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How to Create a Routine that Supports Good Mental Health

Create a Routine to Support Good Mental HealthIt’s January. You’re back to work and the kids are back to school. It’s time to put a routine in place that supports mental health and wellness.

Many of us plan to set up new routines and develop good habits in January. January feels like a fresh start, so it’s the natural time to recalibrate our habits.

Make your mental health a priority.

In my last post, I encouraged you to make your mental health a priority this year. So, let’s get specific and talk about how to structure your daily or weekly schedule to set yourself up for optimal mental health.

Routine makes life easier

When you set and keep a routine, it’s easier to make healthy choices. You don’t need to spend a lot of time and energy deciding what to do when you’ve created healthy habits to guide you.

Routines also reduce stress. They’re comforting because you can count on certain things getting done.

Right about now you might be thinking structure and good habits sound really boring and they take a lot of discipline. A routine doesn’t sound like fun! Well, a routine does take work to set in place…. but when you realize that your improved mental health will repay you many times over, you will hopefully decide you’re worth the effort.

And structure isn’t as confining as it seems. Structure is actually liberating when you realize that it frees up your time and energy for the things that matter most.

What is a routine that supports good mental health?

I hope this post will give you some ideas about how to create a routine that supports emotional health, but please remember that we’re all different and have individual needs. You first need to know yourself well enough to recognize what will work for you. For example, if you’re a night owl or an introvert, you need to create a routine that takes those traits into account.

I suggest creating a routine that includes these components:

  • A set bedtime and wake-up time. Try to keep the same bedtime and wake time every day of the week if possible. This makes it easier to fall asleep at night and wake-up in the morning. If you tend to put off going to bed, try setting a bedtime alarm (By the way, the iPhone now has this feature). Also, be sure your morning wake-up time allows enough time so you aren’t starting the day already late and stressed. Learn more here.
  • A healthy breakfast. Breakfast seems to set the tone for the day. Eating early and nutritiously sets you up with energy and for healthy eating during the rest of the day.
  • Time to blow off steam. What do you do to decrease stress? Whether it’s meditation or exercise or journaling, make a daily habit of doing something proactively to manage your stress.
  • Exercise. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to take care of your mental well being. Decide when you’re going to exercise and then get it on your calendar. Try to get in a little every day – the gym after work, or a walk at lunch, or riding your bike to the store. Learn more here.
  • Taking medications at the same time daily. Consistency with your medication serves as a reminder to take them and keeps them working properly.
  • Prioritize your to-do list. Sometimes I just want to get some of the quick and easy items knocked off my list and I’ll do those first. The problem is that these may not actually be priorities. Do the most important thing first (not what’s hardest, or easiest, or quickest).
  • Appreciate what’s good in your life. Many people like to keep a gratitude journal where they list five or ten things they’re grateful for before going to bed. You could also create a practice of noting five things before you get out of bed in the morning or while you’re in the shower. Keep it simple.
  • Adequate sleep. You know you feel better when you’re well rested. Adequate sleep can help you regulate your mood, stay focused, utilize healthy coping skills, and decrease stress hormones. Getting enough sleep also means you can rely less on caffeine, which can mess with your moods. Learn more here.
  • Fun and simple pleasures. That’s right, your routine also needs things you do for pleasure every single day. We all have our own ideas about what’s fun, so be sure your routine also includes things that make you happy. Just be sure that what you’re doing for pleasure is healthy; sorry, this isn’t a loophole for drinking a six-pack every night! Read more here.
  • Build and enjoy your relationships. Make time for the people who matter to you. Family dinner is an excellent place to start. A regular date night with your spouse and coffee with friends can also be good routines to develop.

How do you fit all of this into your schedule?

This may look like a big list of things to do. It isn’t meant to overwhelm you.

Many of the items can be grouped together. For example, I connect with a girlfriend and exercise simultaneously when we go on our weekly walk.

If you’re going add things to your schedule, you may need to subtract other things. This might come in the form of setting boundaries and saying “no” to things that aren’t priorities and/or don’t support your well-being. It can also be spending less time on mindless activities that don’t really solve a problem or fill your emotional tank.

