This might be a topic that most people may find themselves wanting to read, but also feel a little insecure in doing openly. There is no doubt that relationships (especially the romantic ones), take a lot of work. Sometimes, we might even question our sanity for staying in the relationship after any length of time. There is an element of any romantic relationship for which stress likely draws us into a lack of intimacy for many couples where there is less emotional stability. Yes, I am speaking of sex. When a romantic relationship is strained in some way, or there is otherwise less harmony, sexual activity can tend to be put on a back burner. This is actually quite normal. We lose that desire for intimacy with our partner or spouse when the relationship is not stable or impaired. However, there are still some who think that sex can change circumstances to an issue causing stress. The reality, is that it doesn't change anything. Additionally, the stress of the relationship might even out you at odds with each other in terms of where your minds are about being sexual during stressful situations.
If you are on the side of the relationship not wanting sex when you are feeling stressed, you might be less inclined to care about your partner's needs, as you are busy dealing with your emotions in the disharmony of the relationship. You may or may not be able to put words to your reasons for feeling as you do, but nevertheless there is an absence of desire to be intimate. There might be other issues that are more personal to you that are difficult to discuss, and which have nothing to do with whatever might be an ongoing concern in your overall environment. Communication is key here with your spouse or partner. None of us are really all that good at mind reading, so the more you can keep the lines of communication open and to express your needs or lack of desire for intimacy the better.
If you are on the side of the relationship who thinks that being sexual when times are tough is a way to buffer the stress in your relationship, you might actually find a disagreeable partner. This is obviously not the time to think of your own sexual gratification as a way to create peace in your relationship. For one, it will be short lived. Second, it isn't every effective in solving the stress in the relationship. The sexual encounter might even backfire on you in your attempts to soothe the stress you both are experiencing in your environment. Sexual pleasure should be an expression of joy, but not used as a band-aid when times are tough.
Perhaps the more positive way to go, is to recognize that the stress in the relationship (whatever constitutes the stress) needs to be addressed directly. Understanding what is going on in the relationship, and being willing to work on fixing it, is one of the healthier approaches to dealing with issues that impact your relationship. Communication, strategizing to find solutions, seeking support from friends and family as needed, or even connecting with outside resources are likely to be very beneficial. Rather than think that the issues will simply go away on their own and one can just turn away from the problem, know that ignoring the issues which are causing the stress is likely only going to get worse. We cannot create change by standing still and doing nothing. So we must be present and in the moment of awareness to what is happening - both to ourselves, as well as our spouse or partner.
Developing healthy coping skills in a relationship is a central goal in dealing with stressful issues, and this in turn will help you in overcoming the many challenges you face. Seeking help from a counselor might also be useful in moving through these challenges. We all struggle in solving problems in our marriages, our committed partnerships, or even just basic romance. To move away from the space of a primal sexual behavior as solution to dealing with stressful situations to a place of conscious awareness of problem solving takes effort, maturity, desire, and a healthy approach to living life. There will be time for sexual intimacy when the space in your relationship is emotionally cleaner and the problems are handled effectively. When that time arrives you'll both be likely to enjoy it more than you could possibly imagine.
How difficult is it for us to see ourselves in a positive light? Why do we put ourselves down so easily when things go wrong in our life? These questions reflect a common theme in the lives of many people around the world. The answers often determine our ability to see ourselves first as human beings who make mistakes, and second, to see ourselves as people of worth. Now for many folks the first part of any statement may not be so difficult. "I failed a test"; "I didn't get to a meeting on time"; "I ruined dinner." But the second part can be brutal to our psyche. "I'm a stupid person"; "I'm a horrible business person and shouldn't even have this job"; "I'm a terrible cook, now my date will leave." We send messages to ourselves that so easily can build us up or tear us down. Are we even aware of what we are saying when we beat ourselves up so quickly?!
