crop housewife cleaning surface near sink
Inspiration, mental health

How to Negotiate a Fair Division of Domestic Labor with your Spouse

Resentment, animosity, jealousy, hurt and loneliness are not words anyone wants to use to describe the partnership they have with your spouse. What do spouses fight over? Marriage failure statistics do not agree on the primary reasons for divorce. I have seen money troubles, communication difficulties, and an uneven distribution of weight in the relationship as some of the most frequently cited reasons from couples counselors and divorce attorneys alike.  If we look into those reasons, it wouldn’t be difficult deduce that the concept of domestic labor disputes are a common thread! Feelings of inequality in a relationship will lead to resentment, animosity, jealousy, hurt and emotional loneliness.  From there it is not a far leap to end up with an affair, substance abuse or domestic violence (three of the other top cited reasons for divorce.)  

If this topic is important to you and you have not yet read The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates, you need to. You can find a summary of her key points here, however I’d recommend a full read. Melinda covers a lot of ground in this book on gender inequities around the world; however, I want to tune-in particularly to the equality gap found within domestic labor in the home.  Melinda refers to tasks such as cooking, cleaning, child rearing, and running errands as “unpaid work” and in this article I am using the term “domestic labor”, they are one in the same.  Melinda cites research that finds a gap in all cultures (in India for example it’s 6:1 with women doing 6 hours of unpaid work per day and men doing 1, in the United States the ration is 4:2.5.  There is clearly a disparity that needs to be addressed and openly discussed in homes across the world. 

My stance, albeit controversial, is that there is not a way to have a truly even distribution of domestic labor and furthermore, trying to achieve a truly even distribution will reek havoc on your marriage as one person will always feel like they did more. Someone will feel that their load of laundry had more socks in it, the day they mowed the lawn was hotter, the kids were harder to control when they had them… 

A marriage is a partnership, it is a mutually agreed upon relationship in which you and your spouse agree to work toward common goals.  These common goals include keeping the house, maintaining the the yard, parenting the children, etc. all in agreed upon conditions.  In general, I agree that there should be an equal division of labor…over a long period of time (such a a year).  I suggest looking at longer periods of time because it is a normal life occurrence for each partner to have natural ebbs and flows in their career/paid workload (such as tax season for an accountant), their health (perhaps pregnancy or after an injury or surgery), or the demands of their extended family (such as taking care of their ailing parents). Partners need to have faith that if their partner is not able to keep up their end of the workload for periods of time, there is not a personal insult attached.  The tides will turn back to normal and there will also be times where the workload tips completely in the other direction.  

All of that being said, if you look at a longer chunk of time (such as one year) and feel the balance is lacking, it is time for a conversation.  Gaslighting, excuses, defensiveness and blame would all be red flags.  A respectful conversation about workload can and should happen several times throughout the year to share feelings and prevent the build up of negativity. 

sad ethnic female leaning forward on railing of terrace and looking down
mental health

Why Social Interaction Might Feel Tiresome & Draining After Lengthy Lockdowns Are Lifted

I have found it to be such a strange experience to engage in what I now deem 3-D interactions with my friends and family after a year of 2-D, electronic communication.  It feels like my eyes are playing tricks on me and I have urges to reach out and touch the faces of my loved ones to see if they are really in front of me (which I do not recommend without their consent).   The experience reminds me of one of those old school magic eye posters where you try to cross your eyes to reveal the hidden image. 

You may also find additional thought streams pulling your attention during social interactions about:

  • how you look
  • your body language and mannerisms
  • urges to multitask as you may have done (sneakily) on video calls
  • wondering if they are judging you

This additional mental chatter takes energy and may leave you feeling more exhausted after social interactions post-lockdown.  You may find that additional stress to be a negative experience and therefore you will have urges to shut down and/or cancel plans. I strongly advice against avoidance because that will only fuel the anxiety and cause your social avoidance urges to get stronger.

Fatigue: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & More

There is hope and there are answers for how to cope and what to do with the emotional drain and social anxiety that you experience after lengthy COVID19 lockdowns! Below you will find my three suggestions to forge a way through the mes

  1. Call it out. 

You are not alone in your experience (hence the blog) and the faster we name it as a whole, the faster we can tame it! Text your friends before or after the experience or call it out during the event and label what you noticed. “it is so weird seeing you in person, do you feel like it is a mind-trippy 3-D game to have a real human in front of you!?

