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How To Celebrate Our Differences: Studio 5

Therapist, Julie Hanks, says the first step to embracing other women is to accept ourselves.

Much of the vitality in a friendship lies in the honoring of differences, not simply in the enjoyment of similarities. -Unknown

It’s common for women to view other women’s differences choices, talents, age, race, religion, or marital status as divisive instead of inspiring. Here are six ideas designed to help women come together, to learn from each other, and celebrate our diversity.

1) Accept Yourself

Judgment, criticism, envy of other women is rooted in our own fears and insecurities.

Self-acceptance is the first step to embracing of differences in others and entails embracing our choices, unique talents, weaknesses, and life circumstance. Life is about growth and relationships are the soil in which we learn and grow.

It’s taken me years to accept my passion for education. I used to think, “I have small children. Why do I feel such a great desire to go to graduate school?” I used to compare myself to other women with small children who were content and fulfilled without complicating their lives with graduate school. Now, I have a deeper appreciation of my own personal desires and goals, making it easier to embrace other women’s choices.

“I really believe that one of the big reasons we feel threatened by other women’s choices is out of a feeling of insecurity about our own. The women who I feel like are able to celebrate that we all have our own paths are the ones who are at peace with the choices they have made.” – Katie Clifford

2) Eliminate The “Shoulds”

Believing that other women “should be more like me” creates feelings of judgment and criticism that create distance from other women. Conversely, “I should be more like them” leads to self-judgment, low self-worth, and anxiety.

One of the largest lines drawn in the sand between women seems to be the “working vs. stay-at-home mom” divide. This is a false dichotomy because all women work! It’s easy to talk about this divide in such extremes. Most mothers I know work very hard at whatever they are involved in and they are fiercely dedicated to their children.

“Maybe we could all start by being honest about the inherent struggles that come with each of those choices. If both “sides” felt comfortable being open about their lives, it would make everyone feel less defensive and find some common ground.” – Katie Clifford

“There is pressure on both sides of (the working vs. stay-at-home mom) issue. Social and religious pressure can make a woman feel like she needs to be home. Financial pressure can make a woman feel like she needs to be working. Every woman and every family are different. As we let go of the pressure we feel from others, we are less likely to pass that on to the people around us. I think we need to start a “Girl Code” where we focus more on loving and supporting each other! We are AMAZING when we come together!” – Amy King Walker says

3) Let Differences Inspire You

If you find yourself getting caught in the deflating game of “she’s so much better at (fill in the blank) than I am”, consider letting another woman’s gift, skill or trait be a springboard for the development of that particular gift or character trait. For example, younger women can look to older women for perspective and wisdom from life experiences, and older women may be inspired by younger women’s energy and passion.

I’ve mentioned my friend Sarah on the show before. She’s well into her 90’s so to say we’re in a difference age category is an understatement. Years ago when I was a new mother, she inspired me to view every life challenge as an opportunity to develop love and faith in my heart. Though she had been through many losses in her life, including the death of her first child, her husband’s substance abuse, she had used those experiences to develop deeper love and faith and inspired me to do the same.

“I have a friend who has never married and she is 40. She has 3 fantastic dogs that she loves, and she competes in Ms. Fitness competitions. All of my friends have aspects of their lives that are different than mine. I don’t have time to do all of these things, so I can benefit from them and their experiences.” — Mary Evans

“One way women can associate with one another is to share their talents. I have learned to sew from another woman in my church group.”– Kaija Purvis

4) Go Below The Surface

Judgment and criticism often stem from seeing only the superficial aspects of another woman’s life. Once you go deeper and get to another’s heart and mind, pain and joys, it’s so much easier to understand their choices and celebrate the differences. People make sense once you understand their story.

This is one aspect of clinical practice that I absolutely love. Every time I go to work I get to see into client’s hearts, families, hear their pain and their strengths, and hear their real stories. I have found that it’s always easier to accept and understand someone, even if they’ve made destructive choices, if you know and experience their story. People make sense.

