Happiness is a Good Night’s Sleep

September/October 2017

The benefits of a good night’s sleep are too many to mention.  And, I’d like to highlight a big one for this article – happiness!

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults (age 18 – 64) get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Children and teenagers need more. 

If you ask most people what they want out of life – happiness is typically in the top 3.

Researchers have discovered a correlation between happiness and the amount of sleep a person gets each night.

Results of a recent study indicate that people who are “mostly happy” sleep 7+ hours at night. Those who reported the fewest hours of nightly sleep were the least happy, were more discontent in their relationships, worried more and had less gratitude in their life.

Another recent study, found that Sunday night is the most difficult night for people to get a restful night of sleep.

Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist and insomnia specialist, states that a disrupted sleep routine over the weekend is the biggest culprit for poor Sunday night sleep.

“Many people go to bed later on Friday and Saturday nights and then sleep in later on Saturday and Sunday mornings,” Orma states. “So, when they go to bed on Sunday night, they’re often just not tired. And then when they can’t sleep, they start to think about why they’re not sleeping, which only makes things worse.”

Sleep experts agree that job anxiety can be a huge culprit for sleep difficulties, including dread of upcoming meetings/projects, the long commute, fear of failure, anticipation of a negative boss/co-worker or feeling trapped.  

People who worry, ruminate, stew, hold resentments, feel guilt or overthink, also experience difficulties in the area of sleep.

TIPS FOR GETTING A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

  • Maintain a regular wake-up time on the weekends.
  • Reduce/eliminate alcohol and caffeine consumption in the evening.
  • Pay attention to the worry/rumination that happens at night and address those stressors head-on. Reducing stress could lead to some pretty radical changes, e.g. job change, terminating a relationship or ending behaviors that create guilt/shame [drinking, gambling, cheating, anger, etc.].
  • Reduce any activities related to work or playing video games in the evening.
  • Use an essential oil to promote sleep, dabbing a little on the bottom of your feet or under your nose.  I purchase my essential oils from https://www.edensgarden.com/.  My 2 favorites for the evening routine are (1) Meditation (a peaceful blend of Lavender, Tangerine, Lemon, Clove Bud, Cedarwood and Chamomile) and (2) Lavender.
  • Incorporate a wind-down routine that is calming, enjoyable and relaxing.  Quieting the mind and inviting a sense of peace can truly nourish your soul and begin the gentle journey to sleep.
  • Avoid naps longer than 15 minutes, especially in the afternoon.
  • Use self-soothing phrases or prayers when anxiety/restlessness begins:
    • I’m ok.  I’m good enough.
    • I’m loved.
    • I’m fine exactly the way I am
    • I’m grateful for ________ and ______ and _______ and ______”
    • One day at a time – I’ll deal with that tomorrow.
    • “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. ….”
  • Do not use sleep tracking devices.  A study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago links sleep problems with the use of these devices. The devices can lead to a fixation or perfectionism related to the data and perpetuates the anxiety. 

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

~~ Thomas Dekker, English Dramatist, (1572-1632)

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The New Epidemic: L.O.N.E.L.Y.

July/August 2017

lone·ly [lohn-lee]
The discrepancy between what you want from relationships and what you feel you get

The truth is — we’re all somewhat scared of loneliness to varying degrees:

  • of being alone
  • of being left out
  • of not being loved
  • of not being included
  • of not being needed
  • of being left behind
  • of not being cared about
  • of being rejected or abandoned

Lonely strikes a chord of fear in all of us even if we don’t admit it.

What’s shocking is the increased prevalence of chronic loneliness. John Cacioppo, director and researcher at the University of Chicago, studies loneliness and his most recent study indicates “lonely” has reached toxic levels with 2 out of every 5 people stating that is a common feeling for them.

Why?
We aren’t as closely bound. We no longer live in multi-generational villages with grandparents, cousins and aunts/uncles living in the same house or 3 blocks away. Instead, parents/grandparents live in nursing homes and grown children live 3 states away.

