Trauma & Relationships: 5 Ways to Increase Connection this Valentine’s Day

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Priscilla Du Preez

Valentine’s Day can bring up a lot of emotions. For some, it represents a day of romance and encourages expressions of love. However, this can often put unhealthy pressures and expectations on a relationship or can lead to uncoupled individuals feel left out and minimized by society. Many people dread this day or become frustrated with its American commercialization. For individuals who’ve experienced Trauma, these challenges are further compounded by difficulties with intimacy and vulnerability.  

If you’ve experienced Trauma, you may find yourself struggling to connect with others or have difficulty feeling positive emotions such as love or happiness. You may find yourself thinking “I can’t trust people,” “others will take advantage of me,” or “they’ll just let me down anyways, so what’s the point.” You may also suffer from low self-esteem and believe that you don’t deserve love or people who care about you. This may lead to pushing people away, self-sabotage, or diving into toxic relationships with those who would mistreat you.

Rather than continuing to stay stuck in this downward spiral, here are 5 ways to help yourself become more connected:

  1. Self-Care

You may see this term showing up everywhere and initially dismiss it. What does self-care even mean?! Does staying home all weekend in the same clothes and binge-watching Netflix count? Part of connecting with others involves connecting with yourself and acknowledging that you deserve care. It doesn’t have to be a big step like treating yourself to a spa day (although those are quite nice). Self-care can be basic grooming, eating regular/balanced meals, and exercise. It can mean taking a stroll around your neighborhood or sipping your favorite tea. Any behavior, no matter how small, that shows yourself that you matter.

  1. Contributing

Giving can be an incredible way to connect and feel valued. It can also help improve the quality of your relationships and overall outlook. Contributing doesn’t necessarily mean donating money or volunteer work. Both may be great options, but it can also look like showing people kindness through sending a friend a supportive text or paying a co-worker a compliment. Sometimes people may go overboard and become so selfless, that they neglect their own needs. If you find yourself with this tendency, it’s okay to still contribute, but you may want to pay special attention to the paragraph on Self-Care.  

  1. Be Part of Your Community 

As humans, we are social beings. It is a natural and essential need to connect with others and be part of a larger community. We are not alone, and we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. This involvement can be as active or passive as you choose. Sometimes this means participating in your spirituality by attending services/events. It can be going to a Farmer’s market, taking a group workout class, or sitting at a café, simply sharing space with others in your neighborhood. 

  1. Initiate Plans

Too many people wait around for someone else to initiate plans. This can not only be anxiety-provoking but often discouraging. It leaves the door open for all those insecurities to rush in and convince us that there’s no hope and we’re destined to be alone, or it may make us doubt our current relationships. Rather than giving our power to someone else who decides if and when we will meet, reach out and take that first empowered step. 

  1. Group Hang Out

In our modern age, we are no longer restricted to traditional ways of celebrating holidays. Social gatherings like Friendsgiving have become the norm. We often associate Valentine’s Day with a time dedicated to our romantic partners but showing love to our friends and family can offer just as much meaning. The days surrounding Valentine’s Day might be the perfect opportunity to plan something special with these significant others in your life. This might look like hosting a dinner/game night or gathering the girls for a brunch or a hike. If hosting sounds like a big commitment, see if someone else is interested in organizing the activity with your help. 

This blog post was written by Dr. Talia Barach, licensed clinical psychologist. She specializes in helping others overcome the negative impacts of trauma and move forward in their lives. Visit our “Dr. Talia” page to learn more.

How to Deal with Loneliness Around Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is just around the corner. For many people that means celebrating with their spouse or partner and showing them extra love and attention. But for others, Valentine’s Day is a sad reminder that they are single or are perhaps grieving the recent loss of their significant other.

If you are celebrating it alone this year, here are a few ways you can alleviate your sadness this Valentine’s Day.

Give Yourself a Break

It’s bad enough to feel lonely, but it’s even worse to scold yourself for doing so. Loneliness is not an indication that you’re doing anything wrong or that there is something wrong and unlovable about you.

Even people that are in relationships can feel incredibly lonely. Loneliness affects everyone at some point in their life. It’s not a sin to feel this way, so stop scolding yourself.

Take Yourself on a Date

How many times during the year do you make a real effort to show yourself love? If you’re like most people, you don’t really think much about how you treat yourself.

This Valentine’s Day, if you find yourself a party of one, try and make the best of it by focusing all of your love and attention on yourself. Take yourself out to a nice dinner. Or, if you don’t like the idea of sitting at a table alone surrounded by couples, then order in your favorite food and watch your favorite movie.

