How to manage life during the Coronavirus Pandemic

All of us experience stress and anxiety now. Concerns about future, health, financial distress, taking care of others and ourselves or concerns about our world have reached an unprecedented level. Levels of concerns change from day to day from person to person, from situation to situation. The "shelter in place" order leaves many of us alone at home for longer periods and feeling lonely as if no one cares about us. The uncertainty combined with listening to the news produce high levels of anxiety, stress, loneliness and feelings of overwhelm.

Many of us face new challenges, new concerns.

Roles have changes, now you are supposed to do things that you have never done before or jump right into roles that you forgot. If you have children that you care for at home, now you might also be their teacher, you need to relearn new strategies and new material so you can teach them. Cleaning might be a renewed activity for you. You might be in a profession now where you need to learn new technologies such as teleconferencing and messaging apps quickly and expected to function immediately with none or little training.

Each individual has their own story, their own struggles and challenges, own concerns and fears.

What can you do to manage these feeling?

1. Remind yourself of the purpose, focus on the why. On a daily basis remind yourself why you are not physically engaged with others, why you are avoiding meeting with others in person now. Remind yourself that not touching loved ones or avoiding people now is an act of love and responsibility. Your discomfort is purposeful. You are protecting yourself and your loved ones, you are contributing to your surroundings. You are taking part in a global war to minimize, shorten and stop the pandemic. Your anxiety is shared; your discomfort is felt by others. You are doing it for you and for each other. We are all in it together.

2. Remind yourself, that this shall pass. Find a meaning, a purpose for keeping on. Develop a short term plan that depends solely on you and follow it: volunteer, help someone in need, develop a hobby or learn something new: an instrument, a foreign language or dance. Allow yourself to be creative. Develop a routine that you are comfortable with. Connect with your community; use your unique skills to help others, share experiences with your community.

3. Write a journal and document your life in the pandemic era, It is your own history, your own legacy to tell the new generations. Include pictures, stories and quotes. Imagine yourself telling your future children, grandchildren about your life.

4. Focus on what you can control: You cannot control the future or change the uncertainty, but there are many things that are within your control or manage.

  • Make a list of things that you can change and are of high priority, ask yourself: what are the changes that I can make,
  • Make a list of things that you can't change and ask yourself: how will I cope with it.
  • Make a list of things that you can change but are less important now, ask yourself: am I spending too much time on these issues.
  • Make a list of things that you can't change and are not a priority. Ask yourself: can I accept or forgive?

5. Manage your attitude: Don't give up your sense of humor and positive outlook. Look for the silver lining of the situation and enjoy the moment. Some learn to enjoy their home for the first time, some find joy in watching their children grow as they are not rushing out of the house anymore. Some reconnect with family and friends via zoom, phone or other social media platforms, some clean the house or sort through old pictures or documents. Now they have the time to reminisc­­­­­­e­­­­­­­­­­­­­, remember and reflect. Go outside, go for a walk, look at nature and enjoy the beauty of the season, cherish the moment.

6. Interact with your loved one, family and friends, comfort others, have empathy, connect. Do nothing together. Virtually, make meals together, watch movies, take breaks and enjoy social or any other activity. Be together; interact even if you do not have anything to say.

Respect personal space; if working from home create a comfortable work space for each family member, and allow for time alone.

7. Practice self-care; meditate, workout, go outdoors and breath fresh air, sleep well, eat healthy, drink plenty of water and practice gratitude. Limit watching news to stop the negative overload of information.

Now let's apply these tips:

1. How do you define your life during these difficult times?

2. What is your own unique purpose or meaning now?

3. What are some positive things that you notice on a daily basis now?

4. What are the actions that you can take to manage your attitude?

5. How do you interact with your loved ones and your friends?

6. How do you see yourself a year after the pandemic is over?

As always, I am here to assist you, consult with or to listen.

I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Next in the series of life in the pandemic era:

  • How to manage anxiety and stress during the pandemic,
  • How to live and stay together during and after the pandemic,
  • How to make the right decisions during the pandemic?

Please send me other topics that you wish to know more about.


By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

The Bonds We Build

“Never above you. Never below you. Always beside you” Walter Winchell


By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

And You Are Telling Me This Now!?!?!?

Stephanie and Jason are a couple in their mid- 40s with three children, ages seven to 12. Together, they strive to excel in high demanding careers. Pursuing their equality at home, they decided early on in their marriage to share and define roles and responsibilities. Together, they decided that Jason will take care of the family budget, while Stephanie will be in charge of other tasks.

As summer was approaching, the family planned a nice vacation. The children were excited and all were engaged in preparations.

Accustomed to managing the family finances, Jason was confident that the family would be able to take this vacation. However, while recalculating the family budget, he realized that he had to make higher than expected tax payment which would have severely limited their vacation plans.

Disappointed, Jason thought about it for a week and carefully broke the news to Stephanie.

They came to my office angry, disappointed, both feeling that trust between them was broken.

“And you are telling me this now, why did you wait?” Stephanie questioned angrily. “You always get anxious if things do not go as planned,” Jason snapped back. “You would have flipped and I had to be careful about how I tell you.”

So what happened here?

In this circumstance, it seemed like trust or lack of it was the theme of their quarrel. Stephanie admitted that she was offended when Jason did not trust her to accept the news as an equal partner. She felt his explanation was condescending. On his part, Jason was furious that she did not appreciate him being considerate of her and felt betrayed.