5) The Grass Isn’t Greener

It’s easy to look at the lives of others with jealousy and envy when they have what we think we want. Every situation has five positive aspects and five very difficult aspects. No woman “has it all.” Seeing the diversity can help you appreciate what you do have.

Married women can learn to better appreciate their imperfect relationship from their single friends who wish they were in a committed relationship. Single women can learn to embrace their independence, freedom, and emotional space by learning to their married friend’s relationship situations.

“After a visit with an elderly widow, I am grateful for my hectic household, or a divorced friend might make me appreciate my husband more that day. A disabled friend makes me thankful I can shovel the driveway or mow the lawn.” – Debbie Nowers

6) Seek Out The Unfamiliar

Instead of gravitating socially to those who are just like you, when you walk into a room, or party, or gathering, actively seek out someone who is different from you — difference age group, different marital, socioeconomic status. Ask yourself, “What can I learn about her? What can I learn from her?”

“I celebrate differences with my friends by getting involved in things that they like. We invite each other to participate not only in fun activities, but also to tag along to business and family functions.” – Shawna Henry

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Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a therapist, self & relationship expert, media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com for 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.

For additional emotional health & relationship resources connect with Julie at www.drjuliehanks.com.

How To Stop Overreacting & Keep Your Cool: Studio 5

Over-reacting is when your emotional response doesn’t match the current relationship situation. There are general types two kinds of overreactions: external and internal. External overreactions are visible responses that others can see. For example lashing out in anger, throwing your hands up and walking away from a situation.  Internal overreactions are emotional responses that remain inside of you that others may or may not be aware of.  Examples of internal overreactions are replaying over a situation over and over in your head wondering if you said the right thing, or overanalyzing a comment made by a friend or loved one.

In her book “Stop Overreacting” author Dr. Judith P. Siegel suggests asking yourself the following questions to assess whether you or not you have a problem with overreacting:

Do you often:

  • Regret things you say in the heat of emotion?
  • Lash out at loved ones?
  • Have to apologize to others for your actions or words?
  • Feel surprised at your seemingly uncontrollable reactions?
  • Assume the worst about people and situations?
  • Withdraw when things get emotionally overwhelming?

Dr. Siegel also identifies 4 general triggers for emotional overreactions:

  • Envy – when someone gets something we want and we think we deserve
  • Rejection – humans are hard-wired to need connection and inclusion with others and exclusion triggers same brain receptors as physical pain.
  • Criticism – universal need to be approved of and accepted
  • Control – desire to get what we want and protect what’s important to us

How to stop overreacting:

1-Don’t neglect the basics

Sleep deprivation, going too long without food or water, and feeling overly stressed leave your mind and body vulnerable to exaggerated responses. This seems like a no-brainer, but for many women in the name of “taking care of others” they let their own basic self-care slip and ironically, it is their loved ones who are likely to end up on the receiving end of their emotional overreaction.

2-Tune in & name it

A stiff neck, pit in stomach, pounding heart, tense muscles can all be signs that you’re in danger of overreacting, of being hijacked by your emotions. Becoming more aware of physical cues actually helps you to stay ahead of, and in control of your response. Naming your feeling activate both sides of your brain allowing you to reflect on your situation instead of just reacting to it.

Recently, my teen daughter was expressing some intense hurt feelings about our relationship. While she was talking, I noticed a hot feeling rising in my stomach, and defensive thoughts.  Tuning in to my own body allowed me to slow down my own response so I could hear what she was saying and respond calmly.

3-Breathe before responding

When you feel like flying off the handle take a deep breath. Deep breathing slows down your fight or flight response and allows you to calm your nervous system and choose a more thoughtful and productive response.

Try taking a deep breath next time someone cuts you off in traffic. In my recent Facebook poll, overreacting while driving was the most commonly cited scenario for overreacting. Just imagine if all drivers took a breath before responding making hand-gestures, or yelling obscenities, the world would be a kinder place.

