peace comes from faith not fear. learn to handle fear

Dating during COVID-19

Answering whether and how to continue dating during COVID-19 might depend on how you define dating.

You might need to Define the Relationship, (DTR – if you’re in a current connection, or several.) You might also have to redefine dating.

To be crystal clear, I am not advocating physical proximity. Not at all. The challenge, opportunity, and delight of these times is to connect without that element. You can hear, see, do, and feel things without actually touching…or even getting close enough for that possibility and temptation.

First Connections in Dating during COVID-19

Some of you have heard me reference Bert Adams’ Stages of Mate Selection in the US. This data, compiled in 1986, is still useful today as it outlines five stages with the pinnacle stage being, as I say, “Waaaaa! THE ONE!” Adams defines it as “Marriage.”

The first three stages are 1. Initial Attraction, (just what it sounds like.) 2. Deeper Attraction (where exclusivity occurs, sexuality is engaged, and disclosure tested) and 3. Building Barriers to Breaking Up (where you become a known couple and solidly part of each other’s worlds, test value systems and disclosure more deeply and start to join things like finances and physical space.) A lot happens in stage three.

In Initial Attraction, one might connect with many people at once (or as many as you find feasible.) Some people limit this number to two or three for their maximum psychic and emotional capacity. Others handle more at once; still others focus on one at a time and see where it leads.

You choose.

We’re talking online dating right now. You get that, right? OR following up on connections you made before COVID had us sheltering in place.

And if you have questions about how to start the process of attracting a mate, what platform to use, and how to use it, READ HERE.

Especially if you are over 40, you can get oodles of good advice, insight, and hints from selected episodes of my podcast Midlife Love Bytes available everywhere you get your podcasts (google it or search in iTunes, iHeart Radio, Stitcher, and others.)

In the 4th stage, commitment escalates but only some connections actually become permanent and make it to THE ONE. Others reach stage four and fizzle out…and the study could not draw conclusions about why. (I find this fascinating.) But you are NOT automatically in stage four, even when you’re in a real, feels-committed relationship. That means if you have not done all the “testing” previously, you are NOT in stage four.

Who Shelters Together During COVID-19?

Most people in stage four don’t even have to worry about “dating during COVID-19,” They’re in a comfortable position to choose Sheltering-in-Place together, even when that means they own two separate places. However, if one of you is at high exposure risk and the other not, there may be good, logical reasons to stay in separate spaces if you can. Some of you will choose the security and balm of proximity and physical touch versus the safety from disease. I get it.

If you’re in stage three, you MIGHT be in a position to shelter together if you’re BOTH NOT at high exposure risk or movement (or obviously, if you’re already living together with no separate abode.)

It’s true that no matter the stage, relationships are made or broken under times of dire stress. This is a great time to allow your connections to be deepened in meaningful ways and to avoid overtaxing them when you can. (Check out the post on Love in the Time of Coronavirus for tips on how to quarantine together and keep relationship healthy.)

I recommend everyone in stages lower than four (with exceptions for those living together in stage three) maintain physical separation and employ other means of dating during COVID-19 instead.

Not just for the common good and minimizing movement, but for your individual mental and emotional health… as well as the health of any connection which may grow to a more permanent state. Dating despite distance can be key to a great future.

I know it’s hard to be apart physically. I know it’s hard to have the dating train interrupted by COVID restrictions. But there is so much that’s good and healthy in slowing things down. Treat this time as an opportunity to explore, test, enjoy, and deepen your connection(s.)

Pretend you’re separated by war, overseas deployment, oceans, job assignment, or long travel. Then let’s get on with great dating and relating even during this time.

Who and Where to date.

Disclaimer: I’m not covering what it takes to be a healthy dater, or what it takes to be ready for healthy relationship. If you need support in that area or doubt your picker, or feel desperate for companionship, consult my body of work or spend some time in one-on-one coaching with me. I love helping people with that.

