Learning From Royalty

Prince Harry recently shared about the grief he experienced when his mother, Princess Diana, tragically passed away. He participated in a refreshing interview conducted by Bryony Gordon for her podcast, Mad World, in which he confessed, “losing my mum at the age of 12 and, therefore, shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but also my work as well.” His confession was in part to promote the Heads Together campaign, created to fight the stigma associated with mental health. Prince Harry’s primary message is that while he did not seek professional help for anxiety and aggression until he was on the verge of a breakdown, there are millions that could learn from his mistakes and walk through healing much more quickly.

This isn’t the first time public figures have come out regarding their personal challenges with mental health. Lady Gaga has shared about her battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through an open letter posted on her Born this Way Foundation website, and her declaration gave permission to all her fans to express their struggles with PTSD and/or other mental health issues. When high profile individuals expose their personal challenges with mental health, it normalizes the experience for all who look up to them and encourages those who are suffering in silence to speak up and choose to stop suffering alone.

Why are we afraid to talk about our painful emotions?

We all experience them. We are bombarded by disappointment, fear, hopelessness, doubt, insecurity, and the list goes on and on. But many of us refuse to speak up, largely because this is what has been modeled for us either growing up or in the society around us. This way of coping leads to a false hope that depression; anxiety or grief will erode away over time. We may fear merely talking about our emotions or facing them because they could get out of control. And when they don’t go away, we may resort to self-medicating with food, drugs or relationships. For a moment, we may feel confident that we have our emotions under control, but, once we realize this approach isn’t helping, we might choose to talk to someone about it or to continue to suffer in secret until the situation becomes worse. In reality, the avoidance of emotions can only last so long, and as counselors, we often receive phone calls of desperation, when a person is fed up with their life course and truly believe their sole option is ending it all. Avoidance is merely a temporary fix, and true healing requires a deeper and more intentional approach.

So What Do I Do Now?

Family and friends are not always equipped to help with mental health concerns, although that’s a great first step. Sometimes talking about personal struggles with a trustworthy friend is all we need to feel relief. Other times, professional help is necessary to tackle more debilitating concerns.

We might believe that professional help for mental health is only for severe cases. The truth is, counseling is for anyone experiencing any mental distress, which can include: life transitions (good or bad), loss of a loved one or a job, difficulty making decisions, feeling overall dissatisfied with life or unhappy in a relationship or alone. I’ve had clients express concern that they’re not sure they even need counseling and others who call and ask questions about the counseling process but aren’t yet ready to schedule an appointment. This information gathering process is very healthy, and once they feel ready, they call and schedule their first appointment.

The initial step to get help is always uncomfortable and feels unnatural. Finding a counselor, with whom you can share, your deepest most personal concerns with can be daunting. If you’re not totally sure about what you need, it could help to find someone who could point you in the right direction, like a primary care physician. They usually have referrals available for their patients. Be honest about the symptoms you are experiencing, and if you are having suicidal thoughts, share it with your doctor or call 911 if you fear you’re in danger of hurting yourself. If you need to call or email a counselor to ask questions about counseling before meeting with them in person, do it. Psychotherapists are aware of the fear and hesitation that most clients experience before they make their appointment. If the counselor you meet doesn’t seem like a right fit, that’s okay too. Find someone who works for you.

Prince Harry and Lady Gaga are human just like us, but because of their very public lifestyle, it’s hard to imagine that they have hard days or that they struggle with their mental health. In reality, we all struggle, and now it’s our turn to break the cycle of avoidance in our own lives and choose healthy living.

Know The Lyrics

I was listening to the radio when the song ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police came on.  Of course I sang along with the radio because it’s such a catchy song.  As I was singing, I actually began to pay attention to the words and freaked out a little. Just in case you don’t remember, here are the words:

“Every breath you take; every move you make; every bond you break, every step you take I’ll be watching you.”

A little stalker-ish right? So I researched the lyrics to check my hypothesis and I indeed was right. Sting did not mean for this song to be a love song frequently played at weddings. He actually wrote this song after separating from his wife and it is about a possessive lover! Yikes!

