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4 Ways to Create MORE Stress During the Holidays

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  • Complicate Everything: In order to create the perfectly stressful holiday, make sure that you make everything as complex as possible. There is zero room for simplification if you want to achieve high stress. Don’t just serve one kind of pie; make sure you make everyone’s favorite kind. Tablecloths, napkins, place settings, and your outfit should all match for ambiance. Additionally, all recipes should be great great great aunt Emm’s, passed down from generation to generation or the holiday just won’t be stressful enough. Remember that 12-step process so the homemade rolls are the right kind of fluffy.
  • Do NOT Delegate: Make sure for the ultimately stressful holiday, that you do everything yourself, and I mean everything. This should include loss of sleep, not actually participating in the activities you prepared for everyone else all night and day, and never accepting help of any kind. This will be tempting when others offer, but don’t give in. No one else can do it as well as you anyway. The stress is just an added bonus.
  • Have High Expectations: After all, these holidays come only once a year, so it must be perfect or you have ruined it for everyone and can’t try again for a whole year and everyone will be completely distraught until then. That is, unless you mess it up next year too. Make sure you are as rigid as possible. There is no room for flexibility this day. Do not tolerate anything that doesn’t go according to that wondrous magical plan you created in your head. For an added stress-filled bonus, make sure you meet everyone else’s too high expectations also!
  • Focus on Commercialism: As these holidays roll around, make sure to focus on the true meaning of each holiday. Everyone knows that is commercialism and aesthetics only. Nothing else. As long as the way you did the holiday makes you look good to everyone else and you spent a ton of money, then you did a perfect job at creating a stressful holiday. Don’t get distracted with all that family love stuff and gratitude crap. This is game time. You have waited all year to be this stressed out. Stay focused.

Wishing you the most stressful of holidays!

Kathleen Baxter LMFT

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Can I Get a Side of Orgasm with That?

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O yes, we are talking about the big O. A little too big, if you ask me. As I sit with couples and discuss the tender issue of sex and the vulnerabilities it uncovers, I notice that a lot of people make a HUGE deal about orgasms. Now, I get it, orgasms are great! However, sometimes when couples make an orgasm the determining factor as to whether or not a sexual encounter was good or bad, they may discredit a lot of other good things that happen during sex.

The truth is, not everyone orgasms every time they have sex. This varies widely from individual to individual. Some people have orgasms frequently, hit or miss, or rarely at all. Some people are distressed by a lack of orgasm, and some are not. Some people are distressed by having an orgasm. Individual experiences and contexts influence what meaning we attach to things such as orgasm.

This being the reality, you can see how much pressure it can add to a sexual encounter to make orgasm the primary goal. While orgasms feel spectacular for most, connection is a good goal for sex. In fact, when someone is feeling pressure or anxiety about “making someone orgasm,” or, “I need to orgasm so my partner feels like a good enough lover,” it actually interferes with the mechanisms in the body that make orgasm the most likely. Ironic, right?

This is why I tell couples to think of orgasm as the side dish, and connection as the main dish. It is okay if you want to orgasm more and take healthy steps to work toward that with your partner. This is best achieved in a mind set of “if it happens great, but if not, we will keep practicing,” rather than a pass or fail mentality. My advice is to relax, communicate, focus on your love for your partner, and enjoy the sensations you feel.

To schedule an appointment with Kathleen Baxter, call Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555.

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Are You Even Listening to a Word I Say?

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Have you ever been talking to someone and you are absolutely convinced that he/she isn’t hearing a word you are saying? Chances are you are right! Research has shown that the average person listens for 3 seconds before they start thinking about what he/she wants to say next. Researchers Miller, Sherod, and Phyllis developed a powerful communication tool called the Awareness Wheel, which includes a listening cycle. They outline very effective research based skills for listening:

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10 Sure-Fire Ways to Have Awful Sex

10 Sure-Fire Ways to Have Awful Sex

1) Worry about how sex will go, A LOT!

