What I've been listen to: Tony Robbins interview of Esther Perel (Tony Robbins Podcast "Why do people cheat: Parts 1 and 2")

If you want to take an interesting deep dive into relationships and get some insights to help you thrive in your relationships, check out these episodes. Ester and Tony cover everything from attachment to communication to responsibility and intentionality. The first part is about relationships In general and the second one zeros in more on infidelity, which is Ester Perels realm of expertise. In all honesty, I listened to these episode several times to be able to more fully digest them because they're so juicy and dense. This therapy nerd highly recommends it!

Want more on what I am listening to? Check it all out here.

Holiday Survival Strategies for People Struggling with Food

Holidays are wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends. They also tend to be food centric. Everything from Thanksgiving dinner, to Halloween candy, to cookie decorating, leaves us with a lot of food and sweets around. Not to mention all the emotions that come up around the holidays and family gatherings. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it can be especially challenging for someone with an eating disorder.

If you are struggling with being triggered to binge, here are some strategies to manage urges:

  1. Notice the urge to binge as a thought or craving and not an imperative (just because you think about eating that plate of cookies doesn't mean you HAVE to have it)
  2. Drink a glass of water. Sometimes we confuse hunger and thirst so this may help you assess if you are feeling actual hunger. It also buys you some time to evaluate your options and ride out an urge.
  3. Take 20 min. Food will still be there when you're done but your emotions and urges may have settled a bit. During that time, do a mindfulness activity to switch focus. It’s not helpful to just obsess about food or binging for 20 min.
  4. Consider HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired). Maybe the urge is a result of one of these in which the solution isn't necessarily "eat all the chocolate".
  5. While food rules can be tricky, a decent food rule for someone dealing with binging behaviors can be "I need to eat it around people". If you want chocolate, enjoy it, don't hide it, eat it in a social context to avoid overdoing it.
  6. Make sure you're fueling consistently. Don't restrict calories or exercise a ton or purge meals to compensate for potential calories over the holidays. It may sound counter intuitive to eat consistently, but not doing that just keeps you in the cycle of binging because you have actual hunger and low blood sugar which can make you confuse hunger cues and binge urges,  make you more impulsive, and make you more vulnerable to overwhelming emotions, all of those make challenging binge urges harder. It’s hard enough.
  7. Set an intention. Instead of going to an event or going through the season being at war with food, try to shift the focus. While food is still there, it’s often helpful to go to a party with your focus on your friends, gratitude, being present, feeling proud of yourself, laughing, etc. Think of how you want to feel about yourself during the party. Or how do you want to feel physically or emotionally in the moment. Find something that is more important than food and stayed zeroed in on that as much as possible. It won't make urges go away, but having an intention can add much needed ammunition to the fight to overcome urges.

 

If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, try to be gentle and show grace in this tough season, and don't hesitate to reach out for help. We're here for you.

 

Back to School Basics: Let's Get Physical

Here’s a challenge: pick a fitness goal for this month for you and your partner.

 

Maybe you join a gym, sign up for a race, learn a new sport, find new hiking spots, join a local recreational sports league. Sky's the limit!

Potential benefits include (but aren’t limited to):

1. Stress reduction and confidence boosting. Who doesn’t want a more chill and more empowered partner!?!

2. Team building by having a common goal. Instead of being roommates or adversaries, join forces to meet a goal.

3. Infusing novelty and excitement into your routine and relationship. Novelty makes our brains feel good and keeps us happy and in the moment. A fitness challenge is a fun way to spice things up together.

4. More opportunity to be physically together and bond by sharing experiences, supporting each other through challenges, and lots of sweaty hugs!

Get out there and get physical!

 

Back to School Basics: Timeouts

In most relationships, emotions can get real hot real quick. We say something hurtful. Our partner hurls a hurtful attack back. And on it goes. Not only feelings get hurt, but relationships are hurt and foundational trust is ruptured.

A quick, basic strategy to stop hemorrhaging, buy time, and not make things worse, is to establish a safe word. This is a word you say to signifying that you are hitting pause, taking space, and interrupting the hurt spiral. The word can be anything. I had one couple who said "muskrat." It’s hilarious, and because it’s hilarious, it helped diffuse hot conflicts. Hard to yell and laugh at the same time.But lately, I have been a fan of using "ouch" as the diffusing word. It’s a little more accurate, a little more vulnerable and true (often anger is a secondary emotion to hurt), and it can soften the interaction.

From that point, take an hour and reassess. If you're still too heated to talk, say so. "Hey, im not ready. This is important, but I’m still to heated to communicate effectively. Lets check back in in an hour." That second part is important because often one person can feel anxious or abandoned by the space. Or couples can hit pause and not return to the conflict which only leads to festering, undealt-with, emotions. This strategy should be agreed upon ahead of time so that both parties can agree upon the words and the terms and what the intention is behind hitting pause. This may need some experimentation and tweaking as you go, but is worth a try to start to help you get unstuck from ineffective and hurtful communication patterns.

Need help getting started with this practice? Need help in other areas of your relationship? We can help. Call us today and start rebuilding your relationship.

 

 

Ladies, Put Yourself FIRST!

I know this is a generalization, however I see this all the time in my office and I am also guilty of it.  As moms, friends, daughters, wives, etc, we tend to put others before ourselves on a consistent basis. WHY?!?!?!?  

This is honestly a struggle for me since I have the helper gene nailed down pretty hard.  But the truth is when I put myself first, life is so much better.  I am able to attend to the others in my life with purpose.  I am more focused, more intentional, better attuned to them because I have taken care of myself and my needs.  I am not off in my head trying to figure out my next moves for dinner, laundry, my business, friends, family, etc.

