Welcome to Symmetry Counseling. We are a group of mental health professionals specializing in counseling, psychotherapy, and coaching for individuals, couples, and families. We are devoted to empowering you to successfully manage life’s stresses and transitions, both expected and unexpected.
After a review of the latest research on affair risks for committed relationships (those that are exclusive sexually and romantically), the most thought-provoking discovery was not the research itself. Instead, it was the presentation of the infidelity statistics as “highly variable” and having much “uncertainty.” As an example, when consolidating research findings, Gottman (2017) notes a “cautious conclusion” stating infidelity rates are “probably about 20% for men and
15% for women.” The author’s use of such vague words while concluding the data is “basically unknown” seem to fit the topic of affair risk well. All too often, the inherent risks leading to infidelity can be vague and unknown by many couples.
Conversations about how to affair-proof the relational risk of infidelity is often taboo and can seem our morals are in question. While everyone’s relationship experience is different, everyday intricacies can forge a path to the unfortunate experience of an affair. Sharing the knowledge of these intricacies can save much pain, including PTSD-like symptoms of a betrayed partner. In this light, the blog will explore four risks as well as basic ideas to guardrail a relationship from
the infidelity trap.
Risk One: Attraction to someone else interwoven with opportunity, vulnerability, and values creates an illusion that one must be committed or married to the wrong person (Glass 2007). We live in our sexuality, and our attraction to others is embedded in this, and it is healthy.
However, an attraction not being aware of flirting, risky situations, and perpetuating fantasies outside of our committed relationship will adversely impact the relationship dynamic with one’s partner (Glass, 2017). Awareness: Being aware of this risk while taking steps to carve out a roadmap with one’s partner to navigate this situation is imperative. At the minimum, having a support plan with someone who can be objective and provide accountability is a must.
Risk Two: Having a friendship that may not be safe for the relationship. Awareness: Glass (2007) notes three thresholds that separate platonic friendships from emotional affairs. They include the areas of emotional intimacy, secrecy, and sexual chemistry, and these can serve as a guide.
1. Emotional intimacy troubles can occur when “sharing more about hopes and fears” with a friend than with one’s partner. Often, an emotional connection develops while discussing troubling aspects of the marriages instead of working on them with one’s partner (Glass, 2007).
2. Secrecy of a relationship or friendship intensifies and fuels the relationship. It feels like “a world well away from the pressure, responsibilities, and routines of ordinary family life” (Glass, 2007).
3. Discussion of sexual chemistry with another ignites and enhances the experience. Further, if there is an agreement that neither will act on their mutual desire, the suppression increases the sexual tension (Glass, 2007).
Risk Three: Gottman (2017) notes a lack of attunement and emotion dismissing enable trust erosion to begin for a couple. Seemingly innocently, a partner seeks to fulfill intimacy from someone else to meet a need, and over time that cascades into the infidelity (Gottman, 2017). The research of Glass (2007) concurs, noting, “85% of women and 55% of men reported a deep emotional attachment to the affair partner.” The affair is most often not about sex. Awareness: Being intentional about staying well attuned and emotionally enabled curtails trust erosion (Gottman 2017). An intimate relationship requires being “present,” respectful, understanding, empathetic, and curious of your partner’s inner world (Gottman 2017). While listening, the goal is not to take responsibility for the other partner’s feelings, thoughts, nor problem solve (Gottman 2017). Instead, it is to get a felt sense of their experience and validate.
Risk Four: Woolley (2016) states that technology can create pseudo-intimacy. The allure creates fewer negative stimuli resulting in less anxiety, reducing inhibitions, and fueling the online fantasy (Woolley, 2016). This results in sexual affairs and the research of Gottman (2017) supports this. That data notes that 31% of online conversations lead to real-time sexual affairs. Finally, pseudo-intimacy increases the risk of emotional affairs as well (Woolley, 2016). Awareness: As technology increases access with less cost and anonymity, it requires more responsibility than ever before. What would the interactions be like if your partner was reading DM conversation being typed? At this moment, the famous college basketball coach John Wooden might say, “The true test of a [person’s] character is what [they do] when no one is watching.”