Also, remember that following a routine will save you time.  You’ll be more efficient. You’ll have more energy.

The most important thing to remember about creating a routine to support your mental health is that it’s a work in progress. You don’t have to add all of these things to your routine this week. Start where you are and add one healthy habit to your routine at a time. If you don’t keep to the routine perfectly, that’s fine. Self-forgiveness is also good for your mental health!

6 Ways to Create (and Keep) New Year’s Resolutions in 2017

6 Ways to Create (and Keep) New Year’s Resolutions in 2017

6 Ways to Create (and Keep) New Year’s Resolutions in 2017

6 Ways to Create (and Keep) New Year’s Resolutions in 2017


Taking a good, hard look at daily behavior is the key to setting realistic self-improvement goals.

The early Babylonians believed that what people did on the first day of the year affected what they did for the rest of that year. Many of us see the New Year as a perfect opportunity to start over or to change bad habits.

According to several surveys, the most popular resolutions people make are related to health and fitness (eating better, losing weight, and exercising), reducing consumption of alcohol, caffeine, quitting smoking, and becoming more financially responsible by promising to spend less and save more.

Unfortunately, over 70 percent of resolutions are broken by the end of January, and this can leave a person feeling discouraged and even more despondent than before.

Resolutions are complicated, and being able to achieve them usually requires taking a hard look at our thoughts and behaviors. Setting goals keeps us on track, but stamping out old habits is difficult, and may even require the help of a professional.

Compulsive and repeated behaviors such as overeating, overspending, and regularly drinking more than intended can be the result of an underlying anxiety and/or mood disorder. For example, some people may overeat as a means of coping with a troubled marriage or some other distressing life situation. Others may overspend because they are depressed and feel happier when they are shopping.

Examining and treating these underlying psychological issues will not only help us to understand why we continue to engage in negative behaviors, but also help us develop a plan for achieving long-term change.

Striving for self-improvement and setting goals for ourselves gives us a sense of hope for the future. Be sure to make your goals a priority, be specific, and work at them daily.

Good luck and Happy New Year!

Below are six tips to help you stick to your New Year’s Resolutions:
  1. Your goal should be specific. Make your goal concrete, and if necessary, break it down into smaller steps. For example, if your resolution is to consume fewer carbohydrates, resolve to eat carbohydrates only at one meal per day rather than resolving to eliminate carbohydrates entirely. Once you are successful, begin to decrease your consumption further.
  2. Write your resolution down and put it somewhere where you can see it on a daily basis. This will help you to stay focused.
  3. Hold yourself accountable by letting others know about your resolution.
  4. Have coping strategies in place to deal with obstacles that may arise along the way.  For example, if your goal is to drink less alcohol you may consider skipping parties or events that involve a lot of drinking or bring a sober friend along to provide you with support and to help keep you on track.
  5. Reward yourself at each milestone; if you resolve to spend less money; reward yourself by getting a massage instead of going shopping. It is important to be conscious of the rewards you chose.
  6. Ask for help. Try to be open to seeking professional help when needed. Knowing when to ask for help takes a great deal of courage, strength and wisdom.

What resolutions have you made for the New Year? Can you suggest some strategies that may help others to keep their resolutions? Please share how you have been successful in keeping resolutions in the past or what obstacles have hindered your success.

VALIDATION: The Relational Skill that Softens Defenses

VALIDATION: The Relational Skill that Softens Defenses

VALIDATION: The Relational Skill that Softens Defenses

VALIDATION: The Relational Skill that Softens Defenses

Ever found yourself caught in a difficult dialogue with someone (maybe even with yourself), where emotions were escalating, and reasoning not helping? It can feel like a futile battle as you try everything to stomp out the flickering flames of emotion before a brush fire takes hold!

You try to focus on the positive, examine the pros and cons, problem solve for solutions, justify and rationalize, explain, compare, ANYTHING to get the emotions to CALM DOWN! So, does it work?

The unsatisfying answer is .. sometimes. The question is, why doesn’t it work all the time?

Because, when emotions get intense, or are linked to old passengers from past experience, the skill needed to defuse that trigger is radically counter intuitive. The skill you need is Validation.

