Mindfulness for Moms
 
 

Mindfulness and meditation have become buzzwords lately. With the popularity of yoga and other Eastern-influenced practices that are becoming more mainstream, this skill is another valuable one to have in your arsenal as a parent.

Raising little ones is tough. I often feel like my head is going in a million different directions, and it’s not easy to run a business and a household at the same time. Little people have a way of reminding us that we can’t do everything all the time. That dissonance (the difference between your thoughts and actions) can cause some major anxiety, but mindfulness can help in so many ways.

What is mindfulness?

It’s pretty much what it sounds like. Mindfulness is bringing your attention to what’s happening in the present moment. This includes your internal experience as well as your external experience.

So why is this so helpful?

We have a way of going through life on autopilot. We can often be doing things without even recognizing what we are doing, and if you have an anxious mind it’s easy to be parenting and going through the motions but missing out on what’s really happening.

Have you ever been giving your baby a bath while simultaneously going through the list of things you need to get done after they go to bed?

The little moments that can be so precious are not savored because we simply aren’t present in them. I’m not saying you need to be present for every single moment of bath time, every day of the week – I’m currently writing this post while my 2-year old is splashing around in the tub, but a little bit goes a long way. 

I often think of a woman’s brain like a web browser with 100 tabs open at the top, and we toggle back and forth through each of those tabs at any given moment. It’s often difficult to stop and it can take over and create feelings of overwhelm because it can feel like it’s never ending.

Creating a new reality takes practice, and mindfulness is a practice much like yoga. The more you do it, the stronger that muscle will get – kind of like working any other muscle out at the gym.

Practicing Mindfulness

I’ve come to realize that I’m not the only mama who has experienced overwhelm and anxiety, and so I created the Mindful Mums Group where I teach mindfulness. Moms share their experiences and have a special place where they truly find that they are not alone. They gain the support they need to be open and honest about their struggles and their wins.

There is a ton of ways to practice mindfulness, but the easiest is to just pick a designated activity to start with. I like to do it while enjoying a cup of coffee or tea and I choose a time when my kids are asleep or out of the house.

From start to finish, challenge yourself to focus only on the task at hand and engage and pay attention to each of your senses.

While you are brewing your cup of coffee or tea, take the time to smell it as it seeps. While you’re pouring it into your cup, notice the aroma. Notice what the cup feels like in your hands, and take notice of the warmth.

As you take a sip, do it slowly, and notice what it feels like when it first enters your mouth, as it sits on your tongue, and as it goes down your throat and into your stomach.

Drink the entire cup slowly, engaging your senses each time you take a sip. This entire exercise may take 15 minutes. But when was the last time you truly enjoyed a cup of coffee? Mine usually sits on the table and gets cold by time I get to it.

You can do this with anything you’d like, a glass of juice or water, a piece of fruit, or toast.

Once you’ve done this exercise you can translate it to any other activity in your life, including those moments with your little ones that you know you should be more present for. While giving a bath, close those tabs in your brain’s browser and engage your senses. What does the water feel like? What do the bubbles look and smell like? What do your kiddos giggles sound like? Engage in play, give some extra kisses after the bath, sing a song, and be present.

It’s not always easy and I’ve had my fair share of rushed baths full of tears and tantrums, but when I go into the process with the mindset that I want to be present, things seem to turn out so much better.

Often times the stress comes in when we feel overwhelmed with the to-do list in our minds, and feel as though what we are presently doing is just one more thing on that list, which makes it difficult to enjoy.

Mindfulness is a practice. It takes time to implement any kind of change, and support goes a long way. If you’re interested in learning more about Mindful Mums, click HERE. We currently have a few spots open for our upcoming 4-week session, which begins February 10, 2017. 

Is date-night really that important for married couples?
 
 

Having a regular date-night is probably one of the most basic prescriptions given out by couple’s therapists, and it’s also one of the most commonly ignored. I think that’s because it’s so basic in nature that it leaves couples wondering how important it really is.

When it was just my husband and I, we didn’t really need a date night. Every night was date night. It was just the two of us, and not much really got in the way of us spending our evenings together. We’d have dinner together at home or out at one of our favorite restaurants, and even if we didn’t go out we’d do something fun together.

In the early days when we were on a tight budget and living in a tiny apartment, we’d play board games, play video games, and watch tons of shows on Netflix. Now that we have kids, I look back at those times and I honestly can’t believe how many shows we used to keep up with. These days I’m lucky to have one show!

When we had kids things changed dramatically! It was no longer just the two of us, and we started to get disconnected. Being a couple’s therapist, I was hypersensitive to this disconnection, and recognized that I had to practice what I preached so we started doing date-nights two times a month.

