by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 2, 2020 best ways to build self care plan, mental health matters0 comments
We hear lots of people taking about self care these days but what actually is it? Is there a right way to do it? I hope to answer some of these questions for you today because mental health matters and you matter. Self care can be defined as any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Practicing self-care isn’t always easy. Most of us are crazy busy, we have stressful jobs, are taking care of children or aging family members or are too consumed with technology to make time for ourselves. “Me time” is usually last on our agenda and we can often feel guilty about taking the time required to take care of ourselves. Self care is not selfish. We can’t take care of others well if we don’t take the time to care for ourselves and good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced stress and anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with ourselves and others. So, where do you start? It’s important to build a self care plan. Begin by sticking to the basics for now and overtime you’ll find a routine that works for you. Overtime, you can implement more and more specific items into your plan. In the meantime here are some basic principles of self care to help get you started:
- Eat right- the right foods can help improve memory, combat inflammation and promote good gut health. All of which can have a direct impact on your physical and emotional health. If you have questions or want to learn more about this consider setting up a consultation with a nutritionist.
- Sleep- make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, establishing a healthy bedtime routine can promote deeper and more restful sleep. Avoid sugar and caffeine before bed and help reduce distractions such as light and electronics in your bedroom
- Physical exercise- this can mean lots of different things for different people. This can be a walk with your family in the evening or by yourself at lunch, swimming, or yoga. The type of activity isn’t as important as choosing something you enjoy and can commit to your schedule
- Schedule time away- this can be as simple a taking a half day to spend at the park or an extravagant weekend getaway
- Take care of your spiritual needs- this can be attending religious services, meditation, prayer, spending time in nature or making a gratitude list
- Learning to say “no” and setting boundaries- this can mean you don’t check email after business hours, don’t attend events or gatherings that you don’t want to or don’t take on additional tasks that you don’t have the time or energy for
- Get organized- get a planner for tasks or appointments, this can be especially helpful in scheduling your self care time or spend time prepping lunches so you have more time in the morning for an extra cup of tea and some meditation
- Spend time with loved ones and people that are important to you
- Lastly if you work in a field with high burnout rates seek consultation and supervision from mentors and peers to help reduce stress
Self care will look different for everyone for some it’s getting up 15 minutes earlier to practice deep breathing or journaling before the day begins. For others it’s an evening run, but just like many other things self care takes practice. I challenge you to commit to adding one self care element to your schedule for 2 weeks and see the difference it makes in your life and relationships.
Written By: Nicole Monteleone, MA, LPC, NCC
If you are looking for a counseling center near you, reach out to our reception team monday through friday from 9-5 and we will be glad to get you an appointment with one of our licensed counselors in 4 convenient locations, Counseling Pittsburgh, Counseling Wexford, Counseling Monroeville, Counseling South Hills.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 11, 2019 addiction, addiction recovery, how to say no, quitting alcohol0 comments
Do you have a problem with alcohol? Substance Abuse Treatment
Drinking problems affect a staggering 15 million Americans according to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
People are less likely to seek help for alcohol use addiction as there is little social stigma attached to alcohol consumption. Our culture tells us our alcohol use isn’t that bad. It is inaccurate to believe that someone with a problem with alcohol has to be living under a bridge, without a job, and drinking a bottle from a brown paper bag. You also do not have to be daily drinker of alcohol. Since men and women have different metabolic rates, the definition of binge drinking for men is consuming five alcoholic beverages within two hours, and for women, it is four drinks in two hours.
Ninety percent of adults with addictions began to use drugs or alcohol before age 18.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a substance use disorder, is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. AUD can range from mild, to severe, and recovery is possible regardless of severity”.
Some questions you may want to ask yourself if you think you have a problem with alcohol.
- Had times when you ended up drinking alcohol more or longer than intended?
- More than once wanted or tried to reduce or stop drinking but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking or being sick from the after effects?
- Wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
- Continued to drink alcohol even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- • Given up or cut back on activities that were important, interesting or pleasurable to you in order to drink?
- • More than once gotten into situations while or after consuming alcohol that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as swimming, driving, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area or having unsafe sex)?
