Stressed? Give Yourself the Present!



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Editor’s note: This article was contributed by Nicole Newcomb, MHC-P, EWN psychotherapist.

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Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift; that’s why it’s called the present.

Do you find yourself living in the past possibly asking “How could I have handled that better?”

Or maybe you find yourself in the future: “I need to… call the cable company, pick the kids up from daycare, make sure I drop off dinner to grandma, go to the gym…

Often times we get caught up in life and stressed out about what has been and what is coming our way.

If your wondering where the time went and what needs to be done, are you paying attention to what’s happening now? Are you noticing the cinnamon flavor in your coffee or the smile on your partner’s face when you walk in the door? If you are anything like me, then probably not.

If this is the case, then it’s time to become Present! Mindfulness is the key to being present, enjoying the moment, reducing stress and regaining your balance. I personally live by the concept of being fully present and have reaped the benefits! This means that you are spaciously aware of whatever you are experiencing at the present moment as you move about your daily life.

For me, I ask myself, “What do I see, hear, smell, taste and feel?” as I experience different situations. More importantly to me is the concept of peace and equanimity. This means not ebbing and flowing with life’s highs and lows. When I feel myself getting caught in the tide, I ground myself. This can be done as easily as grounding my feet to the floor and deep breathing.

If you like the sound of a peaceful mind, body and soul, read on about the key concepts in this great article I found “Nine Essential Qualities of Mindfulness: Learn how to say ‘Yes’ to the present moment” by Melanie A. Greenberg, Ph.D.

You could also come in for a visit to learn how you can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere! Contact me anytime. I’ll be happy to hear from you.

Photo courtesy of tobym via Flickr

 

8 Steps Toward Recovery After An Affair



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Few things harm a relationship more than an affair. Whether the affair is emotional, a ‘one night stand,’ long term or a cyber-affair, the betrayal delivers a life altering blow. Will the injury to the relationship prove fatal?

In my experience as a relationship counselor there are some essential steps a couple must take for there to be any hope the relationship can survive an affair. If done wisely, there is hope the relationship will come through the ordeal stronger than before.

1) End the affair immediately. Kindly, completely, utterly. This has to come first if you are serious about reconciliation. ‘Friendship’ is not an option.

2) Re-commit to the relationship. If either of you aren’t sure about staying together then, for God’s sake, say so! Confusion is OK just don’t let that be an excuse to avoid talking about the reality.

3) Full disclosure. If your partner wants to know the details you owe them the details. Help them understand the reality because believe me, as bad as it is, it isn’t as bad as what your partner is imagining. Sometimes they really don’t want to know. Fine, let them tell you that directly. Don’t assume it.

4) Stop running and face the pain. Avoiding pain is often what led to the affair in the first place. Facing it is terrifying but necessary. Just shut up and listen; take courage and talk.

5) Walk on hot coals. Express your remorse and sincerely say that you will do whatever it takes to re-focus on the relationship. Then do it.

6) Take responsibility. Resist assigning blame. The affair is a symptom of something very wrong in the relationship. Both parties need to dig deep to discover and accept their share of responsibility. If the real issues aren’t addressed nothing has changed.

7) Forgiveness. Everyone involved needs forgiveness in order to heal. Both parties are injured, both parties are grieving, both parties need forgiveness.

A good relationship counselor can help you negotiate these steps, and more, steps that may be unique to your particular situation. This is just the beginning. To fully heal you need…

8) Time. Once injured, trust is like those tiny flowers that manage to live in the harsh environment of the tundra. Protect it, cherish it and with time something that once appeared so vulnerable will turn into something beautiful and incredibly strong with deep, sturdy roots.

Photo courtesy of Robert in Toronto

Why “I will be happy when…” Doesn’t Make You Happy



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Editor’s note: This article was contributed by Nicole Newcomb, MHC-P, EWN psychotherapist.

Today I looked in the mirror with 153 pounds of sadness. I had reached my “so called” ideal weight that I had set for myself five months ago. I told myself I would truly be happy and content when I reached that number. I convinced myself that all I had to do was watch what I ate and exercise. While it was true that exercise was more beneficial than I once believed, it was also true that happiness was not at the end of the rainbow waiting there for me.