In our meetings they felt safe expressing their fears and anxieties. They gave each other space to show vulnerability and weaknesses. Jason learned that even though Stephanie is anxious, she still wants to hear the disappointing news and wants to be an equal team partner. Stephanie learned to appreciate Jason taking care of her. She realized he made tremendous efforts to break the news in a supportive way and had to take his time to articulate and process the issue. He actually wanted to hear her opinion and input.

Once they both felt heard, validated and supported, they were free to team up and start planning an alternative vacation. Next, they had to deliver the news to their children.

What is your experience with showing vulnerability?

I would love to hear from you! Please contact me at therapy@orlykatz.com and I will incorporate your reply in my next newsletter.

Comments from readers about July 15th, newsletter

And you are telling me, what?

  • Too much work. Is it worth it?
  • I guess it is a guy thing. We don’t give compliments.
Click here to read July 15th's Newsletter.

On Personal Growth: Let’s dance-feel better! Mood changes following dancing in different situations.
Researchers examined mood changes following dancing. Mood was assessed before and after dancing in three groups of ballroom dancers. A group of 32 recreational dancers, a group of 38 competitive dancers who were engaged in training and a group of 35 competitive dancers who took part in competitions. Researchers observed positive change in recreational dancers: higher energy, pleasure and less tension.

In comparison, dancers who competed were more stressed before competition and felt less pleasure after dancing than the other two groups.

Researchers suggest that although dancing in general effects mood, dancing in different situations may alter this influence.
*European Journal of Sport Science, Volume 15, 2015

On Relationships:High quality, satisfying long term marriage has positive influence on well-being and health. .
A two year data was collected from 374 continuously married older individuals (mean age: 72.4 and length of marriage 49.2 years). Data was also collected from other 252 couples for the purpose of comparison.

Researchers conclude that happily married people showed better health and well- being in comparison with unhappily married individuals. They explain that “in long term marriages, when the future time horizons of the spouses become more limited, individuals’ extended friendship network diminish”. Researchers add: “spouses may grow increasingly and co-reliantly on one another and therefore marital quality plays a significant role for their well –being”.

Marital support and satisfaction also increase personal resource, capacity for resilience, which contribute to better health, less hopelessness and more life satisfaction.
*Journal of Aging and Mental health, Volume 21, 2017

On New Parents’ Relationships: Social connection during transition to parenthood, the value of relationships.
A 2000 paper literature review was conducted in order to identify universal social connections and conditions that foster social connections for new parents and positively influence child development.

Findings include four themes:

  1. Connections in the community
  2. Internet connection
  3. Prenatal connections
  4. Connections for fathers.

Reviewers conclude that social connections positively influence parents’ well-being, thus contribute to children’s positive development. They add: “community development, family systems intervention practices, including fathers and group prenatal care” all contribute to social connections. Online social networking provide informational support.
*Applied Nursing Research, Volume 34, April 2017

The Bonds We Build

"I exist not to be loved and admired, but to love and act". -Janusz Korczak


By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

And you are telling me, what?

Heather and Bruce are a couple in their late 40s with three teenage children. Bruce works outside the home and Heather is a home maker. Both are stressed and busy. Together as parents, they work hard to create a comfortable, safe and pleasant home environment for their family. However, as a couple, they often feel disconnected and that something in the harmony that they are trying so hard to achieve is missing.

They came to my office with the hope of finding this missing piece. “We are big on compliments in our household, we think that they boost self-esteem and confidence” Bruce stated. He added, “Like, I always tell Heather how good she looks.” Heather nodded, “yes you do, but I think you are just saying it.”

Heather offered her own version, “ And I often compliment Bruce on being a good father.” Bruce did not respond.

So what happened here?

In this scenario, it seems like both intended to make their partner feel good. Both had good intentions. So what went wrong?

First, Bruce’s compliment was not perceived as genuine. Heather took it as a part of Bruce’s to do list. She reacted negatively. Not knowing what to make of Bruce’s compliment, she didn’t accept it. Bruce felt rejected and defeated. “She doesn’t believe me, so what’s the point?”

In the second example, Heather gave Bruce a compliment when she saw him interacting with their children. Although Bruce accepted the positive comment, it didn’t touch him the way Heather wished for. Her compliment left him indifferent. “So what?” he said. “What is so special about that?”

In our meeting we discussed the importance of giving clear, more specific, detail oriented compliments that will convey the warm, loving messages that they both intended to give. Both practiced putting effort into their messages. Bruce constructed a new complement. “You look good when you wear this blue dress. It brings out your blue eyes.” Heather was clearly touched and thanked him. On her turn, Heather gave Bruce an equally positive compliment. She told Bruce, “I love it when I see you talking with the kids. You are so patient and attentive. They adore you. You are a good father.” This time Bruce smiled at her and responded: “That felt good.”

Both felt more connected and valued.

What is your experience with giving and receiving compliments?

I would love to hear from you! Please contact me at therapy@orlykatz.com and I will incorporate your reply in my next newsletter.

On Personal Growth: Exposure to neighborhood parks and green space promote a healthy duration of sleep
A three year study of 259,319 Australian participants, 45 years old and older showed that those who lived in neighborhoods with a higher percentage of green space had more active lifestyles. The study also revealed that participants experienced healthier, longer durations of sleep.

