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Dear Mom by Kurt Attaway, MA, LMFTA

Dear Mom,

yellow flowerFirst, let me say, “Thank You!” In case you have not heard it today, I want to remind you that you have a significant impact on the ones around you. Second, let me encourage you to receive the “thank you.” Allow yourself to breathe deep the reality of your role. You are loving, caring, shaping, serving, laughing, crying, holding, cherishing, protecting, correcting and investing in your little one(s). Did I mention you are doing a great job?

As a son, father and husband, I have observed motherhood up close and personally. I see the investment, the fatigue, the worry, the hope, the celebrations and the seeming defeats. I know there are sleepless nights and sleepless weeks and sleepless years. There is endless work in the home and often work outside the home. Not to mention you might want to have at least one friend and an occasional night to relax. Does it seem like you are supposed to offer others the whole world while not losing your world? Quite the tall task if you ask me. Do everything. Be everything. Never make a mistake. Always smile. And do it all with grace and patience.

On this Mother’s Day, let’s celebrate you. Let’s acknowledge that every day is a chance to celebrate Mother’s Day because mothers serve and love daily (Yes, dads do as well, but this article is all about moms). Moms, with all the burden you carry for your family, I want to remind you to breathe. You deserve it. Find time to embrace your courage and strength. Make celebrating the simple things a daily habit.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, highlighted motherhood as one of the most significant areas women feel shame1. How have we allowed this in our culture? I believe it is time for us to shift from shame to celebration. Motherhood is the result of life. Motherhood is a heart of love. Motherhood is a relationship to be celebrated.

yellow flower 2Tips for embracing more celebration:

• Celebrate daily: Identify successes every day. Share them at dinner time. Journal them before bed. Text them to a friend. Did the kids eat, did they get a hug, did you share a laugh? Count every success, especially the small ones.

• Find time to refresh: You need energy to celebrate. Make time to recharge and refresh. You care for your kids, make sure you care for yourself. Go for a walk, take time to journal, meet a friend for dinner, schedule time every month to reenergize who you are.

• Write notes to your child(ren): Taking time to encourage your child(ren) increases purpose and passion. Writing helps your focus and shapes your perspective. Writing notes gives a gift to your kid(s) and to your heart. This practice will help keep you focused on the big picture…loving well!

• Use the buddy system: Find others to share the journey with. Find a friend who encourages you. Find someone to encourage. This journey is too meaningful to experience alone.

We love and celebrate you mom!

1. Brown, Brené. Daring Greatly. New York: Gotham, 2012. Print.

Kurt leadershipAbout the Author: Kurt Attaway is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy Associate in Texas. Kurt graduated with his Master’s from UHCL, where he was listed the top family therapist in his class. He values working cooperatively and collaboratively with his clients to help them take steps forward that bring greater expressions of life, hope and wholeness. Kurt works in private practice at The Center for Couples and Families, and serves as the Director of the WholeFit Leadership Team. Here he works with individuals and corporations to help increase the health and wellness of his clients mentally, physically, relationally and professionally.

Positive on Purpose by Andy Thompson, LMFT, MS

business man with laptop over head - madA life dominated by negativity can be stressful, and stress causes wear and tear on our bodies, minds, and relationships. Have you ever noticed the tendency in yourself or in others to pay more attention to the negative things or problems in life than to the positive things and aspects of life that are going well? This is called negativity bias, which is the notion that things of a more negative nature, such as unpleasant thoughts, emotions, experiences, or interactions with others, will have a greater effect on a person’s emotional/mental/psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things, even when events are of equal intensity.
While I am not suggesting that we ignore challenges and difficulties, we do need to pay attention to the ratio of positive to negative experiences in our lives. For example, marriage and relationship researchers have come to recommend that for relationships to survive, a couple needs to have at least five positive interactions for every negative interaction.

In many areas of our lives, negativity can overwhelm us and begin to become chronic. Sometimes we might develop symptoms such as anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and distorted patterns of thinking. If negativity dominates our conversation, we might even start to notice that others distance themselves from us because they experience us as negative. This can turn into a vicious cycle that leads us to be unhappy.
Fortunately, there are many steps we can take in order to counteract negativity bias without invalidating the concerns we may have in our lives.