Reasoning Works Sometimes

One of the most natural autopilot reactions to strong emotions is to use reasoning to sooth the distress.

We reassure, “It will be okay.”

Minimize; “It’s not that big of a deal.”

Seek evidence to the contrary; “But there were all these things (listing the items) that show your worries are not founded.”

Or just plain old deny, “Nope, not true.”

Again, sometimes these methods can work to remind the other person (or ourselves) about the accurate facts (rather than thoughts) and thus contain an escalating emotion. With day to day small annoyances, or matters that are not so important to us, this change based approach works just fine.

Why Reasoning Doesn’t Work

Can you recall a time when you wanted someone to understand something important to you, but it just didn’t feel like they were hearing you? If you know this frustration, you also know that your impulse is usually to react in some version of two alternatives.

Either we amplify our argument (people yell when they don’t feel heard). Or we shut down and give up (a behavior will stop if it is not reinforced). Neither of these produces skillful communication.

So you know from your own experience that when a communication feels important, efforts from the other party to dissuade or reason away your emotions are not effective. Their efforts may momentarily silence you, but they have not truly changed your viewpoint and feelings.

Validation as the Skillful Alternative:

Validation is the lubricant for skillful communication. Done correctly, it is an action of acknowledgment of the presence of difficult internal experiences (in yourself or someone else), without trying to change how they feel.

The Validation skill is an active practice similar to the Willingness Skill exercise in this Skill Clip, where we learned from experience that fighting emotions only makes them stronger. In today’s skill we access the emotion using our non-judgmental thinking skill to kindly honor the emotion/feelings.

Validation is NOT agreement. *

Often when first learning how to validate another’s perspective clients naturally react with “Wait a second, how can I validate something that I so utterly disagree with?!” So, it is essential to know what Validation is NOT:

Validation is NOT:

  • It is NOT agreeing.
  • It is NOT cheerleading. (e.g. “Great job!” or “You can do it”)
  • It is NOT approval.

Remember: Validation is finding a place where it makes sense that the other person is feeling how they feel, or thinking what they are thinking.

The Practice:

The key to using this skill effectively is to throw yourself all into being curious about where the emotion is coming from, so you may find a genuine place from which to non-judgmentally validate it.

Step I: Notice your own reaction.

When you begin to feel the creeping feelings of judgment that someone (or yourself) is having strong emotions. The judgment may be causing feelings of anger/frustration or even anxiety to grow. When this happens, practice…

Step II: Be Compassionately Curious.

Ask yourself, could this heightened emotion be due to:

  1. The person’s BIOLOGY at the moment?
    1. Biology shifts from moment to moment, day to day, season to season, it is not a static thing
    2. Biology may be influenced by shifting hormones, recent substance use, lack of sleep, poor diet and exercise, illness, etc.
  2. ANYONE would feel that way?
    1. Some situations would cause anyone to experience strong emotions. (e.g. a recent death, loss, threat or stressor)
  3. The person’s HISTORY?
    1. Could the topic or situation be sensitive to this person related to their passengers from past experience?

I use the acronym BAH to help my clients remember what to validate.

Step III: Compassionately Reframe the Judgments.

Within any of these three possibilities, find the grain of truth where you may truly find compassion for the person’s strong feelings. Sometimes this is not so easy to do, as when we believe someone is being unreasonable. When this happens, we can practice validation by asking the person to explain better where they are coming from (e.g. “Help me understand.”).

Step IV: Communicate Understanding. Communicate this understanding in both what you say and how you say it!

  1. Use body language: Lean in, maintain eye contact (no eye rolling!).
  2. Kind voice tone: The tone of our voice often has more impact on others than anything we are saying. Make sure there is no sarcasm or harshness in your tone.
  3. Express verbally: Say “I can understand why you feel this way.” Or “It makes sense from your view point.”

Notice How YOU Feel.

As with all of our skills, you are likely to notice that you feel differently in your body when you let go of struggling. This skill is no different. When we offer compassion and validation to another, we are letting go of being ‘right’ in the service of being effective.

At the end of the day, it is not really for them, but for our self. When we practice, we both let go of carrying the tension of judgment inside us and set the stage for more effectively getting our needs met.

