Sunday, December 2, 2012

7 Rules For Managing Your In-Laws During The Holidays


Someone once said that the only family you get to pick is your dog. Often, our families are not people we would normally choose to hang out with. During the holidays, not only do we get to spend a lot of time with our families, as an added bonus, we get to spend more time with our in-laws. The dog thing generally holds for in-laws as well, but I have worked with clients who question whether to marry because of difficult in-laws-to-be. I say it's hard enough to find the person you want to spend your life with, don't let potential in-laws ruin it.  Here's how.

·         Rule #1. Don't expect it to be like your family. This is a good thing for lots of us, but not for some. Just because you do things a certain way in your family, don't expect the same from your in-laws. In some families gifts are huge, in others, barely noticeable. Some have turkey, some have ham. And really, was it so great in your family? Be open to differences and learn to go with the flow.

·         Rule #2. Tread carefully with your partner when it comes to their family. What seems to be clearly bizarre and psycho to you will not always seem so to your partner. Kissing grown adults on the lips comes to mind. Remember, when you grow up in a country where everyone eats live fish, it seems perfectly normal to you.

·         Rule#3. Notice the nature of communication among family members and consider matching it. I'm not saying you can't be yourself, but you might consider being it more like being at work than like holidays with your family. If you're in a room of stiffs, you don't want to come off as a hysterical, loud comic, even if that works for you most of the time. If the in-laws are outgoing and you're too much of a wallflower, they'll think you don't like them.

·         Rule #4. Affection and emotion are expressed, or not expressed, differently in families. What's happening in this family? You'll make people uncomfortable if you're asking about their feelings and touching people if that's not the family way. You'll also make people uncomfortable if you shrink from the big hug from Uncle Bob because that's not your family's way. Find a happy medium.

·         Rule#5. Your beloved will be different with their family. We all have a role in our family of origin (FOO). When you get together with people you only see once or twice a year, or less, you are expected to play that role. This is true despite the fact that you are now a grown-up and not a sniveling child or acting out adolescent. Chances are, you will see your beloved in that historical role. Don't knock it; it's probably the same in your FOO. Be kind.

·         Rule#6. Not everyone will love you all the time. Borrowing from Albert Ellis' wonderful irrational beliefs, you have to recognize that, unlike your FOO, your in-laws are not obligated to love you. In some families there's a clear norm for embracing the in-law like a blood relative, in others, not so much. Remember, your self-esteem is not on the line and neither is your relationship. And you're not going to love them all either.

·         Rule#7. Make it fun. Particularly if you know it's going to be difficult, I like to challenge people to tell me one or two ways to make it fun. Some examples to get you started: learn something new about someone; give someone the gift of listening to them; make someone laugh; or, set an intention to see the humor in everything.
Perhaps you've noticed that this is more about managing your reactions to your in-laws during the holidays than about managing them. That's because, unlike your dog, you can't manage your in-laws any more than you can manage your own family. What you can manage are your expectations for them and your reactions to them.  You can also manage your stress level by making sure you're engaging in stress management during the holidays. For the ultimate management, consider starting your own rituals as a new family.

First published at YourTango.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Choose Mindful Eating For The Holidays


During this time of holiday parties, luncheons, gifts of food and leftovers, mindful eating could be your gift to self. The basic premise is to slow down and tune into all aspects of your eating. This includes an accepting and compassionate stance regarding your attitudes toward eating and your body, choice of foods, portion sizes, sensory experiences and the actual mechanics of eating.

These tips stand alone, but you can combine them with mindfulness meditation for maximum effect.

·         Eat when you're hungry, not because you're bored or emotional. Ask yourself the question, Why do I want to eat this? Only eat it if you're hungry. If you're bored, do something interesting. If you think eating is interesting you probably need some new hobbies. If you're sad or mad, figure out how to address those feelings in ways other than eating.

·         Eat what you need. When you're contemplating food, ask, Is this something good for me to eat right now? If you're hungry but you have doubts about the cookies, ask, What food would be better for me? Figure out the right food for you at that moment. Be ruthless and you'll find you know what you need.