One plausible explanation that the authors offer is such that, “the dispersal of traffic density and noise pollution in areas with more green space,” have positive influence of sleep duration


Authors conclude that longer sleep duration impacts health, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and impaired mental health. They suggest to keep examining the influence of green space such as parks or green conservations on sleep and health.
BMJ open, August 2013

On Relationships:Husbands’ consistent lack of emotional expression influence quality of marriage. .
A total of 229 newly married couples reported habits of not openly expressing emotions and their perception of marital quality at 5 months and two years after marriage.

Results showed that when husbands do not openly express emotions, marital quality over time was lower. However, when both husbands and wives were similar in their emotional expressions, higher marital quality was reported.

Authors conclude that the wives were more sensitive to their husbands’ emotional expressions, but husbands’ habits were more influential on the quality of marriage.
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2016

On New Parents’ Relationships: Sleep deprivation impairs development of affiliation and empathy
A total of 54 healthy young adults volunteered for a study of the effects of sleep deprivation on the ability to accurately identify six basic human facial expressions of emotions.

Results showed that when sleep deprived for one night, recognitions of facial cues of happiness and sadness were compromised. However, participants were able to easily identify expressions of surprise, fear, disgust and anger.

Researchers explain that during sleep loss, it was a survival necessity that individuals sustain accuracy of the four facial expressions of surprise, fear, disgust and anger and the brain may preserve resources to respond. Since, emotional recognition of happiness and sadness are perceived as non-threatening social emotions, more so, emotions that communicate safety and acceptance, empathy and closeness, it is not necessary for the brain to allocate resources to sustain responses. Identifying these two expressions then are compromised when sleep is deprived.

Applying this conclusion to new parents’ relationships, we can assert that sleep is a must for appropriate new parents’ healthy social interactions, empathy and affiliation.
Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms, June 2017

The Bonds We Build

"Every success story is a tale of constant adaptation, revision and change” —Richard Branson


By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

Too much cell phone? Really?

Megan and Ron are a couple in their mid-30s with 2 young children. They both hold high demanding jobs and are determined to find the magic balance between home, work and alone time. They both see the use of cell phones as the culprit that takes away their home time from them and tips the delicate balance in favor of work.

They came to my office blaming each other for their excessive cell phone use. “During dinner his phone is right there,” Megan claimed. “He looks at it every few minutes. You do not pay attention to us even though we agreed not to use the phone. “

“Me? “ He was ready with a quick answer. “You answer every buzz even if it is only a text and you are telling me not to? You are so controlling!!!”

So what happened here?

Clearly, they did not listen to each other’s needs. Megan’s need is to have quality home time with Ron. She wants an engaged husband who gives the family his undivided attention during meal time. Ron, on his end, feels as though Megan imposes some rules on him. Rules that he doesn’t agree with. He views it as a threat to his independence.

They both feel blamed and accused through no fault of their own.

In our meetings they listened to each other and allowed each other to express their underlying needs. Megan confessed that she needs him and Ron admitted he needs to make the decisions sometimes. We looked at different options that will make the ground rules for a positive environment and will address both needs. Megan and Ron decided that both will answer the phone during meal time only if it rings. They will alert each other that they only check if it is important and will be right back. Both agreed to avoid texts during family meals.

They would re-evaluate their agreement and make changes periodically.

What is your experience with phone use? How did you address it?

I would love to hear from you. Please contact me at therapy@orlykatz.com and I will incorporate your reply in my next newsletter.

On Personal Growth: Midlife anxiety is linked to dementia in old age.
A review of four studies that included over 28,000 people showed that there is a correlation between moderate to severe anxiety in midlife and dementia 10 years later.

Authors of the review explain that abnormal stress response may speed up brain cell aging and degenerative changes in the central nervous system, which increase vulnerability to dementia.

They concluded that, “non-pharmacological therapies, including talking therapies and mindfulness-based interventions and meditation practices, that are known to reduce anxiety in midlife, could have a risk reducing effect.”
BMJ open, April 2018*

On Relationships:Psychological detachment from work stress affects quality of romantic interactions.
Among a sample of 106 dual- earner, committed couples researchers found that when partners’ jobs had not occupied them during the evenings, couples experienced higher quality of romantic interactions.

The researchers explained that the ability to detach from work affected partners and quality of time together. When occupied and stressed about work, partners spent less time together, perceived each other as less available and romantic relationship were compromised.

Researchers suggest that positive activities and partners’ support might distract from job related thoughts, reduce impact of stress and assist in better detachment from work and better relationships.
Journal of Happiness Studies, September 2017*

On New Parents’ Relationships: Early Romantic Relationships linked with improved child behavior 8 years later
Results of a study of 1318 couples across 8 years revealed that mothers’ and fathers’ early relationship quality predicted their own parental engagements 2 years into the future. Researchers add that mothers’ more than fathers’ parental behaviors mediated relationship quality and their children’s positive outcome.

Using Laughter to Improve Your Relationship with Your Partner


By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

When we’re asked what attracted us to our partners in the first place, nearly everyone will include their partner’s sense of humor. Why is this such an important quality in a potential partner? It might be that we have an innate understanding of the benefits of humor. For example, a 2002 study by Culver examined the benefits of humor usage with surgical patients and found an increased capacity to tolerate stress. We also know that humor and laughter contribute to long-term relationship success. As John Gottman, the famed relationship psychologist, puts it: “Couples who laugh together last together.”

What Do We Mean By Humor and Why Does It Help?

When we talk about humor, we mean sincere experiences of laughter that partners share. Laughing at a silly thing a child has done, giggling at a joke, and watching a comedy you both love – all are great examples of shared humor. Humor doesn’t necessarily need to be pure or innocent – it just needs to be an experience that both partners find funny. Things like sarcasm or making fun are acts of criticism and belittling and will only drive a wedge in the relationship.