2. Own it.

Even if they say “no”, that they did not have that experience, it will be helpful to you and to them, for you to take ownership of your experience and use self-validation.  “I did and I guess it makes sense since we’ve been so isolate!

3. Create a coping plan. 

Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling which is why we want to avoid it. Prior to the experience I encourage you to use self-encouragement statements (“this will be worth it”, “even if I feel anxious, I can handle it”) and engage in relaxing actions so that you enter the experience with the calmest body posture and brain chemistry possible. During the experience, I encourage you to engage in self-validation (“this makes sense”), slow-deep breathing, and sensory soothing actions (apply hand lotion, use essential oils, drink cold water, use a fidget) to help you in the moment.  After the experience, I encourage you to decompress with calming choices (a warm bath, a funny movie, sketching or journaling). 

You are not crazy, and you are not alone in your experience of social fatigue and social anxiety.  You also were not crazy in 2020 when you struggled with complete isolation.  We finally seemed to adjust to the isolation and now we need to readjust.  Be patient with yourself!

Inspiration

New month, Happy June!

First off, I love new months. I am a: goal setter, a bullet journal-er, an eternal optimist when it comes to setting goals for myself. I love a fresh to-do list, a new challenge and a clean slate. I like thinking of what can be accomplished in 30 days and what aspects of my life I’d like to fine tune. I think of life as an eternal juggling act in which I have a lot of interests but I sink my attention into the ones that are falling below the metaphorical red line.

This month I am targeting walking and writing. I have noticed that I’ve been less active lately (my excuse is 2 years old and either walks very slowly or wants carried…) and I’d like to remedy that with more walking. I have an amazingly supportive husband who would be cool with me taking a walk anytime I want, I have fun kids who would love to go around the block more often, and I do have the ability to be patient with little legs, there is no good excuse. I am targeting the writing process to help myself write with more consistency and crank out my second book in less than four years (my goal is one year)!

I REALLY love June also because…

  • Pride month – celebration of diversity and equality, a stance against discrimination
LGBTQ Pride Month FAQs Sheet Template
  • Juneteenth – celebration of the end of slavery in the US! Please learn more about this day…just this tiny infographic helps you to see the injustice that it took TWO AND A HALF YEARS for news to reach the south that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and in effect, ending slavery.
  • Summer – pools, vacations, shorts, etc
2021 Summer Camp Guide - Berks County Living
  • my birth month – I have always loved having a summer birthday!
Let's Party: How to Make Birthdays Special Without Leaving the House

Inspiration, mental health

Coping At Your Desk Job

If you find yourself stuck at a desk for much of your day, I’m sure you are familiar with the slump and boredom that can take over as the day goes on. You might find that you come into work in a decent mood; however, as you sit all day and your posture suffers, you might also find that your mood suffers as well! Sitting in a slumpped position restricts blood flow and communicates to your brain that you have no energy and need no energy. The mind-body connection is real and powerful!

I have two secret weapons to overcome the monotony of sitting all day, remember…as a therapist, I sit on my butt all day…I’m a pro!

Secret weapon #1: your joints

Your joints? Yes! Dictionary.com defines a joint as: the place at which two things, or separate parts of one thing, are joined or united, either rigidly or in such a way as to permit motion. I especially want you to think about the last part of the definition. Joints can keep you rigid or help you move, which do you want to be described as? If you don’t move your body, you will become physically and mentally rigid/stuck as the day goes on. I suggest you get up and move every hour; squats, yoga, stretching, walking, jumping jacks, wall push-ups, etc.

Your joints are your friend. They allow you to move and achieve your goals. You can be their friend and encourage them to move and flex. Treat your joints as if they are your best friend because they fulfill many of the same roles as a best friend does! Friends and joints both:

  • support you
  • lift you up
  • help you grow
  • enable movement
  • allow you to reach things

Why would you ignore and sabotage a friend that helps you in so many ways?!