Take a nice long bath. Listen to your favorite band. Buy yourself a little gift on the way home from work. Use this Valentine’s Day to commit to showing yourself more love and kindness throughout the year.

Show Your Love for Others

Valentine’s Day is a holiday to show love. No one says that love must be shown in a romantic way.

This is a great time to show your affection and appreciation for the wonderful people in your life. Get your best friend a box of chocolates or your mom a bouquet of flowers. Put a card on your neighbor’s windshield and your coworker’s computer monitor.

You can be filled with love by being loved, and you can be filled with love by loving others. The more love YOU show this holiday, the more love you will feel inside. And you would be amazed at how the loneliness quickly slips away when you are full of love.

Don’t let the commercialism of the holiday make you feel alone and isolated. You really can have a lovely Valentine’s day if you love yourself and others.

5 Ways to Cope with Anxiety as a Parent

The hard work and unpredictability that makes parenting so rewarding can also cause a great deal of anxiety. Here are some simple ways to bring yourself to a place of calm.

Make a To-Do List
Ruminating on worries can cause lots of stress. Clear your mind by making a to-do list. Put down everything that needs to be done into your phone or onto a sheet of paper, and as you write them down, visualize yourself removing this task from your mind onto the list.

Watch Your Language
Many times parents believe things will get better when their children move on to the next phase of their maturity. However, the truth is that the worry will continue until you change your pattern of thought. To do this, watch the language you use to describe things. Don’t use phrases such as, “this will be a disaster if I don’t get it done on time” or “I’ll die of embarrassment if I forget.”

Also change thoughts of “I have to” to “I want to”. For example, instead of saying “I have to sign the kids up for karate” say, “I want to sign the kids up for karate because I know they’ll love it.”

Get Some Fresh Air
There’s nothing like some fresh air and sunlight to ease anxiety. Put your baby in a stroller and go for a walk around the block, to a neighbor’s house, or a local park. Take your kids to an outdoor mall or sit on the patio of a frozen yogurt shop and share a frozen treat. You can also try your local library. Some libraries also have outdoor patio areas where you can read with your kids.

Practice Mindfulness Exercises
If your anxiety is difficult to control, try deep-breathing from your belly. While you do this, concentrate on five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This can help calm you when you’re feeling a panic or anxiety attack start to arise.

Use Your Support Network
Call your friends or family to chat or ask for advice. It may also help to vent with a Facebook parenting group or other online message board. You can also call your therapist and make an appointment and work through your challenges.

Try these tips to control and cope with your anxiety, and enjoy the time with your children free from worry.

If you find your anxiety to be impacting your ability to be a happy, successful parent, it might be time to speak with a professional who can help. Please contact me today for an initial consultation.

3 Ways Therapy Helps You Address Anxiety

Millions of people deal with stress and anxiety on a daily basis. Whether it’s a result of phobias, depressions, or post-traumatic stress, anxiety can take a toll on our mind and health.

If you deal with anxiety you most likely have looked into ways you can help calm your emotional rollercoaster. Perhaps you’ve even tried some self-help techniques in the past. While these methods can provide some relief, it’s often temporary.

To rid yourself of overwhelming anxiety once and for all, you’ve got to get to the root cause of it – the underlying factors. A therapist can help you identify and eliminate these underlying factors.

If you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, here are 3 ways therapy can help:

1. Uncover Root Causes

Like any other health issue, effective treatment gets to the root cause. For instance, your doctor can either prescribe a medication to try and manage your hypertension symptoms, or she can request you clean up your diet and exercise, addressing the root causes of your high blood pressure.

A therapist will assist you in accessing your emotional world so you can study your thoughts and feelings and uncover patterns. Often, unhealthy beliefs and thoughts lie at the root of anxiety. Once you identify what is causing you anxiety, your therapist can begin to create a plan to help you face these underlying issues calmly and confidently.

2. Therapy Helps You Change Your Behaviors

We’ve just talked a little about therapy helping you uncover the thoughts and beliefs that are causing the anxiety. Those thoughts and beliefs are not only making you feel bad, they are causing you to have certain behaviors that may result in negative consequences.

For instance, your anxiety leads to insomnia or denial of intimate social connections. Therapy will help you make lifestyle and behavioral changes. You’ll learn how to cope with difficult situations in a more relaxed manner. Therapy will help you to stop avoiding certain people and situations and develop a calmer and more balanced sense of self.

 3. Therapy Offers Continued Personalized Support

 All change is hard, even change that’s ultimately good for you. One of the biggest benefits of therapy is that it offers continual personalized support. Your therapist wants to see you succeed and will offer encouragement and advice without judgement.

