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Does the holiday season put a strain on your relationship?

sad frostyTwo sets of families – or maybe four – fighting for your attention.  Everyone wanting you to be with them at the same time.  Long lists of gifts to buy, on top of all your regular purchases.  After-work parties with people you barely know. Short days that leave you tired by 6 pm.  Stress and frustration.  Is that what the holidays are like for you?

It’s no wonder that I see a lot of couples around this time of year who are feeling overwhelmed.  They are finding it difficult to please their kids AND their relatives, let alone each other or themselves.  Sometimes they are fighting, and many times they seem both anxious and depressed.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  If there was ever a time for setting boundaries and putting your nuclear family first, this is it. You can’t always please everyone, but you can cooperate to negotiate compromises and to stand firm as a team on your joint decisions.

Ironically sometimes the first step is to understand where the other side is coming from, and to make sure they know you understand them.  You may not be able to give them what they want, but you can at least listen with respect and caring.  When people feel heard, they may be more willing to work with you to find a solution.

Maybe there is a way to celebrate together by stretching out visits over more days (who says Boxing Day can’t count?).  Or perhaps you can use Facetime or Skype to do a group check-in on days you can’t be there.  With a little creativity, you can include people who are far away in the singing of a carol or the opening of gifts.  Remember that even things that aren’t perfect can still be good.

A little sadness may be normal, if you are remembering loved ones who are no longer with you.  It’s okay to cry, but it’s important to be open to enjoying the here and now as well.  Remember that with an open heart, there may be new things to acknowledge with gratitude.

Make time to include others who may be feeling alone.  You may find that a new face at the table can deepen your friendship and help others see things in a different light.

Most of all, respect your own boundaries.  Think ahead about your budget, your alcohol consumption and your need for sleep.  You can’t please everyone, and your health has to come first.

Overall, the holidays are one of the best times of year for cultivating an attitude of gratitude.  As far as possible, accept family and friends as they are.  Take a walk when you’re feeling stressed and need a few minutes to yourself.  Maybe you’ll even see the stars… and feel connected to the greater universe.

All the best for 2017!

Dealing with a spouse who thinks very differently

Read more ...

Do you have close friends?

Many men don't have close friends, and as a result, they may not be enjoying the benefits of true friendship, including having a sense that people care about you.  I was recently interviewed by Global TV on this topic.  In general, people with a least a few close friends are happier and better adjusted.

If you are someone who doesn't have many friends, it's not too late to change that.  Make a real effort to get closer to people you know, by taking an interest in what is happening in their lives.  When we care about other people, they are more likely to care about us.  When you are going to an activity, don't show up at the last minute -- get there a little early and talk with people about your common interest.  Don't underestimate the value of a smile, of being friendly, and of making time to go for a coffee or a walk.  It takes time to turn an acquaintance into a friend, but it can be done.  Be positive, look for opportunities to get to know people better, and eventually some of your encounters with people will "click" and create the start of something more.

Do you love yourself?

This Valentine's Day week, I gave some of my clients a special assignment.  I asked them to create a handmade Valentine -- for themselves!

It's not as strange as it seems.  For people struggling with self-esteem (and that's more of us than you might think), it's a terrific exercise.  What do you love and value about yourself?  If you were talking to yourself, what would you pat yourself on the back for?  What are you proud of?  What would you thank yourself for?

When we don't value ourselves, it is a lot harder to give others the love and recognition they deserve.  When we constantly criticize ourselves, it is likely we are hard on everyone else as well.  Not so much fun.  Not truly loving.

Let's try for something more.  Let's love the world, one person at a time.  Start with yourself. 

For those who are in romantic relationships, loving yourself can have a surprisingly good effect on how you get along with your partner.  In fact, loving yourself, warts and all, makes it POSSIBLE to really love a partner.  That's part of what love is... I know you, really know you, all of you, and I accept and love you just as you are.