- • Continued to drink alcohol even though it was making you feel depressed, anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- • Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, racing heart or a seizure?
- The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence points out that dangerous drinking can cause a number of other health issues and not just for the person doing the drinking. There are 100,000 people who die every year as a result of drinking and driving, other accidents, falls, fires, suicides, and homicides related to alcohol consumption.
- Alcohol and other substance abuse disorders commonly occur with other mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder to name a few.
There are treatment options available, such as an intensive outpatient program, 12 step support groups, and individual counseling. Treating addiction is not a one size fits all.
But know that here is hope for living a life without using alcohol.
*The criteria come from an authoritative handbook known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (or DSM-5).
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
4108 Monroeville BLVD Monroeville PA 15146Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 28, 2019 gratitude, gratitude challenge, reframing cognitive distortions, thanksgiving0 comments
The Real Gratitude Challenge
It’s Thanksgiving and everyone wants to talk about turkey and gratitude. Newsfeeds and flyers encourage us to take the ‘gratitude challenge’ by sharing how happy we are for our kids, our marriage, families, our job, our house. Nowonder, according to the National Institute of Health, gratitude can help us increase our life satisfaction and mental health! Oh, how nice that is! Things really are so well and good through the lens of this gratitude, but isn’t it almost too easy when we simply share what is great? I want to talk about a different kind of gratitude, the dark side of gratitude if you will, this is what I call a gratitude challenge. It is not the shiny happiness and gloating we feel when everything works out just the way we want it, but instead, this gratitude challenge, is the kind of gratitude that we can choose to cultivate when we are sitting on a big tall mountain of suck. In this vast beautiful adventure of life, reality more often than not smacks us in the face, universal are the experiences of hurt, loss, and grief. Yet, even more important than making a mental note of gratitude for all of the ways that we are blessed, our mindset truly evolves when we deliberately choose to frame our losses in one beset by gratitude.
Of course on the day that you get the job, and then again when you land the promotion, you are elated, but can you be grateful for those years of success and comradery even when you get the news that company is downsizing and you are handed your severance? Of course, you are beaming at the altar on the day that you say “I do” to the love of your life, but can you still find gratitude when you are headed to marriage counseling because you’re in conflict and bickering about who is doing more cleaning around hte house? Of course, you will be joyful on the day when you learn that you have finally conceived the child you have been yearning for but can you still be grateful that it has happened when their little heart stops beating in utero? Of course, you are thrilled when you finish the marathon in 2nd place, but what can you choose to be grateful for when you have knee replacement surgery from all of that running?
Choosing gratitude amidst the sucky moments of life doesn’t mean that we pretend it’s all ok. Instead, we do not try to block the hurt of our losses, we feel the devastation and despair deeply because let’s be honest here, we have no choice! Some things in life will rip the wind right out of our lungs and bring such agonizing hurt that we will fall to our knees in the pain of it. Yet, the difference is that we choose to live in the memory of the joy that they brought us, we choose to be grateful that the wonders in life have happened no-matter how long or short they stay with us. Cognitive behavioral therapy instructs us to reframe the despair of our cognitive distortions, we do not allow misery or grief to frame the pictures of our memories or the loss in our life. The gratitude challenge is to be penetrated by the suffering of a life well lived but then to hunt like a little scavenger for every little bit of joy, peace, and hope that our experiences have shown to us. Some days that might mean that we are grateful to know that they pain won’t last forever and allow ourselves to contemplate the gratitude for that. When you get here and can nurture this sort of perspective, you take a little bit of power and direction back to your life. On Thanksgiving and every day, the decision to live a life peppered in gratitude is yours. So go ahead, take the challenge, how grateful can you be, what about your pile of suck can you be grateful for?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 18, 2019 family estrangement, family loss, holiday traditions0 comments
1o Ways to Enjoy The Holidays if You Experience Family Estrangement or Loss
Holidays are extremely triggering and difficult for those who have suffered family loss/grief or estrangement, there are reasons that mental health related hospital admisssions and therapy visits for anxiety and depression increase during this time of year. Most people who are in therapy to deal with family conflict or estrangement will spend some time forming a plan for how they will manage the holidays in anticipation of the challenges that they present. There is a hallmark sentiment that everyone else has it all together and is rejoicing in love with their near and dear and for those who do not have healthy or connected relationships with their families, they may notice the added burden of shame for this reality. The truth is family conflict and tension is very common and family estrangement is too, according to research published by Psychology Today, as many as 7-27% of parents and children report not having contact with each other. That means that 1 in 10 or 20 people you know can relate to the feeling of family estrangement. Additionally, if you reason suffered a loss or divorce, the mourning will likely increase this time of the year. Toxic relationships are a common reason for family estrangement, if your family members, have tried family counseling and still can not relate to you in a healthy way then there may be no choice but to limit contact or go no contact. Things like a history of abuse, lying, deception, emotional or physical attacking are healthy reasons to put safe distance and plenty of boundaries between yourself and family members.
