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All He Wants for Christmas is You – Studio 5

All He Wants For Christmas is You

but first…a sneak peak behind the scenes on Studio 5 set (& attempt to try out my new iPhone app)

Studio 5 contributor and licensed therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW shares meaningful gifts of self to give your spouse this Christmas.

The most meaningful Christmas gifts don’t require much money, but do require thought, time, and awareness. Though it’s fun to shop and wrap gifts, we ultimately all wish for the same emotional gifts from our spouse — things that can’t be purchased – gifts of self. We all long for reassurance that we are loved and cherished, for comfort when we are sad or hurt or scared, and for validation that our experience matters to the person we love the most. Even if your husband doesn’t have the words to express these wishes, he longs for the same emotional gifts too. Here are some ideas to get you started thinking less about gifts you can buy and more about gifts you can offer from your heart.

1. Gift of Emotions

Tell your emotional truth

Too often, in an effort not to hurt your spouse’s feelings, you may have stopped expressing the full range of emotions – your hurts, your fears, your anger and your joys, and dreams. “I don’t want to be a nag” or “I ‘m supposed to be nice and happy all of the time” are common phrases I hear in my therapy office as reasons women stop expressing themselves. It’s helpful to consider that intimacy means “into-me-see” or see into me. True intimacy requires a deep level of emotional honesty and the tender expression of a full range of emotions, not just the good, happy, nice ones. Your thoughts, your feelings, and your expression of them are what make you uniquely you.

Ask for what you really want

Sending clear signals about what you need emotionally from your spouse can be difficult. It requires an internal awareness and a willingness to ask deeper questions that go below the surface. Behind every complaint and criticism you have for your spouse is an emotional plea for closeness. Practice going below the complaint and expressing the emotional need directly. Instead of saying, “You always work so much! Are you going to be working until 8PM forever? I’m sick of eating dinner alone.” try saying, “I want to spend more time with you. I’m afraid that I’m not important to you. Can we plan a date night for this weekend?” Trust me. Being direct with your emotional needs is a gift to him.

More gifts of emotion:

Write a handwritten love letter describing in detail what you love your spouse and what they mean to you.

Write an apology of letter or forgiveness for past hurts.

Share your “Bucket List” with your spouse.

2. Gift of Attention

Push the pause button

When is the last time you really listened to your spouse? Do often find that you’re so busy with children, household chores, or other commitments that you rarely look your spouse in the eye and talk? If your conversations with your hubby are while you’re multitasking – unloading the dishwasher or texting or watching TV, you may want to practice “pushing the pause button”. If you’re focused on other things, you’ll miss the meaning behind what your hubby is trying to tell you. Too often couples I see in my practice are so distracted by other activities or so busy reacting from their own intense emotions that they completely bypass the emotional meaning of their spouse’s expression.

Here’s an example of how this might play out in a therapy session. In an effort to reach out to his wife John says, “I really miss you. You’ve been so preoccupied since our son was born. Let’s spend some alone time together.”

Megan responds defensively, “I’m trying to be a good mother. You know this is all new for me. I’m overwhelmed and I’m trying to be there for you – can’t you see that? Megan, flooded by her own emotions missed John’s main message of, “I miss you. I need you” and she heard some version of “You’re not good enough.”

If Megan had “paused” her emotions response and slowed down her reaction enough to hear his emotional message she might have said something like, “Oh, John, you really miss me and want to spend time together. Thank you for reassuring me of that.” Then once John is heard, Megan can share with John how she is feeling about the transition to motherhood. Putting your emotions temporarily on hold and really hearing your spouse is truly a gift.

Learn to speak his love language

Ask your hubby how he feels most loved and learn to be more proficient in his “language”. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, identified distinct categories of how people experience love: physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and gifts. Couples often give love in their own language instead of in their partner’s language. For example, if your husband’s primary love language is acts of service then make a special home cooked meal, or surprise him by doing all of his household chores. If his language is physical touch, actively approach him for a hug and kiss, hold his hand, sit by him, initiate physical intimacy more often. Offering love in his language will help him feel deeply loved by you.

More gifts of attention:

Ask him about the times he feels most loved and cherished. Take notes and do something from his list every day for a week.

Plan a candlelight dinner, turn off all electronics, and talk.

Plan a playful night of physical intimacy with your spouse.

