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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

Emotion

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 www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com 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 www.pacer.org


Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com 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 www.drjuliehanks.com. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com 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?

Making Wedding Anniversaries Meaningful

MAKING WEDDING ANNIVERSARIES MEANINGFUL – on KSL TV’s Studio 5

Self and Relationship Expert Julie Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares tips for making wedding anniversaries meaningful.


More couples “tie the knot” during the summer months which means more couples are also celebrating wedding anniversaries at this time of year. Taking the time, effort, and forethought to create meaningful anniversary traditions helps to nurture your marriage and to keep the romance alive. Reflecting on the history of your early relationship, and recommitting to the promises you made on your wedding day increases the sense of emotional security and deepens the bonds of love. Here are a few tips to inspire you to make your wedding anniversary more meaningful.

REVIEW YOUR EXPECTATIONS

Discuss your expectations with your spouse. Decide who’s planning the celebration, what the budget is, and other important details. Don’t expect your husband or wife to read your mind, or to know what you’d like to celebrate your special day. It’s your responsibility to talk about you wishes to your spouse if there’s any chance they’ll come true.

After discussing their expectations, Travis & Edie Morgan decided to celebrate their 13th Wedding Anniversary or “Family Birthday” by going to a cabin with their young children.

REVISIT ROMANTIC MOMENTS

Anniversaries are the perfect time to plan a visit to the special places of your early courtship and marriage day. Walk through the park where he proposed, visit the site where you took your marriage vows, or recreate your honeymoon. Reenacting your first date or the night of your engagement can be a fun anniversary activity.

Will & Jennie Bush revisit the mountain where Will proposed as part of their 3rd wedding anniversary. They even found the door where they carved their names on their engagement day.

REMINISCE ABOUT YOUR WEDDING DAY

Consider sitting down together and look through your wedding photos, watch your wedding video, or read through your guestbook. Share with your spouse your favorite memories of your wedding day…or wedding night. Recalling the special wedding day moments with your spouse keeps those memories alive, and brings back loving feelings.

Looking at this photo of our wedding over 21 years ago brings back amazing memories and wonderful emotions.

REQUEST A HOLIDAY

You take off time for holidays like Christmas and July 4th so why not take a day off for the most personal holiday, your anniversary? Get a baby sitter, request the day off of work and spend the day with your sweetheart. Even if you’re just running errands, going to lunch, or taking a nap, spend the day together.

Daniel & Debra Breitenstein take time off from work to celebrate their first anniversary at the Anniversary Inn.

RENEW YOUR COMMITMENT

Whether it’s a formal renewing of vows in a ceremony surrounded by family, a verbal expression over a candlelit dinner, or a handwritten love letter expressing your on-going commitment to your spouse, do something that reminds your spouse that you are wholeheartedly committed to your marriage and that you treasure him in your life.

Kevin & Laura Brotherson, married 19 years, renew their commitment by taking a photo on each anniversaries and display them in their home as proof of their on-going commitment to each other. Kevin & Laura are founders of Strengthening Marriage, Inc., www.StrengtheningMarriage.com.


Self & Relationship Expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, founder and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, LLC specializes in women’s mental health therapy, marriage counseling and family therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com to learn more about counseling services, workshops, & classes. Visit www.drjuliehanks.com for more inspiration on how to let your best self shine!

WATCH MORE TV SEGMENTS HERE

READ JULIE’S ARTICLES HERE

Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child: Studio 5

Raising An Emotionally Healthy Child on KSL TV’s Studio 5

Self and Relationship Expert Julie Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares how you can become your child’s “emotion coach” and help her develop emotional health. Watch the segment online!


As a parent, I find it’s often easier to focus on my children’s physical and external needs (food, shelter, clothing, grooming, education, relationships) than on their emotional needs. As a therapist I understand the crucial role that emotions play in our lives, but when I was a new mom and my own children expressed intense emotions, it was challenging to help them work through it. I tried hard not to shame or to dismiss their emotions, but I also didn’t want their intense emotion to rule my life…or theirs. When I came across the work of Dr. John Gottman and his book Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child several years ago I remember thinking, “This fits with what I intuitively knew about parenting and it describes the parent I want to be!” It provided a framework to help me more effectively help my children understand and express emotions in healthy and productive ways.

 

Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

According to Dr. John Gottman’s research emotionally healthy, emotionally intelligent children are better able to regulate their emotions, calm their heart rate faster after being emotionally upset, had fewer infections, are better at focusing attention, have healthier peer relationships, and perform better academically. The best way to help you children achieve emotional health is to adopt an “emotion coaching” parenting style.

