Category: Parenting

Finding Happiness After a Breakup

The ending of a long-term relationship can leave you feeling abandoned, resentful, or angry especially if you were on the receiving end of the breakup.  Breakups can create feelings of rejection and a sense of, humiliation, despair, and despondency, however you don’t have to feel these uncomfortable emotions forever.  There are ways to recover and move on with the your life, despite the breakup, you can find happiness again, give yourself time.

First and foremost, be patient with yourself and allow yourself time to grieve.  Short-cutting the grieving process will only haunt you.  Unresolved grief can cause prolonged depression and/or anger, which can simmer and erupt when you least expect.  Give yourself the chance to feel the pain; ignoring it creates an elephant in the room effect.  Facing painful emotions is like staring down a fear, you need to confront it to overcome it. You have experienced a loss, not just a physical loss also an emotional loss, someone you trusted and love.  Even if you were the one to initiate the breakup, you might still have to work through the grieving process, as you let go of one life preparing for another.

Be kind to yourself, treat yourself like a best friend; remember that you are still here, your wants are important, don’t ignore the need for food, rest, and companionship.  Take it easy, rather than beating yourself up by rehashing old arguments or thinking that you could have saved the relationship if you did this or were more of that. Take some time to nurture yourself, take hot baths, read, play music that makes you happy, buy flowers for your house, set your living space up the way you want it to be.  Foster healing through alternative holistic methods such as massage therapy, Reiki, or Acupuncture, take restorative yoga classes.

Surround yourself with loving positive friends and family, people you can have a laugh or a cry with, people who are there for you without judgment.  Be honest with them about your feelings.  If you live far away from these supportive folks, call them; take a trip and visit if you can.  Be cautious of people who try to take advantage of your vulnerability, you don’t need to beg for attention or affection nor do you need to bargain.  Seek out honest, forthright friends that will hold space for you while you heal. Stay emotionally and physically safe when you are feeling susceptible.  During recovery from a breakup, often people run into the arms of a stranger, just because they don’t want to be alone, be wary of that behavior as it rarely leads to a healthy relationship. Stay single for a bit until you’ve worked through the healing process.

Go out with people that make you laugh, find or foster those platonic relationships that leave you smiling.  Laughter is extremely healing physically, mentally, and emotionally.  It lowers your blood pressure, relieves stress and helps you connect with others.

Move, get out and walk, dance or ride a bike. Physical exercise has a cathartic effect, releasing those endorphins that increase your sense of well-being. Sitting around the house, being sedentary can exacerbate feeling bad about yourself and your life.  Holing up on the couch watching endless Netflix movies will only make you feel stiff and slow your circulation. Getting out and exercising, flushes fresh blood through the body, slows the breathing, and quiets the mind all while keeping your body healthy and improving your self-esteem.

Spend time figuring out what it is you want.  Write down how you want your life to look, don’t censor yourself, write without monitoring what is possible.  Do you crave more time in nature, would you like to allow for more creative time, do you want to travel?  Then go down the list and begin to do some of those activities or at least plan for them.  Always wanted to go to Australia but your partner never did, now is the time to splurge, count your pennies and take the trip.  Begin to rebuild your life the way you want, let go of what was and focus on what is and what can be. Reinvent yourself from the pool of personal passions and desires.  Take dance lessons, or that job in the city; start to say yes to you.

Before long, the misery of the breakup will be behind you.  Celebrate that you have come through the fire, you have not just survived, you are happy and most likely a better more wholesome version of yourself.  Realize that the breakup as painful and awful as it was, taught you something about your resilience, your ability to heal, then open your arms and let happiness back in.


How to Live With a Narcissist

Does your partners’ every conversation revolve around her/himself, or do they chronically take credit for things they had nothing to do with?  You may be living with a person who has a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). People with NPD build a fantastical overinflated image of themselves from which they navigate their lives.  They have a heightened sense of superiority and self-importance. People often describe a narcissist as pompous, arrogant, manipulative, and cocky. Yet, a narcissist can lure you in with their grandiose fantasies and charm.  Needless to say, it is challenging to create healthy intimate relationships with those who have NPD, but not impossible.

