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The distancer/pursuer dynamic: 5 ways you can communicate better.
Written by Tory L. Eletto, LMFT


Partner 1: Hey I really need to talk to you right now.

Partner 2: We always talk. What is it now?

Partner 1: What is it now? Is it the worst thing in the world when I simply want to have a conversation? What is your problem?

Partner 2: Here we go again..Why are you always nagging me?

Partner 1: If I didn’t nag you, you would never listen to me, or talk to me.

Partner 2: (walks away frustrated) Oh my gosh, what do you want from me?

The frustrating sequence many couple’s in Westchester, NY and NYC find themselves in is the Pursuer/Distancer pattern. In this pattern one person handles stressors in a more communicative way, craving closeness, affection, and talking.

The other person craves emotional distance, alone time, less talking, and physical space. This dynamic exists to an extent within each and every couple, but the challenge occurs when there is a really strong pursuer partnered with a strong distancer.

What each of them doesn’t realize is that the pursuing qualities lead the distancer to crave more distance, and the distancing qualities lead the pursuer to pursue more. Thus, a couple can get easily caught in a cycle that leaves both of them frustrated, unheard, and unsatisfied.

Important factors to understand:

Pursuer’s correlate distance to rejection, feeling unloved and unwanted.

Distancer’s correlate pursuing as attacking, overwhelming, and invading.

How do you know if you are stuck in this pattern? What happens when the roles are reversed? Sometimes a pursuer will get so tired of pursuing they withdraw, pull back, and disengage. This can look like a possible threat to end the relationship, or simple behaviora changes that not related to the distancer. What happens to the distancer? He/she notices the distance and begins to pursue. Once the pursuer gives in, the cycle can move right back to where it was before.

The frustration of this cycle escalates and eventually it becomes incredibly tiresome. If you decide to stay in this relationship without working out this pattern, I tend to see the couple fall into a “fixed distance” level in which neither spouse attempts meaningful interaction with the other, which becomes a recipe for disaster.

It is important to understand that neither role is “wrong” or “bad”. With increased understanding and appropriate accommodation, each can learn to relate to each other in a more positive and effective manner. 

It is also important to note that some distancers can be pursuers in other areas where pursuers can be more distant. Many times you will have a pursuing partner shy away from sexual intimacy, while a distancer will pursue sexual intimacy. This type of pattern can play out in many different areas in the relationship, and it is important to pay attention to all of them.

5 ways to impact this dynamic: 

  1.) Come together and view the problem as a difference in communication versus your partner being “too naggy” or “too withdrawn”. If you are able to see the problem for what it is, you will have a less personal reaction to it. Many times I tell the couple to name the cycle, such as “The cycle of chaos” so that if they catch themselves in it, they are able to step outside of their emotional reactions and come together to work through it.

·            2.) Reframe what is happening: my partner is pursuing not because he/she doesn’t respect my space, he/she is passionate. My partner is distancing not because he/she doesn’t care about me, he/she needs to clear their head.

·            3.) The structure of when to talk and how long should be chosen as best of possible. For example, the pursuer knows that if she/he comes barging in, the distance will most likely put up a wall, so changing the cycle is necessary. Try and move away from discussing things at a heated time, and attempt to have conversations in a place where you both feel calm and productive.

·         4.) The pursuer needs to work on their tone, their emotional reaction, and their wording (no attacking). She/he needs to tell him that she would like a few minutes to talk and ask him when a good time is. She/he allows this time, and copes with his/her own anxiety that he/she may get from not getting an immediate response to needs.

·         5.) The distancer needs to work on communicating his/her needs, connecting more to his/her emotions, their defensive reaction, their patience, and at times push themselves to discuss and work through things that may feel irritating, annoying, or unnecessary.

If you feel you are stuck in this dynamic and cannot break free on your own, it is time to reach out for help. Give us call for a complimentary telephone consultation today!

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Westchester, NY: How to fix the 7 most common parenting mistakes.
By: Tory L. Eletto, LMFT


Parenting requires a skill set that can shift and vary based on who your child is.  I work with many children and adolescent's but find how incredibly important it is for me is to also work with their parents during this process, as it helps strengthen the bond in the family, teaches skill sets to utilize in a variety of situations, and limits dependency on me being the solution.

Here are the common parenting challenges and what you can do about it:

1. Ignoring or minimizing your child's feelings. You may immediately assume you are not doing this, but this can come across in many different ways. Sometimes telling a child they “will be fine” seems helpful, but can undermine how they feel in a deep way. The key as a parent is to not always focus on solutions, as this is an easy way for a child to tune you out. Make sure you are truly validating how they are feeling whether it be in a time of need, or a time of celebration.

Think of the times when you just want your spouse to truly understand how you feel, and how important this is. As humans, we want to know that we are not alone, and one of the ways to beat isolation is to have our feelings validated. Solutions are important  but should only be focused on in a serious situation or when asked for. The first step in making any type of change is accepting how you feel, and this goes along with parenting as you are essentially teaching your child what to do with their feelings.

Do not miss the key ways that you can connect to how your child feels because seeing them upset or angry makes YOU uncomfortable. Remember you cannot protect your child from feeling sad, angry, jealous, unwanted, etc but you CAN be there to sit with them and walk them through it. This inevitably will create an open and vulnerable bond that will shape your child's self esteem, and ability to connect to their emotions.


2. Try to really understand their world. For every parent that I work with that tells me their child won’t listen to them, there is a parent that simply won’t listen to their child.  For example, as adults we have had enough life experience, and proper brain development, to understand that doing well in school is extremely important. You may press this over and over again yet your child chooses to socialize instead of study. When they attempt to talk back to you, you immediately dismiss anything they have to say because you are the parent.

Sound familiar? Here is the thing, they do have a perspective (right or wrong) and in order to help your child make better decisions it is imperative you understand their world as well.

Children’s brains are developing, and due to lack of life experience, they are not always capable of seeing their short term decisions having an effect of the long term. They are much more impulsive, and the desire to stay up late tends to win over the desire to feel good the next morning. As a parent, if you are fighting your child to come into your world, they will fight back harder to be in theirs. The only way you are going to get somewhere is you model listening and understanding, which eventually will be reciprocated.

Take a moment to understand, and validate, the reasons why your child would rather hang with a friend then study. Give them an example of times where you would rather go out versus doing something in the home, and relate. Once you build a relationship there, they will be much more willing to sit and listen to you.

Also, it is important as a parent to realize that although you were once a teenager that went through the struggles of life, their world is not identical to yours. There is currently a huge generation gap with technology and increasing school pressures. It is important as a parent that you are not afraid to look at this new world, through the eyes of your child, so that you are really able to understand the stress involved and help them cope.

3. Be consistent & give up the power struggle. If you are consistent with reasonable consequences and expectations for the household, you will raise a child that has the ability to self reflect. Why? Well many times children I work who suffer from self esteem issues, throw major tantrums, or will fight or sneak out to get what they want. When a parent has a difficult time following through or having boundaries, the child or teen instantly picks up on this. What begins to happen is every time the child or teen makes a mistake (i.e. does not complete chores) and knows that they have the potential to scoot out of consequences, their energy is focused on YOU.  Simply put, the power struggle, or battle that ensues becomes where they choose to put their focus.

Their goal is to get you to give in and change your mind, so they will at times stop at nothing until this occurs. The harder the fight, the more you know you need to work on this area, because your child has already learned that if they push hard enough, you will give up.

The biggest problem with this dynamic is that you are raising a child that is going to make mistakes and focus on changing the other person instead of themselves. This can lead to victim thinking, lack of feeling in control, anxiety,  low self esteem, relational challenges, and the inability to see one's self.  

When you are consistent with boundaries and consequences, and there is no wiggle room, the power and energy is forced to be focused on THEM. When they know the only way they are able to go out is if they clean their room, they are going to figure out a way to self motivate and clean their room. This means that they begin to connect their actions to their outcomes, and take more responsibility and control over this, which fuels self esteem and positive relational interactions.

4. Pick your battles & loosen up. For every parent that has a hard time with boundaries and consequences, there is one who is rigid and unreasonable. As you child gets older, certain areas of what is expected need to be examined. Listen to your child, see what their needs are, and see what areas you can be flexible about. This also feeds into self esteem and differentiation, which is a necessity for the health of your child. I suggest creating behavior contracts that both you and your child sign and every 6 months or so, check in to see where some changes could be made to better accommodate your child's age and needs. 

Again, a reminder to parents that you cannot keep your child in their room to protect them from the challenges of the outside world. If you want to raise a strong, healthy individual you have to allow them to make mistakes, to learn how to balance life, and to trust they are capable of doing so. 

If you find that your child is struggling, even though you have firm rules in place, this may be a sign for you to lighten up. Write down all that is expected of your child and label the most important to the least important from 1-10. Now pay attention to numbers 7-10,  is there any wiggle room? Be flexible to allow your child the right amount of space and individuality to promote growth.

5. Over protecting & over processing. When we attempt to protect our child from every problem or issue, it creates an unhealthy view of self. They either feel powerless, or entitled, and have a harder time developing coping skills. They also rely too heavily on YOU for things they need to be learning about themselves.

I cannot tell you the amount of parents that complain to me that their teenager does nothing, only to find out growing up they were responsible for very little. You cannot expect to brush your child's teeth, pick out their clothes, sit with them while they do their homework, without creating a dependency on you.

What is empowering to realize is that your child learns these cues from you, I have yet to meet a child that will naturally develop the desire to clean their room if you are constantly doing it for them, and this goes along with anything else you are doing for them, or beside them. It is going to take some freedom for them to grow, and within that growth period you have to be ok with mistakes, challenges, and some failure. 

In terms of emotion, if your child tends to be more anxious, make sure you place a boundary on how much you help them figure out this anxiety. Although anxiety is a struggle, you do not want to be your child's solution. This will endlessly tire you out, and create a codependency on you. Teach your child several techniques to do when they are anxious, and allow them to practice these on their own. Answer questions and support the process, but do not complete the process for them.

6. Treating your child as a friend, or an extension of yourself. You can have a  friendly relationship with your child without putting yourself completely in the friend zone. Sharing personal experiences, talking to them in a friendly way, are all relational building that is healthy for your child. It crosses into unhealthy territory when you are asking your child for advice, talking to your child about the other parent, or revealing the details of your financial struggle. Anything too revealing becomes an unnecessary burden for your children.

This does not mean you have to go through life with a smile on your face, you can admit you are having a hard day or a challenging time, but show them you are confident enough to handle it.

Another commonality is when we treat our children as an extension of us. Their grades, appearance, amount of friends, become an extension of how we see ourselves.

If they are a reflection of yourself, their mistakes and short comings will become very personal. This is a recipe for disaster as your child can respond in many ways either becoming people pleasers and/or losing their sense of self, or never feel that they are good enough.

Remind yourself as a parent that you are a guide, and as powerful as this guide may be, your child is not an extension of you, they are a reflection of you in how they handle things. This is where you want to put your focus, and pay attention to the model you are giving, as this will guide them more than your words ever could.
 
7. Punishing separation and mettling into their relationships.
As your child becomes a teen, you will start to notice a great shift in their attitudes and behaviors. This is when they begin to learn about themselves, and form more solid individual opinions. Parents can sometimes have a hard time with this step due to the sudden onset of this change. They begin to get more annoyed with parents, and show this in ways that can seem aggressive and frustrating.

When we punish our child for this developmental phase, we are attempting to control too much. This can result in cutting, depression, rebellion, which are often results of desiring control and independence. 

I also many times hear parents punishing their child for expressing themselves in a negative way. For example, my kid told me to “shut up” so I punished him because he is not allowed to talk to me that way. While the message may seem clear, what is crucial your child is having them understand what the punishment is really for, which should be the WAY they handled their feelings, not what they are feeling.

Many times parents will think they have accomplished this simply with a punishment, but the child reads it as being punished for how they feel and the only solution is to not express themselves, or disconnect from their emotions. Take the time to understand what was underneath the outburst, so that their feelings are always respected and guide them to come up with alternative ways to cope.


Mettling into all of your child's relationships is another way this surfaces. Being a part of your child's battles with their friends, calling the teacher when they are struggling in school, or telling a boyfriend they are not allowed to date your daughter are all ways that will stifle growth. If you over control, you are going to end up with a teen that is quite angry at you, and unable to navigate these challenges on their own.

Instead focus on the areas that will strengthen your child's growth. For instance, listening to how they feel, guiding them on possible solutions, keeping firm household rules, and teaching them how to assert themselves, are all life skills that will help them navigate these trickier areas on their own.

Teach your teen to be proactive. If they keep in touch with you, you do not have to text or call them every 5 minutes and seem "annoying". Show them how to be trustworthy, and once they are able to be reliable, trust them. If they make a mistake, don't overact and tell your child they are a failure. Instead, tell them that this shows they are not yet ready to handle whatever it is you trusted them with, and will maybe try again in a few months from now.

Whatever the dynamic in your home may be, it should always feel empowering as a parent to continue to learn ways to positively help your child be a strong, and successful. If you find you are struggling, and need more guidance, feel free to contact us for a complimentary telephone consultation. We will teach you the skills, and work with your child/ adolescent to become the best version of themselves.

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My Morning Intention: Mind, Body, & Soul

(My story on the never ending journey of overcoming a multitasking life in NY)
By: Tory L. Eletto, LMFT


Alright, so we all have seen these videos depicting our generation of kids (and adults) phone and technology obsessed. We get it. We miss incredible, real life, connections because we are connected to our cellular like a charger would be, except we are the ones getting charged. I personally, am very conscious of my phone use- with others. When I am out with anyone, I just do the occasional check in but overall am happy to be in the company of friends, family, my boyfriend, and my clients. This wasn’t my problem, so I thought this whole tech craze didn’t really apply to me. Until it did.

