Timeouts aren’t just for kids

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Reduce conflict with your significant other: Try a Timeout

Timeouts aren’t just for kids. They can be used to keep relationships in check as well. Many of us encounter conflict when in a relationship. While this is normal, knowing how to address it is even more helpful.

How to take a timeout:

  1. Notice your body cues during a fight with your significant other.

When we get into conflict our body will give us signs, many times before it event starts to escalate. These signs can be a sinking of the stomach, tightening of back or shoulder muscles, clenching of jaws, louder voice, or clenching of fists.

The goal is notice your body cues before a fight escalates. This is your early warning system.

  1. When you notice your cue, take a time out.

When you notice your “cue” or body reaction, take a time out. The body’s reaction is a sign you are entering your stress response. This means parts of the brain go offline, which is a normal part of our stress response. This is why fights normally occur in patterns or over similar subjects without resolution. Taking time apart in different rooms, for 5 or 10 minutes, can help the body calm down and allow those parts of the brain to come back online.

  1. After the time out, decide if you want to talk about the conflict now or another time.

Conflicts must be worked out in relationships, sweeping them under the rug will only cause more problems. After the time out, when both of you have calmed down, ask your partner if he/she would like to discuss the conflict now or later. Both of you need to agree upon the time in which you discuss the issue.

  1. Use the timeout again if needed.

Sometimes the conflict can escalate again after the first time out, if this occurs it is fine to take another one. Taking breaks from the fight helps the conflict lose steam and create space for the brain to go into problem solving mode rather than an attack or defense mode.

  1. When the conflict is resolved, discuss how to reduce future conflicts using what you have learned.

Conflict is inevitable in relationships; however, most issues never need to escalate into a fight. Talking about the patterns, feelings, and meaning behind the conflict can help shed some light on how to address future issues like this in a healthier manner.

Why this works

Taking this approach helps interrupt our body’s stress response. If one or both people are experiencing their stress response many higher-level brain functions are taken offline. This means one or both of you have little ability to empathize, problem solve, understand, or communicate properly due to those areas of the brain being taken offline. Taking the break helps give the body time to relax, reboot and the ability to better navigate the situation.

3 Self-Fulfilling Prophecies of Depression

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Depression is a cunning condition that uses our thoughts and feelings against us to continue to build itself up. I call these self-fulfilling prophecies because this is how depression supports itself. It gives you an expectation then wants that to be your reality. Below are the commons ways depression sneaks into your life.

  1. No one cares about me

Depression alters our social life in a way that we become less connected to those around us. It even goes further and makes it more difficult for us to accurately “read” others’ facial cues and connect with them on an emotional level. This is one of the reasons why people you may know start to shy away from others when depression occurs.

  1. I can’t do anything right

Decision-making is affected almost right away when depression starts to develop. This helps depression to stay in control by making it more difficult to make decisions. This happens and it is difficult to separate yourself from it. This is also where the negative thoughts begin to take place, commonly we are not good enough and that we do not deserve this.

  1. This will never end

When depression pulls you in, it starts to convince you that you will always feel this way and no matter what, this is how your life will be. It does this by altering brain chemistry to promote these thoughts over time. After awhile, you may start to believe this is how life is supposed to be and stop pushing against it. Many have even reported becoming comfortable with their depression since they have endured it for so long.

The Truth

Depression is a cunning enemy that can suck all the motivation and fight right out. These self-fulfilling prophecies are what cause depression to start, get worse, and can even lead it to lasting for years. This is one of the many reasons why seeking help to fight against depression can be so effective in separating yourself from it. Having someone to help remind you that people do care, you can do things right, and that depression will end. This goes a long way in breaking those chains of thought that support a depressive lifestyle. If you want an ally to help you with depression, please contact us.

5 Signs you may need marriage counseling

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1. Ongoing fighting and arguing about the same or similar issues

Arguing and fighting (not physically) occur naturally in a relationship and are even healthy to some degree. However, when these conflicts arise out of the same issues repeatedly, they start to build a pattern of tension and self-protection in a relationship. This will curb communication and can easily lead to emotional detachment from your spouse.

2. Emotional detachment

The “spark” in a relationship is from the emotional attachment you feel with another person. A person can physically be there for you, but if they are not able to connect with you on an emotional level, a detachment starts to occur. Emotional detachment can occur for many reasons and is normally a strong indicator of trouble in a relationship.

3. Feeling like you must “walk on eggshells” often

Avoiding conflict in a relationship and feeling like you must be careful with what you do and say around your spouse can be a major issue in a relationship. This does not promote safety in the relationship, which means problems will most likely not be worked out. There may be appropriate times to wait and address a problem with disagreements but it should not occur often or persist in a relationship.

4. Receiving or engaging in constant monitoring

Technology makes it easier than ever to monitor all kinds of things, including our spouses. There can be many reasons this occurs but normally it means trust is lacking in a relationship. The tracking and monitoring of your partner will not build trust, and this pattern will continue until the relationship ends. There are many good reasons people may start monitoring their partner, but this will never heal the relationship injuries that have occurred. Trust is a key component of a relationship, and it needs to be built to enable a strong marriage.