Self-esteem is a construct of the human experience that entails having a sense of respect for your self, as well as a dedicated sense of confidence in your abilities to succeed. In believing in our abilities despite our challenges, we not only recognize our humanness but also pave the way for improvement. Self-esteem is a difficult thing to manage when we get messages that start early in our life that reflect other people's perceptions of us - namely, our parents or other guardians. This is often where self-esteem is formed. The early years of our identity is often molded by what we were told at home about how those who took care of us saw us, and this had a impact good or bad on our overall internal development. We then carry this box of messages with us, and those messages become the defining blueprint of our level of success in life. If the messages were negative, this can hamper our ability to feel good about our successes when they occur because of feeling unworthy. If the messages were positive, but we fail at the task before us, we can buffer the failure against the positive messages and find ways to improve in the future.
In essence, people with a higher level of self-esteem tend to perform better in the world than those with lower levels of self-esteem. What does this mean for you in practical terms? For starters, if you suffer from low self-esteem you can improve it by recognizing that you get to decide how you see yourself. The messages you send yourself do not have to be the same degrading messages you might have often received when you were young. Our ability to judge ourselves so harshly is staggeringly unbelievable, when we could spend our time building ourselves up by recognizing all the good qualities we possess! This is also often a contributing factor to the experience of high levels of depression. Here's the awesome secret to building better self-esteem: A simple change of message sending to our brain will alter our perception of our inner sense of worth and harness the power of seeing ourselves as worthy, capable, good, lovable people.
Some of you are still staring at the last line above, and that's okay. Go on, take a minute. Maybe even two minutes. I'll go grab a snack. .......... Okay, I'm back. Ready? Rather than "I'm a stupid person", try "I wonder how I can do better on the next test." Instead of "I'm a horrible business person and shouldn't even have this job", try "I need to better structure my day so that I allow enough time to travel to my next location." And while this last one might leave many in tears ("I'm a terrible cook, now my date will leave"), consider the thought that it was a difficult recipe "Wow, that didn't seem like an easy meal to make. But there is a nice restaurant down the street that is open late." We send our brain messages that our brain will then process unbiasedly and without question. The end product is the result of our own doing. We can't blame anyone else once we realize that we are responsible for our own self-worth. So sending messages that reflect our love and compassion of ourselves will indeed help us feel better about the events in our lives.
Counseling is always helpful in this regard if you find yourself challenged in creating a more positive outlook on your life. Consider that sometimes we are not able to always see how we need to change our thinking, but we do realize more easily that something does need to change. Consider seeking assistance when you are unable to sort out how to start correcting the areas of your life with which you have trouble. If you are local to my area, please feel free to contact me to discuss meeting for services. We can build your self-esteem better together.
We all get angry, right? I mean, can you even think of one person who doesn't get angry at least once a year. The emotion of anger is just like any other emotion. We feel it, we know that it exists, and it can be used to motivate us to do something positive or negative. Our response is often dictated by what we think about that caused us to be angry in the first place. As people, we typically operate from a set of values or beliefs that will play a huge role in how we interact day to day with the rest of society. So when something happens that doesn't sit right with us, the emotion we might end up feeling is anger.
Most people do not know how to manage this emotion. It tends to be strong, and we often simply give in to it, allowing it to do the damage it will when not kept in check. It can impact our relationships in damaging ways, our jobs can be affected , it can drive people to commit crimes, and it can make us emotionally and physically sick. All of these are negatives, and as such we need constructive ways of handling this emotion effectively.
Some of the effective strategies that come to mind as effective coping mechanisms is taking a moment to breathe and relax when we find ourselves angry. Slow deep breathes from the diaphragm, in the through the nose and out through the mouth. At least five or six times spanning about a full minute. During this time, you want to relax your muscles in your arms and hands, rotating your shoulders slowly and gently clockwise and then counter-clockwise. What you are doing is releasing all the negative energy on the inside in a passive way that won't get clogged in your psyche. Another approach is in finding places where you can de-stimulate your mind. This might be a park, or a beach. Places where calm and serenity exist. Reading books on anger management can also be effective, as can counseling when needed.
The emotion of anger is one that is not like the others we experience. It can be as destructive as an uncontrolled fire. We need to monitor it and control it just like a fire, or we fall victim to its will. Another element to this observance is that we are each responsible and accountable for the things we say and do. So if we allow ourselves to simply blow up at everything around us, we will be seen as someone who cannot control themselves. Yet if we learn to manage our emotions in constructive healthy ways, we will learn better coping skills and even become more resilient.