3. Gift of Memories

Keep track of the good stuff

Do you keep a mental note of your spouse’s failings, or of past hurts or offenses? This year try write your hubby a Christmas letter recounting all of the good times, family milestones, and positive relationship moments. I knew a couple who did this for a few decades now enjoy a beautiful book containing years of personal expressions celebrating their memories of each year, significant family events, and the evolution of their love. To reflect on tender feelings and focus on the positive memories created through the years will validated that your husband is indeed cherished and loved.

Revisit the romance

Often I hear couples complain that they feel more like roommates than lovers.

After the initial infatuation of new relationships has faded, reclaiming and rekindling those romantic feelings takes…effort.

When is the last time you talked with your spouse about early romantic feelings that brought you together, browsed through your wedding photo book, or looked through photos of your favorite vacations? You don’t have to take a trip to the location of your honeymoon or first date to rekindle romance, just take a trip with your hubby down memory lane.

More gifts of memories:

Create a photo book of your favorite memories.

Create a relationship soundtrack CD with a mix of songs that have special meaning to you.

Plan a date to revisit a visiting a romantic location that has special meaning to you as a couple.

Learn more about my therapy practice

Good Parenting is Not What You Think: Studio 5

What you may not know about good parenting

Studio 5 contributor and therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW, shares important parenting skills you might be overlooking.

Good Parenting is not just about you treat your child. I recently stumbled across a recent blog on highlighting surprising research — two out of the three most effective parenting skills don’t directly involve interacting with your kids. In the recent issue of Scientific American Mind (Nov./Dec. 2010)“What Makes A Good Parent?” psychologist and researcher by Robert Epstein, PhD found that while showing love and affection to your child is the most important parenting skills, how you treat yourself and how your interact with your spouse or co-parent rank second and third. While real parents are quite good at love and affection, they report poorer scores on areas stress management and adult relationship skills.

These results aren’t surprising to me and coincide with my professional journey. Interestingly, all of my early training was in play therapy working directly with children, but within a few years I realized that the best thing I could do for children was to help support their mother’s emotional well-being and to support their parent’s in developing healthy relationships. In my practice I frequently see well-meaning parents who don’t take good care of themselves and their adult relationships and their children suffer. A common dynamic I often see in my practice working with divorced families is parents speaking poorly of their child’s other parent or putting the child in the middle of conflict between co-parents, with devastating impact on their child

Improve your parenting by developing skill these 2 areas:

Stress Management

Have realistic expectations for yourself
Take a “time out” when you’re overwhelmed
Practice optimism

Healthy Adult Relationship

Talk positively about other parent
Model affection & communication
Keep child out of middle

The Parents’ 10 Competencies

1-Love and affection – respect & support, physical affection, quality time together

2-Stress management – reduce stress, practice relaxation, positive outlook

3-Relationships skills – model good relationship with spouse/significant other, co-parent

4-Autonomy & Independence – treat child with respect and encourage self-sufficiency

5-Education & learning – promote learning and provide opportunities

6-Life skills – provide financially, plan for future

7-Behavior management – use positive reinforcement and punish as last resort

8-Health – model healthy lifestyle

9-Religion – support child’s spiritual and religious development

10-Safety – protect child & have awareness of child’s activities

Free Parenting Test

Test your competency in the “Parents 10” skill areas. Take this free online test :

Pat yourself on the back for your strengths and then make a plan to improve in the areas with lower scores. According to Dr. Epstien, good parenting skills can be learned and parenting classes can be an effective way to improve your parenting and help raise a happier, healthier child.




Toss Your “To Do” List

Toss Your “To Do” List

Therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares tips on how to transform your “To Do” list from a source of stress to a resource for success.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping a “To Do” list. Writing down errands, chores, and other things that you’d like to accomplish on a list can be a helpful tool, especially in remembering the details. The trouble with “To Do” lists is not that we use them, but how we use them. In my practice and in my women’s workshops I often hear individuals complain of feeling “not good enough” or thinking “I can’t seem to get anything done” and use their never-ending “To Do” lists as evidence for their negative self-evaluations. “To Do” lists usually contain things that you may not remember to do, and rarely encompass all of the things that you always remember and automatically take care of each day. Taking an occasional break from your “To Do” list can help you to relax and gain perspective. Practice acknowledging all of your important contributions that never actually make to a “To Do” list.