Anxiety actually works to suppress the spinal reflex that triggers arousal. So, if you want to have a hard time maintaining an erection or lubricating, get really worked up and anxious.

2) Don’t communicate with your partner about what you like sexually

If you want sex to be unpleasurable, do not tell your partner what kinds of touch you like and where. Keep those secrets locked in a vault and keep your partner guessing. Sex will become an experience you need to white-knuckle.

3) Obsess about the physical flaws you think you have.

A good way to make sex horrible is to get into your head, and out of your body. If you overthink how you look, it will go bad. Some research indicates that sex is more pleasurable when you view your own body as sexy. So whatever you do, don’t focus on your physical strengths.

4) Obsess about the physical flaws you think your partner has.

Make sure you focus on the parts of your partner’s body you wish were different. If you really want to go for the gold, consume a lot of media and pornography that has unreasonable expectations about body types of a sex partner that reflect a minute percentage of the population.

5) Say YES when you really mean NO

One of the best ways to make sex suck is to make it confusing. Have horrible boundaries and say yes when you really mean no, then you can make sure you are your partner are never on the same page.

6) Never or always initiate sex.

An important part of good sex is for both partners to feel wanted. In order to make it awful, make sure the patterns around initiation get super lopsided. You can make sure to increase feelings of insecurity and resentment.

7) Don’t brush your teeth.

You may not know, but smell, memory, and emotion are closely connected in the brain. Since sex is such an emotional experience and your partner is cued into their senses, you could try to make them feel icky by smelling Disgust is the exact feeling you want your partner to have during sex.

8) Have sex in an environment where your children and pets can interrupt at any moment.

If you want to make sex awful, certainly don’t focus on making it great. Don’t focus at all for that matter. Put yourself in a really distracting environment so you have a hard time focusing on the sensations and emotions you feel. Environments with many interruptions are ideal.

9) Try to read your partner’s mind during sex.

What ever you do, don’t ask your partner how they actually think and feel about your sex together. Make as many assumptions as you possibly can. This way, you can assure you have no idea how they experience you during sex, which means you will likely be missing the mark when it comes to meeting their sexual desires.

10) Don’t take care of your health

Try and be as unhealthy as possible. You don’t want to be in good physical shape in order to make a physical encounter like sex awful. You need to be in the worst shape possible. Make it really hard to maneuver and keep your stamina. An added bonus is that increased weight gain jeopardizes one’s ability to maintain an erection. In fact, most erectile dysfunction is due to weight gain limiting circulation, not mature age.

Schedule a couples therapy session with Kathleen

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Has Your Husband Ever Asked YOU These Questions???

canstockphoto22999850   I think that sometimes, culture is a big reason that we act the way we act and think the way we think. Sometimes, we are so blind to our culture, and it is so engrained into who we are, that we don’t even notice. That being said, I don’t think that our culture is always right in how it does influence us.

I asked my husband a question the other day and thought, “Wow, my husband would never ask me that. Why am I asking him, and neither one of us even blinked?” Even the mere thought of him asking me the question, made me laugh! What does this phenomenon mean about how we think and view our worth as women? As you read through these questions, envision your husband saying to you…

  1. Will you still find me attractive if I get stretch marks?
  2. Do I look fat in this outfit?
  3. Do you think I can be a parent and pursue a career?
  4. I am getting greys. What color should I dye my hair?
  5. Can you watch the kids while I run out?
  6. Should I get BOTOX for my wrinkles?
  7. Will you clean the toilets?
  8. Can we afford for me to go to school also?
  9. I am wondering how having another child will impact my job?
  10. Will you still desire me when I don’t look 25 anymore?
  11. I’m writing a menu for the week. Any requests?
  12. Hey I am setting up the kids’ dentist appointments for next month.