Our relationship had evolved, like so many couples that I work with. Adding children and businesses to our lives added so much richness, but it also added craziness, lack of sleep, and shifts in our priorities.

That disconnection that started to happen very subtly is something that I see so many couples experience. But they aren’t as sensitive to it, and it often goes unnoticed for long periods of time. The continual focus on things other than that primary relationship causes distance between couples. They stop connecting, laughing, and sharing their inner worlds with one another.

I recently read an article on Facebook about why date-nights are a waste of time, the author was a mom, and she listed all of the excuses that I hear most people give when trying to plan a date-night – the cost, the need for a babysitter, having to get out of your yoga pants, etc. and while I can attest to having those hang-ups myself, I have to call B.S. on those excuses! 

When you stop dating your partner you leave the door open to lack of connection.

Date-night doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t even have to take place at night. It can be Sunday morning walk on a weekly basis, or a lunch together during the workweek – I’m actually an even bigger fan of those times because then no one falls asleep during a movie or on the way home.

The point of a regular date with your partner is the connection.

It’s talking and getting back to who you were before life got too busy. Even when couples don’t have kids, they often mistake time together as quality time. Just because you occupy the same space day in and day out doesn’t mean that you’re connecting. You could be in the living room, and your partner could spend the evening in the bedroom on their laptop, and do that for weeks on end. You’re experiencing two totally disconnected realities even in the same space.

Date-night is really that important.

It represents friendship. We often grant our friends an incredible amount of grace when it comes to disagreements and misunderstandings, and that’s exactly how we should treat our partners. But you have to have that relationship established in order to do so.

Here are my top tips for scheduling date-night successfully:

1.     Choose a reoccurring day and time that works for both of you.

2.     Get a shared calendar, and mark that day and time weekly or every other week.

3.     Guard this date the same way you would if you had an important doctor’s appointment – it’s funny how we can leave work early, fight traffic, and do whatever else we need to do for such appointments – this is how you approach date-night as well.

4.     Shoot for twice a month, or once a week if you can swing it.

5.     If you don’t have a babysitter talk with other couple friends who may also be lacking a date-night, and offer to swap kids every other week.

6.     Have fun planning. Switch off planning every other date, and surprise one another with an evening out, or even at home.

7.     Be creative, and remember, it’s not about the cost; it’s about the connection!

8.     Use websites like Groupon, Living Social, or Goldstar for cost-saving ideas.

And that’s that. Get your date on, start connecting, and remember that friendship should come first. If you get stuck and just can’t seem to get into the groove of dating your partner, feel free to reach out to me (909) 226-6124. I’m happy to help. 

5 Signs You Need Couples Therapy in 2017
 
 

The New Year is a time to reflect on the year that’s passed, and the start of planning goals for the upcoming year. I personally love the thought of a clean slate, new goals, and sense of, “out with the old, in with the new.”

But I also know that it’s really only a façade. Things that have been occurring all year don’t just stop because the ball drops, and we scream, “Happy New Year!”

But it’s a marker of time, and that’s what I love about it. It marks a time to create change. I take a look at my business, my personal, and professional relationships, and I think about what I’d like to do more of, and what hasn’t been serving me, and I use the New Year to mark the start of changes that need to be made in order for me to live the fullest, healthiest life I can.

Whether you love to make resolutions, or to just reflect, I want to urge you to take an inventory of your closest relationships. Those are the ones that impact you the most.

Have you been waiting a while to approach your partner about couples counseling? Has it been something on your radar for a while, but you haven’t wanted to rock the boat and dive in?

Initiating that conversation can be scary, and it’s totally normal to feel apprehensive about it, but using this New Year as a marker, it may be the best time to have that convo, and here are some signs that couples therapy should be on your to-do list in 2017:

1. Communication has dwindled.

In long-term, committed relationships it's easy to fall into routine, and get into ruts. If you're a parenting couple, it's also easy for kiddos to become the center of your world, and your relationship, but when communication dwindles, and you're more like 2 ships passing in the night, and communication becomes only about the logistics, it may be time to look at your relationship and get some help to open up those lines of communication.

2. Sex has decreased significantly.

Just like with communication, life can get routine, and sleep often gets moved to the top of the list of priorities along with work and parenting. There is no magic number for the amount of sex you should be having per week, but when you start to notice that it's becoming much less frequent than it was previously, this is a sign that things need to be spiced up.

Conversations about sex can be difficult to have, and that's where therapy comes in. Working with a couple’s therapist inevitably leads to convos about sex, as it's a huge part of intimate relationships. A couple’s therapist can get you talking and sharing more intimately than you may be able to on your own, and having a space dedicated to focus on your relationship for one hour each week is not something that happens naturally in most relationships.