Dr. Gottman’s 5 Steps to Emotion Coaching:

1. Be aware of your child’s emotions

2. View emotional expression as opportunity for teaching and intimacy

3. Listen, empathize, and validate your child’s feelings

4. Label emotions in words your child understands

5. Help your child come up with solution or way to manage emotions

Recommended Parenting Books:

Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman, PhD & Joan Declaire

Parenting From The Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell
____________________________________________________________________________________

Self & Relationship Expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, founder and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, LLC specializes in women’s mental health therapy, marriage counseling and family therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com to learn more about counseling services, workshops, & classes. Visit HERE for more relationship advice.

Join the discussion by posting comments below (your email will be kept private). I’d love to know your favorite parenting books. What do you do to raise emotionally healthy kids?

Boost Your Emotional Energy: Studio 5

Boost Your Emotional Energy

 


Do you wish that you had more energy? I do. I often look at my three year old who jumps out of bed with boundless energy, excited to face the adventure of the day, with envy. Unlike my three-year-old daughter, who has relatively few worries and concerns, I have many potential concerns that can drain emotional energy. Life transitions, grief and loss, mental or physical illness, stress, and relationship distress can all take a toll on emotional energy.

Energy is defined as a usable power source. “E”motions are “energy in motion”, propelling us to move in certain directions. More than mere physical energy; emotions provide a deeper, internal energy source. We’re talking today about how to use emotional energy as a power source and how to boost our emotional energy. According to therapist and researcher Mira Kirshenbaum, emotional energy is, “an aliveness of the mind, a happiness of the heart, and a spirit filled with hope.”

Tips for boosting your emotional energy:

Pursue your passions

What gets you excited about life? What do you look forward to? What emotionally energizes you? Dream big! Passion is a life compass, pointing you to your unique strengths and life purpose. Being involved in your passions refuels your emotional energy. When my sister Rachel Coleman’s daughter was born profoundly deaf, Rachel, along with our sister Emilie Brown, started producing Signing Time! DVDs designed to improve the communication of all children by teaching American Sign Language. Their passion is infectious and has inspired many families throughout the world.

Live on purpose

What is your life about? What is your greater purpose? How are you making a difference for others? Having a purpose greater than your own life is energizing and can even transcend physical health problems and chronic illness. A wonderful example of this purpose is the well-known actor Christopher Reeves. After being thrown off of a horse, he became quadriplegic and he dedicated the remainder of his life to advocating for research and life enhancement for individuals with spinal cord injuries.

Just say “no”

Do I want to do this? Does this feel emotionally energizing or emotionally draining? What you want matters. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. If you find yourself doing things just to please others, to avoid guilt, or because you think you “should”, you may be unnecessarily draining your emotional reserves. Resentment is a helpful clue that you need to put “no” back into your vocabulary, and start being more selective about what you commit to. Distance from draining people

Guard your emotional reserves by being selective about who you spend time with and who you listen to. Just as joy can be contagious, negativity of others can seep into your emotional space and drain you. If you notice any of these chronic patterns, consider taking a step back and reflecting on your relationship. Complaining, blaming, belittling, gossiping, demanding, rigid rules, and excessive neediness are a few examples of draining relationship patterns.

Invest in important relationships

We are all born to connect with others. It’s necessary for our very survival. Close relationships can emotionally energize you like nothing else in the world. Prioritize the relationships that feed your soul, and take care of your intimate family relationships above all others. Take time to connect with your loved ones, and to let them know on a regular basis how much you value them.

Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow. ~Swedish Proverb

It is in the shelter of each other that people live ~ Irish Proverb

Self & Relationship Expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW, founder and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, LLC specializes in women’s mental health therapy, marriage counseling and family therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com to learn more about counseling services, workshops, & classes. Visit www.drjuliehanks.com for more inspiration on how to let your best self shine!

What do YOU do to boost your emotional energy? Comment below (your email will not be made public) 🙂

Finding Strength Through A Divorce

Finding Strength Through A Divorce


Divorce is a time of crisis: “a dangerous opportunity”. It is an opportunity to find out that you’re stronger than you think you are. Though individual circumstances vary greatly from one divorce situation to another, you have a choice in how you respond to divorce. As with all difficult and painful life transitions, this familiar adage applies to divorce “You can become bitter or you can become better.”

Finding Strength Through A Divorce:

1-Redefine

Going through a divorce requires redefinition of yourself, your family, your relationships, your life. It’s a time for honest self-reflection: a time to look inside of yourself and shift your views to accommodate the many life changes you’re going through.

