The Intentional Yes – A Way to Simplify Your Holiday

While most of us can boast of very busy schedules year round, the holiday season is even worse.  There are pressures coming from all sides, end of the year deadlines at work, holiday parties, the pressure to find the perfect gift for everyone in your life, family obligations, traffic…the list could go on and on.

Rather than putting our heads down this holiday season and plowing through it let’s try something different.  Let’s slow it down, let’s take some time to enjoy it, revel in it and actually be merry!

How do we do this? Continue reading

Gru, Minions & Anxiety

The above video clip is one that far too many of us can relate to. You know that feeling when you’d rather blow torch a phone than make a phone call… Or you’d rather go shopping for hours on end than face the fact that your in-laws are coming in town.  Maybe it is fear of allowing your little one to spend the night with a friend that causes you to become that parent who will lie and say “little Johnny is too scared to spend the night,” all while little Johnny is in the background begging you to let him go.

There is a certain level of anxiety that is actually healthy and normal.  Anxiety that prompts you to prepare a speech before standing in front of a crowd is likely to prevent you from total embarrassment. Anxiety about a job interview, which prompts you to dress in more than a t-shirt and shorts is more likely to propel you toward employment.  However, when our anxiety becomes so intense that we are unable to give the speech, or we bomb every interview we attend (or better yet, bail before we even get to the interview) then there is likely a more significant problem at play.

In order to adequately talk about anxiety we have to differentiate anxiety and fear because often, these words are used interchangeably, but the reality is – they aren’t interchangeable.

Fear is the feeling that you get in the middle of a crisis, when you are faced with something real and tangible.

Anxiety is the feeling that arises when we begin to think of and fear things that may or may not ever happen. 

Anxiety is an elusive emotion that can quickly go from a normal level to spiraling out of control, as seen in our video clip.  Most of us experience a little anxiety when calling someone for a first date, but in the clip Gru’s anxiety went to such an extreme that he not only melted a phone, but it resulted in thousands of dollars’ worth of fire and water damage, and worse, hurt the feelings of some of his minion friends.  Unfortunately, our own anxiety when left unaddressed has the capacity to do the same.

Anxiety disorders are the most common disorders in the U.S. with an estimated 41 million people struggling.  In addition to being incredibly common on their own, anxiety disorders are also seen as underlying issues which often trigger bigger problems such as addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, and major depression.  Anxiety disorders are, however, very treatable.

If you struggle with anxiety, here are a few tips to help you get on the right track.  The first step is to get to a place where you feel safe both physically and emotionally.  Here are some ideas:

  • Take slow deep breaths – counting to 5 as you breathe in and again as you breathe out
  • Go for a short walk – even if just to the next room or down the hall at work, often changing your physical location can be very helpful
  • Practice self-care – a bike ride, a walk in the park, a hot shower, read a book, enjoy a cup of coffee, go shopping, enjoy a cookie, call a friend, get a pedicure, or play a video game.

** It is important to note here that self-care will look different for everyone and you have to find what is safe for you.  If you struggle with an eating disorder then a cookie is not a form of self-care, or if you struggle with shopping / overspending, then a trip to the mall is not a healthy or safe form of self-care.

Once you have gotten into a safe space, then it is vitally important that you track down the root of your anxiety. What triggered you?  What can you do to handle that differently in the future, or to avoid a triggering situation?  Identifying the root causes and how to deal with them can be very challenging!  Often finding a close friend, or a therapist, to help you through this process is a necessity to true recovery.

Anxiety is the most common mental health diagnosis in the country, but only 1/3 of those struggling get treatment – the sad fact about this… Anxiety is a very treatable struggle.  You don’t have to struggle forever, and you certainly don’t have to do it alone.

If you think you or someone you love may struggle with anxiety, check out our Anxiety Test for a look at some very common symptoms.

Jennifer Smith, M.A., LPC-Intern
Supervised by: Tiffany Ashenfelter, M.A., LPC-S

Don’t Stress, You’re on Vacation!

Check out Tiffany’s guest blog post, Don’t Stress, You’re on Vacation! for Polish: Refining the Details

Summer has begun and so has vacation season! Vacations are supposed to be a break from the world, our responsibilities and day-to-day stress. However, many of us tend to carry our stress over into our vacation time, which can rob us of much needed relaxation time. I am one of those people and I constantly have to work to chill out just before a trip. Here are some tips I use to stay stress-free and enjoy my vacation to the fullest! – See more

Safety Saboteurs – Creating&Maintaining Intimacy

Last week we emphasized how our individual differences impact intimacy in our marriage and the need for open communication to come to common ground.  That’s all great when you’re talking about the small stuff, where should we eat tonight or how do we fold the towels.

But, then there’s the stuff in life and marriage you don’t plan for or expect such as financial hardships, loss of a loved one, challenging children.  It’s hard to remain intimate when you realize you aren’t going to be able to provide financially the way you anticipated, you are grieving or you disagree on how to parent your headstrong child.  What about the other stuff in life that happens and no one really talks about?  The stuff that isn’t discussed until after it happens, such as: fertility issues, depression, severe illness, in-laws moving in, etc.

How do you invite intimacy into feelings of brokenness, hopelessness, etc.

Continually providing safety within your marriage is the key to intimacy.  When you are dating, you are trusting pieces of yourself as the relationship grows and intimacy develops.  Now that you are married, you’ve likely revealed almost everything about yourself.  Safety is everything at this point, because we are trusting that our spouse can handle everything you have revealed over the years as opposed to small pieces of you at a time, in addition to life as it happens to you as a couple.

We have identified some safety and trust saboteurs.

Safety saboteurs

  • Unspoken Expectations – read here for more on this topic
  • Secrets
    • anything that makes you experience that twinge in your gut when you may think “what if my spouse finds out?”
  • Poor communication skills – this invites circular arguments that are left unresolved and increased defensiveness for both parties
  • High levels of stress (lack of self-care) – unbalanced life and priorities will lead to burnout and allow for very limited time to emotionally and physically connect with your spouse.

Creating that safe environment

Engagement Table
Dating your spouse increases intimacy.

Think back to the beginning of your relationship.  What helped create that sense of safety between you and your spouse?  (DATING, INTENTIONALLY SPENDING TIME TOGETHER, etc.)

We want to challenge you to sit down with your spouse this week and reminisce about your favorite dates, list activities you both already enjoy doing together as well as activities you’d like to try out together.  But hey, let’s not stop there!  Get out your calendars and begin to plan out dates.  Think through the different commitment levels each will take, time, financial and energy.  Then enjoy dating your spouse again.  Who knows date night might be better than when you were dating!

STOP – Holiday Survival Tip #5

Christmas is finally here and on the morning of Christmas Eve many of us are making pies, baking hams, rushing to get those last minute gifts, running out to the store one last time because you forgot the green beans for the green bean casserole.  Yesterday I had 3 items I needed from the store and I ended up having to go to three different stores to find each!  It could have easily become a very frustrating afternoon, fighting traffic in and out of parking lots, standing in long check out lines and knowing I still had to make another stop, however it wasn’t frustrating or stressful.  I found myself smiling throughout and here is why… Continue reading