Allen, E. S., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., Williams, T., Melton, J., & Clements, M. L. (2008). Premarital precursors of marital infidelity. Family process, 47(2), 243-259
Glass, S. (2007). Not” just friends”: Rebuilding trust and recovering your sanity after infidelity. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Gottman, J. & Gottman. J. (2017). Treating Affairs and Trauma: A Gottman approach for therapists on the treatment of affairs and posttraumatic stress. Seattle, WA: The Gottman Institute, Inc.
Woolley, S. (2016). Healing Affairs: An EFT approach. Retrieved from: http://www.eftsummit.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Healing
I work with many clients who struggle with anxiety or depression related to many reasons whether it is due to their personal or professional life. My job as their clinical therapist is to help clients understand possible reasons/triggers that are causing their anxiety and/or depression, and then possible coping strategies to help. After several sessions with some clients, I have noticed once they start reducing their symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, they then become uncomfortable with this feeling of happiness or pleasure. It is almost as if they have told themselves that they cannot feel pleasure or happiness.
I recently read an article from Goop that touched on this very topic, “Why We Deny Ourselves Pleasure” featuring Boston-based therapist Aimee Falchuk in a question/answer style article.
Below are some key points from Falchuk why individuals deny themselves pleasure and ways to stop this from happening.
Why do we deny ourselves pleasure? Falchuk describes a number of reasons why individuals deny themselves this sense of pleasure. Essentially it starts in childhood. If you can think back to when you were a young kid, you likely had to get permission from your parents to do things you liked, such as hanging out with your friends, going to get pizza, going on field trips, and buying toys. The sad thing is, many times once people become adults, they never grow out of that stage of dependency, as they are still searching for others to give them permission for pleasure. For some people, this “permission” comes from validation or acceptance from others. Through always wanting validation and acceptance from others, we are robbing ourselves of independently creating our own pleasure/happiness. I often encourage my clients to physically write a permission slip to themselves to “do something they enjoy”.
How can we experience more pleasure? The first step in experiencing more pleasure in your life is to look internally at the ways you are blocking or denying pleasure in the first place. There are a number of questions to ask yourself to get you started in exploring how you might be blocking pleasure from yourself. Falchuk describes getting in touch with your mind and body when it comes to denying yourself pleasure. As far as the mind, ask yourself what pleasure was like growing up for you. Maybe you received a misrepresentation as a child about what pleasure is for you which maybe affects you today. For example, maybe as a child you felt guilty for enjoying your time with your friends because your parents were upset with you for not helping around the house during that time. Falchuk then reminds individuals to see how they could be denying themselves pleasure in their body. Are you allowing yourself to take deep breaths throughout the day? Do you allow yourself to move freely, maybe through some relaxing yoga classes? Being present in the moment is the core of experiencing pleasure, as pleasure is simply a felt experience in the here and now moment, not worrying about past events or future events.
Is feeling pleasure selfish? No! Falchuk explains that at an early age we are taught to do things for others, while that is a kind thing to do, we rarely are taught at a young age the importance of doing things for ourselves, which is the core of both self-love and pleasure. Air pilots have it right about putting your oxygen mask on first, because we are better able to help others when we have helped ourselves first, which is not selfish!
If you are currently struggling with denying yourself pleasure, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.
Life is not always easy. When we experience struggles and suffering, our psyche feels it too. Adverse events take a toll on our mental health and challenge our ability to cope; our inability to cope can get us stuck in a cycle of pessimism and constant stress. We will all experience darker, gloomier days throughout our lifetime. One of the most challenging things about being stuck under a “rainy cloud” for a period of time is figuring out a way to get out from underneath it. However, recognizing that you are stuck in a dark place and realizing that you’re ready to get out of it is the first step towards improving your mental health and outlook on life. Author Allison Aubrey explores practicing gratitude and how it can positively impact your mood and mental stability. This blog post will reflect on Aubrey’s article, From Gloom to Gratitude: 8 Skills to Cultivate Joy, and discuss different tools for overcoming stressful events and increasing joy in your life.
The author introduces the topic of cultivating joy by stating that we all experience gloomy periods at different times in our life. Aubrey then follows this up by stating that we can teach ourselves to overcome these harder days by practicing positivity. There are clear benefits to being more positive – Aubrey shares that having a more positive outlook can prevent anxiety and depression.
Aubrey then discusses a study that examined the impact of having a positive outlook during stressful life events. The results are significant, and developers of the study offer eight different skills that anyone can apply with the intention of improving their attitude, and therefore improving their overall mental health.