·         Savor your food. This means chewing slowly, really tasting the food and enjoying each bite. Never put a second bite in your mouth until you've finished the first bite completely. Ditto, drinking while eating; finish the bite before washing it down. Eat one peanut, piece of candy or chip and savor it before eating the next.

·         Eat slowly and stop when full. Eating slowly allows you more of an opportunity to notice when you're full. Put your utensil down between bites. When you do start to feel a slight feeling of fullness, it's a great time to stop eating. You have to take some time to tune into this but you don't have to judge it.

·         Strive for quality, not quantity. Okay, you want a piece of that Godiva. One piece is enough to experience the great taste. By the second piece, it's not as delicious. Stick to one. At the family style meal, a few bites of those heavenly cheese grits is probably enough. With cake, take a very small piece. Sample small amounts and enjoy the pleasure without the pain.

·         Re-gift problem items. People love to give the gift of food. No matter how mindful you are, if you know you can't have just one, give it away. Save money and calories. Give it to the friend with the genetically low cholesterol and body fat.

·         Make small changes. Put a little less sweetener or milk in your coffee, give up the roll with dinner or perhaps have one glass of wine instead of two. You will hardly notice these things but, if you can mindfully make these choices, they'll give you some calorie credits to get through the holidays. You can keep up these changes later for lifelong healthier eating.

·         Plan for difficult situations. Before you go to the party or dinner, consider what you will be encountering and how you would like to handle it. Think about how your body feels and what your body needs. Notice any other feelings that might come up. Decide how much you want to eat and drink, and follow your plan. If you go with someone, telling them your plan helps you commit.

·         Stop judging. If you have a less than mindful day, don't judge it, simply start over the next day. Don't just blow off the rest of the holiday season. It's not worth all the effort it will take to recover. Notice your successes, savor them and they will inspire you.
Challenge yourself to be more mindful about your choices, and less judgmental about your behavior and your body's needs. This is an opportunity to make changes to your eating and wellness plans. It's almost time for those New Year's resolutions. Why not get an early start?

Originally published at YourTango.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wellness…Where There's a Will There's a Way

This is a great time of year to take stock of where you are, anticipating those New Year's resolutions to come. I am starting a virtual group: Wellness…Where There’s a Will There’s a Way. Virtual groups are conducted by phone. You can be anywhere.

If you are facing the challenges of getting your wellness plan going, then this group is for you! Figure out what your wellness next step is. Treat yourself, or send a friend to this virtual group.
This 4-session virtual group will help you address the challenges of moving forward with your wellness plan, the will, by helping you find a way to:
* Develop the elements of a personal wellness plan (e.g., exercise, diet, stress-management) that is authentically you

* Use personal strengths and mindfulness to move forward on your goals

* Learn to take the small steps needed to build up your willpower

The virtual group coaching environment will help you use your abilities and resources in unique ways, and challenge you to move ahead.
 
My holiday gift, the first call is free!

Contact me for more information.
Read about Wellness here:
Top 7 Steps to Wellness
The Secret Of Changing Your Life
Authentic Wellness…More or Less
Can Wellness be Fun?

Need a little wellness music? Try Lovely Day.  Bill Withers

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Secret Of Changing Your Life

People come to me with worries, problems, fears and relationship issues, among other things. Much as I hate to admit this, sometimes it takes countless hours of psychotherapy until they finally get the secret of change. The secret is simply that you can't change or control what anyone else does. Trying too hard to change others is usually called codependence.  The rest of the secret is that you can change and control what you do. It can truly be a revelation. But then a problem often remains.  What is it, exactly, that you want to be different in your life?
Often, when I ask clients what they want in their lives or how they'd like their lives to be, I get the negatives. Usually it's something like, I don't want:
·         to worry about money…my job… marriage… parents…

·         my kid to fail in school…get in trouble…have a car accident…

·         to drink so much…have a messy house…stay out so late…

·         to be overweight…lazy…jealous…

·         my relationship to fail…to be boring…to make me sad…
Yeah, yeah, I say, in a nice way. That’s what you don't want, but what do you want?  Then my clients get really clever and tell me, I want:

·         my partner to stop spending so much money…

·         my kid to stop getting Fs…

·         people to stop offering me drinks when I say no…

·         my family to stop eating junkfood so I can too…

·         my partner to be more romantic…
Yeah, yeah, I say, putting on my life coach hat, but what do you want to be different in your life right now. How can you be in action about it today? And while you're at it, let's make it something you can control yourself. Ah, my clients say, you mean, I will:

·         save $50 dollars each week

·         spend 15 minutes daily helping my kid get organized

·         limit my drinking to 2 glasses of wine, 2 nights a week

·         buy healthier foods to cook 5 days a week

·         suggest that Friday be our weekly date night
Yes! Yes! Yes! That's exactly what I mean. When you want things to change, this is the secret. Focus on what you do want, today. Be specific and authentic about what you can do to make the change, including the what, where and when. You are the expert on your own life. You know the steps you need to be taking. You just have to think about it in these practical terms and start doing it. Today.

This blog was originally published at YourTango.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Enhance Your Well-Being With 5-Minute Mindfulness Practices


How would you like to reduce stress and emotional reactivity, and increase focus and well-being? You can improve your health while you're at it. What if I told you that cultivating mindfulness can bring these rewards? There are even more benefits. Research suggests memory gains and relationship satisfaction are also associated with mindfulness practices.
There are as many ways to become more mindful as there are people, so here are my suggestions for cultivating your mindfulness. You have to try them out, and see what fits for you.
Breathe mindfully, by taking slow breaths that start in the abdomen and work their way up to the top of your head, exhaling as slowly as you breathe in. Spend 5 minutes a day breathing this way. Try breathing into your stress, be it a stressed muscle or a stressful thought.
Notice your thoughts without judgment. This means just noticing, not questioning, editing, criticizing or controlling your thinking. Observe your thoughts nonjudgmentally for 5 minutes each day.
Experience what you're feeling in your body without trying to change it. Take 5 minutes daily to do a body scan. Start at your toes and work your way up to the scalp, just noticing what's going on in your body. Simply be aware of places you're tight, loose or neutral.
Focus on what you're doing with awareness. Whether you're walking (feel the air on your face and your feet hitting the ground), eating (notice texture and taste) or sitting (attend to body temperature and heart rate), try noticing all the perceptions and sensations you experience during a 5 minute period.
Meditate daily. Choose a type of meditation that suits you. There are many options. Do it daily for 5 minutes on your own, or find a meditation center or group where you can practice and learn. Many people find that practicing with a group deepens the experience.
Practice loving kindness toward yourself and others. This is a meditation in which you wish for things like safety, health, happiness or freedom for yourself. Then you extend that wish to your loved ones, to acquaintances, and finally, to your not-so-loved ones, for 5 minutes of your day.
Practice an ancient healing art like yoga, tai chi or qi gong by spending 5 minutes a day on it. Taking a few classes will teach you the basics. Simple poses can be learned in no time on-line. You can practice alone. As with meditation, sometimes practicing with your kids, partner or a friend is a nice change.
Pick a time you can practice one or more of these daily. Work it into your schedule. As your daily mindfulness practice becomes routine, you will notice that an increase in awareness and a decrease in judgment begins to permeate other aspects of your life. Control over your thinking and behavior becomes easier. It all comes together to reduce stress and enhance well-being. I'm not saying five minutes will bring all the rewards, but I suspect that once you start doing five, it will turn into 10, then 15, and who knows how much well-being you can attain?
Try some Iyengar Yoga Music to get in the mudra.
Originally published at YourTago.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Olympics Remind Us About Lucky Charms And Other Power Objects

