped me figure out that I feel worse when I do eat it, so it’s a bonus.” Trying to bring up the positives takes a lot of work, but it might also lead to success. That same positive self-talk works well in real life too, not just in a challenge setting. Maybe this month we can think about some ways we can change our thinking from negative to positive and see where that takes us!

Do you like to take up monthly challenges? What’s been your experience so far? Make sure to let us know any tips for success in the comments!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Three jack-o-lanterns

Hope, Perseverance and The Great Pumpkin

There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.” – Linus

As a child of the 1980s, TV played a pretty instrumental role in how I saw the passing of time, especially when it came to holiday specials. One of my family’s favorite TV specials in the Fall was “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” which would air every year – and thankfully still does! Every October we would sit down to watch Charlie Brown and the gang, laughing at Linus stricken expressions, Lucys hilariously ironic Halloween costume mask, Charlie Browns costume (and his Halloween “candy”), and Snoopys WWI-era adventure through the “French countryside.” Everything about it – Vince Guaraldis jaunty soundtrack, the animation, and even the beautiful watercolor-esque detail of the cartoons backgrounds – signaled to me as a kid that Fall was really, truly here.

Charlie Browns adventures, no matter which you choose (and there are plenty to choose from) have always focused on both the innocence – and brutality – of childhood, particularly in terms of bullying, of which Lucy is the ringleader and reigning champion. Usually, the victim is the hapless Charlie Brown, but this particular episode focuses on his best friend, the philosophical Linus, and his faith in a being called the Great Pumpkin. According to Linus, the Great Pumpkin rises from a pumpkin patch every Halloween, but not just any pumpkin patch – the one of a true believer, the “most sincere.”  Naturally, because no one else shares his belief, they mostly dismiss Linus as insane and treat him as such throughout most of the episode. The other kids go trick-or-treating and then to a Halloween party, making sure to stop by the patch to let Linus (and Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, who decided to wait with him) know how much fun they’re missing.

But Linus perseveres, staying out in the pumpkin patch well into the night, needing to be escorted inside by his sister after the Great Pumpkin doesn’t show. The next morning when Charlie Brown, in an effort to commiserate with Linus, brings up how “he’s done stupid things too,” Linus explodes in indignation and doubles down on his resolve to make next year’s patch even better.

That resilience, along with the sheer tradition of the show, is a major reason why I think this special has resonated with so many people over the 50 years since it first aired. It speaks to all of our desires to get back up again after we’ve been knocked down. This is not the first year Linus has attempted to meet the Great Pumpkin; yet he continues to forswear his candy and treats (not to mention the constant ridicule) to greet him. Charlie Brown is told by Lucy, in no uncertain terms, that he was not invited to the Halloween party, yet he still overcomes his shame and attends anyway. What makes the Peanuts gang such a mainstay is that no matter how terrible and difficult life can be, we can still hope for greater things.

If you get the chance, make sure to catch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” when it comes around on TV this year. It’s great fun to watch, and will hopefully give your spirits a boost, too!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Wooden welcome sign

Welcome Therapist Kema Mesko

Therapist Kema MeskoJoin us in welcoming the newest member of our eTalkTherapy family Kema Mesko, who brings with her a wealth of clinical experience and a refreshing take on the importance of meaning and mindfulness in the therapeutic relationship. Kema’s areas of focus include postpartum depression, infertility issues, relationship discord and other women’s issues. Get to know more about Kema in this Q&A: 

  1. What does therapy mean to you?

Therapy means a safe space to speak about whatever you want to talk about. No judgement, No “I told you so”, No agenda. Therapy is a working relationship between you and your therapist to help you through this complex thing called life. Sometimes it takes the perspective of someone that does not know you in your day to day life to broaden your perspective to a much greater worldview. Therapy helped to enhance my life for the better, and if I can help even one person do the same my job is worth it.  