Tips for Tossing Your “To Do” list:

Try a “Ta Da” List

Try sitting down at the end of the day and listing everything you did that day. The most important things we do to care for ourselves and our relationships usually never make it on the “To Do” list! Include details of small tasks that you, and others at home or work, tend to overlook (i.e. changed the toilet paper rolls, organized the linen closet, finished a report for a co-worker, talked with an elderly neighbor). Remember to include the small relationship contributions that you have done to enrich the lives of those you love (i.e. talked with a friend about family stresses, prepared a church lesson, took your child to the doctor, made a meal for your family).

Here are some questions to help you get started on your “Ta Da” list:

• What did I do today that no one will notice unless it doesn’t get done?
• What did I do today to provide physical or emotional support to someone else?
• What did I do today that made life better than yesterday for myself and those I love?
• What did I do today to take care of myself?

Make a “To Be” Goal

Instead of focusing on tasks you’d like to accomplish, toss your “To Do” list and pick one personal quality or character trait you’d like to practice and improve upon throughout the day. Whether it’s demonstrating more patience with your elderly parent, practicing increased discipline at work, showing more trust in your spouse, or being a better listener for your child, shifting your focus from what you are doing to who we are being can help you to feel less overwhelmed by life’s details and more confident in yourself.

Here’s an alphabetized list of suggested personal qualities for your “to be” goals over the next 26 days.

Remember to focus on only one per day:

“No More Than 3” Rule

When totally tossing your “To Do” list isn’t practical, try limiting the number of items you focus on each day. Instead of having a running “To Do” list with an overwhelming number of items that need to be done over a period of time, try a daily “To Do” list with only 3 items. Limiting your expectations for each day can help you feel more accomplished than looking at the overwhelming number of items that still remain on the list. Renowned author and business management guru Tom Peters has said that the formula for business success is “under promise and over deliver”. That same advice applies to success in the business of life!

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, founder and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, specializes in psychotherapy with women and couples. She is passionate about women’s self-care and emotional health and frequently presents workshops to women’s groups around the country. Visit to learn more about counseling services or email You may also know Julie as an award-winning singer and songwriter. Visit

Handling A Narcissistic Mother: Studio 5

Studio 5 Contributor & therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW of Wasatch Family Therapy answers a viewer email on how to begin healing…

Have you ever dealt with a narcissistic family member? Do you have any recommended books or resources to share?

Sister Power: How sisters improve mental health

Sister Power: How sisters improve mental health

Studio 5 Contributor, Julie Hanks, LCSW with Wasatch Family Therapy has tips to help you tap into the positive power of sisters.

A recent New York Times essay “Why sisterly chats make people happier” by Deborah Tannen caught my eye because I have five, yes, FIVE sisters. I love research that supports what I already know from real-life experience — sisters are important to mental health. Having a sister protects teens against feelings of depression, loneliness, self-consciousness, fear, and being unloved according to Laura Padilla-Walker, head researcher in a recent BYU study.

The positive impact of sisters extends beyond adolescence into adulthood. British researchers Liz Wright and Tony Cassidy found that people who grew up with at least one sister were happier more motivated, had more friends, and were more resilient during difficult times, especially during parental divorce.

Here are some tips for helping your children, sisters AND brothers, develop close, positive relationships with each other during childhood and adolescence so they will continue to support emotional health as adults.

Tips to Help Your Kids Help Each Other

1) Show Affection

Encourage your family to express physical affection, to notice and express positive traits, to increase emotional sensitivity to siblings, and to celebrate other sibling’s successes. Affection is an important aspect that contributes to the positive mental health outcomes among siblings, According to Padilla-Walker, “An absence of affection seems to be a bigger problem than high levels of conflict.”

A-list star Gwenyth Paltrow, and her producer brother, Jake Paltrow are a great example of affectionate siblings raised in a loving home.

2) Express


Healthy emotional expression is a crucial component to emotional health. Wright & Cassidy found that in families whose parents divorce, sisters tended to express themselves, and encourage emotional expression in others leading to less distress.

Coach your children to express feelings to their siblings in a non-attacking way. Here’s an excellent tool to help your children communicate their emotion:

I feel (emotion word) when you (other’s specific behavior) because I think (thought) . I would like it if you would (requested behavior) .

Here’s an example: “I feel mad when you take my clothes without asking because I think you don’t respect my privacy. I would like it if you would ask me before you borrow my clothes.”

