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Therapist Notes Blog

Relationship Minute: A year into the pandemic, is it time to address your relationship?

Posted by on Apr 9th, 2021 in Relationship Minute | 0 comments

With Covid optimism in the air with signs of positive change, many couples are finally addressing the issues that have gone subterranean during this pandemic.  Some relationships have benefitted from the additional time together but many have been pulled tight, especially if there were unresolved issues between the couple before.  Anxiety can strain an already tense relationship.  For some couples, holding things together for themselves and their families, their marriages have not being prioritized.

Here are 7 ways to strengthen your relationship:

  1. Re-open the communication lines.  Now more than ever you need to talk to each other. Do you know how the other is faring with everything?  Have you asked?  Do you have a sense of how your partner feels about the relationship?  Are they ok?  No matter how much is going on in your lives, schedule a weekly check-in with each other allowing the opportunity to get a read on the emotional status of your marriage.  This also provides an opportunity to process any hiccups that might have occurred before resentment has a chance to build.
  2. Repair the relationship if needed.  If you have inadvertently hurt your partner in some way, own it.  When things are tense it’s easy to misstep by not choosing your words carefully or using a tone that sounds more harsh than you meant it.  If you feel hurt by your partner, let them know to allow for the opportunity for relationship repair.  Sweeping things under the rug can ultimately be more damaging.
  3. Allow each other to “be.” If you’ve been together for some time, hopefully by now you’ve learned that your partner is who they are and there’s probably not much changing that.  As intuitive as this sounds, many still resist and lament this.  Just because you can’t imagine how he can be perfectly content staying home and puttering around on weekends (hello, introvert) while you are desperate to mask up and see people (hello, extrovert), I’m suggesting you’ll both find much more peace together if you relax and allow the other to be.  In that example, if one needs more social stimulation, perhaps they can connect with friends while the does house projects.
  4. What are you grateful for?  The last year may have exacerbated your negativity bias, individually or in your relationship.  Rather than finding faults about each other, agree to share aloud things you appreciate about each other.  Don’t underestimate the power of even the smallest things that happen throughout the day.  “I really enjoyed the time we spent talking last night when the kids went to bed.  It was nice to finally connect.”
  5. Understand how you each feel loved.  Couples can get tripped up on this as they often have totally different “love languages.”  And it can be hard to understand the other’s way, let alone remember to try to meet that need.  For example, one might get a lot of fulfillment from physical touch and affection where the other needs words of affirmation.  Other ways people feel loved are through time spent, gifts or even cleaning the kitchen (acts of service).  The key is to know how you both feel loved.  If you’re not sure, ask!
  6. Be reliable. One of the most important aspects of emotional safety in relationships is trust.  The more you believe the other has your back and you can safely turn towards each other, the stronger your marriage will be.  This includes loyalty and follow through.
  7. Know when you are in trouble. When resentment builds and disconnection occurs it can be disastrous.  Unfortunately it can also sneak up on your marriage.  There has been extensive research around the four most negative relationship behaviors; defensiveness, criticism, stonewalling and contempt.  If any of these are occurring in your relationship, it’s time to address the underlying causes.

If you need help getting back on track, reach out for a video session or Larkspur in-office appointment. (Thursdays, for vaccinated with proof only).

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Emotional Health Minute: How to Stay Upbeat in Quarantine

Posted by on Apr 5th, 2020 in Emotional Health Minute | 0 comments

We are in a situation like nothing any of us have experienced in this global pandemic.  The coronavirus has halted us in our tracks requiring us to hunker down worrying about health, finances, security, social connection, overall impact and when things will look anything like “normal” was before.

Now more than ever we will need to find ways to manage angst, worry, depression, fear and the related anger outbursts that can come as a result of any of those emotions building up like a pressure cooker.  Keep in mind people have different ways they cope with uncomfortable emotions and they are all valid for that person (and hopefully are not unhealthy).

Here are a four things you can to to stay as upbeat as possible:

  1. Get out and move.  Everyone is at risk for becoming too sedentary when socially isolating in their homes.  Not only is exercise important for our physical health but getting outside for fresh air will provide a mood boost too.  In Marin we are fortunate to have beautiful natural surroundings.  Take advantage of that while respecting social distancing standards to keep everyone safe.  You can also set up a workout spot in your home.
  2. Get creative.  Many have creative aspirations that they never get around to because they “don’t have enough time.”  Now’s your chance.  Pull out your art supplies and let it flow.  If you don’t have any, check online for some to be delivered to you.  Research has shown that doing art, even if you don’t think you’re good at it, is stress reducing.
  3. Stay connected.  We are alone but need each other.  Stay connected with your friends and family via Zoom or texts.  Check in on those you are concerned about.  Talk about what’s hard for you and hard for them.  We are in a collective grief.
  4. Fight your negativity bias.  Our brains are wired to hang out in the negative more easily.  Even if you are typically quite optimistic this situation could challenge that.  And it takes four good things to overcome one bad thing!  A negativity bias can be improved by things like gratitude and nostalgia (remembering fun times).