Think you might like to treat yourself better?  Call me!  I can help.

Things to talk about before you marry or move in

Are you on the same page about money, kids, housework and sex?  These are some of the things I see couples arguing over.  Talking about them before you move in together or marry could save a lot of grief later.  Don't just assume you can work it out, because some differences (like whether to have children, and what you will do if you can't) are especially challenging areas in which to create a compromise. 

I caution couples that it's not only what you find out through the conversation, it's your style of communicating that matters.  Being able to discuss serious topics with respect and having the feeling that both people listened to each other and worked to create agreements -- that's an important part of being ready to making a bigger commitment.

If you need help leaning to communicate well, or if you need help with learning to work things out together, let's talk.  I have helped many couples learn to talk in a way that works better, and to work together to create solutions instead of scoring points. 

Here is an article from Canadian Living magazine that was just published, where I was interviewed on six conversations to have before you marry.

http://www.canadianliving.com/relationships/love_and_romance/6_crucial_conversations_couples_should_have_before_marriage.php

 

New Year's Resolutions

I was interviewed by Susan Hay of Global TV about how to keep New Year's Resolutions.  Here are some of the things I recommend.

1) Don't try to change too many things at once.  Focussing on one change at a time is more likely to succeed.

2) Break your goal into tiny steps.  For example, if your goal is to get into shape, break that down into smaller goals, like "I will exercise three times a week for at least 15 minutes".

3) Make goals achievable.  It's better to say "I will lose 10 pounds" and carry it out then to make the goal too big.  You want to ACHIEVE goals so you can feel successful.

4) Visualize yourself achieving your goals.  If you feel as though your are already succeeding, it gets your subconscious on your side.

5) Reward yourself every time you succeed in the micro goals.  For example, after each 15 minutes exercise segment, put a gold star on a paper calendar you post somewhere prominently in your home. 

Here is the link from the Global TV interview:

Do you feel SAD?

This is the time of year when many people start to feel a little down, with winter coming and it getting dark so early.  For some people, the symptoms may be more extreme and include fatigue, less energy and an increased need for sleep, more interest in food (especially "comfort food") and perhaps an associated weight gain, trouble concentrating and even an increased desire to be alone. 

Finding this season difficult is not unusual.  As many as 20 per cent of us will exhibit some of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.  Less sunlight pays a part, because it affects the body's internal clock and may impact your hormones.  For example, you may have more melatonin at this time of year, a hormone connected to sleep that is affected by the amount of light you get.  More melatonin makes you more sleepy and may give you an all over drowsy feeling.  It's almost like you want to hibernate for the winter!

So what can you do to feel better?

A dose of sun in the south is obviously great.  But if you can't afford the time or money involved, try getting more sun here at home.  Bundle up and get outside!  Exercise in natural light is a huge help.  You may benefit from Vitamin D supplements as well; many Canadians become low in Vitamin D in the winter. 

Give yourself something to look forward to.  Is this the time to sign up for that course you wanted to take or those ballroom dancing lessons?  Anything that will get you out of the house, learning and interacting with people, and will give you a sense of accomplishment, is likely a good thing.

Invite friends over instead of toughing it out alone.  Making a big pot of soup or stew with friends and then playing some kind of game or sharing a fun activity is better than watching tv or surfing the Internet by yourself.  This is a good time to make a real effort to be sociable, to help you combat the impact of SAD.  Also, being nicer to your partner, if you have one, and finding ways to show appreciation for their good qualities and their love, can only help YOU feel better.

It's likely that our holiday rituals -- trees, lights and shared food -- were partially a response to the decrease in light.  Whatever the reason, make the most of this time of year and try to be grateful for every little bit of beauty, be it frost on the leaves or a lovely decorated home.  Spring will come, and concentrating on our friends and our blessings will help us get the most out of every day on the way there.

 

 

 

 

Really good advice

Tammy Laber Contact

Marriage Counselling Toronto

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