Try it for one small day or half the day.  Make it all about you and see what happens.  I am very aware that when I am not first, things get chaotic and messy.  For example, I am writing this while staring at a basket of clean laundry that has been sitting there for 2 days.  My sink is full of dishes.  Those things can wait because right now, my personal life and my business projects are taking priority.  I literally decided the other day that I am focusing on 3 things: personal health, business health and family health.  Everything else is now on hold.  There is a lot on hold.  So many projects, books and shiny objects screaming for my attention.  If I let myself get sidetracked, then I get anxious.  Focusing on my top three is my new priority and it feels so much better. Take a look at my Self Care tip for ideas.  If you need help making yourself a priority, pick up the phone and call us.  We can do this journey together!

Back to School Basics: Put Away the Phones

We seem to intuitively know that building a bond takes intention and attention. You set aside time to date your partner, you take time to have a conversation, you keep phones away or on silent. You focus on your new love and limit distraction. You probably wouldn’t dream of talking on the phone or skimming your instagram feed on a first date. You don’t just get to build a bond with your partner, then sit back and coast. It’s a daily practice to nurture and maintain a relationship bond. Phones often gets in the way of the necessary attention to keep your relationship healthy! We're so busy paying attention to email and social media that we can inadvertently stop paying attention to the people in front of us. It’s easy to get lulled into comfort and complacency, but it’s that lack of connection and attunement that underlies a lot of conflict.  So here's some practical tips to help maintain that connection and limit some conflict by putting away your phones.

1. Make mealtimes phone-free times. This is good even if you're dining alone to practice mindful eating, but it’s especially important if you're with someone to use that time to connect, laugh, and share in the experience of the meal.

2. Establish a phone free schedule. I suggest turning off your phone/tablet/laptop the hour after you get home from work or the hour before bed. Use that time to talk and connect.

3. Add activities together that are incompatible with having phones out. This can be a walk in nature, playing tennis, sex, playing board games, etc. Do something together that encourages you to be present and connected and active.

 

 

An Emotional Family Tree

I like to make emotions, thoughts, and feelings tangible for my clients.  One of the ways I do this is by creating a genogram.  Think of a family tree but with emotions, events and patterns instead of pictures.  A good genogram provides a rich history of family nuances.  They help explain how patterns and problems evolve and why they are often repeated through the generations.  

During couples counseling, we talk about the merging of 2 cultures.  That’s true if you are from the same small town or from different countries.  Every person grows up in their own unique culture that often clashes with how their partner grew up.  If you grew up in a small southern town, you might be a polite person who is sensitive to social norms.  If you grew up in a fiery tempered Italian family, you might have a loud arguing family who lets the tempers flare and then regroups immediately with no ill will. Pairing people from these different worlds often causes some relationship issues.  But when we are able to map out the family structure on both sides, it becomes clear to both partners why the other acts like they do.  We get clarity but also understanding and acceptance.

The genogram has a myriad of different uses.  Monica McGoldrick, in her book Genogrmas: Assessment and Intervention, notes the many uses genograms serve:

-to elicit family narratives and expand cultural stories

 

-to reframe and detoxify family legacies

-to discover unique strengths and resources

-to look at key family or personal events that were life changing

-to sensitize clinicians to systemic issues

-to uncover sources of current dysfunction

-to find sources of resilience

-to place the current issue in the context of the family evolutionary patterns

The list really goes on and on.  The genogram shows patterns vertically and horizontally.  They expand your mind to see multiple patterns at the same time and how they impact one another.  Family patterns not only grow from past generations, but, according to Goldrick, via larger social structures like religion, politics, gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, schooling, etc.

Genograms are fascinating.  They are colorful and have lines and symbols drawn all over them to depict emotions and events.  I once made a genogram in one of my drawing programs for a couple I was counseling.  It turned out to be about 5 feet wide and 2 feet high.  We went back multiple generations.  They wanted to stop the generational abuse from showing up in their children’s lives.  When we put it all out on paper, they were amazed.  After about 6 months of working together, they moved away from all those negative habits.  

If you have a complicated relationship or situation, examining your family through a genogram might shed a ton of light on the issue and help you solve it faster.  We keep gigantic sticky notes in the office and lots of colored pens to make the genogram a fun and enlightening experience.  Please call us today so we can map out your history!

 

 

Back to School Basics: Praise your Partner

People respond to praise. People thrive on appreciation and attention. We know this. We practice it freely with pets and kids. We lavish praise when we're smitten with a new love interest. And although we know that it works and makes others feel good,  we often neglect this behavior when in a long term relationship

"If I praise them all the time, it won’t mean much"

"I shouldn't have to praise them, they should just do it because it needs to be done"

"I shouldn't have to praise them, they know I love them."

"I shouldn’t ask for praise, I should be an adult with no needs"

On a behavioral level, praise reinforces behaviors. Want your partner to take out the trash? Ask and then say "thank you". Bonus points for expanding on a "thank you" with feedback on what the behavior shows you about the person's character, how it helps you, or how it makes you happy (thank you. That was so thoughtful of you/ it saved me some time so I could get other things done/ it makes me feel special").

On an attachment level, praise demonstrates appreciation and respect and reassures the other person that they matter. Attachment takes work and maintenance and consistent praise and gratitude helps build that bond and create a sense of safety and connection. This is vital for the health of the relationship. And all it takes is a moment.

You're welcome!