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COVID-19 Emotional and Relationship Health Support 

For California residents, I provide tele-health therapy via California Online Therapy and Counseling; phone, video or chat options, full and half sessions available.  Significantly reduced fees for those in need.

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Emotional Health Minute: How do you emotionally regulate yourself?

Posted by on Aug 22nd, 2019 in Emotional Health Minute | 0 comments

The range of emotions are all part of the human experience but sometimes we can get triggered in such a way that it’s not helpful, like when fear, anxiety or stress gets too firm of a hold.  When this happens you can feel out of control, irrational and generally uncomfortable.  It’s hard to think straight when you’re emotionally dysregulated!

If you struggle with uncomfortable emotional states that are hard to get out of, it’s important to have the tools in your toolbox to self-soothe.  Fear, anxiety and stress all can stimulate cortisol which over time can be physically damaging to your body, regardless.  The key is to find the ways that work for you to regulate yourself and come back to center.

Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Take a walk and breathe deeply.  Oxygen is a known counter to cortisol so to calm you body, take a walk.  Notice what is around you as you take in the air, which will also incorporate a more mindful approach to this (and a distraction from your distress).
  • Do the things that you know are relaxing for you.  People will have different ideas of what these things are so you first need to identify what feels good.  Taking a bath, reading, talking to a friend, tinkering on a project…

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If you feel you could benefit from learning more about how to self-regulate and/or you’d like to uncover what the roots are of your distress, consider a therapy appointment. I also offer tele-health options for anyone in the state of California only.

Do you have a specific question you’d like feedback on and/or are outside of California?

The latest addition to my services are for those located anywhere in the US or world who are NOT seeking psychotherapy but rather have specific emotional health or relationship questions.

These brief, educational Consultations provide feedback and a plan of action.  They are delivered via email, phone or video conference, at different price points depending on your need.  (*Consultations are not psychotherapy.)  Learn more about her Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations.Learn more on my other site, LoveAndLifeToolbox.com.

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Relationship Minute: Identify your wounds

Posted by on Jan 15th, 2019 in Relationship Minute | 0 comments

Your relationship vulnerabilities have a tendency to be a reflection of prior experiences that are hardwired into your brain.  These wounds can be healed and your brain rewired (great news) but the first step is to be clear about what your issues are, when in an intimate relationship with another person.  Ideally, they have an idea of what they carry too.

In order to have the ideal relationship, you need to be clear where you’ve hurt and what your triggers are.

A loving and sensitive relationship makes space for working together to heal each other’s wounds or at the very least be

compassionate towards each other (and give each other more of a break if they come up in unhelpful ways in the dynamic).

Ways emotional wounds show up in relationships:

  • Tendency to attract and be attracted to partners who are emotionally unavailable.
  • Fear of getting too close in relationships.
  • Tendency to be easily disappointed by your partner or have expectations that are too high.
  • Fear of abandonment or unrealistic ideas of how much time should be spent together (not comfortable with he/she having a life independent of you with hobbies, friends, etc).

If you are in a relationship where one of the above comes up or struggle to find/maintain healthy relationships, I might be of help to help you understand any problematic behaviors or habits you bring to the table, and change them!

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Emotional Health Minute: Feeling negative? Who do you hang with?

Posted by on Mar 9th, 2018 in Emotional Health Minute | 0 comments

Did you know that emotions are contagious?  If you spend a lot of time with positive, happy people, chances are some of that will rub off.  And the opposite is true when hanging out with the more negatively focused.  Humans being humans, they have a range of emotions and all are valid but be mindful of who your primary groups are and how you feel.

Are you hanging out with negative people?If you have a tendency to go dark yourself or have a more glass half empty attitude (which some people do, especially if they have a challenged family of origin or trauma history), it’s even more important to take a look at those around you and make an extra effort to sprinkle in some of the sunnier dispositions.

Take stock in who you hang with.

If you make an effort to shuffle your groups some, spend less time with the more challenging individuals yet you still feel it’s hard to break out of that feeling, perhaps there is work to be done.  I help people get to the bottom of why they’re feeling badly or more bleak, untangle any unhealthy roots and consider changes in the here and now to break the negativity bias.

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Relationship Minute: Where does relationship success begin?

