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6 Tips for dealing with Holiday Anxiety and Depression

 

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With our recent snowstorm, my ability to pretend winter isn’t a thing, has quickly evaporated.  On sunny days I get through the winter by making sure I spend plenty of time standing in front of my south facing windows soaking up the warmth that shines through.  On overcast days it can be more of a challenge.  Add in the stress of holiday shopping and parties and expectations, and winter can be a bit of a downer (to say the least).  Here are a few suggestions to help cope with winter blues:
 
1.  Name the beast.  
Much like Rumpelstiltskin, there is great power in naming something.  Often with difficult emotions, our first impulse is to avoid naming it, because we think it’s easier to not deal with it.  In reality, the opposite is true. If I feel hurt because a relative said something unkind, the act of admitting to myself that I’m hurting and that it’s okay for me to be hurting, allows me to feel compassion for myself.  Self compassion promotes healing.
2.  Soak up the sun where you can.
If you are lucky enough to have big south facing windows, try to spend time sitting or standing in front of them when the sun is out.  Feel the warmth wash over you.  If you don’t have a south window handy, scout out local libraries for convenient spots to bask in the sun.  Use the time to practice a little mindfulness.  Get in a relaxing position, and take a mental inventory of how your body is feeling.  Notice the sensation of your hands in your lap, or your feet on the floor.  Notice your breathing.  If you get distracted, that’s okay, just gently bring your mind back to focus on your body sensations.  Spend ten minutes and evaluate how you feel afterward.
3.  Get moving.
When the sky is gray and the world is icy, exercise doesn’t always sound like the most fun activity.  This is the time it’s extra import.  Not only does exercise help keep us physically healthy, but it can help keep us emotionally healthy as well.  Aim for 2.5 hours split up over the week, but don’t let a number make you feel worse.  The point is to get moving, so whether you brave the elements to go for a walk, join a gym, use an App, or an old VHS aerobics tape, find something you enjoy.  If motivation is a challenge, try scheduling it in your calendar or setting rewards for yourself (or get the audio version of the new book you’ve been wanting to read, and listen while you exercise!).
4. Spend time with friends and family.
Not the ones you feel obligated to, but are stressed over.  I mean the ones you enjoy getting together with.  This is particularly important if you feel alone or isolated.  Reaching out to others, whether they are friends, family, neighbors, religious community members, or through volunteer work is a good way to gain a little extra support this time of year.
5.  Let go of expectations.
Pressure to have the perfect holiday can wear us out emotionally.  It’s okay if the tree is a bit crooked (or if we opted for a potted plant with a bow) this year.  It’s okay if we didn’t get the cards in the mail.  Letting go of expectations can allow us to just enjoy what is. Sometimes a verbal reminder to ourselves can be useful, “It’s okay if it isn’t perfect”.  If some of your usual traditions aren’t working out, it’s okay to let them go, or find new ones to celebrate this year.
6.  Get professional help.
If you’ve tried several of these things and are still feeling depressed or anxious, getting help from a professional is a great gift to give yourself this year. Call 801-944-4555 to schedule an appointment with a therapist at Wasatch Family Therapy.  There is hope.  Things can get better.
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Seven Savvy Secrets Wives Absolutely Need to Know about their Husbands

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Do you ever find understanding your husband somewhat like predicting the current political climate? Explaining the presidential election to your son or daughter? If so, you’re not alone. Many women find their husband baffling, if not outright mysterious. If this describes your current feelings, here are seven secrets that can really help you understand him more deeply.

#1) He Really Does Love It When You Notice Him

Really notice him. How he looks. How handsome he is. How much he means to you. How cute he is in those nice fitting jeans. Although he won’t tell you this, he totally loves it when you show him attention. Men want to believe they’re handsome and desirable. Desirable as your very awesome husband. Help him believe that by noticing him often.

#2) It Really Is NOT All About Sex

Although his actions may seem to tell you otherwise, he doesn’t have sex on his mind 24/7. Just as women aren’t emotionally focused constantly (stereotype!), men aren’t sexually focused every moment as well. In fact, men crave affection almost as much as women do. Men in Salt Lake City love to be hugged. Kissed. Held. And! Men love to cuddle closely with “no strings attached” in bed. Truly! He isn’t always hoping that cuddling will lead to making love either. Ask him. But ready to be surprised by his answer.