Businesswoman Ready for Work with Husband In Kitchen.What you can do in your head: Be aware of negativity bias and intentionally pay more attention to positive experiences. For example, eat a delicious meal slowly and really savor it. Pay attention to the positive sensations you get from your food, including tastes, textures, and smells that are pleasant.
What you can do with your actions: Intentionally bring more positive things into your life. Don’t wait until you feel positive to pursue positive experiences. Schedule in something positive, like a massage, a fishing trip, a movie with friends. If money is tight, there are still positive things to plan into your life, like a walk in the park, watching a sunrise, or a phone call to a family member or friend.
What you can do in your relationships: Prioritize. Avoid overloading your relationships with too many negative or difficult topics. Don’t try to fix every problem, correct every annoying behavior, or have all the hard conversations all at once. Pick the most important issues to deal with, and then work to have positive interactions in between facing challenges.

What you can do in your heart: Gratitude. Regularly think of things you normally take for granted (eg. Access to clean drinking water) and imagine your life without those things. This can often help us create an experience of appreciation for the good things in our lives, which can help us to feel more positive.
Again, I am not suggesting that it is a good idea to ignore or push away all negative experiences. Avoiding difficult conversations with a spouse, child, or other family members and friends can be harmful to our relationships. I’m also not suggesting that we need to put on our rose colored glasses and trust everyone and everything. What I am suggesting, however, is that if we make the effort to increase positive thoughts, experiences, and feelings in life, then we will be happier, healthier, and be more energized and capable of tackling challenges without getting overwhelmed by negativity.
Andy-ThompsonAbout the Author: Andy is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist at the St. George Center and the Cedar City Center for Couples and Families. He graduated from Utah Valley University with a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science with an emphasis in Family Studies. To set up an appointment call (435) 319-4582.

Childhood Stress: 7 Signs and 7 Solutions by Joan Landes

Kids on School BusYour five-year old keeps having melt-downs over small incidents. Your ten-year old has stomach aches every day. And your 15 year-old plays video-games until three in the morning. Are these just normal developmental glitches, or is there something amiss that needs attention?

Stress can challenge the coping skills of even the most resilient people, but children, especially, are vulnerable. To make matters worse, children often communicate their distress with behaviors rather than words.

Parents shouldn’t expect their children to say, “You know Mom, I feel over scheduled, tired, and unable to meet your expectations. I suggest we re-examine our family goals.” Instead, youngsters often resort to emotional outbursts, avoidance and bodily complaints to express their feelings. Unfortunately, many families focus on punishing the symptoms rather than addressing the underlying causes. That is often a huge mistake.

?????????????????Here are some behavioral signs that your child may be over-stressed:

1. Emotional volatility caused by minor triggers including crying, fighting, anger or more subtle signs such as irritability and over-sensitivity.
2. Numerous aches, pains and other physical symptoms such as headache, stomach ache, fatigue, and asthma attacks.
3. Self-harming behaviors such as nail-biting, hair pulling, anorexia, cutting, burning or non-cosmetic piercing.
4. Avoidant behaviors such as isolation, withdrawal, procrastination, over-sleeping. Additional red flags include unsocial immersion in activities such as video-gaming, internet surfing, music, or even homework and reading books. Other avoidances include withdrawal from activities which were formerly pleasurable such as sports, the arts or socializing with friends.
5. Self-medicating behaviors such as over-eating and substance use. Stress-related over-eating can result in a pattern of binging and/or purging through laxative use or vomiting. Substance use can include prescription drugs, street drugs, inhalants, and the habitual use of “energy drinks”.
6. Distracting activities such as gambling, pornography use, promiscuity, obsessions, compulsions, shoplifting, and partying with high-risk friends.
7. Cognitive difficulties may include a lack of concentration, academic problems and test anxiety.

Of course, some of these behaviors may be normal and transient as children grow up. But if you suspect that these behaviors are interfering with your child’s family life, social life or school success you may want to consult with a clinical counselor. In the meantime, apply some of the following strategies to relieve some of your family’s daily stress.

joan297x222About the Author: Joan Landes is a therapist at the Center for Couples and Families. She feels that therapy should be an adventure for her clients and (gasp!) actually fun. Joan loves learning the latest neuroscience underpinning human resilience and is enthusiastic about skill development in her clients.

Spring Cleaning Your Marriage by Chad Olson, LMFT

yellow 3How do you “Spring Clean” when it comes to your marriage? When I was growing up, I knew that every spring at the Olson household we would have a major cleaning session. It was time to dejunk, get organized and deep clean for the coming year because the house and yard tended to get neglected during the long winter.