Secret weapon #2: your five senses

Let’s go back to basics. Your five senses are: tasting, touching, seeing, smelling, and hearing. When you are emotionally dysregulated (angry, irritable, anxious, sad, uneasy, worried, depressed, etc) it can be hard to just “snap out of it” from sheer willpower alone. If it were easy, “just relax” would be great advice instead of the start of many fights. This is where your second set of secret weapons comes into play: using your five senses.

Your five senses are always with you and can mostly be used “on the sly” in “ninja-fashion” which relieves any pressure that you might look weird. My desk is covered in items that will help me regulate my emotions via my sensory system! Here’s a list of what I have within arms reach:

  • iced water
  • gum
  • scented and unscented lotion
  • affirmation cards
  • visually pleasing paintings
  • essential oil inhaler
  • essential oil roller
  • squishes
  • compression gloves
  • wrist rest
  • snacks
  • gel pens
  • hard candy
  • stone with quote on it
  • singing bowl

When I am feeling anxious, I am quick to reach for lotions, essential oil items, and ice water. When I am sad or depressed, I am likely to use invigorating scents, affirmation cards and hard candy. When I am angry, my “go to” is calming lotion scents, doodling with gel pens, and using my singing bowl. Over time, you will learn which types of items help you in different situations. It’s important to go into it with an experimental mindset, open to any possible outcomes, and engage fully in the experience.

Move and soothe. That’s my suggestion, try it for a week and let me know how it goes!

Inspiration, mental health

Busy Isn’t Cute

How are you?

  • Things have been so busy, you?

How’s life been?

  • You know how it is, busy!

How’s the family?

  • Oh you know, busy, busy!

Do these brief conversation snippets sound familiar?

We live in a culture and time that seems to place value on productivity and outcomes more than values. Many industries even place productivity requirement and pay for performance mandates on their employees for “motivation”. We brag to one another about how much we have accomplished rather than sharing about our down time. When people ask how we are, the socially acceptable answer generally has something to do with how busy we are (as shown above). We over-enroll our children in extra curricular activities starting in preschool and we overbook ourselves at the same time. Gone are free weekends, gone are lazy Sundays, gone are snow days (hello virtual learning) and summer vacations.

I regularly see people wearing shirts that say things like:

“Hot mess express”, “I run on coffee, chaos, & curse words”, “But first, coffee”, “This is my circus, these are my monkeys”, “I can’t, busy doing mom things”, “my brain has too many tabs open”, “you must be exhausted by watching me do everything”

…and it seems that (while the shirts are good for a laugh) they tend to glamorize being overly busy and living a stressed out life. I am willing to be the bearer of bad news for you: it’s not cute. It’s not cute to overwhelm yourself, it’s not attractive to wear your physical and mental health into the ground, overbooking yourself and/or your family isn’t something to brag about, I don’t envy your lifestyle of being late and surviving on Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks.

Mindfulness is a key component to living a life that is more enjoyable and serenity; adopting a “busy” identity is not compatible with mindfulness. Being busy is the epitome of living on “auto-pilot” and living in a way that leaves you avoiding your emotions. When you are consistently running around and panicking about the logistics of your schedule, you don’t have any time for introspection or self-exploration. The result of this will likely be a very anxious baseline and perfectionistic tendencies. When you DO have free time, it will likely be uncomfortable and you will fill it with other task-oriented behaviors – rigid vacation itinerary, spring cleaning, taking on DIY home improvement project, etc. — and if you can’t do task-oriented behaviors, you will likely have an emotional breakdown of sorts because you don’t know how to handle down time.

Does this sound familiar? Do you want to live differently?

Task oriented behaviors live on one extreme —-Emotionally fueled behaviors are the other extreme. Noticing that they are two ends of a spectrum can help you see that there is a lot of grey zone in the middle! Just because you aren’t tackling things off of your to-do list doesn’t mean that you are an impulsive mess! Just because you feel overwhelmed, doesn’t mean you aren’t getting things done in your world. The grey zone is the goal. Finding ways to honor your emotional experience while also honoring your goals each week. Overly identifying with either extreme is dangerous and risky.