When a person experiences humor, it activates the part of the brain associated with pleasure, thereby releasing an array of chemicals that stimulate happiness, relaxation, and pleasure. Not only will humor increase these feelings immediately, but the presence of these brain changes will have lasting impacts on a couple’s connection and intimacy. Buhlman, Gottman & Katz found in a 1992 study that the quality of laughter in a relationship was directly correlated to whether or not a couple was still together at a three-year follow-up. This result was reinforced by a study completed by Kurtz in 2015, which found that the amount of laughter between a couple was correlated with overall relationship quality.

Aside from these immediate and long-term impacts, couples also experience the following:

  • Increases in bonding and connection: Couples that share humor have the power to recall memories together, giving a solid base of values and history.
  • Establishes hope and trust: When couples laugh together, it shows they feel comfortable in one another’s presence and recalls memories of the moments of attraction partners first had for each other.
  • Increases excitement: Humor can make the work that goes into building a solid relationship feel worth it, especially for couples experiencing times of stress.
  • Diffuses tension: The Gottman Institute states that humor is an example of a “repair attempt,” a method to address an issue without necessarily having a direct conversation about the problem.
  • Increases feelings of validation in a relationship: Successful attempts at humor help meet both partner’s need for attention and validation.

Strategies for Using Laughter and Humor in Your Relationship

  • Spend time together, everyday: Give your relationship opportunities to experience humor. Spend uninterrupted time together watching comedy, sharing about your day, telling jokes, or just finding things to giggle at together. Make sure your quality time isn’t always focused on emotionality or serious issues – build laughter into your interactions.
  • Reminisce about the happy times: Share funny stories, look at pictures together, or visit family and friends who are intertwined in the history of your relationship. Use these opportunities to laugh about the moments of your life that bring you joy.
  • Create opportunities for future laughter: As a couple, try things that you may not be the most comfortable with – take a class together, visit a new restaurant, or just try something new. Approach things with a sense of curiosity and be prepared to laugh when things don’t go as planned. This not only gives an instant “humor boost,” but provides material for inside jokes that can be shared for years.

Humor can be a powerful tool for improving intimacy when used correctly – find ways to apply it to your partnership, and watch the “fuel gauge of joy” in your relationship move up as well.

How Empathy Can Improve Bonding and Connection in Your Relationship


By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

A couple comes in for marriage counseling to improve their communication and intimacy. After some time, the wife says, “My husband doesn’t appreciate everything I do for our family.” The husband immediately becomes defensive and replies: “She doesn’t understand how hard I work and what I go through.”

There’s an issue here, but not necessarily a lack of appreciation or gratitude. The problem is deeper – the couple’s ability to empathize with one another. Without empathy, the problems of this couple can multiply, leading to long-term consequences for their relationship. In this article, we’ll take a look at the concept of empathy and how you can use this to build up your partnership and increase intimacy, understanding, and togetherness.

Defining Empathy

According to Gottman, empathy is about understanding someone else’s emotions. It means stepping away from your own perception and embracing the experience of someone else’s life.

When empathy is used effectively, when we truly step into the perspective of another, we reap considerable benefits. A study by Duncan and Jowette found that perceived empathy among 149 couples was positively associated with relationship satisfaction and negatively associated with depression and conflict. It’s something that every couple can use to improve or repair a struggling relationship – but it requires commitment and hard work.

The terms empathy and sympathy are often used interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. Sympathy is marked by an attempt to recognize the emotions of another, to feel sorry, and to be impacted by those feelings. Empathy is a much deeper action, as it requires one to change their perspective and share another’s experience vicariously, as if they were in their place. Let’s take a deeper look at the differences here:

Components of an Empathetic Relationship

A study by Pristang, Picoiotto and Barker examined 18 couples’ communication of empathy during the transition to parenthood. They concluded that couples showed high empathy levels when:

  • They checked out and explored their partners’ meaning of their concerns: When there is a problem or disagreement, this means taking a moment to rationally discuss the issue at hand without getting defensive or avoidant. What is the disagreement? Do both partners agree to the issue and what it entails? What stance does each partner take and why?
  • They acknowledged their partner’s concerns: Each partner recognizes and validates that there is a disagreement and values the difference of opinions that exist around the issue.
  • They articulated the meaning or summarized the partner’s issues: After listening and hearing the voice of their partner, the other partner is capable of understanding where that person is coming from.
  • They offered solutions: Instead of avoiding or stonewalling, each partner shares mutual solutions that demonstrate an understanding of each’s experience and live in the spirit of compromise and mutual respect.
  • They agreed on a mutual, shared experience: Partners commit to a solution together, continuing to check in with one another about the steps taken and make agreed upon adjustments as needed.

Are You Embracing Empathy in Your Relationship?

Dr. Gottman describes empathy as mirroring a partner’s feelings in a way that lets them know that their feelings are understood and shared. He cites it as the key to attunement with your partner, as well as essential to the emotional coaching style of parenting. Take a look at the questions below and consider how often they apply in your own relationship:

  • How often do you and your partner take each others’ perspectives? Even when your partner isn’t willing to, how often do you hear their words and place yourself in their shoes?
  • When having a conversation where your partner is facing an issue, how often do you keep advice, opinions, and consolations out of your words? Instead, how often do you allow yourself to simply “be there” for your partner?
  • When your partner is expressing a concern, how often do you look for the deeper meaning and emotion underlying the problem first, versus attempting to argue or solve the problem?
  • How often do you validate your partner’s feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, or any other feelings they may be experiencing, without telling them that they are wrong to feel that way, getting defensive about your actions, or trying to “cheer them up”?