#3) He’s Like A Teen Girl Emotionally Inside!  

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Bring the Joy Back to Parenting in 5 Minutes Per Day

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Raising a child in today’s world can be like running in a hamster wheel. Tie shoes. Pull on backpacks. Pack lunch. Drive to school, work, lesson, practice, home. Squeeze in homework, story time, and don’t forget to floss. Repeat. Parents and children sweat on this daily journey, hoping to reach some final destination called success. After all, we live in a competitive world. For Jane to attend Harvard on a full-scholarship, slide into her desk 10 minutes early, organic lunch in tow, she’s going to need a lot of help and support along the way. It takes a lot of doing to raise this child.

Contrast this image with my experience in the play therapy room, where my primary purpose is to be with the child:

“My racing mind slows down. The run forward, look back halts to a peaceful stop and I am here. In that middle space called now. My eyes soak in the brown curl hovering over his left eye. A pale, freckled arm stretches long to reach the top shelf. Blue eyes with long lashes gaze as he tugs on the truck. The sand feels cool. We sift and pour, moving our toys in and out, over and under it. I smell the playground dirt on her socks. Our stomachs flip and flop as we feel her worries. Time is up. The door opens. Shuts. I sit, alone, on the tiny red chair, my knees higher than the table. The colors in the room are more vivid. I feel connected, grateful, alive.”

Experiences like this are common for me in the play therapy room. Why do I rarely feel this sense of well-being at home, with my own children? The answer is simple: I am too busy trying to hold the juicebox just right so it will not spill when I pass it over the back seat. You know the struggle. We can become so preoccupied with providing for physical needs, intellectual stimulation and talent development, we forget to give our children and ourselves one of the greatest gifts we can offer: our full presence.

To do this, carve out space every day to be with your child. We’re talking 5 minutes to start, nothing too ambitious. During this time, notice your child’s physical features, his rate of breathing, how she moves and smells. Hear the intonation of her speech. Soak her in, non-judgmentally, using all your senses. Does this sound odd? It may be helpful to think back to when your child was an infant. It may feel more natural to fully notice a newborn baby’s sound, appearance, smell, because you were seeing her for the first time. Why must we stop feeling that joy when our child is older?   Give it a try tonight between teeth brushing and bedtime or while you wait for little sister at dance. The time of day does not matter. No special handbook or instruction manual required. 5 minutes is enough to start. All you need to be fully present with your child is the one thing he wants most: you.

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Stronger Relationships Through Vulnerability

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The Pixar movie Inside Out goes into the head of a little girl, Riley, who experiences her world through the lens of her emotions, each represented by a unique character, Anger, Disgust, Fear, Joy and Sadness. Joy is the leader of this group of individual emotions/characters, and works throughout the movie to protect Riley from sad emotions. Finally at the end of the movie, Joy learns that sadness is was pulls people in, and allows Riley to make the connection with her parents that comforts her and helps her begin to manage all the other emotions that are swirling around in her growing brain. That connection with her parents can also be called secure attachment.

Sadness is a primary emotion, and primary emotions are our vulnerable emotions. Sometimes we don’t feel safe being vulnerable, so we mask our primary emotions with secondary emotions. Secondary emotions are the reactions to our primary emotions that are designed to protect our vulnerabilities, so we sometimes use them to put up walls or push others away. This serves an important purpose in situations where we don’t feel safe, but can cause problems when something happens that causes us to feel unsafe with a romantic partner, a family member, or close friend.

If someone we care about does something that hurts us, we might feel sadness, or rejection, or fear, when we are hurting we work to protect ourselves and mask our sadness, rejection, or fear with anger, disgust, or frustration. We lash out to prevent the other person from hurting us more. This behavior starts us on a cycle of pain and protection.

If we can figure out a way to break the cycle, we can rebuild trust and emotional bonds, and regain that sense of comfort and attachment to important people in our life. Just like in the movie, the key to breaking the cycle is to become vulnerable, to express our feelings of sadness or fear. This can begin to change our interactions, and as our loved ones are able to respond to our primary emotions, we are able to be comforted.

The next time your partner expresses anger or frustration or disgust, try to imagine what primary emotion they are experiencing that is being masked, then respond with empathy to that primary emotion. You may be surprised what creating a safe space for them to be vulnerable does for your relationship!