People suffering with NPD are often unconscious to, and want to avoid their buried feelings of insecurity, which is the root cause of their narcissistic behavior. They do this by creating delusions of grandeur in order to mask their feelings of inadequacy. Despite their inner hidden feelings of shame and of not being enough, their attitudes and conduct do not get a pass; they are responsible for them.  One of the first things you can do is identify behavior that is not conducive to a healthy relationship. Because narcissists lack empathy for others, it is difficult for them to listen. It is hard for them to sympathize with the pain and suffering of others, you included. Rather than explaining bad behavior away, it is essential to set and stand up for your boundaries and needs.

Once you have established boundaries, guard them closely for the narcissist is used to being the one in control and will rebel.  They are extremely resistant to change. They may even resort to name calling or rage, walk away and stand your ground. Don’t tolerate abusive language or behavior, there is never a good excuse for it.  It is not normal or okay for a partner to dominate and demand constant attention and admiration.  Nor is normal for a partner to be overly critical while at the same time never being able to admit their own faults or misconduct. You can alter your response to these narcissistic behaviors by establishing very clear boundaries that you adhere to out of respect for yourself. Write them down and then begin to implement them. Eventually like a well-tended garden, your efforts will yield resolve and self-confidence and perhaps a more balanced relationship.  

Separate reality and fiction.  People with NPD have a tendency to blame their partners for anything that goes wrong and for any of their shortcomings. They distort the truth.  Remember, narcissists often try to defend their inflated self-image and will lie when they deem fit to keep it propped up. They tend to feel entitled to whatever it is they want and when it does not happen, they often lash out and condemn you.  Redirect the truth by pointing out simple realities and facts in a way that does not shame the narcissist. Role model what it looks like to admit failures, pointing out the lessons that can be learned, but don’t expect the narcissist to have an immediate about face.  It will take time and consistency for them to realize that they can safely let go of having to be right all of the time. That in our failures we learn to stretch and evolve into a fuller human being.

In order to preserve your own self-worth while living with a narcissist, it is essential to deflect any projection of who you are as a person.  In other words, a narcissist may make belittling comments slowing chipping away at your self-esteem. “Oh you are so lazy, you’re lucky you have me, no one else would want you. If it wasn’t for you, I would be further along in my career.”  You get the point. Feed your self-esteem by spending time with others that are positive and uplifting. Validate yourself by living the life that you want, follow your dreams and passions. Equally important is to let go of the false stories in your head that the narcissist may have planted.  By knowing who you are as a person, it’s much easier to redirect undeserved blame.

Realize the narcissist’s blame is not really about you at all, it’s about their protecting the image of themselves.  As tough as it is to take unwarranted criticism, remember that you have nothing to do with it. If you imagine holding up a mirror, know that the narcissist is really talking about himself or herself.

Denying the bad behavior of a narcissist will not make it go away.  Ask yourself if being in the relationship is what you really want. If you want to keep this person in your life, start by gently beginning to speak out against their behavior.  Stay focused on how the behavior makes you feel.  Narcissist want admirers, railing over all of their faults and poor conduct will unnerve them.  A kind and gentle approach will have a more powerful and positive impact.

Take time to construct real answers to questions such as how will you enforce your boundaries.  What has not worked in the past? Look at the balance of power in your relationship, how will that be impacted?  What do you want from the relationship? Is your love real or are you in the relationship for other reasons? Sincere reflecting will help you create a realistic plan for the changes you want to make. Be patient with yourself.  Cultivate wholesome relationships with friends (outside of the narcissist’s inner circle) where there is a true ebb and flow of give and take. Notice how that feels.

Narcissists can change, if they want to. They can learn to listen, to follow through with their promises, and to be more engaged with your needs and desires. It would be unhealthy for you to live your life waiting for this if the person suffering from NPD has no interest in working on their behaviors with a psychotherapist or couples counselor.   

Ultimately, deciding how much of your time and energy you want to spend in/on this relationship is paramount. Search within yourself so that you live a happy joyful life.