When single mother Jennifer Child’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer her sisters were her strength.
“I have 2 sisters whose lives CHANGED when my daughter was diagnosed. I was a young single mom, my sisters PULLED me through~ I COULD NOT have made it through without my family. We pulled together and somehow made it through this HORRIFIC time in our life. My sisters are my best friends. I now have 2 daughters, 6 and 7 they are best friends. They do fight like NO OTHER, but love each other as I have seen with my sisters.”

3) Show Kindness

Coach your children to treat each other with respect, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Having a loving sibling of any gender seems to promote kindness and empathy toward others, according to Padilla-Walker. Interestingly, the relationship between positive sibling relationships and good deeds was twice as strong as the relationship between parenting and a child’s good deeds.

Mother of eight children, Andrya Lewis, promotes kindness among her children “by having sleepovers on Friday nights with movies and treats and sleeping bags, by letting siblings tell good news and surprises and

distribute treats to the other siblings, and by verbally interpreting and translating that acts of kindness or service (like sharing a toy, or finding a lost shoe) mean their sibling loves them.”

4) Communicate Often

Tannen’s research found that women talk with sisters more often, at greater length, and about more personal topics than they do with brothers. She concludes that the frequency of contact with sisters, not necessarily the content of the communication, is most important component contributing to the positive impact of having a sister.

Annie Frazier says she checks in with her older sister Jennie Gochnour by text or phone every other day. “It’s not always a big conversation; often it’s just a check in. We share everything and it’s not judged. We have gotten each other through everything – deaths, marriages, and divorce. She’s the only reason I’m not in intensive therapy! I particularly remember one day when we were running together in the early morning. I was going through infertility treatments and hoping to get pregnant – despite the reality of the months of darkness that I knew were around the corner with my postpartum depression. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember what I felt. In her eyes, I could not have been any more wonderful – even though in my eyes, all I saw was failure, sadness and inadequacies. She was my crutch and has carried me along many dark roads that have led to beautiful moments of celebration. She has always been by my side.”

5) Minimize conflict

Set family rules of no name-calling and no physical fighting, and don’t be afraid to intervene in your children’s fights. High levels of sibling conflict is associated with increased risk aggression in other relationships, and increased delinquent behavior, but on the positive side, a little bit of conflict gives siblings a chance to practice emotional control and problem solving skills.

According to Oracne Price, mother to tennis superstar sisters, Venus and Serena Williams, though they are fiercely competitive on the court, her daughters are very close friends.

Do you have a sister? How has she impacted your mental health?

Mini Changes That Will Boost Your Mood: Studio 5

Mini Changes That Will Boost Your Mood

Researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of Positive Psychology’s top researchers estimates that 60 percent of your moods are impacted by a combination of genetics and environment. The remaining 40 percent of your happiness is within your control and can be altered by intentional activities. Here are a few simple changes that you can make today to feel happier and lighten your mood.

1-Listen to Music

Small changes in your environment can improve your mood, like listening to music. Music activates the pleasure center of the brain, according to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology at McGill University. Music can improve moods and intensify positive emotions–it doesn’t matter what kind of music you listen to, as long as you like it. I recently blogged about music and mood Music & Mood-Musings from a Songwriter and Therapist which includes playlists for when you’re stressed, lazy, frustrated, down, or lonely.
Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without — Confusious

In addition to adding music, other small changes in your environment can elevate mood. Nancy Etcoff, director of the Program in Aesthetics and Well-Being at Harvard found that there are many emotional benefits to having fresh cut flowers in your home. If you don’t have a special someone, send flowers to yourself.

2-Smile More

Emotions are contagious. Smiling makes you feel better inside and appear more attractive to others. Several research projects demonstrated that even forced smiles improved moods. Even when subjects held a pencil in their teeth causing facial muscles to simulate a smile they reported feeling happier.

Laughter is also contagious and helps reduce tension, promote relaxation, diminish pain, strengthen your immune system, and boost your mood. Watch a funny movie, play a zany game, do something silly, or hang out with hilarious people and you’ll feel happier.

3-Get Some Sun

Who doesn’t feel more cheerful when the sun is shining? Researchers agree that thirty minutes of sunlight daily can improve mood, improve sleep, and increase Vitamin D production. In fall and winter months when the days are shorter exposure to sunlight is even more important. If you tend to get the fall or winter blahs start planning now for a January vacation to a tropical island! In response to my Facebook post on asking what is a simple thing you do to improve your mood, many responses included outdoor activities such as hiking, walking, laying on the grass, and going to the beach.