Here is how:
I started to notice that although I am great about phones and friends (sounds like a sitcom), I was not great with phones and myself. In fact, in a generation of people, especially women, of multitasking, my phone was the key. I could take care of business emails, text my boyfriend and make dinner plans, shop on Amazon for some cleaning products, all while I am on my morning walk- with my dog. Whoa. That sounds intense writing, but it feels like second nature when doing.

Over the past few months, I have realized that the biggest disconnect I have built personally, is with myself and with the moment, my moments. I started to feel uneasy, always going, going, and going. And for those of you who own your own business know, there is always something you could be doing.
We hear about balance a lot, but I think it isn’t so much about balance as it is LESS multitasking.

To me, balanced means you can do it all. You can go to the gym, have a great relationship, see friends, be there for family, run a business, expand a business, take care of your dog, clean the house, cook (not because I have to, because I actually enjoy it), take on some hobby time, make sure I get some sleep as well. That to me is balance. And guess what my day looks like? A multitasking adventure before work, on my breaks at work, and after work. 
Every moment I have to myself turns into a moment of productivity. And it was wearing me thin. We read all of these posts on “if you want to do it, you make time for it”, so I lived by that. I did the morning gym time, worked a long day, ran home and cooked. I played that card, and the days when it worked, I felt great, I felt accomplished.

But then I would have my days of being stuck. Stuck because I had two hours off and I could not decide what to do with them, because I had 35 things that I could do with them. And I instead just felt paralyzed. And I went on my phone. And I browsed facebook, and instagram, and pinterest, and when I look at the time I had to get my day started at work. Then guilt came pouring very quickly, because I didn’t do anything. I didn’t relax, I didn’t exercise, and I didn’t clean.
This pattern was to go on, getting it all done or getting nothing done, until literally last week. I had originally thought that my days where I was stuck was the problem, but it was really the entire cycle that was the problem.

Here is how I realized:
The Con Ed was being worked on outside my home, and I had to leave the house way earlier than expected. I decided to get 4 things accomplished, all at once:
*Walk my dog (check)
*Exercise by taking him to a hiking trail (check)
*Relax and bring my morning coffee (check)
*And bring my phone to answer some emails (check)

Seemed like I really nailed the multitasking.
Here is what actually happened:
*Within the first 10 minutes of the trail, my dog decided he was done. Went flat.
*I started to get annoyed because this was my exercise time, so I am trying to get him to walk. Not working.
*Upon my frustration, I decide to pick him up for a minute as he seemed to be hot and tired (although he can run marathons in my home at any moment).
*As I went to pick him up, my coffee cup spilled, cap busted off, and poured directly into my bag. Oh, and on my phone.

In an instant, my entire morning was in disarray. Phone was broken. I had a mini break down in my mind, blamed my dog, Con Ed, and my boyfriend (for no apparent reason, just felt right at the moment), and angrily went home.
It took me hours to relax. Literally. My instant reaction was to completely shut down and not do anything all day.  And that’s when it dawned on me. My happiest moments are when I am in the moment. And I am never in the moment with myself.

I take my phone to the bathroom, I take it to bed with me, and I whip it out in traffic. And the problem really isn't the phone or my need for technology, it is my need to multitask. Something needed to change.
I forced myself to come to the conclusion that the reason this all happened was because it was someone, or something, letting me know I NEED to slow down. It forced me to not have my phone. It forced me to realize that when I do 4 things at once, I am not really doing 4 things at all. I made some ground rules for myself. And let me tell you, it is not this simple transition. I very easily skate back to grabbing my phone on any occasion I can, it’s a real effort I put in to help myself. Here is what I have come up with: In the morning, my old routine was to grab my phone & get the day started. Now, I wake up and set an intention for the day. This intention is for the hours I have to myself. The extra hours in my day get divided into: Mind, Body, and Soul.

1.) Mind: Finish up work related things. Organize. Pay bills. Do invoices. Answer emails. Anything that I need to focus that is mentally related.
2.) Body: Exercise. Cook. Food shop. Cleaning my house. Anything that I need to focus that is related to me moving around to take care of myself, or my house.
3.) Soul: Bonding time with Teddy (my dog). Writing. Relaxing. Reading a book. Sitting in a park. Getting a manicure. Anything that I need to focus that is down time, and good for my overall well being.

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Does your relationship need a tune up?
By Tory L. Eletto, LMFT

 

Relationships have the power to make us feel on top of the world, and also have the ability to make us feel like we can barely go on. The strongest relationship involves two people who are not afraid to look at, and work on, themselves. The challenge is that many relational skills are taught from parents, friends, and movies, where there are misguided messages about the way we relate.

As a relational therapist, I can tell you there are so much more to relationships then what meets the eye. During my years of training, I learned more than I ever realized I could about why we are attracted to certain people, the stages of a long term relationship, and how to succeed within one.

As a society we have developed a natural resistance to counseling as a midway point and typically decide to try a session when faced with some sort of crisis mode (dealing with a potential split or an affair). There is also generally more resistance for one partner, usually the one who is less comfortable communicating, wanting to seek out help. The question is why have we become a society that is so scared to learn, and work on our relationship?

Pay attention to the messages or thoughts you or your partner may have received about therapy. Therapy many times means to people that someone is “crazy”, that something is “terribly wrong” if you need outside help, or that you are “weak” because you are incapable of handling your own issues.

Other things I have heard are “I don’t need someone telling me what I did wrong”, “rehashing what is going on in our relationship will make things worse”, and the fear of someone taking your partners side, inevitably pointing the finger to you as the problem.

These are all outdated, old, and misguided perceptions of the way modern, relational therapists work. I like to compare relational work to just about anything else in life. If you want to succeed in your career, you have to work hard. There is a huge learning curve, and a lot of trial and error.  No one walks into a job and is at the top of their game, it takes time, experience, and practice.

Compare it to physical health; in order to be consistently in shape, you have to go to the gym even when you do not have weight to lose. You have to create good habits on a consistent basis in order to avoid yo-yo dieting, or up and down weight fluctuations. If we viewed counseling, or relational work, the way we view the gym, we would realize that it important to work on a relationship consistently just as it is important to maintain health. When we let things go for a long time, we end up in a place where the workload is much more difficult.

Part of my mission as the founder and director of E-Motion Psychotherapy is to try and break the stigma of reaching out, and help couples learn insight and tools to be the best version of their relationship, even before they hit crisis mode. More and more younger couples are realizing the benfit of creating a strong union before, or at the beginning of, a marriage. Want to know if your relationship could use a tune up? 

Here is a list I have compiled of relational habits that are imperative to the long term health of your relationship, many of which typically are underlying when couples are in crisis mode. 

1. Communication. This is by far the most important skill you need in your relationship. I also find it is one of the ones we struggle with the most. The way communicate is vital to your relationship being successful, it will make every challenge a real strain if you both cannot find the ability to communicate in a healthy way. We learn to communicate based on our familial background, our experiences in life, and our personality. If this is a struggle in your relationship, I would highly suggest working on this now so that you may have the skills to use in any situation you may endure together.

2. Trust. If you are checking his or her phone every time they are in the bathroom, this is a red flag. Whether it is insecurity within you, or due to a past hurt, or any other reason, it is what I call creating “false security” in your relationship. Trust issues such as these; create a toxic environment which can easily lead into crisis situations such as affairs, thus creating a vicious cycle. If you feel like you have to play detective to feel safe in your relationship, or you are walking on eggshells with your partner to gain their “trust”, it’s time for a tune up to figure out the real issue, and work through it.

3. Intimacy. Affection and sexual intimacy are extremely important in maintaining the spark that seperates your partner from a roommate. Although there are external circumstances that can fluctuate your intimacy, this is an area that will easily slip away from you as a couple unless there is work being done to consistently maintain eroticisim and affection. If you are feeling that this spark is flickering away; it is time for a tune up.

4. Constant bickering or fighting. Although this may seem more of an obvious dynamic that needs a tune up, you would be surprised how many people continue on in a constant battle of a relationship. This is an exhausting relationship to be in, and by now you may have developed a fighting pattern within your relationship that is as automatic as brushing your teeth in the morning. It is certainly time for a tune up to end this exhausting cycle, and figure out how to meet your needs in a healthier way.

5. Major life changes. Nothing shifts a relationship like becoming parents, moving to another state, or experiencing a trauma. Tune ups when there are major shifts in your external world are extremely helpful in helping you bond, reconnect,  redefine your relationship, and making sure you do not drift apart.

If you find your relationship is struggling in any of these areas in Westchester, NY or NYC, it is truly best to work through them now. If you find you are in crisis mode, try to seek help as soon as possible. Once you are able to learn and develop these habits, you will become a strong unit together, which is really what we all desire within our relationships.

Interested in getting a tune up at E-Motion Psychotherapy? Feel free to call us at 914 497 3075 for a complimentary telephone consultation.

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Self compassion: learn to be good to yourself.
By: Tory L. Eletto, LMFT
 

  

Everywhere we turn we are exposed to criticisms, judgment, and labeling. Whether it be about a celebrity, a politician, or a friend, it is pretty much a constant. As much as this is done on the outside, it happens even more so within us. This means that we tend to develop very negative ways to interact and handle ourselves, which many times leads to depressive and anxious feelings, lack of motivation, and relational challenges.

Self-compassion is a term that describes how to be with yourself in a mindful, non judging way, almost like a loyal friend. It is a willingness to be your own loving companion when in pain, building yourself up when you are down, and to be kind to yourself when you make mistakes.

Developing compassion for yourself is a warmth that lies within you and permeates your emotional energy with acceptance, unconditional love, and kindness.

No one in the world knows your feelings and hurts as well as you do. You know each and every dark part of yourself more than anyone else possible could. Because of this, you are solely the one in charge of bringing love and light to those parts of yourself.

Many times we enter relationships hoping that someone else can do this work for us, but after the initial infatuation stage ends, we are left with bitterness towards our partner for not filling the holes we need to fill ourselves.

Let’s take a look at 7 ways to develop a better relationship with yourself:

1. Do not harp on your mistakes, or label yourself. Be kind and realize that at the time you made the best possible decision you could make.

2.  Forgive yourself. You are human. You are going to do things you wish you shouldn’t have, and the only thing you can do is learn from them.

3.  If you don’t get a job, or a call back from a date, or anything else external, do not internalize. You have the choice between saying “I am not good enough” or “It was just not the right fit, and I am ok with that”.

4.
Comparing yourself to others is always a route to feeling down. Remind yourself that everyone has their own journey, and embrace wherever you are on yours.

5. Use your energy to build yourself up instead of breaking yourself down. If your goal is to own a home, instead of telling yourself you are a disappointment because you do not yet own one, take that energy and focus on small steps that work towards your goal.

6. Stop trying to control, and just be. If you are upset, allow yourself to cry. If you are happy, allow yourself to smile. Be willing to feel your emotions and be ok with them. If you accomplish this, you will be less afraid of them for the future.

7. Be ok with your weaknesses. We all have them, and the best thing to do  is accept them and not allow them to define who you are.
 

Self-compassion includes care, concern, sensitivity, unconditional love, tenderness, acceptance, mercy, leniency, and kindness.

Next time you come across a situation, ask yourself how you would treat a best friend, and use the same kindness and compassion towards yourself.

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10 ways to bond with your children in Westchester, NY.
Written by Tory L. Eletto, LMFT


Between work, school, activities, technology, and everything in between, it is quite easy to feel a bit disconnected from your kids and family. Try implementing some of these tips for bonding with your child.

1. Take your kids on a date. Date nights are always recommended for couples, why not kids? It could be a breakfast date, an ice cream date, whatever works for both of you and gives you some time to bond.

2. Get active. Bonding really does not happen while watching television. You have to get out there and do something exciting. Try a bike ride, yoga class, hike, or a simple walk.

3. Cook & Bake. Learning something new, while bonding, and having something tasty to reward yourselves with? What on earth could be better.

4. Garden. Try planting some flowers or gardening outside together (weather permitting). This is a great way to cater to something on a consistent basis, while sharing something special.

5. Get crafty. Go on your pinterest and find some crafy ways to bond. Make stuff for the holidays, for others, or paint and play together.

6. Bed time stories. Share and create stories together. You can do this in a fake tent like setting, or laying in bed just chatting away. Tell them stories of when you were little, and share special moments with them about when they were tiny babies, etc.

7. Reading. This has always been a staple, and continues to be. Reading with your little munchkins is such an important part of bonding, learning, and having conversation.

8. Game nights. Dust off some of those old board games, and sit around and just play. Pick games that are interactive and fun, and team building such as Charades.

9. Play make believe. This can be a challenge for some adults, but try and let yourself go. Be creative and use different things around the house to create a whole new world.

10. Talk time. Make a time frame in your day that you can just chat. Ask them questions, let them ask you questions, tell jokes, just find uninterrupted time to simply talk.

Although many of these things are naturally done, if you are feeling like there is a lack of connection and time with you child, pick a few that you feel would help you reconnect.

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The disconnect between desire and commitment
By Tory L. Eletto, LMFT
 

There seems to be a disconnection between desire and sex in a committed relationship. The divorce rate is up to 53%, and among the 47% that stay together, about 24% are dealing, or have dealt with, affairs on both sides.  About 9% of couples do not have sex, and are satisfied with this, which leaves us to 15% committed couples who have an active sex life. That is an extremely small percentage, and I am imagining in that 15% they may truly struggle in their relationship outside of the bedroom. So let's try and get to the bottom of this.

Why do we automatically assume that sex in marriage either sucks, or does not exist? I hear many young couples in Westchesterm NY worry that their sex lives are stagnant NOW, but that they assume they will be when they are older, or married longer, but WHY? Well according to Esther Perel's book “Mating in Captivity” it has a lot to do with our society, our past, and the way we view closeness, intimacy, and sex.

Now that we have molded into a more equal partnership, where both men and women can work, stay home, bring in income, and raise children, we have defined closeness and the ideal relationship as equality. We are the same. Relationships are built on safety, validation, comfort, rituals, and closeness. But what about eroticism? Well that is exactly the opposite. Our desires are built upon danger, mystery, distance, novelty, and quite possible a difference of equality behind closed doors.

How is it ever possible to have all of the benefits of marriage and long term relationships, with the erotic pleasure that stems from the exact opposite in desire? Well this is the problem many of us face today. And it all stems back to how we developed closeness within our primal relationships with our parents. Sounds strange huh? But it is quite true.

There is a reason why porn has become incredibly popular, and taboo. Not only is it easily accessible, but porn or masturbation ends up doing something that sex between committed partners cant: it allows you to focus on your authentic eroticism. You are not worried about the other person; you are strictly connected to you. Although it may sound selfish, it isn't about meeting our own needs as much as it is about connecting to our own individual erotic needs.

The goal is to be connected and healthy in your relationship and to be separate and focused on distance within the bedroom. What is the distance in the bedroom really mean? It gives room for fantasy; it allows room for things that would otherwise feel unacceptable in the real world, or on the relationship. You may fantasize about a vacation, and truly want to go on vacation but in terms of sex; you may fantasize about a threesome without really wanting to have one. This means being able to connect to the parts of you sexually that you may feel ashamed about.

Try to understand what turns you on, there is a reason why" 50 shades of grey became so popular" (and it wasn’t the writing) it was the act of dominance and submission. Many very powerful women enjoy submission in the bedroom because it balances there psyche. Whatever your particular fantasy may be, try not to judge, and especially try not to judge your partners. See if you can tap into your fantasies, and the only real way to do this, is to leave room for separation between the two of you.

If you look at your partner as a caretaker, a mother, you will have a very hard time creating desire towards the mother figure in your life. If you look at your partner as the safe partner who is always there for you, you will have a hard time creating desire towards someone who may resemble a father figure. When we cannot separate these roles, sexual connection fades.

Ever wonder why you are able to have amazing sex after or during an arguement? It's because arguments and anger create division, and this is exactly the recipe that fuels desire.

Many therapists may work and tell you that this is part of relationships, maturity, acceptance and that you should “get it out of your system” when you are younger so that you can live life with a dull sex life. If this were true, all of the stats above would be way different. There is an aspect to sexuality that makes us feel like women, like men, and there is an aspect that people refuse to give up. 

We can only repress those sexual feelings for so long, until we run into a situation where someone outside of the relationship provokes them. Some cheat, some get depressed, get anxiety, and the list goes on. This is the reason why many people mess up loving, happy relationships just to have sex with someone that makes them feel alive. If we want to truly change this dynamic, we have got to learn how to have both at the same time.

Let's look at an example: Judy and Ken met and had an instant sexual connection. There were many days that went by where they could not keep their hands off of each other. Their desire for each other was built on mystery, desire, power, and dominance. As the relationship progressed, they became more and more close, and eventually they wanted to be exclusive. One thing led to another, and they decided to get engaged and move in together.

Although they noticed a decline in their sexual relationship, it became worse when the deepened their commitment. Now they were in a happy, committed relationship having sex once in a while out of routine rather than desire. They tried every way to attempt to spice it up, but they lost the ability to connect to their natural eroticism. Why?

Lets take a look back at their relationships with their families. When Judy was a kid, she was the star of her mother's world. She had the power to make or break her mothers day, and to solve the missing pieces in her mother that her mother lacked from her father. She learned that she had to push her needs aside in order to meet her mother's needs, and she identified this as love.

In her relationship with Ken, she finds that as soon as she got close, she repeated this process. She started to put her own needs aside, and focus on Kens needs. She became a bit dependent, and took on the role of caretaker.

On the other end, Ken grew up with a in a tough household where there was no room for “I love you” and affection. Being with Judy made him feel alive, connected, close. It filled the gaps from his childhood, and he relied on it. This couple now has drifted into a world where they are repeating old patterns, and have become fused with eachother. The problem here is, when you become fused with your partner, you lose that separation of self. When you lose that separation of self, you solely focus on the other, and your partner becomes an extension of you. While this may feel safe and comfortable, it is a recipe that destroys desire.

The solution: Ken worked on understanding that with Judy he could separate from her physically, and this did not reflect her love for him they way he viewed it did with his family. Any time he got anxiety about the separation, or felt a sense of abandonment he realized this was something he needed to work on instead of fusing with Judy.

Judy had to work on putting effort into her own life again, her own needs. They both had to accept that they could have a healthy, loving relationship without being fused. This created separate identities and along those lines this created newness. By them developing comfort with separation, it sparked desire between them.

This is just an example of the connection between childhood, closeness, and eroticism.  Take a moment to examine this in your own relationship. See how you can add mystery and separation to your relationship.

Here are 5 tips you can try:

1.) When you are separate from each other physically, allow yourself to be separate mentally. You don’t have to text or call each other every minute you are not together. Hold that trust between the two of you, and allow that separation to not intimidate you but to develop your senses of self.

2.)   Try to refocus on your own sexual eroticism versus trying to solely focus or pleasing your partner. This does not mean abandon your partners needs, this means getting back in touch with your authentic desire.

3.)   See if you can share with your partner your fantasies, and hear your's without judging or labeling. Separate your sexual fantasies from the real world.

4.)   Understand the sexual messages you were given as a man, as a woman, and challenge them. Many times women are taught to repress sexuality so they are not seen as a “slut”. Men are taught to separate the “sluts” (the ones you express eroticism with) with the ones you “marry” (the women you suppress eroticism with). Make sure you realize that every woman has both parts to them, challenge old beliefs.

5.) Don’t be ashamed to work on this. Understand that this is extremely common and that it doesn’t necessarily mean you are not compatible.

 If you want help assessing your particular dynamic and make goals for you and your partner contact us today to schedule an appointment!   _________________________________________________________________________________

Mindfulness activities using the 5 senses
Written by: Tory L. Eletto, LMFT



Have a hard time meditating but want a way to clear your mind? Try using your senses as mindfulness tools. This is a pretty helpful technique because when you focus on your senses, your mind does not have the capabilities to wander the way it would if you were simply still.

Some examples of what you can use are:

1.) Visual: Create a board of quotes, pictures, and things that make you feel good.

2.) Smell: Light a scented candle that has a relaxing scent (think lavandar) or anything that soothes you.

3.) Taste- Use a calming tea with lemon or honey.

4.) Touch- Buy a stress ball, or even use play dough or something with texture that you can physically touch.

5.) Hear- Play music, birds chirping, sound of the ocean, or a song that is soothing.

Next time you are struggling, your mind is wandering, or you are feeling really down take a moment and utilize your senses. Focus exclusively on whatever you are doing and also focus on your breath.

*Starting with taste: If you are drinking tea focus on the taste, the temperature, the smell, and the way it feels touching your lips, and gliding down your throat. Imagine it running through your body and fighting off all of your worries that are scattered around. Hold the cup and focus on the heat in your hands and take deep breaths in between.

*Starting with smell: Light a scented candle and put your hands over it and feel the heat. Take deep breaths and smell whatever scent you have, and visualize it rummaging through your body and "detoxifying" you. Watch the flame and see if you can see different colors, or breathe with the way that it flickers.

*Starting with touch: Grab play dough or a stress ball and start to squeeze. You can pulse, pinch, rub, or do just about anything with your focus on it. Take all of your stress and squeeze tightly and release, with your breaths corresponding. Imagine that all your stress is being squeezed into the ball, and when you release it is no longer with you.

*Start with visual: Pay attention to colors, and minor visual details on your board. If you have a quote on your board, read it and allow it to sink in. One of my favories is "You have to want to be happy to be happy"but choose ones that speak to you. You can also post breathing exercises and read and follow them at the same time. If there is a picture of a beach, visualize yourself on that beach. If there is a vision of who you want to be, picture yourself as that person already and remind yourself that it is possible.

*Start with hearing: Play a song or sounds that soothe you. Try changing sounds whether its rain, birds chirping, or meditation music. Try doing a body scan which requires you to be still and scan every part of your body to release tension. Or use the sounds as a tool to visualize overcoming whatever barriers are in your way.

Utilizing your senses is a powerful way to practice mindfulness, and to relax your mind. Once you try them, you will be able to figure out which ones work best for you.
_______________________________________________________________________________ Focus on behaviors & change your life!
Written by: Tory L. Eletto, LMFT

 

 

Are you an over thinker, over analyzer, or get stuck in your thoughts? Yea, well it happens to the best of us. I frequently use this tactic with clients, and even personally, when stuck in a rut. The focus is on making behavioral changes over focusing on understanding, changing, or feeding into your thinking.

What does this mean? Well usually if you feel depressed, or anxious, or struggling, there are various thinking patterns, or thoughts in general, that are affecting you. Some of them include “Rigid thinking”, “Overgeneralization”, and “Filtering”, and others just include  thoughts about what a relationship "should be", or what a child "should be doing". It is extremely useful to help clients gain awareness of their thinking and how much power they have over this.

The problem is, as useful as this may be, changing your thinking takes time, effort,  courage, and extreme awareness. If you do not have all of these on a consistent basis (who does?) you will easily fall back into old patterns and automatic cognitive distortions, and poof there are your problems again. So what do you do now? Continue practicing and hoping one day you will get it right? Yes, but in the mean time learn how to make changes in another way.

I am a firm believer in positive thinking, and practicing this on a regular basis. But some people really, really have a tough time changing their thoughts, or even being able to create distance between their thoughts and their being. 

Well here is your typical CBT triangle:

 

 

 

Your thoughts influence your feelings, which influence your behaviors, and the cycle goes on. Lets get one thing straight, you cannot change your feelings; you can only change how you process your feelings. The only two areas you can change are your thoughts & behaviors.

Lets take a look at an example in Westchester, NY:

Situation: You hate your job and you really want a new one.

Thinking: “You made a mistake in picking this career”, “You are a failure”, “You will never be successful”, “and “You might as well not try because it never works out”.

Feelings: Sad, unhappy, maybe depressed, unmotivated, and lonely.

Behaviors: Lazy, do not put much effort into a job search, trapped in an unhappy job, does not do anything about it.


Ok so lets for now accept all of those negative thoughts, and what I mean by "accept them" is accept that they are simply there.

Behavioral changes: Make 3 small behavioral goals to help your job search.
1.) Spend an hour working on my resume this week.
2.) Reach out to one person in regards to networking.
3.) Browse online at the potential jobs I would be interested in.

Ok, here is the catch. Regardless of how you feel, or how you are thinking, you are to accomplish these goals. They are small enough to be attainable, yet important enough to help you move forward towards your end goal.

Expect that your typical negative thinking will come into play, yet still choose to act on these behavior goals. Allow that negative nancy to chatter about all the ways you are a failure, and continue on. This also relates to practicing being mindful, and being in the moment, and in this case the moment is your behavior.

Now lets take a look at the reversed cycle:

Behavior: Accomplish 3 small goals. Check!

Feeling: Start to feel good, productive, happier, inspired.

Thinking: “Hey, maybe I can do this”

Now continue adding small behavior goals each week, and allow your thoughts to be whatever they may be. You have full behavioral control, and can still accomplish whatever you decide is attainable for that week. Trust me, you are going to be surprised at how the reversed cycle helps you gain control to understand that your thoughts are not you and they do not have to depict what you DO. Choose behaviors that focus on your values & goals and stick to them the way that you would go grocery shopping on a weekly basis (even if you hate it, you got to eat!).
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Westchester, NY: 14 Parenting Tips to raise happy, healthy children.
Written by Tory L. Eletto, LMFT

 

Parents are constantly swarmed with advice on what to do, what not to do, and everything in between. We are now a generation that values how important it is to care for your child’s emotions and respecting them as people, which was a completely different time from when your own parents just simply demanded respect “because they said so”. The confusion now is many parents are going the opposite route, and are finding it challenging to create boundaries and rules within their household.

How can you find balance?  Follow these 14 essential parenting tips:

1.       Bonding. Love, compassion, and true nurturing come from bonding with your child. This comes from quality time spent, whether it is reading, doing a yoga class together, or teaching them new life skills. This is an incredibly valuable piece in parenting, because you can be around your child all the time but never really bond or allow yourself to be present due to the many demands of life. If you are overwhelmed, reorganize your schedule to allow yourself to do what you need to, but also have time to dedicate to true bonding.

2.       Say I love you. Seems simple enough, but you would not imagine the amount of households that do not verbalize this. It is so, so, so important that your child receives your love through words and through touch. Whether it is hugs, kisses, or words, this is an extremelyvaluable aspect of any relationship and should be top priority.

3.       Structure.  Children function and prosper due to structure. They need bed times, they need routines, and they need consistency. Without this very important step, your job is going to be that much more difficult. It will also allow your child to develop healthy sleep patterns, which is extremely important for how they behave and learn.

4.       Consequences. Many times parents are afraid of consequences because you may not want to hurt your child’s feelings. Yet consequences are not to hurt feelings, they are to teach ownership of behavior. Your goal as the parent should be to represent and help train your little guys for the real world. In real life there are consequences and one of the best life lessons you can teach your child is to take ownership of their own behavior.

5.       Consistency. Do you know what comes after setting consequences? Following through. This is probably one of the more challenging areas for parents for various reasons, but if you do not follow through with your word, you are losing the lesson. When a child feels they can manipulate consequences, their energy and focus is on changing you (i.e. screaming until you change your mind). If a child feels they can change you, you are allowing them to never have to look at themselves. If you are consistent with follow through, they are forced to look at themselves to make changes. This is probably the most valuable lesson you can give to your children.

6.       Rewards. It is very important to verbally encourage and praise your child, but the key here is this should be the reward. If your son was very gentle with his newborn brother, instead of buying him a new Leggo, take the time to tell him what a wonderful big brother he is for being so gentle and kind. Praise and verbal rewards are imperative to self esteem. Noticing when your child completes a task you have been asking him to do is very important because it teaches validation. Do not always reward with material objects because it can never take the place of verbal praise.

7.       Calmness. Staying calm is so much easier said than done, but if you can somehow accomplish or work on accomplishing this, your life will be so much easier. Aggression feeds aggression, and anger, yelling, and loud voices make everyone unheard. If your child is having a tantrum, or isn’t following the rules, get down to their level, and speak to them assertively. This will show them that YOU are in control, and will model how emotions do not dictate behavior.

8.       Respect. Do not belittle or talk down to your child. This is a completely useless parenting tactic, and has a lot more of a negative effect then you may realize. Respect your child, their opinion, and their feelings. If you validate how they feel, or how they think, you are modeling some very useful character traits that will benefit you in the future. How? If a child continuously does not feel heard, he is going to have a hard time hearing you - hello teenagers.

9.       Separate feelings and behavior. On that note, you may validate how your child feels, but you do not want to accept bad behavior because of it. You want to give your child the perspective that they are in full control of their behaviors; they are not victims to others or to their own emotions. Empower them with learning that they have options as to how they handle their feelings. The message should not be “you should not be so angry to hit your sister”, your message should be “it is ok if you feel angry but you are not allowed to hit your sister” followed by a consequence for the BEHAVIOR not the FEELING. Give them other ways to deal with their feelings because you do not want to teach them to bury their feelings.

10.   Admit when you are wrong. Even if you do something small the best thing you can do is to show your child that you are human and apologize. You make mistakes, you handle things poorly at times, and that is ok. Do not be afraid to show your child this side of you as a parent, again this is excellent modeling for them and is going to allow them to develop the character trait to be able to see themself.

11.   Positive talk. What you say to your children really does end up becoming their inner voice. If you are anxious and speak about all the things that can go wrong, there is a large chance your child is going to be anxious. If you come down hard on them for misspelling a word while practicing their homework, they are going to internalize this harshness. None of that is helpful to anyone, so practice being positive and teaching the lesson that mistakes happen.

12.   Do not do everything for them. Your goal is to raise independent, happy people. If you are picking out clothes, making beds, breakfasts, and packing their book bags, while they are watching tv all morning, what are you teaching them? Many parents complain about how lazy or irresponsible their teens are but they are the product of what we do for them as children. Teens are only going to become responsible people if you allow them to be. This means allowing them to make mistakes, and doing things on their own. This also builds self esteem and confidence, because it shows you believe they are capable.

13.   Try not to overreact. I know, again easier said than done, but many times this is the number one reason why teenagers shy away from talking to their parents. Imagine if you made a mistake and someone screamed and yelled and made a scene, you probably wouldn’t want to talk to them either. This is where calmness come back into play but it will truly allow open lines of communication if you remain calm and in control (but yes, you are allowed to freak out in your mind and to your spouse later on).

14.   Smile, laugh, enjoy. Do not forget to smile, have fun, and just laugh. We get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget to enjoy all these beautiful moments. Write your child a special note and leave it in their lunch, or plan an hour where you do something special just the two of you. Whatever it is, don’t forget to foster that warmth withinyour relationship as this feeds into self esteem, self love, and confidence.

The goal of parenting should be to model many of the lessons you want your children to take with them as future adults. Just remember that not one of us will ever get it 100 percent correct, the goal is to know what you are striving for. Keep doing the best you can, and do not feel badly if you jump off course. The biggest reminder is that your children are human, and the best thing you can give to them is an awesome "human" role model.

Happy Parenting!
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Focus on your behaviors - change your relationship!
Written by Tory L. Eletto, LMFT


Are you an over thinker, over analyzer, or get stuck in your thoughts- in terms of your relationships? Just recently we posted about ways to help you with your goals under our Self Growth Blog. Now I want to use this same tactic and focus on how to improve your relationship. Again, the focus is on making behavioral changes over analyzing or getting stuck in your thoughts.

Ok lets go over this once more: your thoughts influence your feelings, which influence your behaviors, and the cycle goes on. Lets get one thing straight, you cannot change your feelings; you can only change how you process your feelings. The only two areas you can change are your thoughts & behaviors.

Lets take a look at a relational example:

Situation: You are frustrated with your partner because you have not spent quality time together in a long time.

Thinking: “Maybe he/she does not love me anymore”, “Maybe we aren't meant to be”, “Why is he/she so selfish”, “and "This always happens to me in relationships".

Feelings: Sad, unappreciated, scared, maybe depressed, lonely (the list may go on).

Behaviors: Complain about it and are reactive OR ignore and become passive aggressive OR seek attention elsewhere (this list may also go on).


Ok so lets for now accept all of those thoughts, and what I mean by "accept them" is accept that they are simply there, lets focus on change.

Behavioral changes: Make 3 small behavioral goals in your relationsip.
1.) Surprise your partner with a one on one date that he or she would enjoy.
2.) Reach out at a time when you aren't extremely emotional, and express how you want to do more together
(notice the language, it is not about attacking, blaming or focusing on the hurt, its focusing on how to move forward).
3.) Read the book "5 languages of love" and try to learn more about how my partner shows his/her love.

Ok, here is the catch. Regardless of how you feel, or how you are thinking, you are to accomplish these goals. They are small enough to be attainable, yet important enough to help you move forward in your relationship.

 

Now lets take a look at the reversed cycle:

Behavior: Accomplish 3 small goals. Check!

Feeling: Start to feel more connected and understanding of your partner, also feel empowered that YOU are doing something instead of complaining or trying to get them to change or do something.

Thinking: “Relationships are a lot of work, and if there comes a time when if our relationship changes I will deal with it. Until then I will not let my head get the best of me"

Now continue adding small behavior goals each week, and allow your thoughts to be whatever they may be (good or bad). You have full behavioral control, and can still accomplish whatever you decide is attainable for that week within your relationship. Again, this isn't an attempt to change your partner, it is attempt to take ownership and put effort in on your end to change the problem.

If for some reason there feels like a real disconnect, it is time to really focus on #2 and make sure you are communicating with your partner in a "solving" way. Maybe suggesting that he read this post and also put forth the energy to make changes will make the dynamic balanced.  Always choose behaviors that focus on your values & goals within the relationsip and stick to them the way that you would go grocery shopping on a weekly basis (even if you hate it, you got to eat!). So take charge and get out of your own way!

Feeling really stuck? Set up an appointment with us today to get you both on the right track!

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How to create your own inner peace.
Written by Tory L. Eletto, LMFT


Everyone wants to be happy right? Why not focus on being at peace with yourself? This is absolutely something you can work on so here are 17 ways you can do just that!


 1. You have to want it. Sounds silly but could not be more accurate. Many times people are afraid of it or find identity as a wounded, depressed person. Choosing that you want to be happy might actually feel scary as it can feel like a real shift to your ego. Pay attention to what you receive from being “unhappy” whether it is attention, sympathy, and be willing to re-identify yourself.

2. See the big picture. You have to know there is more to life than your problems. You have to see beyond the people that have hurt you, the losses you have endured, and the challenges life has given you, and know that the future can hold beautiful, amazing moments if you allow it to. Broaden your views of the world and your problems and they may become much smaller then you realize.

3. Stop self sabotage. Stop focusing on the negative because this will bring you down and attract more negative, which becomes a vicious cycle. This means practicing the glass is half full concept, and allowing yourself to embrace hope and positivity.

4. Change how you use your energy. Worrying, crying, yelling, complaining, and criticizing take up so much valuable energy and time. Take all of that energy and work towards being a happier, more empowered person which includes laughter, appreciation, smiling, gratitude, and self growth.

5. No more victim thinking. If you blame others or life situations for how you feel, where you are in life, or why you will never be happy, you are powerless. When you own your role in issues, put forth effort to make changes, and realize you are the one in charge of your happiness, you become a powerhouse.

6. Positive attracts positive. The only way to attract healthy partners, maintain happy friendships, and just create joy in your life is to put forth positive energy. If this does not come natural, take baby steps and practice positive social interactions.

7. Stop waiting. As long as you are waiting for someone, or something, to happen to be happy, chances are you will be waiting forever. Even if you manage to get something going, things change constantly and so do people. You need to continue to grow and evolve and create that strong happy self to endure all the challenges in life.

8. Choose your thoughts. For every day, every hour, every moment you realize you are thinking thoughts that don’t make you feel good you have to give yourself permission to choose to think happier thoughts, again and again, until you feel better. It is that simple.

9. Learn from mistakes. If you make a mistake, instead of feeling bad about it, learn from it. That is being a good friend to you. That is all you can ever do in life, and is the main difference between those who are "happy" and those who are not.

10. Stop constant complaining or putting yourself down. Saying these things may get you attention, but it is negative attention and is branding you every day as a wounded person. If you are constantly sharing your problems, you are expanding them. The only people you should talk to about your problems are the ones who will help you work through them. And when you do, be brief, be clear, be straightforward, and be optimistic.

11. Follow your passion. Whatever it is that enthralls you is waiting for you to do something with it. Find your passion, and work hard to live it. It is in there for a reason, and will help curdle your authentic self if you let go of fears and embrace it.

12. Replace fear with hope. Fear is one of the strongest emotions we have and it holds us back from living a fulfilling life. The only thing stronger then fear is hope, so every time you are in a situation where fear is trying to dictate your choices, replace it with hope instead.

13. Stop comparing. Remind yourself that everyone has hardship, everyone has their own battle they are fighting too, whether you see it or not. No one wakes up “happy” and goes throughout their day and life feeling “happy”, if you see someone truly happy it is because they are following these steps already.

14. Forgive. If you are harboring extreme anger towards a person or situation take from the quote “Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”. When you hold on to anger you are harboring negative energy. Let go, not for the person, but for your own health and happiness.

15. Embrace where you are. What exactly does this mean? It means look at your unique situation and find the grass is always greener concept within you. Maybe you are still single and down about it, but there are many partners and parents wishing they had a moment to themselves. What does this mean? Use it, because one day you may be one of them.

16. Take care of yourself. If you are falling into the path of wearing sweats, not showering, and coming home to a messy house, this will add to the unhappy dynamic in your life. Take the time to put on decent clothes, shower, and tidy up your living space as it will help tidy your inner being as well.

17. Exercise & Eat well. We hear this so much, and if you do not want to be the next CrossFit Champion have no fear, simple things like walking, swimming, bike riding have the same health benefits. It is so important for your mind & body to incorporate exercise and a balanced diet, what you put in your body has a huge impact on how you feel.

18. Smile. Say thank you. Hold doors. Talk to the crossing guard. Volunteer. Do anything that connects you to others. There are so many opportunities waiting for you to connect, and quite frankly you will never know who you will meet.

Well, well, well, happiness is a lot simpler then we realize. What usually stands in our way is ourselves. Practice these tips continuously until they become more organic in your life, and soon you will be one of those “happy” people.
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Proactive steps to help your anxious child.
Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT 

 



Anxiety is an extremely common difficulty with our generation of children. Anxiety has the power to dampen a child’s life, and can many times leave a parent upset and confused. It is important to become proactive in helping your child to be confident and happy. This does not mean that you can control their genetic makeup, but it does mean that you can take proactive steps to help your little guy be his best self.

1.) Always speak positively about your child attending school, camp, or having a babysitter come over, etc. If you tell little Bobby that a babysitter is coming over, then look at your husband and under your breath say “let’s see how this goes”, you are sending a message to your child. Your child will build their internal thoughts based on the things you say, whether you say them directly or indirectly, including your body language. Those little sponges will absorb everything so make sure you are paying attention to yourself and give the message of confidence and positivity.

2.) Do not give your child “reasons” to be anxious. Anytime I am working with a child who is suffering from anxiety, I tend to have a parent that is right next to him telling me all the reasons he must be anxious, i.e. ”his teachers are strict this year”, “he has to wake up earlier”. This is an extremely normal response  but it is indirectly feeding into your child’s anxiety. Yes, you want to understand how your child is feeling, but do not play the mind reading game with them as this will perpetuate their fears.  Instead allow them to express to you how they are feeling, and work with them on ways to cope.

3.) Do not helicopter parent. You want to take a look at the non verbal and/or indirect messages you are sending to your child, especially those that come from helicopter parenting. If your child hesitates to say hello to her friend at school, don’t grab her hand and do it for her. This is a natural parent reaction, but it is not going to help your child grow and develop the internal self  to take on life. Instead, encourage her to talk to her friends and allow her the time to do so. This is what will help build your child’s skills.

4.) Do not allow feelings to be excuses for behavioral issues. You always want to separate feelings and behavioral issues. It is clear that our feelings lead to our behavior, but you do not want your child’s anxiety to be an association, or even an excuse, for bad behavior. Instead, teach them coping skills which is an alternative behavioral choice. Your goal as the parent is to help connect anxiety with coping skills, not anxiety with tantrums. Follow through with any consequences for bad behavior, while giving your child alternative ways of handling himself will help with this issue.

5.) Seek help before it becomes worse. The hardest part of therapy is when you seek help in crisis mode. Our culture has made seeking therapy associated with when you are in crisis. If you are noticing your child is having a hard time, don’t wait for it to  get to the point where he or she develops stomach issues, or literally cannot go to school. Seek out a counselor that can make proactive and healthy changes that will allow your child to tackle problems early on.