5. Lack of physical connection

Intimacy is a key ingredient in strong relationship and has both an emotional and physical component. Many times, when a marriage is “in trouble” the couple’s sex life is the first item impacted. The reason behind this is our intimacy is related to how secure we feel with another person. If we do not feel secure, it is much more difficult to engage in any type of intimacy. If it has become harder for you or your spouse to engage in physical contact, sexual or nonsexual, this can be an indicator of disconnection in the relationship. By working through relationship challenges, intimacy develops and it becomes easier to engage in both emotionally and physically.

If you notice any of these signs and want to get more information or help with your marriage, please contact us.

Overcoming Fear

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Fear is an emotion all of us have felt and will continue to feel, at times, throughout ours lives. This emotion helps us determine if something is a threat and how to proceed. Fear is our very own warning light that pops up internally to let us know that something does not seem right and we need to be cautious. However, sometimes the warning light pops up all too often and, at times, when there really may be nothing to fear at all.

Predicting the future

Our brain and body are a team and one of the neat things they do together is help us predict the future. Our body “remembers” pain and discomfort that has been experienced and the brain will look for signs in our environment that pain or discomfort could come again. If it does, then those same body reactions will trigger again.

Overcoming fear

To illustrate, Let me tell you about my dog Snickers. My brother and I went to the APA of Missouri (an animal shelter) to adopt a dog. When we were looking at all the dogs there, it was a difficult decision to make. We introduced Snickers to my current dog Waffles. They got along best during their meet and greet. When I brought Snickers home, I started to notice things I had not when I was at the APA. For example, she did not like crossing thresholds or going into other rooms. She would also come cower by me when my brother got near her (something she did not do when we first met her). Snickers was afraid of us, the house, and to some extent even my other dog.

Snickers was so unsure of our home, she escaped from the backyard twice. I recovered her both times. She was afraid of this new place, new people, and wanted to get away. Many times when we are gripped with fear, we have a similar response, to run away or avoid whatever is causing the fear. The only issue is that avoiding what you are afraid of and continually running away will never help you overcome that fear. The brain will always register that fear as being justified if you continue to do the same behavior over and over.

With Snickers, it was a slow process; she needed to learn that she didn’t have to be afraid. So we were slow to approach her, we let her explore the house on her own, did not push her through the doorways or thresholds but helped to explore her curiosity by offering encouragement and, of course, treats. After a month, Snickers had formed a bond with her new “pack” and she no longer cowers in front of us, no longer runs away, and no longer is afraid to explore the house. Snickers had a lot of reasons to be afraid, her previous owners were abusive and she thought we might be the same.

Over time her fear has drastically decreased. She will play with friends that come over, be social with other dogs, and even let strangers pet her without cowering. Snickers had to learn that her fear was not accurate for every person and every situation like it had been before.

Paralyzed by Fear

What this story tells us is that experiencing fear comes from experiences, fear is normal, and fear can be reduced or changed with new experiences. Sometimes the experiences we have had in the past create an atmosphere of fear we carry every day. We may need a little push to create a life that is not dictated by fear. Facing fear is a challenging path and some need help to do it. Snickers would have never been able to trust other people unless we had shown her we could be trusted. The best way to work through fear is by walking towards it, and it is much easier to walk in the right direction with someone helping you the find the way. Contact us today to start overcoming your fear.

Common Mindfulness Practices – Part 3

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Common Themes

The common mindfulness practices involve a specific focus, as do all mindfulness practices. There are two other key items that are important when doing any mindfulness related activity. One is being kind to yourself. When your attention wanders, simply guide it back to the task without getting upset. Your attention is only doing what it is trained to do, and these exercises provide the opportunity to train your attention to work in a different way. Lastly, work on not attaching judgement to any task or thought that pops into your head. For example, if I am walking and focusing on my foot steps and I notice my shoelace is untied, my automatic thinking may be “oh that was foolish of me to not check my shoelaces before I left home”. Even that simple thought attaches judgment to how you think about yourself. Work on not attaching judgement to yourself. It is key to mindfulness because it helps build an attitude of acceptance for not only yourself but everything that is going on around you. This detachment from judgement will also help with emotional and overwhelming feelings.

Time to try

This series has been an introduce to mindfulness. However, the only way to truly experience it is to try it. Mindfulness practices are safe and can be practiced without professional help. As I mentioned previously, there are many more mindfulness activates other than the five I mentioned. Some of the others I have experienced are mindful coloring/drawing, breathing exercises, tapping on the body or on a surface near you, basketball shooting, and many more. The neat thing about mindfulness is creating your own activity and turning it into a mindful activity. Create your own by choosing an activity, keep your attention focused on it in a kind, non-judgmental way. Even tasks like washing the dishes can be a mindful exercise (something I do and makes doing the dishes much more relaxing). I encourage you to try it and see what works best for you, be creative and have fun. As always, if you feel like you need professional help give me a call or email and I will help however I can.