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Nine Minutes A Day to Strengthen Your Relationships.

The world is still reeling from COVID-19 and the strict new guidelines of proper social etiquette. It is difficult to emotionally connect with someone when you are not allowed to touch them, and sometimes cannot see most of their face. We are all adjusting to the new and needed guidelines that keep our physical health safe. In the meantime several people are noticing a severe decline in their emotional intimacy with friends and partners.  There is an innate desire for us to connect with people around us, and yet people are having a difficult time doing that these days.

May I suggest a nine minute daily exercise for you to participate in that can strengthen your relationship with your partner, children, and friends? Everyday, we have several times in which we say hello and goodbye to someone. In the morning, we say hello for the day to our children and if we have one, our partner. We say goodbye when we leave for work or school. Hello, again, when we come back from school or work. And goodbye, again, when we go to bed. With friends at work we have the hello when we arrive, and when we leave. With the people that live in your house: I challenge you to make good morning an event. Look your children and spouse in the eyes and give them a hug. Ask them how they slept. Try and connect on a physical and emotional level. It will only take three minutes. When your kids or spouse gets home from school and work do the same thing. Look them in the eyes, give them a hug, and ask them how their day was. Sit and listen to them. It will take about three minutes. Before you go to bed look your spouse and children in the eyes and hug them. Ask them what their favorite part of the day was. It will take about three minutes. We are now up to nine minutes of connection time you have just had with your spouse or children. That makes a huge difference in feeling connected to someone! It will add a special dimension to your relationships with your spouse and children. Sometimes it may take longer, than nine minutes, but the reward will be well worth it.     

The same can be done with co workers. Instead of greeting someone with a quick hello, stop and be physically and emotionally present. You cannot get close to them, and often a mask will be in the way. You can still connect with that person! Look them in the eyes. Ask them how they are doing and lean in, showing that you care and you are interested in what they are saying. When you leave to go home, check in with those co workers. Take a few minutes to again, ask them about plans for the evening. Ask them about their children, spouse, or hobby. This may seem like an easy task, but again one that will reap great rewards as you connect emotionally with the people you work with. 

As always, watch your own emotional health. People all over the world are feeling disconnected from each other. If you are feeling overwhelmed and depressed, there is always help out there for you! Good luck as you try out this new social experiment of connection!

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Smashing the Stigma of Therapy

Though we live in a time where therapy is more widely utilized, and less stigma exists than in years past, I still hear from individuals who are very apprehensive about seeking out psychotherapy. Many of the clients that come in to meet with me, admit they have wrestled for years with the decision to come in before “finally reaching a breaking point.” On the tail end, it is common for me, as a therapist, to hear a client near the end of treatment say, “I wish I had done this years ago!”

I think part of the reason people are apprehensive to come to therapy is that they think if they go to therapy, something must be wrong with them. They must be flawed in some way or they should be able to figure out their problems “on their own.” We give very unreasonable expectations to ourselves regarding mental, emotional, and social health, that we don’t necessarily assign to medical health. This is why, I have developed an analogy I find very useful to squash the stigma of therapy. Here it is…

Everyone needs to go to the dentist. We all get tarter build up on our teeth and lack the tools, ability, or vision to reach and clean all the spots on our own. Most people go to the dentist for just a cleaning now and again, some for minor cavities, and far fewer for an abscessed tooth or root canal. If we avoid the dentist and the cleanings, then we are more likely to get a cavity, and more likely to need that root canal.

Well my friends, therapy is the exact same way. Most people benefit from therapy for the day to day grime that builds up in our personal lives and relationships, the things we all deal with like marital disagreements, parent-child conflict, grief and loss, and major life transitions. Some of us however, do need an extraction at times and therapy is equipped for depression, anxieties, trauma and all other kinds of struggles.

The reason I like this analogy is because I have yet to meet anyone who feels shame for needing to go to the dentist for a cleaning, however people attending therapy are frequently dripping in shame unnecessarily. I reassure them that I am just here to aid in their cleaning with my big lamp and some tools they may not have at home.