To truly embrace empathy, both partners in a relationship should answer the above questions with “often” or “frequently.” If these actions rarely or never take place, empathy in the relationship is lacking and the partnership may suffer.

Integrating Empathy Into Your Partnership

So what can we do to use empathy more effectively in our relationships? Couples can try the following techniques to increase their empathetic communication and, thus, their bonding and relationship satisfaction.

  • Give your partner loving attention every day: Spend treasured moments together, greet one another with happiness, and take the time to share openly about feelings.
  • Pay attention to your partner’s feelings: Especially when couples are first starting out with building empathy, partners may not feel comfortable openly sharing their feelings. You can begin by paying attention to your partner’s moods and ask questions: “You seem to be feeling sad – am I correct or misinterpreting?”
  • Validate your partner’s feelings when they are shared: One of the greatest keys to empathy is this – all feelings are okay. Feelings are simply feelings. While you may not have the same feeling in a similar circumstance, the fact your partner feels a certain way is a result of their own personhood, and nothing about that is wrong. When your partner shares how they are feeling, simply validate: “Thank you for sharing that you are feeling angry – I appreciate your trust in me to tell me that.” Do not try to dissuade, convince, or fix the feeling – be okay sitting with that emotion.
  • Work together to overcome problems: Once a shared respect of feelings is established with empathy, continue to use this tool to come to mutually-derived solutions. “What can I do to help you experience this feeling less in our relationship?” “How can I bring more joy into your life?” “What solution to this issue would cause both of us the most joy?”
  • Empathy has the power to transform the feelings of togetherness, understanding, and love between partners when used effectively. It brings the friendship back into a partnership, where both partners know they have each others’ back.

    Couple Relationship by  Jennifer Novak.

    Five Ways to Get Along with Your Partner’s Family During the Holidays


    By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

    With the holidays approaching, many of us will find ourselves traveling and visiting family. For some of us, that means traveling back to our hometown and spending time with the people we grew up with. For others, it means visiting your partner’s family - sometimes for the first time.

    While the experience of spending a holiday with a new group of people can be joyous and thrilling, it can also bring about stress, tough feelings, and new styles of celebrating. Everyone wants their holiday to be meaningful, but visiting a new home comes with its own set of expectations and realities.

    What are yours?

    Do you hope for smiling faces? A picture-perfect holiday? A table full of warmth and love? Or do you just hope to be included, welcomed by your partner’s family?

    Do you accept the reality of this visit, that it may be stressful, busy, and require lots of preparation? Do you accept that there may be family disputes, different traditions and values than your own, or even the risk of not being accepted by your partner’s family?

    How will you manage it?

    • Give yourself permission to

      feel, assess, and wish

      . Not every moment will be comfortable, but accepting this and creating hope for what will go well can help to relieve the stress this causes.
    • Get your partner on board. Talk with them in advance about your hopes for the visit. Discuss topics like boundaries, what your partner can do to make the visit more comfortable for you, and how your partner can support you before, during, and after the visit.
    • With your partner, develop a plan for the visit. Have them take the mystery out of what you should expect by having them share family traditions and dynamics. Discuss and evaluate options in the event a family member oversteps a boundary or if you feel out of place.
    • Practice your plan with your partner. Have them think about specific situations that have come up during past holidays and role play those scenarios. Will a certain relative ask inappropriate questions? Is there a family member with a bad habit you may be confronted with? Be prepared by discussing and planning for these in advance.
    • Take the time to connect with your partner. They may be the only person you’ve met prior to the visit – make the effort to develop your own language and jokes before you visit family. Remember that if nothing else, they are your source of inclusion and love.

    With planning, preparation, and reasonable expectations, your visit with your partner’s family CAN be a success. It’s all about what you and your partner are willing to work and hope for from that time.

    Self-Growth and Self Improvement by  Jennifer Novak.

    We Attract What We Are


    By Jennifer Novak, Social Media and Content Director

    When we go through the process of finding a partner, we are bound to have some ideas around the kind of person we would like to be with. Some of these qualities might include the physical attractiveness of the other person, their values, their beliefs, or their interests. Oftentimes, we desire to be with someone who is in sync with ourselves – someone who shares a similar mindset about life that we do.

    What’s important to keep in mind is that when we go about trying to find that ideal partner, we need to keep our vision of who they are in mind. This is true for a multitude of reasons – we can lose sight of our ideal partner if we do not envision them clearly; we can find ourselves “settling” out of a fear of loneliness; or, we can find our own values shifting based on being with a person that finds us attractive – we can bend ourselves to the needs of another person.

    In the below video, Bob Proctor talks about the importance of mapping your ideal partner in terms of the law of attraction – that is, by envisioning your partner and living life as if they are already in your life, that you will eventually attract that person to you. Take a look below and pay careful attention to the concept of mapping your partner – the act of listing out the qualities that you would want to see in the person with whom you hold a relationship.

    Let’s walk through the exercise completed in this video together. Start by drawing your own circle and lines outside of it. While Proctor provides some great ideas for the qualities we would probably want to see in a partner, each of us are unique and place different values on different things. Consider for yourself the qualities that YOU most desire in a partner – what does that person believe? What are their values? How do they choose to spend their time, both with you and on their own? Draw as many lines as you would like and be as specific about these qualities as you can.