Divorce numbers are high – so more families are disjointed and disorganized.

Companies are less loyal and no longer provide the stability of a life-long job. Losing a job or constantly moving for career opportunities creates a feeling of not belonging.

Relationships are transient….20% of the population moves each year. Therefore, neighborhoods, communities, church groups and work groups are constantly in flux.

The Internet creates an effortless opportunity to know more people without actually needing to “know them.” Sherry Turkle, Professor at MIT states that the Internet creates an illusion of “friendship without the demands of companionship.”

What’s the Cure for Lonely?
(1) Admit it
(2) Realize that the loss of close friends/connections is normal
(3) Do something to rebuild it

I would challenge anyone who is struggling with loneliness to pick up, Friendships Don’t Just Happen by Shasta Nelson. Even though it is written for women — men can gleam a lot of wisdom from the author’s ideas

Shasta smashes the myth that we should wait for friendship to happen to us and she normalizes the fact that friends come and go.

The author confidently states that friendships that ward off “lonely” have 2 endearing qualities; (1) deeper levels of intimacy and (2) consistency.

She has us remember times when we easily gained new friends; at recess on the playground, neighborhood kids who were always ready to play, girl scouts, high school sports teams, college dorm friends, sorority sisters and study buddies. Shasta states, “Repetitive time together is what happened automatically back then, not friendships. There’s a difference.”

That ebb and flow of friendships is normal. If we try to pretend that our friendships are close, frequent and fulfilling when they are actually shallow, sparse or 1-sided — then lonely sets in.

“I need friends” is not an admittance of failure — it’s an admittance of the truth that friendships change and we need to do something to nourish ourselves.

Shasta provides great tools to assess the strength/weakness of current connections and provides a hands-on approach to make the needed shifts. She uses a tool called the 5 Circles of Connectedness to help you see and categorize your current friends/connections based on the (1) level of intimacy and (2) consistency.

From there, you can gain awareness as to what’s lacking in your current friendships — either intimacy and/or consistency. And, put together a simple plan to fill in the gaps.

Friendships Don’t Just Happen lays out a simple, brilliant and executable concept to admit loneliness, embrace its message and then do something about it.

A SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT THE ELDERLY & LONELY:

Having lived with my 93-year old mother the last year of her life — I understand the loneliness that is unique to the very old.  They don’t have the same vigor or ability to maintain connections, having lost friends to illness and death over the years, as well as losing the simple freedom to drive. 

The elderly often feel “who would want to be friends with an old person.”  Yet, they still crave connection because they are still humans beings.

My message around that — take yourself into the life of someone who is old and provide them consistency and the ability to be heard.  Sit with them and listen.  Cry with them — laugh with them.  Be someone who offers them a smile at their story.  Be their window to the world.   Be present … with kind eyes and big ears.  

I’ve been doing that for the last year.  My new and special friend is Agnes — she’s 96.  I see her 3-4 times a week.  Agnes tells me stories about her life and asks me to tell stories about mine.  

Agnes is a faith-filled woman who tears up when she talks about her “big day” — the day when she dies and meets God. She asks me, with a bit of trepidation in her voice, if I’ll pray for her.  I smile, hold her hand, look her in the eyes and respond, “For the rest of my life, I’ll pray for you.”  She smiles lovingly and responds back, “And I’ll pray for you, my friend.”

Anyone who says, “old people have nothing to give” …. has never met Agnes.  

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When Anxiety Drives Decisions – You Tend to Go in Circles

May/June 2017

The purpose of decisions is to usher you into the possibilities of life so you can live life more fully.

Anxiety cripples your ability to make good decisions and live life fully.  Why?  Because anxiety pushes the brain into a place of fear… that place is called the amygdala.  When you make fear-based decisions from the amygdala, the decision-making process feels rigid, uncertain and shaky. 

The Journal of Neuroscience published research from a University of Pittsburgh study that demonstrates how anxiety works to disengage the part of the brain that is essential for making good decisions. The pre-frontal cortex (PFC) is located in the front of the brain and it infuses an aspect of calm, creativity and flexibility into the decision-making process.