4-Put a positive spin on it

Once you’ve identified what’s going on in your body, you can intervene in your thoughts. When we have intense emotions it’s easy to go to a worst-case scenario as an explanation for whatever you’re reacting to. “They’ve never liked me” or “She always criticizes me”. Watch for all-or-nothing words like “always” and “never” as clues that you’re heading toward a worst-case scenario.

If someone offends you consider the possibility that the insult is not about you. Maybe the neighbor who snapped at you was just given a pay cut at work and feeling discouraged, or the person who cut you off in traffic is rushing to the hospital to see the birth of his first child. Make up a back-story that makes sense and puts a positive spin about whatever is triggering your emotional response.

5-Identify and resolve emotional “leftovers”

Notice patterns in your overreactions. If you find yourself revisiting a feeling or situation over and over again, there is likely a historical component to it that is being triggered that needs to be addressed.

In my therapy practice, I worked with beautiful, smart women who often became tearful and depressed when she heard about friends getting together without her.  She felt extremely insecure and rejected.  Her heightened sensitivity to being excluded by other women in her neighbor, even though she had many friends and was usually included in social gatherings was fueled by emotional “leftovers” in her past. She felt emotionally abandoned by her parents, ostracized by peers when she was young, which heightened her sensitivity to rejection as an adult. Through therapy I helped her to heal the earlier relationship wounds so she can be free to respond more clearly to present social situations.

Not all intense responses are overreactions

It’s important to note that not all intense emotional responses are overreactions. The distinction is whether your response matches the situation. In some instances, a quick and extreme response is necessary to protect our loved ones or ourselves.  I recall a time years ago when my oldest child son was a toddler riding his trike down the street. He was riding ahead of me because I was pregnant and a lot slower than usual. As I noticed a car slowing backing out of a driveway as my son was approaching the driveway I found myself sprinting toward the car, screaming at the top of my lungs with arms flailing frantically as I tried to get the driver’s attention and avoid a horrible tragedy. Luckily, the driver noticed me and stopped her car just short of my son. My exaggerated response was necessary to save his life and was not an overreaction.

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a therapist, self & relationship expert, media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy.  Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com for 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.

How to Assess Your Child’s Self-esteem: Studio 5

When to worry about your child and how to help!

Self-esteem, a popular construct used to describe an individual’s inner experience, has two parts: how you define yourself, and how you evaluate yourself. It’s easier to evaluate your own experience than someone else’s subjective experience, even your own child. Here are some signs of healthy self-esteem, some examples of when you should be concerned about your child’s self-esteem, and how you can help them develop healthy self-esteem.

Hallmarks of healthy self-esteem in children and teens:

Competence

is possessing skills to face life challenges at their developmental stage.
Important skills for young children are basic social skills to get along with peers, to work out disagreements, or new activities like to learning to throw a football, or how to read. For adolescents, top skills are having social skills to navigate the complexities dating relationships or development of study skills to succeed in school.

Confidence

is belief in one’s self, one’s abilities, and in one’s experience. The felt assurance he or she is valuable and capable. Confidence is being open to new experiences, and willing to risk looking silly.

For example, my 8-year-old son went skiing for the first time last month. While he was a bit nervous, after only an hour he was skiing without the constant help of my husband. After a few hours was skiing on his own and enjoying himself.

Connection

is the ability to feel close to family and friends, to give and receive affection, to share thoughts and emotions, and to seek comfort and help when distressed. Empathy for others and for their own experiences is easily felt and expressed.
In my therapy practice, I have seen hundreds of children and adolescence who look exceptional on the outside – straight A’s, leaders at school, beautiful, athletic, but who are feeling worthless inside. Parents are baffled by their child’s internal pain because they “look fine” and “have so much going for them”. What many of these parents fail to realize is their child’s need for a genuine emotional connection with their parent and for the skills and permission to say, “I don’t want to play this sport”, or “Dad, it hurts me when you yell at me”, not just praise for their outstanding performance.

Coping skills

are the ability to handle a variety of situations and emotions and to accept and learn from mistakes without self-doubt, self-loathing, and excessive guilt. It’s also the ability to experience a full-range of emotions, find healthy expression of emotions, and to and bounce back from disappointments, and to take responsibility for choices without blaming others.