Imagine how much more smoothly difficult communications could be negotiated if we were all skillful rather than reacting out of autopilot from past experience!

If you found this skill helpful, I hope you will share it with others who might benefit. If you have questions about how to be skillful in your life, I hope you will send me a message in the comments section! Or sign up for the new Mindful-Mastery Skill Clips on Youtube,SKILL WEEKLY newsletter, or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.


* These concepts are adapted from Marsha Linehan (1993)

Study Finds CBT Best Therapy for IBS

Study Finds CBT Best Therapy for IBS

Study Finds CBT Best Therapy for IBS

Study Finds CBT Best Therapy for IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a painful and sometime debilitating condition that affects roughly one adult in 10. Previous studies have found that, on average, psychotherapy is just as effective as medications in reducing the severity of symptoms of this gastrointestinal disorder.

Although experts initially believed the type of psychotherapy used for the condition did not matter, a new study suggests one particular type of therapy is the most effect.

Specifically, psychologists at Vanderbilt University reviewed different types of psychotherapy to determine which is best at improving the ability of IBS patients to participate in daily activities. They found that one form — cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) — was the best at enhancing a person’s ability to perform normal activities.

“Evaluating daily function is important because it distinguishes between someone who experiences physical symptoms but can fully engage in work, school, and social activities and someone who cannot,” said Kelsey Laird, a doctoral student in Vanderbilt’s clinical psychology program.

Laird is the first author of the study which appears online in the journal Clinical Psychology Review.

Co-authors are Emily Tanner-Smith, Ph.D., a research associate and Professors Lynn S. Walker, Alexandra C. Russell, and Steven Hollon.

The authors analyzed 31 studies, which provided data for over 1,700 individuals who were randomly assigned to receive either psychotherapy or a control condition such as support groups, education, or wait-lists.

Overall, those who received psychotherapy showed greater gains in daily functioning compared to those assigned to a control condition.

However, individuals assigned to receive cognitive behavior therapy or CBT experienced larger improvements than those who received other types of therapy.

Researchers note that CBT is an umbrella term for a number of different therapies, each of which is based on the idea that thoughts, feelings, physiology, and behavior are interrelated.

Treatments are designed to help people develop alternative ways of thinking and behaving with the goal of reducing psychological distress and physiological arousal.

The authors speculate that the greater improvement observed in patients who received CBT may be due to the fact that treatments often incorporate “exposure:” a technique in which individuals gradually expose themselves to uncomfortable situations.

For someone with IBS, this could include long road trips, eating out at restaurants, and going places where bathrooms are not readily accessible.

“Encouraging individuals to gradually confront such situations may increase their ability to participate in a wider range of activities,” said Laird.

“But more research is needed before we can say why CBT appears more effective for improving functioning in IBS compared to other therapy types.”

Source: Vanderbilt University

How to Navigate Difficult Family Relationships – Here are some tips

How to Navigate Difficult Family Relationships – Here are some tips
Check out this article
By Sharon Martin, LCSW
~ 4 min read


How to Navigate Difficult Family Relationships – Here are some tips

How to Deal with Difficult Family? How do you deal with your dysfunctional, toxic, or difficult family members?

The holidays usually mean getting together with family. Family is a blessing in many ways, but it can also present challenges – differing opinions, disrespect, misunderstandings, reminders of past hurts, or plain old getting on each other’s nerves.

If you’re anticipating some challenging situations with your difficult family members this holiday season, you don’t have to feel like a victim. You can plan ahead, use these strategies, and take action.

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries

One of the most straight-forward things you can do to deal with unpleasant family situations, is to avoid them if possible. Boundaries don’t have to come with a side-order of guilt. Empower yourself to say “no” to things you don’t want to do or that will have a negative impact on your own well-being. One of the joys of adulthood is realizing that you have choices. You don’t have to go to your in-laws for Christmas every year and you don’t have to listen to your uncle’s racist jokes. You can politely decline invitations or leave early if things get uncomfortable. Listen to what’s right for you and act accordingly. There is nothing wrong with considering your own needs.