The PFC is the part of the brain that evaluates pros/cons, looks at consequences, generates options, scans for additional possibilities, and generates ideas of how to negotiate.  It looks at your emotional responses as well as those of your loved ones as important information and includes that as data in the decision-making process. And, oh-so-importantly, the PFC calms the amygdala, the part of the brain that runs on instinct, impulse and raw emotions (e.g. fear) – so that decisions are more balanced and flexible.

3 Tools to Take Anxiety Out of Decision-Making:

1.  Engage the Pre-Frontal Cortex with Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.  Mindfulness strengthens the pre-frontal cortex and keeps you out of the fear-based amygdala. Mindfulness limits the influence of the things that don’t matter, so you can focus on the things that do.  

Takeaway:  Eliminate the distractions and allow your mind to be fully present in the moment. Engage in mindfulness practices to quiet the fear in the amygdala and strengthen the PFC for decision-making:  Sit quietly in nature –pray – reflect on your bigger purpose in life – meditate – turn off the TV/radio/internet – put down the drink or smoke or dip – stop the busyness – spend time with who you are and who you want to be.  

2. Take the Best

Psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer, whose work was cited in the Malcolm Gladwell bestseller book, Blink, has found that people make the best and most solid decisions based on limited information. Gigerenzer coined the phrase  “Take the Best.”  When we use a take-the-best strategy, it means that you reason and calculate only as much as you absolutely have to; then you stop — and begin to move forward in implementing the decision.   

Takeaway:  Lay out the pieces of information that you think should be considered to reach a decision.  Look for the one piece of information that is clearly more important than the others.  Stop. That one piece of information is often enough to make your decision. You don’t need the rest.  

3. Trust the experience of others

Psychologist Daniel Gilbert, author of the bestseller, Stumbling on Happiness, has done a lot of study around “decision-making”. Gilbert argues that if we don’t have the knowledge or experience to make a decision, the best course of action is to ask a friend, colleague, mentor, spiritual director or anyone you trust.

Takeaway: Ask someone you trust – not what you should do – but how they handled a similar decision and what their experience was — what were the upsides and downsides to their decision.  Often times when someone else has gone through something similar – their experience is an excellent data point to be considered.  It takes some of the mystery out of your decision.  

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Life’s Little Lessons

March/April 2017

From the book, God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours by Regina Brett — here are 2 amazing lessons.

Lesson 11: Make Peace with your Past So It Doesn’t Screw Up Your Present
When I hear a client say, “The past is the past — I’ve moved on.” My response is, “Your brain doesn’t agree with that.”

Our brains have an amazing ability to categorize childhood events/messages as either safe or unsafe. When situations occurred in childhood where you felt scared or hurt or unseen or unimportant or not special or stupid – and there was no adult to make sense of it for you – the brain classified that childhood wound as “IMPORTANT”, along with the difficult emotions and the beliefs about yourself (e.g. I’m stupid/worthless/not-good-enough.”).

Those negative emotions/feelings/beliefs are held in a special place in your brain. They travel with you as you think you are leaving them behind.

People then develop strategies/behaviors to try to look good and be accepted by family and friends. These strategies help to mask and avoid the fears/pain/hurt. As people move into adulthood, these behaviors can become excessive and can cause problems.

Addictions (alcohol, drugs, porn/sex, tobacco, shopping, gambling, etc.) can also crop up as a way to soothe the pain.

But, guess what? No matter what strategy you use… the pain never goes away. It’s stuck in the brain.

In my 30’s, I struggled with workaholism — it was my strategy to hide fear of failure. Nothing “bad” happened in my childhood — although as an adolescent I used success in sports/school to push down fear of failure. And, that need to succeed turned into workaholism as I got older. Today, work doesn’t consume me. Why? Because I’ve healed the fear-of-failure wound from adolescence.