Lets look at a case example:

I worked with a little girl in Westchester, NY that had a fear of flushing toilets. Her mother came in, and told me that she must be sensitive to the loud flushing sound, or maybe she feared being sucked into the toilet. The adorable little girl sat there, obviously hearing this, so even if these weren’t thoughts that crossed her mind, they did now. (*#2- feeding into our child’s fears). Her mother told me that she has gotten so fearful that she will not flush, and runs out of the bathroom. When I asked her who would flush for her, her Mom responded that she did  (*#3- doing the work for her, indirectly telling her that there is something to be afraid of).

Mom also told me that this became a fight, because the entire situation led to her being late for school (*#4- leading to negative behavioral issue). When I told Mom what I wanted her to try, she immediately responded with “that’s not going to go well” (#1- always be positive and confident). I decided to show Mom what I wanted her to do, so that we could break her daughter’s habit,  but also work on the 5 steps listed above.

The outcome:

I brought both Mom and daughter into the bathroom in my office. I told her that we were going to play freeze dance (and when I said it, I made it really vibrant, and fun, and positive). I flushed the toilet, and as it was flushing sang (In a horrendous voice might I add “dance party” and danced like a lunatic). As soon as the flush ended, I froze. Both her and her mother started hysterical laughing. Then I asked for her to try, so I flushed the toilet, as she sang “dance party” at the top of her lungs, and danced with me.

We did it maybe two more times, before I asked her to try and flush. Without hesitation, she did, and soon the experience of flushing a toilet became positive & fun versus negative & scary. Mom became more positive and confident, and I instructed them to do this until our next session. During our next session, we put our plan to the test, and had her flush all by herself, as we sang and danced outside of the bathroom, she came out in smiles. After about a week or so the dancing and singing was able to end, with her being able to flush a toilet without any fear.

The case study was not so much about a little girl’s flushing fear, it was more about how important these proactive steps are to do as a parent. Once you put steps into play, you can apply them on your own, and this will teach you how to handle these minor issues so that they do not become big issues.
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The 7 stages of grief after a breakup or divorce
Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT

When ending a significant relationship, you are likely going to go through the bereavement process. There are so many emotions that occur and if the relationship was abusive, toxic, or ended in a negative fashion, the feelings may be more to contend with. 

When enduring any loss or bereavement, a person shifts through seven stages of grief. The order of these stages may switch and differ from one person to the next, while some may even be happening at the same time. There is no right or wrong way, even if you are the one who initiated the break up. If you are going through this period in your life here are the stages to look out for:

1.) Shock and Disbelief – This stage is where it is difficult to even comprehend that the relationship is over. You may not be able to exactly process the fact that the relationship has really ended and may overlap with the following stage.

2.) Denial – This is a challenging stage and tends to happen more when the relationship ended in a toxic manner, or by your ex partner. Many times you will continue to pursue the ex partner, calling or texting when you know you shouldn’t. This is an extremely vulnerable stage and one of the most painful parts of the process.

3.)  Bargaining – This is also a very vulnerable stage as you may start to feel extremely emotional and begin to bargain for the relationship. You start to view the issues more lightly, and perceive the challenges you faced in the relationship as less serious. You may start to create false hope for what the relationship could be, and attempt to win your partner back, promising to change or make compromises.

4.) Guilt – This stage occurs if you blame yourself for the break up, regardless of whether or not you initiated it. You reminisce about the things you wish you would have done differently, or said differently, and feel guilty about where you are at. If kids are in the picture, this is a large process as you have guilt for what your children are going through.

5.) Anger – Now the denial is wearing off, and you are left with extreme anger. You may be angry at yourself for everything you didn’t do, or at the person for everything they have done to you. This is a stage of ruminating on faults, challenges, and expressing hostility. It is also stage of anger of having to start off new, comparing your situation to others, and focusing on the things you have been through.

6.) Depression – During this stage you may feel sadness, hopelessness, withdrawn and spend time ruminating. You may cling on to memories, play the same songs repeatedly, and feel the heart ache of the actual loss of the relationship. This is when crying, ice cream, and “The Notebook” take over.

7.) Acceptance - You begin to feel a fresh sense of hope, and think of your partner less often. The raw pain has lessened and you are beginning to resume your social relationships. You accept that the relationship has ended and that it does not define who you are or where you are going. You may even be ready to date. Time to time you may think of the relationship but it isn’t as painful, it is more of a piece of your life.

If you are getting over a break up, it is best to take things slowly, a step at a time. Understand that these stages are exactly that: STAGES. You will experience one, or all, in your own time frame and they won’t feel good or easy, but you can and will get through them.
 

Make sure you have support even when it is hard, talking with a friend or a therapist can help enormously and help you make sense of the emotions that you're going through especially if the relationship was toxic. Remember to be kind to yourself and what you are experiencing is normal. You have every right to grieve, but you also have the right to want to feel happy again. Treat yourself with love, kindness, be gentle and slowly begin to rebuild your life.

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5 important ways your actions speak louder than words!

Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT

Humans rely on emotions, sometimes too much, and a lot of the time this drives our choices. Our fears can keep us stuck in a bad job for a long time. Our insecurities can keep us single. Our dependent nature can keep us addicted to relationships. Our feeling of love can keep us in the wrong relationship. Our inner feelings can really depict what we will and will not do in our lives, and this is where we find our biggest problems. Yes, you can focus on why you feel the way you do, on your own time or in therapy, and yes, we can try to change our cognitions to feel differently (this can be very powerful). But at the end of the day actions are the only thing that end up mattering; to ourselves, and to the people we love the most. It’s who get themselves to the gym that stay fit, those who go out of their way for friends that have fulfilling friendships, those who go on interviews that find the right job. Actions define us in ways that feelings and thoughts can’t.

It is said that feelings are selfish. Think about it, love is an amazing internal feeling that each of us can’t even exactly put into words. It is a mixture of something that ignites a fire in us, that makes us feel invincible, important, cared for. But love, like any other feeling, is only within us. It is something we feel, and what we do with that love is a whole other issue. How we use it, react to it, and how we treat the people we love are the important factors. You can love someone with all of your heart, but treat them poorly. This is not love, this is merely a feeling, lust if you will. Love, by all definitions requires action. Putting aside your needs for someone else is love. Feeling that fire in your heart is not. And this goes both ways. Being able to understand the person you feel for, and do the things to prove to that person you care, is what makes someone shine above the rest. If someone is incapable of doing that for their partner, or you don’t feel you are able to do things, within reason of course, to fulfill your partner, then re-evaluate that relationship as you may not be the right fit.

The smarter you are about where you are putting your energy, the better choices you make about who you surround yourself with, the better energy you will have in your life. This will make you much more content on the inside. If you feel you need to have a conversation with a friend, then do so, without blame and anger. You may have the very best intentions, most of us do, but intentions and feelings are our own, and your action is what others see and value. This is the part where you need to learn about yourself, and make changes and tweaks to make sure your inner self matches your outer self.

Now its time to take a look at yourself. Are you one of those people who constantly complain or blame others for things that have happened? Do you always talk about yourself and find that you are uninterested in what the other person has to say? Do you stay in relationships that bring toxic energy into your life, but do nothing to stop it? Are you one of those people complaining about your job but refusing to work on your resume? Sometimes it is more comfortable to be uncomfortable then to seek something that can potentially make you happier. Maybe fear is holding you back. Maybe you have learning victim thinking or blame thinking from your household, and this is how you communicate. But it takes a lot to see yourself, and it is time you sit back and look at what you are really doing. In terms of awful situations or tragedies, take time to vent and express yourself, but if you have the “poor me” concept in general, realize this is what is taking away all of your power.

If you continually allow people in your life that aren’t meeting your needs, instead of complaining or focusing on them, focus on why you are allowing this in your life. If you want to empower yourself, next time you have something to complain about go through this list:

1.) Can I do something about it? If so, write down some possible solutions (even if they seem tough) Most people who complain and say “I don’t know what to do” generally already know, they are either unsure or don’t want to do it.

2.) Take action or face what is stopping you from taking action, whether its fear, or insecurity, or anything else. Give yourself small goals, because large ones can become overwhelming and you have more of a change of giving into fear.

3.) If nothing can be done, what can be learned? Write down the lessons you want to learn from what happened, and make notes on things YOU would like to do differently next time around.

4.) Let out your emotions. It is said that a crying fit, or a fit of anger, or any feeling along those lines, IF EXPRESSED, will only last about 30 minutes. If you hold it in, drink it away, or ignore it, you are prolonging this emotion to pass. Once you express it, you will be able to internally move on.

5.) Accept it. There are things you cannot control or change, things that really just plain suck, and tragedies that occur. Try to find peace with the unexpected or the things you cannot control, especially within relationships. If someone is not giving you what you need, accept who they are, and who they aren’t, and decide what you need to do about it to empower YOU.
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3 ways to be present in your relationship
Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT


Being present in your relationships are the key to intimacy, connectedness, and overall health of the relationship. With numerous amounts of  distractions it can become quite a challenge but try these 3 simple steps with your partner:

1. Have no cell phone date nights. This seems simple enough, until you remember that you had to tell you friend Jen about the hilarious work issue that happened to this morning or you want to check your fantasy football. Phones are a huge distraction from being present in your current situation, and take away from those moments to connect with your partner. Have a date night where you have a no phone rule, or have no Technology Tuesdays at home. When you remove technology you will be surprised how much more time you will want to connect.

2. Actively listen. Many times when we are “listening” to people we are thinking of what we want to say next, what looks good on the menu, or about that funny joke from this morning.  Active listening is when you are engaged in your partner’s conversation and are able to provide feedback and what they have described in your own words. If you have trouble doing this try a “Mirroring” exercise which is when you repeat back to your partner what he or she said until it starts to become more natural.

3. Ask different questions. One of the easiest ways to get someone to engage with you is to be interested in them. Try asking questions that are out of the norm. Instead of saying “Sweetie how was your day?” ask “What was the best part of your day?” This will help avoid generic answers and possibly build a meaningful conversation. On a deeper level, during one on one time try bringing up a random topic “Tell me about the best birthday party you ever had as a kid”. It is a fun way to learn something new, and if you ask specific questions you will never be stuck in a boring conversation. 
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Stop the glorification of busy!
Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We live in a society where constant running around, long commutes, and doctors appointments during your lunch hour are a light day. Whether it is in Westchester NY or NYC, our society connects work meetings until 11pm as signs of success, plans with friends 5 nights a week as popular, and being busy, busy, busy as a means to our self worth.  Being “busy” can make you feel important, validate you in your career, or make you feel sought after, but mostly it is taking away from what actually makes you feel good.

If you are on the go nonstop, you do not give your mind and body the necessary down time to decompress. Without this down time, you are floating through your day never really giving 100 percent to the people you see, the project you are doing, or the meetings you attend. You adding on 3 extra Starbucks in your day isn’t healthy or balanced living, it is more or less skimming the surface. Your life should be more about fulfillment rather then a filled schedule.

Let’s take a look at 6 ways to put a stop to the non stop:

1. Change how you view down time. Relaxing, resting, or whatever you do at home is extremely valuable. It doesn’t mean you are lazy, boring, anti social, or unsuccessful, it simply means you value your ability to be 100 percent, and in order to do so you need to decompress. This does not mean you need to sit in a quiet room and stare at the walls,  it means do the things that allow your mind and body to relax.

2. Just say no. Don’t overbook yourself. If Susie and Janet have been asking you to do happy hour for the past 2 weeks, this does not oblige you to have to go if you are working and haven’t seen your husband in a couple of days. Your closest friendships will remain close to you regardless of how many happy hours you go to, and if there is a rift due to this, chances are the friendship wasn’t going to last anyway. Have meaningful outings every few months, and skip the “I have to show face” ones. If you are someone who is passionate about a variety of things,  don’t enroll in tennis lessons, cooking lessons, writing classes, and scuba diving all in the same month. Pick one hobby to focus on at a time, and master it. If you lose interest, it is time to try something else.

3. Stop comparing your choices to others. Just because your cousin Roy is working every night until 10pm doesn’t mean you should feel bad about yourself when you come home by 5. Quality time in relationships, even the relationship with yourself, is what is going to ultimately add to your self-worth.

4. Leave work at work. Now I know this is easier to do for those of us who do not have to bring work home, but as soon as you are done with work, let it go. Sitting and worrying about the big meeting on Thursday, or the email you did not send is keeping you at “work” so allow yourself the time to separate and relax.

5. Re-prioritize your schedule. Look, most of us feel we should be doing the opposite aka the grass is always greener concept. This especially applies to parents, many times Mothers who feel guilty being home and feel guilty working (lose, lose). Find the right balance for you that allows you to spend quality, connected time to your family. If you current schedule just isn’t working, try to figure out what changes you can make to feel more content.

6. Schedule in some down time. If you are having a hard time not booking yourself up all weekend, try scheduling some down time. For instance if you notice you have a wedding this Saturday, use Friday as a night to stay in and take a breather, and literally write it down in your calendar. When someone asks you to hang, tell them you can’t and stick to your down time appointment.

7. Pay attention to your attention. Go through your day and notice the times that you are having a hard time connecting. Is it at work? With your family? Whatever it is, this is an indicator that you are imbalanced. The goal is you will be much more productive at work, or at home, or in general, if you give yourself a bit of a break. Don’t feel guilty about cutting out some work hours, or hiring a babysitter once a week, in the long run it will help you stay present and more connected to what you are doing and who you are with.

Now take a deep breath… do you feel lighter already? Remind yourself that living a happy and fulfilled life is your goal, not a busy life. Do the things that mean the most, and cut out the nonsense.

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How to bring out the best in your partner!
Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT in Westchester, New York

Healthy relationships consist of two people who are capable of working on themselves in order to make the relationship  prosper. This seems to get many of us in tough situations, as it has become very natural to blame the other person for just about everything. This leads to various cycles and patterns that are unhealthy and unsatisfying. Want to make a change? Take a look at a list of 10 ways to bring out the best in your partner:

1. Support their dreams & goals in life. Wherever your partner is with their life goals, make sure that you support them. Dreams are difficult enough to accomplish, but the journey of our dreams are what makes us individuals and many times, quite fulfilled, so make sure that you are supportive. If the goal or journey is taking over your relationship follow step number 2.

2. Be assertive. When you are upset about something, do not let your emotions get the best of you. Some people will be passive and not speak up which can lead to anxiety and depression, while others approach aggressively by screaming or reacting,  which will always leave your partner defensive and you unheard. Instead, work on being assertive, using those good old “I” statements, and see if you both can work together towards a solution.

3. Allow them to have hobbies, friends, and their own life. You do not want you or your partner to lose their individual self because they are now in a relationship. Therefore, when you partner is pursuing a hobby,  or having a girls night, make sure you are not standing in their way. If you notice that you have a hard time with this step, this is a time for self reflection and potentially your moment to reach out and work on your individual self.

4. Be verbal with your appreciation. Do not fall into the trap of only speaking up when he did not take out the garbage, make sure that you also notice when he does. If she takes the time to cook, even if it is every night, take the time to thank her for it. Verbal reassurance and appreciation goes a long way and it doesn’t have to be anything more then “thanks for dinner tonight it was awesome”.

5. Stay connected physically. Take the time to hug, kiss hello, kiss goodnight, cuddle on the couch. Make sure you both are not so busy that you lose the intimacy, as this is what separates you from being in a relationship versus being roommates. If you are noticing a dramatic shift in your sex life, make sure that you value this within your relationship and be proactive at getting it back on track.

6. Plan a date night, their way. Does your girlfriend love ballet? Find a cheap show in NYC and surprise her. Does your husband love history? Take him to the museum. Many times we envision date night as what we want to do, but it is important to invest in the ways your partner can enjoy date night. It is also really fun when you try something totally new together, but plan those dates!

7. Ownership of yourself. This is probably the most important step and the most frequent issue that is worked on in couples therapy. Owning your feelings, emotions, needs, and behaviors does not always come naturally to us. It is much easier to focus on the other person, but this will lead you into a vicious cycle. If you want someone to own what they are doing, it is vital that you own up to your side as well.

8. Be in the now when you have time together and when you have time apart. If you are having a boys night and your wife is calling you every 10 minutes, this is a big no no. If you are having a date night and your boyfriend is text messaging the whole time, this is also a big no no. A deep connection is built on being able to connect with your partner one on one. If you succeed in this step, chances are when you are not together you will feel more secure about it. Work on being content and connected in both scenarios.

9. Work on trust and honesty. Many times couples have issues with trust when there is nothing going on. If you have some insecurities with trust, do not bring them into your relationship, work on them individually. If there is a real problem going on with the trust in your relationship, then looking through his phone is not going to solve it. See step number 2 and work on the problem.

10. Support them during high and low points. This may seem like a given, but you do not want to be there when she is crying but not show support when she lands a promotion. Sometimes we are better at support in one situation over another, but in a successful relationship, you make sure to be supportive in both scenarios.


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6 Technology Tips for Parents to do with their children.
Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT



This is a topic I feel strongly about which is why I wanted to take the time to write a blog about it. In my sessions in Westchester, NY, this comes up 90 % of the time when I am working with families: the generation gap. No, parents and kids do not come in and claim this, but it underlies many, many of the issues that come into my office.

The generation gap, what is it exactly? Well of course there is always a generational gap between parents and their children, but the gap currently going on is one of the biggest ones we have experienced in quite some time. The reason is plain and simple: technology.

This generation’s parents, especially those who are currently raising teenagers, really seem to struggle with understanding their child’s world. Clearly there were no cell phones for parents growing up, but it is so much more then that. They way children socialize now, the way they build their self esteem, the way they bully connects to video games, facebook, instagram, texts, and the list goes on and on.

It poses a whole new issue for parenting, and for this generation, as they are being raised in a world where multitasking is a necessity. For example, when you were 16 and you were fighting with your boyfriend, you had to wait until you saw him to talk about it. Now you can be 16 years old and be participating in a full blown argument with your boyfriend all throughout math class via text. These are technology issues on top of the regular every day issues.

In reality, it is not the child’s fault, because this is the new world we live in. Either we can learn, and teach are children how to manage it, or we can fight against it, and this is where the problems come pouring in.

Being that I do not see our future children ditching our phones and social media, and instead going outside and making mud soup like we did, we need to learn how to live and parent in this current generation. I have had so many sessions where the parents come in and complain and yell to me about all of this technology, and do not really even understand it. They immediately associate it with it being “bad” or “negative”.

Yes, there are so many negatives to this world, but we can not run from it as technology is only going to continue to grow.

So here is how the rest of a session plays out: the parent complains and complains and the teenager completely shuts down, or just says what the parent wants to hear. I then see the teenager on his or her own, and they vent to me about how their mom or dad has no idea what they are talking about. And its true, they don’t, they can’t, because their world was very different.

The problem is, if you completely ban all technology from your child’s life, you are also setting yourself up for a disastrous situation. Why? Because you are trying to force your child to live in your generation versus their own and therefore they will not learn the vital skills needed for this generation. Your job as a parent is to teach and educate, not to shelter.

When you push your generation onto your children, your child will immediately disengage, rolls his or her eyes and stops listening. Kind of like the same way you ignored your parents when they told you they walked to the bus stop with no shoes in the snow.

So now what? Well unfortunately your role as a parent is to bridge the gap or else you can expect to feel disconnected from your child. Thus, when there is disconnect, this leads to other things like earlier sexual activity, over involvement in peers, lower academics, defiance, drug use, etc.

Ok, so how do we fix this? Well here are some tips for parents:

1. Educate yourself. Learn about Facebook, learn about Instagram, learn about whatever your child wants to be on or is currently on. Do not be scared of technology and be willing to learn. If you are not educated you can never educate your chidren. If you are more technology savvy then some parents, it is still a completely different world for your children growing up with it, so really take a moment to think about how life for them is very different compared to being introduced to this stuff in your adult years with your adult knowledge.

2. Discuss all of the positives that come from technology, social media, etc with your child. Have an honest and open conversation about it.If you are able to acknowledge the positves, they won't shut you out as much when you are talking about the negatives.

3. Discuss the things that are inappropriate, harmful, or risky. This can range from pictures, to posts, to comments, to bullying, to sexual predators, etc. Make sure they understand the risks and are aware that if any of these issues come about, they need to tell you immediately. If your child is being bullied online, this is similar to being bullied in person, but different in that people have much more opportunity and guts when it comes to typing something behind a computer. If this is happening, talk about safety, use blocking protection, and address the bullying situation. Do not blame the bullying on social media, focus on the bullying itself. 

4. Monitor what your child is doing. It doesn’t matter if he or she is 12 or 18, at whatever age you feel he or she can handle being on websites, etc, make sure he or she is aware that you will be checking in. Make it clear that you are not trying to catch them with stuff, but more to be aware of what is going on so that you can continue an open discussion. Clearly as you gain trust for your child’s judgment, this can happen less and less, but it is important that you are not only discussing verbally what is appropriate, but checking in physically.

5. If you find something inappropriate on a social outlet of your child’s, do not freak out. It is natural to be upset or angry, but control your emotions as a adult, calm down and approach your child assertively. Tell him or her what you saw and that you want to have a conversation about it. The minute you start freaking out, you are teaching your child that it isn’t OK to make mistakes and they will shut you out or try and hide things.

6. Discuss a balance of technology and the outside world. Make rules that no one, including you, can use your phone during family dinner. Make sure that they are aware that they need to learn how to balance social networking and actually being social with friends in person. This is a balance that they will benefit from in the future and is a very good life skill to learn. If a child is texting in class, or technology is interfering with school, again this is about balance. Talk to your child about being responsible with technology; make a plan with him or her about when it is appropriate to do so, and when it is not. You can even go as far as making a schedule. You do not want to immediately take the technology away, again because the lesson here is balance and learning. If this does not work, consequences should be in place in order to set boundaries and teach your child that in order for him or her to have this freedom they need to show that they can stick to the schedule. Let this be a consequence after you have tried a schedule.

These are only some helpful tips for parents, but I assure you that this is one of the biggest factors in creating disconnect between this generations parents and children.

Many times I will have teenagers openly discuss things with me, but not their parents, and I always ask them why. Their response is “my parents freak out, my parents don’t understand, and my parents judge me.”

Of course I explain to them the difference between a therapeutic relationship and a parent/child relationship. But the lesson for parents here is just as sessions aren’t about me, parenting should not be about you. Therapy & parenting are to help the child, so the focus is to do what is best for your child.

Learn how to control your emotional responses, and approach the topic assertively with a level head. Educate yourself about your child’s world instead of being frustrated that they don’t live in yours. You will be amazed at what your child will open up and tell you and the life skills they will learn to become successful adults.

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The 11 life lessons from our Pet Therapist Teddy!
Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT


Ok so if you know me even the tiniest bit, you know I am completely in love with my dog Teddy. He has just been the most amazing little gift to me, and has taught me so much about life, love, and myself. 

One random day I came in contact with two month old Teddy, and I instantly fell in love. Besides the fact that he was adorable to look at, his demeanor was incredibly perceptive and unique. He was calm but smart and incredibly silly in a very human type way. Impulsively, I put a down payment on him and was ready to buy him within the next week.

Lesson #1- Trust your gut. I have no idea what made me want to buy HIM. It was not based on some check list; it was based on a strong internal feeling. I love dogs, have held and seen many puppies, but never felt that odd “connection” I guess you would call it, and when I did, I trusted it, and I am so very happy that I did. In your life you are going to come across many people, but only a few will give you that special internal feeling. Whether it is friends or in a relationship, value it, and trust that somewhere deep inside there is a reason why you are connected to certain people. 

Lesson #2- Don’t let fear dictate your choices. After my impulsive buy, everyone around me fed me fear. “It’s a lot of responsibility”, “You are going to lose your freedom”, “It’s a lot financially”, “How are you going to take care of him every day?” and so on & so forth. It’s not that everyone was wrong but people were trying to lead my choices based on fear. People frequently do this, and we naturally do this to ourselves. Once you begin to trust your gut, change your mental approach to “I will figure it out as it comes” and don’t allow fear to get in the way. It is common for people to make choices based on their fears, or not make choices for that matter based on fears. But if you allow the “what if’s” and the fears to take over your choices, you will never do anything in this world. Have an understanding of responsibilities, but also have high regards in your ability to handle it and go for it. 

Lesson #3- Educate yourself. I didn’t expect just because I know a lot about human relationships, that I would know a thing about raising a dog. So I read. I read about 2-3 books, on raising a dog, on my dogs breed, on dog food, etc. I educated myself and figured out a schedule that would work for both of us. I found out the importance of boundaries, crate training, socializing young, not yelling, positive reinforcement, and how to get dogs to relax when it comes to grooming, bathing, etc. You can be 100 years old, or you can be 5 years old, but you will always have something to learn. Whether it is from a book, a friend, or an experience, learning is something you should continually do to continue to grow. The best “experts” in this world continually educate themseleves. 

Lesson #4- Exercise Daily. I exercise, but I have my months where I am on and months when I am off. Taking Teddy for walks every day provides me with mini exercise daily, and fresh air. If I don’t take him to walk, he is wild and misbehaves more and this translated to me that when I exercise I am also more balanced (mentally & physically). Now we both enjoy daily walks, and if I get lazy, him digging my pillow at a rapid rate at midnight is that extra motivator to make sure I get moving. Exercise is proven to create serotonin and regulate chemicals in the brain and body. It is something that will absolutely impact how you feel about yourself, which ends up translating into your  life & relationships. Just do it. 

Lesson #5- Stop and smell the flowers. Teddy loves smelling flowers, weird? Common? Not sure, but he loves it. In the beginning I was so focused on our walks that I would pull him every time he did this, but then I realized there was some sort of lesson in there. Of course he is a dog and was attracted to the scent, but as a human it was a moment to take in some natural beauty, whether it is flowers, or a sunset, I now take a moment to have a moment.

Lesson#6- Don’t be excessive with food. Teddy will eat, and eat, and eat if I let him. He would have a treat every minute of the day. But in order for me to keep him healthy, I regulate his meals and treats. Yes there are days he gets to finish my ice cream, but in general his overall health is more important then the impulsive whines I get when he wants some extra treat. We have to look at the bigger picture when we eat. Is that satisfaction for 5 minutes really worth a health issue? Your health should always come first, so getting into healthy habits for yourself is as important as the ones you give your pet. Our internal whines can be overlooked when you focus on the bigger picture. 

Lesson #7- Don’t create judgment based on one experience. Teddy is a friendly dog; he says hi to everyone and is kind and gentle to every animal. I am happy he is this way, because he is a breeze to bring around any situation. Well one time, Teddy was attacked by a pit bull. He was extremely frightened and hurt, I was petrified, and it was just an overall scary experience. I assumed that he might be hesitant with dogs moving forward, maybe even pitbulls (maybe that would just be me) but I didn’t want this one negative experience to shape him or myself.The next day I brought him back out, around dogs, and he was his same old self. Just recently we were at the dog park, and of course, he chooses to play with two adorable baby pitbulls. A natural reaction of mine was maybe to detour him from doing so, but I took a step back and realized that if we allowed one situation to dictate how we view things, we will live in a pretty judgemental and sheltered world after a while. As a mom I watched on carefully, but they ended up playing and having the best time.