When should you worry about your child’s self-esteem?

1- Excessive focus on performance

In an effort to build self-esteem, it’s common for parents to push a child to excel in a particular sport, or academic endeavor, musical instrument, or to notice and praise a particular personality trait over and over. If your son’s self-definition is based on being a star baseball player, what happens if he doesn’t make the high school team? If your daughter labels herself as “the smart one” and gets a C in chemistry, it may shake her self-esteem. If your child self identifies himself as “the nice kid”, and then feels intense anger, he may deny the anger instead learning from it and finding a healthy was to express it.

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Eat Pray Love…at Home: Studio 5

(I’m reposting this one because I FINALLY go the video clip added)


Studio 5 Contributor and Self & Family Expert Julie Hanks, LCSW shares ways to continue your personal growth and rediscover your passion without leaving your life to travel the world.

Eat, Pray, Love…at Home

Taking a year out of your life and traveling the world to rediscover yourself, like Elizabeth Gilbert in her best-selling memoir turned blockbuster movie Eat Pray Love, is hardly realistic for me and for most women I know. Yet, there is something about Liz’s quest to reconnect with herself and to rediscover her passion for life that resonates with millions of moviegoers. I believe its possible to continue the journey of personal development while remaining committed to family relationships, and without traveling to exotic destinations.

Tips to Eat Pray Love…at Home:

1-Venture out of your comfort zone

Liz: “I used to have this appetite for life and it’s just gone!” “I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something!” (Eat Love Pray, 2010).

If you feel numb, shut down, or on emotional “autopilot” try stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new, uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Try a new restaurant or a new sport. Extend yourself to someone outside of your circle of friends. If you like to read fiction, read non-fiction. You don’t have to travel to an exotic destination to get a new perspective on life.

Kelly O. a single 30-something professional decided to face her fears and say YES to new experiences throughout the year. Read her blog post “Unplanning Life” which highlighting 55 new firsts she’s experienced this year. http://kellyolivia.blogspot.com/2010/03/unplanning-life.html

From a man’s perspective…Steven Kapp Perry, radio host & father of 4 got out of his comfort zone by “climbing King’s Peak with my boys (twice) and I’m afraid of heights. I could go on. I think everything good about my life has come from venturing out of whatever my comfort zone used to be. It’s a lot bigger place these days.”

2-Savor your senses

Liz: “I’m having a relationship with my pizza”. This is my no Carb left behind experiment.” (Eat Love Pray, 2010).

Are you trapped in a routine of checking off tasks and making schedules? If so, try tuning into your senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. The ability to savor your own experience, no matter how small, adds dimension and increases positive feelings of pleasure. Focus on how it feels to be in your body, the wonderful smell of your favorite pizza, the warm touch of a friend’s hand on your shoulder, the beautiful sunset…

In my psychotherapy practice with women, many clients express that they have lost the enjoyment in physical intimacy. I think this is in part because they have become so good at tuning into their loved ones needs and emotions that it becomes difficult to “switch gears” and focus on their own senses; a requirement for fulfilling sexual experiences.

3-Practice mindfulness

Liz: “Ok, Simply empty your mind. You’re going to sit here for an hour of your life and you’re not moving, why is this so hard…” (Eat Love Pray, 2010) .

Focus attention solely on the present moment and acknowledge your thoughts and emotions without judgment. Take a few minutes each day to quiet your mind and see what comes up. Relaxation, meditation, yoga, prayer, and many other spiritual practices provide health and mental health benefits, and have even been shown to improve your relationships.

Jennie M., wife and mother of three boys advises: “Take time to focus on things that matter most to us and try to have a good balance. For me it is running. My husband supports me and watches our 3 boys while I go run 30 – 60 minutes. It’s my time to get out think, pray, re-focus, and have time to myself.”

4-Listen to your inner voice

Liz: “I need to change. Since I was fifteen I’ve either been with a guy or breaking up with a guy” (Eat Love Pray, 2010).