Of course it is meant to be sinister. Who would perceive it otherwise? Well I did, along with many others judging from how many times this is played on love song stations and in weddings. Just goes to show how we sometimes fail to distinguish healthy from unhealthy. The words are the same, the tune in the same, but our perception is based on observation, awareness and insight.

If it’s hard for us to recognize healthy versus unhealthy song lyrics, then it’s probably extremely difficult to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships, especially when those relationships are family relationships or friendships.

So what makes a healthy relationship? Lots of things including good communication, mutual respect, trust, and honesty.  You are in a healthy relationship if that relationship brings about more joy and happiness than tension and sadness.  If that statement doesn’t ring true in one of your relationships then it is unhealthy.

Signs of an unhealthy relationship:

  • You often put yourself on the back burner for someone else.  You neglect your dreams, passions or even just basic self-care for the sake of another.
  • You feel forced to be or act differently.
  • Your relationship causes you to have low self-esteem.
  • You are not free to express your true thoughts and feelings without fear of repercussions; you find yourself walking on eggshells.
  • You build walls of defensiveness to protect yourself.
  • You are discouraged from growing other relationships with friends or family.
  • You do not trust the person you are in relationship with.
  • You experience abuse – verbal, physical, mental or emotional abuse.

Seek help for your relationship when:

  • You know you need help but you are embarrassed or fearful to ask for help.
  • You are unhappy in the relationship and you are having difficulty getting out.
  • You realize you are staying in the relationship because of fear of being alone or because of guilt.
  • You consistently find yourself in unhealthy relationships.

The key to a healthy relationship is to stop singing along with the music just because you are familiar with the words. Pay close attention to the words; assess your relationships often. Stop and listen, listen to your gut. Are you happy? Are you safe? Are you free? If the answer is no, then seek help and change your tune.

Brené Brown: Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count

In her 99U talk—Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count—Dr. Brené Brown gets personal and shares how she struggled in the wake of her success as she dealt with various, personal attacks wielded by critics in the public arena. Similar to how most of us would respond, Brené was devastated by the undeservedly negative criticism, yet it was precisely at this darkest time when she stumbled upon the following quote that radically changed her thinking and, as a result, changed her life. In her video Brené reveals what she ultimately learned about herself as well as life lessons—guidance that may be of benefit to us all.

THE MAN IN THE ARENA
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

~Excerpt from the Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910.~

Brené’s Final Thoughts:  

  1. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about showing up and being seen.
  2. If you’re going to show up and be seen, you will be criticized. That is the guarantee and the only certainty you have. So, you have to decide at that moment if courage is a value that you hold because criticism is a natural consequence.
  3. Brene’s philosophy about criticism—To the critics: If you’re not putting yourself on the line and just talking about how I could do it better, I’m in no way interested in your feedback. PERIOD.

It’s so scary to show up, it feels dangerous to be seen. It’s terrifying, but it is not as scary, dangerous, or terrifying as getting to the end of our lives and thinking: What if I would have shown up…What would have been different?

5 (Psychologically Beneficial) Reasons to Make Love to Your Husband Tonight

We have all been there – it has been THE longest day at work and you came home to cook dinner, give baths, do homework with the kids, and clean up.  You are utterly exhausted and you finally get your head on the pillow fully expecting to go into a sleep coma for the next 8 hours when you feel your husband curl up next to you with his signature “let’s get it on” move. You respond in the same way your husband has heard so many times before, “Honey, I’m so tired, later, I promise.” Your husband rolls over, disappointed.

This scenario is so common place in many marriages and relationships.  I hear this story in my office with struggling couples all of the time.  Despite the overwhelming research about the benefits of sex in a marriage and how healthy marriages require intimacy, over and over again we choose to forego sex because we are tired.  The truth is-we ARE tired.  More and more we add to our plates in order to keep up with the pace of today’s society.  We prioritize the children and work and church and friends and family but don’t prioritize our sexual relationships with our spouses.  Genetically our husbands are more likely to be ready to “go” despite how overworked they may have been that day.  So what is the difference? Why is it so much easier for us, as women, to put it off? Well, we are built differently than men are.  For many of us it takes much more intentionality than it does for our husbands.