Olympic athletes wear lucky socks and bras, and keep four-leaf clover rings and lucky dinosaurs. These are just a few of the lucky charms, or power objects, I read about during the recent games. I'm sure we would find more if we had an opportunity to rifle through all the athletes' belongings.
You may not be getting ready to medal, but maybe you're about to go on a first date, give a speech, or interview for a job, and feel the need for a lucky charm yourself. There's nothing lucky about these charms, so I prefer the term power object. They work, but not in such mysterious ways. It's a three-step process.
Step one. When you use a power object, you first clarify your intention for your desired outcome. It's always easier to get what you want when your vision of it is clear. For example, you place mala beads (the power object) on your desk. Each time you notice the beads you will tell yourself, "be calm and breathe" (your intention), so you will be brilliant during your job interview (the outcome).
Step two. The second step is strengthening the links between the power object, intention, and outcome, through repetition. Every time you notice the power object you're reminded of your intention to stay calm and breathe. You take a few breaths each time. You're reinforcing the belief that you can control the situation and produce a positive outcome through your behavior. With each breath, that positive outcome starts to feel more likely. With each repetition, you start to feel more empowered.
Step three. The final step is using the object in the stressful situation. When you go into a stressful situation like a job interview, you may keep the beads in your pocket as a concrete reminder of your intention to stay calm and breathe. This intention has now become effortlessly attached to the power object. As a result, you feel calmer in the situation. Your desired outcome, a brilliant performance, is attainable.
Your power object can be a stone, a photo or any object that makes sense and feels right to you. You can have the object in a purse, have it pop up on your phone, or create another process that works for you. The repeated connection between the intention and the object gives you that extra sense of control over the outcome. You have created your own lucky charm that provides that Olympian power you need for a challenge.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

10 Things You Really Don’t Want In A Happy Relationship

When you first meet, your partner is almost perfect. There's the breathlessness of passion and the constant surprise of new things you have in common. You totally know this is your soulmate, the person you've been looking for your whole life. As time passes you still love your soulmate, but you begin to wonder if you're "in love" with them. Even though they give you so many things you want, you begin questioning whether you can be happy in the relationship.
These are the things that could doom your once-happy relationship.

1. Persistent criticism. You get very little praise and, instead, a frequent litany of your shortcomings. You're talking too loud, not cooking it right, snoring, or putting on weight. When you try to point out the problem to your partner, you're told you can't accept feedback. If the list of your failings seems to have no end in sight, the end might be in sight.

2. Not enough time together. Dating was great at first; you went to parties, traveled, played tennis and spent a lot of time together. Now, you might have dinner together but most of your activities are separate. You feel like they're just not that into you. You encourage more togetherness, but when you're rebuffed you start to wonder why you're still there.

3. Feeling unsupported. The flip side of not enough time together is not enough time to pursue your own interests and goals. Your partner doesn't want you hanging with your friends, spending time on career advancement, or pursuing important personal goals. You ask for the space and time you need to flourish, but don't get the support.

4. Frequent feelings of anger or depression. When the relationship is suffering, externalizers tend to feel angry, internalizers feel depressed. Identify the triggers to these negative emotions and find out if addressing them with your partner helps your mood.  No one wants to be in a relationship that makes them furious or sucks the life out of them.

5. Being controlled.  Your partner makes unilateral decisions about things that affect you both. A tip-off here is when you're asked for your opinion (Where would you like to have dinner?) which is then summarily dismissed (I'm not in the mood for Italian).  Dinner aside, there are many important issues that beg for collaboration, not dictatorial edicts.

6. Disagreement about monogamy, sex and commitment. One wants to marry, the other, to cohabit. One wants an open relationship, the other, not so much. One wants to date other people, the other, definitely not. One wants to swing, the other is willing to try, but it's not really their thing. There's too much sex, or not enough. You must find common ground on these issues, or you're both going to be unhappy.

7. Lack of communication. Everyone talks when they're first dating. Or you're so infatuated you don't notice your partner's distance. It's painful to feel your partner doesn't want to share or isn't interested in what you think and feel. If discussion doesn't get you the level of communication you need, you're likely to feel invisible and marginalized.

8. Conflict about finances. Although differences relating to money are inevitable, in a good relationship you can compromise and live happily ever after. An inability to come to agreement on financial issues bodes poorly for the health of a relationship. You must find common ground because so many important decisions concern money.

9. Differences about drinking or drugs. After the honeymoon period is over, you notice your partner drinks too much or uses sleeping pills too regularly. How much is too much? That's entirely up to you. If your red flag goes up, pay attention. Talk it out and see if there's a way to make it work for both of you. What's uncomfortable for you now will not improve later.