Regina Brett writes:
“Over time, I learned how to get unstuck. First you have to recognize you’re stuck. For me, here’s my warning sign: whenever my emotions don’t match what just happened — it’s about my childhood. I’ve learned to freeze the moment — just like you would pause the movie and ask — Is this reaction about the present moment? Or is it about the past? I can’t change the past. But, by changing my response to its leftovers, I can change the present.”

Lesson 20: When It Comes to Going After What You Love In Life, Don’t Take No for An Answer

Regina Brett writes:
“There’s a story about a set of twin boys. One was a born optimist, the other a born pessimist. A psychiatrist trying to understand them put the pessimist in a room full of toys to see what would happen. The boy whined and cried. The doctor put the optimist in a room full of horse manure and gave the boy a shovel. Hours later, the optimist was still grinning and shoveling the manure as fast as he could. Why was he so happy? The boy said, “With all this manure, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!””

Regina Brett shares her own story of being rejected over and over as she pursued her dream to be a columnist for a major newspaper. And, she never gave up. “Every day, I pinch myself. I have a dream job. I wouldn’t take no as an answer. And, I kept shoveling.”

I can relate to the author’s passion. When I was in my early 40’s, I was tired of working in the business world. My dream became crystal clear … I wanted to be a therapist with my own private practice. At age 45, I went back to graduate school for Clinical Counseling Psychology, followed by years of internships, supervision, more training, testing and licensure.

Some people thought my career move was risky — others thought it was stupid — others said I was “too old”. My father was not one of those people. He held my hand before he died and said, “Follow your dream of private practice and don’t let other people tell you what your dream should be.”

Here I am 10 years later — in private practice. Everyday I pinch myself. I have a dream job. I wouldn’t take no as an answer. And, I kept shoveling.

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Shame Sucks the Life Out of Relationships

February 2017

If you don’t know what shame is – spend 20 minutes on Facebook or reviewing the reader’s comments to any news story.  People shame others by; name-calling, negative labels, sarcasm, ridiculing, shunning and expressing disgust.  Shame sends the message – YOU are stupid, defective and unworthy– and you deserve to be ostracized, persecuted and rejected.

Brene Brown, the most well-known researcher and author on shame, explains; “Shame is the intense painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”

Self-loathing becomes an identity statement: I’m stupid. Nobody loves me.  I’m a failure. I’m not good enough. I’m a mistake.  People see me as an idiot.  There’s something wrong with me.  I’m bad.  I’m a fraud.  If people knew me – they wouldn’t like me.

Shame in Childhood 
The first time most people experience shame is childhood. Typically, shame is used by parents, teachers or coaches to keep children in line with the rules of the school, society or the family. After a child is shamed, they will either: (1) use shame as a bullying weapon against their peers and classmates and/or (2) self-shame themselves.  Children who get into a lot of fights or bully other children are often heavily shamed at home.

Shame in Adulthood
Offra Gerstein, Ph.D., explains why adults use shame: “The most common reason why people shame others is to quell their own feelings of hurt, annoyance, irritation, insecurity or displeasure. The attack is a way to feel empowered by disempowering.”

Jane Middelton-Moz, Ph.D., author of Shame & Guilt: Masters of Disguise observes the following:

  • Adults shamed as children fear exposure of their flaws.
  • Adults shamed as children may appear grandiose/narcissistic/self-centered or seem selfless.
  • Adults shamed as children frequently blame others before they can be blamed.
  • Adults shamed as children may suffer from debilitating, “It’s my fault.” These individuals apologize constantly. They absorb responsibility for the feelings of those around them.
  • Adults shamed as children feel they must do things perfectly or not at all. This internalized belief frequently leads to performance anxiety and procrastination.
  • Adults shamed as children block their feelings of shame through compulsive/excessive behaviors; drinking, exercise, workaholism, eating disorders, shopping, substance-abuse or gambling.
  • Adults shamed as children build false boundaries through walls, rage, people pleasing or isolation.