If you’ve been living with anxiety, know that you don’t have to deal with it alone. If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

4 Ways to Improve Self-Esteem When You Have Depression

Depression and low self-esteem are two sides of the same coin. While low self-esteem leaves people vulnerable to depression, depression can absolutely destroy self-esteem.

But, though low self-esteem may be deeply rooted, there are things you can do to improve it, even if you are suffering from depression.

1. Start Your Day with Positivity

It’s important you start each day positively. Doing so will help your mind to habitually recognize good, especially the good in yourself. So, surround yourself with positivity in the form of music, books, calendars, computer wallpaper, etc. You can even sign up to a service that will send you funny memes or cute animal videos each day. Feeling good at the beginning of the day will set a tone and help you be positive throughout.

2. Analyze and Correct Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is the catalyst for both low self-esteem and depression. The more one thinks negatively, the less able they are to see themselves and the world around them in an accurate light. Soon, the negative thoughts are on a loop like an old record that keeps skipping, causing the same lyric to play over and over again.

The first thing that is needed is the ability to analyze your own thoughts. When a self-critical thought occurs, ask yourself three questions:

  • Is there any evidence to support this thinking?
  • Would people that know me say that my thought is true?
  • Does having this thought make me feel good or bad about myself?

Once you realize there is no evidence to support your thought, that your friends and family would disagree with your thought, and that your thought makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s time to replace that thought. Not with a vague affirmation, but with factual and meaningful self-statements.

For example, perhaps you have taken on a project at work, and currently you find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Your thoughts may currently sound like, “Why did I say I could handle this? I never finish things on time.” You will now replace that thought with a positive factual thought, something simple like, “I’m doing better at this job everyday and am continuing to make progress.”

A healthy self-esteem is not about being perfect or thinking you’re perfect when you’re not. No one is. A healthy self-esteem is about acknowledging your strengths and accepting your weaknesses and realizing you’re like everyone else – human and beautifully flawed.

3. Treat Yourself Well

Though you may feel you don’t deserve it, by treating yourself, you will send positive messages to your subconscious mind that you ARE worth it. Consider taking yourself out to a nice lunch, buy yourself that sweater you’ve been eyeing, or go get a relaxing massage. You don’t even have to spend money; show yourself you’re worth it by spending time reading a book, going for a walk in nature, or doing anything that inspires you.

4. Seek Positive Support

You want to surround yourself with people who celebrate your strengths, not your weaknesses. This can include seeking the positive support of a therapist who can work with you on analyzing and replacing negative thought patterns. When we don’t have an accurate self-perception, it can help to get a new perspective from an objective third party.

Increasing your self-esteem isn’t easy, but if you practice these tips, you will be able to chip away at the negative self-talk every day.

Need help with your self-esteem? If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help. 

4 Ways to Improve Communication in Your Relationship

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you and your significant other have hit a snag in the relationship. Maybe you’re spending less time with each other and you’ve grown apart. Or maybe you do little else than argue these days.

All relationships go through their ups and downs. No matter the good intentions of the individuals or how in love you were when the relationship began, it is completely natural for a relationship to take a hit every now and then.

In some ways, these trials can be a good thing. Much like you need to break down muscle to build it up stronger than it was before, many relationships can be strengthened by challenges, provided your communication is healthy.

Here are some ways to improve communication in your relationship:

1. Recognize the Change

It’s important to be open and honest with yourself and each other. Don’t deny that something has changed in your relationship, admit it openly. You may also need to recognize that each of you has changed over the years. None of us stays the same. Our wants, needs, passions, annoyances, etc. change as we mature and grow as people. People can usually accommodate this change as long as they admit it has happened.

2. Validate Each Other’s Feelings

There are two words that are very powerful in communication, “Yes, and…” Effective communication is not about one person being right and the other wrong. Often, both people are right and allowed to feel their feelings. Try not to attack the other person or get them to compromise on issues. Instead, focus on simply being heard and hearing the other person.

3. Be Ready to Change

If you want to improve your communication as a means to get the other person to change their ways, you are really thinking about this communication thing all wrong! Good communication is not about winning an argument. This is not a debate class. Your goal is to better share your thoughts, feelings, ideas, hopes and struggles with each other. Don’t be so focused on getting the other person to change and focus more on how your own behavior could change.

4. Breathe

Managing your emotions is one of the most important skills when it comes to interpersonal interaction. How often are you ready to blow when you and your spouse or partner are speaking to each other? How does the communication breakdown once you or your partner have become emotional?

When communicating with your partner, or anyone, should you feel your emotions rise, stop, take a slow, deep breath, and let it out. Taking this moment is important and will help you not to say something you’ll regret or that will escalate the situation.