Living on Your Own

More and more lately I see and hear about people who are choosing to live on their own. Some of these people have never been in a long-term
relationship (or married). They have elected to live on their own – and not engage in a romantic relationship, or even the kind of friendship that could evolve into a living situation. They often have a significant person in their life and choose not to live together. While others have ‘friends with benefits’ to satisfy their sexual desires. There are many options.

Living on your own can be a time of immense self-discovery, self-love, and positive independence. Conversely, living with a significant other can be a time of deep connection, learning, and growing while becoming closer to someone you care about. Imago relationship theory is based on the premise that we grow best by being in a relationship. That only in a relationship with a significant other can we heal any childhood wounds that we may have and grow fully.

There are positives in both situations, and only you can determine what living situation is healthiest for you physically, emotionally, and mentally. Exploring the positive and negative elements of living alone will help you decide what is best for you.

Living alone has some significantly positive psychological benefits.

  • It encourages independence and self-sufficiency.
  • It promotes interior solitude.
  • It helps to reduce your feelings of loneliness by building up your capacity to be alone.
  • Solitude can help to restore and reenergize you.
  • There is less chance for uncomfortable conflict when you can keep your home anyway you like.

While living alone can be peaceful (and you’ll never argue over what you’re having for dinner, or what music you listen to), it has a few negative aspects to consider.

  • You may miss the companionship of sharing a space with another
    individual.
  • When you are in a relationship, you can either be in the relationship
    or you can be right – you cannot be both. Living alone allows you to
    be – and always stay – “right.” There is nobody in your space to
    challenge your beliefs.
  • The kind of sharing, that comes from living with and building
    relationships with people we care about is something that comes with
    practice. Living with a significant other can help us build these
    internal connections.

There comes a time in all our lives when living on our own is appealing, usually when we graduate high school. It may even be necessary for a time while we grow to be comfortable on our own, and in our own skin. It can be helpful in developing a sense of independence, or it can help us find joy in simply being.

On the other hand: conflict and compromise often are what help us stretch and grow into the very best version of ourselves. The truth is, there is no right answer as to whether you want to live with a roommate or partner, or on your own. Both situations come with drawbacks, but both present you with opportunities to grow and learn more about who you are as an individual.

So, what do you do? My suggestion: embrace where you are in life. Listen to your own heart, and confidently go in the direction that will provide you with what you need right now. You deserve to be joyful and to find a deeper, truer version of you – find a living situation that allows you space to do just that.


Saying Yes, Saying No: Assertiveness in your Relationship

The word “assertive” is often confused with aggressive and therefore considered a negative trait. Nobody wants to be viewed as aggressive, rude, or pushy. But I’m challenging you to look at an assertive personality trait as something that’s incredibly positive. In fact, I encourage clients to use the Assertiveness Method to attract their best life and act with self-confidence. Being assertive can help you make the best decisions for you and to respond to others in a balanced way. Learning the Assertiveness Method is simple – say “no” three times a day. It’s very possible that you find yourself saying “yes,” even to requests that you’re not wild about. Choose three small things a day that you don’t want to do, and instead of saying, “yes,” say, “no.”

You can say, “no,” to something big – maybe a relative wants you to pet sit for them while they’re out of town and you have other plans. You can also say, “no,” to something small – maybe your significant other asks you to grab them a cup of coffee while you’re reading your book, and you don’t want to.

Saying, “No, I have plans that weekend so I can’t watch your pets,” or, “No, I’m reading, would you get the cup of coffee yourself?” may sound impossible. You may have to force yourself to do it at first, and it will be uncomfortable for everyone involved. But over time, about 3-6 months, you’ll start to feel more capable and balanced. You’ll say yes when you’re invested and want to do something and no when you don’t. You’ll feel more connected to yourself, like you’re taking better care of yourself, and that you’re setting yourself up for your best life.