As I reflect upon those “spring cleanings,” it was not an event I really looked forward to; in fact, I dreaded all the work. Yet, if I am honest with myself, there was something satisfying about working hard to get organized and make things look good again. These experiences have always reminded me that spring is a wonderful time of year because it’s symbolic of new life and rejuvenation.

Attractive couple portrait.New opportunity
Because of this, spring can offer an excellent opportunity to reflect on one of the most important relationships people experience during this life, their marriage. Because of “long winters” that occur at various times in marriage, there is value in taking time with your spouse to do a marital spring cleaning.
Sometimes when my parents asked me to complete a big project during spring cleaning, it seemed overwhelming and I didn’t even know where to start. My parents would then help me break down the bigger picture into smaller parts which made it possible for me to eventually complete the whole task.

If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of analyzing your whole marriage, consider the following suggestions to start the cleaning. You may even want to share with your spouse these ideas or ideas of your own that would be helpful for your own personal marital spring cleaning.

Take a look back at your wedding
First, I would suggest that you take some time as a couple to look through your wedding album or watch your wedding video. As couples reflect upon their wedding, they start to remember the reasons why they decided to get married in the first place. They can think about everything they did in their dating and courtship that made their relationship strong.

Relationships are governed by laws and it will come as no surprise that couples who spend time together talking and doing fun things together are more attracted to each other. On the other hand, that same law states that for couples who neglect doing the fun things they did during dating and courtship, their relationship gets stale and mundane.
I realize that life gets busier after the wedding with careers, children, and challenges, yet couples who want to keep their relationship fresh will make time to do the things that made them fall in love with each other in the first place. So, get that photo album out and remind yourselves of that deep attraction you once had.

MP900440326Improve your friendship with your spouse
The next suggestion is to improve your friendship with your spouse. Research from the Gallup Organization indicates that a couple’s friendship could account for 70 percent of overall marital satisfaction. In fact, the emotional intimacy that a married couple shares is five times more important than their physical intimacy. This research is in line with other research studies asking happily married couples who have been together for over thirty years to what they attribute their marital happiness. The number one response was their friendship.
It seems simple, but friendships require time and effort. So what makes a good friend?
Simple qualities such as thoughtfulness and showing appreciation are a good start. Try to remember the little things throughout the day that your spouse is involved with and ask how they went. Make birthdays, anniversaries and holidays special by doing little things that remind your spouse they are your best friend.
A true friend is loyal, fiercely loyal. A genuine friendship is also based on principles of reciprocity, wherein both spouses are contributing and the result is mutually beneficial.

Consider the following quote from a well-respected ecclesiastical leader, Marlin K. Jensen:
Friendship is … a vital and wonderful part of courtship and marriage. A relationship between a man and a woman that begins with friendship and then ripens into romance and eventually marriage will usually become an enduring, eternal friendship. Nothing is more inspiring in today’s world of easily dissolved marriages than to observe a husband and wife quietly appreciating and enjoying each other’s friendship year in and year out as they experience together the blessings and trials of mortality.

Remember that even though spring cleaning can seem a little daunting, it can be very satisfying as well. So, let’s get cleaning.

OlsonAbout the Author: Chad Olson is a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of Utah and the clinical director of the St. George Center for Couples & Families. He enjoys working with couples, families, and teens on various issues.

The Role of Spirituality in Health Care by Dr. Victor Sierpina, MD

Lone Tree in SnowSpirituality and religious beliefs may seem like an inappropriate topic to discuss in the health care setting. Perhaps such conversations are best held by a pastoral counselor, clergy, or the hospital chaplain. Patients and their families always have some value system in place, whether based in traditional religious structures, personal spirituality, or some philosophy of life. It is often helpful to elicit these beliefs in order to understand a person’s support system, how and why they make health care choices, and how they might affect palliative care or end-of-life choices.
One model for addressing spiritual belief systems has been developed under the auspices of the John Templeton Foundation and is taught to health professionals through the George Washington Institute of Spirituality in Health. It is called FICA. This is a rather straightforward approach that allows a neutral, non-threatening, and supportive approach to inquiring about the patient’s beliefs. FICA is an acronym for:
Faith and Belief. A question like, “Do you consider yourself spiritual or religious?” can open up rich dialogue on personal values and beliefs.
Importance. A physician or health provider might ask, “What importance do your faith or beliefs have related to your health.”
Community. “Are you part of a spiritual or religious community?” This helps determine the support system.

