Anxiety

Give Yourself the Gift of Self Compassion This Holiday Season

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In case you haven’t heard Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and his friends spinning tunes on the radio or seen the decked out evergreen firs around town yet, the holiday season is upon us. While the holidays are often a time when people are encouraged to spread joy and be generous to others, the intense pressure of “giving enough” and showing up for our families can really amount for a lousy holiday if we forget about our own self-care. Here are a few tips to help you toast to a healthy holiday season!

  1. It is perfectly okay if you don’t feel like being joyful this time of year. Maybe the holiday season reminds you of a painful event in your life or you don't have any family nearby to celebrate with — there’s no reason you should have to take a ride on the holly jolly trolly if you aren’t feeling up to it. Instead, spend some time nourishing you and doing something cathartic like reading a book, meeting a friend for coffee, going ice skating or watching a new movie.

  2. If you are purchasing holiday gifts, stick to a budget that makes sense for you and do not spend more than you can afford. Spending extra now when you truly cannot afford it may lead to resentment and financial hardship later. Consider giving the gift of your time, a heartfelt card or experiences that can be financed over time like concert tickets. By following a strict budget for holiday shopping, you can walk into the new year feeling more financially stable and confident!

  3. Holiday travel can be hectic. If you are traveling this holiday season — be gentle to yourself and come prepared with calming essentials. Calming essentials are go-to items that will help you stay calm and bring you peace amidst chaotic circumstances. Not sure where to start? Now is the time to start packing. Some recommendations may include: your water bottle, tea or hot chocolate mix, positively energizing tunes, essential oils, hand salve/lotion, a cozy scarf or blanket, a favorite photo album (electronic may be best for traveling), a you-approved selection of podcasts/audiobooks/books, and don’t forget your favorite snacks!

  4. Prioritize YOU-time. So often, we are expected to show up to holiday parties to socialize and be “on” which can be draining, even for extroverts. If you have a lot of social events that you anticipate will zap your energy, take some time to plan lots of YOU-time before and afterwards to recharge and recover. While it may sound trivial to schedule YOU-time, you will thank yourself later and be glad you did. When we push ourselves too hard while running on empty, we are more prone to experience stress. Take the time this holiday season to get the rest you need and take care of you. That way, you’ll be more fun to be around later when you rejoin the group!

  5. Know what would be absolutely perfection this holiday seasons? Letting go of perfection. It is far too easy to get caught up in a holiday headspace that is populated by Pinterest, but it’s less easy to actually create in real life. Instead of trying to make your holiday table look exactly like the one you pinned and have been admiring for weeks, try to focus on one element that feels special for you. Maybe making your grandmother’s recipe or hanging an heirloom ornament on the tree is really important or perhaps spending time with family or going to the movies is your thing. Instead of focusing on ‘having it all’, try to consider which aspect will bring you the most meaning and aim to make that one thing possible. Remember #managingexpectations makes for a better-than-perfect holiday!

No matter where you find yourself this holiday season, remember to give yourself the gift of self-compassion - YOU deserve it!

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The Big News About The Big O.

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Were they good in bed? Did you climax? How many orgasms did you have? How long did you last? Post-coitus conversations about orgasms have become a common social experience, ones that are often used to evaluate sexual encounters, but they are actually pretty unhelpful. When we place a lot of importance on our orgasms (for ourselves or our partners), we place demands on ourselves psychologically, which can distract from our ability to experience pleasure. The "must have an orgasm" mantra creates an anxious dialogue that makes our minds stress during sex instead of relax, which makes it even more difficult to reach orgasm.

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So I'm here to share some big news about orgasms and sexual pleasure. Ready? Here it comes.

We are most primed for orgasm when we are relaxed, focused and not stressed. This means we need to calm our minds if we want to have a mind-altering experience. Craving a deeply relaxed and sensational climax? Here are some of my favorite tips to get you started:

  1. Relax the body with soothing touch. Instead of starting with the most arousing areas like the genitals, try touching the body creatively and focusing on areas that are not commonly associated with arousal. Sending soothing vibes to your body helps set the tone for what's about to happen next.

  2. Clean up your boudoir. The environment around us has an impact on our ability to stay focused. Research from Princeton University determined that the brain has a more challenging time focusing on and completing tasks when we are surrounded by clutter. If you want to feel relaxed and focused, make your space reflect that by removing the clutter.

  3. Bring your mind to the present moment. Staying present is a challenge for many of us, but it's really important when it comes to sexual pleasure. Even the smallest distractions can interrupt our journey to pleasure town, so try to be mindful of things that you know might get in the way (pets, kids, alarms, electronic devices) and seek space from them. Maybe it's your laundry list of chores that keeps running through your mind. If so, remind yourself that whatever you need to do can wait -- it's time for pleasure right now.

  4. Stay connected to the sensations that feel best. One of the best strategies for staying connected to sensations is directing your thoughts to the part of your body that is being touched. If your partner's fingertips are grazing across your chest, draw your attention to the area of physical contact and notice how pleasurable it feels. Continue often.