None of us are perfect. All we can do is try to be the best versions of ourselves we can be for ourselves and our loved ones. By following these communication tips you will be able to strengthen your relationships.

It’s OK to Grieve After a Miscarriage

It’s perfectly normal, natural, and OK to grieve after a miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

Throughout our lives we experience the loss of loved ones and friends. But there is no greater loss than that of a child. And it doesn’t matter what age that child was, the loss is profound.

If you’ve experienced a pregnancy loss, you are most likely feeling more sadness and grief than you even thought possible. While your body may have healed, your heart will take a while to catch up. It’s important that you allow yourself some time to grieve and feel all your emotions. And you will, at times, feel a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from disbelief to anger to guilt, sadness, depression, and numbness.

You may also experience physical symptoms as a result of this emotional stress. These symptoms can include fatigue, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, and frequent episodes of crying. The hormonal changes that occur after miscarriage may intensify these symptoms.

The Grieving Process – What to Expect

There are three main stages of the grieving process after a miscarriage.

Stage 1 – Shock/Denial

You can’t believe the loss has happened. It shouldn’t have happened. You took great care of yourself and your body. You did everything right. Why is this happening?

Stage 2 – Anger/Guilt/Depression

Thoughts and feelings of shame and inadequacy can take over your life. You begin to study every detail of your pregnancy over and over to find what it was that you did wrong. You may feel guilty that you weren’t able to give your partner or husband a child, or your parents a grandchild. The sadness is overwhelming, and most days you can barely function.

Stage 3 – Acceptance

You recognize that you are not alone, and that many other women have experienced a miscarriage. You also begin to remember the other responsibilities in your life, perhaps you have other children who need more of your attention, and you decide to accept what’s happened and move on with your life as best you can.

It’s important to understand that each stage of the grieving process will take longer to go through than the one before. And there can also be setbacks. You may think you have finally accepted the event, when you go to your friend’s baby shower and find yourself sneaking off to the bathroom to cry.

Be aware that men and women grieve differently. Usually women are more expressive about their loss, whereas men like to be proactive. Men are problem-solvers, not weepers. Understand that your husband or partner is grieving, even if you don’t recognize the way in which he grieves.

Your path to healing will be benefitted by both of you being sensitive and respectful of each other’s needs and feelings during this time. Accept your different coping styles and always keep those lines of communication open.

It’s also important that you seek help. This could be from a loved one who’s been where you are now, or a family therapist who can guide you through your grieving process and give you tools to help you cope with your emotions now and in the future.

If you or a loved one has experienced a miscarriage and are overwhelmed with emotions, you don’t have to go through it alone. It’s perfectly normal to experience grief after a miscarriage or pregnancy loss. Please contact me and let’s discuss how I may be able to help.

 

http://www.CaliforniaWomensTherapy.com/contact

How to Find Friends as an Adult

You may remember growing up, meeting your best friend on the playground or making friends in French class. As adults, we don’t have systems built in to make friends like we did as children. We can’t even reach out to loved ones for help, because while it’s socially acceptable to say “I’m looking for a boyfriend”, its not socially acceptable to say “I’m looking for a best friend.” If you want to find a friend as an adult, it’s going to be a lot like finding a romantic partner.

Envision Your Friend

Think about what kind of person your friend would be. Think back to your childhood friends and what made them fun to hang out with. Should your friend be extroverted or introverted? Should they love the outdoors or be a movie buff? Look for qualities in your friend similar to the way you’d look for qualities in a partner.

Go Where Your Friend Would Be

Now that you know what kind of person your friend would be, think about what that person would be doing. Where are they on the weekends? Where do they shop or like to go out to eat? Go to those different places. If you’re an outdoorsy person and want an outdoor-loving friend, find outdoor meetups. Try a hiking or walking group, or sign up for a new fitness class. Keep in mind as you test the waters that you won’t find your friend on your first outing. Just as when you’re looking for a partner, it takes more than just one try. It will take a bit of time and searching.

The Big Ask

When you’re ready to ask out your potential new friend, a great way to get a “yes” is to invite them to a favorite, or to something new. For example, invite your friend to go watch your favorite sports team or over to your house to cook your favorite recipe. You can also invite them to play a new board game, or out to watch a new movie.

Stoke the Fire

You’ll need to nurture your budding friendship by spending more time together. Just as in dating, take it slow and steady, and don’t take anything too seriously at first. Too much too fast could set you up for a friendship that’s not going to work, or might make the other person feel smothered.

You can deepen the friendship by working on goals together. Find out what your friend dreams about. How can you help them meet their goals? How can they help you with yours? Maybe they can help you get ready for a summer swimsuit, and maybe you can help them organize their garage. Find ways to work on things together.