So, why? You’re clearly worn out, burned out, and have another full day of the same tomorrow! Why choose sex over sleep tonight? Here are some good reasons to give in and enjoy rather than call it a night, even for the busiest of us.

  1. Ladies, when your husband is getting sex on a regular basis he is like a well-oiled machine. He can literally see the world more clearly.  He will be more willing to help out and he will take on the world with a new attitude.  Men feel like they can take on any obstacle when they know that their wife finds them sexually attractive and “wants” them.  A positive outlook on life can be life changing for the both of you.
  2. Sex improves your libido. When you have sex with your husband you will eventually begin to desire sex more often.  Remind yourself how good it feels to make love to your husband regularly by starting somewhere, tonight.
  3. If you are tired, having sex will assist in getting you a better night’s sleep. It is easy to lay in bed and start thinking about the day you had and all of the things that you have to do the next day, these anxious thoughts are very likely to keep you up at night and disturb your sleep.  Sex has the opposite effect on you – it relaxes your body and therefore allows for better sleep.
  4. It reduces your stress level. Studies show that having sex lowers stress related blood pressure.  So a bit of fun under the sheets may actually help you deal with that busy next day better than if you skipped it.
  5. Sex makes you feel better about yourself. Some psychologists say that regular sex even improves your self-esteem.  Naturally, feeling wanted and desired by somebody you love and care for improves positive feelings about yourself.

So go ahead, give it a roll in the sheets tonight and take a look at the benefits it will have on you and your marriage.

You’re Not Stuck!

As I was flipping through channels on a lazy afternoon, I happened across one of the movies that I can watch over and over and over again: The Devil Wears Prada. I’m not sure what it is about this movie that sucks me into watching it but I couldn’t help but watch it again.

Ok, so spoiler alert. If you haven’t seen this movie, you weren’t going to anyway so I’m going to spoil it for you. The movie is about a girl who lands a job that she hates. That’s basically the plot, but in between the storyline are a lot of great clothes, shoes and purses. Of course, some of my favorite scenes are the ones that showcase the high fashion clothes. Hey, I’m a girl, I can’t help it.

This time watching it, there was one scene that I’ve never really noticed that stuck out to me. The scene where Anne Hathaway’s character, Andy, confides in her co-worker that her private life was suffering. The coworker said “Let me know when your life is going up in smoke. That means it’s time for a promotion.” Depressing to think about, but a reality for many. That balance between work and life can seem impossible.

Work-life balance. Ugh. It sounds like one of those aspirations that we all hope for yet in the back of our minds, we don’t believe that we can actually achieve it. How can I be a great dad but still put in the 80hrs/week? How can I climb up the corporate ladder and still maintain my marriage? How can I have a social life and continue to be an excellent employee?

Easy, do what Andy did. After realizing that her job was infiltrating every aspect in her life in a negative way, she decided to quit. It’s just that easy. Actually, it wasn’t easy for her to walk away; it took the whole movie before she decided to! And it won’t be that easy for you to walk away, or do something different than what you’re doing now. But if something needs to change then it has to start with you.

Disclaimer: I am not advising that you quit your job! However, I am aspiring to help you see that you don’t have to be stuck in a situation or environment that is bad for you. Maybe you can’t quit your job, and that’s your reality. In that case, a life change may require a bit of creative brainstorming. Maybe you can quit your job but you don’t believe you can. Maybe you have no clue how to change your current situation.

The first step toward change is believing that you can do something different, then being intentional about doing something different. Also, seek out help. This is actually a common reason to seek out counseling. Whether it’s getting help with achieving your goals, or help with figuring out what your goals are and how your goals match up with your value set, a counselor can be a great resource for you in this area.

In doing so, you could end up like Andy: relationship with boyfriend restored and getting a great job doing exactly what she wants to do. If Andy can do it, why not you?