What to do:

  • Notice if there’s one person in particular who makes you feel bad.  Listen carefully to the way they speak to you. Counter their negativity with healthy self-talk: “That negativity belongs to them – it’s not mine to keep.”
  • Set healthy boundary with the person who consistently shames you.   Speak firmly and in a calm voice, “I’m asking you to stop speaking that way to me.  You’re tearing me down. I will stop you or leave if you continue.”  Then take the action, if they continue.
  • STOP negative self-talk. Own that it belongs to you – and calm it:  “No, he is not saying I’m stupid – my boss merely pointed out that I had a typo in my presentation.  And, he’s right – I did make a mistake.  I’m human.  I’m not stupid.”
  • Surround yourself with healthy people who are both honest and kind.  Supportive friends, family or trusted acquaintances are a great reality check of your self-perception and negative shaming statements that are not true.
  • Distance yourself from people, places, things that exude negativity: Facebook, the news, tweets, discussion boards, gossipy friends, pot-stirring co-workers, nosey neighbors and family members who put you down and then say, “I was only kidding!  You’re too sensitive.”
Finally, if you ever see a child being shamed, teased or bullied — step in to stop it immediately.  Notify their parents, the parents of the children who are bullying and the teachers.
You never know — you may have just changed the course of that child’s life.
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Shedding Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

January 2017

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is tied to the changes of seasons.  It is most common during the winter when there is less light.  Some people have dubbed it, winter depression.

If you experience a feeling of “down” that begins and ends at the same time every year – you may have SAD. Typically, symptoms start in the Fall or early Winter and then begin to dissipate, as the days get longer in the Spring.

Seasonal Symptoms
•    Sad – depressed – hopeless
•    Oversleeping
•    Moody
•    Agitation or Irritability
•    Low energy
•    Problems getting along with other people
•    Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
•    Increased craving for carbohydrates or sugary foods
•    Weight gain

Although these symptoms fade with the arrival of longer and warmer days, Seasonal Affective Disorder takes its toll with strained relationships, weight gain and feeling out of shape.

Causes
The exact cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder is unknown although Mayo Clinic cites the following:
•  Your biological clock is off – also called your circadian rhythm. The decrease in sunlight can disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
•  Serotonin levels.  Less light can cause a drop in Serotonin that triggers depression.  Serotonin is an important brain chemical that impacts mood.
•  Melatonin levels. The winter season can negatively impact the balance of the body’s level of melatonin – that plays an important role in regulating sleep and mood.

Treatment
Common treatment for SAD may include light therapy, talking to a therapist and/or medication from your doctor.
It’s always best to talk to your doctor about treatment options.

Organic Options

  • Participate in outdoor winter activities: ice skating, skiing, snowshoe or sledding.
  • Discover an indoor hobby by yourself or with a loved one that is fitting for cold winter evenings: reading, board games, card games, puzzles, knitting, drawing, workworking or playing a musical instrument.
  • Sit by a sunny window during the day.
  • Make dates to meet friends/family out for coffee, bingo, dining or a movie.
  • Plan a regular game night with family or friends.
  • Schedule a winter vacation to a sunny spot.
  • Make time for a regular treat at a local spa for a  massage, facial, skin treatment or manicure.
  • Focus on your evening self-care with a warm (not hot) bubble bath and an application of your favorite smelling lotion afterwards.
  • Head to the gym — even 30 minutes of exercise releases endorphins and neurotransmitters that create a feeling of euphoria.
  • Limit alcohol — it’s a depressant.
  • Read a book with uplifting messages – here are some possibilities:
    • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
    • Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant
    • The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
    • The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
    • 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
    • Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo
    • All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
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Post-Election: Time to Stop Judging

December 2016

It’s an interesting time in history with the recent election combined with social media and the ability to comment on news articles.  On one hand, the Internet is a great way to connect and share opinions.  On the other hand, it creates a destructive environment of judgment, attack and shaming others.

