Oxytocin is an antidote to cortisol (hormone of stress). If you have a tendency to easily get emotionally dysregulated (really angry, really sad, really tense…) – or if you know someone else who does – this is for you.
Neuroscience has shown us that oxytocin puts the brakes on cortisol. In my Marin couples therapy work, I often educate people around the power of a 20 second full body contact in its potential to release oxytocin in both partners which can create a sense of connection, attachment and good feelings (a great tool to de-escalate conflict).
The great news is that you can release oxytocin on your own via a powerful, “Hand on the Heart” exercise:
This is what you do:
In my Marin individual therapy practice, I teach people other ways to build resilience and decrease the presence of the uncomfortable emotions that might inhibit you.SCHEDULE AN INDIVIDUAL THERAPY APPOINTMENT
Skype sessions also available in some cases (CA residents).
I see many couples who are in a rut. They are buried by the chaos of life, family, work, social obligations, kids, school sports and taking care of the dog (or cat, or goldfish). The bottom line is that many of us are struggling with monotony and expected routines. As important as structure is to keep the cogs in the wheel moving, this can lead to relationship “blahs” for the couple.
This is what you can do: Consider doing something totally different with your partner. Look through the “deals” we all get online for a new adventure or plan a date afternoon exploring a new neighborhood in San Francisco. If you have kids (and a place they can be for the night), plan a picnic at home and spread out on the floor of your living room or in the yard if you have one. Whatever you do, just mix it up. Inject new experiences and joy into your relationship.
The latest in neuroscience tell us that having new, positive and unique experiences with your partner will help shift away from any negativity bias that may be occurring between you. If there are other issues at hand that may require more than just a change of routine, I help couples reconnect and strengthen their relationship foundation.
My private practice is located in downtown Larkspur, Marin County, CA.SCHEDULE AN INDIVIDUAL THERAPY APPOINTMENT
Why is there such a range in the way people react to events and situations? How is that one person can take things as they come while the other gets emotionally dysregulated and goes into a tailspin? Much in the way we respond comes from earlier experiences but if you break it all down, it’s about the meaning we attach in that moment.
For example, let’s say Susan and Jill are two people who don’t know each other but both have a similar experience of interviewing for a job and not getting it. Susan feels rejected, like she’s “not good enough” and worries incessantly. Jill is disappointed but considers the possible reasons why this happened (having nothing to do with her personally) like there were many applicants, it just wasn’t the right fit for her skill set – and she does not internalize it negatively as Susan had. Susan has a much more difficult time brushing it off and moving forward. Jill accepts the situation and moves on, continuing to look for other employment options. It appears that Jill is more resilient than Susan – but the good news Susan can learn to “dust herself off” too.
This is what you can do: People who react more negatively than others to things often have good reason. There is likely a history including self doubt and possible family of origin or other emotional wounds. Get familiar with your vulnerabilities and strive to make change. In situations where you are triggered like this, stop and do the following: 1) Get grounded by breathing slowly and focusing on the air moving in and out of your lungs, 2) Remind yourself that you have a sensitivity and practice self-compassion, 3) Explore other possible reasons for things turning out in the way they did.
In my Marin therapy practice, I help people understand why they react the way they do – and collaborate in making lifelong change.SCHEDULE AN INDIVIDUAL THERAPY APPOINTMENT
There are a number of signs that can point to a need to “get right” with yourself so you can be right in a relationship; a sense of desperation in relationship-seeking, your mood dependent on partner’s mood, a tendency to pick partners who need to be “rescued,” intimacy problems or a general lack of trust in whether your partner will be there (with no evidence suggesting this).
This is what you can do: Choose to take a closer look at what this is about. There are likely good reasons for any of the above including trauma, difficult experiences in your family of origin or general past. If you are currently in a relationship, a good place to start is couples therapy to get a firm understanding of the entire dynamic at play first. Your partner plays a role and it’s important to identify this.
If you are single, take the brave step of shining a light into what may be some of the darkest corners of your experience. The payoff potential is for you and your future relationships. Typically, the healthier you are, the healthier of a mate you will attract.
My private practice is located in downtown Larkspur, Marin County, CA.SCHEDULE AN INDIVIDUAL THERAPY APPOINTMENT
Many people mistakenly believe that if they just shove their feelings into a box, they will go away and never bother them again. As logical this may seem on the surface, it’s simply not true. Burying feelings may feel productive but they are still there and have a way of revealing themselves. They can lead to resentment towards a partner that show up as anger at unrelated issues, poor self-esteem showing up in self-destructive behavior, general sense of unhappiness, dim view of the future…and on and on…
If you allow yourself to experience the feelings and then actually process through them (as painful as that can be), you will greatly increase the odds of being free from the binds of stored negative feelings.