If you have been considering therapy as a tool that may help your family, don’t hesitate! Schedule your cleaning today 😉

Kathleen Baxter MS, LMFT

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Be Present: Sage Advice from Kung Fu Panda

One of the best things we can do for our mental, emotional, and physical health is to simply live in the present moment. The phrase is becoming cliché, but that doesn’t mean its significance has reduced. Rather than living fully today, we often spend our entire day worrying about what’s coming up in the next one. Or, we waste away our lives regretting and lamenting what we have (or haven’t) done in the past. Neither of these strategies are helpful in getting the most out of the here and now. So, how do we stay in the present? Here are a few tips:

Do a little bit of writing (or reflecting) each day, preferably with a pen and paper

In our fast-paced world, we feel like we are working at a million miles per hour. Writing helps slow things down and clear our minds, which is very therapeutic. To write clearly is to think clearly. There’s a power in writing down our thoughts and expressing what we are thinking and feeling.

Put away the technology!

Smart phones, iPads, and computers are constantly distracting and “stimulating” our minds. Put them away! Be present where you are, especially if your children or those closest to you are competing for your attention. You won’t regret it.

Take time to breathe

Obviously, we are all breathing throughout the day, but sometimes its just enough to survive! We want to thrive, not just survive. Take a step back, and take a few deep breaths. Not only is this good for the nervous system, but deep breathing is a useful tool in grounding us and helping us develop a healthier perspective on life.

In conclusion…slow down. Enjoy the present moment. Soak it in. In our pop-tart, microwave society, we are always running from place to place, both literally and figuratively. Take some time each day to reflect, put away the technology, and practice being fully present in the moment.

Maybe I have been watching too much Kung Fu Panda with my boys, but like Master Oogway says: Yesterday is History, Tomorrow’s a Mystery, Today is a Gift…That’s Why They Call it the Present.

Please, if you have found other ways that have helped you stay present and joy in the moment, share in the comments or share with your friends. I would love to hear your ideas.

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Emotional Intelligence as a Back to School Skill

unnamed-1One of the things I spend time doing, explaining and reiterating with myself, as well as my clients with and without children, is emotional intelligence.  If there’s anything that gets in the way of living a full, rich, and meaningful life, it’s our experience with our emotions. The ability to gain emotional intelligence is a key skill in allowing us to truly understand ourselves and our reactions to events around us, because those are the only things we can really control – ourselves and our reactions.  As we enter a new school year and support the children in our lives with the changes that inevitably come with it, I am sharing a few key concepts related to emotional intelligence as a starting point for a successful year.

Emotional Intelligence is briefly discussed here by its popular advocate and author – Dr. Daniel Goleman. One of the first things he says is that Emotional Intelligence is that it is how we handle ourselves in our relationships.

Then, he lists 4 domains that create emotional intelligence:

  1. Self awareness – knowing what we’re feeling and why we’re feeling it.
  2. Self management – handling distressing emotions in an effective way so that they don’t cripple you & tuning into them for what they can teach you  – because even though they aren’t fun, they still serve a purpose and it’s okay to explore what that purpose is.
  3. Empathy – knowing what someone else is feeling.
  4. Social Interaction Skills – Putting it all together as a skill in significant relationships.

He then talks about how the part of our brain that allows us to do this is the part that grows the slowest – chronologically and developmentally – in our brains. He then goes on to talk about neuroplasticity which is basically the flexible nature of the brain as an organ. He mentions that our brains develop based on repeated experiences and he uses that as the foundation to encourage us to talk about self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social skills with kids at early ages and in systematic ways.

There are a number of books that have helped revolutionize parenting in this respect and they have been really helpful to me, personally and professionally. One of the struggles in parenting that I have seen with other parents and caregivers is the habit we have of associating our ability to make sense of the world to our children’s abilities to do the same thing in the same way. On our lesser days, it can be frustrating when they don’t act like the little adults that many of us may have been raised to be when we were kids!  Yet, when we remember Goleman’s words, we can remind ourselves that neurotypical children’s brains are not developmentally capable of verbally articulating the four concepts outlined above if they aren’t taught to recognize what the 4 concepts feel like and helped to identify when they are feeling any of the four concepts. That is our job as the adult in a child’s life.