Posted by on Sep 15th, 2016 in News | 0 comments

There are many facets of healthy relationships, elements of strong foundation ideally resting underneath a couple.  Trust, security, emotional safety and goodRelationship Minute communication are just a few.

But where does relationship success truly begin?

Don’t even bother looking towards your partner.  Hold up a mirror to yourself because that’s where relationship success starts.

In order to have the best relationship you need to be the best version of yourself first.

As yourself the following:

  • Do I have any old wounds blocking me from emotional and or relationship health?
  • Am I carrying issues around trust, sense of self or other insecurities that I’m looking to another to fix?
  • Do I have work to do?

If you are in a relationship currently that is struggling and you answered “yes” to any of the above, ideally, you work together as a couple to understand your dynamic together first.  Once you understand your role, begin the work on your own.

I help couples understand each of their roles in their relationship dysfunction and create a path towards reconnection.

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Emotional Health Minute: One happiness Rx?

Posted by on May 5th, 2016 in Emotional Health Minute | 0 comments

Ok – so happiness can’t possibly boil down to one solitary thing, however many researchers believe that if you HAD to it would be gratitude.  Gratitude can not onlyEmotional Health Minute be the path to a more life satisfaction but even improve your heart.

But being “grateful” isn’t necessarily easy, especially if you are prone to a strong negativity bias.  (The glass half empty vs half full world view.)

How to bring more gratitude into your life?

  • Start to notice.  Noticing what’s around you environmentally and your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  They all help to prime the pump for gratitude.  
  • Take in the good.  What is around you that you’ve never noticed?  Practice awareness of the positive things throughout your day.  Spend time really thinking about them and savoring.  This also helps rewire your brain towards more gratitude.
  • Daily review.  At the end of the day either journal about or reflect upon three good things that happened or are already a part of your life that you’re grateful for.  This is a nice practice to do before bed to further seep into your self-conscious.

If you try the above and still struggle with happiness or feeling grateful, know that you are not alone.  Sometimes there are deeper and tangled unhealthy roots of experience that make this difficult.  Problematic parental relationships, family of origin stressors or past trauma can be a block to happiness but know that these things can be resolved with additional support.

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Relationship Minute: Seek happiness from within or from your marriage or relationship?

Posted by on Aug 18th, 2015 in Relationship Minute | 0 comments

If you are frustrated because your marriage or relationship isn’t “making” you happy you might want to re-think that.  There is a vast Marin-couples-marriage-counseling-therapy-larkspurdifference between being happy with your relationship rather than seeking happiness from your relationship.  What is important is a sense of safety and trust.  This is a condition that’s important for you and your partner to feel.

The question isn’t, “Why aren’t you making me happy” but might be “Why aren’t I happy?”

Seeking happiness from others or from external situations can be a set up.  People have moods, their own issues and daily variations.  Things happen that can be wonderful but life can also take us for a ride.  Seek contentment and “happiness” from within to avoid being on someone else’s rollercoaster.

Reflect on the ways in which you feel good with your partner and the ways in which you feel good with yourself.  Sometimes people need help in clarifying the differences between internal and external validation.

I offer individual therapy and couples counseling to help tease out these issues and help people understand healthier ways to be with each other – and with themselves.

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Emotional Health Minute: Getting enough sleep?

Posted by on Apr 29th, 2015 in Emotional Health Minute | 0 comments

Getting enough sleep is more important than you might think.  It not only resets the nervous system but consolidates learnings from that day Emotional Health Minute:  Are you getting enough sleep?and fosters physical health in heart, lungs and immune system.  According to Linda Graham, MFT, “Researchers have found that 97.5% of the population need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night yet, on the average, Americans get 6.5 hours of sleep per night.”

How do you ensure you are getting enough?

  • Go to bed earlier
  • Avoid your devices
  • Contemplate what you’re grateful for just before sleep to fight against any negativity bias leading to nighttime worry and rumination
  • Manage stress levels during the day

Sometimes there are medical issues related to sleep problems.  But other times we can be our own worst enemy.  If your emotional and psychological life is causing you duress and you suspect it’s related to your sleep quality, you might consider working through what’s bothering you.  Additional support might be helpful in that.

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Relationship Minute: Avoid These Four Negative Communication Patterns

Posted by on Dec 17th, 2014 in Relationship Minute | 0 comments

It can be easier said than done to eliminate these damaging habits in your relationship.  Many of us have learned problematic communication patterns in our families of origin or struggle with issues around trust in relationships that leading to knee-jerk, unhelpful responses.  If you make attempts to follow Dr. Gottman’s suggestions but still find yourself in a negative cycle, I can help you dig deeper into the underlying issues at hand.

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