Now, maybe you laughed, maybe you didn’t, seeing in your mind your husband so worried about his physical appearance, but ask yourself, are these things I worry about as a wife? Are these things I have asked my husband? If so, why? How come when my husband gets fat and goes grey, there aren’t worries or even a conversation about it? If you are a male reading this, perhaps you are thinking, “I hate when my wife asks me those things. I don’t even think about those things unless she’s asking.” or “Wow, it doesn’t even register as wrong when she asks me those things. Maybe it’s engrained in me too.”

Whatever your reaction to this article, I hope you used it as an opportunity to evaluate how you value yourself and your partner. Take your thoughts from this and have a good conversation with one another about where you would like to make changes in the relationship, and where you feel like you are doing well.

Kathleen Baxter MS, LMFT

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3 Book Kit to Create a Happy, Healthy Person!

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In my opinion, there are several of our societal norms that are alarming. Many of the values that our nation used to rate high on the list are slipping. Worst of all, this value shift has led to increasing health, social, and economic crises. It is my belief that if a person is not deliberate about how they want to become and how, they will get swept up in the societal messages and goals that lead to so much unrest and discontentment. Here are 3 books to date, which have shaped my person and helped me to be deliberate about what I am becoming:

 

  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

 

 

This book teaches lessons that are applicable to almost all areas in life. This work is based in research. Most meaningfully however, I believe is the instruction on how to allow vulnerability in our lives to foster connection, creativity, and self-worth. If applied, the principles in this book can change the way you see yourself, and therefore the way you interact with and experience the world around you. Living this stuff makes you actually feel like you are living. Society doesn’t condone this kind of living, but people are responding to this research, which means we are hungry for something different than society is feeding us.

 

  • Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman

 

This book completely changed the way I treated my body and the way I saw my body. It, like Daring Greatly, is all research based. I had no idea the degree to which I had been mistreating my body with food. Since reading, and applying these principles, I feel happier, well rested, energetic, strong, and clean. It takes a lot of effort to do this, because society (even some in the medical field) goes completely against these nutrition ideals, but it is worth it!

 

  • The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

 

 

Another area of peoples’ lives that usually needs a tune-up is personal finance. We live in a society that idealizes money to the point that many people go deep into debt in order to achieve an empty ideal. This book will make you rethink the way you earn and spend money. Most people aren’t thoughtful enough about how they earn or spend. This book teaches you how to make your money do what you want it to, no matter what your person goals may be. Security is the name of this game.

 

I hope these books are as useful to you as they have been to me. Happy reading!

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Righteousness Does NOT Cure Depression

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As I have worked with several clients who struggle with depression, I have noticed a consistent theme among those who prescribe to religion. Many of them tend to carry a belief that if they would only be more righteous, they would not be struggling with depression, or other mental health issues. If they would only pray more or read more holy writ. If they could only be more devoted to God, Adonai, Allah, Prabhu; then this illness would be removed from them. The following are some of the challenges I have found with this flawed belief.

  1. Most religions teach that human struggle is necessary and expected for growth and progression. Therefore, this belief is in direct conflict with the very teachings one prescribes to. Depression, or any other challenge, can be seen rather as a part of one’s “refining” process, not a detriment to it or a punishment because of that natural process.
  2. Making a medical health comparison, I don’t believe that most people would believe their God sees physical injuries or wounds as evidence of impurity or sin. So, why then do we make that assumption regarding mental illnesses? Is it because one who is religious may associate their mind with their identity more than they would their body? Do we take more accountability for what goes on in our head than our body? Additionally, sometimes people who could use valuable treatment and resources, avoid it because they believe between themselves and God, they have it covered. Regarding our previous example of infection, wouldn’t God expect one to pray AND seek good medical care?
  3. Why would only some be punished by depression for sin, and others not? A more accurate interpretation may be, that it has nothing to do with sin or righteousness, but rather a genetic predisposition for the illness.
  4. Many times, those who believe that depression is a bad omen, reduce their religion to a source of guilt, rather than the uplifting support it may have been previously. Many people report that religion can be a tremendous support and relief during times of trial. The belief that one is not righteous enough to be cured of depression, robs them of the components of religion that can bring hope and peace during times or horrific challenge. Religion and God can be a tremendous tool in one’s journey to healing and health.