The Assertiveness Method can also work positively in your relationship. When you’re committed to your significant other, there’s a willingness to sacrifice for them. You may want to say, “yes,” to help them, make their life easier, go to events with them, etc. This is a positive thing! However, when you start saying, “yes,” to requests even when you don’t want to, a level of resentment starts to build. To keep your relationship happy and healthy, practice saying, “no,” to requests you don’t want to fulfill. Though you may both be surprised at first, you will both appreciate the honesty and openness in the long run. And, of course, you’ll each individually appreciate the fact that you’re caring for yourself – and therefore bringing your best self to the relationship.

For more about the Assertiveness Method, watch my video here. 


Preparing for Summer with Your Family: Prioritizing Your Relationship

Summer is an exciting time for families. Your kids are home, family vacations are planned, and you may often feel like you’re connecting more with one another. However, summer can also present challenges. If you work full or part time, having kids home may bring up issues with finding childcare or summer camps and activities for them to participate in. Even if you work from home or stay at home full time, this change in how you’ll be spending and organizing your time can feel like a disruption. One important thing to keep in mind is that even though your kids are home for the summer, your romantic relationship still is a priority. Here are a few ways to prioritize your relationship during family time or catering to the summertime activities that your kids are participating in:

Date Night

Date night doesn’t have to mean getting out of the house, and it doesn’t have to mean a fancy dinner or a show. Instead, tap into your creativity to create a “date night” that focuses on your significant other and still accommodates your summer schedule. Maybe you share a special dessert and watch a movie in your pajamas after the kids go to bed, or maybe you meet for lunch in the middle of your work day. The key is setting aside focused time for one another.

Vocalize Your Feelings

When we feel like we have plenty of time for our significant other and for ourselves, we might fall into a habit of not sharing how much that focused time means to us. This can evolve into forgetting to vocalize how much we appreciate one another and ourselves. When your life gets busy with kids being home for the summer, remember to tell your significant other that they matter to you. It doesn’t have to be a great speech, just a simple, “I love you and you’re important to me,” in the morning before your day starts can often be enough.

Make Family Plans Together

When your schedule shifts to accommodate your kids being home for summer break, it’s easy to have one person in your relationship take on all aspects of the planning. Instead, sit down together before school lets out and make plans. Whether that’s signing all of the little ones up for summer sports or deciding you’d like to take a week-long trip as a family, staying organized and unified before schedules get hectic is a great way to start things off on the right foot.

Approach Everything with Gratitude

Cherish the time you have during the summer with your family. It certainly isn’t the usual pace and schedule that everyone is used to, but change can be beneficial for the soul. Find gratitude for having your kids home, and for those special moments you share with your significant other as you continue to prioritize your relationship. The more gratitude you feel and express, the more you’ll enjoy all aspects of your season.


Self-Care

Winter for many is a time when colds and flus become a menace in our lives. If this is true for you then finding ways to stay conscious of what your body is telling you is paramount. Notice things like if you feel more tired than usual, or a tiny tickle in your throat, as such observations and treating them can be the difference between having a cold and it developing into flu.

Many of us are taught not to trust our bodies. If you listen, your body will tell you when it is time to slow down. Often we wait until someone of authority such as a doctor or our mother tells us to rest or to take a preventative homeopathic remedy, rather than thinking of it ourselves. By listening to our bodies and trusting in them we begin to take better care of ourselves. By being more aware of our bodies we may prevent or lessen the impact of the colds and flus we encounter during the winter season or any season.

Self-care is a lifestyle; it incorporates daily habits to ensure that you are taking time for yourself in the best possible ways – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Some ideas on how to enrich your practice of self-care on a daily basis:

  • Every morning set your alarm early to allow for 10-20 minutes of meditation.
  • Following your meditation do a quick body scan. This will allow you to hear what your body has to say.
  • Mindfulness will help you slow down and notice the details around you and within you. Once you are more aware, you might notice that tickle in your throat before it becomes a cough. For example: Every time you touch your phone, think about that phone. What color is it, what is the shape, how does it feel against your hand? Doing this will help you be in the moment every time you touch your phone. Eventually this will begin to occur naturally with other things or events as well.
  • Unplug! Sleep better and leave your devices outside of the bedroom at night.
  • Exercise in whatever way appeals to you. Walk, dance, swim, yoga, the gym. Do something, even if it’s for 10 minutes in your living room. Exercise increases blood flow.
  • Make small changes to create a healthy diet. Establish a routine for meals. Drink more water.
  • Take power naps. 10 to 20 minutes once or twice a day.
  • Establish a regular bedtime routine in the evening and plan for 7-8 hours of sleep. Your body will tell you how many hours you need, listen to it.