Many couples tell me that they try to have conversations about sex, but it always leads to an argument, and both partners feeling like they aren’t being heard, and like neither is getting their needs met. A lack of sex can be also be a sign that something else is missing in the relationship, and therapy can help uncover what’s keeping you stuck.

3. Fights are becoming more frequent or escalating more than before.

Just like with the other two items I shared – this can also be a symptom of something bubbling beneath the surface. Frequent fights about minor issues are usually a sign of resentment, or someone feeling as though their needs aren’t being met.

In my practice one of the first things I do with couples is to learn about their relationship – how they met, how it’s evolved, and what they think has led them to frequent fights.

Next, I have them complete a Relationship Check-up, which is an in-depth assessment about various aspects of their relationship. This tool is amazing! I love that it breaks everything down for the couple and for me so that we can take a look at areas that are working, as well as those that are leading to dissatisfaction for one or both partners.

From there, we dive in and talk about those areas that need some extra attention, and I work with the couple to provide interventions to help them get past those road blocks as they are typically what’s causing the frequent arguing.

4. Trust has been compromised.

This might seem like an obvious one, but a lot of couples tend to wait it out and hope things repair themselves on their own, and this often leads to more issues in the long-run.

If you feel like your trust has been violated in the relationship, reaching out and getting in to see a therapist early can be the best thing you can do to repair the trust, and other aspects of your relationship that you didn’t see as relating to this one issue.

Couples counseling can also help to prevent further violations of trust from happing in the future and open up necessary lines of communication and intimacy between you and your partner.

5. You feel lonely.

We can’t get all of our needs met from one single relationship, but when you begin to feel lonely and like there’s a lack of connection between you and your partner, this is a major red flag.

Work, kids, and other commitments can get in the way of having the deep connection you’d like to have, but the sooner you address the issue, the less likely things are to continue on a downward spiral.

According to Dr. John Gottman, world-renowned couples therapist and researcher, couples wait an average of 6 years until they get help. That’s a long time to be unhappy, and it’s a long time to keep up bad habits and build up resentments. The longer a couple waits, the more difficult it is to make repairs in the relationship, so my advice is to start out strong this New Year. I’m happy to help, you can reach me at (909) 226-6124

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The Perfect Gift for your Partner this Season
 
couples counseling
 

Tis the season for giving.

You can spend endless hours shopping for the perfect gift for your partner. Scouring the Internet for that gift that will knock their socks off, but the greatest gift you can give is the one of true giving.

We all like to say that giving is better than receiving, but sometimes this very principal is one that often gets taken for granted in long-term relationships.

Give the gift of true giving this season.

What is true giving?

It is giving without the expectation of anything in return. It’s giving for the pure aim of making the other person happy, and fulfilling their desires.

This seems to be easier for couples to do in the early stages of their relationship. Dating is passionate and emotions can be so overwhelming that it’s difficult not to truly give. Love letters, mixed tapes (or iTunes playlists for the current generation), late-night text messages – it’s easy to profess your love in the beginning without the expectation of much in return.

In the early stages, you just want to make your partner smile and let them know that you love them. It doesn’t matter if that means you wake up at 5am to make them breakfast and pack them a lunch for the day (I totally used to do that for my husband when we first got married).

As time passes you begin to settle into routine, and many people have children and their resources become limited. Time, energy, and sleep are depleted, especially when you’re raising babies and young children. The thought of staying up to finish a movie after 10pm starts to feel insane, so getting in bed and making love on a work night can feel equally draining.

So what does this have to do with giving? And what the heck are you supposed to give your spouse this holiday season?

It has everything to do with giving. True giving.

True giving means that you give even though it may cost you resources. Not necessarily monetary resources, but other resources that may be spread thin during this time in your life – time, energy, sleep, etc.

The perfect gift is the one that your partner truly wants to receive.

You might think you know what they want, but it may also just be what you want to give – it may be coming from your perception of what love is.

This brings me to one of the principals that I generally share and teach the couples I work with in my practice – The 5 Love Languages. If you’ve never heard of this concept, be sure to click here to take the quiz online, and find out what yours and your partner’s love language is, it will truly change your relationship if you apply it.

In case you’ve never heard of the 5 Love Languages, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version: We all have specific ways that we show love, and ways that we perceive that we are being loved.

Gary Chapman breaks this concept down into 5 different languages, which are: gift giving, acts of service, quality time, physical touch, and words of affirmation.

Which one best describes what’s most important for you to receive? Which one truly makes you feel loved? Is it receiving a small thoughtful gift? Spending an evening at home, talking and having quality time with your partner? Or is it hearing how much they love you, and having them express gratitude regularly for what you do around the house? Do you feel most loved when your partner sends you out the door with a lunch in hand, or folds your laundry?