Do you find yourself struggling in social situations? A licensed therapist can help you overcome shyness and improve your social interactions. Give my office a call today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Most of us from a young age are taught how to be kind, considerate and compassionate toward others. But rarely are we told to show the same consideration to ourselves. This becomes even more true for individuals brought up in abusive or unloving homes.

What is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion is taken from Buddhist psychology and refers to how we can relate to the self with kindness. Self-compassion or self-love is NOT to be confused with arrogance or selfishness. In actuality, arrogance and selfishness stem from the absence of self-love.

But what does it really mean to be kind with ourselves? It means that on a day-to-day basis we are mindful of being courteous, supportive and compassionate with ourselves. Too many individuals treat themselves with harsh judgement instead of compassion.

Why is this important? Because self-compassion helps us recognize our unconditional worth and value. It allows us to recognize though we my sometimes make bad decisions, we’re not bad people.

Research, over the past decade, has shown the parallel between self care and psychological wellbeing. Those who recognize self-compassion also tend to have better connections with others, are reportedly happier with their own lives, and have a higher satisfaction with life overall. Self-compassion also correlates with less shame, anxiety and depression.

Now that you know the what and why of self-compassion, let’s look at the how.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Treat Yourself as You Would a Small Child

You would never harshly judge or belittle a small child the way you do yourself. You would only want to help and love that child. When you begin to treat yourself as you would a small child, you begin to show yourself the same love, gentleness and kindness.

Practice Mindfulness

Every minute your mind is handling millions of bits of information, though you consciously are only aware of a few of them. This is to say we all have scripts or programs running in our minds 24/7. These scripts and programs are running our lives, insisting we have certain behaviors and make certain decisions.

Some of these scripts are the ones that tell us how “bad” or “unlovable” we are. They’ve been running since we were kids. The way to quiet these scripts is to become more mindful of your own mind.

When you begin to have a feeling or reaction to something, stop and ask yourself WHO is feeling that? Is it the compassionate self or the program running? If it’s the program, thank the program for what it has done and release it.

Good Will vs Good Feelings

Self-compassion is a conscious act of kindness we show ourselves; it’s not a way to alleviate emotional pain. Life happens, and we can’t always avoid negative or sad feelings. Never mistake self-compassion as a tool to ignore your deep and rich emotional life.

These are just a few ways you can begin to cultivate self-compassion. If you’d like to explore more options or talk to someone about your feelings of self-rejection and judgement, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss how cognitive therapy may help.

Practice Mindful Gratitude All Year Long

Expressing gratitude is good for your health and your relationships.

Most of us will be sitting around the table for Thanksgiving dinner (or lunch) today. Many families have a tradition of going around the table and asking each person to take a moment to share the things they are grateful for. This is a wonderful tradition; unfortunately, expressing gratitude seems to be something we’re only reminded to do once a year!

When it comes to practicing gratitude, many of us fall short. It’s easy to get caught up in daily tasks, challenges, and concerns. We focus primarily on our troubles and then wonder why we’re feeling so tired and unhappy much of the time.

Practicing mindful gratitude — and being thankful for things all year long — will improve your physical health, your mental health, and your relationships. 

Improved Physical Health

Gratitude helps improve your physical health in many ways. According to a 2013 study published by the Journal Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and are more likely to take care of their physical health. Improved self-care with have a positive impact on your mood, your willpower, and your sleep.

Improved Mental Health

Regularly practicing gratitude can help you to appreciate yourself more and improve your self-esteem. By being grateful for the many blessings in your life (both big and small), you’ll be less envious of the seemingly “perfect” lives of those in your social media feed. Avoiding negative thoughts helps to booster both your self-esteem and your mood. Gratitude has been found to ease depressed as you stay mindful of reasons to appreciate the positive things I your life and, thereby, reasons to be happy.

Improved Relationships

Saying “thank you” is more than just good manners. It’s a way of expressing our gratitude. This attitude of gratitude can help you to improve existing relationships as well lead to new friendships. As you practice gratitude on a regular basis, you’ll recognize and create stronger binds with the positive people in your life.

Finding reasons to be and to stay grateful can sometimes be challenging. Life can often test us in ways we feel we’re not prepared to handle. However, with these significant benefits to practicing regular mindfulness, it’s well worth the effort to make practicing mindful gratitude a priority in your life.

If you’re looking for guidance and direction on how to practice mindful gratitude, I’m happy to help. Initial consultations are always free. Visit us at CaliforniaWomensTherapy.com to learn more.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to read this post.