10. Diminished trust. First you may notice exaggerations. Then there are small lies or omissions which grow bigger over time. Finally, you find yourself questioning everything your partner says. When you can't trust your partner to be honest and truthful, there's a crucial piece missing in your relationship.

If you're experiencing one of these problems, ask yourself, and your soulmate, if it's fixable. Happy relationships provide companionship, yet foster autonomy with respect to personal goals. They involve intimacy, sharing and positivity. There's passion, not necessary physical, and commitment, not necessarily marriage. Now ask whether your soulmate is really providing you with the elements of a happy relationship.

Reprinted from YourTango

Saturday, July 28, 2012

6 Great Reasons You Finally Have An Empty Nest


It's official…my baby is gone to college. I dropped him off at a house he'll be sharing with several other students for a few weeks until the dorms open. Several hundred deep breaths later, vowing not to think about that house too much, or how far away it is, I think I'm good with my empty nest, and here's why.
It's where your child needs to be. It's time for them to spread their wings and fly. Solo. You've done the work of supporting them through the scrapes and bruises of life and love. Now they've got to figure out some things on their own, like how to get laundry done, food purchased, money managed, and perhaps what to do with their life.

It's where you need to be. You've spent 18 or so years raising them. Hopefully you've focused you yourself as well. But whether you've had enough you-time or not, this is your opportunity to devote more energy to your needs, goals and desires.

It's where your relationship needs to be. Don't have a relationship? No problem. It's time to work on getting one. Already in a relationship? It's time to focus on where that's going and where you'd like it to go.

It's time to consider the future. Your career, relationships and bucket list are open to inquiry. You're not spending as much time on kid-related activities. What would you like your life to look like in 5 years? 10 years? This is a great time to start planning ahead.

It's time to have margaritas with the girls. I'll admit it. This is one of the first things I did. And I did it on a school night. Kick back and relax in whatever form that takes. You don't have to worry about homework getting done, clothes being washed or bedtimes observed. It's all about you baby.

It's time to let go. Yes, you still have a tremendously important role as a parent. And yes, you really have to let go. In case you failed to realize that you probably didn't know where your child was at 10:00, now you must accept that you definitely do not know. And it's okay. You've taught the important lessons and values. Now it's time for you to trust your child to act on these independently.

You might want to get on this pretty quick. With all the kids returning home to live with their parents after college, my plan is to enjoy it while I can.

Fly Away, John Denver

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Happiness is a Warm Run

July 4th is a 10K tradition for me and I set out with 57,753 of my running buddies. The Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta is the biggest 10K in the world, and I got to run it. I know, I know; I can hear the groans. Running's not for everyone, but the excitement was palpable. There was some kind of transcendent experience going on. I felt happiness all around me. Allow me to explain.

It is a beautifully clear day with a cool 71 degrees in Atlanta. With the 85% humidity it does feel a bit warm. There are lots of people everywhere and at 7:30AM the first group takes off.  They really take off, finishing the 6.2 miles in a mere 27 minutes, 36 seconds. You don't need a calculator to get how fast that is. I am elevated by participating in an activity with this amazing group of athletes.
I get to my start wave and we're all like horses in their stalls before the race. We're shuffling, stretching, talking, listening to the announcer and itching to get going. But we're in an enormous pack. We can't move much. I get a little choked up which seems inexplicable at first. Then I realize it's about being in this huge group of people united in our quest to finish 6.2 miles in the heat on Independence Day.
The whole enterprise is not too serious though. There's music blasting on the sidewalks along the course, people are handing out free food, beer, Frisbees, headbands, and other goodies. Runners are in costumes and makeup and there's a lot of red, white and blue. It's my version of the dances, raves, religion and nature that John Haidt associates with self-transcendence. Ultimately, there's a feeling of being uplifted, along with fulfillment and happiness. At that moment life does have meaning.
I'm not saying you have to find your happiness and meaning in a run.  I am saying you have to find something that gives you that uplifted feeling.  Something transcendent. Something sacred.
Of course, Happinessis a Warm Gun, John Lennon

Sunday, July 1, 2012

3 Recovery Skills You Need Post-Infidelity

Many of us have to cope with infidelity and affairs in our relationships. Speed up your recovery from infidelity using self-care,resilience and optimism.