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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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How to Best Help Your Junior Athlete

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Competition can be extremely stressful, especially for children and teenagers. They can feel so much pressure that they will literally worry themselves sick. Kids will oftentimes try to prove their worth to themselves, their coaches, their peers, and their families through winning. Anxiety and the fear of failure affect their performance—which makes them even more fearful. It becomes a vicious cycle!

I recently wrote an article in conjunction with renowned PGA Tour Golf Instructor, Boyd Summerhays, on ways to best help Junior Golfers. After completing the article, it dawned on me that the information would be beneficial to all junior athletes and their families. Obviously, the intricate details about golf in the article are unique to golfers, but the same concepts (bolded section headings) can definitely be applied to any sport or competition that your child is engaging in:

The 8 Best Ways To Help Your Junior Golfer

Good luck to you and your family! I hope you can find joy, fulfillment, learning, and bonding through the competition (and not just stress!).

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30 Day Challenge for Overscheduled / Overstressed Adults

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Much publicity has been made in recent years about the dangers of overscheduling (and the resulting overstressing) of our children. Books such as “The Over-Scheduled Child” (2001) by Dr. Alvin Rosenfield, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist and former Head of Child Psychiatry at Stanford University; “The Pressured Child” (2005) by Dr. Michael Thompson, clinical psychologist; and “The Hurried Child” (2001) written by David Elkind, PhD, professor of Child Development at Tufts University, all document the issues surrounding the phenomenon of this generation of parents and their children who have become “more frenzied than ever”, so much so that some areas of the country are now offering Yoga classes and structured stress-reduction classes for children as young as three (3) years old to help them deal with all their stress from their crazy schedules! (Kirchheimer, 2004)
If it’s bad for our children, it cannot be good for us adults! In her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” (2010), Brene’ Brown states, “We are a nation of exhausted and over stress adults raising over-scheduled children.” We use our spare time to desperately search for joy and meaning in our lives. We think accomplishments and acquisitions will bring joy and meaning, but that pursuit could be the very thing that’s keeping us so tired and afraid to slow down”. Many even wear their busyness like a badge of honor, you probably know someone like this: who has-to-tell-you-everything-they-have-to-do-today-and-how-important-it-is-and-how-exhausted-they-are-and-how-late-they-have-to-work-after-all-the-important-errands-they-will-run-and-they-are-soooo-tired and then, add a big yawn for emphasis at the end of their monologue.
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You Shouldn’t Care About What Others Think

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“You shouldn’t care about what other people think”. This is something we tell ourselves all the time. But is it true? Is it really realistic to not care about or be effected by what other people think? And if we do care, is it helpful or hurtful? If you’ve ever wondered why you care so much about what others think of you, or how to stop caring so much, read this recent article I was fortunate enough to contribute to:
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/09/17/when-you-rely-too-much-on-what-others-think/
You will find some tips and tricks on how to find more balance in valuing what others think, but also being able to create a more secure sense of self.
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Connection Rituals in Marriage

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During my tenure in graduate school it was required to gather research and write a thesis. I aimed to create fabulous research about couples and their marital satisfaction. Out of the many questionnaires gathered, and statistical tests administered I was left with only one correlation of “statistical significance.” However, it was one that has greatly shaped how I do marriage therapy, and how I act in my own marriage. The correlation found that couples who participated in daily connection rituals reported higher levels of marital satisfaction.
What are connection rituals? I’m glad that you asked! Connection rituals span a great many ideas that include leaving notes to each other, having daily talk time, going on walks, eating dinner together, doing service for the other person, greeting each other with a hug and kiss, and many other ideas. Anything that you do on a daily or even regular basis that helps you feel connected to each other is considered a connection ritual. One husband in my survey said his favorite connection ritual was when his wife slapped his rear end after they brushed their teeth at night. How funny that something so small could send such a powerful message. I see you and love you. All that from a little slap on the rear end.
In couples counseling I ask over and over what they are doing on a daily basis to connect with each other. It is amazing the difference that comes about when the couple creates and completes things that connect them and allow them to feel attached to each other. When made a daily ritual I have found that couples feel more important to their spouse, which leads to feeling more loved, which leads to higher marital satisfaction. Want an added boost to your relationship? Add a daily connection ritual with your spouse. Eat breakfast together. Always kiss each other when one of you leaves. Use the time when the kids are in bed to talk about your day. Massage your spouses feet while you watch Stranger Things. The sky is the limit. Talk about what you would like and come up with a game plan. I have only seen very positive things come out of it!
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Using the Science behind Sexuality to Improve Our Relationships

