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 walking on a back road
Don Laird

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

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

***

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.

Two women friends in an friendly embrace
Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk

Part 5: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC, NCC

 A Series of Articles: 5 of 6 – Attachment Style and Developing Quality Relationships

This series is focused on relationships. Article 5 of 6 focuses on attachment style. Secure attachment, anxious, and avoidant will be explored.  How does your attachment style increase satisfaction and/or increase frustration in your relationships? Your attachment style assists in determining how well you engage in and recover from disagreements, struggles, tolerating frustration, adapting to difficult and unfamiliar situations; including, how you feel during good times, positive times, and the important moments in your life that you desire to be present for.

As a therapist and relationship coach, I work with clients grappling with their attachment style and the contributing discomfort, anxiety, stress, isolation, and relationship issues. Your attachment style and your partner’s attachment style have the probability to motivate behaviors, impact interactions, and increase or decrease issues within your relationship.

Avoidant Attachment

Individuals with avoidant attachment have difficulty connecting emotionally.  For example, if you and/or your partner have an avoidant attachment style there is an increased probability of experiencing difficulty in trusting others; many times, this includes romantic partners.  During uncomfortable and difficult communication, you or your partner may cease communication, deflect from the issues being addressed, or retreat completely feeling confused and frustrated.

In a newer dating situation, a person may cease contact without explanation.  At times, a person in a romantic relationship will feel ‘if only, s/he will let her/his guard down.  It took past relationships to build walls and working to allow one’s guard down is complex and extremely difficult for a person with an avoidant attachment.  At times, the individual is unaware that s/he isn’t connecting; many times, s/he feels the same void you’re feeling, yet, has extreme discomfort in engaging in any level of vulnerability, openness, or trust.  Other times, the person doesn’t connect emotionally and whether on the surface or on a deeper level doesn’t seem to have the desire to connect.

It’s important for a person with avoidant attachment to ask whether s/he feels an issue is present. Then ask if the desire to connect, trust, and to learn to feel safe in sharing exists. Through therapy, you and/or your partner will have the opportunity to develop awareness to the issues that supported the development of an avoidant attachment, how to cope with and lower frequency of runaway cognitions that may not be beneficial in present relationships, and learn new ways to engage towards developing a more secure and mutually connected relationship.

Anxious Attachment

Individuals with an anxious attachment feel more fear and anxiety in relationships.  For example, if there is a disagreement or difficult communication, an individual with an anxious attachment style may continue to discuss the issues, and attempt to increase verbal engagement and communication.  It may feel that you and/or your partner continue the conversation after everything feels discussed- many times over, s/he may still desire to talk further. At times, you or your partner’s motivation is an unconscious attempt to decrease anxiety and increase feelings of safety by engaging.  S/he is attempting to connect. However, this leads to increases in feelings of anxiety and fear, runaway cognitions, ruminations, and decreases feelings of safety for the individual with an anxious attachment, and adds much confusion and frustration for each partner.

At times, an individual with an anxious attachment and an individual with an avoidant attachment will partner in a relationship. There’s potential for increases in frustration, conflict, confusion, and misunderstanding for partners that are an anxious/avoidant combination; this is more so when communication isn’t strong, communication patterns mismatch, and/or are difficult for one or each partner to understand. However, you are able to learn ways to increase communication skills, lower pressure, minimize demands, and lower the potential for emotional lability. In this environment, communication, understanding, and empathy for each partner is vital.  Couples therapy gives opportunity to begin to build awareness to internal feelings and motivations, how you give and receive love, and ways to increase emotional stability and safety.

Secure Attachment

Individuals with a secure attachment feel more security, confidence, actively engaged, and experience stronger feelings of trust in relationships. You and your partner are able to work through difficult and stressful issues with a level of reciprocal communication and responsiveness.  You’ll feel comfort in being authentic and genuine, and in feeling a level of acceptance towards and from your partner.  You and your partner have an increased probability in giving and receiving mutually, support is more easily embraced, and issues with communication are negotiated more successfully. Secure attachment carries into relationships with family and friends, and allows for a minimal preoccupation with being abandoned or with having the desire to create distance.  You’ll have an increased opportunity to develop a mature and long-term relationship with intimacy and the benefits of developing a healthier and more satisfying relationship.  It’s beneficial to allow flexibility, respect, support, and healthy boundaries.  Inevitably, there will continue to be stressors, tolerating frustration, and areas to work towards embracing, accepting, and working on as partners; this is part of being human.  However, working with a therapist to process your issues and develop a secure attachment benefits your romantic relationships and increases the quality of each area of your daily life.

Relationships consist of a combination of attachment styles and behaviors; each combination has the probability to buffer from or exasperate relationship issues and complexity. At times, you may experience more than one attachment style depending on the person you’re with, the type of relationship, length, and seriousness; however, most times, you’ll engage in a dominant style. Environments, genetic predisposition, past relationships, life experiences, and how you feel about yourself support your attachment style.

Temperament and personality impact attachment, communication, perceptions, and how you engage during difficult and positive aspects of life. Developing an understanding and awareness of you as a person and reflecting on where your partner is coming from allows for smoother navigation throughout the relationship.  Additionally, the presence of a fundamental connection and desire from each partner to learn and grow as a couple increases success and long-term satisfaction.  It’s important to be aware if you’re feeling that you’re having a relationship for two or if you’re expectation is for your partner to take on most of the relationship’s work and engagement. With that being said, take time to explore and build awareness to how each person gives in similar and different ways; it’s beneficial to make room for each.