See my post on YourTango.

Happy listening with I'm Better Than I Used To Be, Tim McGraw

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Before you Marry, Talk About This


I’m often perplexed by the kinds of things each member of a couple does not know about the other. Or did not know until they decided to talk to me about their relationship crisis.
You must talk about each of the following issues making certain you’re actually communicating, i.e., listening, understanding and clarifying what your partner actually thinks and feels. When asked if you’ve talked about your relationship needs , your clear and resounding answer should be a “YES.” The following should all be included:

·         How will you manage your career, dual careers, moving for careers, how much money you need to make, and so forth?
·         What are your sexual, intimacy and affection needs and desires? Do you connect well physically and emotionally? Are you in agreement about the boundaries of your relationship and level of faithfulness expected?
·         How do you both feel about children? How many and how will they be raised, when you will have them and who will be responsible for what, are some of the things you should be clear about.
·         Where are you at with religion, values and spirituality? How do you want to raise your kids, if any, with respect to these?
·         What role do you see for family and friends? How much time will you spend with one another and others?
·         What do you want out of life? What are your passions and dreams? Where do you want to be in 5 years, 10, 25?
·         Is there full disclosure about finances, drug and alcohol use and history, relationship history (any Fatal Attractions waiting in the wings?), legal and medical issues? Is there any history of physical aggression or abuse (toward others or as a survivor?).
·         Is there complete trust? Do you believe in your partner fully?

Can you communicate about all the above matters in a calm, clear way with respect and trust? It’s okay if you’re not completely on the same page about everything. Can you talk about compromises without undue anger? Do you feel listened to?
Save yourself unnecessary pain later. Work these things out with your partner. If you can’t work them out, talk to a coach, a therapist or spiritual advisor. Don’t leave it to chance. Take charge of your relationship.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Top 7 Steps to Wellness

These are my top wellness steps borrowed from what the books say and what I’ve learned from my clients. If you want to improve your wellness, you may have to eat differently, change your exercise program, or develop a new sleep plan.  You have to be focused. There may be other behaviors you have to look at, like how much time you work, relax and spend with friends.  You can use these steps with any goal you’re working on.
1. Keep a journal of the behaviors you’re working on. For example, note what you eat and what type of exercise you’re doing. Writing things down help shine a light on the good, the bad and the ugly, and keeps you focused on same.
2. Set clear goals for target behaviors. Ask “what,” “when,” and “how much,” for your goals. Keep them SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, time-limited). This makes it easier to track your progress.
3. Review your goals every 90 days or so. Once you get going with a program, what’s working and what’s not become clearer. Revise your goals as needed. Nothing is written in stone. You’re looking for strategies that move you forward.
4. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t want to diet so you lose weight quickly. Everyone knows that you’ll put it back on because it’s not sustainable. Sensible, healthy strategies will result in slower progress, but you’ll be able to go the distance.
5. Enjoy the journey, e.g., find foods you like to eat and activities you enjoy. Select things that feel authentically yours. Change it up if you do better with variety. Again, you’re looking for things that are sustainable, not an activity you dislike and will not continue for the long haul. Make it fun.
6. Routine, routine, routine. Routines reduce opportunities for mistakes. If you know what you’re eating and when you’re meditating, there are fewer bad choices. You can view routines as boring, or you can see them as good practice. The latter is more useful if not always exciting.
7. Celebrate success. Note it in your journal, share it with friends and do something for yourself when you meet goals. Even small successes deserve rewards. Bigger successes warrant larger rewards.
It’s not that difficult if you keep it simple and use the steps. Wellness is an ongoing process in which you want to be fully engaged. You are always working on your wellness plan, tweaking it and changing it up to push yourself to the next level. And the next.  And the next.
For inspiration:  Beyonce’s Move Your Body