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Emily Nagoski is a sex educator and author of the book “Come as You Are, The Surprising New Science that will Transform your Sex Life”. Sexuality can be a difficult topic because so many of us have been raised with the idea that sexuality isn’t okay. Because of this we avoid talking about it and don’t try to find solutions if we are experiencing difficulties. In my experience, problems with sexual intimacy have ranked fairly high among the issues couples bring up in therapy sessions. Shame over feeling “broken” can also make us uncomfortable bringing it up. The good news is that there is a lot we can do to become more satisfied with this important area in our lives and relationships. I recently attended a presentation Dr. Nagoski gave and found the information so useful, that I thought I’d share some of it here.

All the Same Parts:

The biggest takeaway I got from her lecture (as well as from reading her book) is that throughout our lives we are presented with an idea of what is normal in both our physical bodies and how we approach our sexuality. This presentation comes largely from the media, and leads us to believe that because we are not the same as what is presented, that there is something wrong with us. Dr. Nagoski talks about how we all have the same parts, (physically and sexually) but are arranged differently and that we are not broken or deficient just because we are different from someone else.

The Dual Control Method:

Dr. Nagoski calls them accelerators and brakes. Accelerators are things which signal our brains to respond favorably to sexually relevant stimuli. Accelerators might be things like our partner wearing a cologne or perfume we like, or coming home to a candlelight dinner our partner has surprised us with.   Brakes are things which signal our brains that we are not interested at the moment. Examples of brakes can range from things like sitting in a boring meeting to lack of sleep to body odor. Performance anxiety can also be a huge brake. There is a questionnaire to evaluate your sensitivity to brakes (or Inhibitors) and accelerators (or Excitors) at http://www.thedirtynormal.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Sexual-Temperament-Questionnaire.pdf.

Context:

How we interpret and respond to brakes and accelerators depend largely on context. If our partner approaches us from behind and kisses our neck when we are in the middle of changing a messy diaper, our response might be very different than if they did the same thing after a romantic dinner. It’s all about context. Dr. Nagoski has a worksheet to help individuals discover what contexts appeal sexually, to them, and what contexts do not, at http://www.thedirtynormal.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Sexy-Context-Worksheets.pdf.

Concordance and Non Concordance:

Concordance refers to the relationship between a physical genital response and an individual’s self reported level of arousal. Men average a 50% concordance rate, which means that half of the time when they are experiencing a physical sexual response to stimuli, they also report feeling aroused. For women, the concordance rate is 10%. One of the things that is often portrayed in media is that when we are physically stimulated, we are also aroused. This leads rape victims to feel guilt for being “aroused” by their rape, when really what happened was just a normal physical response to genital stimulation. It does not mean that it was wanted. It can also lead men who are experiencing erection difficulties to feel guilt, thinking that their lack of erection means they are not aroused by their partner.

Two key terms here are sexual relevance and sexual appeal. Sexual relevance is associated with the physical response to stimuli. An erection stemming from seeing his partner in bed would be an example of an expected sexual stimuli. Sexual appeal is linked to subjective arousal, or an individual’s self-report of arousal. Something can be sexually relevant but not appealing (sexual violence for example), things can also be sexually appealing but not sexually relevant (a fetish for example). Creating healthy, wanted sexual experiences with our partner means creating environments and situations that are both sexually relevant for us as well as sexually appealing.

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John Gottman’s research on couples found that the two traits most correlated with a strong, sustained sexual connection lasting decades was 1) a trusting friendship, and 2) making sex a priority. Sometimes when sex isn’t working the way you’d like it to, it feels easier to just let go of sexual intimacy in your relationship. It doesn’t have to be that way. Make a healthy sexual relationship a priority and come in for some couple’s counseling. We can address your concerns and find solutions for them in supportive, respectful ways. I also recommend reading Emily Nagoski’s book for much more of the science and a more thorough coverage of this topic.

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