Individuals who suffer from clinical depression during specific months may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a seasonal depression that can be diagnosed and treated by a health or mental health professional. One treatment for SAD is phototherapy which is exposure to sunlight or to an artificial light for a specific amount of time each day as prescribed.

4-Talk to Strangers

Your mother may have told you not to talk to strangers but researcher Elizabeth Dunn, assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, found that talking to strangers has a benefit — boosting your mood. We are used to being more cheerful around people we don’t know. So, next time you’re in an elevator or standing in line at the grocery store strike up a conversation and see what happens.

Reaching out to others in small, kind ways can help you feel happier. According to a University of California, Riverside study, participant who performed 5 acts of kindness in a single day reported feeling happier. If you want to be happy, practice compassion — Dalai Lama.
Many research studies found that in addition to kindness, an expression of gratitude also has a positive impact on mood. Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside found that participants who wrote down what they were grateful for once a week felt significantly happier. Try this by keeping a gratitude journal and write down all that you are thankful for each week

5-Change Your Mind

When you’re feeling low, your thoughts slow. Emily Pronin, assistant professor of psychology at Princeton University found that when research participants read statements quickly their mood and energy level improved, even if the statements they read were negative. Next time you’re feeling blue, try brainstorming solutions to a problem, playing a fast paced game, or engaging in witty banter with a friend to speed up your thoughts.

Another effective mood booster is to challenge your negativity. Just because you may think something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true. If you’re thinking “I’m dumb”, “I’m a slob”, or “I’m not lovable” challenge the negative thought by asking yourself, “Is it true?”, “Where did I learn this?”, “What is a healthier thought to replace this negative thought?” Changes in your mind translate into changes in your mood.

6-Move Your Body

Even if it’s only a brief walk, moving your body elevates your mood, especially if you’re outside. At Duke University researchers found exercise to be as effective as antidepressant medication for treating depression. For additional information on benefits of exercise watch my previous Studio 5 segment on exercise and mental health.

In addition to aerobic exercise, practice deep, rhythmical, and repetitive breathing and experience the benefits of elevated mood, reduced stress, and calmness. If you’re new to deep breathing read Dr. Weil’s article The Art and Science of Breathing for excellent beginning breathing exercises.

If you struggle with thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, feeling of guilt or worthlessness, disturbances in eating or sleeping, and experiencing low moods seek help immediately from a medical or mental health professional.

Visit for help with low moods, and to learn about my therapy clinic and individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults.

You Again? Moving beyond High School Insecurities: Studio 5

“You Again?” Moving Beyond High School Insecurities

Studio 5 Contributor and Family Therapist, Julie Hanks tells you what to do when an old rivalry resurfaces.

Few people feel neutral about their High School experience. You either loved it or experienced it as pure torture. Or a little of both. In the hit movie “You Again”, an exaggerated comedy about coming face to face with the women who bullied or betrayed you in High School, audiences reflect on their own High School experiences. Whether you were popular or picked on, prom queen or band geek, the bully or the bullied, you’ve probably experienced some insecurities and heartaches of your own during adolescence.

First love, first betrayal, new freedom, shifting hormones, and changing body make adolescence a time of insecurity and uncertainty that can resurface throughout adult life. As you shifted from family focus to peer focus, attempting to establish your own identity, adolescence experiences and emotions were potent then, and now. If a colleague gets a promotion at work that you think you deserve, it may dredge up the disappointment of not winning the student body election. Finding out that a trusted adult friend has broken a confidence may remind you of an earlier betrayal of trust when your high school so-called “best friend” spread a rumor about your throughout the school.


Here are some tips to soothe your inner adolescent and move beyond High School insecurities:

1) Adolescent experiences impact you but they don’t define you

Our early experiences help to shape who we are, but we get to choose who we will become. Many people use the mistreatment of earlier years as motivation to succeed as adults, or as fuel for their passion to help others.