Skill #1: Take a moment to identify one positive event each day.
Reflect on your day and find one positive thing that happened. It can be something as simple as the walk you went on earlier, or having the ability to enjoy the nice weather outside. Whatever event brought you happiness during your day, recognize it and honor it.
Skill #2: Share your positive event with someone – this helps you savor the moment just a little bit longer.
Tell a loved one about your positive event. Maybe even ask them to share a positive event from their day with you as well. Sharing positive moments with the people we care about can make us feel more connected and brighten our spirits up.
Skill # 3: Start a daily gratitude journal.
Whether it’s on paper, in a notebook, or on your phone – start a daily log and reflect on what you are grateful for each day. Whether it is an experience you had, or someone you are particularly thankful for on that day, acknowledge it and reflect. Practicing gratitude cultivates happiness and reminds you of all that is good in your life.
Skill #4: Identify a personal strength and reflect on how you’ve used this strength today or in recent weeks.
You have strengths. Recognize them and think about how you utilized them recently.
Skill #5: Set a daily goal and track your progress. Make the goal realistic and attainable.
Your daily goal should be something that you know you will be able to reach. It can be a small goal that over time leads to a larger goal. Track your progress and reflect on any positive changes you notice from working towards your goals.
Skill # 6: Practice positive reappraisal.
Think about an activity that is more bothersome or annoying for you, such as doing the dishes. Reframe this activity into a more positive light – rather than being frustrated over having to clean all of the dishes, mindfully enjoy the task and think about how great it will feel to have completed it and have a clean kitchen and space.
Skill #7: Do something nice for someone else every day.
Daily acts of kindness can be simple, and research shows that we feel better when we are kind to others.
Skill #8: Practice mindfulness by paying attention to the present moment.
Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It is a complex practice that has many skills within it, including meditation and journaling. Take a moment to take several deep breaths and focus your attention to what is going on for you in that exact space. This is a good place to start practicing mindfulness and grounding yourself.
These eight skills are broad and varied so that you can get a feel for what practices will best suite your lifestyle. All of these skills guide you towards creating a positive mindset for yourself. If you would like more tools for becoming positive and improving your mental health, contact Symmetry Counseling to get connected with one of our talented clinicians today!
From a very young age, children are taught to strive to be the best. Not the best versions of themselves but the best. Period. As they get older, teachers, parents, and society puts immense pressure on individuals to get straight As, excel at standardized testing, participate in extra-curricular activities, volunteer, and then, just maybe you’ll get into a good college. Once in college the pressure starts again. Get straight As, find great summer internships, participate in a research lab, become president of SGA or Greek life, have a part time job, form relationships with faculty for recommendation letters, and then, just maybe you’ll get into a good graduate program or be offered a good job.
Children, adolescents, and adults alike strive to live a good and fulfilling life. The definition of this life varies from person to person but we all continue to work towards the goal set of us when we were younger. We want to be the best. We want to be perfect.
The irony of striving for perfection is it likely causes individuals to take longer to accomplish their tasks and goals than if they were striving for satisfaction. By picking apart every decision one makes it prevents the individual from actually moving towards and completing their goal. By going over all your choices, analyzing them, discussing them with others, attempting to rationalize or dispute the decision, one causes themselves and immense amount of stress and delays result of their final outcome or decision.
For example, if you’re assigned a project at work that requires creating a presentation, it’s likely a lot of time and thought will go into the final project. However, once the presentation has been finished, if you continue to go through every bullet point of every slide, trying to ensure it’s perfect, it’s not unlikely you may miss your deadline altogether. In reality, a missed coma or the wrong use of an image will not prevent you from achieving the goal of creating a presentation. However, if you continue to pick apart the presentation and miss your deadline, you will have prevented yourself from reaching your goal.
Dr. Alex Lickerman, in an article on Psychology Today wrote, “At some point, we must remind ourselves, any changes we make to a creation no longer make it better but just different (and sometimes worse)”. This concept is very difficult to understand and learn, but it is necessary for our overall peace of mind and success. In ___ New York Times article, he discusses the difference between maximizers and satisficers, which he names M.F.D or mostly fine decision. Maximizers are individuals who spend a significant period of time researching in order to ensure they have the “perfect” outcome. Satisficers are those who make decisions quickly with less information. M.F.D, the happy medium between maximizers and satisficers, is an outcome of a decision, project, etc., you’d be fine with or happy with instead of an outcome that would be perfect.