Facebook and the news stories are filled with wide-sweeping labels and judgment.  Even the “take action” articles that people post on their Facebook timeline – are typically filled with angry, negative, shaming and self-righteous statements to support one perspective.

Is it ok to have opinions related to a definition of right versus wrong?  Yes.  Is it acceptable to live your life based on morals/values? Absolutely – it’s called your conscience. Is it ok to hold a belief that a person’s behavior is wrong?  Yes. Is it acceptable to label any human being as bad, stupid, ugly or worthless?  No.

You can hold onto your own morals by deeming a behavior bad – but you cross the line when you call a person bad. What you don’t see, don’t understand — is that your judgment leads to suffering, division and pain.  You inflict pain when you judge and that pain can boom-a-rang back at you when friends or family get hurt by your judgmental ways.

Ask yourself: Am I tolerant of all people – except those that think differently than me?

Do you think you judge fairly?  You can’t possibly know the interior soul of another person – because you don’t walk in their shoes.  Judgment closes your eyes, ears and heart.

As human beings, we make up stories in our head to support our viewpoint:  “They voted for that candidate because they don’t care about the environment — are socialists — are xenophobic — are feminists — are weak — are single-issue voters — are morally bankrupt — are racist”.  Your story is not the tuning fork of truth. It’s a story.

3 Reasons People Judge:
1.  You feel judged
I once had a friend jokingly say, “I’m not judgmental.  I only judge those who judge others.”   You cannot and will not change another person’s judgment with a response of judgment.  Actually, you seal the deal of being judged when you speak to others with your own voice of judgment — and the burn of resentment is fanned inside you and others.

2. You are scared
When a person is scared or feels unsafe or intimidated – they bind together and attack others who think differently.  Post-election, people are afraid they are going to lose something or are fighting to regain something that was taken from them by the previous rule of authority.   People bind together on Facebook and news feeds to express fear and blast those who feel differently.  The reality is that judging provides no sense of rooted, long-lasting security.

3. You feel helpless
Change can create a feeling of “something is being done to me.”  Judgment gives a person a sense of power and control in a misguided attempt to get away from being controlled.  People believe that by putting big negative, shaming labels on others – they’ll get that other person to stop.  The result is perpetual helplessness and more judgment.

6 Ways to Stop:
1. Cut back on your news consumption.  The media sells stories by stirring the pot and jumping to conclusions. Stay in the present moment. There’s no point in imagining the worst case scenario when it might never come to be.

2. Notice your thoughts.  When they go negative – push them in a positive direction or move away from the triggering event or take a positive action step.

3.  Stay off Facebook for a while.  If you feel an immediate urge to respond to a negative post – don’t.  If friends trigger you on Facebook, unfollow them for a while.   Don’t re-post articles that contain language that is demeaning.  If you have negative, shaming comments on your timeline — remove them.

4.  Ask those around you to stop judging.  Judgment begets judgment. Discuss the issues — not the badness of the person.  Listen for the common ground.

5. Avoid sweeping statements.  Stereotypes are never, ever good – and perpetuate division. Don’t use broad-brush labels (feminist, stupid, socialist, racist, hippie, homophobe, gun toter, redneck, etc).

6. Look for change in yourself.  Do something other than complain about the past President or the President-elect.  No matter if your candidate won this election or not … make a difference in peaceful ways and get behind what you believe in: write a letter to elected officials – volunteer – pray – visit the elderly – sponsor a child – ladle soup at a local kitchen – plant a tree – carpool to work — join a goal-oriented advocacy group.

Remember how it feels to be judged, bullied, shamed and misunderstood.
Now stop doing it to others.
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After the Affair – Now What?

November 2016

affair  noun  af·fair \ə-ˈfer\

That is a gut-wrenching word that no married person wants associated with their own marriage.

How many people cheat?  That’s a difficult number to pinpoint yet studies indicate roughly 35% of women and 50+% of men have at least 1 affair during their marriage.  Ruth Houston (founder of InfidelityAdvice.com) cites that 1 in every 3 couples will be affected by an affair.