Counseling services can also be beneficial in dealing difficult emotions - or even the events surrounding the emotions. Its stressful to keep everything in check all the time. One may feel like there is no healthy outlet to any of it. Yet such an assertion is simply not true. You can learn to manage your emotions better, and to respond effectively, and constructively. Much of my work with clients has been in the area of anger management and the development of personal self-control. To learn effective coping strategies, we often have to try new things, and do some other existing things much differently. Clients who have come to me for help in dealing anger learn some useful skills and find more effective approaches to dealing with emotions that they find challenging. Those who put forth the effort to change, experience a deeper sense of joy and serenity. If you are in need of assistance with this or any other issues, please feel free to connect with me. I would be happy to help you.
At this time of year, most people are out shopping for those hard to find gifts (for traditions that include gift giving). Braving the traffic, spending money through credit cards, and dealing with all the stresses that the holiday itself brings to everyone. For some people however, the holidays are a very sad time. Many people have lost loved ones during the holidays, some are far away from family, and many others are just isolated from social contact. This makes the enjoyment of such a festive season so difficult for those who experience what many people might call "the holiday blues." It is easy for us to forget those who lack the energy to go outside, or to do the things that involve taking care of themselves - especially when all the music, the magical lights, and shopping frenzy is around you.
People who suffer from depression need support. They need to know that they are not forgotten. Bringing them some food, helping them get to the store, or spending time with them is a great way to include them in the holiday and remind them that people in their life care. If you yourself suffer from depression symptoms during the holidays (or any other time of year), there are a few things you can do to help deal with those feelings:
Depression does not have to cripple you or someone you love, but it can if we allow it. We have to be willing to fight the symptoms of depression, stay connected to those who care about us, and seek out support as needed. The holidays especially can be a difficult time for those have no one in their life to share it with, and that can make depression all that more painful. Remember that there is help for you or your loved one, and all that is required to start receiving that help is request for support.
We all have suffered pain and hardship in our life at one time or another. Sometimes it might have been unavoidable, and sometimes it is pushed upon us and beyond our control. We don't always know why it had to happen, but we know with a certainty that it leaves a huge impact on us. For some types of issues, it is a trauma so deep that even years later we cannot utter the words about it. In other cases, it is just a bothersome memory that might have bruised our pride, or perhaps, even our ego. In either case, we know that human beings are quite resilient and capable of moving forward and breaking free from the pain being felt from the negative events that took place in our life. We have examples of these already if we only thing back to times when we have overcome such issues in the past.
So how does one get to a place where they can learn to let go of past hurts and feelings? We learn how to forgive, in a way that sets us free from the bondage of bitterness, resentment, and even hatred. We need to understand what forgiveness is, and what it is not. In the area of mental health, forgiveness can be seen as a release from holding the offending person(s) in our mind as captives for wrongs done to us. Ultimately, the holding on to resentment or bitterness long term is really only causing us damage. The impact of holding on to the these grudges or negative feelings toward other people can result in mental, emotional, physical, and even, spiritual sickness.
Forgiveness does not mean that the person who committed the offense or wrong against us, is necessarily off the hook. We may not ever want to see the offending party again despite our offering of forgiveness - even if only to ourselves about those who hurt us. What forgiveness does, is it empowers us to set ourselves free from no longer being enslaved to our thoughts and pain. It is also perhaps one of the greatest steps we can take to move into a process of healing. Now, some may say, "No, I will never forgive [name] for [enter offense here] as long as I live." Well, the end result, is [name] is off and moving forward with life, while you are still at the point (at least mentally) where the offense or wrong doing occurred - and that could have been many years ago. You are effectively holding yourself back, thinking that you are punishing the person(s) who did this offense, but in reality, you are simply perpetuating a cycle of victim/persecutor within your mind.