Despite what we may be inclined to believe, research has shown individuals that function as satisficers are more satisfied with the decisions they make than maximizers are. This concept may be confusing as maximizers put more thought into their decisions than satisficers do. To put in more simple terms, getting the necessary work done will leave you more satisfied than if you spend a substantial amount of time going over your work and analyzing every detail. Pursuing perfection does not lead to satisfaction.
In Dr. Alex Lickerman’s article he provides two strategies for pursing satisfaction instead of perfection. The first strategy is break up big decisions or projects into many smaller steps or choices. After doing this tackle one small thing at a time until you’ve completed the overall task. This will allow you to accomplish things along the way to your bigger goal, reducing stress and increasing positive reinforcement. The second strategy is changing the way you view the task at hand. Instead of simply looking towards the destination, focus more on the process and steps needed to get there. As cliché as it may sound, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Viewing decisions or tasks in this way will make the process of working towards goals much more enjoyable.
In the end, although it may not be what we were taught growing up, work towards satisfaction, not perfection.
It is likely that most relationships could use some help when it comes to communication. No one always responds perfectly, always agrees, or listens the way they need to during every conversation and that’s normal. The thing is, many couples engage in unhealthy communication all the time and do not seek help to change it. It is difficult to change the way you have always communicated with others even though it isn’t working for the relationship. Below are some common examples of unhealthy communication patterns that may help you identify areas of growth for your relationship. If you need guidance changing your communication patterns, it can be helpful to seek individual or couples counseling for any support and tools you may need.
Sometimes it can feel easier to lie rather than speak the truth when it comes to how we are feeling, behaving, and thinking. You may be wondering how a white lie could hurt, but it will definitely catch up to you. While it may feel scary to be honest, it is the best approach. When you are honest with how you are feeling it gives your partner the opportunity to be there for you and ask questions to understand. An example of this may be saying when you are upset rather than lying and saying “I am fine.” By speaking what is upsetting you, you are being vulnerable and allowing your partner to help.
In conversations or disagreements we can be quick to cut someone off or assume we know what they are about to say. Unfortunately, we may be cutting someone off before they are able to make their point or complete their sentence. Making assumptions and interrupting lead to poor and ineffective communication. Try allowing your partner to talk and complete their thought before taking your turn.
Blaming and Criticizing
At times it is hard to admit guilt and easier to blame the other person. We are all guilty of it and know it isn’t the best approach when it comes to communication. Name calling, blaming, condescending tones, and finger pointing are all used to distract from the problem at hand. It is much more effective to leave the blaming and criticism out of the conversation and take responsibility. Doing so leads to resolution rather than hurting the other person and potentially making the problem worse.
Comparisons happen in conversations all the time. People compare their bad days, relationships, feelings, etc. While comparing can be productive at times it can be detrimental at others. Oftentimes comparing feelings and relationships minimizes the other person. It can make them feel inadequate, unimportant, and dismissed. Try empathizing with your partner and working together rather than comparing to get a point across.
If you see some of these unhealthy communication patterns playing out in your relationship and would like some support, it may be useful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!
As we transition and develop through different stages of life our ability to identify and communicate the emotions we may be feeling fluctuates. Although it may seem counterintuitive, at a young age we typically have a high ability to identify and express our feelings, which decreases through adolescence. When an individual is able to recognize their emotional distress and what it’s attributable to, they have a higher chance of being able to resolve the issue. This idea is referred to as negative emotion differentiation, often simply called NED.
Negative emotion differentiation various throughout the lifespan. It’s somewhat high in childhood, hitting its lowest point in adolescence, and then increasing again throughout adulthood. When we’re young we have no issue admitting to feeling badly and asking for help. As we enter adolescence individuals prioritize forming their own identities, which largely includes separating from parents or caretakers in order to feel self-sufficient. As a result, there’s a stigma and shame associated with asking for help or admitting to not feeling 100%. Many people think feeling annoyed, frustrated, or other negative emotions are a sign of weakness and therefore will not disclose this information to others. Quite often, adolescents are not able to identify these feelings themselves.