  1. What makes therapy successful?

Therapy is successful when the therapist and the client are both invested in the work. One can not want progress more than the other. And when forward progress is not being made, an open and honest conversation must be able to take place as to what could be the reason that is. Unconditional positive regard and empathy on the part of the therapist, as well as a client that truly NOT only wants help but is ready to do the work.

  1. How has nursing help shape your role as a therapist?

While working as a nurse, I noticed we would do a fantastic job of taking care of our patient’s physical ailments but not so much their mental health concerns. It was very easy for me to see how interconnected the mental and physical health were connected, but in my role as a nurse I wasn’t trained to address the mental health side of things.

Now as a therapist I’m able to assist my clients with different tools but in the same manner I would as a nurse with years of experience working with patients. Nursing has helped me to understand that sometimes less explanation at a time is better. And demonstration of techniques such as deep breathing instead of just handing you a paper is much more effective. And having the background medical knowledge helps a lot to understand a lot of what the clients are going through without them having to spend time explaining it to me causing them more frustration. Nursing helped me to more aware of how I could be most useful to my clients, more than any textbook could’ve taught me.

  1. What is your life philosophy?

My life philosophy is very simple: 2 things, Progress not Perfection… and Perfectly Imperfectly

Nobody is perfect nor should we ever place the expectation on ourselves or anyone to be. We are all flawed. But we can ALWAYS but in the work to be better tomorrow than we are today and that’s all we can do.

  1. Describe yourself in three words?

Caring, Authentic, Calm

  1. If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be AND why?

Serena Williams, because I admire strong powerful woman that are the best at their craft.  She is an example of a woman that has dominated her field and is not afraid to also show her feminine side. Life is about balance. And I strive to be an example of a strong, powerful woman that is a role model to my daughter to be the best at whatever she chooses.  

  1. What was the funniest thing you have ever experienced? Or Share something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

Ahhh 😊 so something that people are usually surprised to learn is that I teach a mixed martial arts cardio kickboxing class called BodyCombat! I’ve been teaching it for over 10 years!! It’s my total alter ego personality when the music starts, and I put the microphone on. But it’s my best form of self-care and stress relief!!

  1. Complete this sentence “The quality I most value in a friend”

Loyalty.

  1. Complete this sentence “The quality I most value in myself”

Honesty.

If you are looking to make positive changes in your life, we can help! Please contact us today about how to register and schedule your live video-chat counseling session with Kema.

Follow eTalkTherapy on Facebook and Twitter for updates and articles related to good mental health!

woman walking on a back road

This is where I draw the line

Someone asked me recently for a short list of things that would be helpful in leading a happier life. I explained that happiness, like all emotions, is fleeting. Yet, I started thinking more about her inquiry. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked for such advice.  As therapists, we are trained ad nauseam that giving direct guidance of any kind is frowned upon and unwise.  However, there is a time and a place for directive counsel and the positive effects it can have for a person who just wants her mind to be quiet for a bit.  Often, people are so busy trying to change others around them that they forget that a firm set of boundaries will help settle even the most tempest mind.

So here listed are ten boundaries, not in any particular order, that can act as reminders. Think of them this way; if happiness is indeed fleeting and not a fixed destination then how I am opening myself up to the possibility of happiness, satisfaction and a quieter mind? These are not intended to be a road map, but rather some markers along your path that may be useful.

  1. It is not my job to fix others.
  2. It is okay to say “no.”
  3. I am responsible for supporting others, not servicing.
  4. I can only make myself happy.
  5. I am not responsible for the happiness of others.
  6. Not everyone has to agree with or like me.
  7. I have a right to my own feelings, including anger. It’s how I express those feelings that counts.
  8. I can search for my meaning and purpose without permission from another.
  9. I do not have to put the emotional needs of others ahead of mine.
  10. I am responsible for my feelings and actions.

Living a life worth living shouldn’t include sacrificing your happiness for others. Learning to value and be responsible for yourself and your feelings is not selfishness, it is an act of selflessness that is affirming and empowering. The worth of your day should not be contingent on whether those around you are “happy.” Yes, we do influence others just as they influence us, but their feelings are their feelings, nothing more you can do here. Being supportive and caring is not the same as being in service to another.