balanceAddress in care. “How would you like me, as your healthcare provider, to address these issues?” They may not want to go any further at this time, but at least we now have permission to enter into this level of conversation.
In my experience, patients are eager and open to discuss spiritual beliefs with their doctor, yet most physicians feel uncomfortable initiating such discussions. By normalizing this kind of conversation and including it in the routine intake history with a patient, it becomes a matter of record and, with practice, easier to discuss. This requires more than dutifully recording the patient’s religious affiliation in the medical record. It also helps to avoid making the patient feel like they are at death’s door, as their doctor is suddenly talking about their belief system or religion.
Of course, healthcare professionals must be cautious not to proselytize their own religious beliefs on patients and to be diligently mindful of any conscious or even unconscious bias about someone of a different faith or spiritual belief than their own. We are there to explore the patient’s support system, to understand how they process the mysteries of life, and how they make decisions. If a patient and provider share the same religious outlook, patients often feel reassured by discussion, prayer in the office, sharing scriptures of relevance, and the like. Be attentive for “faith flags,” like religious symbols, certain verbal expressions, religious jewelry, T-shirt mottos, reading materials, even tattoos, as these might give a clue to a patient’s spiritual orientation and thus occasion a deeper discussion.

In his landmark book, Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist and death camp survivor, observed that even under the horrific conditions of the concentration camp, those who held onto some kind of personal goal, hope, or meaning for their life frequently survived. Often, those right next to them without such a spiritual construct were the first to die. Without hope, without meaning, without spirit, the body shuts down.
Our goals as health providers are to value our patients as human beings, mind, body, and spirit; to relieve both physical and metaphysical suffering; and to offer love, support, and caring on as many levels as the patient is ready to accept. Spirituality belongs in the clinical setting for these reasons.

Sierpina_Victor_5x7About the Author: Dr. Victor Sierpina is currently the director of the Medical Student Education Program at UTMB, Galveston. He is a WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine, and also a Professor in Family Medicine. He is a University of Texas Distinguished Teaching Professor. His clinical interests have long included holistic practices, wellness, lifestyle medicine, mind-body therapies, acupuncture, integrative oncology, nutrition, and non-pharmacological approaches to pain.

The “Mosquitos” of Inaction: Dealing with the Problems in Our Life by Kenneth Jeppesen

stress 4We’ve all experienced a summer evening outside ruined by relentless mosquitos. Eventually we realize that no amount of swatting will stop the onslaught, and that we’ll die of exhaustion before we ever smash enough to make a difference. We quickly find the price of sitting still is a fight that never ends.

On the other hand, runners don’t have to worry about mosquitos. Mosquitos have a pathetic top speed of 1.5 mph; runners simply move too quickly to be caught. Even walking with purposeful speed can keep us ahead of the bloodsuckers.

I have found that the same is true of life. When we stop moving toward our dreams and values, and do only enough to survive, worries and fears descend on us. We sleep in, drag ourselves through work, go home in exhaustion and spend the rest of the night in front of a screen, hoping it will distract us from the reality of the next day. We begin to dread our lives. We begin to fear even little things like eye contact with strangers. The mosquitos of inaction suck the energy out of us, and often our confidence and hope too.

business womanWhen our problems are buzzing thick around us, we can feel trapped and powerless. But all that we need to do in those moments is get moving. Just by having a goal and moving toward it we can avoid having the life sucked out of us by a thousand tiny worries. The mosquitos of inaction cannot catch us when we pursue our dreams. While we can never fully escape problems in life, we can upgrade them for better ones. The problems of inaction stagnate and stall us, but the better problems of progression help to push us forward. Those better problems are opportunities to grow and gain greater happiness.

Kenneth-Jeppesen-Headshot-e14380277335081About the Author Kenneth Jeppesen is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Studies from Weber State University, and a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Kenneth is a therapist at the Provo Center for Couples & Families.