  5. Pick your favorite pleasure mantra and run with it. Think about your favorite pleasurable words or phrases and repeat those in your head over and over. Pick something that means something to you and helps you connect with pleasure. "This is super hot" or "my partner loves pleasuring me" are two examples. Try to stay away from phrases like "I must orgasm" that put demands on yourself as opposed to promoting relaxation.

Prepping your mind for pleasure is equally as important as prepping the body. Next time you're in the mood, try out these tips for a pleasurable sexual experience. Enjoy!

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Dear Boomers, Please Stop the Pressure. Love, Millennials

As a psychotherapist working with individuals and couples across the lifespan, I often notice situations where people are in distress due to a conflict caused by generational influence. Lately, I have come to notice an association between stress amongst the millennial generation as it relates to generational attitudes. Millennials, individuals born between the years 1977-1995 (a.k.a. Generation Y), report experiencing significant pressure about how to speed up their lives, in particular in their relationships. When exploring the source of such pressure, parents and familial influence were identified as strong influences. Parents of millennials are likely to be a part of the baby boomer generation, individuals born between the years of 1946-1964. As every generation brings with them their experiences of critical events in history, they also have their own contemporary attitudes. It is not uncommon for parents to use their perspectives to teach their children how to navigate life’s challenges. Whether these challenges include acquiring jobs, commitment in relationships, significant purchases, building a family, etc., parents’ teachings are inherently based upon their own experiences and attitudes. This can become particularly challenging when there is a discrepancy between parents and their (adult) children. One millennial shares their understanding of the difference between generations…

“I think millennials feel the most pressure. It (the future) is on us because we want change. We stray from the boomer mindset of one for ourselves and think more openly about the collective. We’ve learned from the boomers, who really lead the way!”

Tasha, 30

Some believe their parents have good intentions yet separate motivations for building success…

“I think boomer parents try to pressure millennial children into the boxes they put themselves in to succeed…like the idea that you have to work for a corporation. Boomers saw jobs as security for their families whereas millennials don’t see money as the be-all end-all. We care about what we work for and want fulfillment in our daily jobs. The hardest part of our generation is the balance between security and personal fulfillment.”

Sarah, 30

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Others share that they feel pressured to take their parents’ preference into account in making major decisions…

“We all want our parent’s approval, especially when it comes to the people we date. I think that family and other adults have put on pressure on me to date within the religion I was brought up in. Also, being someone in a relationship for over 3 years now, a lot of adults start to ask about engagements, marriage and kids just because it seems like a logical next step. I want to get my feet off the ground, I want to travel, gain a little life experience before settling down. It’s a different generation; the baby boomers were all married with kids before 30, I just don’t see the millennial generation going in that same trend. I think it’s important that you really know yourself and are truly ready before you commit to marriage or children.”

Danielle, 22

Another shares that they accept their parents’ attitudes are different than their own and have a mutual understanding of approaching life differently…

“My parents try to influence my dating decisions but it doesn't necessarily work. I understand that they're from a different time. They got engaged in college, married at 23 and had two kids by my age. They don't really understand our generation’s trepidation for marrying early, and that's okay. Would they prefer I settled down earlier? Of course. Are they happy I've taken my time to find the right person to eventually settle down with? Absolutely.”

Thomas, 28

How do you believe generational patterns influence you? Feel free to contribute your ideas and comment below.

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**All participants’ names have been changed to protect their privacy in their quotes above.

Texting, Sexting and All Thing Tech: How to Use Our Devices With Love In Mind

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We've all done it and we're all guilty of it. Enjoying and utilizing our devices. It's impossible not to these days. Whether we are expected to be on-call for our employer or we are having a rapid fire texting conversation with a friend, it's hard to distance ourselves from our ever-so-smart phones, tablets and laptops.

Honestly, it's very hard to make a case as to why we should distance ourselves from our devices. Especially when we are often rewarded for being technologically savvy; knowing how to use our devices to share or acquire information via the internet is a skill. There are millions of jobs that have been created in technology, social media and marketing because of the fast-paced internet driven world we live in. So I'm not going to tell you to put your devices down. Rather, my hope is to share with you a few ways we can use our devices to turn up the heat in our relationships!

Turn up the heat with a thoughtful message. Randomly sending your partner a quick message or leaving a voicemail lets them know that you're thinking about them. Be sure to include a specific reason..."I just heard about this awesome new exhibit and I know how much you love contemporary art. I couldn't help but think of you. Hope you're having a great day!"

Snap a photo to spark the warm and fuzzies. See a cute puppy or mural on your way to work that you know your partner would adore? Take a quick photo and send it to them to let them know they're in your thoughts. Just be careful to hold off while driving!

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Speak their language. Is your partner an avid baseball fan? Find out when his or her team is playing and check the score midway through the game. Shoot your partner a text letting them know you're glad their team is up by 4 or you're sorry their boys are getting slammed, will certainly catch their attention.

Reminisce about the early days. One of the greatest features about our devices is that they are capable of backing up and storing our messages (if we want them to). If possible, upload your message history and revisit a time when you and your partner did not know each other as well. Print out a segment of your messages and read through them together. It will be a nice surprise and you can share your reactions about what you were like back then. **If you don't have a history of messages or emails, simply share a memory of how you experienced one another during courtship.