We often cling to unhappy lives because change is too frightening, but setting boundaries isn’t as scary or as complicated as it may sound. In short, real change only occurs when you attempt something different. Practicing the above list is by no means a sure bet toward a healthier or happier life, but it is a step in that direction.

If you’d like to discuss boundaries and relationships further or any other mental health concerns, please feel free to contact me or you can schedule an appointment with me.

In good health,
Don

woman relaxing on a wicker chair

The Passing of Time

I grew up in South Florida, where the weather is pretty much the same year-round: hot and humid.  At Christmastime, folks string lights through palm fronds and set out ice-cold drinks for Santa as they slide into bed with a t-shirt and shorts on, searching outside on Christmas morning for sights of reindeer tracks with flip-flops on their feet. When we moved to New Jersey, the more pronounced seasons were the way to mark time: when the leaves turned colors and fell you knew it was Autumn; when they dripped with fresh, cool raindrops it was Spring. In Western Pennsylvania, it’s still the same – we have our cooler months, snowfalls, rainfalls, and warmer months; but we find different ways to mark time now, and even earlier than we probably should.

Halloween candy is out and ready to go on the grocery store shelves in the beginning of August; so are the costumes. Pumpkin-flavored everything is in full bloom weeks before the regular NFL season begins; and in some big-box stores, the Christmas supplies are already lining the back shelves, inching closer to the front-and-center displays.  My mother passed away January 31st – the day after Valentine’s Day, the Mother’s Day cards were on display, something I was entirely unready for.

(To quote one of my favorite comedians, Pete Holmes: “Not too get all Andy Rooney on ya, but…”) We used to know time by the seasons, but now they’re changing.  We used to know by holidays, but now they’re being pushed up the calendar to the point of absurdity. We are in such a rush to get to the next mile, the next place to stop – only when we get there, we’re so anxious to get to the next one.  We finish an episode of a show and let it roll on to the next once, barely processing what we’ve just taken in. We finish an audio book and tap the button for the next one without a thought. We are in such a hurry.

But where are we going? Where are you going?

If this is something you struggle with, I get it. I’m the same way, and I’ve sadly gotten to the point where if I think of being quiet even for just five minutes in a row, it makes me want to cry for the impossibility of it.  I know the only way out of it is through it – to train myself to be away from media/my phone/TV/radio for a minute at a time to rebuild that muscle of just being able to occupy myself without any outside influence. And it’s hard.  But it’s so, so worth it.

Our time matters, and it’s fleeting.  It’s one minute after another after another, but it won’t always be that way. As you go through your week this week, what’s something you can try to string those moments along in silence, and to give yourself the space to simply observe the world around you? You may start to discover the path you’re on, and all of the exciting things that come with deciding if you want to stay on it or not, or choose something new and wonderful.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Friendship

Part 6: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC, NCC

 A Series of Articles: 6 of 6 – The ‘You’ Factor in Developing Quality Relationships

This series is focused on developing quality relationships. Article 6 of 6 focuses on you, your identity, and your role in developing quality relationships.

How well do you know yourself?

Knowing yourself, the deeper meaning of who you are, and how to apply each to building and nurturing the quality of life you desire is a long-term and at times, difficult process. It takes work, vulnerability, comfort with you as a whole, with each of your facets, and strength. Learning about yourself (i.e., what you enjoy, dislike, how you plan, your work ethic, preferences for physical and emotional intimacy, desires, fears, anxieties, coping style, what you grapple with, and how you engage in relationships) is a key factor in the process of honoring who you are as a human.  Each impact you as a human, and how you engage in relationships. In addition, knowing your identity on a fundamental level assists in navigating the smooth, bumpy, and at times, roaring waters of a relationship.