Nothing Mellow About Yellow! by Camille Olson

yellow flowerJust the other day I found myself at the shoe store buying ballet shoes for my daughters. I don’t know a woman on earth that can be at a shoe store and not “just look” for her own size. So next thing I knew, there I was, trying on shoes for myself. On the bottom of the rack and on clearance was a pair of yellow shoes. I could not believe my luck! I loved them and bought them without another thought. It wasn’t until I brought them home, did I start thinking about why I loved that bright and vibrant color so much. To me, there is nothing “mellow about yellow.” Here are a couple things I learned from the color YELLOW.
1. Yellow is bold and confident. Confidence is power. People are drawn to others who are confident in themselves. Does this mean we have to be “fake” and pretend we are confident when we are not? No! This just means celebrate the talents you have to offer this world! Hold your head up high. Be bold and secure that you are enough. It is easy to feel inadequate, especially in the “social media” world that we live in. At our finger tips we have access to the good things in everyone else’s lives. We need to remember that very few people are posting their struggles and hardships online, rather they are more often trying to make their lives look perfect. We cannot compare our challenges to someone else’s success. It is not fair to YOU!

yellow 32. Yellow is a happy color. Surround yourself with things and people that make you happy. I believe that gratitude goes hand and hand with happiness. When we are busy looking for the good and appreciating things, we have little energy left to be critical. When my boys were little, I spent five minutes a day writing down three things that I was grateful for. At first, it was really hard for me to come up with different things to be grateful for. Little by little, it became easier, and before long I could fill up half a page with little or no effort. I found that my heart was more grateful for the little things. I was quicker to recognize small blessings in my life. Many interesting things happen to us when we are grateful. Here are my favorite three things: (see below for reference)

  •  People with an “attitude of gratitude” are in better physical health, sleep better, and spend more time exercising.*
  •  People with an “attitude of gratitude” have lower levels of stress hormones in their blood.**
  •  People with an “attitude of gratitude” undo the cardiovascular after effects of negative emotions.***

 

yellow flower 23. Yellow is uplifting. No one has ever said (to my knowledge) “Oh great, here comes another beautiful ray of sunshine to lighten my day.” We should all splash a little color into our lives by taking time for ourselves. Spend that extra minute or two in the shower relaxing or tuck yourself into bed an hour early so you can read that chapter you have been waiting to read. Take a walk with a friend or just enjoy the peace and quiet of the day. When we color our lives with things that make us a feel better, we act and treat others better.

 

“Taking time for yourself gives your brain a chance to reboot, improves concentration, increases productivity, helps you discover (or rediscover) your own voice, gives you a chance to think deeply , and helps you problem solve more effectively. It also gives you a better sense of balance and self-awareness that can lead to a better understanding of yourself–what drives you, what inspires you, what excites you. This, in turn, can have a positive effect not only on the quality of your relationship with yourself, but also on the quality of your relationships with others.”****

 

Next time you see something bold and beautifully yellow, remember the quest to be more like that dynamic color and reflect its values in our own lives. Is it any wonder why some of the most beautiful creations of this earth are yellow?

* Emmons, R. A. & McCullough, M. E. (2003) Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well being in daily life, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84: 377-89.
** R. McCraty, B. Barrios-Choplin, D. Rozman, M Atkinson & A. D. Watkins (1998) The impact of a new emotional self-management program on stress, emotions, heart rate variability, DHEA and cortisol. Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science. 32 (2) 151-70.
*** C. Branigan, B. L. Fredrickson, R. A. Mancuso, & M. M. Tugade (2000) The undoing effect of positive emotions, Motivation and Emotion 24: 237-58.
****Sherrie Bourg Carter is the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout(Prometheus Books, 2011).
camille2About the Author: Camille Olson is currently working in the marketing department at the South Shore Center for Couples & Families. She received her B.S. degree from Brigham Young University in elementary education. She is married and is the mother of five children.

Stress: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Dr. Mike Olson, LMFT

stress 1The Good. We often think of stress as a bad thing, something that we must eradicate from our lives. Yet, without it, we would not be able to survive a single day. There is, deep within our brains, an amazing little factory called the hypothalamus that produces/secretes thousands of very powerful and potent chemicals called neuropeptides and neuro-hormones. The hypothalamus works with the pituitary and adrenal glands to secrete these hormones which include cortisol and epinephrine or adrenalin. The levels of these neuro-hormones rise and fall naturally daily (diurnal rhythms) and help us to wake up in the morning, focus and deal with the challenges of each day and finally allow us to drop off into sleep at night.

The Bad. The problem that most of us have is not the presence of stress or the stress hormones that flow through our blood stream each day. It is however, the excess of these hormones as they build up in the body without release. Take a car engine for example. The engine revs and shifts as the gas pedal is pressed. The RPMs continue to climb as the demands rise on the engine. If the pedal remains pressed down without release, the RPMs will reach a critical level and eventually the engine will overheat and breakdown. The brain and body work in a similar way. When the stressors of life place demands on us our brain produces the chemicals necessary to deal with that stress. The branch of the central nervous system (CNS) called the autonomic nervous system controls the “gas pedal” and the “braking system” of the body, called the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The beauty of these systems is that they are self-regulatory and will, if left alone, rebalance.