It is very easy to feed into stereotypes and to take one bad experience and forever be judgmental. It is a lot harder to look at the experience, learn from it, but continue to be open. Pitbulls, just as people, are raised in certain ways that lead them to certain lifestyles, give everyone a shot more then once, and you will be surprised how rich your life will be.

Lesson #8- Always be willing to look at yourself. The few issues I had with Teddy’s behavior or potty training were of course frustrating but I always chose to look at what I was doing wrong, or better yet, what I could improve. If I focused on labeling him a “bad” dog, that would just reinforce bad behavior and nothing would get solved. So I paid attention to the messages I was sending, the schedule I made, and made changes. This, in turn, created change in him. Many times we blame & criticize another person, more specifically our partners and the people that we are closest to, but rarely do we look at ourselves and see what we are doing to contribute to the problem. Most importantly, take a look at what you can change that will contribute to a solution. 

Lesson #9- Balance. Creating balance is healthy for everyone individual, and everyone’s “balance” is different. I don’t have to be with my dog every minute for him to know I love him. I bring him to camp some days, leave him home some days, and spend time with him some days, etc. I make time for him during the week, but I also make time for myself and don’t feel guilty. Sometimes I want to bring him to camp and have the apartment to myself, to clean, and to just take a moment.  I’ve learned that this is ok and healthy for both of us. I love seeing pictures of him happy and enjoying himself with his fellow dog buddies.Creating balance for your will translate into a more balanced self and thus balanced relationships. Whether it is having time to dedicate for you, your passion, your health, make the time. And on the same token, make the time to dedicate to your relationships and your bond so that the days you aren’t together, you will still feel close and bonded. These are the most healthy relationships.

Lesson #10- Don’t create dependence. I don’t depend on that little guy’s constant love to make me happy, and anyone who knows Teddy knows he could be a happy guy anywhere he goes. If I have friends over and he is on my friends lap, or sleeps on top of my sisters head and not mine, it doesn’t the least bit bother me. Because him being well rounded and happy makes me happy, and the dependence factor is non existent. This extends to relationships and children. If you spend quality time, love, and have a bond, do not be threatened if they have friendships, hobbies, or relationships with others. In the end it will create more happiness and health for each individual, and as a partnership. You do not want to make one source or person responsible for your happiness because guess what? You will never be happy.

Lesson #11- Selfless love. Love is the biggest lesson here.The thing that is so unique and special about dogs is that they will give you that love regardless of how you treat them. On the human end of it, we have to make more of an effort. This applies to children, family, and even friends, but that doesn’t mean we are all naturally good at doing this.I make sure every week to schedule in time just so I can bond with Teddy. Whether its walks, dog parks, training, or games, I have taken on the responsibility of having him in my life, and with that are times when showing him this love through my actions is important. He does this naturally, for me and all that’s on my plate its something I have to plan, but regardless it gets done because it is important to me. You can have feelings of love but the way this translates to someone else is through YOUR actions. Take the time out to listen, to bond, to go on a date, to spend quality time, because unlike dogs, people need this in order to give it back.

Lesson #12- Be in the moment. Dogs have this beautiful quality of living in the moment. They are able to greet you like it is the first time they see you every single day. In relationships, we have a much more difficult time being in the moment and remembering to be grateful and not afraid to show it. Take a moment to be in the moment. When your partner or child walks in the door, make sure you great them with a kind and loving way. Don't forget how very imporant this really is.

Happy living!

_________________________________________________________________________________ 18 real life tips for a healthy mind and body!
Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT


Think you have heard every health tip there is? Well here are some that I use with great success and wanted to share with you. If you can grab one tip in here that will help you personally you are one step closer on your own journey.

  • 1. Self Esteem:  Never, ever, ever allow your self esteem or self worth to be based on weight. If you are feeling out of shape, take it as a sign that you need to figure out a new health plan. Do not criticize yourself or allow anyone’s criticism to seep in.  If your weight and self esteem tie together it is going to be a very difficult road for you to create balance, and I suggest you make this your first priority. If you cannot seem to do this on your own, I would recommend counseling. This is truly the first step in creating a healthy lifestyle.
  • 2. Attitude: Your attitude shapes everything. Simply feeling bad for yourself will only feed into victim thinking which will lead you to feel powerless. When you feel powerless, you do not make changes. If you put yourself down about how you look, this will lead to hopelessness and will never get you moving or get you on a healthy path. BE HONEST with yourself, and this should simply mean honest in the fact that you have a choice. A choice to either do something different, or learn how to cope with where you are. This is really the choice we have with all life decisions, and being healthy is no different. If you are really having a hard time feeling comfortable with your current weight or your health is in jeopardy, and then make a plan for yourself. Remember YOU have the power to make changes with anything in your life that you are unhappy about, even if it is hard.
  • 3. Pants instead of Scales: I would not recommend weighing yourself daily. The reason being is, you should not allow your health and happiness to revolve around a number. Scales are like test grades, the number becomes more important versus what you actually learn. Take the test grade away, and you might actually care about the learning. Same with scales, take the number away and you might start focusing more on your health. So how do you monitor your weight without a scale every day? Pants.  I even have one particular pair of pants that really lets me know where I stand. When they start to get snug, I take note and dedicate myself to a new routine If my pants are suddenly getting tighter, this is my cue that I have to increase my routine a bit. It is really that simple and effective.
  • 4. Balance: I am not always exactly the same size. I don’t believe most people are, but I know what size I am comfortable with. This means that I am satisfied both mentally and physically.  You have to find a size that is right for your body but also right for your mind. This of course may range for your body type and what you are happy with, but pick something where you can still live and treat yourself. Aspire for health, not being a stick figure.
  • 5. Baby steps: Way back when, when I first started exercising, I used to think you needed to go big or go home. I do not feel that way anymore, especially if you are just trying to get back into a routine. We feel good when we accomplish something. If we take the most difficult class on our first day back this can lead us to failure and/or negative feelings. Once you associate negativity with the gym, even more then you may naturally have, it tends to get harder to get there. Start small, start walking, and take a beginners yoga class. Once you build your strength, start to challenge yourself more. You will be surprised how fast this will happen and how good it will feel. You then start to associate these positive feelings with the action of going to the gym which will make it much easier for you to get there.
  • 6. Appointments: I thrive on appointments. My day is appointments. When I get out of my gym routine, I make appointments in order to get back into it. For example, my gym does group training sessions that cost a bit more but are made only by appointment. I will make some appointments for the next few months, and pay for them. This holds me accountable in various ways and when I look at my schedule it is literally in there just as a doctor’s appointment or my clinical appointments are. I don’t think about it, talk myself out of it, I just pack a gym bag and get myself there.
  • 7. Motivation: For me, the hardest part is starting, and actually physically getting myself to the gym. Once I start to associate good feelings with the gym, it begins to become more of a priority for me naturally. Having a positive attitude towards the gym is really important. Every time the little voice in your head tries to convince you otherwise, fight back. Make a list mentally or even physically, of all the benefits you receive from being there. This can include a good night’s sleep, having “me” time, feeling accomplished, and the list can  go on & on.
  • 8. Switch it up: I have to switch up what I do. For my mental sanity and for my body to not get too comfortable. I do not just do the same routine every time I go. I challenge myself and my body, and it is fun to try new stuff. There is always one day a week I hit the gym hard, with weights, and squats, and push ups, and every miserable classic exercise there is. Then for the other two days I will take Pilates or yoga or try a Barre classes. These types of classes work your body in a completely different way, and it is important to give variety to your workout. Try spinning or boxing if you get into a cardio rut. I also really enjoy doing my cardio outside when it is warm enough, and this can vary as well. Hiking, walking along the water, running. Sometimes I play basketball, or tennis (and no, I am not athletic per say,  it is just to get moving) Finding other fun ways to fit in exercise is extremely important too.
  • 9. Daily routine:  Every day I choose to take the stairs. I literally have a battle in my head about it daily, and I always just move my body towards the stairs. This goes for parking far, I associate getting a spot far away as a chance to get a little cardio in.
  • 10. Combos: Have to grocery shop? Hold the little baskets of stuff versus use a cart (unless of course you have a major shopping to do). Cleaning is also a big way I exercise. How? At one point in my life I considered hiring a cleaning lady for my place. Then I realized I could turn this into a mini work out, and save money, so I bought ankle and wrist weights. I literally vacuum and mop with them on.  You have no idea how much harder you have to work to clean the house. Even as you are wiping counters. I blast music and I just go at it for a couple of hours, that is my workout for the day, and my house is sparkling. Also, dog walking. I do not know if you have a dog, but I also once considered having a dog walker. Instead I have figured out how to rearrange my schedule so that I can take my pup for a half hour to an hour walk daily. This gives me time to bond with my favorite furry guy and also is an active way to get moving.
  • 11. Food: I love food. Who doesn’t? I eat, but I balance myself. During the week I attempt to cook 3-4x. I am an extremely healthy cook. I use cook books such as cooking light, or modify recipes to make things healthier. I am a big greek yogurt supplementer, I also use coconut oil whenever I can. I am always looking for healthy ways to cook when I am home. I plan meals ahead of time so I have the right ingredients. I use quinoa whenever I can, I make almond chocolate smoothies and put spinach in them (you cannot even taste it). I could probably write a whole section on just my eating, but the bottom line is when I eat home, I am very healthy. I do not keep any unhealthy snacks in my house. Snacks include wheat crackers and laughing cow light swiss cheese, an array of almonds, tuna, and fruit. During the week my meals are focused on health and eating home. When I go out to dinner or brunch on the weekends, or the occasional week day. I am lenient. If I want a burger, I will have one. If I want chicken parmesan or pasta, this is when I treat myself. I will eat McDonalds every once in a while too. I don’t ever hold myself back too much, I just do it once in a while and this is the balance that works for me. If you cut back way too much, it is going to be too difficult to stick to, and that develops into giving up.
  • 12. Treats & Sweets: I keep a jar of peanut m&ms in my house, and also those mini magnum chocolate ice creams. These are my home treats. I also love making pops, I have ice cream pop holders and make pops out of greek yogurt, fat free pudding, fruit, you name it. Hungry girl has awesome desserts too if you want to bake. It is fun and usually they come out very tasty. I am also a fan of those self serve yogurt places, but I always choose the smallest cup or give myself a small amount. I always have a little treat at night, I just try to keep it portion controlled.
  • 13. The little things: I am a dedicated switcher of the little things. What does this mean? I always use skim milk. Always. I always use stevia or truvia in my coffee. I am attempting to steer clear of artificial sweeteners with aspartame, and steer clear of the fat in regular sugar. I choose sweet potatoes instead of regular, wheat instead of white, light iced teas. I use mayo and butter with olive oil. These simple things make a big difference. I also will buy certain foods organically. I enjoy researching food as there is so much we do not know and I try to learn as much as I can. I have the book “eat this, not that” which has a lot of great tips. Sometimes these little things end up truly adding up.
  • 14. Drinks: Of course there are times when alcohol is more dominant in your life, if you drink, for instance in the summer, or vacation. But cutting out that nightly beer or glass of wine can go a long way. I only drink when out or if I am having a special night in, it is not an ongoing thing. At one point it was, and it was relaxing, but it is something I don’t feel is necessary so I stopped. Diet coke is also a favorite of mine and I wish I could write that with all of the negative articles about it that I have cut it out, but I haven’t. I have certainly cut back and am more aware of drinking it. Water, water, water is definitely the key in keeping hydrated, full, and healthy.
  • 15. Health insurance:  I am not sure how many know this or not, but you will get a nice reimbursement check from your insurance company if you go to the gym about 50 times in 6 months. This is roughly 2-3x a week. So let that motivate you too, and make sure you are jotting down when you go, might as well cash in for your motivation.
  • 16. Excuses: Do not allow yourself to make excuses. Everyone is busy. Whether you have children or two jobs or a sick parent, you can find time to exercise. It only takes an hour. Figure it out. I literally take out my schedule each week and pick a time DAILY that I can fit gym time in. I go to the gym about 3-4x a week, and go through my week accordingly. That way, the days when something comes up, or when I really just want to relax instead, I will, but knowingly that I have time scheduled daily helps me make these decisions. For instance, having the choice of waking up at 5:00 to go to a class tomorrow morning, or getting motivated to take that afternoon class in an hour is my choice. I weigh the options, and pick one.
  • 17. Priority: If you don’t make your own health a priority, no one will. Your children won’t schedule it in, your husband wont, your friends wont. YOU have to figure out what works for you. Whether it is in the morning, or whether you need to pack a bag and head over right after work so you don’t have a minute to change your mind. Maybe it is with a friend, or by appointments like me. Whatever it is, take the time to figure it out, and make it a priority. The gym is part of my time and my dedication to myself. Sometimes friends or my parents want me to go to dinner and I have an appointment scheduled, and I say no. It is hard, I am honestly saying that, but I keep my dedication. It is my health, my body, and it needs to be my priority.
  • 18. Mood: Exercise has a DRAMATIC impact on your mental health. It releases endorphins and creates more serotonin in the brain. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, exercise should be an even higher priority for you. Remember the way you think, ties into how you feel, and ties into what you do.

Happy being Healthy!

_________________________________________________________________________________ Eliminate Judgement from your life!
Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT
Published on Girlsguideto.com


In the world of social media and reality television, many of us have become incredibly good at both projecting the “perfect” life and/or judging others for their errors. Think of all those who post on Facebook about their perfect relationships, children, successes, beauty, where they are traveling... Why is our culture so obsessed with the judgment of others? And why do we all fall into it? Should we really believe those who promote that they are living a “perfect” life?