    Now, let’s take a moment to stop the exercise. We’re going to explore something that came up in the video briefly, but it’s something I think deserves quite a bit more attention. Think about the people who have most recently come into your life – those with whom you’ve had a relationship that ended for one reason or another. What qualities do they share with your ideal person? What qualities differ?

    The point here is this: We attract what we are. While we may desire a specific type of partner, ultimately who we will be most attracted to us are those who are innately similar to us. Those qualities in your ideal partner that your past partners don’t share, the things that you do not want to see in the person you end up with in the long-term? That’s the stuff we have to look inward upon – something about those qualities appear in ourselves and attract those who harmonize with them.

    This is where we depart from imagining a relationship and we start imagining our ideal self. While this technique is beneficial for bringing a potential partner into our life, it’s also a tool for mapping out the things about ourselves that we will need to address before that ideal person will appear and before we are ready to have a relationship with that person.

    Look at the comparison of lists – ideal partner qualities versus past partner qualities – and pick out three that seem to differ the most. Do these negative qualities in past partners shed light on things about yourself that you would like to improve in? Do they indicate a trend in who has been attracted to you? If so, you have a starting point – clear goals for self-improvement that you can implement with dedication and planning.

    The work involved will be dependent on what kinds of traits you selected – article topics all on their own. But by having a clearer starting place, and giving yourself permission to reflect and accept the truth that this comparison of partners provides, you are moving through the early stages of a path that can bring you both self-fulfillment and meaningful connection to a future partner.

    The Staircase That Is Anxiety


    By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

    No matter how laid back you are, how accepting of the present moment, or how well you manage stress, everyone knows what it’s like to feel worry or to be anxious. While many of us feel these moments of anxiety for only short periods of time, for some, the feeling of anxiety never quite goes away. If you haven’t lived with chronic anxiety, it can be really hard to understand how debilitating this feeling can be and what impacts it can have on the life of the person suffering from it. In this post, we’ll share how you can support a loved one living through anxiety.

    In the following video, we see a great example of what it can feel like to have anxiety, and how, sometimes, this “anxiety staircase” can become a tremendous obstacle for the person living with it:

    This video shares some hard truths about anxiety. The first is that the person living with anxiety knows that what they are worried about is often irrational. That they can see what it would feel like to approach life without worry. Regardless of this knowledge, and this is one of the most important points made here, is that it is ALWAYS a struggle for the person with anxiety to get to a point where they do not feel it, where they are operating within the realm of rational thought.

    What does this mean for those of us with a loved one who is experiencing anxiety? Take a look at the below tips for supporting someone dealing with this issue:

    • Remember that the staircase is always there, but depending on the day, it might be much larger and steeper than it was before. This means that whatever issue is causing anxiety, some days this might be a small struggle and others an impossible one. It’s important not to tell the person with anxiety to simply get over this issue – they don’t have control over the size of that staircase.
    • The top of the staircase is usually visible… but sometimes it may be clouded. When the person with anxiety seems unable to see the rational “landing,” gently remind them that this exists and that whether or not they reach it that day is okay.
    • There will be days when the person with anxiety cannot climb the staircase. Maybe they’ve already tried and slid back down; maybe it is so overwhelming that they just can’t do it. Share your support with them, but don’t force them to do something they simply don’t have the mental energy to do.
    • Celebrate the successes. When a person with anxiety does something they were previously unable to do (even a task that may seem simple to others), give positive reinforcement. This is the fuel that can encourage those living with anxiety to push themselves a bit further every day.

    Louise L. Hay: Thoughts on Living a More Joyous Life


    Louise L. Hay, a self-help author and motivational speaker who helped bring the power of affirmations to a broad audience as early as the 1980’s, has been inspiring people across the world for decades to live a more joyous life through a deeper understanding of their own inner world. In this article, we wanted to share a video collection of footage from a recent film she produced that presents some of the greatest collective work of this individual. Go ahead and take a look at the video below – when you return, we’ll highlight some of the key takeaways from this and consider how we can apply them practically in our own journeys of self-growth.

    While this video covers several broad subject areas, the key theme here is pretty simple: if we want to to be happy, we need to know that happiness comes from within us. That doesn’t mean that we can be happy by simply willing ourselves to do so – it requires patience, courage, and a dedication to improving our abilities in this over time. But for all of us, it is possible. Let’s consider some of the main points made by Louise L. Hay and how we can incorporate these into our daily experiences:

    • Paying attention to our thoughts: Louise believes that our thoughts aren’t just passing reflections of the world around us – instead, she maintains that our thoughts are the main drivers of our experience of life. As such, we need to prioritize paying attention to them. Although this is pretty simple, most people ignore their thoughts fairly regularly. To start paying attention to yours, try this technique: When you find yourself lost in thought, take a moment to reflect on what those thoughts were. Do they represent what you want in your life? No matter the answer, take note of it. Even better, journal each day about these discoveries and watch for trends over time.
    • Doing affirmations: Tell yourself you love yourself. Speak directly to yourself about the good that will come into your life, every day, more than once. Imagine for yourself what the ideal journey for your life would be and tell yourself that you are capable of this and will succeed.
    • Be gracious: Have gratitude for the things you experience and receive and share that gratitude. Find the positive in everything. Tell people how thankful you are for them on a regular basis. When we send out gratitude, even for small things, we open ourselves up to receive bigger positives in our lives.
    • Know that your beliefs are choices: Louise maintains that for every person, what they believe is a choice. This may not be a choice we remember making, but how we feel about ourselves, others, and the world is something we choose to do – and something we can choose to change. Challenge yourself to think critically about your own beliefs – are these things that bring you closer to what you want in your life? If not, can you choose different beliefs?

    By embracing the unknowns in life and understanding that we have the power to shape our future, we not only empower ourselves, but we also push ourselves closer to the path of enlightenment that Louise speaks about. This may seem a bit daunting – do we really need to challenge every thought and belief we hold? Not really. But if we can get into the practice of doing so, even on a small scale at first, we can help shift our thinking to a way that better supports our own happiness, thus bringing greater joy and satisfaction into our lives.

    This entry was posted in Self-Growth and Self Improvement by Jennifer Novak.

    How to Have a Better Conversation and Connect With Others

    When we think about the ways in which we communicate with others on a daily basis, the act of actually speaking and sharing conversation with people may not be as high on the list as it once was. Instead, we find that most of our communication is digital – text, email, liking or commenting on status updates. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with staying connected though technology, it does leave gaps in our human connection – without speaking with someone face to face, how close can we really be to them?

    In the below video, Celeste Headlee tackles this issue head on by bringing to light the problems we have directly talking to one another and maintaining non-offensive and worthwhile conversation. Watch below and come back for an exploration of the ten tips she describes for being a better conversationalist – we’ll be exploring these though the lens of how they apply to our most personal relationships.

    Now that we’ve heard about these tips, let’s consider how they work in our closest relationships – those with our partners, children, and dearest loved ones.

    1. Don’t multitask – This means that in order to truly connect, we must dedicate ourselves to focusing on the conversation and only that. It can be hard to do, especially when we live busy lives! What we don’t want is for our partners to think that they aren’t a priority – we need to make sure those we care about know that we care enough to invest our time with them.
    2. Don’t pontificate – Meaning holding back opinions that we feel are right, and being open to learning. This may be one of the most important tips in the context of personal relationships, because it allows us the space in a conversation to see potential for compromise and a willingness to hear the opinions of others.
    3. Ask open-ended questions – This is a wonderful tip for bringing out more fruitful conversation with someone whom we are trying to build (or rebuild) a relationship with. By giving someone else the space to think carefully about their responses with who, what, when, where, why, and how questions, and for us to listen to their answers, we dive much more deeply into their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
    4. Go with the flow – Don’t stop listening because you’ve thought of something you’d like to say or ask. Let your loved one talk. If it’s that important, bring it up in a later conversation. Don’t disrupt the flow of speaking to someone else with your own agenda.
    5. Say “I don’t know” – Maintain your credibility with loved ones by being open when you don’t have the answer to something. Better yet, make a commitment to finding answers if possible and working through unknowns together.
    6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs – When a loved one opens up to you about something they are experiencing, they aren’t seeking an understanding of the circumstances – they are seeking an acceptance of their feelings. Focus on the feelings and provide support to those when you feel the urge to compare stories.
    7. Don’t repeat yourself – At best, this can make it seem as though you aren’t paying attention; at worst, that you are being condescending. Trust your loved ones to hear you the first time and only repeat yourself when it’s clear that hasn’t happened.
    8. Stay out of the weeds – Again, when it isn’t needed, avoid oversharing details that someone doesn’t really care about. Focus on the big picture and answer questions about “the weeds” if they arise.
    9. Listen – Pay attention to the person speaking. Carefully think about their words until they are done speaking, and give them time to finish their thoughts without cutting them off. Give your energy to this and avoid “filling in the blanks” with your own thoughts and beliefs.
    10. Be brief – While this may not always be the case, your time with loved ones may be limited – make sure you spend your time in conversation wisely, using it to build deeper connections and help them to feel the support you provide them.

    When couples come to therapy, one of the greatest complaints is the feeling of lost connection, often as a result of not taking the time to have conversation. With the above, you can start rebuilding this in your own relationship or prevent lost connection in the future.

    Commitment in Modern Relationships


    By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

    With all of the benefits of technology, the ways in which we can meet others and remain connected to those we care about, we still face the negatives – the instant gratification, the temptation of considering what else might be out there in terms of romantic partnerships. In this video, we see this negative in action and what it means in terms of commitment when we have so much access to what might be on the other side of the fence.

    When we use technology to build relationships with others, we need to understand that it empowers us to find and meet people for as long as we continue to use it. In terms of commitment, it means that once we’ve started developing a relationship with a partner, we will never really be able to fully dedicate ourselves to investing in that relationship until we set boundaries around our use of technology. In practical terms, it means we need to assess the commitment we want and that our partner wants and come to agreement around how we should or should not continue to use social media.

    For yourself, consider the following questions for your own relationship, whether or not this partnership started through social media or otherwise:

    • How much time do both of you spend using social media? Have you discussed together the boundaries you should set around this usage, especially for apps or sites specifically dedicated to matching people for romantic partnerships? Both partners need to agree to and abide by these boundaries, or there won’t be any real way to build trust.
    • How much time and energy do you spend investing in your current partnership? When you start to see the imperfections of your partner, are you at a place where you are committed to working through these? Or do you turn back to “grass is always greener” thinking? How can you force yourself to remember that no one is perfect, especially those we might match with on social media?
    • When you and your partner have committed to a dedicated and monogamous relationship, how do you hold yourself accountable to avoiding the temptation of social media? Have you deleted or frozen your accounts on these websites and apps? If not, what is holding you back from doing so? The answer is often that we’ve still left one foot out the door, holding onto the desire to keep ourselves available should a “better” match appear. If this is the case, how can we really be present in our own partnership if we are still on the look-out for someone who comes along and appears to be a better potential partner?