The #1 setting for affairs to emerge — the workplace.

Dr. Shirley Glass (author of Not Just Friends) gives a clear definition of cheating:
Infidelity is any emotional or sexual intimacy that violates trust.

Research shows there are distinct stages to an affair:
1) Emotional bond (talking, texting, sharing stories),
2) Secrets/Lies in order to protect and guard the relationship
3) Courtship and Dates (meeting for coffee, playing golf, walks in the park, taking a drive together)
4) Sexual connection

Not all affairs progress to sexual intimacy and not all affairs include an emotional bond.  All affairs do wound.

When working with couples, I refer to an affair as (1) toxic and destructive and (2) a formidable catalyst for change.  That change unfolds when they both choose to work on the marriage or at least begin the journey together to see what’s left of the marriage.

After the Affair is Discovered
It’s common that the betrayed partner demands to know everything and gives directives that the affair must stop – as he/she cycles through feelings of hurt, anger, rejection, abandonment, betrayal, confusion and disbelief.

The unfaithful partner also experiences great depths of suffering.  They experience pain and shame (for what they did and/or for getting caught).  They might feel trapped under the weight of ultimatums to choose between the betrayed partner and the affair partner.  They can be overwhelmed trying to navigate their own feelings along with others who know about the affair, including their children.

Step One: Stop the Affair & Share
Recovery takes time and is similar to any natural disaster – what happens immediately after the discovery of the affair is key.

In my office I say, “All walls must turn to windows – what was hidden must be seen.”  What does that mean?  All contact between the unfaithful partner and affair partner – must stop.  No new lies or secrets can occur.

This is an essential building block.  Without it, the betrayed partner cannot move forward.

Stephen Judah Ph.D. (author of Staying Together When an Affair Pulls You Apart) outlines the essential information that should be shared:

  • Who
  • What happened (in general terms)
  • When
  • Where (especially if anything happened on sacred turf)
  • Current status (terminated or still going on)
  • Who else knows

It is common for the betrayed partner to want to know specific details related to the sexual acts and performance comparisons.  No — this topic needs to be taken off the table.  What is heard can never be unheard.  Sorid details can push the affair partner into new lies and ignite new pain for the betrayed partner.

A key component to life after an affair is to seek professional help in the recovery process — even if the journey is moving toward divorce.

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Not Just Friends by Shirley Glass, Ph.D.
  • Staying Together When an Affair Pulls You Apart by Stephen Judah, Ph.D
  • Private Lies by Frank Pittman, M.D.
  • Love Must Be Tough by James Dobson, Ph.D
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Can You Unplug From Work?

October 2016

Studies show that more workers are taking work home.  Those that have Smartphones, spend an average of 5 hours each week on work-related emails during their personal time.

What’s even more surprising is the increasing trend to take less vacation time or to work while on vacation.  Two out of every 5 workers in the U.S. did not take a single day of vacation and about half of the U.S. workers did not use all of their vacation time.

These trends have been increasing steadily over the past 20 years.  Why?

Some of the trends are being fed by technology.  There is now a blur between “work time” and “free time”.  There is an expectation that people should be plugged into work because the technology is there to support that notion.

These trends are also fueled by fear.  One out of 4 workers have concerns that corporate restructuring or downsizing will negatively impact them in the next 5 years.  Therefore, these fears fuel the behavior of staying connected: “I will stay relevant, valuable and important in the organization by answering emails on the weekend.”

The over-connection and inability to unplug translates to stress, anxiety, resentment and guilt.  Constantly plugging into work takes away from family time, hobbies, relaxation and social enjoyment.