I had locked myself into a faulty hope. I obtained my goal but I quickly realized that 153 was not a magic number. How could it be that I didn’t feel happy? According to Dr. Sherry Pagoto, in her article ‘I will be happy when…’, happiness cannot be fully dependent on a goal. Not that you should not set them, but that one goal cannot be what makes or breaks your happiness. Dr. Pagoto says that setting your happiness on One Goal can lead you to not experience the happiness that is around you on a daily basis.

While I personally believe that goals are what gets people where they want to go, it is important to remember not to set your goals too high. Not to say that you cannot achieve large goals, but smaller, more attainable ones allow for continued motivation, satisfaction and perseverance.

In addition to goal setting, I also believe in stopping and smelling the roses. If you do not stop and realize the little things that make you happy on the daily road to their goal, then you may be missing true happiness. Like Dr. Pagoto says:

“A contended life is an accumulation of moments. It (happiness) doesn’t burst out everyday, it simmers.”

Stop and ask yourself what makes you happy? Does coming home and seeing your child’s pasta smeared smile make you happy? Or is it simply sitting down after a long hard day at work and knowing that you did a good job?

These are what Dr. Pagoto calls little stars and she recommends trying to fill your day with as many little stars as you can. Positive Psychology can help play a role in this new starry sky.

In her Psychology Today blog article ‘Put Positive Psychology to Work for You’, Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne said there are three steps you can take to achieve long-term fulfillment at any age. Before we look at these steps, it is important to distinguish between happiness and fulfillment.

According Dr. Krauss Whitbourne:

“Happiness is a fleeting state that reflects your enjoyment of the moment in the present. After the moment, you return to your previous state of mind.”

Fulfillment on the other hand, “persists over time and in the long run will contribute to your mental health.”

Fulfillment for me was to keep those healthier lifestyles going and to continue feeling better physically and mentally. Now understanding the difference between the two, here are the three steps that Dr. Krauss Whitbourne recommends:

1. Distinguish between what you think will bring you happiness and what will bring you fulfillment: make a list of what makes you happy and another list of what makes you fulfilled. Now compare and contrast.

2. Determine your reality: Take a notepad or sticky note with you throughout the day and jot down things that made you happy and things that made you fulfilled. Make sure to distinguish between the two.

3. Make a difference: Think about your interests, skills and talents. Are you providing service to your community through those interests or skills? Make a commitment to find at least one worthy cause that you can devote at least an hour of your time to once a week or once a month.

According to Dr. Krauss Whitbourne and Dr. Pagoto, happiness has to come from within. Even though I achieved my 153 lb goal, I had to stop and look at the little successes along the way. My little stars came in the form of spending more time with a friend during our runs, choosing healthier eating habits, feeling accomplishment with every pound that came off and feeling physically healthier. So many little stars that came from only One Goal. Imagine how many little stars can come from a few positive goals you set for yourself.

Photo courtesy of Miroslav Petrasko via Flickr 

Let’s Talk About Living Well With Chronic Illness!



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Come to an inspiring, informative talk about what it’s like to live with chronic illness and what we can do to thrive despite it!

When? This Thursday, July 18th, starting at 7:00 PM and ending promptly at 8:30 PM (because we all need our beauty sleep). :-)

Everyone is welcome! Bring your sense of humor and your wisdom. If you can give me a call to RSVP (716.308.6683) that would be great but if you can’t, well, please come anyway.

We will meet at the Explore What’s Next Offices at 1416 Sweet Home Road, Suite 3 Amherst, NY 14228. Get directions by clicking here! Look for the Explore What’s Next sign right out side the door.

Expect an open discussion where I believe I will learn as much from you as you will from me! To give you a sample of what I look forward to sharing with you, please check out the articles under the EWN blog category Chronic Illness by clicking here.

I look forward to meeting you all!

Seven Rules for Living Well With Chronic Illness!