Holidays are steeped in traditions that are centered around the family. During the rest of the year, it may be easier to cope with the reality of no or low contact, but the social implication that other people are connecting with family spending days and weeks off of work to gather around the table and reconnect, may make a person who is excluded from such family gatherings melancholy or wishful for something else that doesn’t exist. Here are expert verified ways to help;
- Ramp up your self care, practice more meditation, mindfulness, get appointments scheduled with your therapist.
- There is a stigma attached to being isolated and cast out from your family, that makes it less likely that those who are not in touch with relatives will talk about it and seek the support that they will need. Help starts when we break that stigma and open up to some close friends or coworkers about what you are experiencing.
- It is likely that there are people who will be excited to share this time of year with you, reach out to them and share your thoughts about feeling alone.
- Look at what traditions you can create for yourself?
- Can you organize a toy drive, or a food drive?
- Can you volunteer to visit a long-term care home?
- Can you volunteer at a soup kitchen?
- Can you mentor children?
- Can you organize a baking party with friends?
- Have you thought of taking a trip like a tropical vacation?
You will notice that many of these suggestions highlight being of service to others, this really is one of the best ways to lift yourself up. No matter what you decide, the holidays become a blank canvas for you to create whatever you might envision upon it. Only you can decide what is the best direction for you to maintain peace, mental wellness, and happiness during the holidays and the rest of the year and it is your sole job to protect your peace and wellbeing.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 11, 2019 panic disorder, signs of panic attack0 comments
According to the Amercian Psychological Association, 1 out of 75 people will experience a panic attack at some point in their life. Yet the term is used very commonly in pop culture. There are major differences between a panic attack and anxiety or stress. The most common signs of a panic attack are a racing heart, sweating, pupil dilation, chest pain, dizziness or faintness, tingling in the arms, hands, or fingers, a feeling of dread, feeling like you’re dying, difficulty breathing, and feeling a loss of control. Of course everyone experiences these symptoms differently, it is common for a person experiencing a panic attack to go to the hospital thinking that they are having a heart attack or other cardiac event.
According to the Association for Depression and Anxiety, triggers for a panic attack are varied but often a panic attack has no known trigger or precipitating event which makes it even more confusing for the person experiencing the panic attack. A person can have one single panic attack without having a panic disorder or anxiety disorder. Other times, the panic disorder which is hallmarked by frequent panic attacks and particularly a pattern of avoiding situations to prevent the possibility of a future panic attack, this could be an indicator that the panic attack is evolving into a mental health disorder. Stress, medication withdrawal, caffeine, loss/grief, major life events like a wedding or divorce can also be triggers for a panic attack. There is also an important relationship between mitro-valve prolapse and panic attacks and anxiety disorders, those with mitro valve prolapse do experience higher than normal rates of panic disorder.
If a person is experiencing a full panic attack it may be difficult to resist the urge to run to the hospital, if a person who is sure that it is a panic attack, they can label the sensation as panic, and remember that it lasts for 10 minutes to 30 minutes. A person with panic disorder should be working with a mental health counselor on developing a plan for when their panic attack comes on, some people write that plan down and carry it with them everywhere to remind themselves of how to work through their crises management steps. Some people do deep breathing, take a walk, use grounding techniques, trace the outline of the room with their eyes, stretch, yet a mental health counselor is the best person to help a person come up with an individualized plan based on their strengths, needs, and overall context.
A panic attack is very different from anxiety or stress, although the term panic attack has made its way into popular language most of what people call a panic attack is really stress, worry, or panics little sister- anxiety. A full panic attack can sometimes be described as life changing because it has startling intensity. Anxiety is a state of worry or fear that can generally be managed or serve as pesky background noise in the sound reel of our minds. Panic is all consuming with spikes of heart rate and a feeling of total loss of control. If you are experiencing more than one panic attack, you should seek medical and mental health support immediately to rule out underlying conditions and prevent the panic attack from evolving into a full panic disorder.
This is not intended to treat or diagnose a mental health disorder, if you suspect that you are suffering from a mental health disorder seek a medical or mental health professional.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghOctober 21, 2019 irritability, mood swing, wayst to beat a bad mood, why do I have mood swings0 comments
Five surprising ways to Bust a Bad Mood
Everyone has experienced irritability and bad mood or a mood swing at some time in their life. Sometimes that can result in a few hours or a day of feeling on edge, like nothing is going your way. Maybe you are more short with friends and family, things that wouldnt normally had gotten on your nerves really feel like they are pushing you over your limits, welcome to a bad mood! Below are some ways to beat irritability and a mood swing. If your bad mood or mood swings have lasted for weeks, or months, you may be experiencing a mental health related disorder, you should speak with a mental health counselor or therapist to diagnose and treat this.
Smile! When we activate the zygomatic muscles which course around our cheek bones and eyes, with the process of biofeedback, it sends messages to our brain to signal happiness. This effect has been researched, in studies, when participants held objects in their mouth, forcing the activation of the zygomatic muscles, they rated comic images as much funnier than those who were not holding objects in their mouths. Sometimes, ‘fake it till you make it’ works!
Go for a walk in nature. While any exercise has a positive impact on mood, memory, energy and feelings of wellbeing, those positive effects are doubled when cardio vascular work outs happen in green space. Additionally, the stress marker cortisol is significantly reduced in post measures of participants who took walks in nature. This is compared to those who took the same kind of walk in a city space. Nature really does enhance our mood.
Watch out for cognitive distortions. Pay attention to the way you frame a bad mood, the way we talk to ourselves, or our internal script, really matters. If we run into an annoying situation, we should refrain from allowing that to define the whole day or week. For example, if your alarm doesn’t go off causing you to be late for work, instead of saying, “This is going to be a bad day.” We can say, “Well, this situation happened and I am devoted to making the rest of the day better!”
Dose up on omega 3’s and take that fish oil. Norway, is the country where citizens report being most happy in the world, there are a lot of hypothesis being tested around what makes them so blissed out. The answer might be their access to a diet rich in oily fish. We have long known that oily fish and omega 3’s enhance brain function by reinforcing the myelin sheath of our neurotransmitters, this may hold the key to our happiness.
Phone a friend! Having a best friend, a vent buddy, or other person who will listen to your troubles has protective effects on our health. It is no surprise that those who state that they feel most socially isolated have poorer health outcomes. There is an effect called ‘tend and befriend.’ Women seem to benefit most from tend and befriend, we see this in the way that women often reach out to social supports to talk out their concerns. Women get the benefit of reducing cortisol stress markers and limiting their cardiovascular stress when they talk with friends, even better if they feel that their friend responds with attention, care, and compassion!
Call us at 412-322-2129 for an appointment in any of our Counseling Centers.
Please note, if you are experiencing depression, bipolar disorder, or another mood disorder, this advice will help best while paired with mental health counseling and psychological care from your therapy team, the above advice will not treat or cure a mental health disorder and may not apply depending on the particulars of your psychological needs.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghOctober 1, 2019 anxiety in children, child counseling, child psychologist0 comments
5 Ways to Soothe Anxiety in your Child
Whether your child is anxious or even has a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, you have probably tried everything that you can think of to help them manage their emotions. Your daughter stays up all night worrying about show and tell tomorrow in school, she cries and repeats, ‘I know I am going to mess up, I will say something stupid and everyone will laugh at me!” Of course, you have seen this scenario happen before with your very concerned little one, and like most parents you want your child to see that there is nothing to fear, that they should simply stop thinking about it and go to sleep. Minimizing away worry, is the layman’s most common way of responding to other’s anxieties, we repeat things such as, ‘there is nothing to worry about,’ And at other times ‘try not to think about it.’ Experts have a different approach to managing and responding to anxiety that takes into account scientifically tested psychological methods to become well and relaxed. Below we have compiled a list of the best ways to manage your child’s anxiety according to a team of expert child therapists. These tips are most effective for children over the age of 6.
Start by labeling the emotion that your child is feeling. If we stick with the above example we might say, ‘You are really anxious about your show and tell tomorrow.’ Healthy emotional management always starts by identifying the feelings that are being exhibited instead of masking or shooing away what is being said.
Ask for more information, delve into the feeling with your child. Ask some questions like, ‘what is the scariest part about this for you?’ ‘what do you think could go wrong?’ ‘what do you feel in your body when you think about it?’ This is yet another way that we groom our children to have healthy emotional hygiene by digging in and practicing awareness of their physical responses and having a more global perspective of what is frightening them the most.
Validate the feeling, help them understand that everyone worries, has fears, and tends to think about things like this sometimes. When we are being honest with ourselves we too will realize that we definitely do have moments where our stress and worry are very high. One of the mechanisms which makes anxiety worse is when we build feeling constellations internally and feel ashamed, guilty, and abnormal for our feelings of concern. By helping our child understand that some worry is normal we can help them build a foundation of positive emotional health.
Reframe Can you help them think about some ways that is can be helpful to worry or be anxious about something that is happening in the future? In cognitive behavioral therapy we can this ‘reframe,’ when we change one maladaptive thought and we replace it with a healthier one. It may take some time to think it through with your child, ask them, ‘how can worrying about your performance help you?’ Brainstorm and imagine how sometimes when we worry, we may really want to do a good job with something, that sometimes we can also work hard to prepare when we are concerned.
Make Space for Worry- It is ok for your child to worry a little bit, as much as any parent wants to help their child we can not take away all of their fears and concerns and it may add more stress to the situation if we try too hard to make their anxious feelings vanish.
Remember to pay attention to your own feelings and responses to your child whenever they express their fears or anxieties to you. We know how overwhelming it can be as a parent who wants to make things right, try to take some breaths and notice any stress that you are feeling before you try to soothe your child. Even just by pairing a reflective moment and a long slow inhale into your body, you will be able to approach the situation with your best efforts toward being constructive and relaxed. Acknowledge to yourself how hard it is in your role as the helper and healer to your stressed our little one. When your child is exhibiting signs of high anxiety, you too may be at risk to burn out and have cargiver fatigue, you may even want to ramp up your own self care and find a mindfulness routine to help you find greater calm and clarity through the very real challenges of parenting an anxious child. Always, if your child is constantly anxious, tearful, sleepless, avoids peers, is very withdrawn, consulting a therapist or counselor who specializes in working with children is a good way to help them get the support that they may need.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 24, 2019 comfortable relationship, counseling south hills, marriage counseling monroeville, marriage counseling south hills, marriage counseling wexford0 comments
8 Things you should do to make your relationship comfortable
- Have a disagreement! Most of us in the clinical world agree that it takes at least 2 years for a person to trust enough to become really honest about their past, present, and futures. If you haven’t disagreed with your partner, you don’t really have a relationship, its an acquaintanceship.
- Don’t tell your friends, family, about your relationship issues, talk to your partner about what you feel. While everyone at times uses others as a sounding board if you turn to others more than your partner to vent, you are likely robbing your relationship of important life blood.
- State your needs not your criticisms. People fear stating a position in a relationship because they don’t know how to be constructive and supportive so they instead fiend silence and then explode or repress their true selves until the relationship deteriorates. When we tell our partner what we need, we allow our partner and the relationship an opportunity to grow and nothing is more comfortable than a relationship that is evolving.
- Make time for yourself that doesn’t involve your partner. Keep your friends and solo activities, if you don’t have some, you will likely over rely on your partner for social support and approach your relationship from a perspective of need instead of strength. We can’t have a comfortable relationship if we cant stand on our own.
- Be vulnerable, share your insecurity, were you bullied as a kid? Went through an over weight stage or worked through stuttering? Say it, if this is your person, you must take small risks of sharing your vulnerable aspects, this is how trust is built by making small disclosures over time!
- Tell them what you really enjoy sexually, sexually intimacy is founded on trust and honesty conveyance of what turns you on and off, indicating your pleasure to your partner is paramount to enjoying a healthy sexual relationship.
- Share your dreams, what is your 5 year plan? Sharing this with your partner is a great way to grow closer together, or not. Especially if this is a newer relationship each of you can think honestly about the direction in which you see your life going.
- What are your boundaries or no go zones? These can be emotional, physical, interpersonal. Boundaries are unique for each of us. Some common ones include how you will interact with others, whether your relationship will be monogamous, frequency of communication. Boundaries teach others how we need to be loved and they define where one person ends and other begins.
Comfort is important in a relationship if it indicates that we have trust, respect, and attraction. Yet some people site that too much comfort can also detract from the relationship and erode at sexual attraction and contribute to feelings of boredom, we believe it is important to all yourself to be bored in a relationship and intolerance of boredom is an internal problem with ourselves.
Be well with us,
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC
Contact us today at 412-856-WELL to book an appointment for Therapy, Marriage, or Family Counseling at one of our 4 conveniently located centers:
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC is a certified counselor and founder of Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania’s largest and most trusted wellness therapy practice. Stephanie specializes in relationships and providing marriage counseling and she has been featured on local television and Huff Post where she acts as a thought leader on relationships.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 17, 2019 communication exercises, couples communication, south hills counseling0 comments
The steps to a sincere apology that counts!
If you have made a mistake in your marriage or relationship then congrats, you are like the rest of us who work hard to do our best but sometimes fumble. One of the ways that couples get really off track in relationships however is that they do not know how to make up after having a big fight, they don’t know how to make an apology. Here are the 5 steps to an apology that will count by communicating your feelings and allowing your partners feelings to be understood.
- Admit where you went wrong – If you have found yourself looking back on a recent event and knowing that you made a mistake, the first step is to open up and admit it. Unfortunately, this is tough work for many people. Our defense mechanisms can at times go to great lengths to prevent from being accountable and we even lie to ourselves so that we don’t have to risk being wrong. Be accountable, vulnerable, and humble by admitting this.
- Ask your partner how it felt for them- Here is where you can really become a relationship master, ask your partner to share their experience and really tune in. Do not assume that you understand but give them the opportunity to open up about whatever it is that happened between you. This will create a relationship based on empathy.
- Validate your partners feelings, Find some shred of what your partner shared- This is the most important step in any apology, validate, find some point of agreement for your partners perception of reality. There is a lot of research about the mental health effects of being in an invalidating environment but when we validate and affirm each other’s experiences, people are soothed and conflict resolved.
- Share what you could have said, done, or how you could have behaved differently or would in the future. Apologies are only as good as their assurance to not commit the same mistakes repeatedly. If we continually mess up, pay lip service with ‘I am sorry,’ but continue to do the same thing, our partner isn’t going to have much faith in our words. However, when we plan to do something different next time, even though we can’t change the past we are committing to a different path in the future.
- End with I am sorry. Saying I am sorry if really the final step in the whole process of the apology, the words are much more authentic when embedded in the context of all of the meaning of the conversation that precedes and follows it.
Check out some of our other communication exercises for couples.
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Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC is a certified counselor and founder of Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania’s largest and most trusted wellness therapy practice. Stephanie specializes in relationships and providing marriage counseling and she has been featured on local television and countless articles where she acts as a thought leader on mindfulness and wellness. Stephanie is a loving wife, an ardent yogi. Stephanie enjoys her daily meditation practice, trying new wellness tips, prancing through the world with belly laughs on her breath and preparing gourmet meals.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 25, 2019 chores, marriage, marriage and family, national institute of health, relationship, way couples can stop arguing about household chores0 comments
Couples Counselor verified; 6 ways that Couples Can Stop Arguing about Household Chores.
Cleaning and how to manage it with some degree of harmony is a topic that comes up often for couples, it ranks right up there with finances and parenting in terms of hot button relationship issues. The research weighs in, according to the National Institute of Health, in relationships where both partners are engaged in managing household chores, wives have higher happiness and well-being in the relationship. Furthermore, the opposite is true, in marriages where only one partner, typically the female partner, manages the majority of household labor, there is greater dissatisfaction and distress, this is especially true in relationships where both partners are a part of the work force. The stress and imbalances in shared responsibilities can take their toll, in fact according to data compiled by business insider, house-hold chores are a common reason people divorce. Often when couples take the time to dig a little deeper into what each of these critical issues means to the other, the dialogue changes. Instead of pointing fingers at each other, they can consider, what are the true barriers to making change, and then work on creating mutually achievable solutions, it is empowering to realize that these conflicts can be resolved. Here are our therapists 6 best ways to stop arguing about household chores.
- Co-create a cleaning list of total household chores; divide and conquer. This may seem basic, and it is. One of the problems we as couples therapists observe is that one partner carries the ‘cognitive load’ for organizing, cleaning, and managing the household. Data shows that this is often the woman in the home, she then asks for help and the male partner may feel criticized or micromanaged when he is asked to help. When couples co-create a weekly list on a dry erase board, both partners become responsible for completing it. This can also help both partners see the sheer volume of work that must happen to keep the house managed well. Add an initial next to the task once it is completed and then you can even turn it into a competition, create a prize or personal expression of gratitude for the person each week who completes more tasks etc.
- Recognize that while one partner may be more focused on cleaning, don’t take that as a lack of love. We all view the world in a different way, we walk into living-room and some people see the pillows on the couch in disarray, others never notice the pillows because their brains are not wired that way. Partners who have repeatedly had discussions or battles about cleaning may end up feeling very hurt imagining, ‘If my partner cared about me, they would do the dishes or clean the bathroom.” The truth is, they may love you very much but household tidiness may not be on their radar. In other instances, a partner may be struggling with depression or another mental health disorder that prevents them from action. In any event, do your best to not make the cleaning about his or her love for you.
- Use a soft start instead of a criticism! Soft start is stating your feeling and what you need, this is a Gottman Couples Therapy Method to break up the tendency that couples have to criticize each other. Instead of saying, “You never wipe down the counter tops!” You might try, “I am really tired today with a busy work week, I could really use extra help with the counter tops.” This way prevents our partner from feeling attacked and makes it less likely your conversation will spiral and instead you may achieve your goal which is to be responded to kindly!
- Figure out what having a clean house means to each partner. Talk about it constructively! Figure out what is most important to your partner about cleaning the home, ask them questions that play back to their own childhood too. It is amazing how much you can learn when instead of responding to each other’s criticisms you go deeper. Maybe your partners parent had OCD or were perfectionists, maybe your partners parents never cleaned and they were embarrassed to bring friends back to the house as a kid. Meaning is vital for couples by providing a context for each person’s wants and needs.
- If you want your partner to share in the chores, you might need to accept that they will likely perform the chores differently that you do. Some couples expect their partner to become the perfect task master and do everything the way that they have been instructed. This isn’t fair, we need to accept that our partner will come up with a different way of doing things, when we create a home with a partner, it doesn’t get to be all about the way each individual wants to do things, collaboration and mutual problem solving are necessary.
You may not have this fight forever. According to Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, she stated that “One couple she worked with for many years used to fight about the pillows never being straight on the couch. The woman fumed about it leading to many battles, several years later her husband died, and each day when the woman walked to her living room she was tearful, wishing that those pillows were misshapen. Remember, our time on this earth is limited. The things that annoy us today we may end up missing tomorrow.”
For a couples therapy or marriage counseling appointment near you, please call us at our Pittsburgh Counseling Center, Wexford Counseling Center, Monroeville Counseling Center, or New South Hills Counseling Center!