Power Struggle Between a Man and a WomanThe Ugly. The problem is that with repeated stressors (worries, financial stress, work and family problems, etc.) these systems fail to rebalance and keep the “gas pedal” pressed. Chronic elevation of stress hormones has been shown to lead to a host of health problems including auto-immune disorders, skin problems, musculo-skeletal pain, arterial/heart disease, inflammation, and the list goes on. The relationship between stress and performance is not linear; meaning that increase in stress will lead to increase in performance or functioning only to a point and then it deteriorates, leading us to function less and less effectively.

balanceWhat to do? Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardio-vascular surgeon and researcher from Harvard and founder of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine has spent the last 30+ years studying what he calls the “relaxation response.” His work has shown that with a few simple steps, entirely within our control, we can activate this relaxation response, or brake system in the body.

The first step is diaphragmatic breathing (slow inhaling breath through the nose, slow exhaling breath through the mouth with pursed lips to slow flow of air down). Deep and slow breathing increases and decreases pressure on the vagal nerves and flow of blood from the heart to the brain. The rhythm of the heart is affected (more variability or change in the rhythm) which is connected to the brake system of the body as well.

The second step is to focus on a word, a number or a short phrase that is repeated in the mind as you take deep breaths. As thoughts come into your mind (random, distracting, intrusive, worrying thoughts), you passively disregard or let these thought flow through your mind and then return to your repetition (word, phrase, number). Dr. Benson has shown that within 3-5 minutes of following these steps, there are measurable reductions in cortisol, epinephrine, increased oxygen in the blood, increased delta/theta waves in the brain (slow, undulating, relaxed brain frequencies), among others. Finding the place/time to practice this basic skill on a daily basis can have measurable positive effects on health by significantly reducing stress in the body.

If any of our therapists or health coaches can be of assistance in your quest for wellness and stress reduction, let us know and we will be happy to help. Our staff has experience and training working with stress reduction and management using this technique among others (biofeedback, psychotherapy or talk therapy, autogenic techniques, EEG neurofeedback, etc.).

MikeAbout the Author: Dr. Michel Olson is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He is the clinical director of both WholeFit and the Centers for Couples and Families in TX. He earned a doctorate degree from Kansas State University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Behavioral Medicine at UTMB, Galveston

Fight Fair by Kenneth Jeppesen, MS, LMFTA

business man with laptop over head - madSurveys have shown that for the most part, couples divorce because they don’t feel loved. One of the biggest things that makes us feel like our spouse doesn’t love us is fighting. Since we can’t expect to remove all conflict from marriage, what are we supposed to do? The answer is to change the way we fight. Today I’ll share one thing that can start to change the way you fight.

When we get in a fight with our spouse, our emotions are running high, and we feel attacked. Researcher John Gottman has found that we experience the fight-or-flight response which he calls being “flooded.” Our heart rate gets up around 100 beats per minute, our digestion stops, the blood rushes out of our limbs to prevent from us bleeding to death if injured, and most importantly, our brain mostly shuts off except for one part. The part of our brain that is highly active during fights is the part that looks for threats. And when we are in a fight, we perceive our spouse to be a threat. Even if there is never any physical violence, there is a very real threat to our self-esteem and our happiness if we are in conflict with the person we are supposed to love and cherish. When we are flooded and our brains are on high alert for threat, almost anything we say will cause more harm than good.

For this reason, Dr. Gottman recommends a time-out. It takes at least twenty minutes for our bodies to calm back down. While we take this time-out, we can’t be thinking about the argument, or we will continue to be in this state of physiological arousal. In order to calm down, we have to think soothing and calming thoughts. Dr. Gottman has found through his research that men have a harder time with this. Men are more likely to mull the argument over in their heads, thinking thoughts like, “I shouldn’t have to put up with this.” Women are much better at thinking thoughts like, “Everything is going to be fine, we’re still in love.”

MP900387517It is a lot harder to think calming thoughts when we are charged up with emotional energy. It can be very helpful to do something physically demanding during the twenty minute time-out that will drain that energy. Sprinting, for example, is quite effective. Afterwards it’s much easier to take control of the thoughts we’re thinking about our spouse and relationship. Meditation is a powerful tool that can help with this if we will develop it as a skill.