In conclusion, developing awareness and comfort with your issues internally and in relationships is beneficial in working towards developing a secure attachment and increasing the quality of your relationships. Working with a therapist in a strong and supportive therapeutic relationship will assist in setting goals and giving yourself permission to develop a secure and healthy attachment, to develop trust, and heal from past relationship issues. You’ll have the opportunity to develop awareness as to what secure attachment is and is not, setting realistic expectations, reflecting on what works and what doesn’t in your relationship, setting healthy boundaries, and enjoying a relationship where you feel intimacy, connection, and security in a quality relationship.

COMING SOON: article 6 of 6 in the series.

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.

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online
Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk

Part 4: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

A Series of Articles: 4 of 6 – Ways to Increase Healthy Communication as Part of Developing and Reinforcing Long-Term Relationships.

Consider the following to further increase healthy communication:

  1. Consider the messages you were given throughout life and how each assists and/or hinders in communication. Then reflect on the deeper impact of your quality of life and your relationships. Positive messages support a healthy balance in building quality relationships.  Internal relationship issues that have not been worked through and processed have the propensity to lower quality of life and increase difficulty in developing the relationships and the connections individuals desire.  At times, mental health issues, (i.e., social anxiety, anxiety, depression, and/or trauma) will bring ongoing difficulties to communication and therein, quality of life.  Each of the mentioned factors are important to consider when working to uncover internal difficulties with communication. Many times, seeking out the support of a therapist will assist in overcoming difficulties, minimizing symptoms, and increasing coping capacities towards stronger communications patterns.

 

  1. Consider how others perceive your communication. Through each interaction verbally, using body language, and facial expressions, you are sending and receiving messages. Having a level of awareness of yourself and others is essential to developing healthy communication skills. This minimizes disconnect and increases healthy and productive dialogue. At times, partners in romantic relationships will invest the time into couples therapy to improve communication even if no issues exist. This is a proactive and preventative approach.  Considering the vast time spent together, this increases quality of life long-term.

 

  1. Proactive Listening- how well do you genuinely listen to others? Listening with the intention of hearing first and then articulating your point is essential. Additionally, developing the capacity to listen whether a person is excited, grappling with an issue, or discussing what happened throughout the day is a mindful process. For some, it’s difficult to quiet the mind. There may be underlying mental health issues, anxiety, ruminations, and/or a combination of issues with temperament and personality that would benefit from therapeutic intervention. Many times, once an individual seeks out therapy to develop the behaviors to adapt in an array of environments, symptoms become more manageable, which assists with decreasing layered complex issues in the future that are difficult to address.

 

  1. Humor is essential to life, without it, life lacks fun and is void of a beneficial and unique layer of human complexity. Engaging in humorous manners increases comfort and enjoyment.  Yes, there are vast differences in the types of humor individuals enjoy.  However, humor as a whole is beneficial in an array of situations and environments. For some, it takes time before you’ll have the benefit of seeing one’s humorous side. I use humor in my personal life, with clients, and in the classroom. I enjoy the development of building a genuine rapport with individuals, and developing a cohesive group environment in the classroom.  This assists with the learning process and allows individuals to show facets of who they are as humans and academically, which includes encompassing a level of humor in the process.  It takes comfort, mutual respect, and understanding communication styles to engage in humor. There’s a level of genuineness in humor that is difficult to find in other areas of life.  Coupled with the factors mentioned throughout, humor is a way to reinforce healthy communication and essentially build a deeper connection.

 

  1. Trust and safety are vital and once broken, difficult to repair and rebuild. It’s import for each person to be able to trust one another within each area of the relationship, including individual strengths and weaknesses.  For example, supporting the other through difficult times and vulnerability builds trust and safety. Additionally, feeling a sense of appreciation and pleasure for others during the achievement of goals and when positive aspects of life occur are healthy to the longevity of relationships.  At times, clients grapple with how to engage in communicative behaviors that support giving and/or receiving trust and safety.  There have been times where clients struggle with past relationships where there was a void of positive and supportive communication, manipulation was present, emotional neglect and/or harsh and abusive communication was experienced. Each are a source of pain and evoke self-protective behaviors.  Self-protective behaviors are a way for individuals to cope through pain and trauma.  Through therapy, individuals have the opportunities to begin to heal, learn how to set healthy boundaries, and develop trust in the self and overtime, other individuals- to work towards deeper, more meaningful, and fulfilling relationships.

In addition, it’s beneficial to have relationships where you’re able to share you as a whole human with many facets to unfold and share.  Self-disclosure and sharing personal information is difficult for many, it’s also an important factor in investing in relationships. Each person has a story to tell, and over time, sharing more facets of each person’s story with the other is meaningful to developing intimacy through the elements of self-disclosure, building a strong source of support, and investing in meaningful relationship where trust and safety are present.

Lastly, trust and safety assist in developing the capacities to compromise in healthier ways and with less verbal conflict, increase mutual problem solving, engage in healthy reflective behaviors, and increase intimacy through open communication.

In conclusion, article 3 of 6 and article 4 of 6 in the series encompass the importance of healthy communication as part of developing and reinforcing long-term relationships. Communication is complex, individual to each interaction, at times, difficult, and in the long-term, immensely beneficial. Each area discussed are important aspects of healthy communication. In any relationship, communication is vital to the quality and longevity of a relationship. COMING SOON: article 5 of 6 in the series.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi