by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 21, 2020 self care month, sex therapist, sexual wellness, Uncategorized0 comments
May is Self Care Month! In honor of that, let’s explore a form of self care that might not be the first thing you think of when you think about wellness. When the oxygen masks drop on the plane you always put on your own before helping someone else. This is self-care. The actions you take to keep all dimensions of your own health (physical, emotional, social, spiritual, mental) as strong as possible so that you can continue performing at your peak, whether at home, at work, or in your personal life. The phrase ‘self-care’ has made its rounds in mainstream media and for many people may include a spa day, sleeping in, or saying ‘no’ to certain obligations. However, one activity, self-pleasure or masturbation, has not gotten the credit it deserves as the ultimate form of self-care. Sex therapist Lauren Aikin-Smith from Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh shares her expertise in masturbation as a form of self care.
To start, anyone can masturbate. It isn’t restricted by wealth, gender identity, body shape/size, ability, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. It’s easily adjustable based on your other life factors. For example, you can get it done in a few minutes while the kids are napping or leisurely take up an afternoon if you have the time. It can be done alone or with a partner(s). It’s cost effective and fits every budget. It can fit everyone’s personal style and isn’t limited to just involving the genitals, but may include a bubble bath, rubbing lotion on your body, or even involve other erogenous zones like the ears, scalp, and nipples.
Self-pleasure simultaneously has positive effects on the physical, mental, and emotional dimensions of health. The sensations, relaxation, deep breathing, and mindfulness that accompany masturbation promote the release of endorphins and oxytocin, even without achieving orgasm. Orgasm is accompanied by a surge of dopamine, activating the brain’s reward pathways. The endorphins and flow of blood throughout the body help release pent up energy, and promote stress and pain relief throughout the body by relieving stress, tension, headaches, and period cramps. Finally, there is a release of serotonin which is responsible for good mood and relaxation and can help promote sleep, another essential aspect of self-care.
Self-pleasure connects the mind and body, and can help you better understand what arouses and turns you on. It can help you recognize how your body responds to touch, sounds, and smells. Over time, you’re able to get a better sense of the sensations and movements that are pleasurable for you, which in turn also promotes body positivity.
Masturbation is empowering. You will never be in control of all aspects of your life, and many times you may feel like you aren’t in control of much at all, but, you can at least be in control of your own pleasure. You don’t need to rely on someone else for pleasure, it can be all your own.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, masturbation is the ultimate form of self-care because through all the craziness of life, it allows for a few moments that are focused solely on nothing other than your own personal gratification. The only way any of us are going to make it through life is by making time for ourselves, for our self-care, and for personal pleasure.
To discuss any sexual or intimate health concerns with one of our licensed counselors or sex therapists, call us at 412-322-2129 for an appointment.Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenMarch 4, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, Uncategorized0 comments
Some incredible orator stated “Two broken wings won’t fly.” A healthy relationship or marriage is explicitly the product of the intentional and harmonious blending of two actualized psyches. True love and true life require wholeness and awareness. Self-help, self-talk, self-betterment, are all words of our time and just about everyone seems to be on the journey of self and relational growth, yet when it comes to the loves process we may be wondering what the notion of wholeness means. This may be particularly relevant when tracing the route through past relationships and recognizing that there is some naggingly similar quality to those in the rearview. Similarly, you may be married or in a relationship and wondering why you notice a certain je ne cest quoi ebbing into ether, placing you onto the familiar path of conflict speckled by a pervading sense of loneliness. Perhaps you are unattached but when your gaze falls upon the rearview you see lovers left to the wayside like mile markers off of the highway. All in all, its a fine moment to reflect upon wholeness. Not that the act of loving requires any encouragement to unfold, there is an powerful drive or instinct to experiencing love. The manner in which humans repeatedly attempt and often fail to sustain love is evidence of the intensity of this instinct, wanting to share our lives within the context of a meaningful and rich romantic bond. The heartfelt sensations which are a product of engaging in loves virtues and risks are certainly the most ebullient, ecstatic, soothing, and dually frustrating and disappointing! To love is a process by which the culmination of all of these sensations is inevitable, to love is a spiritual and complete act, yet it is also a specific skill set. If you sincerely believe that you have worked towards the mindset which embodies your best current version of you then you may be prepared to enter into a dance of this ancient and sacred heart song.
Step it on out of yourself! A loving relationship requires that we step out of ourselves to meet the needs of our beloved. Loving is most certainly not all about you! To love we must see beyond our own sore spots and insecurities to be present, empathetic, and understanding to the emotional, physical, and spiritual parts of those who are loving. This is no small feat, given the myriad of questions and concerns which arise as a part of a loving relationship or marriage. Often we will need to reflect upon our entire selfhood in relation to another and assess those things which the relationship, like a mirror, may show to us, this is at times startling to a psyche both well developed and those egos which may be in the midst of crumbling.
Love Song Birds Being whole requires attunement to the abundant social cues which are promenaded upon the faces of our fellow humans. Many people are perfectly competent to sustain friendships but when entering the unique atmosphere of romance our sore spots become stimulated by our mate’s. Our lover with their wants and needs and the intimate fact that to understand and accept, this is love in action. Why these sore spots? Remembering our first example of how to give and receive love and attention began as early as infancy. Messages internalized by the way that our mother or primary caretaker mirrored our expressions and responded to our cries, setting up and ever solidifying the evolving pattern of our being within the world. When your lover comes to you to say that she or he has had a terrible day, in that moment do you respond with equal concern and inquisitiveness? Do you launch into problem solving mode, speaking at length about how you can relate? Do you immediately become frustrated that you are stuck in dealing with their feelings or do you feel bad about yourself because you can’t fix it all for your love? So many highly personal responses to one elegantly poised prompt. Most often and simply when a lover comes to us in distress they are only seeking the opportunity to be heard and understood. In the very powerful act of giving that distraction free moment or ten we are filling our lover with the hypnotic sound of our loving song.
A touch of authenticity– It takes courage to be authentic especially with the person we love, it can be frightening to imagine their perceived judgment and fear. Psychological theorist Fritz Perl’s states that psychological distress stems from the proportion that a person lives inauthentically. All of those moments that you squash your verbal impulse to stay with the crowd or forgo offending your lover’s sensitivities certainly take an undeniable toll! Agree to attend the theater or the football game even though you loath it? Or perhaps you lie by omission in order to avoid a conflict? No matter the justification, being inauthentic stink the rot of decay. As Perls would say, you are being “phony” and it incurs a psychological cost, while it’s certainly important to make social trades and compromise its best to enjoy relationships which do not tax your dislikes too often and also make room for us to be authentic in representing our likes, values etc. Being phony runs the risk fanning the flames of eating the fiery venom resentment or making one into an inauthentic drone. One should also examine the part of his or her self which would continually betray one’s own essence for another person’s approval. Simultaneously if you are actually in a relationship with one who would sincerely limit or judge your solo activities then there may be even more questions which you could explore. In life and love must choose and act wisely. “Keep it real” express, fears, taboo, passions, with astonishing honesty and gusto.
Express Vulnerabilities – Love requires that we examine ourselves, own our emotional baggage and then we must feel safe to lay it upon the feet of our beloved, trusting that he or she will respond with tenderness and empathetic care. This can be a mountainous task for those who keep the pain of early or recent betrayals, trauma, heartbreak, or even for those who have never enjoyed the luxury of an open environment which lavished empathy and compassion upon pains. Lovers who were initially able to bask in the trusting atmosphere of a mutually nurturing atmosphere will still sometimes notice things falling off the tracks and wrecking into a place where less productive interpersonal patterns evolve. In this damaged place the expression of vulnerabilities becomes forbidden and is often replaced by defensiveness. This being said it is by allowing our lover into the areas of tenderness and softness that we develop trust and warmth the compassionate comfort which can only be produced by lovers who have navigated through many storms and basked through many summer suns together.
How can you apply these basics to your own love, if you are saying that you can’t really apply any of this they I would imagine that you may not be completely honest with yourself. The act of loving is one which is ever co-evolving and no matter how well or not so well we are doing it, there are ways which we can improve it.
In love and kindness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Relationship Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Ave Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenFebruary 13, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy, sexuality, Uncategorized0 comments
It’s Valentine’s Day, the time of year when romance and affection become central to our hearts and minds. What better way for you and your loved one to mutually celebrate your bond than with warm and flush cheeks, rapidly beating heart, and maybe even a dose of perspiration. Aphrodisiacs promise to invoke all of these responses and much more. Aphrodisiacs have long been revered for their power to make men stand a bit taller and women’s blood to rush with desire. The term seems to have come from ancient Greece and their Goddess “Aphrodite” the goddess of love. The fascination with desire invoking serums and tinctures did not end with the Greeks, time seems to have inflamed our human impulse to create that symposium of flavors which will invoke our less easily satiable appetites. For any of us in a long term loving union, single, or dating, Valentine’s Day is a most spell inducing context to permit ones appetite to be beckoned towards gluttony. Please remember that the magically seductive properties of the following aphrodisiacs will be dually heightened if shared within a loving atmosphere spellbound by the flicker of candle light, melodiously chattering conversation, and maybe even the wafting sweet aroma of flowers.
Truffles-The truffle has remained one of the most sought after delicacies throughout time, it is earthy and woody with a delicate pungency which is sure to inflame each and every one of the senses. The white truffles is even more esteemed than the black and either way if you want to be certain that your lover erects gratitude, deliver a touch of this refined flavor. They are an excellent accompaniment to dress upon most any meat or vegetable. The process by which the mushrooms are discovered is equally fascinating as they are excavated by pigs which are ever attracted to the pheromones the mushrooms emit. Pheromones may also contribute to the Truffles aphrodisiac qualities as they contain the same chemicals which are found within human sweat, which believe it or not is lust enhancing chemical.
Garlic– There is indeed something mystical about this potent and “stinking onion”. Modern days prize it for its anti-microbial functions, high antioxidant content, and gourmands revere its bold taste. Garlic contains the active compound Allicin, this has the alchemical property of increasing blood flow which is sure to heighten lust. This aphrodisiac is best enjoyed by pairs of two lest you want your lover to be repelled much like the mythical vampires which it purportedly scatters to the distant winds.
Oils-From cold pressed organic extra virgin olive oil to the myriad of nut oils there are so many uses and pleasures to be associated with each. Any lover whose impulse towards tasty pleasures is so misaligned to express derision for the fat yielding content of the oils while not undressing its delicate flavors and propensity towards viscosity should remain far from the prep station. By lavishly soaking your finest cut of meat or vegetables in a seasoned concoction of oil, the dish will be rendered ready for the sizzling heat of a sear or sauté while still retaining its internal moisture! I personally assure you that most any food which bursts with moisture has aphrodisiac qualities.
Honey-The creation of laborious effort by tiny bees, buzzing about from flower to flower, fertilizing as they zip through the air, anything born of fertilization certainly qualifies as an aphrodisiac. Ever wonder why newlyweds go on a honeymoon? Historically they were given a jug of mead upon their departure, mead is a drink made from sensual enhancing fermented honey. Cleopatra is said to have used honey in the art of seduction by sharing it with her lovers amidst her erotic regions. If you haven’t found enough reasons to get yourself a large vat of honey, you can also note that honey is bursting with boron which is a metabolite of estrogen a hormone playing a role in arousal for both men and women.
Oysters– There is indeed something lurid and suggestive about the shape of the oyster, Casanova is purported to have consumed more than 50 of these pearl producing gems every day through his life. The salty and sea water infused flesh is teeming with zinc which aids in the production of testosterone, strong hormonal balance certainly heightens the arousal phase of any steamy interlude.
Dark Chocolate– Esteemed as a nectar of the gods and at one time reserved for only the royalty. In fact, Montezuma made a daily ritual of consuming a hot cocoa which was infused with chili peppers which are known to invoke their own power over the appetites of lust. Simultaneously, we offer chocolates to loved ones during most every holiday as tryptophan activates our brains pleasure centers. Of course, any quality chocolate the sensual properties are further exacerbated with the accompaniment of pleasant company, laughter and perhaps even a glass of wine.
Enjoy the Aphrodisiacs friends, fans, and lovers and always remember that the greatest lust enhancing potion is that which is enjoyed from the sultry warmth of a healthy and loving relationship!
Love and warmth,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
Long Term Sex, for Long Term Love, Tips to add Spark to Sexual Intimacy- Marriage Counseling and Beyond
by Stephanie McCrackenJune 26, 2013 couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy, sensate focus, sexuality, Uncategorized0 comments
Long term relationships, life time marriages ; Tips To Add Spark To Sexual Intimacy
Idyllic harmonious encounters of two souls forever become one, ahh…sounds so lovely, and it can be. Yet, reality settles in and our fantasy love becomes peppered with disappointments, disagreements, and challenges of surviving in a world that is at times unjust. For those who are able to make a loving partnership work, the bliss and benefits are at times extraordinarily beautiful, even promising greater wellness and longevity for people who are a part of a healthy committed relationship. There are many tips and methods which can help a couple mesh their various conflict resolution patterns and styles of loving which will create a happy ending after all. Yet, even those couples who are able to remain attached into the deeper phases of loving matrimony are not in the clear as time itself exerts a considerable amount of influence upon our behaviors and even our biology. Time causes us to become “habituated” to our mates, to use a scientific term. The term habituation is an important one, it means that all of those exciting feelings that we once derived from our partner’s presence are replaced with sensations of comfort. Literally that man or woman who was once the source of a quickening heart is now a source of a calm and comforting feeling, their presence is soothing. Like all things, habituation is at times a blessing but can also be a burden. Someone whose mere presence provides calm and comfort sounds divine, however sexually this can potentially be a source of trouble. When it comes to the bedroom biology will require that our pulses quicken and that blood flow heighten, this may be even more important for males whereas females can potentially experience greater arousal as they become more soothed. Are you a couple and have found yourself recently entering a sensual slump or are in a long term pattern of doing it less than is desirable for you? Keep in mind that there really is not a magic number for how many times a week or month is the ideal number of times for love making. Some couples may be content to enjoy sex a few times a month while others enjoy sex several times a week. The key point is that you and your partner know what is best for you individually and collectively. Taking that into account, if you are past the honeymoon phase and noticing a sexual shift, here are some tips for men and women to use, to combat the effects of time.
1) Cast aside routine. You probably have plenty of routine in the rest of your life so keep those outside of the bedroom. In fact, for some couples who are experiencing lower sexual arousal making an effort to make love in a different room of the house is a helpful tip to renew once felt passion. You may even want to consider spending the night in a hotel or taking a long weekend, enjoying you physical bond in a different setting may be just the trick to break the spell of habituation.
2) More on routine, it is easy to get stuck in a sexual rut by performing the same sexual position time after time but this will squelch your sexual passion quickly. Dare to try something new! Yes, it can be frightening to step outside of yourself and into something different but maintaining the same script every time you and your partner jump into the sack may be just as frightening. Fortunately, we live in the technological era and there are countless online and professional resources which will explain a million other contortions to enjoy your physical bond. Study something like tantra to add to your imagination.
3) Resolve emotional conflicts. This is a big one, the longer you remain together, the more time exists to build up unresolved emotional issues. Emotional conflict will wreak havoc on your sexual connection. Often our hurts, our resentments and all of the other things that inevitably happen as lines of communication and understanding become crossed, crop up in other parts of our behavior. Therapists hear many stories being recounted over and again from couple to couple, battles being reenacted in the sexual relationship as a pattern of one or both partners begin withholding sex. The best way to combat this is to resolve those emotional issues, adopt different manners of communication, it takes work but the relationship that can be achieved when you put in the time is well worth the effort.
4) Make time to make love! It is commonplace to be consumed in work, children, and finances that we literally forget how important it is to carve out some time for physical bonding with our partners. With so many other things placing demands on our attention, sometimes we view our partner as being “the person who will always be there tomorrow”, if they are there tomorrow the demands of the night doesn’t always elicit due urgency. I will beckon urgency for you, make time to regularly make love, it is every bit as important as driving the kids to soccer practice and dropping the mortgage in the mail.
5) Take care of your physical health, when we exercise and eat well, we feel our best and when we feel our best, our sexual energy is higher. The human body is a spectacular thing that can endure well into old age but only if we are kind to ourselves by nurturing our mind, body, spirit with quality nutrients and oxygen. If you are struggling with sexual arousal, sexual desire, orgasm, or a sexual pain disorder, you should seek sex therapy or a medical evaluation. By caring for yourself, you have mastered one of the best predictors of having a quality sexual relationship with your mate into octogenarian-hood.
One final note, sudden decreased sexual desire or sexual response can sometimes occur with other symptoms related to certain conditions such as depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, or even emotions such as low self-esteem or as a result of trauma or attachment related issues- this list is by no means exhaustive and is no substitute for medical or psychological help.
In health and bliss,
Stephanie M. Wijkstrom, LPC, NCC
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh PA 15233
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233