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Pushing Buttons

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I recently took a trip and stayed in a hotel with many floors. Of course, many floors mean an elevator with many buttons! During one of my visits to the elevator stood a 4-year-old child and his mother, inside the door, discussing the “buttons,” and where they went. I entered and smiled at this toddler’s curiosity as two other individuals entered. As the door closed, the boy began pushing all of the buttons! I looked to see the responses of the other passengers: one man shrugged, while the other gave earnest looks of annoyance. The mother clearly was embarrassed, and she quickly moved the child  away from the buttons.

I couldn’t help but think about how this can be a metaphor of how people “push buttons” in relationships. “Pushing buttons” means to intentionally bring up topics that will leave an emotional sting and often brings about negative emotions of the receiver. This response happens almost instantly, and the intention may be the most irritating part.

I’m sure we can all think of moments that we have experienced where someone has “pushed our buttons.” What were the feelings you felt in that instant? Anger? Embarrassment? Disgust? Perhaps you had wished the floor had opened so you could jump in? It often takes a person who knows us well to be able to push our buttons with such preciseness. There’s no one that can do it quite like family; parents, siblings, children, and spouses are the best button-pushers!

In her book “Daring Greatly,” social researcher Brené Brown suggests that the reason these close relationships pack so much power is because of the attachments we have to one another. We know each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities. This dynamic of close relationships can get buttons pushed in ways that less intimate relationships can do.

The question that is often asked in therapy is: How do I avoid it? While there are people who are button pushers, there are ways to avoid having these annoyances grow and become destructive. There will always be someone standing nearby willing to embarrass, annoy, assume power over, or just be a mean tease. The antidote is perspective (which can be hard to do when someone has just taken a concerted stance against you!). Here are 10 tools to help you gain perspective and soothe your emotions in the moment:

  • Chew on a piece of ice
  • Take a time out
  • Talk to your Higher Power
  • Imagine a place of peace
  • Use powerful coping thoughts: “It’s OK to feel this way.” “So what?” “This sucks, but it will pass.”
  • Squeeze the handles of arm of the chair 5 times.
  • Count backwards from 100 by 7’s.
  • Write your name in cursive with your toe, while you’re seated with legs crossed. (Don’t laugh, it works!)
  • Count your breathes
  • Use your 5 senses: Notice what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell.

For the mother in the elevator. . . good job taking 50 deep breathes, as the elevator stopped at each and every floor!

To schedule an appointment with Andrea, call Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555

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Attuning To Our Partners In Small Moments

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According to John Gottman, in every interaction in our significant relationships, there is an opportunity to attune or turn away. We have many experiences where we notice our partner, and we make a choice: “Do I ATTUNE myself to what is going on,” or, “do I turn away?” Pay attention to what happens when you turn away. What are your thoughts? What happens to the other person? What does your body feel like? What do you choose instead?

A-T-T-U-N-E is an acronym for just how to turn toward our partners in a supportive and empathetic way. Our job with each other is to create emotional safety, and it is through small moments, like attuning, that create stability and ongoing romance. When we feel acknowledged, we feel secure and safe.

A- Acknowledge

T- Turn Toward

T- Tolerance

U- Understanding

N- Non-Defensive

E- Empathy

Here are some fun ways to practice attuning opportunities:

  • Go for a walk with a spouse or child.
  • Plan a picnic.
  • Cook dinner together.
  • Call each other during the workday.
  • Volunteer in the community.
  • Plan an outing together: hike, bike, or drive.
  • Visit the beach.
  • Go dancing together.
  • Plan to attend brunch.
  • Get away to a secret location.

Whatever you decide, remember the importance of attuned engagement and the strengthening power it has.

For extra support or help making repairs in your relationship, make an appointment with Wasatch Family Therapy at 801.944.4555.

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Summertime Rituals and Filling Our Family Buckets

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In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, the main character Tevye poses the question: “How do we keep our balance?” He replies to his own question with, “Tradition!” After bursting into song with the entire town, he then explains, “Without tradition, we are no safer than a fiddler on the roof!” Tevye was a smart man! He’s right, tradition is important to family development and a sense of personal well-being.

Tradition, however, does not necessarily need to be related to big family celebrations, holidays, or life events. Routine rituals have quite a bit of power in creating “balance” within the family. Summertime is a great time to begin new family rituals! These may include everyday things that involve roles, chores, rules, and family living.

Why do rituals hold so much weight in family life? Because of the feelings they create! Children who participate in family rituals experience buckets of benefits:

  • A sense of belonging
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Social competence
  • Improved health
  • Better academic success
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Understanding of Roles
  • Feelings of family identity
  • Memories
  • Family cohesion
  • Better sleep
  • Adolescent well-being
  • Predictability

With the school year wrapping up, why not start some new family rituals today? Here are some ideas:

  1. Dinnertime: Dinnertime is one of the best ways to form new memories, integrate family values and social rules, add a chore, and create connectedness. Allow each member to have a job in the meal prep, such as setting the table, filling the drink glasses, cleaning up, or choosing a dessert (my personal favorite). This is a time for parents to get details on the kid’s day. You can play the game “A Rose and a Thorn” by having each member share one good thing that happened and one negative thing. This opens up opportunities for gratitude, listening and feedback, and validation.
  1. Child Date Nights: Choose one night a week to do something special with your child. This can be a fun way to get to know what your child enjoys or would like to try! Fun activities can include put-put, painting parlors, splash pads, a trip to the zoo, a bike ride, or a concert. Remember, put the distractions away, pay attention, and let your child take the lead!
  1. Library Lolligag: Take a stroll through your local library on a regular basis. Plan on spending time reading together, talking about topics, and slowing down. Even big kids have subjects and books they enjoy! Try checking out the same book your teen does; you may find you have something in common!
  1. Game Night: Frequent game nights teach children social skills in disappointment, competition, and winning. Some games require critical thinking, planning ahead, keeping a “good” secret-to win, and seeing what comes next. Playing together teaches appropriate modeling when the game doesn’t go as planned.
  1. Saying “Goodbye” and “Hello”: Little routines of saying “goodbye” and “hello” opens doorways to connection, disconnection, and re-connection. Think of something that is special to you and your child that is a signature sediment. A hug, a kiss on the forehead, a fist pump (for the tough guys), or even “See you Later Alligator.”
  1. Coming of Age Celebration: Growing up can be tough! A Coming of Age celebration gives permission for change and allows us to embrace growth. Perhaps, even some discussion of family values, expectations, and personal precautions. A small trip with Mom and/or Dad, can be defining in developing a life-map, of sorts. Where the focus is not on physical maturation, but life goals. Considering dating, college, careers, and even hopes of marriage and partnerships.
  1. Saturday Morning Breakfast: A happy morning wake up call to breakfast in bed and watching a favorite kid show may not be so bad. Perhaps, that’s not your style, but a bowl of a favorite cereal in PJs and a morning bike ride might feel more like it. Or maybe choosing a favorite breakfast spot, where everyone can pick what they like and then get on with weekend commitments.

No matter what summer ritual you decide to pick up, remember that it’s about dropping the distractions and filling our summer buckets with memories and connection.

For more insights into creating family cohesion and decreasing family stressors, visit our website at www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com/blog.

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Finding “ME” in Meditation

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In a society where we are all required to do more, sleep less, perform better, get richer, and find room for others, it’s hard to find the “me” in much of anything. So much of daily living is performing where our minds are constantly racing to the next thing. Sleep is interrupted by alarm clocks and delayed by late nights. No matter what the reason, whether it’s family, work, or school, it seems there is never enough time in the day.

Reports of declining mental health is increasing in depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and addiction. The big question is: How to cope? Is it really possible to find time for you? To build a way to relax, think, and rejuvenate without any artificial replacements?

I say, absolutely! The way to finding “me” is through ME-ditation.

Meditation means different things to different people. Renowned psychologist Marsha Linehan defines mediation as the ability to open the mind and acknowledge thoughts and senses, without showing judgment or analyzing, while embracing the unknown, through daily practice.

The benefits of meditation far outweigh any screen time on a smart phone. These include reduced depression, lowered anxiety, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, improved relaxation and sleep, and the ability to find spiritual connection. Meditation is also used in addiction recovery. Perhaps the biggest evidence of the benefits of meditation is that it improves emotional intelligence!

John Cabot Zin outlines the ABC’s:

A-Awareness: Becoming more aware of the mind and body. Thinking and doing.

B- Breathe: Allowing yourself to be with your experience. Create your story without reacting or responding. This can create compassion for yourself and others.

C- Compassion: By creating a pause between the experience and our reaction, we can make wiser choices.

Research is beginning to show that mindfulness and meditation increase our emotional intelligence and the way we monitor the emotions in others and ourselves.

Here Are Some Tips For Your Meditation Practice:

*Acknowledge you need “me” time.

*Slow down

*Find a quiet space

*Sit or Lay down

*Put your hand by your side

*Relax

*Clear your mind

*Listen

*Close your eyes, or try a sleepy gaze

*Breathe in through your nose for 5 counts

*Pause or hold for 5 counts

*Exhale through your mouth for 5 counts.

*Repeat

*Practice Daily

If thoughts come into your mind during your exercise, sweep them from your mind. Be aware of your body and sensations. Focus on your breath. Feel the air in your nose or mouth as you inhale and exhale. Acknowledge what you hear or smell. Feel your body relaxing. And breathe. Start with 5-10 minutes daily. The key to prolonged benefits, is to practice, practice, practice. If you fall asleep during your exercise, that’s good! You need it!

If you enjoy this simple meditation, seek out our trained therapists to deepen meditation skills and other powerful approaches to mindfulness.

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Breaking it Down for You and Your child with ADHD

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Let’s be honest, the diagnosis of ADHD has been around for over 40 years. We know what ADHD looks like, and may know a handful of children that “appear” to have symptoms. Twice as many boys are diagnosed with ADHD than girls. While 1in 50 children may be struggling with ADHD. What do children face? Here are a few items:

  • Gets distracted easily
  • Impulsive
  • Difficulty in School
  • Coordination challenges
  • Self Centered Behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Attention Demanding Behavior
  • Emotional challenges
  • Difficulty following through

While this list feels overwhelming to parents, let’s remember they are “challenges” and they are significant in every setting for the child.

How do we help? Let’s Break In Down!

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Who Has Dragons? You’ve Got Dragons

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You’ve got Dragons

By: Kathryn Cave

Most parents may notice that kids have worries, at one time or another. Even beginning at very young ages, carrying into middle school or high school. The picture book You’ve Got Dragons, written by Kathryn Cave, helps children and parents understand the language of worries, or “dragons.” How they grow, hide, and what they feel like inside. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about, when you have “dragons.” Sometimes parents don’t know how to help, or what to look for.   The illustrations and humor will let your child escape into a world where worries become “dragons,” while getting good advice on how to take care of them.

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