It’s easy to let the voices, needs, opinions, and expectations of others drown out your own voice, just as Liz experienced in Eat Pray Love. If your gut says you need a break, or need more time with friends, or need to rest, listen and ask for your needs to be met. Longings, dreams, thoughts and feelings are clues to what you need in order to continue your personal growth.

Jennie G., wife and stay-at-home mother of five says: “Learn to trust that inner voice. If it tells you that you really need a night out with a friend, do it! If you need to start a new book, buy one. If you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself, go serve someone else. If you want to learn something new, sign up for a class. I think each of us know what we need, we’re just too scared or not used to listening to that inner voice that will guide you to exactly what it is you need. The trick is to listen, and know that you are worth listening to!”

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Connect with me on the web!

What did you think about the movie Eat Pray Love?

How do you stay passionate about your life and continue your personal growth?


Understanding Your Emotional Style: Studio 5

Understanding Your Emotional Style

Husband, wife, friend, family member – your emotional style is a contributing factor in each and every life relationship. It determines the level and depth of your connection.

Therapist Julie A. Hanks, LCSW, Owner and Director of Wasatch Family Therapy, shares how to identify your emotional style and understand how it affects your relationships!


Have you ever noticed that you find yourself repeating relationship patterns, even if you don’t particularly like them? Do you find that you tend to feel similar emotions in your close relationships time and time again? We all have a unique style of relating to others that has its roots in our earliest relationship patterns. In our first few years of life our emotional world revolves around our family and parents (or caregivers). While these patterns aren’t set in stone they provide a default pattern for our emotional life and our relationships throughout life. It can be helpful for you to understand your relationship style so you can modify it when it causes distress or it no longer works for you. Identifying your style doesn’t mean that you are blaming your parents for the way you are. It can be helpful to understand your early relationships and how they impact your current emotions and relationship patterns so you can choose to make changes.

Which of the following best describes you?*

1) I want to be closer to others than they want to be. I worry that the people I love will leave me. When I share my true feelings it overwhelms others.2) Others want to be closer to me than I am comfortable with. I’d rather depend on myself than on others. I prefer to keep my feelings to myself.

3) It’s easy for me to be close to others. I have many people that I can depend on. I can say directly how I feel and what I want in my relationships.

Emotional Styles:

1) Worried

You want close relationships but often feel not good enough, fear abandonment, and feel overwhelmed by your emotions. You have a difficult time saying goodbye or being separated from loved ones.

2) Guarded

You value independence more than close relationships, you have difficulty knowing and sharing your emotions and needs, and you prefer not to rely on others. Others regard you as somewhat distant.

3) Confident

You can easily develop emotionally close relationships, you feel deserving of love, and you recognize that saying “goodbye” is a natural part of relationships. You can express your emotions and needs directly in your relationships.

How to Develop a More CONFIDENT Relationship Style:

Worried

• Seek solitude
• Practice self-soothing
• Take emotional ‘step back’
• Seek consistent relationships
• Express feelings & needs

Guarded

• Seek connections
• Practice self-awareness
• Take emotional risks
• Seek nurturing relationships
• Express feelings & needs

References:

Quiz adapted from Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic Love Conceptualized as an Attachment Process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 511-524.

Additional Resources:

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How they Shape Our Capacity to Love by Robert Karen

Finding Time for You – Overcoming the Selfish Myth: Studio 5

Find Time For Yourself – Overcoming the Selfish Myth


The Oxygen Mask

Several years ago, while traveling on an airplane from UT to CA with my 6 month old son in tow, the safety instructions given by the flight attendant struck me quite differently. “Should the cabin pressure change an oxygen mask will be made available. Place your mask on first, then assist dependent others.” As I held my beloved baby in my arms I thought how foreign, how wrong it would feel for me put my mask on first in the event of an emergency, and yet I also realized how crucial it would be to both of our survival. If I put his mask on first and then I passed out, what good would I be to him or to anyone else?