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Thursday, July 18th
7:00-8:30PM
 
At the Explore What’s Next Offices*
1416 Sweet Home Road, Suite 3
Amherst, NY 14228

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This talk is for you, a friend, a caregiver, anyone touched with illness that won’t go away.

This won’t be a lecture. Instead, I hope to lead a lively, inspiring conversation about how we all can manage to live well emotionally despite the ups and downs of chronic illness.

I will share my story, resources and the Seven Rules that I’ve learned along the way that help me get through.

There will be no charge for this event!

RSVP:  Let me know that you plan to be there either by calling me at 716.308.6683 or emailing me at draletta@explorewhatsnext.com by July 16th. I want to be sure I have enough chairs for everybody.

Learn more about Dr. Aletta click here!

*We are wheelchair accessible!

For Couples: Two Steps to Successfully Problem Solve



So I had a relapse of my kidney problem again which means I have to go back on the prednisone which (surprise!) I hate. This knocked me for a loop because I felt fine. I’d gone off the prednisone completely for a month after being on it for over a year. But that’s not what this post is about. It’s actually about how couples solve problems together. My husband and I have been dealing with this medical nonsense for over 25 years. I’m happy to say we’ve actually gotten pretty good at this. I’m hoping you can take advantage of what we’ve learned.

1. When one of us has a problem we need to have the courage to admit we have a problem.

This is not always the case, but when the issue is serious we bat close to 1000. When we keep our problems to ourselves it’s often because ‘there isn’t time to talk’ (Which is A LIE. There’s always time. You just have to behave like you’re boarding the subway when you’re late to work and force yourself on that train!) or we’re just too busy (Same lie.) That’s when we get into trouble. So this step takes thoughtfulness, moxie and guts.

It means saying out loud to our partner: “I need your help.” or “I’m having a problem with this….” or “I just need you to hear this…”

It helps to add how it makes us feel: “…and it makes me feel so damn mad, confused, frustrated, numb.” Take your pick.

Next the partner on the receiving end, having gotten the heads up that ‘there’s a problem’ can exercise their listening skills. (OK. So this step is actually a two-parter.) Being open without agenda or defensiveness is key: “Wow, that just happened? That sucks. Of course you feel mad, confused and frustrated.” And leave it there.

With a period.

No ‘and’.

No ‘but’.

This is a HUGE important step to couple problem solving. And regardless of the ridiculously sexist notion that it’s only females who need this ACTIVE LISTENING step, we ALL NEED IT. Men, yes, you need it too. Maybe even you’re even active listening deprived.

We all need to be heard first. Be shown compassion first. Be validated first.

2. Once the initial problem and feeling is acknowledged we place the problem in a space where both of us can walk around it, observe it, study it together.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of The Little Prince, said, “Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

Too often a couple will place a problem smack between them so that they have little choice but to go at it like battering rams, making the problem fixable only if someone gives in or breaks down in some way. Naturally that makes us defensive.

Do not do this:

“If you would just have the guts to tell your mother to stop dropping by without calling first maybe we’d have some peace around here!”

“It’s not about my mother. You are rude and selfish. She’s just a lonely old lady!”

What a mess. Instead I wish these couples would put the problem out there, in front of them, out from between them. By putting the problem ‘out there’ so that they can both look at it together they quadruple their chances of bonding over finding a workable solution.

The problem isn’t in each other. The problem is that third thing that needs us both to solve, diminish, pulverize it.

Do this:

“I’m having a really hard time with these unexpected visits from your mother. I feel frustrated. It’s hard to plan our day or have private time for our little family and I miss that. Do you ever feel that way?”

(Resisting the urge to get defensive. With a big sigh…) “Yes but it’s really hard to admit because she’s my mother and she’s lonely.”

“Can we recognize that we have a problem? If we do maybe we can come up with a plan that works better for everybody.”

My husband helped me process my anger and frustration, I helped him process some if his own, and then we could both be partners when it came to deciding on the best treatment plan going forward. Despite feeling pretty rotten at first in the end we felt pretty good.

Now just for the hell of it here is a video that is pretty funny (taken with a dollop of salt and a big dose of humor) mostly because it’s an extreme caricature of Mars/Venus – male/female – type communication.

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