Have an escape plan

Despite our best intentions and efforts, sometimes things do go awry. Psychotherapist Kate Pieper, LMFT created a distress signal with her kids to use at holiday functions. “Our family has always used, ‘My tummy is a little upset right now.’ It’s code for ‘this person is driving me nuts and I need to get away from them ASAP. We don’t ask question about the distress code; we just zoom in to rescue!” So, plan ahead with your friend or partner and have a phrase or signal to let them know you’re ready to leave.

Be aware of past resentments

Sometimes it’s not just what’s going on in the present that interferes with your holiday fun. Your family Christmas party isn’t the best time to rehash old grievances or try to resolve conflicts. Marriage and Family Therapist Michelle Farris recommends: “Watch past assumptions or resentments that get in the way of enjoying the holidays. Your thoughts set the tone but you can look for small ways to connect. Talk about an old memory that makes everyone smile or a favorite movie. Create a bridge by focusing on the good! It begins with you!”

How to Deal with Dysfunctional Family at the Holidays – Set a positive intention

Positive intentions can be powerful ways to improve challenging interpersonal interactions because when you set a positive intention, you start to look for ways to carry it out. Alicia Taverner, LMFT recommends setting intentions about how you want to feel and who you want to connect with before heading out to holiday gatherings. “Thinking, ‘It would be nice if I felt joy at the company Christmas party,’ is different than saying, ‘I intend to feel joy at the company Christmas party’. When you hear a negative comment, or receive an ugly sweater from Aunt Marge, you’re intention of connection or gratitude will shine through, and you will get through that interaction more gracefully than if you hadn’t set forth a positive intention.”

Be open and curious

If you want to keep your holiday gathering positive, try going with an open mind and curious attitude. “Oftentimes people go into family gatherings on edge or defensive and on alert for conflict,” says Stephanie Macadaan, LMFT. This is understandable, if you’ve had a strained relationship or conflict in the past. However, when you assume the worst, you can unconsciously create the exact situation that you’re trying to avoid. “Instead, go with a goal of learning one new thing about each person in attendance. This openness creates an energy that allows for curiosity, the sharing of experiences and connection, a powerful recipe for happiness,” suggests Macadaan.

Surround yourself with positive people and activities

Setting boundaries doesn’t mean isolating yourself. If you’re feeling down or lonely, you may be inclined to just curl up at home and avoid everyone and everything festive, but we all have something meaningful to offer. Giving to others, no matter how small, is a win-win; both the giver and receiver benefit. Dr. Jennifer Huggins reminds us that there’s nothing like giving to others to boost our own mood. She suggests “…notice the mood lifting benefits that giving a stranger a genuine smile, bringing a batch of homemade cookies to your coworkers, or volunteering at a soup kitchen on a holiday gives you.”

Create your own “family”

The reality is that not everyone has positive family interactions at the holidays or any other day of the year. And I know that even when you do your absolute best to set a positive tone, be open and curious, try to keep the conversation light and positive, and take care of yourself, some people are going to push your buttons anyway. You can choose whether to react or not. You have that power.

You also have a choice about whether to see or how much time to spend with difficult family members. You don’t have to subject yourself to stressful or toxic family situations. You can create a “family” of your own choosing by gathering with friends, neighbors, or your faith community. There isn’t one right way to celebrate. Do what’s best for you!

Trying to do things differently this year can be hard, especially when the holidays are steeped in traditions and expectations. Some people prefer to make a radical change all at once and others feel more comfortable easing into change a piece at a time. Again, you can do it your way. I think what’s most important is that it feels true and right for you. You deserve to enjoy your holiday and not let difficult people overshadow the spirit of the season.


Signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Today

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Signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Today

It’s clear that people from every socio-economic status have experienced one or more life events that have caused emotional trauma, thus creating PTSD. It’s not just a “veteran’s ailment,” and PTSD is gaining needed recognition in the psychotherapeutic healing community.

PTSD can be caused by childhood trauma, financial disasters, recession, loss of employment, loss of a relationally close family member, divorce, loss of home, sudden shift in life responsibilities such as having to be a primary caretaker for an elderly family member, physical and chronic pain, loss of health, or many other scenarios. These chaotic shifts create what neuroscientists are recently exploring in the brain, including cerebral atrophy and loss of gray matter. So becoming aware of PTSD symptoms can be helpful to a person struggling to understand how to seek treatment.

