People are celebrating Thanksgiving day
Christy Gualtieri

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
Christy Gualtieri

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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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

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
Christy Gualtieri

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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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

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 relaxing on a wicker chair
Christy Gualtieri

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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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

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
Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk

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.