Studies have found being able to express yourself in more specific words is a protective factor. Being able to identify exactly how you are feeling in detail is correlated with experiencing less depressive symptoms and lower levels of anxiety following a stressful occurrence. For example, instead of simply saying, “I feel angry”, being able to use terms such as, frustrated, upset, ashamed, or guilty are considered a protective factor. In contrast, individuals with low levels of negative emotion differentiation struggle to use more specific terminology and tend to describe feelings in a more general way. For example, “I feel bad”, “I’m sad”, “I’m feeling angry”. Describing emotions in this manner does not allow an individual to develop the proper coping mechanisms to manage the particular emotional struggle they may be feeling. Because of this, having low levels of negative emotion differentiation is a risk factor to developing increased depressive levels following a stressful life event.
Despite the proven correlation between low negative emotion differentiation and depressive symptoms, it has not been established which factor comes first resulting in either low negative emotion differentiation or depression. It’s possible as a result of struggling with depressive symptoms, the individual may not have the ability to express themself. It is also possible, however, that because an individual has difficulty expressing themself, they may develop depressive symptoms.
In a study of 193 teens, the results confirmed that individuals with low negative emotion differentiation are more likely to experience symptoms of depression that individuals with high negative emotion differentiation. This information is increasingly important due to the high levels of suicidal ideation amongst high school teenagers. Without the necessary information it is impossible for parents, teachers, friends, and families to educate and support individuals dealing with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
By acknowledging that many high school teenagers today are dealing with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues we allow ourselves and others the opportunity to make a difference in another individual’s life. Creating a space for individuals to develop language around their emotions can make a life changing impact on teenagers and prevent them from developing depressive symptoms. It also allows the individual to know how to ask for help and receive the best possible support as they’ll be able to express themselves and identify and communicate what they’re feeling and what they need.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, or has difficulty identifying and expressing your emotions, visit symmetrycounseling.com.
Rick Hanson, Ph.D, discusses the importance tone of voice has on effective communication in an article on Psychology Today. Understanding the impact our personal emotions can have on how we communicate and the tone of voice we use is vital to engaging in pleasant and constructive conversations with people. Individuals are incredibly sensitive to other’s tone of voice more so than the words being said. Imagine speaking to your dog asking them if they want a treat and think what your tone of voice would be. No imagine yelling in an angry tone but saying the same words, asking your dog if they want a treat. While this is an extreme example our brains are programmed to pick up on negative factors over positive factors. As a result, even if the words being spoken are kind, an individual may leave an interaction feeling badly as a result of the tone of voice used. Using “tart tone”, as it’s referred to in the discussed article, can cause the person on the receiving end to respond in a hurtful way towards you and others they come into contact with.
While focusing on your tone of voice can have a positive impact on your interactions with others, it can also give you greater insight into yourself and your emotions. By taking the time to become conscious of your tone you’re able to become aware and be mindful of positive or negative feelings you may be having. By giving yourself the opportunity to identify and clarify how you’re feeling, you allow yourself the time and space to address whatever negative emotions may be manifesting themselves in your mind and body. By doing so, you allow people to respond to you in more favorable ways. When speaking with a negative tone, both you and the person you’re speaking to are poorly impacted.
There are many different factors contributing to how we approach the world, our day, and interactions with individuals. If your day started with your alarm not going off, you spilled coffee on yourself in your rush to work, and realized there was a meeting you unintentionally missed, it’s likely your mindset will not allow you to have a productive conversation with a colleague, friend, or anyone else you may encounter in this moment. This concept is called “priming” meaning the events of your day, interactions with others, or information you may have received has set the stage for interactions in the immediate future. If you’re already feeling upset or disrespected it’s likely even the slightest comment could be taken the wrong way. As a result, your response could be in a tone of voice that impacts the receiving individual leading them to be negatively primed for their following interactions. This cycle can continue until someone becomes mindful of their tone or takes a break in order to disrupt the pattern.
While shifting your tone, if taken to an extreme, can come off as phony or turn an individual into a pushover, typically individuals become more effective communicators than before. Taking the time to center yourself and identify the meaning and motives behind your words and tone can change the course and outcome of the interaction. This also give you the chance to take a step back and examine an interaction to see if there was a different way for you to communicate your point in a previous interaction or if the way you’re planning on approaching an upcoming conversation could be modified to be more effective.