Now, what if the person who wronged you, came to you and said they were sorry for what happened. Would that change things for you? Would you be more inclined to offer forgiveness, or continue to hold a grudge. Some people might offer forgiveness, but there are still many people who would likely hold on to the grudge. Perhaps as a way to keep someone at a distance from us to avoid being hurt again in the future, or as a weapon against the offending person so as to have something to always hold against them. As if to remind the offender of how you see them with a major imperfection. Again, you are the one holding on to that toxicity, and doing far more damage to yourself than to the other person. What ever the reasons of forgiving or not forgiving in either case, it clearly can be said that one approach certainly seems more healthy than the other.
There are times when we feel stuck in our grief or anger, and need to get a nudge in the right direction to move us into a place of better health and living. Counseling can be helpful with this of course. Seeing a counselor can be effective in helping you process your thoughts and feelings and gain a greater level of perspective about what is troubling you. Consider a counselor if you think that there is a need of help in moving through your pain that you are holding onto in your life. Most times, avoiding the pain doesn't resolve, the problem it merely gets shoved into a closet. Hopefully this information is helpful as you begin examining people you want to forgive in your own life.
Most of us, when we move through our lives at such a fast pace, find that it is tough to think of ourselves as having time for anything else. We run from one appointment to the next, from one task to the next, and before we know it, we are burned out and exhausted. It is important to focus on finding time to do other things that help us find a balanced focus in living our busy life. The old adage "all work and no play" is quite appropriate here, and gives an important lesson on finding time to do less stressful things that bring joy into our lives (even if doing the work we do does that as well). We need to create a life that is filled with a myriad of experiences, ones that create rest and renewal but also connect us to new adventures, making new friends (or keeping in contact with the old ones), and providing time for healing.
The rat race world for most of us, leads to many different negative healthy issues, and the behavior of always tasking or running from here to there catches up with us sooner or later. Some of us work 80+ hours a week, and find little time for sleep. Some of us sleep for 80 hours a week and work less than a normal day. Some of us shop, or travel excessively. Some of us eat too much out of emotional needs, or eat too little in an effort to lose weight. We do all sort of things to excess - good or bad. Unless we focus on creating a balanced approach to living out lives, we find that the things we are doing are taking control of us, rather than us being in control. Finding moderation in all things can be challenging, but not impossible.
You might be asking, "where do I begin?". Well, in this kind of situation, it is best to start out making small changes, giving you time to adjust to new routines and ways of doing things. You don't have to change all your behaviors at once, but you may eventually recognize that that there are many areas that need your attention. Asking yourself some questions like "What is one thing I can do this week, to remove some stress or pressure from my schedule?", or "Can I cut back a few hours of work to get more sleep?". How about finding time to just sit and read a book for a half hour, or watch a comedy before rushing into the kitchen to do dishes right after walking in the door? The issues you are facing in your life are yours to address, but to be aware of their impact is hugely important in maintaining your mental, emotional, and even physical health.
When you get to the place where you are adopting new behaviors and changing old ones to reflect more balance, your outlook on life will also change dramatically. You will feel better, eat better, sleep better, enjoy other healthy activities, and find a new joy (or rediscover the one you might have left behind), in living a life that is well balanced. This will take time, and you don't have to be perfect at it. Creating a balanced life requires patience, flexibility, openness to change, and an awareness of what needs work in your life. Sometimes a counselor or friend can be helpful is identifying those areas that need attention. Seeking out that assistance is great way to gain outside objectivity, and allows others the chance to be open and honest with you as you explore this process. May you find the joy and peace that comes with being in and creating balance for your life.
One of the most important lessons I teach clients stems from a premise that every adult ought to embrace an acknowledgement of consequences from actions. That is, unless a person suffers from mental health or behavioral issues that prevent them from using reasoning or judgment and accepting an outcome in which they are involved, then they are responsible and accountable for everything they say and do in their life. And barring the above condition, there is no escaping this fact. It is a principle upon which all people have a direct relationship to events - from the least, to the greatest. If you are involved or play a part in issue "A", and because of that involvement a particular outcome occurs ("B"), then you are held to account for your part in that series of events ("C").