We are developing into a society that thrives off painting pictures of who we should be and trashing those who lose their way. While we are busy focusing on others, we lose sight of ourselves. Ever notice the people who judge the most end up having the most difficult time in life? And why is it that we women end up being the worst to each other knowing all that we women go through?

It's time we stop bashing ourselves and other women as well, with an understanding that not one of us is going to do it perfectly right. Stop talking about those who are still single, those who marry young, those who got divorced, those who should get a divorce, those working moms, those non working moms... The reality is we as a society never stop judging. So now what? At the end of the day you have to live for yourself. If you choose not to judge yourself or allow others to judge your path, you are that much different than the rest of the world.

Here are some tips to help you live your life without the judgment:

1. Follow your heart and your gut.In the very core of our being, we just know what is best for ourselves. Forget the analysis, forget what everyone thinks you should do, follow that little feeling inside that says “yes, this is right” and don’t let anyone’s judgment stop you.

2. Learn from your own mistakes. When you make a mistake, take the time to learn from it instead of beating yourself up over it. Write down your blessings, what you want to change, and what you will not do in the future. This will empower you if you allow it to.

3. Be content with where you are. So many of us are living in the future and living through the hope of change. When you look back 10 years from now, you will wish you appreciated where you are this very moment. Think back to high school; how many of you would take your high school problems back or your high school body back? And did you appreciate it then? Nope. Take the time to appreciate all you have, right now, at this very time in your life.

4. Your relationship status does not define you. Take all the singles; they really want to be settled down. Take the ones who are settled down, they either want to be single or have kids. Take the ones with kids, they really wish they could have alone time. Look, we all have the grass is always greener complex but wherever your situation is, embrace it.

5. Be compassionate. Next time someone angers you, frustrates you, or you turn to judge them – STOP. Take a moment to be compassionate and attempt to understand where they could be coming from. It takes more negative energy to constantly judge and talk about others than coming to peace with the person that cut you off on the road.

6. Don’t live in other people’s fantasy world.When you are scrolling through Facebook, keep in mind that generally people give you the highlight reel of their life. Many times people beat themselves up assuming that people are living a better life, it is just not true. We are all human and we all have insecurities and weak points and difficulties. Don’t fall prey to believing the nonsense.

7. Embrace your weaknesses.The strongest of people know their weaknesses. They aren’t ashamed or defensive; they have come to terms with them and do not allow them to take over all of the positives. No one can hold anything against you if you do not hold it against yourself. It is quite empowering to accept the whole you.

8. Take the time you would use to judge yourself (or others) and work on yourself.If we all did this the world would be a different place. But if we can’t change the world, take the time to change your world. All of the energy it takes to talk down to yourself or to talk about others would be much more beneficial to use for motivation towards growing, learning, and becoming a stronger woman.

 

If there is one thing we can agree on, it is that no one is perfect. If you look within yourself, treat yourself with kind words and treat others with an open heart, life could certainly be a much better place. Do not feel the need to defend and do not feel the need to criticize. Your biggest job is learning to be good to yourself and others!

Happy No Judgement!
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Don't let your own negative nancy run your life!
Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT


We all know working out keeps us physically fit, emotionally more balanced, is a way to be social, so why don’t we go to the gym regularly? We all know smoking is bad for you but why do you go buy a pack when you're stressed? Why do we look at our ex’s Facebook knowing it will make us upset?  Skip class instead of just go? Continue to text and drive even though you have swerved your way out of accidents?

It’s that little negative nancy voice in all of us. We all know her. She is the vocie that  bargains with you to hit the snooze button instead of hitting the gym. She tempts you to eat another slice and start your diet tomorrow. We all have her, or him and we all listen to it at least sometimes, so how do we drain her out? Sometimes fighting things can make them that much more powerful. You can live with it and still make better choices.

I have tried bargaining with her many times, convincing her I had to go and there were no more excuses, but somehow she would always find a way to win. Until one day I realized that she just isn’t going anywhere.

I will never be excited to go to the gym, or eat a salad, or skip the bread. I will probably always consider skipping work or class when I shouldn’t, or looking at my ex’s Facebook, or want to answer that text while I am driving. And I have come to be ok with that. But I realized, if I am going to live in the now, I have to make my decisions in the moment. I can’t wait for tomorrow, or next week, or the first of the month, to begin my goals. I can’t let that inner voice take over so here is what I do:

  • When I plan to go to the gym: I physically get myself out of bed, put on my sneakers, and drive to the gym, ignoring all the nasty little suggestions he has about not doing so.
  • When I want to get over someone:I make a conscious choice to not look at my ex’s Facebook, contact him, or try to run into him or hear about what he's doing.
  • When I don’t want to text and drive: I put my phone in the backseat.
  • When I don’t want to smoke: I won’t walk outside with the smokers and I won’t drive to the store to buy them.
  • When I want to wake up early:I put my alarm on the counter across from my bed so I physically have to get up to turn it off.

These are examples of  behavior changes, and despite what my feelings are or what my thoughts are, I am giving myself the power to make the changes needed. We all have that choice -- it’s more powerful then we realize.

In most therapy sessions you will distinguish the pattern of your thoughts leading to your feelings leading to your behaviors. If you are behaving in a way you want to change, you have to look at how you feel and how you think. For example, if you think that it’s too hard to lose weight, you may start to feel depressed, and your behavior may be to eat or just give up. This is a pattern, and you have to look at all three steps to help yourself change. 

Like I said, I don’t think I will ever want to go to the gym instead of sleep, so I have to reverse this cycle. Forcing me to get up and put my sneakers on is the behavior. When I get home I feel good, energized, and motivated -- these are my feelings about the behavior.  When I think about it, I realize it isn’t really that bad, and now my thoughts are changing because of how I feel. Try it one time, for yourself. Reverse your cycle to behavior leading to feelings leading to your thoughts and see if this makes a difference in your routine or choices.

 

Remember every one good decision adds up. Every time I force myself to the gym, it’s a step closer to being healthier. Every time I choose not to involve myself in my ex’s business, it’s a step closer to moving on. The bottom line is we all know what's best for us, we just don’t always do what’s best for us. The next time that little voice of yours comes full force simply change your behavior.

Happy getting rid of Negative Nancy!
_________________________________________________________________________________

Create your own happiness: 4 steps of internal balance.
Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT
Published on Girlsguideto.com



Internal balance is the ability to create inner contentment from the four areas of life you actually have control over. If you have been looking to others for happiness, chances are this has created dependency which leads to various self and relational difficulties. This can range from having trouble finding a partner, unhealthy romantic relationships and unsatisfying friendships. In order to truly commit to someone else, you have to commit to yourself first.

Want a better solution? Take a look at your internal balance. The goal is to have your needs met, by you and only you, so that you can have fulfilling, healthy relationships.

If you find you fall into this category take a look at the four pieces of the puzzle, each of these categories can drastically improve your internal balance which will reflect in your outer being.

1. Social:Friends are a foundation of who we are as a person. Take a closer look at your social life. Are you always out drinking and skimming the surface with people? If so, you may want to consider cutting back and attempting to work toward healthier alternatives. Take a good look at who you choose to be around -- this is generally what you become. At any moment you can decide to change who you are surrounded by, and the depth of friendships you have.

Spend more time with those that have the same values as you, senses of humor, positive thinking, etc. Making some drastic changes in your social life can greatly impact how you feel. Meeting new people is always a fun way to motivate yourself and break out of your comfort zone. If you have difficulty making friends or keeping friends, take a look at why. Pay attention to what you’re giving, and what you’re expecting, and see if you can make healthy adjustments.

The Social Benefit:As humans, we rely on our connection with others, and you want to keep that connection intact. The more you socialize, the more comfortable you will be just being you thus this will attract the right people around you.

2. Spiritual:Spirituality can mean so many different things to each individual person. Whether it ties into your religion, or into your Tuesday yoga class, spirituality is being able to find some sort of inner tranquility. This should be a type of activity that gives you serenity and peace that does not rely on others.

If religion fulfills you, make it a point to practice. If you are purely spiritual, or want to explore spirituality, attend a Zen class or read a book about being in the “now”. If you are neither, challenge yourself to spend some time in nature without technology, take up meditation or listen to music.

The Spiritual Benefit: Whatever it may be that can give you rejuvenation of the mind, discover it, and you will always have this healthy tool to fall back on in times of stress, without having to rely on anyone else or damaging substitutes.

3. Physical: The physical aspect of our lives has such a significant impact on our internal being. Exercise releases serotonin and makes us feel productive. If you despise the gym, don’t give up on this aspect of your life just yet. There are many outdoor activities you can try such as learning how to swim or play tennis, signing up for a marathon, and the list goes on.

Schedule this into your week and make it a point to get it done and you will almost instantly start feeling the internal difference. No one is born a runner; it always takes a first step. Challenge yourself and see what your body can accomplish. If you haven’t done it in a while, start small, take the stairs and walk a little more.

The Physical Benefit:This is such a key role in internal well being, and it is important that you take this on, as it is something you can do now that will create immediate change. This isn’t about weight or looks. This is about restoring a healthy inner energy from physical movement. Exercising our bodies does incredible balancing of the mind.

4. Mental:Constructive mental stimulation that helps your grow plays a very important role. It's exercise for your brain and there are so many ways to broaden your mental capabilities. Some people may get this from work if they are lucky, some may not. Try and figure out what type of mental stimulation you are receiving and what you are in need of.

Maybe this will lead to a career change, or just you following a passion. Some people enjoy board games, reading, cooking, exploring, museums, painting, writing, photography, school...

The Mental Benefit:Our minds feed off of trying something new. Find something you enjoy and begin, sign up for a new class, or learn a new language. Research shows that mental stimulation can help people work longer, live longer, and gives a feeling of having a purpose.

Balance is also extremely important when it comes to these four aspects. You don’t want to socialize 90 percent of the time and leave 10 percent for the rest. You want to try to give them all an equal space. If you realize you have been spending a bit too much time at gym, schedule a date with your girlfriends. If you realize you are going out just a bit too much, add in days for spirituality and relaxation.

These are four specific behaviors we have control over, and once you tackle these areas your internal self will naturally become balanced and thus you will attract people with balance. This will create a healthier connection and bond with yourself and allow you to have relationships without dependency.

Now is the time to take control of your own internal contentment and look at how the four pieces applies to you.

Happy Balancing!

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 Kind over matter.
Written by Tory L. Eletto, MS, LMFT

 

Let’s face it; we all have something going on in our lives. If our job is going well, someone in our family isn’t. If our children are listening, our husband is not. If we are finally getting into shape, we get injured. These are small scale examples of course. There are many people facing physical illnesses, mental illnesses, grief of a passed loved one, grief of a divorce, poverty, infertility, and the list goes on and on. Because we all are dealing with our own combination of difficulties, and positive things I hope, try to remember this when you are reacting to others throughout your day. I have two very powerful stories that I have heard that have inspired me and hopefully they will inspire you too.

1.)    The first one is a story about a woman who had a really tough day at work in Westchester, NY. Her boss was driving her nuts, her clients were awful all day long, and on her way home from work all she wanted to do was sleep on the train. Next to her, there was a spaced out man with his three small children. The children were all running up and down the train, being loud, annoying, and disruptive. The woman sat there and tried to calm herself down, but she just kept getting more and more frustrated that this father was doing nothing to control the situation. In her mind she kept saying things like “This is so rude”, “Who does this guy think he is?”, “Why wouldn’t he just tell his kids to sit down already?!”As she was thinking these thoughts, her anger grew. She was a minute away from lashing out all of her anger on this man, but just as she was about to he answered his phone. Immediately this was confirming for her how selfish this man really was until she overheard him talking about his wife just passing away moments ago and how they were leaving the hospital and taking the train because he couldn’t drive. The woman‘s heart all of a sudden broke. She was a phone call away from telling this man off.  Of course he is in a daze; he is dealing with the very recent death of his wife. This changed her entire perception of what was going on, she realized the kids were acting out because that’s how they were coping with what just happened. Once she was able to get beyond herself and realize what was going on, compassion kicked in. She wondered what kind of unnecessary stress she would have added on both of them if she decided to yell. As she was leaving the train she smiled at the father and said “my heart and prayers are with you today” and he smiled back. 

2.)    Another story was told to me in a meeting for work. A depressed woman decided that she was going to end her life and that nothing was going to stop her. Nothing of course, unless on her way to an undisclosed bridge, someone, just one person, took the time to smile at her. She drove, looked around, looked at people in their cars, waiting for that someone to just give her a smile that would comfort her enough to make a different choice. That person didn’t come, and apparently the only reason why they knew this was because of a letter she wrote and a few people they later interviewed that remembers her peering into their windows while driving on the bridge with her.

OK so two different stories, both very sad, but the point to share is that an act of kindness can change someone’s day, someone’s life, and promotes positive energy for them and for yourself. We are all so frequently in our own bubble, holding in a lot of our own frustrations with our children, our marriage, our job, that sometimes we are just bubbles waiting to burst. Burst at someone who cuts you off, burst at someone who is taking too long in front of you, but what we need to begin to realize is no one ever knows what someone else is going through. There is probably always a reason or explanation for things. Remember that kindness really does go a long way. Instead of wondering why someone is staring at you, smile. Instead of feeling frustrated that someone cut you off, assume they have somewhere important to go, and let it go. Instead of getting annoyed that someone is taking long, assume there is a reason they are off that day. If you are compassionate inside, you can show compassion outside. And you never know when there will be a day where a nice gesture or smile will change your day.

Happy Compassion!