It may seem difficult to change your verbal responses in the heat of the moment or remember to take a step back and examine how you may be feeling internally. Developing these skills and getting in a routine of consciously making time to reflect takes time. Inevitably, at some point, we will all find ourselves in a situation we know we could have handled better. In these situations it’s valuable to explain how you were primed to react a certain way and the circumstances that lead to you to respond the way you did. Taking responsibility, offering an explanation, and not attempting to make excuses is a necessary step to more positive and effective communication.
In today’s world we seem to be constantly flooded with influencers and celebrities trying to sell us “the next big thing”. Whether it be for weight loss, health, shopping, or eating well, it seems everyone has an opinion on the next thing you should buy to change your life. Two items I frequently see in regards to an individual’s mental health are Himalayan salt lamps and essential oil diffusers. People have said their anxiety is completely gone, their depression lifted, they’re sleeping better, and their overall health has improved. Could it really be that simple? Are there items out there that can completely impact your overall quality of life? While there isn’t one quick fix solution for every individual’s struggles, there are a significant amount of benefits resulting from the use of essential oil diffusers and salt lamps.
The use of Himalaya salt lamps has become popular relatively recently resulting in minimal research conducted on the benefits of their use. However, from the research that has been done and reports of individual’s incorporating these lamps into their daily life, many positive effects seem to be linked to their usage.
Himalaya salt lamps are natural ionizers, which allow them to change the electrical charge of the air in a room. Studies have found that positive ions can drain one’s energy creating the need for negative ions to balance the affect. Using a salt lamp releases natural negative ions, which can balance the air in a room and increase one’s energy levels. Other mental health benefits of salt lamps include reducing stress hormones, lowering cortisol and improving sleep. They’re also known to have an impact on lifting seasonal affective disorder which many individuals struggle with. Outside of mental health benefits, salt lamps are a natural antihistamine, are good for digestion, improve metabolism, are good for vascular health, balances electrolytes, prevents muscle cramping, supports a healthy nervous system, reduces electromagnetic radiation, enhances overall breathing, cleanses and purifies air, calms allergies and reduces asthma, alleviates symptoms of the common cold, boosts blood flow, sharpens concentration and performance, and enhances mood. Our mental and physical health is entwined. Doing what we can to maximize both aspects of ourselves is important for our overall functioning.
While diffusers themselves may not be a magical cure, the essential oils that can be added to them contain endless health benefits. There are different oils based on health needs and occasion. Whether you’re looking to feel relaxed, motivated, or energized there’s an essential oil for a wide variety of needs. Using a diffuser allows an individual to have a more active role in their health in a natural way. Diffusing essential oils promotes better sleep, improves respiratory health, elevates mood, reduces stress and anxiety, increases energy, boosts your immune system, improves memory and concentration, and can even control appetite. Regardless of what you’re struggling with or ailment may be impacting you, there’s likely an essential oil known to be beneficial. I encourage you to research something you may be struggling with and see if there’s an essential oil that my directly target that issue. Listed below are a few essential oils and their health benefits.
Memory and concentration: rosemary, basil, spearmint, lemongrass, tangerine.
Whether you’ve had a long day at work, a conflict with a friend/family member, or are looking to improve your overall health salt lamps and essential oils can create a positive shift in mood and perspective.
Throughout my life I’ve never considered myself much of a morning person or really a night owl either. I’d wake up in time to roll out of bed, brush my teeth, get dressed and go. If I remembered I’d grab a protein bar on the way out the door and eat quickly on the way to school or work. Every day I’d plan on coming home from work, working out, and cooking a nice dinner. Without fail, everyday I’d come home exhausted, tell myself I’d workout tomorrow and proceed to order takeout from my couch. I couldn’t understand how people would wake up early in the morning to exercise or start working. Many people I knew would be up for hours before I even started my day. This all changed when I started graduate school. It felt as though all of a sudden I was thrown into both work and school while living in a city with a lot of good food and dessert available at all times. As I began to feel more and more anxious, tired and unhappy I knew something needed to change. I promised myself I would workout before work/school so when I came home I could focus on whatever assignments I had for the week. Initially, waking up early enough to exercise was a huge struggle. After a couple weeks passed I stopped snoozing my alarm and forced myself out of bed right when I woke up. I’d put a glass of water next to my bed the night before to drink, as I got dressed for the gym. I found that putting my cell phone on airplane mode overnight made a big difference. I was able to sleep through the night without feeling like I needed to check my phone and I got ready much quicker in the morning without the distraction. Not allowing myself to turn my phone on until I was on the gym also gave me the motivation to get moving. To my surprise, instead of being more tired, waking up early and creating this routine before work allowed me to have more energy throughout the day and more endurance to complete my assignments at night. I began to realize if I woke up 15 minutes earlier I’d have time to make myself a cup of coffee and turn on a show to watch while I got ready for the day. These small things allowed me to relax and get in the right headspace to tackle everything I had to accomplish during the day.