These ideas are for relatively healthy, self-aware folks who know their current objective for being part of the dating pool. You are ready to be responsible daters… including but not limited to during quarantine.

That said, where can you connect?

Let me count the places:

Skype, Zoom, text, call, email, through the dating app, (of course) Facetime, Google Team, hangouts, Dropbox, and even, if you want to be super romantic, snail mail— we’re talking Old School sentiment, so save that for someone you think might meet your grandchildren. Those same grandchildren might love reading those COVID Love Letters long after we’re all gone. Ahh, paper!

I don’t recommend hanging out in chat rooms or igniting old flames via Facebook or other social media. I say that because these are stressful times and connections made there may or may not stand the test of time. True; they may entertain for the duration, so if you’re interested in playing with hearts, full steam ahead.

By all means, connect with people you’ve known a long time via Facebook, but let the intentional dating occur on a platform designed for that mission. Why? For the sake of clarity, that’s why.

Those are the platforms. But how do you use them to connect?

Creative Dating Connections via Technology

The rule for dating during COVID-19 is to do those activities during this time you’d normally do in each stage of connecting. Step by step, little by little.

Texting is for flirting. Emojis, innuendo, nuance, joking, sweetness. Go ahead. Sexting is for Stages 2 and beyond. Knock yourself out. Keep in mind that research indicates one or two touch points is max for what most people prefer during a work day. Anything more is too distracting and comes off as desperate.

Of course, set up regular old phone calls. My honey does not like spending time on the phone, but in early stages we did! Lots of it. Because he was interested. He will spend time on the phone now when I ask for more connection at times when we’re apart. That said, if a candidate is not interested in spending time on the phone, they’re probably just not that interested.

Next candidate, please!

Yes, Skype, Zoom, Facetime (and the like) where you can see one another. This is where you can really get creative.

Look for ways of adapting a conventional date:

Meet for a coffee. This is great for the first “meet date” I often recommend. You are just spending a little time together to see if you want to spend more time together. Make coffee. Sit. Chat. Get acquainted. Keep it around an hour. Even if it goes really well, the adage “keep ’em wanting more” still applies in early connection. You’ve got time.

Eat a meal together… separately at the same time.

Better yet, cook a meal together…separately. Same recipe? Why not? Then you can compare the taste and process.

Wine tasting anyone? Got a supply or cellar already? Feature your fave three to compare and talk about.

Are you a mixologist? Make a date to have drinks together.

Watch the same movie at the same time in different spaces. Stay connected via text during it…or keep your faces on a small screen while you watch the big one. That way, you can read responses throughout the saga, pause for bathroom or snack breaks in real time, and chat when it’s over.

Dating during COVID-19 in Stage 2 into 3

Introduce your date virtually. Gather a group of friends for online happy hour and let your new connection join in the fun. Maybe you have a great social connector in your bunch who can prep gentle questions and topics to draw your date into the group and help him/her learn about your friend set. And vice versa.

You get to decide when it’s time to introduce other family members. As in real life, don’t rush this. If you’re at home with kids, allowing them to swish through the frame without requiring them to say “hi” may be realistic and appropriate. Make appointments to introduce elsewhere if you’re ready for that. Life does not need to stop just because social distancing is on.

Play games online. Just the two of you or with a group: friends or family. Virtual game rooms abound but you can make your own and enact Cherades through video. Get creative on how to play other games too, like Heads-up or Code Names or other games where you just need to see a game board that one person can manipulate.

Introduce your date to your hobbies and projects. Remember at this stage you are getting to know, testing values, and experimenting with disclosure. So be intentional about testing. In order to test disclosure, you have to be vulnerable and actually share something. Yeah, risk it. Even at this tender time.

You can find others, but Pocket Worthy published this article on rekindling a love with these 36 questions, but you can use them to explore one as well. Be sure it’s not a quiz or interview for the other person either. You’re both exploring and telling the truth. Enjoy it.

Have a star-gazing chat. Is it safe to go out where you are? Is it a clear night? Go gaze up at the same stars and moon at the same time. Do what lovers do and talk about dreams, hopes, fears, and joys under the canopy of a spring night.

Even those of you who want a date to be more active, can. Go for a run together: keep one another on video and speaker chat. Right now, if you see others out and about, they might give you a slant eye with your speaker phone on but mostly, they’ll understand. These are weird times and you are getting creative. πŸ˜‰

Same goes for any other kind of active date.

Who says you can’t work out together virtually or have a contest shooting baskets or corn hole or anything else.

Come up with more. I know you can. But you get it. Do everything you normally do in those early stages of dating. Just do it digitally.

The question of Chemistry

If you have not met in person before quarantine began and you are plagued by the question whether your chemistry mixes, I get it.

You’ve got two choices: Wait to find out. (Honestly, what’s the hurry? I think waiting is more responsible.)

BUT…if you absolutely MUST KNOW, schedule a heavy walk…but only if the viral load where you live is super low. There are indicators the transmission of COVID-19 viral droplets may occur through the air at the micro level, so don’t risk it if you don’t have to.

If you just can’t stand it, be sure you really do stay six feet apart. Get sweaty. But stay away from one another. Keep it limited to a specific time-frame (like long enough to break a sweat, not so long temptation grows) and agree ahead of time that this is ONLY an in-person TEST of your physical attraction.

It’s NOT a first kiss. Or first touch.

So step away. And if it’s a YES, get back to connecting virtually, where emotional and intellectual connections are beautifully grown, tested, and deepened. Your relational life -even when individual connections don’t extend past COVID-19- will be better for it. And you’ll emerge from quarantine an even better dater.

As always, if I can help, reach out.

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working from home challenges answered

Working from Home in a time of quarantine

Maybe you’re working from home and it’s all new. On top of it, you’re either alone more than usual or you’re trying to work from home with other people also home…maybe your kids or mate..or both. It can get a little nuts.

Even for those of us who are used to working from home, this pressured time brings with it extra challenges. Here are some guidelines ALL of us can remember in order to stay sane, stimulated, and productive.

Tips for Working from Home

1. Do your work in the same place. Those of you home with others probably have this one figured out already. You know you can’t be all that productive with everyone else swarming around so you’re off in a designated room, maybe quite obviously, an office or study. (That might have required some furniture moving and cleaning.)

For some of you monitoring small children simultaneously, being in a central location and available might be crucial. Still, same thing: set up and “go to work” in a designated zone. Teach children that when you’re in that zone, you’re at work. Do be “interruptible” for very young children. Thirty seconds of focused attention when they really need it helps kids feel secure and we all know that minimizes chaos in the house.

I know this takes patience. If you manage 30 seconds of focused attention calmly, kindly, and completely… (and obviously without blowing your stack,) kids can quickly get a sense that there is still structure and safety in their day. You may need to educate them (calmly and kindly of course) about the differences between need and want. Remember, connection, safety, and security are needs. Plus, getting outside and taking a walk can be just as important for children as it is for dogs.

2. Go to work at the same time. Even if your company does not require it, you’ll be more productive. Announce to those you live with that you’ll be at work from X-X and taking your breaks at specific times. Then do it. On top of making you more productive, you’ll experience your work day having a beginning and an end. And it should have an end.

Especially when we’re available at home, everyone else can start to think we’re available 24/7. I have an assistant doing all her work for me remotely, and as a boss, I’m careful about when I send her an assignment and my expectations regarding how long I hope it will take…i.e. when her part is “due.” Not all bosses are going to think about that. But YOU can, especially when you’re NOT the boss. You have nothing to fear by communicating a boundary around this. You’re soon going to be a frazzled mess if you don’t.

Sometimes communicating that boundary is about your behavior. As in, DON’T answer the email at 9 pm. Answering is on you.

And if you ARE the boss (and I’m reminding myself here,) stop work communications at your own designated hour. You need time away from work. We ALL do. Time to work, time to play, time for domestics, time to connect (in relationship- with those is proximity and those at a physical distance) and absolute, do-nothing down time.

A note: Some of you are doing your essential work in finance or medical supplies or innovative restructuring and I know you have a sense of urgency for the work. You still need a break. And regular food and sleep, and some movement. You might need a hug or several. You need more than a few deep, relaxing breaths…and a shower. Which leads me to:

3. Get dressed. You don’t have to wear the same clothing you’d wear to the office, but groom yourself. Make yourself presentable. Shower. Wash your face, do your hair, and brush your teeth. Wear something you’d be happy to have everyone at work see you in…on “Casual Friday” sure.

If you’re meeting clients online, it IS okay for it to be business up top, party on the bottom…as long as no one sees your bottom. πŸ˜‰ Me, I’m definitely ditching my dress pants and heels for the home duration. Look, I’m not suggesting ridiculousness here. You should be comfortable but definitely groomed and dressed.

Because YOU know the difference.

In addition, this actually signals to those you live with that you are working. Then when you change into cozy lounge wear, it signals that you’ve left work. It might sound silly, but it matters! This is especially helpful for young children. Guess, what? Your mate will appreciate the distinction too.

General Comments on Working from Home

You are going to be subjected to more distractions: neighbor noise, other people’s pets, your pets, the dishes, a television, social media threads, and an onslaught of additional email. Who else here is suddenly buried in assurances and descriptions from every business they’ve ever frequented… in response to the coronavirus? (I know I might be one; I’m hopeful you’re finding it helpful and truly comforting. That’s what I’m here for, after all.) The three point structure above can help minimize the impact of those distractions.

Some of you are already better than others at compartmentalizing. Now is the time to do it. And don’t get mad at your mate for engaging this skill right now. He or she might be super good at it and now’s the time to engage it. Besides, all of us benefit from leaving work at work. Remember: work time, play time, domestics, connecting time, and down time.

Other tips for Productivity

These tips are good no matter whether you’re working from home or not and if you make them a practice now, they’ll increase your productivity exponentially for the long term.

Get up and move around every fifty to fifty five minutes. Even if you’ve fashioned a standing desk at home, move around. Get some blood flowing. Check on the kids. They’ll be glad you did and will feel simultaneously more connected and more willing to “allow” you to get back to work. Give someone a hug for more than 20 seconds. It releases oxytocin and that always helps lower cortisol, the stress hormone. And, it’s soothing.

Maybe take a cold shower in the morning. I can’t bring myself to do this quite yet. I enjoy the hot ones for their steaming and comforting qualities right now. But science indicates a cold shower wakes up the neurotransmitters, increases resilience, helps manage stress, and seems to have a strong correlation with creativity and motivation.

Do everything else you know to do to take care of your stress level. You might know from our work together whether you are heartfirst, brainfirst, or bodyfirst. If you ever answered the question from me about what you do when you enter a party, you also might know if your instinctual stack is first one-on-one, social, or self-preservation. It all makes a difference in the things that work best for YOU and addressing your stress.

More on that in a future blog.

A final note:

For now, (and always) be kind and gentle…with yourself and with others. Keep those things structured that can be. Rest when you’re tired. And create your own center of safety, whether it is your routine, inside your heart and mind, or inside your home.

Of course, if I can help with any of that, let me know. Let’s connect.

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Coming soon, ways to cope if you are alone in your house- with or without furry, breathing friends. And what to do is you want to KEEP DATING during COVID-19.

 

parenting

Parenting during Coronavirus

Parenting during coronavirus (stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, quarantine, lockdown…whatever you are calling it) is going to be challenging if it hasn’t been already.

These times will absolutely accentuate the positive and the negative of your existing family system and structure, no matter what age are your children.

Some of you are home with wee ones. Some have school-agers. Maybe you have a wrangle of multiple ages with bigger children capable of giving a hand. Still others of you are home with moody teens or young adults wrestling their own disappointments: social opportunities shut down, dating relationships challenged, questions about their future looming.

No matter what, it’s a challenge.

On top of it, you know parenting is one of the BIG THREE that affects marriages, right? Mishandling differences in parenting style, money management, and the sexual relationship can ring the death knoll for any marriage. Notice I said mishandling differences. Having differences is not the problem. Many of us need help figuring out how to handle the differences.

No matter what your parenting styles, even when they differ greatly, here are guiding principles you can each use and adapt for good (not perfect) parenting right now.

Parenting during Quarantine

It’s Parenting 101 all over again.

Some of you have heard me use the model that good parenting consists of nurture, guidance, and limits… in physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and sexual realms. All that nurture, guidance, and limiting is age-appropriate, of course. Not very many of us GOT that growing up but we CAN intentionally offer it to our children…at any and every age.

How are you doing with that matrix?

And if it’s just complete pandamonium and you’re thinking, “Yeah, right, Beth. Nurture, guidance, and limits!? I’m just trying to survive over here” skip down to the numbered points below. πŸ˜‰ Those should help.

No worries. You’re human. And you already have a family system in place and working or not working so well, in which case, use this time to revisit your family norms, structure, operation, and health level.

I’m not saying start from scratch and drum up All the Good Stuff right this minute under pressure. I’m saying you can use the matrix to continue to shore up your parenting even now. Use it to spend some brain space envisioning what you can do to be a better parent.

And pay attention to and emphasize all the great things that actually work. Then remind children of their positive family identity. “We prize family and togetherness. We’ll get through this together. ” Or maybe you can say “We always get through hard things. This is no different.” It is true that “this will definitely be a time to remember.” You ARE creating family memories…even now.

Above all, and in all, be kind and gentle with yourself and others. Just as much as you are able. And get some help if you’re having a hard time with that.

Parenting in Quarantine can be pure chaos

…if you let it. You are in charge of the kids, not the other way around. Even though you’re exhausted, stressed, and sleep deprived while relationships may be strained, you really are in charge. I know your brain might be in fight, flight, or freeze mode and if you identify with that, let me know. I’ve got specific tools to help get you to a more regulated state. And don’t worry, I’ve been helping people with that and more…not just the last three weeks, but for years.

Here are parenting principles to help:

1. Know that your kids are individuals who will have varied and unique responses to stress. Respect that. Honor it. In fact, acknowledge it out loud in a sentence or two even if your audience is likely to respond with an eye roll. Even teens need to feel seen and respected by their parents.

2. Everyone wants to hear things are going to be okay. (They ARE going to be okay. If you don’t know that, let’s chat.) There’s no need to overemphasize this or to fake it. Be genuine. Your kids always want to know that you have got this. You are the adult in their world. They do take their cues from you. It’s okay not to know everything and have all the answers. You can admit you feel scared sometimes too. But it’s not okay to make your kids take care of you right now.

3. Don’t neglect yourself. If you’re freaked out about something, tend to your own freak out. Call your therapist. Lots of us are doing video telehealth now and it is super helpful and safe. There are concrete skills a good therapist knows and can teach you to help address your issues and get you solidly feeling so much better. Then you’ll be ready to jump back in and be a great parent. (Of course, call me. I’m here for you.)

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Plus these important parenting tips:

4. Do provide structure. The creation of predictability and certainty in uncertain times is soothing to EVERYONE, including you, whether you realize this or not. Create structure. Order play times, designate time for work (homework, chores,) time for taking care of business, (when Mommy or Daddy need to be alone for a limited amount of time) and times AWAY from the parenting task…even if it is just for a long, luxurious shower. Or, if they are the correct ages, do get some away time when they are in bed for the night.

