Brene Brown has said “Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armor. And choose the great adventure of being brave AND afraid at the exact same time.” (Emphasis added)
After months of living through the pandemic, homeschooling two of my four children, having a newborn and busy toddler vying for attention during homeschooling, working over Telehealth, quarantining from family and friends, kissing my husband goodbye as he goes to works with sick people, and managing my own thoughts and anxiety about the world I have learned a very important lesson. You can feel brave and afraid at the same time.
My emotional journey the last several months has been sporadic. At times, I have felt very hopeful and optimistic. Other times, I have felt sad and anxious. After experiencing an anxiety attack in April, I realized I had to change my thought process. My mantra became “cautious but not fearful.” I pushed fear away and decided to let hope reign supreme. Gone were the days of worrying about what would happen if my parents contracted the virus. Say goodbye to stressing about exposure to people, and what it would be like if/when my family got sick. My mind was aware of the hospitals and medical staff, but I would not let that transfer into fear and worry. I let myself think that if I felt any fear at all I was letting fear win. I was wrong.
What have I learned about myself during this pandemic? I have learned that I can feel brave and afraid at the same time. In reality, the worried and stressful thoughts were and are still coming at regular intervals. The difference is when the fear comes, I no longer hide from it. Pushing the fear/worry/anxiety down gives it more power. Locked in the recess of your mind fear-or whatever you would like to call it-is biding its time until you are not ready for it. Then BAM out it comes with a lethal vengeance. Covid-19 has taught me to acknowledge the fear. When those fearful thoughts come into my mind I identify them and acknowledge their existence. Instead of running from the thoughts, I put my arm around them and let my bravery take over.
I can be fearful and brave at the same time. I can worry about what is happening across the world and still have hope that it will get better. I can be worried about our healthcare workers while allowing my gratitude for them to overshadow that worry. I can stand in the face of my husband, children, parents, and loved ones contracting the virus because I know that there are people and enough love in my life that will help me get through it. I have learned to hold both of these things in my hands and heart and be alright with that. And Brene is right…it is truly an adventure.
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!
Being a marriage therapist is an interesting and fulfilling profession. One unique aspect of this job is that people want to ask my opinion on a regular basis. When I attend wedding showers, the room gets eerily quiet when it is my turn to give advice to the bride to be. One piece of advice I give regularly and often, is to connect with your spouse on a daily basis. This can happen in many different ways, however I think that daily talk time is an effective and powerful way to increase emotional intimacy that will help you feel connected to your spouse. Many times life gets so busy we forget how to talk with our partner. Here are three questions that can jump start your daily talk time.
What went well in your day today?
What did not go as you expected?
What are some ways I can help you tomorrow?
These questions open up a dialogue about your day and what went well and poorly. The last question helps your spouse feel that you are invested in their day going well and shows your support of that happening. If you feel that some growth is needed in your relationship I urge you to start daily talk time. Ten minutes a day can make a big difference in your marriage. Start with these questions and see where the conversation goes.
It is no secret to the people I work with that I love the work of Brene Brown. Her books, podcasts, articles, Netflix special, and basically everything else she has done is phenomenal. One of the key topics she speaks regularly on is the idea of vulnerability. This is an important key to any successful relationship. I first noticed this when I started doing marriage therapy, almost fifteen years ago. Brene Brown helped me put a name and research behind what I had been seeing for so long. Couples and individuals that are struggling in relationships have a difficult time being vulnerable.
What does someone who struggles with vulnerability look like? It is the person who has a difficult time identifying and expressing primary emotions-or in other words those really hard sticky emotions like hurt, sadness, loneliness, grief etc. For countless years I have seen couples come into my office and as they express their feelings of anger they create a solid wall or barrier between themselves and their partner. As we work on knocking that wall down and identifying those hard emotions it is very difficult for these couples because they have stopped the vulnerability in their marriage for so long. Sometimes years. Sometimes decades. What happens when vulnerability is turned off? That wall between the couple gets higher and thicker. Emotions are not expressed, except through anger or passive aggression. Resentment grows. Communication decreases. Emotional and sexual intimacy decreases. The couple starts to lead completely different lives.
