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The Benefits of Gift Giving

Group of PeopleYes that magical time of the year is upon us where we frantically run about trying to get the special people in our lives that special gift or take time out of our busy schedules to serve others. In all of the madness that is the holiday season it is interesting to note that the act of gift-giving or service has some psychological benefits of better health and less stress and that is pretty neat. Dr. Michael Poulin, an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo, had this to say on the topic:

You may have heard that stress is bad for health.  Well, it turns out that giving to others may undo the negative effects of stress.  In a recent study, my colleagues and I found that there was no link between stress and health among people who reported helping their friends and neighbors in the past year.  But among people who didn’t engage in such helping, stressful life events predicted decreased odds of survival over the next five years.

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4 Ways to Become Less Judgemental: Julie Hanks on Studio 5

4 Ways to Become Less Judgemental: Julie Hanks on Studio 5


We’ve all known someone who is judgmental. It’s an unfortunate character trait and is often easy to spot in other people, but can be a bit more difficult to see in ourselves. But the truth is that we all could stand to be more kind and accepting of others. Here are 4 strategies to become less judgmental:

1) Cultivate Empathy

One of the first steps is to practice developing empathy and consideration for others. This often starts with ourselves. If you find yourself judging another person or harboring bad feelings, get curious, try to understand him/her, and ask questions. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and you’ll likely start to let go of some of your judgmental feelings.

2) Practice Self-Reflection

Whenever we judge someone, it’s always about us, not the other person. So when you catch yourself judging, self-reflect on why some behavior of that person is bothering you. For example, if you say or think that another woman is self-centered and spends way too much money on her appearance, hold up the mirror and see what issues of yours are being reflected. Perhaps you are jealous of her or are insecure about your own appearance and how much you invest in looking your best. Maybe that woman reminds you of someone who once was unkind to you. Judgments are very often brought about by something bringing up past wounds. Self-examine to find your reasons.

3) Seek Common Ground

Part of human nature is to notice the differences between ourselves and others. This can leading to ranking and comparison and is fertile ground for judgment to take place. Try to break the habit of seeing only differences and instead look for similarities between yourself and the other person. If you have trouble finding anything in common, remember that all human beings have experienced suffering. You may ask yourself, “What is his/her current challenge?” Seeking common ground can help you let go of judgment.

4) Stay in Your Business

Sometimes we unnecessarily insert ourselves into others’ business. Though there may be a natural concern for someone else’s well-being and we might want something positive for him/her, being overly concerned with another person’s life and choices can come across as judgmental. Instead, seek to stay on your side of the fence. And while staying in our own business can help us become less judgmental toward others, it can also help reduce some pain and anxiety for ourselves. Remind yourself that there are certain things that you do not need to worry about.

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Stop Comparing and Live Happy!: Studio 5 with LCSW Julie Hanks

Stop Comparing and Live Happy!: Studio 5 with LCSW Julie Hanks


Comparing ourselves to other people. It’s something we all are guilty of (particularly women). Whether it has to do with looks, money, talents, or belongings, many women perceive themselves as less than someone else who seems to have a better life. In a society that so often ranks us, it’s no surprise that this is so common! But at what cost? Comparing ourselves to others can eat away at our happiness and lead to lower self-esteem, but thankfully it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are 5 strategies to avoid the comparison trap:

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Human Relationships: Our Emotional Safe Haven

Safe Haven

When my mother began raising her family nearly 60 years ago, the conventional wisdom could be encapsulated by statements such as “Children are to be seen and not heard,” “Big boys don’t cry, ” and “If you hold a baby too much, you will spoil her.” So it should have come as no surprise to me when I was caring for my fist baby nearly 25 years ago that her advice was “You just need to let that baby cry…….it will help his lungs develop.” That counsel felt wrong in my soul and was contrary to everything that I had been taught in both my undergraduate and graduate training. Mother’s often know best, but in this case my mother was dead wrong!!! (I still love you, Mom!!!)

There was a time when the “sage advice” that my mother offered was unquestionably in line with the “best practices” in parenting; the underlying belief being that if parent’s responded to their children’s emotional outbursts that would lead to dangerous spoiling of one’s off-spring and would undermine the goal of fashioning independent and strong adults who were prepared to face the harsh realities of the world. Thanks, however, to the work of a brilliant British psychiatrist by the name of John Bowlby and a host of other “attachment based” researchers who followed, today we know that one of the primary tasks of parenthood runs contrary to that old conventional wisdom and requires that effective parents “attune to” or respond, tune in to, show empathy and understanding for their child’s ever changing emotional state and, thereby, a strong parent-child bond is formed. Countless research studies demonstrate that children who are fortunate enough to have formed a strong emotional connection to a primary care giver are more confident, secure and capable of facing that harsh world – completely contrary to the notion that responding to children’s emotionality would actually create weak and dependent adults. We now know that this strong bond creates for a child, what is known to attachment theorists and therapists, a “safe haven.” With this safe haven in place, a child can go out into the big, bad world and face whatever dangers might be lurking there with the assurance that at the end of the day, someone is at home awaiting their return – prepared to lick and bind up whatever wounds the day’s adventures may have inflicted.