               catcleaning“Make yourself a priority in your life. Afterall, it’s your life.” Akiroq Brost


On Being Single during the Holidays

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The holidays, while they may bring joy, also bring certain people who we do not see much other times of the year. Those relatives, acquaintances and sometimes friends who ask the inevitable question, “Why isn’t a nice girl like you married?” – or some variant of that inquiry.

You are good with yourself and you know it. You like yourself, you like your independence. But sometimes deep inside you may wonder the same thing. Every Holiday Season is another marker of the passage of time. “Will it ever happen?” you ask yourself. Innocent questions by often loving and well meaning relatives make us wonder the same thing. “Why am I alone?” and with that question comes doubts. “Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I will never meet the right person.” The most important thing is to keep this thought from running rampant in your head.

The fact is you may not find the “right” person, at this moment in time. The “right” person may be in your life now, but you have to see him through a different lens, perhaps you can become more open to meeting people who may not look on the outside the way you had envisioned them. Perhaps, like my friend Lori, you will meet your soul mate when you are 47 after completing your PhD and working for years at a successful career.

Or, you could be a Florence Nightingale, Jane Austen, Coco Chanel, Clara Barton, Mary Cassatt, Luisa May Alcott, DNA Pioneer Rosalind Franklin, or Queen Latifah … to name just a few strong, talented women who have made their mark on the world living as independent, fulfilled, single women.

We really can choose the way we perceive our lives, and our perception changes the way the world around us reacts to us. Many people are unhappily married – many have wonderful relationships, just as there are many folks who are happily single and others unhappily single. One thing we can control is choosing to be happy, regardless of our relationship status.

Being single during the holidays, you join the majority of the population of the United States. In 2014, 50.2% of the population 16 and older were single as compared with 37.4% in 1976. You are not alone!

How can you shake those single holiday blues?

  • Say yes to every invitation! Even if you stay for 30 minutes, get moving and get out. You never know whom you will meet. It could be a guy, it could be a new best friend, a lead on a cool apartment or job for the New Year.
  • Whether serving meals at a shelter or collecting used coats among friends and coworkers for the needy, or helping your next-door neighbor shovel his walk, you can make a difference. Look around, you will see opportunities large and small. Do something … even if it’s just sharing a smile.
  • Contact old friends or reach out to someone new. Sharing a cup of coffee or glass of wine is a great way to feel socially connected.

Whether the questions about your relationship status from that friend or relative is “well meaning” or not, if you don’t want to share, switch the topic of conversation back to them. Everyone likes to talk about themselves … now is the time to capitalize on that!


Creating a Gratitude Practice


Social Media – Can We Have too Much of a Good Thing?

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Social Media can be a great tool with many positive effects. I use it weekly to get my articles out to the world with my blog, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, Tumbler etc. We stay connected with family and friends and our relationships feel as if they are deepening because it’s so easy to stay connected. Social Media allows us to interact with close friends and family no matter how great the physical distance. For those friends and family that are challenging to be in close proximity with, Social Media allows us the contact without the conflict that may arise if we share physical space. It is most useful in times of distress to gain support from others.

We often feel that we know someone just because we see and read so much about them, forgetting that it is what they want us to know about them. They have shared and posted the parts of themselves that for whatever reason they are comfortable with the world knowing. This is very different than having an intimate conversation or a heart to heart with your friends. It’s very easy to start to compare yourself to the life that they have portrayed. Comparing yourself to others often leads to internal disharmony and on social media platforms you are measuring against a manufactured image, not an actual person.