In therapy, we work tirelessly on creating a safe space where each person in the relationship can express their feelings and be truly vulnerable. It is amazing to see the progress when they can look at each other and state they feel lonely and unimportant rather than yelling. The couples I work with laugh because I am always saying to them “turn to each other. Talk to each other not to me.” Through this sometimes uncomfortable process comes true vulnerability. Through vulnerability couples are able to better share their emotions, thoughts, and feelings without the fear of judgement. These couples communicate better, fight more productively, and have better emotional and sometimes sexual intimacy. The ability to be vulnerable with your partner is a game changer!
I challenge you to work hard to implement more vulnerability into your marriage. If your marriage is in trouble and you feel this is lacking please come in for counseling! Working on this and other essential keys can help rejuvenate your marriage.
We have all heard the saying Disconnect to reconnect. It is a bid to turn off electronics in an effort to become closer to the people in our lives. Recently, I had an opportunity to experience this. Over the holidays, we had a party at a family member’s home. As my husband and I were packing up our things, we looked around to make sure we had gathered all of our childrens belongings. We didnt see anything and went home. After putting my children to bed, I looked around and realized I had left my phone at the party somewhere. For the rest of the evening and most of the next day, I was without my phone. I never realized how much I depended on, and looked at, my phone until I didn’t have it.
That evening, before bed, there was no internet surfing, or YouTube watching. I simply read my book and went to bed. Since it was the holidays, I did not need to set an alarm and awoke on my own. As a reached for my phone to check my email and look at the weather, I realized I didn’t have my phone. Throughout the day, I went to reach for my phone only to realize I didn’t have it. Around noon was when the realization came that I looked at my phone for very stupid reasons and did it far too often.
I retrieved my phone at about three in the afternoon. The rest of the day I made a concerted effort to not look at my phone. By the end of the day, I felt more connected to my children, my spouse, and felt better overall. This could have been for numerous reasons, but I account a great deal of it to the decrease in my phone usage.
I recently watched a Ted talk by Collin Kartchner about phone usage/social media and children. It was a wake up reminder that our children need to feel important and loved. At times, our use of technology can leave them feeling unloved. At the very least, it sets a precedent that they will follow when/if they get a phone. When you have a few minutes, I urge you to watch it.
How often do you look at your phone? Is it for mindless things or for work? Obviously our jobs require us to use technology to complete tasks for work. However, do we stay focused on our work and then turn it off? Or does that create an avenue for perusing the internet? I challenge you to leave your phone at home when you go on your next date night. Forget it at a friends house. Turn if off after dinner. Finish your work and then turn off your computer for he night. See if it makes a difference in the way you feel.
Years ago I had a co worker who was notorious for not accepting compliments. One day, I told her that her hair looked nice and her response was “Does it not look good everyday?” Another time, I expressed that I liked her shoes. “I guess my other shoes aren’t cute then” was her response. Do you know someone like this? It can be frustrating when you are vulnerable enough to share a compliment with others and it not received well. It seems that a lack of accepting compliments can be tied to one of three things.
The first is a lack of self esteem. When we do not think kindly about ourselves, it is often times hard to accept that others think highly of us. Negative self talk can often lead to thinking positive things are untrue, and therefore it is difficult to accept when others think positively about us.
The second is a real or false sense of humility. I have run into this professional and personally many times. When a compliment is given the person shoots it down. “I don’t look good.” or “It’s not a big deal. I didn’t do all of the work.” My personal favorite is just a simple “What? No!” Whether it is to get more attention, the person is trying to be humble, or it is an actual sense of humility it is still frustrating when a response like this is given.
The third is true surprise. We have all had circumstances when we don’t feel like we’ve done a good job, and yet someone praises us for a job well done. A time when we didn’t feel good about how we looked and someone commented that we looked nice. Although this happens regularly,people don’t know how to respond because it is such a surprise.
What is do be done? I challenge you to look into your self talk. When you think positively about yourself you can accept that others do. When someone is vulnerable enough to share a compliment you can respond in a way that exudes confidence and humility at the same time. Here are five wonderful ways to respond when you get a compliment. Try these out and see if it changes the way you think about yourself, and the person who is giving you a compliment.