I believe there is a reason why so many of my clients tend to fall into this flawed thinking trap. One of the side effects of depression can be a sense of numbness or apathy. Unfortunately, when you are numb, it likely means you can’t feel God either. One may mistake the sudden lack of spiritual feelings, as a disconnection from Him, or a punishment.

I would urge all who struggle with this thought pattern now, to trust in the things you already know to be true regarding the character of your God. Allow yourself to be human and injured, the way He allows you to be.

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“Hello Guilt. My Name is Shame.”

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I frequently ask my clients this question, “What is the difference between guilt and shame.” Most clients reply that they aren’t really sure. The reason I ask this question so frequently, is because a lot of people I work with get swallowed up in these emotions from time to time. These are pretty common and even normal emotions to have in certain circumstances, yet most people have a hard time articulating what the difference is, or identifying them in themselves. I thought it would be useful to get to know each of these a little better.

GUILT- “I did bad, so I feel bad.”

One might ask why in the world were we created with this emotion. It is awful to feel! It certainly does not make the top ten lists of people’s favorite emotions to feel. Guilt can actually be a very useful emotion. Somewhere, deep down inside guilt, is a little seed of empathy, or concern for others and how they feel. Guilt helps us distinguish the difference between right and wrong, and works as little bumper lanes on a bowling ally do. Guilt keeps us pointed in the right direction. Now, People feel guilt for different things. What you feel guilt about depends on what you deem right or wrong. This is where I see people get in trouble with guilt. Many times, people who feel overwhelmed by guilt have attached it to things that have no moral implications of wrong, or are completely out of their control. You can see how guilt in these situations, is unnecessary, and frankly really ineffective. Remember, guilt is supposed to motivate me for positive change. So, feeling guilty that my child got an F in math is completely useless. First of all, getting an F in math isn’t morally wrong, and most importantly, I am not in control of my child’s behavior.

SHAME- “I did bad, so I am bad.”

Unlike guilt, shame is not motivating at all. In fact, for most people, shame is paralyzing. The big difference with shame is that you see yourself as the problem, not your behavior. One that is engulfed in shame, typically feels hopeless because you cannot escape yourself, and if you see your inherent nature or character as the problem, that feels pretty powerless. In the basement of shame is the belief that because I’m bad, people won’t love, accept, or value me. Typically, those swallowed up in shame have a hard time forgiving themselves, seeing their good intentions, or focusing on efforts rather than results.

Hopefully, you can now understand the difference between shame and guilt. If you find yourself feeling shame, you may be struggling with depression or anxiety. If you find yourself feeling guilt for many things that don’t have any moral implications, you may also be struggling with depression or anxiety. The good news is, there are proven ways to dispel shame and guilt, and to see the value in yourself again. If you are interested in learning how, schedule an appointment today.

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Parenting Tool: The Empowered Time-Out

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As I have worked with many families and parents, I have noticed that everyone has their own spin on the infamous Time-Out. Many families use this intervention as one of many alternatives to physical punishment. This is great! All of the research indicates that physical punishment is the least effective consequence. As a clinician I can tell you, I do not condone physical punishment, and it tends to be more damaging than educational to children. We would much rather our children make good choices because it makes sense to them, not because they fear a spanking. Fear is not empowering. You want children to develop internal controls.

Many of the Time-Out versions my clients are using when they come see me involve a timer. Some people do a minute for every year old a child is, some have a set 5 minutes every time, and some leave it open-ended and tell their children, “I’ll tell you when you are done.” These methods can turn Time-Outs into a power struggle, which you will lose every time. Children are in charge of themselves, and if you don’t get that, they will keep working to prove it to you.