This is what you can do: Talk about it. A great place to start is with a trusted friend or relative. Write about it. Keep a journal of your feelings and anything related. If there is prior trauma (emotional or psychological) and it seems too overwhelming – or you don’t have anyone in your life who you feel will be compassionate and sensitive to you, consider a therapist.
If you need additional therapy support, my office is in downtown Larkspur, Marin County.SCHEDULE AN INDIVIDUAL THERAPY APPOINTMENT
No matter what the other does or says, you each are solely responsible for your responses. This may seem counter-intuitive to you, particularly if your mate behaves in outrageous ways but couples who successfully manage their own emotional reactivity and can keep physiologically regulated (and not “rage” for example) can more effectively work through disagreements. The goal is to learn self soothing skills (self-imposed time outs, breathing, mindfulness…) and ideally get to a place where you can also turn to each other for soothing. If you continue to blame each other for your anger, you run the risk of continuing to damage your relationship.
One of the things I do in my couples therapy practice is teach couples ways to avoid hostile communication by education about the physiology of anger. I also help them learn how to stay regulated and explore possible deeper family of origin issues as they relate to trust and attachment.
Contemplate for a moment the following “Emotional Health Minute:”
If you often are unsure of how you feel because you are simply overwhelmed or disconnected from your feelings? The very first step to help get you towards the moment (mindfulness) and help you learn to tune into your feelings is to notice how you feel right now. As simple as this sounds, many have no idea how they feel from moment to moment.
Learning the skill of self-attunement is not only a good way to more deeply know yourself but practice self-care. It’s never too late to start.
This is what you can do: Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Check in with your body as to how it feels. Is it tense? Restricted? Free? Relaxed? Simply notice that and them move onto checking in on how you’re feeling. What is your mood? Is there sadness, anger, happiness? Many of us are running around with a complete lack of awareness of wher we’re at emotionally or physically. If you practice this skill, it will not only get you more in touch with yourself but allow for an increased ability to “drop into the now” in times of distress.
If you could use some additional therapy support, seek it. My office is in downtown Larkspur, Marin County.SCHEDULE AN INDIVIDUAL THERAPY APPOINTMENT
Those you choose to surround yourself with have more impact on your relationship than you might think. Do an inventory of all of your friends, couples you spend time with and other people you come into contact with. Are you increasing the chances of happiness in your relationship with these folks or could your relationship suffer with excessive exposure to negativity? Realistically, we all have tough times and it’s important to be there for others who are struggling…but what I’m talking about here are the pervasive downers. The more you connect with other happy people, the better. Your relationship could suffer if you are over-exposed to the toxic.
In my couples therapy practice, I help people look at ways to improve their connection, their relationship foundation and nurture the love that is so often inherently there (but possibly forgotten).
When you’re feeling down, you’re likely more in your head than out of it. You may not even be particularly tuned in to others and the world around you at all. You’re simply bummed out and likely ruminating about all of the perceived reasons you believe this. We all can get stuck in these moments.
Research has shown that being kind and compassionate is linked to greater happiness. It increases the sense of connection to others, another strong facet of happiness. It can also boost your self image and sense of usefulness. The best news is: It’s never to late to start implementing these behaviors to see benefit in the way you feel.
This is what you can do: If you’re out and about, hold the door open for another person. Say hello and smile to someone in line. If you see someone struggling with something, offer a hand. Call a friend who is struggling emotionally to check in and offer support.
As with creating any new habit, it takes time. The first step is to put it on your radar in the first place then make a practice of it.
If you struggle with your happiness and think you can benefit from a deeper exploration of the reasons behind this and more tools for change, consider seeing a therapist to help you through.SCHEDULE AN INDIVIDUAL THERAPY APPOINTMENT
Yes, it’s important for us all to take responsibility for how we feel and communicate these feelings to each other. But sometimes there are obstacles to this, whether it be fear to express these feelings or a belief that the other doesn’t care. If your partner is dissatisfied and you want to know about it and perhaps, just haven’t been paying as much attention as would benefit the relationship, it’s time to tune in.
Check in with your partner to see how they are and whether they are holding onto any feelings that are better processed together rather than internally (where resentment can easily build.) The other problem with allowing your partner to stew or be inwardly unhappy is that these feelings may have come about by a faulty assumption. If they are struggling to “come out,” meet them where they are. If you love each other, it’s important you both learn the skill of emotional attunement.
In my couples therapy practice, I help people improve their relationships by being better attuned to each others emotional state and work towards picking up cues that might be missed. I also help couples learn how to share their feelings rather than internalize them.