7 Tips to Unplug

  • Talk to co-workers face-face.  While at work, walk over to colleagues offices and speak to them the old fashioned way…. face-to-face.  Not only will you get more accomplished in your time – you will build more connection through the personal contact.  Having personal connections in the workplace makes work more fulfilling.
  • Take breaks from alerts.  You become one of Pavlov’s dogs when you immediately check your phone/text with every vibrate or ding.   Turn off notifications (including vibrate) on your desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone for your texts, emails and social media.
  • Implement an at-home policy.  Have a basket near the front door for visitors and guests to deposit their devices.  When it’s time for socializing and connection in your home – it’s time to disconnect from “other people”.
  • Set expectations while you’re away. Review with co-workers and your boss what needs to be done before you leave the office for a long weekend or vacation.  Remind those around you of your schedule and your inaccessibility during that time.  People will get used to the boundaries – they just need to know what they are.
  • Set the tone via your email auto-reply.  State your return date to the office and who can be contacted in the meantime.  Do not say that you’ll be checking email.
  • Name a “go-to”.   Ask a co-worker to cover for you if there are problems or questions while you are gone.  This will increase your ability to unplug.  Do the same for that person – both of you will have more enjoyable time away from the office.
  • Don’t bring it home.   I admit – this is hard! When you head out of work, make a point of turning off any work-related phones or emails. Instead, take time for yourself, friends and family.

Almost everything will work again
if you unplug it for a few minutes,
including you.

~~ Anne Lamott

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Money Worries Bankrupt Your Well-Being

September 2016

Money is a major source of stress, according to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA). Almost 3 out of 4 Americans feel anxious about money.

A study found that Millennials (born 1980 and after) and Gen Xers (born between 1965 – 1980) have significant financial worry as they struggle with under-employment, student loans and parenthood.

Worrying about money and debt impacts people individually and it tarnishes relationships. The APA reports that roughly 1 out of 3 couples fight about money.

Having more money does not relieve financial anxiety (2015 UBS survey). Half of those with a net worth of $1 million to $5 million believe that one wrong move, such as a job loss or a drop in the market, could cause their financial position to crash. And people in this bracket feel like there is not be enough time to recover and earn that wealth back, if that were to happen.

OUR BRAINS GO INTO HIGH ALERT AROUND MONEY
Why? The fear response of not having enough money goes back to caveman days. If a big black bear were to appear in the field as the cave dwellers were gathering berries, they would immediately go into fight, flight or freeze mode. As the sense of physical danger increases, their bodies responded accordingly (rapid heart rate, increased adrenaline levels, increased perspiration, dry mouth, tightened muscles, dilated pupils, etc.).

No differently than 4,000 years ago, our brains continue to be geared towards safety. The emotional part of our brain does not know the difference between emotional safety and physical safety. Money touches upon both physical and emotional safety – so it’s a double whammy to our brains.

On top of it all, financial anxiety feeds other anxious feelings – such as fear of failure, fear of being a disappointment, fear of letting the family down, fear of being seen as a loser or fear of feeling inadequate.

If financial anxiety is not dealt with in a healthy way — the increased physiological responses of these fears can destroy one’s health and emotional well-being.

CREATE CHOICES FOR YOURSELF
1. Create a plan. Gain a sense of control by writing out goals and targets. Whether the goals are to reduce expenses or increase savings – look at where you are at now and create a plan. Gallup reports that 80% of non-retirees and 88% of retirees with written financial plans had more confidence that they could achieve their financial goals than those without a plan.

2. Start Small. By focusing on what you can see ahead of you and the action that you can take now – will begin to reduce your anxiety. Start with the small goals first – the bigger goals will be easier as you accomplish the small ones.

3. Focus on the Positive. It is human nature to focus on the negative – what you’re doing wrong. Take some time to look at what’s going well for you with your money, debt, savings —maybe you’ve increased your 401(k) contributions or you’ve started to take your lunch to work or the value of your home has increased.

4. Use Anxiety as a Temporary Motivator. Anxiety can be a sentinel for the things that need to change. Once you begin to make those changes, allow yourself to let the anxiety go. It’s no longer useful.

5. Let It Go. Ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen? Yes, you may have to cut up some credit cards, cut back on vacations or share a car with your spouse. These changes are not life threatening. Stop and soothe yourself: There’s no big black bear. There really is no black bear.

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