Do you experience one or more of the following symptoms?

  • Wandering of the mind, lack of focus, low memory recollection, especially short-term memory.
  • Flip-flopping with decision making.
  • Loss of confidence and trusting your own instincts.
  • Staying on the surface instead of going deep enough, since it feels too difficult to follow through to the end of a thought process.
  • Limited physical energy; feel exhausted even after small tasks.
  • Limited mental capacity.
  • Social anxiety.
  • Sometimes not being able to separate reality from imagination.
  • Starting something but not able to finish it.
  • Waking up often at night, fitful sleep.
  • Lethargy – physical and/or mental.
  • Hopelessness, despair, depression.
  • Addictive behavior as a form of escape.
  • Making poor choices that generate shame instead of making good choices to alleviate it.
  • Having to lie to someone because you don’t want the shame of saying you’re too tired, you don’t remember, or you can’t think deeply enough right now.
  • Confusion at why you are experiencing this “brain fog” or “shell shock.”
  • Simple things feel laborious and heavy to get through.
  • Feel self-loathing because you aren’t able to accomplish what you used to be able to do.
  • Feel like you have lost control and not able to decide things quickly or at all.
  • Overly protective of personal life and only sharing with safe people who don’t judge you.
  • Feeling as though you’ve slipped from normal functioning to “survival mode.”

It’s very important to understand that experiencing co-occurring disorders as depression and anxiety can be a result of PTSD, so instead of quickly relying on a clinician to prescribe an anti-depressant, know that there are better ways to recover. Medications serve only as a band-aid, suppressing areas of the brain and don’t rewire and heal it. In some cases medications are warranted but they are not a long-term solution and many therapists see them as the “easy solution” instead of encouraging their clients to do cognitive repair work themselves.

Two very successful approaches that have been found to aid in trauma recovery are Self-Care techniques and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

These can be done yourself after a few sessions with a good psychotherapist who is familiar with both. In many cases, recovery isn’t immediate, especially if you are dealing with a constant or increasing level of chaos. Yet integrating both of these recovery tactics into your life will lead to marked improvements in your capacity to deal with the stressors. Self-care has been shown to increase the gray matter in your brain, better equipping and strengthening it. CBT is a tremendous tool for becoming self-aware and will aid in brain recovery, since you are changing the way you are thinking and responding to the stressors. You will see yourself recalibrating back to what you know as more “normal” for you, and even small shifts in thinking brings great relief.

How to Practice Gratitude When You’re Feeling Discouraged

How to Practice Gratitude When You’re Feeling Discouraged


How to Practice Gratitude When You’re Feeling Discouraged

We need gratitude more than ever

When we’re feeling discouraged, alone, anxious, or angry, it’s hard to be grateful.

We know we’re supposed to feel grateful. It’s Thanksgiving-time after all. But you may be having a hard time tapping into gratitude right now.  Our country is in turmoil, leaving us with a heaviness that’s hard to shake. Or maybe you’re overwhelmed with personal problems. Or perhaps you’re struggling with the extra work, financial hardship, or family turmoil that the holidays can bring.

Gratitude doesn’t always come easy

Sometimes we have to work at feeling grateful. But it’s a worthwhile practice.

There are a lot of good reasons to make a daily gratitude practice part of your life. According to Happify, people who practice gratitude regularly “experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.”

Practicing gratitude is simple, quick, effective, and free. There aren’t many things that can claim that!

Gratitude brings us back to the present

Instead of worrying about the future, gratitude reminds us of the here and now. Gratitude helps us focus on what’s good, on what’s working rather than what’s not.

Gratitude shifts the focus from problems to positives. When we focus on the good things in our lives, we train our brains to look for the positives. So, by practicing gratitude we will notice more of the good things in the world. Our problems don’t disappear, but they can feel more manageable.

A gratitude challenge

Even when you think gratitude might be helpful, it can still be hard to get started. The following gratitude journal prompts can help spark some ideas. Start small and gradually challenge yourself to find something to be grateful about even in life’s challenges. Write as much or as little as you want, but do try to be consistent so you begin to build the habit.