Developing a deep understanding and commitment to who you are (and aren’t) as a person increases life satisfaction.  In addition, having a stable identity increases the probability of partnering with a person that is more compatible with you.  It’s human nature to desire connection with your partner, independence, interdependence, enjoyment of time together, a level of contentment, safety, and to feel fundamentally on the same page. At times, this is difficult to navigate; especially when negotiating through life, family, morals and values, goals, growth, change, and difficult times.

Part of knowing who you are is developing a strong sense of the following:

Consider the significance of each for you as an individual, and how each positively and negatively impact your relationship.

  1. What do you enjoy, what are your daily habits, and how does each impact your quality of life?

Consider how this supports you, your goals, and what this means for you in a relationship.

  1. What are your educational and career goals? How does this impact you in a relationship long-term?

Consider your goals educationally and professionally.  Then consider how this works with a long-term relationship and decisions on family.

  1. How often do you prefer to have physical intimacy in a relationship? What are you open to sexually? What boundaries will you set?

In addition, consider:  Whether or not your partner has similar preferences, and how to navigate differences in healthy ways.

The above takes time, a healthy self-disclosure-trust ratio (at your personal comfort and pace), vulnerability, healthy boundaries, and openness, as well as, respect. Have fun with it, if and when you decide it’s right for you.

  1. What is your comfort with emotional intimacy?

Consider your comfort with sharing the depth of your emotions and receiving your partners, eye contact, verbal affirmations, and how you express, feel, and give love and support. In addition, explore the meaning of giving and receiving of each in your relationship.

  1. What do you desire for yourself and in a relationship? Is this realistic long-term?

Developing realistic expectations for yourself, for your partner, and the relationship as a whole takes work and exploration. In addition, consider your approach to growth and change throughout long-term relationships.

  1. Check in on mental health.

Consider what you grapple with, how this impacts the ways you engage that may support and/or hinder progress as an individual and in relationships.

Consider how each affects communication styles, mental health, and attachments.

When issues are spilling-over and decreasing your quality of life and/or lowering life satisfaction- be kind to yourself and seek out support.

  1. Honoring yourself and your identity.

Explore what supports and strengthens you and your wellness as a whole person.  Then consider how to implement self-support and honor into your relationship with yourself and with your partner.

  1. Create and implement healthy boundaries.

Whether you’re repressing aspects of who you are, if you’re still figuring out your identity, or if you’ve given yourself permission to explore and honor who you are, you’re still you. Honor who you are by creating healthy boundaries and do so with integrity, respect, by being ethical, and doing no harm to others. Be humble, build awareness of your strength, and implement balance.

At times, it’s difficult to know what healthy boundaries are. The support of a therapist will assist you in identifying and implementing healthy boundaries that honor you as a human.  

  1. Do a self inventory.

Check in with how you’re treating yourself.  Are you treating yourself with kindness and self-compassion, engaging in self-care, honoring your identity, and checking in with how you feel?

Give yourself permission to take inventory of your relationship, your feelings, and the significance of each in your life. 

  1. Have fun in the process.

Engaging in fun is healthy for your brain, for you psychologically and physiologically, it lowers stress, and supports a sense of life balance.  You’ll feel refreshed and more ready to take on what’s important to you each day.

Learning and developing who you are (and aren’t) as a human supports you, your life goals, and allows for you to spend time with yourself in more enjoyable and authentic ways. You’ll feel more whole, more confident, more comfortable in your choices, and you’ll enjoy your relationships more.  With that being said, if you’re not there yet, give yourself permission to explore and uncover who you are in healthy ways- it will nurture and strengthen you as a whole human and each of your facets too 🙂

In conclusion, this series of articles was designed to give you insight into communication, respect, appreciation, attachment, relationships, and in giving yourself permission to develop and honor your identity moving forward. Relationships are work, including the one with yourself.  You’re worth the time, energy, and dedication it takes towards a healthier more satisfying life, identity, and in developing quality relationships.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

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MandiTurk[1]Mandi Dalicandro-Turk writes about a variety of topics related to mental health, behavioral health, relationships, stress, anxiety, aging, grieving, self-care, therapy, and improving one’s overall quality of life.