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How To Deal With Life’s Challenges

TRIUMPHSometimes things happen in our lives that we aren’t quite prepared for and can leave us feeling empty and void emotionally. When these events occur we can incorporate a few strategies that can help us develop a sense of resiliency so that we are better prepared to face the perfect storms life has to offer. Here are a few surprisingly simple emotional coping strategies that are easy to do and cost very little money if any at all that can get you back in the saddle:

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Does My Child Have an Anxiety Disorder?

SCHOOL KID ANXIETYAs a child, the world is full of fears and challenges, real and imaginary, that adults cannot recollect from their own childhood. Most of these childhood fears and challenges are temporary and eventually outgrown, but studies show that one in eight children suffer from an anxiety disorder and anxiety has become one of the most common mental health conditions in children. At some point in life, children will experience some form of anxiety, however, when the symptoms become distressing and interfere with normal living then the anxiety can be considered and classified as an anxiety disorder. The mind and emotions of a child are continuously changing and developing at different rates, so it may not always be easy to distinguish normal fears and challenges from those that may require additional attention. That is why it is important to important not only to assess the severity of the symptoms that obstruct daily living, but also be aware of the developmental progress of each individual child. Assessing if the fears and behaviors are appropriate on a developmental level is crucial for each child. Many situations will cause children to display anxiety; however, if they continue beyond reasonable age norms, or are intense and distressing, then it could likely be the beginning stage of an anxiety disorder. These intense or distressing anxieties can eventually cause more serious distress, destroy a family system, and interfere with a child’s development or education.
Anxiety disorders that your child could be experiencing are:

Generalized anxiety disorder. With this common anxiety disorder, children worry excessively about many things, such as school, the health or safety of family members, or the future in general. They may always think of the worst that could happen. Children with generalized anxiety tend to be very hard on themselves and strive for perfection. Children with this disorder are self-conscious, self-doubting, and excessively concerned about meeting other people’s expectations. Along with the worry and dread, kids may have physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, or tiredness. With generalized anxiety, worries can feel like a burden, making life feel overwhelming or out of control.

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Do Your Kids Define You?: Julie Hanks on Studio 5

Do Your Kids Define You?: Julie Hanks on Studio 5

Being a good parent requires a tremendous amount of time, love, and energy, but what happens when a well-meaning mom or dad becomes too enmeshed in their children’s lives? Over-involvement can unknowingly do damage to kids, who then become responsible for their parents’ well-being and happiness. On the other hand, parents who can draw a separation between themselves and their children are emotionally healthier and are actually able to give more to their families.

LCSW Julie Hanks recently discussed this topic on KSL’s Studio 5. Below are some questions she suggested to ask yourself to determine whether or not your kids define you (along with some strategies to help you reclaim yourself if you find that you’ve taken on a little too much):

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Our Boundaries, Our Selves

“Boundaries can be understood as processes of contact and exchange,
moments of knowing, and movement, and growth.”
Judith V. Jordan

Knowing how to set healthy boundaries is an important part of living a life where you feel honest with yourself because you are able to interact honestly with others.  This isn’t a skill that comes with all of us into life. This isn’t a skill we learn in our formative years either.

We learn it, oftentimes, through experiences of pain and trauma, both emotional and physical.  Because of our experiences, we learn to have boundaries. Because of our experiences, we also gain the tough challenge of doing 3 life-altering things:

  1. Learning to value ourselves;
  2. Actively creating our identity;
  3. Balancing the ways we share our personal space.

Often times we are expected to share our personal space without regard to personal needs because of our roles in life – such as our families, our friends, our occupations or hobbies, our roles as as parents, siblings, spouses, or relatives.

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Teach Your Children to Struggle

momreadingoptimizedI have noticed that most parents try their best to teach their children to succeed. Of course we do! All parents want their children to grow into successful happy adults. No parent wants his or her child to suffer or be unhappy. Fortunately, life will always bring struggles and hardship no matter how much we love or prepare our children. Yes, I said fortunately.
When we don’t allow ourselves as parents to struggle, our kids never watch it or learn how to do it themselves. Children can develop the belief that everything has to be okay all the time. “Mom and Dad always have it together, so I should too.” That is an expectation that will surely be met with disappointment and failure. Here are some ways you can help your children expect struggles and embrace them.

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