For the next 14 days, answer the question: “I am grateful for ____________” using each of these prompts. And feel free to add your own and keep the practice going after you’ve done the 14 listed.

  1. Something in nature
  2. A person
  3. Something I can see
  4. A hobby
  5. Something I only do at the holidays
  6. A gift I’ve been given
  7. Something about my health or body
  8. Something I’ve done to help others
  9. A possession
  10. A happy memory
  11. Something that keeps me safe
  12. Something that makes my life easier
  13. A talent
  14. A favorite food

If you take the 14-day gratitude challenge, I’d love to have you add your answers in the comments below. I hope you find it to be a beneficial exercise for bringing more hope and contentment into your life.

Gratitude Journal, Gratitude Challenge



Photo: Ben White on Upsplash


14 Signs Your Working Relationship Has Crossed The Line

14 Signs Your Working Relationship Has Crossed The Line

By Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT
~ 3 min read


14 Signs Your Working Relationship Has Crossed The Line

Most office and coworker relationships start off gradually and innocently, i.e., complaints about supervisors or management, sharing jokes, supporting your co-worker through a difficult day at work, giving or soliciting advice, talking about children and family, grabbing a bite to eat, etc.

However, some work relationships extend beyond the office or the company, drifting to personal and inappropriate area like dinners out, social engagements (outside of work), the home, or even a hotel/motel. The term “work spouse” is a term used to describe a relationship between two people who work closely together, often resembling a marital relationship.

Working relationships typically begin hesitantly, cautiously, avoiding or discouraging personal topics and disclosure. However, if boundaries are too flexible or nonexistent they can subtly evolve into emotional affairs by becoming entrenched as the coworkers attempt to meet each others basic needs.

It is quite natural to want to develop relationships with others at work, as this is typically where one spends most of his or her time. Having a best friend at the office to confide in can be a positive, often necessary part of work. Like most things in life, work can be extremely challenging, demanding, stressful, and sometimes thankless. Often stressors associated with work can be a significant motivating factor for coworkers to meet and connect with others who can understand the unique stressors of the job and company environment.

Relationships become questionable or issues begin to arise when coworkers begin to share personal information, are selective with the information they share with their spouses, while freely disclosing the information to a coworker, avoid or hide their relationship with a coworker, or discusses issues/problems within their marriage to the coworker. Unfortunately, some men and women may view “affairs” differently, hence some people may view affairs as a physical act, while others will view an affair as both physical or emotional sharing with another person outside of the marriage or committed relationship.

Work spouse relationships can become increasingly dangerous if coworkers are attracted to each other or develop an attraction to each other. “Work spouses” can accidentally fall into infatuation. Surprisingly, falling into infatuation or lust happens quite often at work. People underestimate the power of infatuation and think they can handle temptation much better than they can. Simply “knowing” that having a romantic relationship with your coworker is wrong is not enough. Committed partners must keep their home, personal, and marital life separate in an effort not to avoid blurring boundaries.

Relationships that begin at work often subtly evolve into emotional affairs by workers meeting the basic human needs of their coworker. While most work relationships usually occur in the following cycle; introduction, respect, rapport, working partnership, and sometimes friendship. Relationships that have crossed boundaries will go beyond friendship to affection, admiration, attraction, inappropriate disclosure, inappropriate closeness, lust or infatuation, and sometimes sex. Once boundaries have become too loose or non-existent, you have crossed the line into very dangerous territory that can have negative consequences for your spouse, marriage, family, and emotional well-being.

Signs Your Work Relationship Has Crossed the Line Include:

· You meet after work for social rather than vocational reasons

· Conversations have moved beyond the topics of work to more personal discussions

· You talk to your co-worker about things you would not or have not discussed with your spouse or partner

· You have disclosed personal information about your spouse

· You make disparaging or insulting remarks about your spouse

· You begin to have lustful thoughts about your coworker

· You start making comparisons between your spouse or partner and your coworker

· You find reasons to constantly be in the company of – or find reasons to touch – your coworker

· You refuse or try to prevent your coworker and spouse from meeting

· You confide in your coworker more than anyone else at your office about work issues