Ask yourself:

Who am I without the marriage and the role of “wife”?

What were my contributions to the demise of the marriage?

What can I learn from this experience that will make me a stronger person?

2-Refocus

Divorce is a time to take inventory of what matters most to you. If you’re children have become less of a priority during the stress of the divorce process, recommit to investing more in your relationship with them. If you’ve given up a hobby or interest during your marriage, pick it up again. If spirituality is important to you, recommit to investing in your connection with God.

Ask yourself:

What aspects of life are most important to me?

What areas of life do I want to focus on now?

Am I investing my time and energy into who and what I value most?

3-Redesign

The end of a relationship that one or both of you didn’t want will free up energy to invest in other parts of your life. Though it’s scary to explore the uncharted territory of life as a single person, try actively taking risks to get out or your comfort zone. A former therapy client decided to go back to school and get her MBA after she divorced, a dream that she’d put on hold when she married.

Ask yourself:

Who do I want to become?

What am I most passionate about?

What are some activities that will get me out of my comfort zone and expose me to new people and experiences?

How do you find strength through difficult times? Feel free to post your comment below.

Find Your Inner Strength: Studio 5

Find Your Inner Strength


When you hear the word “strength” you likely think of traits or characteristics that are easily visible to others. But you also have “quiet” strengths that are demonstrated in your relationships interactions, and in who you are. These quiet strengths might be empathy, being a good listener, making others feel important, spirituality, and more.I’m continually inspired by the inner strengths of many women that I meet with in my counseling practice, and in workshops, who are dealing with difficult life situations: the loss of a child, marital distress, debilitating depression, chronic illness, and more. They face difficult life situations with courage and strive to move beyond their current situation.One of my own quiet strengths is the ability to reflect on my inner life and on my relationships and express my experience through songs. I gain much inspiration for themes and lyrics from my important relationships and life experiences.Three women in particular have inspired me with their quiet strengths of self- acceptance, emotional depth, and consistent support.

1-Self-acceptance

I have known Sara White for over 15 years and have been inspired by her strength of self-acceptance. Now well into her 90’s, Sara continues to enjoy her family and friends and exudes an inner beauty that is evident to all who know her. Through difficult life experiences Sara has grown in beauty and grace. The years have been a friend to her.

God’s Signature

(lyric excerpt, written by Julie de Azevedo)
These lines are signs of many lessons learned
Carved out through time
Smiles that warm and tears that burn
And unexpected turns
Time has been my friend it seems
So let Him write on meYou can call me flawed
You can call it character
But I choose to call these changes
God’s signatureMaybe it’s part of His design
That our landscape shifts with time
And youth is just a blur
Maybe it’s part of His design
And letting go of pride
It’s proof that we’re alive…

2-Emotional Depth

Melodie Williams, a long-time friend and mentor has inspired me with her unique emotional depth and thoughtfulness about life. Always an optimist, Melodie has encouraged me to seek continual growth in my emotional and spiritual life while maintaining a hopeful outlook. As a professional painter, her depth is expressed beautifully in her artwork. To learn more about Melodie’s art visit www.melodiewilliamsart.com.

Dive Deep

(lyric excerpt, written by Julie de Azevedo)
Dive deep into this ocean
Brave uncharted sea
You’ll never own me
If you want to hold me
Dive deep
Dive deep into this ocean
Cradle any jewel
Swim with the lover
Dance with the mother
Kiss the wife
And laugh with the girl

3-Consistent Support

My mother, Linda de Azevedo , dedicated her life to raising nine children. It wasn’t until I became a mother that my appreciation for her deepened as I realized the impact of her constant support throughout my life. I wrote this song “Angels” as a tribute to her life. Still, she continues to be a source of support to me and my family generously offering praise, encouragement, and practical help whenever possible. Soon after this segment airs, she will be the first to call or send a text cheering me on.

Angels

(lyrics excerpt, written by Julie de Azevedo)
She was a girl just a young girl at nineteen
When she left behind her the life she had known
Got all dressed up in white
Oh to be a new bride
And set out to make a house a home
When she found herself she was drowning in laundry
Up all the night and driving all day
And every few years she would come up for air
In between lessons, carpool, and PTABut the angels they carried her
Through the fire and the rain
And the angels they carried her
From the end of her rope to the end of her day
And the angels, they sang to her
So she know someone was there
She had wings and prayers
Looking back it’s clear
She was touching heaven all those years…


 

My new CD “Masterpiece: The Best of Julie de Azevedo” is available at Deseret Book.