Anticipate their company. Let your partner know you are looking forward to seeing them later (or whenever you expect to see them next). This builds anticipation for you and them, which will make reuniting feel that much more exciting.

There are plenty of ways to use our devices to spark excitement and rev up the romance in our relationships. A little bit of mindfulness can go a long way when it comes to the way we text/call/beep/or snap. Having a tough time remembering to message your sweetie? Try setting a reminder on your device or marking your calendar to use one of these tips!

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Mindfulness: 3 Practical Applications for Everyday Life

  The practice of mindfulness has been a hot-topic in the mental health world these days– and it is no secret that many people are quick to jump on the mindfulness train. As a clinician, I notice many clients wanting to learn more but feeling confused about where to begin.

To break it down for you, the nuts and bolts of incorporating mindfulness in your life on a regular basis, let’s start with a definition. What exactly is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the act of being in the present and bringing one’s awareness to what is happening in front of you at this very moment.

Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; such a state of awareness.

So, you’re supposed to pay attention to your thoughts, emotions and experiences – now what?

Practicing mindfulness in every day life can be tricky. Let’s look at right now for example- as you are reading the words in this article, consider your thoughts. What are you thinking about?

Perhaps you are thinking about what comes next as you skim through the article. Maybe you wore an itchy sweater to work and are currently noticing how uncomfortable it feels on your skin. Or maybe you fought with your partner this morning and you can’t stop thinking about it.

Take a second and reflect – what is on your mind? Are you able to really read these words and stay focused?

These are examples of how our thoughts can interject in the moment and distract us from the task at hand. Now, consider how often you find yourself thinking about something other than what you are currently doing. It can be hard to stay focused on the present especially when we have so many gears turning in our lives. I’d like to share with some strategies for applying mindfulness to everyday tasks:

1. Washing the dishes.

BORING, right? Maybe you enjoy doing the dishes, but more than likely, you are just going through household chores and crossing it off your list. Next time you are doing dishes, pause to reflect on all the steps that are involved while noticing how your senses are involved. When you are scraping the excess food off of the plate, bring your attention to the motion you use to do so. Do you use a sponge or scrubber brush to remove sticky substances or do you use your hands? Notice the sensation. Are there certain motions that work better than others? Feel the temperature of the water as it crashes onto the plate. If you applied soap, maybe a certain scent fills the air around you. Take that in.

What is it like to be reflecting on the process of washing your dishes this way? How might this activity seem different to you now that you are directing your awareness to it?

2. Workouts @ The Gym

One of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness is while working out. Why then? It is sweaty and loud and there are so many distractions… this is precisely why. When we are prone to distractions or self-criticism, these moments are excellent for re-centering our body awareness.

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So, you are at the gym in the middle of a workout. You are on rep 7 of 10  squat jumps and your mind is entirely checked out. This is a perfect time to reel it back in, here’s how:

As you look into the mirror, what do you see? Be your own witness. Take a moment to notice the form your body makes when you bend your knees, sitting back deeply into a squat position. Feel the distribution of weight into your heels as you sit back and the air underneath your feet as you jump into the air. Become attuned to the pace of your breathing – at what point are you inhaling and exhaling? What sounds do you notice when you land on your feet or jump into the air from your squat? Are you listening to music? If so, what tunes are in the background?

If a thought comes up and interrupts your sequence, acknowledge that thought and push it aside for right now. It can wait until you are done with your 10 reps or maybe even your entire workout.

3. Bathing & Showering

Showering or bathing is part of your routine – so consider it another chance to practice mindfulness. Showering is an especially rich opportunity to engage in mindfulness because there are so many bodily sensations being activated during the process. What makes this shower different from an ordinary shower?

That would be the presence of intention. “Intentional Showering” involves a shift in awareness to bodily sensations that may not be attuned to on a regular basis.

First, consider what time of day are you showering. If it is early in the morning, how might that feel different from if it were later in the day or evening? Notice how much light is present around you as you shower. How might the experience be different with varied amounts of light? What items surround you in the shower? Maybe there are shampoo bottles or maybe there are rubber duck toys or fluffy loofas - how might these sights shape your experience?

Now bring your attention to the temperature of the water and how it feels against your skin. As you begin cleansing yourself, direct your awareness to the motion in which you are cleansing. Pause for a second. Maybe you use a washcloth, a loofa, or your hand. Is there a particular order you follow while cleansing your body? What sounds are present as you shower? Do you listen to a radio, sing, or shower silently? What scents are present for you as you cleanse? As you notice each of these sensations, I invite you to reflect – how might this change your showering/bathing experience?

Mindfulness is called a practice for a reason. The more often we engage in the practice, the more opportunities we have for learning and growth. When we pause to thoughtfully reflect on our lives in a slow and intentional way, we train ourselves to appreciate the power of living in the present.

I encourage you to incorporate a daily practice for at least a week. Perhaps you have your own ideas or unique ways of incorporating a mindfulness practice that are a better fit for you? Go for it. Run with them. Let me know how it goes – I’d be honored to hear your feedback.