Many of the most successful people in the world today swear by their morning routines. Some journal, meditate, write goals for the day, stretch, make to-do lists, and countless other habits. Every individual is different and has to find what works best for them. The three most important things I’d encourage everyone to do would be 1. Turn your phone off or on airplane mode overnight 2. Drink a big glass of water when you wake up. We go 6-8 hours without drinking overnight and our bodies can become very dehydrated. 3. Allow yourself an hour for whatever routine you find works best for you. This hour should not include getting dressed, packing a lunch, or checking things off your to-do list.
Now that you’ve heard my story and my advice, here are some incentives to establishing a morning routine. By starting your day with a morning routine you give yourself the opportunity to become more present, relaxed, and positive going into the rest of your day. Having time to make sure you have everything you need for the day, time to go over your to-do list and calendar and prepare anything you may have forgotten decreases the number of days you go flying out the door already stressed, overwhelmed, and hungry as you try not to be late to your first meeting. Stress has a direct link to an increase in cortisol levels, which can cause many major health risks along with anxiety and weight gain. In addition, there’s a correlation between drive, cooperation, productivity and having a morning routine. If you allow yourself more time in the morning you give yourself the opportunity to relax when coming home from work knowing you’ll have plenty of time to accomplish the things needed before returning to school or work. If this information interests you I encourage you to do your own research on morning routines and find aspects that work best for you and your life style.
Sometimes those we are closest to are the ones who are most difficult to set boundaries with, and family is no exception. Our family usually knows how to cheer us up, motivate us, and care for us, however, sometimes they also know how to hurt us. Even if your family is healthy and functional there may be a few family members who cross the line when it comes to your boundaries. By definition a boundary is anything that marks a limit. In families this may be the amount of communication, the extent to which private and personal information is shared, physical space, or emotional space. Whether it is your nosey mom asking how dating is going or your sister calling sequentially while you are at work to ask a favor, it is important to speak up when you feel a line has been crossed. When your boundaries are not respected by your family, it is important that you set and maintain them in a healthy way. While it isn’t easy to do, your needs and limits are important and worth voicing.
Understand Your Needs
As individuals we all have needs that can sometime be difficult to ask for. The fear is that we may hurt or annoy the other person in asking for space, attention, or love. It is important that you take some time to reflect on what you need from your family, what triggers you, and why your needs are important. In family dynamics it is common to feel like our needs aren’t as important as theirs but this is far from the truth.
Be Direct and Kind
Setting boundaries with family doesn’t mean you have to be harsh. Try to leave anger and defensiveness at the door and lead the conversation with kindness. Firmly yet respectfully state what you need/expect from them so the boundary is defined and follow-up with appreciation. Having an open and honest conversation is bound to be more productive than one with aggression or immobilization.
Once you have established a healthy boundary with a family member make sure you set realistic expectations of what they can do. For example, if your dad calls you every day and you would like to have a phone conversation once per week, maybe you compromise on two or three and work towards your goal. Another example is being realistic about how much time you can spend with them. Maybe you go home for one or two days rather than five for a holiday. Be realistic in terms of your expectations of yourself and others and the boundaries will feel more tolerable.
Stand Up For Yourself
Establishing boundaries with family doesn’t mean they will automatically be respected. Be prepared to stand up for yourself, be assertive, and even walk away from the situation if you have to. If your boundaries are not being respected you can say, “I do not appreciate being made fun of. If you don’t stop I will leave.” This reiterates the boundary and demands respect. It can feel scary and out of character to maintain a boundary but it is important if they are impacting your physical and mental health. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.
If you are finding it difficult to set and maintain healthy boundaries within your family and would like some support, it may be useful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!