We’ve all heard of postpartum depression. A lot of us have known someone with postpartum depression. It’s those weeks, and sometimes months, after a woman has delivered her baby that trigger depression and anxiety. Little do people know, postpartum depression has a sister that is rarely talked about and sometimes, unknown. This is called antepartum depression.
Allow me to break this down just a bit. Ante is a latin term that means before. Partum refers to the delivery phase of the pregnancy. Depression has many definitions, so we will define it here as an overwhelming feelings of sadness. Therefore, antepartum depression means depression that happens before you deliver your baby. In other words, it is depression while you are pregnant.
I was first introduced to antepartum depression when I was pregnant with my third child. In my years of practice, I had worked with several pregnant mothers that described feeling down and blue. We worked through the depression, but I never named it or did a great deal of research on it. During my third pregnancy, I was very sick. Days of sickness turned into weeks. The weeks turned into months. It turned out that my entire pregnancy, I was extremely sick. After feeling sick for weeks on end, I started feeling depressed. My desire to do things that usually brought me happiness seemed unimportant. My energy was incredibly low. I had a hard time getting out with friends and family because I didn’t feel up to it. For weeks, I complained that I didn’t feel like my normal self.
After some time, I set out to find more information about antepartum depression. Realizing that it is a real problem that many women struggle with made me feel a lot better. I started naming it, talking to people about it, and taking steps to make myself feel better. This did not come easily and took me a long time to do. In fact, while I was diligent about doing all of those things, I still feel that my depression lasted until I delivered my daughter. However, talking about it and getting the help I needed really made all of the difference in the world.
What are the symptoms of Antepartum Depression?
The symptoms of antepartum depression are very similar to depression outside of pregnancy. This include but are not limited to:
-Feelings of worthlessness
-Feelings of guilt
-Change in sleep (sleeping more or less than usual)
-Change in eating habits
-Change in desire to do things that once brought happiness
-Thoughts of hurting yourself
-Thoughts of suicide
What can I do to treat my antepartum depression?
-Psychotherapy is one of the best tools to use when dealing with antepartum depression. A therapist can help guide you through your thoughts, feelings, and help give you solutions to work through them
-Medication is another route to take. This has implications on your baby and you will want to talk in depth with your medical provider. There are some medications that are safer to take while pregnant.
-Herbal supplements are another option. Again, talk to your doctor about what he/she feels is best for you and your pregnancy. There are several herbal treatments that can help.
-Foot zoning was a major help while I was dealing with antepartum depression. It eased my sickness and helped me feel more centered with my thoughts and feelings.
-Exercise is the last thing you want to to when pregnant (and depressed) but it is truly one of the best things you can do. Even walking around the block will release endorphins that will help your mood.
-Eating a balanced and healthy diet will be beneficial for you physically and mentally during your pregnancy.
-Sleeping and getting enough rest is essential during this time.
If you are suffering from Antepartum Depression, please know you are not alone! Thousands of women suffer from this on a daily basis. Share this blog post with someone you feel needs to hear about this. Antepartum depression is rarely talked about and needs to be an active conversation with women who are expecting babies. If you need further help, please call Wasatch Family Therapy. There are kind and professional therapists here to help you through this difficult time.
In 2007, my sisters and I decided to run a 10k together. It was perfect timing, as I had just moved from Logan (Go Aggies!) and needed a new hobby. I trained hard and finished the 10K in a little under an hour. The morning of the race was an emotional high. All of the runners at the starting line anxiously waiting for the race to begin. The high as you finished the race. The amazing feeling of accomplishing something. I had found my new passion.
Fast forward to 2009 when my husband, sister, and I decided to run the Wasatch Back Relay Race. I had recently gone through a very difficult miscarriage, and, without knowing it, was headed into almost two years of infertility battles. My second leg of the race was at two in the morning. The stars were bright as I ran along the side of the road in the dark with just myself, my music, and my headlamp. At some point, I remember starting to cry and allowing that to happen. The rest of the race, something magical occurred. A lot of my worry, anxiety, sadness, and fear got translated into my running. I allowed all of those feelings to fuel my run, and it felt amazing. That race helped me heal from a lot of sadness. Over the next two years, I ran races and trained to help myself get through a lot of the feelings that came from infertility.