This analogy applies to our personal lives and the need to care for our physical and emotional selves. It’s often easier to place other’s masks on first and soon find yourself “passed out” due to our lack of “oxygen”. Before putting your mask on, you may first need to discover what your “oxygen” is. In my therapy practice, and in workshops, I hear stories of women who have lost touch with their personal needs, goals, and desires. Reclaiming the things that bring joy and passion into your is the first step in finding time for yourself. Here are two questions to help you identify your specific type of “oxygen”. Grab a paper and pen and write down the first things that come to mind.

1) What brought me pure joy as a child?

Now, take a step to incorporate what brought you joy as a child back into your life. For me, I felt pure childlike joy swimming in my Grandma’s pool in the summertime and standing on the piano bench singing like a little bird while my dad accompanied me on the piano. If I don’t get enough sunshine and water, and if I spend too much time away from music I start to feel less joy in my life now.

2) What do I want to do before I die?

No matter how big your dreams, I encourage you to take one tiny step toward your goal. If you want to travel in Europe, start planning your itinerary and saving a few dollars a week. If your goal is to publish a book, start by writing an outline. You get the idea…

Selfish vs. Self-care

Once you know what kind of “oxygen” you need, the next step is to make your needs, joys, and passions a priority. I’ve surveyed hundreds of women asking them this true/false question “I have enough time to pursue my own interests and needs.” Well over half of them answered “false”. If you aren’t pursuing your own interests and needs who is? Your kids? Yeah, right! Friends? Uh-uh. Hubby? Nope. Others can only help you meet your needs and support you in pursing your passions. If you are waiting for someone else to take care of your personal needs and to fulfill your dreams you will end up being very disappointed, and will likely feel empty and angry.

Many women are reluctant to take responsibility for taking care of their own needs because they fear the “S-word” … being Selfish. When you are considering doing something that nurtures you and doesn’t appear to directly benefit anyone else, do you dismiss your thought as “selfish”? Whether it’s taking care of your physical health like exercising, napping, or eating healthy, or doing things to nurture your mental and emotional health like taking a vacation, spending time with friends, gardening, painting, or reading a good book, it’s easy to let these things you need or want to do take a back seat to the needs of others. See if any of these phrases sound familiar:

I just don’t have time to take care of myself!
I can’t take time away from my family.
I have to finish all of my work before I ‘play’.
I don’t want to be selfish.

Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines selfish as “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself, seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.” Selfish is doing what’s in your best interest without regard for others. Self-care is doing what’s in your best interest with regard for others. Remember “place your mask on first, then assist dependent others”.

Tips To Find Time For You

T    Treat yourself as you would treat others.

Ask yourself, “Would I allow someone else to do this?” If you would allow someone else, then why not allow yourself?

I    Investment in you means rewards for others.

When you care for yourself it creates more energy, more joy, more of you to share with our loved ones.

M    Make and keep appointments with yourself.

Build into your life time to take care of yourself. Put it in your planner and honor your commitment to yourself as you would honor an appointment with a colleague or friend. Schedule in your yoga class or time to write or paint or nap or walk. Also, build in the necessary support you need to follow through with your plan (i.e. schedule a regular babysitter if you have small children)

E     Explore your passions and make them a priority.

Take your answers to the questions, “What brought you joy as a child?” and “What do I want to do before I die?” and give them high priority. Require those around you to support you in your efforts. They may not like it at first, but they will soon see the benefits – a happier you!

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 PsychologyToday.com 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 :
myparentingskills.com

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:
Attentive
Bold
Creative
Demonstrative
Energetic
Forgiving
Generous
Happy
Imaginative
Jovial
Kind
Loving
Mature
Nice
Observant
Punctual
Quiet
Respectful
Self-disciplined
Tender
Understanding
Vivacious
Witty
eXuberant
Youthful
Zealous

“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 www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com to learn more about counseling services or email julie@wasatchfamilytherapy.com. You may also know Julie as an award-winning singer and songwriter. Visit www.juliedeazevedo.com

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?