It can be easy to get addicted to the virtual social world as no one can see you unless you want them too. It is safe, it is fun, it is playing a game and fooling yourself into thinking you are connecting with and making real friends.

Look around the next time you are at a restaurant. I’ve had the experience of being seated next to a table where almost the whole family is looking at their phones. I recall being on a subway, jammed in like a sardine with so little room I couldn’t take my hands out of my pockets. Yet, three people around me managed to pull their phones out and play games on their devices. People are so used to being connected to their devices, they don’t know how to be present. Of course on the subway ride I can fully understand them not wanting to be.

Many studies have shown a link between the amount of time spent on social media and the risk of depression and feelings of social isolation.

As with most things, it’s about finding a healthy balance. Limit time on social media to help you control your time in the “virtual world” and be sure to schedule dates to see people “live” – enjoy true connectedness to foster feelings of self-esteem and to eliminate the possibility of feelings of anxiety, depression and social isolation.


Creating a Sanctuary

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During the stress of election time, have you found yourself overwhelmed or burned out by the onslaught of newsflashes? The chronic barrage of updates and social media stories can leave you feeling frustrated, sad, or helpless. Do you ever fantasize about escaping to a simpler less hectic way of life? One way to cope and tune out is to create a sanctuary where you can retreat and restore your sense of balance and inner harmony.

What is a sacred space? A sanctuary is a sacred space; it is a uniquely personal place that you carve out to reconnect with stillness. A place that rejuvenates your nervous system and allows you to calm and center your energy. This can be a physical place or an imaginary space that with practice, you can access anywhere.
If you have room to establish a small area dedicated for meditation or quiet time, try decorating it with relaxing photos of your favorite spots: perhaps pictures of nature; oceans, forests, sunsets, or hiking areas with waterfalls that you can place around you. Fill your sanctuary with objects that encourage you to travel within. If room is an issue, make it portable; set the serenity stage then dismantle it when you’re done. Taking the time to carve out a sanctuary sends strong permission signals allowing your body and mind to honor quiet time.

Light candles, play soft soothing music and if need be, set a timer; even fifteen minutes can make an enormous difference. A sanctuary supports your efforts to drop inward to quiet the outside chatter, relieve stress and to approach life with a clearer, calmer mindset. Imagine if you never recharged your phone or computer? Creating a sacred space reboots your nervous system and disempowers fear and anxiety.
The idea of opening up and closing down is like the very beating of our heart; the chambers open and close, both are necessary to sustain life.

Rumi, the famous 13th century Persian Poet, noted.

Just look at your hand
closing the fist always proceeds opening it.
A hand that is always opened or closed,
is a crippled hand.
So your heart also contracts and expands,
just like a bird needs to close and open
it’s wings to fly.

Shutting out the world allows you to open to your inner self. It takes you back to the you, unaffected or categorized by titles. There in the quiet chambers of your being you are free uninhibited by age, illness, or the past.

Although multitasking is rewarded these days, it has detrimental effects on our ability to focus. Taking time to cultivate a sanctuary can boost your mental and physical well-being. If there simply is no room to create a physical space, then create one in your mind’s eye. Get comfy on the bed or sofa or throw pillows on the floor and close your eyes. Begin to imagine a place where you feel calm, secure, in harmony with nature; a sandy beach with a slight breeze, the warm sun on your back. Or in the mountains surrounded by autumn leaves and a babbling brook. Wherever your place is, close your eyes and create the sensory details, the smells and sounds; perhaps play nature sounds on your computer or phone. YouTube has a plethora of these kinds of soothing symphonies from the ocean to a crackling campfire.

Once you’ve created a place in your mind’s eye, focus on your breathing. Slow your inhales and exhales to the count of five, this is guaranteed to induce relaxation. If you have set a timer, release any lingering concerns about time. Stay in your sacred space as long as you need and let tension and stress dissolve. In time and with practice, this inner haven can offer you solace whenever or wherever you need to drop in for a visit.
As the days grow shorter and the animals prepare for hibernation, we too can slow down, settle in, and relish in the safety of your sacred sanctuary.