Living a life where there are no consequences to our actions would create societal chaos. Not to mention that we would feel that we could do whatever we want without any form of punishment or a need to make restitution. When I work with clients, I impart to them the lesson of responsibility and accountability, and I have discovered in my clinical practice work that many clients try really hard to remove themselves from their own role of why things were happening in their life. They soon learned that their success, failure, happiness, and overall outcome to anything in their life was directly proportionate to their level of action (or inaction); decisions; behaviors; and in holding (or not holding) themselves responsible and accountable. When a client works to deny that such things do not apply in a situation because of an "X" or "Y" factor (some outside third party or uncontrolled event), I remind them that they are only held responsible and accountable for their part - their role in that situation.
Therapy works with the same principle. It is ineffective for a client to come to therapy with the thought that they will work on themselves but not truly hold themselves accountable and responsible for the success of therapy. The effectiveness of therapy is largely on the client's shoulders, since it is about their life and personal growth work. Taking a psoition of abdication can hamper the way a client receives counseling skills from the therapist, or affect how the client will make improvements over the course of therapy.
If you as the prospective client are considering therapy with a counselor, you will likely be encouraged to embrace the idea that you are responsible and accountable for your actions. Sure, you can deny this truth within yourself, but the facts will still apply. We cannot move through life with a sense of disregarding our role of the impact we play in our life or in the lives of other people. When we come to the place where we can and do acknowledge that we have a say in what we do or do not do that helps or hurts us, then we can learn to make better decisions and improve our overall level of functioning.
Therapy is meant to provide a supportive environment to build and grow into that acknowledgment and development of awareness of how we run our lives. The therapist is ready and willing to assist you as you reach for your best self, attain the goals that create your highest good, and manifest the changes you desire to that end. Be open and receptive to the truth of accepting responsibility and accountability for what you say and do, and the success of therapy will fall into place. This will in turn create you into a new person that has the ability to recognize the role you play in your own life, and how to make better choices. It will be worth one of the greatest gifts you give yourself.
Do you have people in your life that give you trouble? Do you often feel that you are not valued by those in your life who are friends, or maybe even family? We form connections with people outside of our family, but sometimes those engagements are not always beneficial to us. Sometimes the relationships we have start out as healthy, but end up being not as healthy as they were when we first met the person. If you find yourself in such a situation, you might find it useful to consider what you need to do to create that healthy space in your life. For some people, this might entail communicating with the person in question and expressing your thoughts and feelings about what isn't working in your connection with the friend. If there is difficulty in doing this, maybe writing down some free flow thoughts on paper to get to a place where you can center your thoughts on the actual problem you are experiencing. Then having an open and honest conversation with your friend to see if there is mutual agreement or not, and what can be done to work through the challenge.
Communication that is respectful and supportive is central to a healthy interaction with anyone, whether it be family, friends, co-workers, or even neighbors. We want to be valued for who we are and where we are in our life. And if you find yourself in a relationship with someone who is not honoring you, then it becomes important for you to protect yourself emotionally, psychologically, or maybe even physically. For family connections, this becomes a bit more difficult at times. While you might not be able to divorce your family relationships in the strict sense, sometimes we have to distance ourselves from some members in our family who are toxic to us, just to survive. This is okay, as self-preservation of our own comfort and ability to be happy should be paramount. We do not need to sacrifice these things for the sake of family. Other people in our life should be viewed with a more honest examination. Those who do not bring us joy, or who do not give us a sense of being valued and respected, really do not need to be in our life. It is not healthy, and they will often tear us down in multiple ways.
Relationships are built on trust, respect, mutually supportive interactions, and positive regard for the other person. When these components of a healthy relationship are not present, the energy in the relationship is out of balance, and can damage you or the other person. Caring enough to hear the concerns of your friend and honor the friendship in this way, is just as important as being cared for enough to be heard and honored by your friend. So it is a mutually agreed upon connection. If there is a break in that connection, it can damage the way you connect with the person. Sometimes it takes an honest look at why we are in the friendship. What value is the friendship offering us, or what good are we receiving from the person with whom we are engaged? These are questions that become essential for us as individuals, but also reflect our willingness to protect ourselves from abusive interactions.