Now, let’s fast forward to 2018. Modern medicine is a wonderful thing, and my husband and I have three wonderful children. They are seven, four, and eighteen months old. Now running takes on a different role in my life. It helps keep me in shape. It is a hobby that gives me some time away from my kids so I can be a better mother. It motivates me to make and accomplish new goals. It makes me a happier, more satisfied person. It helps my patience with my kids and my husband. Running keeps me sane.
When you exercise, your body releases something called endorphins. These chemicals helps reduce your perception of pain and can also trigger a positive feeling. These chemicals will help you fight feelings of depression and anxiety. Exercise is consistently something I encourage my clients to participate in.
What do you like to do to stay active? What kind of exercise keeps you sane? This summer, get outdoors and experience some different activities and find which one you like the best. It will be one of the best things you do for your physical and mental health.
Do you watch or listen to Ted Talks? I do, and I love them. There’s something satisfying about listening for ten to twenty minutes while I clean my house. I recently listened to one that is fantastic and really taught me a lot.
Dr. Guy Winch is a psychologist who writes and speaks about the discrepancy between physical first aid and emotional first aid. His thesis is that we are very quick to take care of our physical health, but we often put off taking care of our emotional health. This discrepancy becomes difficult because we often experience more emotional problems than physical ones. One of the most consistent conversations I have with people in my practice is about the importance of taking care of ourselves emotionally. For some reason, we don’t see it as weakness when we break our leg and need a doctor. However, when we are struggling emotionally, we may find it difficult to see a therapist. We brush our teeth daily to maintain dental hygiene, but what do we do to maintain our emotional health?
I invite you to listen to this talk and take some notes on how to administer some emotional first aid to you, your spouse, and children.
The second Ted Talk I love is by Brene Brown. Watching this talk is a common homework assignment I give people I work with. Vulnerability is such an important, and difficult thing. As you watch this talk, I hope you think about ways you can be more comfortable being vulnerable with yourself, and especially your spouse.
I recently listened to a fabulous podcast where Brene Brown was being interviewed. (For those of you that don’t know, Brene Brown is a very well known therapist, researcher, and author. She has written several, brilliant books about embracing vulnerability and recognizing the difference between guilt and shame. Her books have had a big impact on my personal and professional life. I highly recommend all of them.) In the podcast Brene focused on being comfortable in experiencing vulnerable emotions. In particular she spoke about joy.
In Brene’s research she stated that joy was often associated with fear. Her example was simple, but profound. She spoke of a parent lovingly watching their child sleep at night. In that moment of joyful contemplation the parents often reported a high degree of fear right after having the feeling of joy/contentment. What if my child dies at an early age? What if I contract cancer? Everything is so good right now, something has to go wrong soon. When I heard this example I knew exactly what she was talking about! I have had those same thoughts and feelings as I tucked my children into bed. As I thought about it, a lot of times I feel joy I realized it was very often followed up with fearful thoughts that my happiness could only last so long before something went wrong.
The answer to challenging this commonplace problem showed up in Brene’s same research project. She stated there were a number of people that reported after they had joyful feelings they purposely stated thoughts of gratitude to themselves. Instead of leaving the situation feeling fearful and worried, like so many did and do, this second group of people reported feeling joyful, happy, and grateful. These people made mention of giving gratitude to a higher being, a thoughtful spouse, their jobs, health, and many other things that allowed them to feel happiness in that moment.
I took this to heart. Over the last week or two when I have noticed feeling happy with my family, marriage, house, holiday season, or really anything, instead of following up with a negative or fearful thought I immediately stated how grateful I was in the moment for that joyful feeling. What a difference! It seemed like the joy I was feeling multiplied and lingered much longer than when I had chaotically thought about what may go “wrong” next to ruin my happiness. It has made me a better wife, mother, friend, and daughter to practice this easy technique.
This holiday season I challenge you to experience true joy. In those loud or often quiet moments when you find yourself feeling happy, follow those thoughts/feelings up with thoughts of gratitude. Why are you happy? Who helped you achieve that happiness? Why are you grateful for having the joyful feeling? Extend your Thanksgiving list of gratitude into the Christmas season, and notice the difference it will make.