Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tip of the Week, November 24, 2008

During this week of Thanksgiving and in this very hard and scary time in our economy, take the time to let others know the things that they do that you admire or appreciate.
Appreciation is a gift that keeps on giving.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lonely, Single and Facing the Holidays

Are you facing the holidays alone? Many say that they are okay with their “singleness” most of the year but the holidays are really tough. You want someone to go with you to parties, shopping, to share presents, religious and family celebrations. Doing these things alone, especially in the company of others who seem happily mated can be really difficult and remind you even more that you are not “coupled”.

It is extremely hard if this is a “first” for you. The first one after the end of a relationship, especially after a death or a divorce, is so very hard. Thoughts and feelings from memories of past holidays together feel overwhelming at times and it may seem hard to get through each day, sometimes each hour. It gets easier as time passes although some say it never really gets easy.

Here are some suggestions for helping you to ease this time.

Be kind to yourself. Buy yourself a Christmas present and special holiday food. Think of ways to celebrate the goodness of you.

Go easy and have realistic expectations. Don’t expect “glorious” holidays, rather look for ones of peace.

Acknowledge your feelings of sadness and loneliness
. Recognize that it is natural to want to share this time of year with someone special. Journal about it or talk it over with a friend and then find a way to let it go. Focus on something or someone else. Do not let yourself travel too far down the path of unhappiness, rather head it off at the pass. Rarely is there anything good that comes from thinking too much or letting these thoughts overwhelm you.

Do something for another person. This can be anything from volunteering to help out in a shelter to baking cookies for neighbors. Reaching out to others, often ones in a more difficult situation than your own, can help put your own loneliness in perspective.

Write a list of the good things about you and happening in your life right now
. What do you do well? Who are your friends? What are your strengths? What would others say that they most like about you? Make copies of this list and keep it near by so that you can reach for it whenever you need to bring yourself back to a happier place.

Make plans
. If you do not have a lot of people to keep you busy … or money to cover costs, find ways to attend events at the library, show up at a church, walk in the neighborhood where you might see other people. Get out of your home and be active. We have a friend who has organized an “Orphans’ Christmas”. She invites others that she knows are alone for the holidays. They all bring a small gift to open and exchange and share a meal. This tradition is now 12 years old and she has requests from others who hear about it and want to join the group.

Remind yourself that this time does not last forever. January 1 will come and life will return to a more normal place. You have gotten through tougher times in your life. You can and will get through this as well.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tip of the Week, November 17, 2008

Spend the same amount of time that you spend on your hobby (running/exercising, watching television, playing golf, etc.) on your marriage and your family.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Family Holiday Stress

The holidays are nearly here and many of us will be spending time with family. For many people this involves seeing relatives that they may only see at this time of the year. We do not always like or agree with all of our relatives and this can bring about stress and tension for days, weeks or even longer before the events. Here are some suggestions for how to think about and handle these gatherings.

Visualize the experience. Think about all of the possible difficult conversations or statements and make plans in your head or with your spouse about how to handle them. Practice your responses which can be anything from silence to a simple statement or a prolonged conversation. Planning for difficulties makes them less stressful.

Be positive and complimentary whenever you can. Don’t make things up, be realistic; however, remember that positivity breeds positivity and it may lead to a friendlier atmosphere for the family.

Avoid divisive subjects
. Find ways to change the discussion or even leave the room. This is not a time to solve the world problems or dissect the latest election.

Answer the question: Is it more important to have family harmony or win an argument? Arguing rarely is helpful and yet it is important to stand up for yourself and sometimes for others. Prolonging a discussion after making a statement may not be helpful in the long-run. If you really need to state your opinion, do so respectfully, listen and then, if at all possible, find ways to let go.

Stand up for your spouse or children with your own family. If another family member makes a disparaging remark, calmly but directly, let them know that it is not okay with you to talk or treat your family in that way. If at all possible, try not to get into a prolonged confrontation where apologies are demanded, often that leads to more conflict. If you need to, find a way to leave the gathering early.

Try to position yourself around the relatives that you like and enjoy. Don’t make it too hard on yourself. If you find Uncle Charlie irritating, be friendly, but then sit near others. Remember, you don’t have to like everyone.

If alcohol is served, limit how much you drink. Plan to keep your good thinking in place.

Remember, this is only for a short period of time. You do not have to remain forever. It will be over and you can go back to your safe, comfortable surroundings with those who love and respect you and share your ideas and values.

Do you have any ideas to share with us? Please post your comments here.

Sally Connolly and John Turner

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tip of the Week, November 10, 2008

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Can I Make Myself Happy?

Pam has been through some really difficult times. She is a single mother with an ex-husband who is cannot be counted on to pay child support regularly or to show up for his time with their two girls. Pam likes her job but not the pay and occasionally has to work overtime to make ends meet. She is close to her family and they help when they can but they have lives of their own. She has a couple of really close women friends but is not dating anyone, partly because she has not met the right person and partly because she does not have a lot of time for herself.

If you met Pam, you would think that her life is in such a sunny place. She always has a smile on her face and if you ask her about things in her life, she will share a cute story about her children or something interesting going on in her life or job right now.

To Pam’s closest friends, they know that she struggles and has times of feeling angry, disappointed or sad but they would tell you that she does not let things get her down. She has the attitude that you only worry about things that you might be able to change and that the worry should be more about solving problems than stewing about the injustices and wrongs. Pam would also tell you that she has decided that she must find ways to let go of the things that she cannot change, maybe accepting that the situation is not a good one but also knowing that her energy is better spent on making her own life, and that of her daughters, the happiest and healthiest that it can be.

You may be wondering how Pam can see the good even when life is tough. You also may be wondering if she is deluding herself about reality. Pam is actually one of the lucky ones, born with the ability to think positively on her own. She was reared in a loving and supportive family who, while they were certainly not perfect, found many ways to help her know that she was a good person with lots of good qualities and the ability to achieve whatever she put her mind to doing. Pam grew up believing in and liking herself.

Others in tough situations are not as fortunate as Pam and have to struggle with finding ways to appreciate the good in their lives. They have to teach themselves new habits of thinking, talking and behaving. They have to find ways to focus on the good that is present in their lives rather than the bad. Very, very hard to do when you are, or have been, programmed to think of, talk about and act as if all of the bad things have and are happening to you … and yet not impossible.

If this is something that you are struggling with, check out our web site ( for some suggestions for books that might help you begin. Consider calling or emailing us, or a therapist near you, to talk over what you might do to think and feel better about yourself and your life. There are times that depression can be helped with some clear specific suggestions for change. Other times, a medical assessment may be needed. A professional can help you best decide the best direction for you. You don't have to fight this alone.

One place to begin is to end your day each night by writing down three things that you are proud of or grateful for, in your life … just that day.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Tip of the Week, November 3, 2008

"If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.”
Author Unknown