    Without stepping back from social media and stepping into commitment, it’s impossible to truly develop the lasting connection needed for a meaningful partnership. As you look at your own circumstances, reflect deeply on your reasons for continuing to use social media. And remember this key point from the video – the other fish in the sea? They’re only showing their best selves. Once we get to know someone, imperfections become clear. Unless we accept this truth and the reality of who our partner is, we will always be on the search for a perfection that simply does not exist.

    When We Blame First: How Do We Let Go of This?


    By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

    When we experience a negative event in our lives, how many of us find ourselves reacting immediately with placing blame on others? Why do we do this and what are the negative impacts of this on ourselves and our relationships? In this post, we’ll be exploring the blame process and why this reaction comes so easily for people, the detrimental impacts of this, and what we can do to shut this reaction down more readily over time.

    To understand why we blame others, let’s take a look at this brief video featuring Brene Brown. Here, she openly shares her own struggles with blaming and provides valuable insight as to why we do this.

    From this, we see two important points about why we blame:

    1.It is a way that we attempt to find some reason for why something unexpected happens; therefore, we are creating a semblance of control for our minds in uncontrollable circumstances.

    2.It is a projection of our anger and pain, a quick way of expressing these emotions without the trouble of holding ourselves or someone else accountable.

    There are a few problems with the “quick-to-blame” mentality. First, we aren’t addressing the root of our problem – by first blaming others when something bad happens, we are putting a stopper on reasonable and effective communication. Second, we put others in the position of dealing with the mental hurdles that we’ve navigated to place blame on them, hurdles that may not make sense to anyone but ourselves. When we don’t clearly explain why we are upset about something, and instead point fingers at our loved ones for things seemingly out of their control, we further reinforce the walls we have in our relationships. Both of these things have the potential to contribute to more and more relationship problems, such as stonewalling, anger, and a refusal to hear our partner’s side of things.

    If you find yourself jumping to blame first, consider the following strategies to prevent this reaction:

    • Stop and breathe: When something unexpected happens, take a moment to process before saying anything. Analyze your thoughts. Are you already starting to place blame? Is the blame process logical or rooted in a place of anger and frustration?
    • Consider the source: If blame is coming from a place of anger, what caused this anger in the first place? For example, in Brene’s scenario, it wasn’t the spilled coffee – it was that her partner was late to return home. What might be happening in your relationship that’s causing negative feelings that you haven’t shared?
    • Discuss how you feel: While it may not be productive or enjoyable to feel the need to blame, it is a sign that there is something bothering you that you haven’t communicated. When this happens, take the time to engage in self-reflection and figure out what you need to communicate; then, do it without placing blame. Try to hold yourself accountable to holding others accountable in a respectful and empathetic way.

    Through the need to blame, we are given the opportunity to peek into the issues facing our relationship – while letting go of blame, let’s commit to working towards more effective ways of communicating out needs and feelings with our partners.

    Bringing Home Baby: Easing This Transition for Couples


    By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services

    It’s hard to describe what bringing home a baby means to new parents – until you’ve experienced this transition, it seems impossible to really understand the changes your life undergoes, from long-term plans to the daily routines you’ve had. When parents bring home a baby for the first time, it can be a time of overwhelming joy – but with any new change, stress and feelings of disconnection can also be present. Without understanding what a new baby can do to a relationship, this can be an especially vulnerable time for marital discord. We love this article from Women’s Health Mag – it’s such an honest look at the most common relationship troubles during this transition. Take a look – when you come back, we’ll explore some questions to ask before you bring baby home that can help avoid these issues.

    The good news is that these issues can mitigated with some honest and thoughtful conversations with your partner. Ideally these would happen before discussing having a baby (or at least before the baby is born), but if these are things you are struggling with in your own relationship, start the conversation as soon as possible.

    • What role expectations do you both have regarding child-rearing, especially at the newborn phase? How do you expect your partner to support you? How will you communicate when you need more help or when you are feeling overwhelmed? If you are planning on returning to work, how will these roles shift at that time? What additional supports would you consider to help mitigate the stress of working and raising a child?
    • How prepared do you both feel to provide daily care to a newborn? How can you communicate with one another if you are concerned about the care provided by your partner to the baby? What are your expectations for care and are these realistic things to expect from your partner all of the time?
    • Your body will need time to recover after child-birth, regardless of yours or his sex drive. How can you embed intimacy during this time? How will you make time for this even after your body is healed? How would you prefer to communicate about feeling dissatisfied with the amount of intimacy during this time if it becomes an issue?
    • Do you and your partner spend quality time together now? How will you hold yourselves accountable to scheduling this time after the baby comes? What supports do you have that will allow one-on-one time without bringing baby along?
    • What are each of your parenting styles and philosophies? How were each of you raised, and how is that influencing how you intend to parent your child? When baby comes, how will you discuss parenting differences as they arise in a respectful way?

    While these are a lot of things to consider before having a baby, they are essential to making this transition successful. Without having a conversation around these issues, problems like resentment, stress, and isolation can arise – things that quickly drive deep wedges in relationships. Above all, remember that effective communication, the willingness to be flexible and insightful, and placing your commitment to your family above all else is what powers couples through the new baby stage.

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