And which one best describes your partner?

The complication that many couples get into is that they don’t always have the same love language. So, if yours is quality time, and your partner’s is physical touch, you may be continually trying to talk at him or her, when they just want to be cuddled.

I often use the analogy that your partner tells you, “I’m thirsty,” and so you go to the kitchen and bring them a glass of orange juice.

To your dismay, your partner doesn’t want orange juice, and they respond with, “I just want water please.”

But you’re so taken aback, and think, “who doesn’t want OJ?? It’s so tasty, and tangy, and has some essential nutrients in it.” You continue to try to get your partner to see your point of view, but alas, they just want water, and you feel like they’re completely missing out on your favorite drink.

Here you have two choices – you can either keep trying to get them to love OJ as their go-to thirst quencher, or you can just give in, and give them the water they so desperately want.

This seems like a no-brainer, right? I mean just bring a glass of water instead of the OJ and your partner will be happy.

So why, when we are talking about love languages, is it so difficult to speak you partner’s love language? I think it’s because we sometimes forget about the true gift of giving.

If all your partner really needs in the relationship is to feel your physical touch, why keep trying to talk? When you begin to feel disconnected, reach out, speak their language, and get physical.

Your love language may be quality time, and so having in-depth conversation may totally be your jam, but when you start to give without the expectation of receiving, and stop waiting for your partner to fulfill your needs before you take that step, you’ll see a change in him or her.

When you speak your partner’s language, they’ll be more likely to speak yours in return, and your relationship will improve.

Give your partner the gift they really need this season. The gift of love - in a way they can truly interpret.

If you’re stuck on this whole love language concept, please reach out to me! I love working with couples and helping them have the relationships they truly desire, you can reach me at (909) 226-6124, or learn more at www.ranchocounseling.com.  

When Good People Cheat: The Unmet Needs Affair
 
 

“I never meant for this to happen,” is what I typically hear when I sit down with someone who has been unfaithful to their partner.

I genuinely believe them when they tell me this because doing this work, I’ve heard from plenty of partners who have strayed in some fashion, and this is a common thread. They are good people, and they’ve made a mistake, and it’s not my job to judge, but to help them understand what lead to their behaviors so that they can prevent it from happening again.

There are many types of affairs. The most common one that I see is what Mira Kirchenbaum calls, the “unmet needs” affair. In her book, When Good People have Affairs, she outlines many types of affairs and I often recommend her book to clients who have or are having an affair because it can really help them understand their behaviors better, in conjunction with the work we do in session.

The unmet needs affair happens when you feel as though there is something missing in your relationship with your partner.

It could be sex, intimacy, or intelligent conversation. But focusing on one aspect of the relationship that is missing is a trap, and many times people only come to realize what they’ve been missing after they’ve already crossed the line.

When you look outside of your relationship for that one unmet need, you are essentially negating all of the many other positive aspects that likely exist in your relationship.

A whole, healthy, relationship only includes sex or conversation as a very small piece that makes up the relationship, however the trap occurs when you begin to see this piece as a gaping hole – it has the potential to become everything, and with the help of an affair partner, you begin to negate the many other positive aspects that you once based your relationship on.

Getting involved with someone else in order to fulfill this unmet need is typically clouded by the electrifying rush that happens in new relationships. It’s quite normal for people to see their affair partner as the most amazing person they’ve ever met, however an affair relationship is only a façade – it exists in a vacuum, and lacks much of the other important aspects that secure, long-term relationships need to survive.

Using another person to fulfill that one aspect that was missing from your marriage is fundamentally flawed because without fully knowing your affair partner, you are unable to see all of their true characteristics, as this relationship will also have missing aspects to it.

If you think back to the beginning of your marriage, I’m sure there were fireworks. Things in the beginning of relationships tend to be intense and full of passion.

I once read that falling in love has the same impact as a drug on the brain. It’s easy to become addicted to that feeling, and those intense emotions cloud your judgment.

The beginning of a relationship is when you go out of your way for that other person – you stay up all night talking even if you’ve got to be at work at 7am, you write silly love poems, and drive an hour both ways just to spend an hour in the arms of your love.

If you’re stuck in the difficult spot of having already crossed the line and engaged in an affair to fulfill a need that was lacking in your marriage, you’re not alone. I know that there is a great deal of shame and pain that comes from making that decision, but there is also support for you to right your wrongs.

Although the road is long and difficult, I’ve seen some wonderful things come from those who are willing to look at themselves, their decisions, and learn from their mistakes.

Relationships can be repaired, and that shame can go away, but the first step is asking for help. If you could use some support and want to begin the process of understanding your behavior, give me a call at (909) 226-6124, and we can talk about ways therapy can help.