Tina M. shared on Facebook says about her high school experience: I knew it was more in important to respected then to be “popular”, and in the end it always wins. We never know how we will impact the lives of others by just being accepting. I spent a lot of friday nights at home, but I knew my life was …different then those other kids at school and that one day they would get out of school and life would be a “slap in the face” so to speak. I had a lot of trials that caused me to have to “grow up” before the other kids and it made it all hard when other kids were really spoiled and had it easier. I tried to just be friendly regardless and now 11 years later they are all adults and i still enjoy a lot of their friendships and company. I was glad that I chose to just be kind.

2) It is never too late to apologize or to accept an apology

If you run into to a former classmate that you hurt, apologize. It always feels better to resolve something unresolved. Conversely, if someone who has betrayed you in the past apologizes for their immaturity, accept it so you can both move on. As an adult, I recognized that I needed to apologize to one of my sisters for being excessively mean during our adolescence. I even wrote a song for her. As adults, we are the best of friends because I apologized and owned my hurtful actions, and because she graciously accepted my apology.

3) People grow and change

The teens that may have hurt, or betrayed you in the past no longer exist. They are now adults with a wealth of life experiences. Even if you never run into them as adults, it may be helpful for you to imagine them as adults, with adult responsibilities, instead of that mean adolescent, in order for you to move past your pain.

4) Use your pain to empathize with others

If you were bullied, or taunted, you know the hurt and the self-doubt that comes with being mistreated. As an adult, you can use that pain to support and empathize with others who are going through difficult emotions. In my early adolescence I experienced firsthand the pain of being bullied. As I’ve matured, I’ve used that pain to empathize and become more sensitive to others in pain. Looking back, I can see that the bullying and taunting sprung from the insecurities and pain of the kids involved and had very little to do with who I was.

5) Teach children that they can make a difference

Bullying, teasing, name calling echo in victims’ minds long after the taunting has stopped. Likewise, the kind words or acts of encouragement and acceptance can provide hope to another person for years. Teach your children skills of emotional awareness in themselves and sensitivity to others.

Andrya Lewis shared this comment on Facebook: A couple years ago on face book I friended a guy who I was pretty sure wouldn’t remember me. He was a popular football hero type and the best friend of a guy I had a major crush on for all four years. I wasn’t part of that crowd and… had no reason to think he would know who I was. But as soon as he accepted my friend request he told me that he was a teacher and a football coach now and that I probably have legendary status among the students and athletes he works with. He holds me up to them as an example of how you should be. He tells them that I was an athlete and got good grades and was involved in lots of activities and was friends with everyone from every crowd. It was a crazy, amazing moment. I didn’t think he would know who I was! And although the first conversation we ever really had took place on face book 20 years after we graduated, THAT’s what he remembers about me! And not just remembers, but admired at the time. Wow. It was so cool.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. For information go to

Visit to learn about my therapy clinic and individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family!

How do your High School experiences impact your adult life? What triggers your adolescent insecurities?

(Email address will be kept confidential)

Lose the excuses! Exercise for your mental health

Lose the excuses! Exercise for your mental health

Exercise and fitness have been on my mind lately. As a faithful watcher of The Biggest Loser’s inspiring stories of overcoming personal hardship to reclaim health and fitness I’m looking forward to the show’s season premiere next Tues. Popular health guru Dr. Oz launched his “Just 10” challenge earlier this week, encouraging viewers to reduce heart disease by 50% & diabetes by 60% & arthritis by 50% by losing 10 lbs. The health benefits of physical activity are well-known, but you may not be aware of the significant mental health benefits of moving your body.

Exercise Improves Your Mental Health by:

Improving Mood

Researchers at Duke University found that exercise is as effective as antidepressant medication for treating depression.

Decreasing Anxiety

University of Georgia study found exercise to be effective at reducing anxiety symptoms.

Improving Memory

Exercise may stimulate areas of the brain responsible for age-related memory loss.

Managing Stress

Exercise may help the body’s systems practice dealing with stress.

Improving Self-esteem

Physical exercise has been shown to improve physical self-concept.

In my therapy practice I’ve often “prescribed” exercise to clients as a means to improve their mood, decrease anxiety, and manage stress levels and I’ve heard all kinds of excuses as to why clients can’t/don’t/won’t exercise. I’ve also used all of these same excuses in my own life at one time or another. Few of us are able to spend several months in a fitness camp, like The Biggest Loser contestants, but all of us can lose our excuses and learn to make exercise a priority for our physical and mental health. Here are some solutions to common exercise excuses.