If you think about your own experience in the world, many times, we can correct our inappropriate behavior as soon as we choose to. Nobody says, “Sorry, you can’t apologize for 20 minutes.” With my clinical background, and as a mother myself, I have developed what I call the Empowered Time-Out. This is a combination between your influence as a parent and a child’s power to choose. This works best for children who understand language, not tiny toddlers. This should be done with a calm voice. Here is how you do it:

  1. Educate the child why the behavior is inappropriate. Warn the child that if they continue the behavior, the consequence is Time-Out.
  2. When the child engages in the behavior again, direct them to your time out spot and remind them that they are going because they chose to keep engaging in the undesired behavior.
  3. Let them know that they can let themselves out of Time-Out as soon as they are willing to engage in the appropriate behavior.
  4. When the child comes out of Time-Out, if they choose the desired behavior thank them and give them praise. If they choose to get out and continue the undesired behavior, continue to direct them back to Time-Out with the same instructions.

Any new system of discipline is going to be hard to implement. Fair warning; your children will likely resist or may even try to take advantage as you begin this. Because this is empowering, you have to be okay if the child chooses not to engage in the desired behavior, and stay in Time-Out in order not to do it. It may be worth it to them in a moment to choose a negative consequence to prove their independence.

The whole point of this tool is to put children in charge of themselves. Our job as parents is to teach healthy behaviors, not make our children do them. So many parents stress more about what their children are doing than their children do. This tool puts you and child on the same page with the understanding that the child is in charge of making choices. You don’t have to hover with a timer and use your entire afternoon managing their choices.

If you are consistent with this, you will be surprised how well it works. With my own child, I am amazed how he has developed an internal control. At first it took more times of going to Time-Out before he would change the behavior. Now, he usually changes the behavior after one Time-Out, or simply at the warning before we ever make it to Time-Out. He simply helps himself out of Time-Out and says, “I’m ready mom.” We both go on with our day with no conflict or hard feelings. Consistently try this and I promise you will love it!

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Valentine’s SEX

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…and other holidays you feel pressure to make IT great!

There are a few holidays, you know which ones they are, that bring a chain of different thoughts.

“My anniversary is coming. I guess that means we should probably have sex.”

“Sweet, it’s my birthday. This means a party in the bed tonight!”

“It’s Valentine’s, does that mean that I should actually dress up for sex tonight?”

There is even a song titled Birthday Sex by the artist Jeremih. So, what is it that creates these expectations about holiday sex? Is it that we consider sex the ultimate gift and it seems fitting to give it on a holiday? Is it because in a situation where someone feels deprived of sex, that seems like a day you really shouldn’t deprive someone? Or is it that it is the ultimate celebration of your love for someone and that seems like a perfect day to celebrate? Who knows?

I am not here stating that it is neither good nor bad to have expectations about holiday sex. You and your partner can decide whether that is awesome or a problem. I thought it would be fun to consider some of the pros and cons.

CONS

  1. We usually also eat a lot of great food on these holidays and sex with a full stomach can be… interesting.
  2. Expectations can add stress and stress can be debilitating when it comes to sexual function.
  3. You can’t save your sexual relationship with your partner on a holiday every now and again. Spice is necessary more than 3 times a year.
  4. If you don’t have holiday sex and it is expected, it can lead to a lot of hurt, passive avoidance techniques, or anger.
  5. If sex is already a problem, the problem usually comes to a head when these expectations are unfulfilled and you can spend a perfectly good holiday fighting.

PROS

  1. If you conceive, you can guarantee you don’t have to share an anniversary or birthday with your kid.
  2. Going above and beyond on anything, sex included, can really make your partner feel wanted, seen and important.
  3. The pressure of expected holiday sex, keeps you on your toes and actively working on improving your sexual relationship.
  4. These holidays can create deep feelings of love, and perhaps create the desire to have sex in the first place.
  5. If you plan to have sex on these holidays, the kids are usually gone and sex can be more enjoyable.

Consider these points for yourselves. Wishing you a Valentine’s Day full of love and closeness for whomever or whatever you love!

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