My challenge to you is to take a quite moment to think about how you have been living. How would you answer the first three questions in this post? What changes could you make to slow down and enjoy moments each day? Don’t start with a whole day yet, we don’t want any emotional breakdowns….you can work up to longer time frames. Some ideas might be:

  • listen to calming music
  • take a bath
  • allow yourself to sit and read
  • give yourself a manicure
  • get a massage
  • go for a walk
  • sit outside in the morning and enjoy a mug of tea
  • sit outside in the evening and enjoy a mug of tea
  • stretch

Inspiration, mental health

Are You Burnt Out or Overwhelmed?

I have had a lot of life happening over the past three months…

  • I published my first book
  • I quit my corporate job
  • I launched my own business as a therapist
  • I launched Wellness Boxes on this website
  • I started selling at local vendor fairs
  • I launched a Podcast
  • I joined TikTok

I’m sure there were more but that’s enough to think about right now! In all of the chaos, I don’t feel like I ever properly introduced my Wellness Boxes!

What is a Wellness Box?

A wellness box is a gift box of mental wellness items, targeted at a particular demographic. This could be a gift for yourself (my favorite reason you should purchase one!) or a loved one.

I have two wellness boxes established (and more planned…)

  1. For those who are anxious. This box is sourced from USA women owned businesses and is luxury self care kit! If you like pampering yourself and need a reason to unwind, this box is for you. This box has 8 items within it, a retail value of $62, yours for $38.
  2. For those who are burnt out on life and need a little bit of fun, a reminder to smile and a box full of levity, this box of 13 items, with a retail value of $44, is yours for $30!

I would love to launch my third wellness box; however, I’d like to see a little bit more interest in the concept first! I chose to go with my own Wellness Box idea instead of subscription boxes because I don’t want to be a part of anyone being roped into a monthly fee. I have also personally subscribed to a few subscription boxes to see what was out there and I was sadly disappointed – they didn’t seem to follow any sort of pattern or theme! I want you to know that I hate wasting my money and I do not want you to waste yours!

Find yours here!

photo of woman looking at the mirror
Inspiration, mental health

Three Ways to Increase Self-Esteem

  1. Get a hobby –

Seriously, find something – anything – that you are good at or want to be good at and that you enjoy or want to enjoy. Don’t overthink this step. We live in a diverse world with diverse offerings and there is a place for you. Do you have a “weird” idea…GREAT! Do you have a “basic” idea…GREAT! Take off with it.

When you spend time doing a hobby, it starts to give you an identity. If you could see yourself being the guy that makes birdhouses, the girl that bakes or the person who knits kittens with adorable little noses, then gather your supplies and make time in your schedule to get it going.

I enjoy going to vender markets and craft fairs. It never ceases to amaze me the creative and unique things people come up with to sell! This past weekend I went to one and saw booths selling:

  • Bookmarks made from parts of old books
  • Journals made from old kids books
  • Candles poured into teacups
  • Birdhouses from repurposed wood
  • Thrift store finds being upcycled again at a “sustainable boutique”
  • Maps cut into shapes and framed

I like to follow crafters and unique hobbies on social media and some of them include:

  • mudlarking (look it up)
  • repurposing furniture
  • podcasters
  • poets
  • doodlers
  • fitness experts
  • dieticians
  • mental health advocates

I tell you this so that you have a very small set of examples available to you. You could try anything from fencing to stamp collecting! The more you engage in the hobby, the more it will give you the message that you are interesting, you have things to talk about, you are worthy of people’s time and attention and you have a purpose!

2. Treat your body with kindness –

Low self-esteem generally leads people to degrade their bodies and personalities. I hear self-deprecating jokes, no self-love and I see people engaging in harmful habits, because they just don’t care. They don’t seem to think that they are worth their own time, attention and kindness.

Harmful habits include (but are certainly not limited to) being promiscuous, smoking/vaping, avoidance of exercise, not eating in healthy ways, overspending, self-harm, making jokes at your own expense, not trying new things, and binge watching television series.

Treating your body with kindness is a skill that takes time to develop. Making choices to nurture your body instead of damaging your body will feel foreign and uncomfortable initially. Kristin Neff’s work on self-compassion is a great place to start. Just like learning any new activity, you might not feel very successful initially; however, with practice you will develop a stronger set of muscles.