Many of the clients I have worked with in therapy, seem to have a theme of not knowing how to deal with a particular person in their life. What is central to this question, is to assess the central problem in your engagement with the person; the value of the relationship; the desire to maintain the relationship; what you can control in the relationship (and here's a hint...it's just your response and actions you can control); and whether the other person is willing to examine the concerns with you that you feel are important. These take time to consider, and they become the basis to making a decision in whether or not to continue the connection. While not always perfect, all friendships and engagements with other people have rough spots and disagreements. So taking the time to reflect and consider what is wrong and if it can be worked out is crucial. Counseling can help in this regard. Seeking out a therapist who can provide an objective, uninvolved perspective might clear up so many questions, and help you come to a good decision. Allow yourself to be open to seek out the help you need to engage with people around you in healthy ways, and always remember that you have the right to be respected and honored as you seek your highest self and look for those who share those values.
These two words, represent an idea that few people seem to do effectively. Most people work long hours until they get sick, do not eat well, fail to get adequate rest, and do other things that are not healthy or good in providing positive results in their life. If you find that this might be true in your own life, then I encourage you to keep reading. I too am just as susceptible to this lack of awareness in keeping myself balanced. I tend to try to do too much in one day, and usually end up being ineffective in doing most of it when I don't take time out to rest, eat, enjoy life, and find balance.
I spoke to a woman today who works 12 hour days, and commutes. I commented that when we get to the place where we forget to take care of ourselves, it becomes a routine not to do it, and that we then run the risk of a whole host of other issues. Poor health, exhaustion, and lack of balance, just to name a few. We need to decide to give ourselves time for ourselves. We need to reflect on our wants and needs and make sure that we can create a balance that offers us a chance to be productive in living our lives, but also finding time for rest and renewal.
This is where going for walks, watching a movie, spending time with friends, playing with our pets, or just sitting and listening to our breath can become spaces of time that we will thank ourselves for later. If you find yourself not able to function and do all the things you are use to do doing, I would encourage you to take a step back and look at where you are putting your energy. Is any of it for yourself? If you are in a toxic relationship for example, consider the impact it has on you and what you need to do to take care of yourself. if the issue is over work or some other matter, what can you do to create peace and harmony in your life. You deserve to have it, and no one else can really give it to you. So it becomes hugely important to take time on a regular basis and look within and without, and find ways to increase self-care. Counseling can be helpful in this was too, and if you find the need to pursue counseling you will likely find a supportive ear as you explore ways to create more balance in your live. May you be willing to take greater care of your life, as a gift to yourself.
Focusing on the various problems and concerns in our life brings about different results. These results can usually be due to effort we give to a particular goal or problem. Sometimes, they are the manifestation of the ideas and thoughts that dictate where we put our energy. When we want to have a particular outcome, we play a huge role in the what, where, how, and why of focusing our thoughts and energy to obtain a specific result. Many people may have different ways of seeing this concept, but it is really quite simple. Where you put your focus, impacts the result or outcome.
Many people go through life thinking negatively. This is counter-productive to thinking about success. We find it is difficult to gain what we want when we focus on all the things that are wrong in our life, or not working, or just plain broken. Shifting that way of thinking into an approach that is more positive, can actually help reverse the negative flow of energy in our lives. If you find yourself walking around complaining all the time about the things you don't have, or the bills that are not being paid, or your health, that negativity will drag you down rather quickly. On the other hand, thinking of the things that are going right in your world and finding blessings of health, maybe good friends, and even the ability to enjoy something fun, can create a positive flow of energy that can be built upon for the future.
What we focus on, we tend to receive. Some people call it a law of attraction, when we place our thinking in different places - positive or negative, good or bad. We have a lot of control in how we respond and engage with all the different places where outcomes are possible. We can choose for ourselves what we want in our life. If we need to give up people who are tearing us down, then we might find that to be an important decision to help us move forward. If we need to think about how we will be successful in finding a job, or getting a new house, eventually it will happen when we put out our effort and desire. Doubt and despair play their part, and we are free to embrace that thinking and energy as well. We get to decide for ourselves the story we create. We do not have to be not blown about by the wind unless we have decided to give up. Creating patterns of positive thinking, can change our outlook on living life. We own the power...we should use it.
Shawn Thomas Berthel M.S., is the owner of Life Path Counseling PLLC, and a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. He lives in University Place, Washington.