Solutions to Common Exercise Excuses:

“I don’t have time”

Solution: Build it into your Schedule

Make your personal physical self-care a priority by putting it on your calendar. I recently hired a personal trainer and her available times are in the middle of the day – a time I have never exercised because I don’t want to be sweaty the rest of the day. I have worked through that and show up at my scheduled times because it’s on my schedule.

“I don’t have motivation”

Solution: Buddy system

Exercise with a partner or friend. Find someone who is relying on you to join them in exercising and will hold you accountable. The social aspect of exercise also has benefits for emotional health.

“I don’t have anyone to watch my kids”

Solution: Exercise with family

When you take your child to soccer practice bring your walking shoes and walk around the field for an hour. Put your baby in the stroller and stroll around the block. Find an activity that you can enjoy with your children. Consider joining a recreation center that provides child care. Baby sit swap with a neighbor.

“I don’t have the money to buy a gym membership or workout gear”

Solution: Choose free activities

Walking and hiking are great free activities that only require shoes. Also, check with your local recreation center for low cost or free activity options in your community.

For additional self-improvement & relationship resources connect with me at Visit to learn about my therapy clinic and individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family!


Do you have exercise excuses? How do you make the time to exercise? Comment below (email will be kept private)



Lose the Guilt about Hiring Household Help: Studio 5

Lose the guilt about hiring household help

Self and Relationship Expert Julie Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares tips for losing the guilt about hiring out some tasks at home or work.

Do you take on more responsibility and commitments than you can handle? Have you ever felt like you should do all of the household chores, or do you take responsibility to tie up all of the loose ends at work? Have you considered hiring out some of the tasks? Often, the thought of allowing other people to do what you believe is your responsibility can bring up feelings of guilt and inadequacy. My personal philosophy is: do what you love, figure out how to make money doing what you love, and then hire out everything else. Understand the tasks and roles in your life where you are irreplaceable and where are you replaceable, and hire out the replaceable tasks.


Tips to lose the guilt:

1) Think more like a man

A few years ago, when I was feeling overwhelmed at home and at work. My therapy practice was growing and I felt stretched too thin. The thought occurred to me, “What would a man do in this situation?” I decided instead of finding a part-time babysitter I would change the job description to part-time “home assistant” who would do laundry, cook, dishes, errands, or whatever else needed to be done to keep the household going on the days I worked. Thinking like a man also led me to seek out an office manager instead of trying to run the office myself.

2) Consider bartering

If you’re thinking, “I’d love to hire it out but I don’t have the money” then consider bartering with a family member, neighbor of friend. If you’re a gourmet chef but don’t like to work in the yard, find someone who doesn’t enjoy cooking but has a green thumb. You can offer to cook dinners in exchange for your friend planting your flower or vegetable garden. Start a child care co-op with other mothers with small children if you need help with child care. Get creative!

3) Shift your beliefs

Your thoughts may be perpetuating your feelings of guilt when you think about hiring out some of your tasks. Ask yourself these four questions to help you change your thinking and feel more freedom about getting additional help:

A) What situation is triggering the guilt?
B) What is my underlying belief?
C) Where does this belief come from?
D) What is healthier belief?

Here is a personal example from my own life. After I had my first child, I was still wanting to finish my education but I needed some tools to sort through the guilt relating to hiring child care:

What situation is triggering my guilt? Hiring a caregiver for my baby when I’m in class.
What is my underlying belief? I should be with my baby 24 hours a day. A good mom is always with her baby and puts her own goals on hold.
What is the origin of my belief? Cultural messages, beliefs of some family members.
What is healthier belief? I am my son’s primary caregiver, however, he will benefit from interacting with others, including his dad, grandparents, and other responsible adults.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Do you hire out any household responsibilities?

Simplify Your Day: The Art of Leaving Things Undone

Self and Relationship Expert Julie Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares tips for simplifying your day and mastering the art of leaving things undone.

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone. -Lin Yutang

I’m the first to admit that that I have a lot on my plate and that I like to get things done. However, I recently wrote a blog called Confessions of a Multi-tasking Mama about all of the things I don’t do  the things I leave undone. I received many emails and blog comments from women expressing relief that they are not alone in leaving things undone, and sharing their own candid œconfessions of what they leave undone. I’ve posted some of their comments at the end of this article.



I have surveyed hundreds of women and found that the majority of women felt guilty for all that they’re not doing (for leaving things undone). There will always be things left “undone”.

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