When you feel yourself getting flooded with emotion and adrenaline, that’s when it’s time for a break. But walking away from your spouse during an argument can make things much worse. When you call a time out, make sure that you agree on a time when you will come back together to continue the discussion. In part two, I’ll share how to make the fights less distressing in the first place.

Kenneth-Jeppesen-Headshot-e14380277335081About the Author: Kenneth Jeppesen is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Studies from Weber State University, and a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He is currently at the Provo Center for Couples and Families

Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right by Erica Hansen, MS, RD

VegetablesWhy do you eat what you eat? Are you eating right? If you are like most Americans, according to research, taste trumps all other deciding factors. Surprised? Probably not.

We live in a time and place where food is abundant and you have a lot of food choices to make, as many as 200 per day according to researcher Dr. Brian Wansink. Can you think of a place where you can’t find food? It’s in movie theaters, malls, airports, your workplace, gas stations, and even available at sporting events. Each year about 50,000 new food products are introduced to your grocery store shelves. With so many foods to choose from many Americans have the luxury of choosing to eat the very best tasting things.

Unfortunately, some of the foods that are packed with essential nutrients have been given a bad rap in the tasty foods lineup. According to national surveys, less than 25% of Americans eat the amount of vegetables we should (about 2-3 cups per day). When I meet with patients the number one reason they cite for avoiding vegetables is, you guessed it, taste.

Vegetables are running up against some tasty competition. The foods you find on supermarket shelves are literally made to win; loaded with added fat and sugar they are created to taste great. Why? Because you buy things that taste good and we are hard-wired to enjoy the taste of fat and sugar, both high in life-sustaining energy. From a marketing and business perspective it makes sense for a food manufacturing company to add taste–unfortunately, even at the cost of compromising nutritional quality.

Vegetables are naturally low in fat and simple sugars, but you shouldn’t give up on great tasting vegetables just yet. When aiming to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables each meal, consider these three suggestions to add flavor and flair:

1. Vary your veggies
Don’t get stuck eating the same vegetables night after night. While corn, peas, carrots, and potatoes are great, they aren’t the only veggies out there.

Consider writing out a list of all the vegetables you like eating by going through all of the colors of the rainbow. What are all of the red vegetables you like? Orange? Green? Sometimes having a tangible list of possible choices will help you realize how many you actually do like and give you ideas to add to your grocery list.

During your next trip to the grocery store, pick-up a new vegetable or one you haven’t tried for a while. I don’t recommend filling your cart with new options, it can be too overwhelming. Start small and add to your list of vegetable ideas.

tradition 32. Mix up your methods
Though a healthy choice, steaming or boiling your vegetables can at times lead to a bland product. Try roasting, broiling, grilling, or stir-frying in a little oil. Many vegetables (zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, and red potatoes) are fabulous when tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, and freshly grated parmesan cheese and then roasted or broiled on high heat. Ratatouille is prepared in a similar way.

Salads are often a go-to vegetable, and for great reason, but don’t get stuck in a salad rut. Try taco salads, an Asian salad with mandarin oranges and toasted sesame dressing, throw in fruits and nuts for something sweet, or try a hearty chef salad.

Cooking vegetables in broth instead of water or oil, seasoning them with fresh herbs and spices, soaking them in rice vinegars (delicious on cucumbers!), and dipping or topping them in salsa, hummus, or nut butters are also great, tasty, nutritious choices.

3. Be sneaky
It is easy to get stuck thinking in terms of vegetables as side dishes only, but vegetables can be incorporated into what you’re already eating:

• Add sautéed or fresh vegetables to your pizza
• Cucumbers, peppers, and sprouts add great crunch to sandwiches and wraps
• Carrots and onions in your rice make for a nice pilaf
• Include beans in your soups, stews, salads, and casseroles
• Zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, or artichokes are tasty in pasta
• Spinach or kale in a fruity shake is nearly undetectable
• Creamy butternut squash in homemade mac n’ cheese makes for sweet, nutty, and extra creamy comfort food

I don’t know about you, but my mouth is watering as I wrap up these lists; no small accomplishment for veggies with less than tasty reputation.

Remember, all forms count–fresh, frozen, dried, juiced, and canned vegetables. Start small, but start today to make vegetables a regular part of your plate!