Treating your body with kindness might include:

  • drinking more water or hot tea
  • meditating
  • taking a bath
  • using those face masks you have gotten as gifts
  • going for a walk on your lunch break or after dinner
  • eating vegetables
  • putting lotion on your skin
  • telling yourself positive messages
  • using affirmation cards
  • stretching
  • reading
  • creating art
  • organizing your area

Give yourself the message that you are loved and worth of your own love, time, and affection.

Change what you see

I believe that television and social media can be visual toxins. If you see people complaining and judging on social media, if you follow “The Jones” or “Suzie Sunshine” and feel you will never be enough, if you watch the evening news and/or violent and vulgar shows, then you might find your thoughts turning to darker topics more often than you’d like. It might be trendy to take in these negative viewing options and it may be topic of conversation commonly; however, these types of shows generally fuel judgmental chatter.

Judgment begets judgment. If at first you start judging others (i.e. from watching the news or social media), it’s only a matter of time before that judgment turns inward toward yourself. Judging then leads to anger (at others) and shame (at yourself). Taking in negative will make you negative.

I urge you to unfollow and/or block pages and people that make you feel badly about yourself on social media. Delete social media accounts that are only used for comparison or unhealthy habits. If you are going to be on social media, be sure to follow positive accounts that inspire, encourage or amaze you! You can follow artists, mental health advocates, friends and/or pages that educate you. If you are going to watch television or movies, be sure to watch content that is funny, heart-warming, or educational.

Try these three steps for a month and see how you feel about yourself then!

Uncategorized

Join Me For This Mindfulness Challenge!

Thanks to Calm for producing this calendar! May is Mental Health Awareness month, I challenge you to join me in this idea for improving or starting your own daily mindfulness practice.

I am setting an alarm in my phone for 8am and 8pm every, reminding me to attend to this calendar. I have also printed it and posted it on my fridge so that it crosses my mind more often. We all need “cues” to remind us to engage in new patterns of behavior. A cue is something that will pop up in your day (such as an alarm) that will remind you to attend to the behavior. This blog, the calendar, a reminder and friends can all join together to serve as cues for one another to practice and learn.

I will do my best each week to blog on the experience, I hope that you can join me and we can hold one another accountable!

women sitting close together
mental health

Should I End My Friendship?

I think we have all faced this painful question at one time or another. As friendships take time to evolve, they can also take time before we realize they’ve imploded. Many blogs and vlogs exist on ending romantic relationships, but what about friendships? Often, our friendships are longer and in some ways more complicated. Our hope is that we have friendships that are emotionally safe, that allow us to feel supported and loved unconditionally, and promotes our growth but what happens if they aren’t?

A healthy friendship is one that:

  • allows you to make your own choices
  • respects your opinions that might be different than their own
  • don’t impede your ability to achieve your own goals
  • encourage you to prioritize self-care
  • they are proud of your success
  • they promote your growth in any/all arenas (spiritually, physically, mentally, academically, etc)

Why might you want to end an unhealthy relationship? The simplest and most clear-cut answer happens when there is a breach of trust: theft, infidelity involving the friend and someone deemed “off limits” or any sort of abuse from the friend towards yourself. The reality is that most of the time, it isn’t that clear-cut; rather, it’s a slow erosion over time that leaves you questioning how you got to this point and what can/should be done about it.

With slow erosion the friendship drifts apart, often time over years. You might find that you no longer feel invigorated when spending time together, you leave feeling badly about yourself, you feel shamed for your choices or interests, or you simply that spending time with that person just doesn’t cross your mind as much anymore. I believe a relationship turns from distant to toxic when the person actively works against the healthy attributes listed in the bulled points above. Signs of a toxic friendship are:

  • they tell you who you can and cannot spend time with
  • they make fun of your interests and/or hobbies and/or put you down
  • they refuse to have discussions about differences; rather they adopt a “my way or the highway” stance that shuts down a conversation and leaves you feeling as though you are walking on eggshells
  • they ignore your requests for self-care (such as a night in, desires to distance yourself from other toxic people, plans to reduce your alcohol consumption, etc.)
  • they tease you about goals that you set in ways that aren’t playful or loving
  • they “one up” you and cause you to dread brining up any of your successes because you have learned that they will take over the conversation and instead of being happy for you, they make it about themselves
  • they never reach out to you or initiate contact

With those factors being explained, hopefully you can see the clear difference between a friendship that builds you up and one that holds you back or actively tears you down.