· You delay going home or feign a work emergency just so you can spend more time with your coworker

· You make personal statements or compliments about your coworker’s physicality

· You seek emotional support from your coworker rather than your spouse or partner

· You refer to your coworker as your work husband or work wife

Helpful Tips to Keep Your Working Relationship Professional:

· Stay on topics that focus on work or are otherwise non-personal

· Be transparent with your spouse or partner about your relationship with your coworker

· Provide and insist on clear and defined boundaries in your working relationship

· Don’t say anything to your coworker you wouldn’t say to your spouse or wouldn’t want your spouse or significant other to know

· Keep all physical contact professional, i.e., handshake or pat on the back instead of hugs or shoulder massages

· Avoid disclosing embarrassing or personal information about your spouse, children, and your life in general

· Do not hide or prevent your coworker and spouse from meeting

Although, no one enters a committed relationship or marriage with the intention of cheating on his or her partner, we often spend most of our time at work, away from our partner or spouse, with our coworkers. In most cases, we spend between 40 and 80 hours a week at work, making it easier to gain a lot of information about our coworkers, and develop relationships.

People who work closely together often develop their own “language,” have “inside jokes,” understand the specific stressors of that job, know the internal bureaucracy, etc. Therefore, maintaining both appropriate and healthy boundaries can present as challenges once we start to inappropriately disclose more and more of ourselves to people other than our partners.

Relationships work best when there is openness, honesty, and transparency. Therefore, it is important to avoid inviting others into your romantic relationships. It should be noted that worker relationships can often suffer once boundaries have been blurred. It is very difficult to regain a healthy work relationship once coworkers have crossed the line. Blurring the boundaries at work can lead to additional stress, discomfort, and disdain from having to go to work.

Co-Occurring Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Disorder

Introduction of Co-Occurring Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Disorder

It is not uncommon to see a diagnosis of both an Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.  According to, “Making a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder plus bipolar disorder can be confusing, and it is best to seek help from a mental health professional.”  This article will describe some of the signals to observe for, if individuals might be developing an Anxiety Disorder plus Bipolar Disorder.  It will also describe some treatment methods for this co-occurring disorder.

What To Look For

According to, the following may be present if an Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Disorder is present:

Dr. Simon says, a few clues may suggest the presence of both an anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder:

  • The presence of panic attacks, significant anxiety, nervousness, worry, or fearful avoidance of activities in addition to periods of depression and mania or hypomania.
  • The development of symptoms as a child or young adult, which people with both disorders are more likely to report.
  • Significant problems with sleep and persistent anxiety even when not in a manic state, and lack of response to initial treatment.
  • Increased sensitivity to initial side effects of medication, and sometimes a longer time frame for finding the right medication combination and dosing.

How Do You Treat A Co-Occurring Anxiety Disorder And Bipolar Disorder?


According to, the following can be stated about the treatment of medication for this co-occurring disorder:

When treating a co-occurring anxiety and bipolar disorder with medication, most doctors first prescribe a mood stabilizer to address the bipolar disorder.  Starting an antidepressant (a common medication approach for anxiety disorders) before mood stabilization is achieved may worsen the bipolar disorder symptoms. However, an antidepressant can trigger manic episodes, even while taking a mood stabilizer.  For this reason, doctors sometimes avoid prescribing antidepressants or prescribe them at a low dose for patients with co-occurring disorders, and they monitor carefully any patients who are taking a mood stabilizer and an antidepressant.


According to, the following information can be stated about using different types of therapy for the treatment of a co-occurring Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Disorder:

Relaxation Techniques. These techniques may help people develop the ability to cope more effectively with the stresses that contribute to anxiety and mood, as well as with any associated physical symptoms. Breathing re-training, progressive muscle relaxation, and exercise are among the techniques.

Using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or another evidence-based psychotherapy instead of medication for an anxiety disorder addresses concerns about side effects from taking mood stabilizers with anti-anxiety medications.

Family Therapy. This form of therapy uses strategies to reduce the level of distress within a family that may either contribute to an ill person’s symptoms or result from them.


To summarize, this article has provided readers with triggers for the development of an Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Disorder, as well as different types of treatment methods for an Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.


Healing After the Election

Healing After the Election