The important thing that has helped me, the parents, and caregivers that I work with has been to understand that our kids feel  a lot of things – good and bad – that they struggle to explain to us in words.  Again, our job as parents, is to help them gain the vocabulary to do so. However, we can’t teach them what we don’t know or haven’t personally experienced, so it’s important that we practice becoming aware of our own emotional experiences, managing them, practicing empathy, and enhancing our social skills in the relationships that matter most to us, especially with the people who depend on us for guidance and support.

Emotional intelligence is probably the coolest thing to have in our backpacks as we head into the new school year! Find ways that you can sharpen your skillset and pass your understanding on to your kids by modeling healthy steps towards emotional intelligence.

 

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5 Ways to Love Your Body: Studio 5 #bodylove

5 Ways to Love Your Body - Studio 5

 
What do you see when you look in the mirror? If the first thing that comes to mind is something critical, you’re not alone. This month on KSL’s Studio 5 with Brooke Walker, we challenge you to think positive about your body.
Join the #BODYLOVE movement!

1) Take a photo of a physical feature of yourself

2) Post it to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #BodyLove

3) Tag 5 of your friends and ask them to do the same.

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The Upside of Anger: Studio 5

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Feeling mad isn’t all bad! Sometimes it can motivate us to make a change, set healthier boundaries, or problem solve. In my clinical practice I see many women who have difficulty identify and expressing this often misunderstood emotions. Here are a few ways mad can actually make your life better!
The upside of anger

For more help with anger and other emotions order your copy of Julie Hanks’ new book The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women

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Is Group Therapy Right for Me?

two-female-friends

Wasatch Family Therapy is starting a new Women’s Group, beginning Thursday, September 5. This group will be a wonderful way for women to interact and feel support. It is normal to have some apprehension about joining a group like this. If you are wondering whether or not a group would be the right thing for you, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

Do I feel alone?
If you’re feeling lonely for any reason, group can be a great place to feel a sense of purpose and belonging. It gives you the opportunity to interact with others, and fill your life with more people who truly know and care about you. Even if there are weeks you don’t feel like talking, you can at least still feel the presence of others, and keep from feeling isolated and cut off from the world.

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5 Things to Let Go: Studio 5

When we let go of destructive patterns we create room for love, appreciation and growth. We live a fuller and more meaningful life and we aren’t weighed down by the trivial.

Director of Wasatch Family Therapy in Davis County, Holly Willard shared five things we should all let go.

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How To Stop Competing: Studio 5


Whether it’s physical appearance, parenting skills, possessions, talents, homes, weight, success, money, creativity, marital status, our children’s behavior…it seems that we women view other women’s success as a threat to our own worth. In order to manage our own fears and insecurities, we try to prove that we are “good enough” by one-upping someone else. While this may lead to temporary feelings of validation, it never leads to long-term feelings of self-worth. Why do women compete with one another? Here are a few common reasons that competitive feeling can settle in:

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7 Ways To Beat Seasonal Depression

7 Ways To Beat Seasonal Depression

Does your mood take a nose dive during the winter months? In this new post for ShareCare I give a few ideas for beating seasonal depression. Here’s a preview…

“During the winter months, about 15% of Americans suffer from a mood disorder known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD symptoms are similar to those of depression—feelings of sadness, low energy, sleep problems, irritability, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, anxiety, social isolation and, in severe cases, suicidal thoughts. The difference between general depression and SAD is that sufferers generally gain weight and only experience depression symptoms during a specific and recurring time of the year.

Seasonal depression impacts significantly more women than men. Among people with SAD, 60 to 90% are women, and females between the ages of 15 and 55 are at highest risk.

In my clinical experience, most people with this problem wait too long before seeking help. If you have many of the symptoms above, or if you think you might have SAD, I encourage you to get a medical or mental health evaluation. If you are suffering from SAD there are treatments that can help you feel better.”

Read my 7 tips for tackling SAD on Sharecare

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