But how do I do it!? You may have urges to “ghost” the person (meaning just disappear from their life); however, I urge you not to do that. Learning to speak up for yourself is a huge and necessary life task. I encourage you to let them know what has been bothering you (in factual, non-blaming ways) and let them know that you plan to distance yourself to work on your own needs. This might sound like “Rob, I’ve noticed that when we spend time together I fall into some unhealthy thinking patterns and I end up feeling really alone since we’ve grown in different directions (insert example), I’m going to take a few weeks to see if I can sort out my thoughts on the topic. I hope you can understand my need for space” or “Sara, the last few times we have hung out, I have had my feelings hurt by the comments you have made about people who want to be sober and you keep bringing wine over even though I’ve told you that I quit drinking. I need to stop having you over to my house because of this”. Try to stick to “I” statements, such as “I feel, I notice, I’ve been experiencing” etc. instead of “you” statements which tend to make the other person defensive. Now, it is true that the friend might not take this news very well; however, as you were already considering “ghosting” them, I think the skill and confidence you will gain from speaking up is worth it!

What is the cost of ending a toxic relationship:

  • sadness and grieving
  • boredom
  • anxiety
  • vulnerability when trying to meet new people
  • hypervigilance in new relationships
  • second guessing yourself

What is gained when a toxic relationship ends:

  • independence
  • freedom to do/say/wear the things your friend made you feel shame about wanting to do/say/wear
  • time for yourself
  • a healthier sense of self

Once ending a toxic relationship of any type, it’s crucial that you take time to rebuild your sense of self and self-worth. You many have strong urges to distract yourself away from the negative feelings you are feeling; but you need to take the time to heal. This means that you take time for your hobbies and interests, you spend time with people that build you up and you spend some time with yourself – rediscovering who you are and want to be!

unrecognizable women messaging on smartphones after shopping in city
mental health

Is Tik Tok Causing a Problem with Self-Diagnoses?

If you follow me, then you know I love posting a TikTok video here and there! It’s fun and offers encouragement to those who watch them. I hear friends talk about how comforted they are from the validation they feel from the content, they love how much the learn on the app and it’s always good for a laugh when they’re having a rough day! The main concern I have with the app is the surge of self-diagnosis and over-identification with said diagnoses that I’m starting to see.

According to Google trends, searches for mental health disorders that I also see trending on Tik Tok are on the rise and in the last 12 months:

  • Searches for neurodiversity are up 250%
  • Searches for ADHD are up 80%
  • Searches for Tics are up 150%
  • Searches for anxiety are up 250%

Now…some of this is FANTASTIC news! Mental health diagnoses deserve attention, they deserve to be destigmatized and talked about, and they deserve all of the awareness! I am so glad to see such positive and normalized messages on TikTok about the above mentioned diagnoses because it can help people feel accepted and for many it can help them seek help so they don’t’ need to suffer in silence any longer! I love that people might see a set of symptoms explained and realize that they aren’t crazy…they have a chemical imbalance that can be treated!

The concern I have is more around the appropriation (the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission) of mental illness by people who think it’s fun/funny/trendy or otherwise gets them more followers/attention. There can be serious medical risks to a person who gets prescribed medication that they don’t need. More commonly though, there are mental health concerns with overly identifying with a mental health condition and making that your primary identity (whether the condition is real or generated).

A healthy identity is comprised of so much more than symptoms. A healthy identity is comprised of your values, beliefs, spirituality, interests, education, history, physical appearance, racial identity, socioeconomic status, etc. To limit your identity to only one piece of you (i.e.: I’m an anxious mess) undersells the amazing person that you/they are! I hope that we can all use social media, including TikTok as a tool and not an identity. We can learn so much about the world by being as connected as we are within social media; just make sure not to pigeonhole yourself!