5. Rest. Literally, like all of us were told when our babies were born, rest when they rest. Do that now if you can. Don’t expect yourself to go, go, go…even though most of us are doing this within our own homes now. These ARE stressful times. Give yourself and your kids a break. (And remember, a break implies that they were previously on-task or hard at work. πŸ˜‰ But I mean this figuratively as well. Leave room for human responses. Keep your discipline and consequences within reason. If you’re having trouble staying reasonable because you’re just overwhelmed, call a friend, take a break, and of course, get some professional help if you need it.

A few final tips for parenting now

6. Play. No matter what age your children -and I mean grown ones too- play together. On purpose or spontaneously, do something FUN. Board Games, competitive ones, made-up ones, goofy ones, whatever. But PLAY together. It’s a great way to experience JOY.

7. Be grateful out loud. Make lists of good things. Count blessings. Say a prayer before meals. Whatever fits you. But do it and let your kids see and hear you as well as contribute their own ideas. You might not force surly teens to add to the list, but let them hear you doing this.

8. Enjoy this time. It IS unprecedented and that means there will never be another time like it. It’s new and different, which means your brain is on high-alert recording memories and experiences. Make some good ones for your kids.

In addition, Psychology Today has published the first of a series dealing with parenting during crisis. Read it right here. You’ve got resources to make the most of your quarantine.

If you’re having a hard time with any of this, related to parenting or just related to you, reach out. I am here for you.

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love during Corona

Love during Corona

Love during corona is your relationship under pressure. Lots of it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but wait two weeks.

Hopefully by then, you’ll have seen your therapist (virtually) a time or two AND you will read and DO the stuff that’s actually helpful in order to maintain a healthy, loving connection… or adjust a strained, tense one. (More on that below.)

Maybe you already saw the video on Facebook (follow me there if you don’t already) from last Friday talking about how this time has people responding differently because of the way they’re made and the way they process and move through the world, AND because of their unique core issues.

Stressful times can trigger those core issues very differently for members of a couple. Those responses can highlight differences in a way that doesn’t always feel so great when there’s a very real looming threat like coronavirus. Just when you need one another, tension in relationship can increase. Nothing like a pandemic to tax the strength of any relationship! And if you’ve already got issues, well then, here’s help:

How to Tend to Love during Corona.

1. Make an appointment with a skilled professional.

A skilled relationship expert can help you clarify, communicate, and manage whatever is going on for you…and between the two of you. She knows how each of you is made, how you process, and what tools will work best for you individually and as a couple for facing your exact challenges, especially under pressure.

We got you. We are trained for this. It’s what we do all the time. Call your therapist.

AND if I’m your therapist or you want to see if I will be yours, call ME.

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Secondly, your relationship, even now, needs some space. You’re gonna need some clear communication, some real intimacy, some teamwork, and some space.

2. Plan some alone time.

Don’t wait until one of you is brimming over with irritation or feeling stuffy, smothered, and claustrophobic trapped in your house. We don’t want there to be any “finally erupting in anger.” Don’t wait. Know that you are going to naturally need a break from interaction and intensity and that it’s a good thing.

Also, don’t let those daily irritations pile up. Those sighing expressions, eye rolls, facial masks, and body language all communicate something even if you’re “holding your tongue” so to speak. Be sure ALL your communication is something helpful, kind, and true. (Not just one of those things, either: all three.)

That can be hard when things are getting TRIGGERED for you individually. That brings me to…

3. Tend to your personal issues.

They’re yours. Some of you know really well how to take responsibility for them, to address them, and take care of yourself in a way that helps (and does not hurt) yourself or the relationship.

Some of you need a counselor to help with that. Or you’re currently working with one. Get in for an individual session. In the meantime, do everything you already know to manage your own issues, your own stress, and your own triggers

Is it take a walk? Take three deep breaths? Do some tapping and releasing? Do you need to journal it out? Meditate? Call a friend? Send a letter or email? Work out? Stay in touch with a support group?

Do it.

And if COVID-19 circumstances are challenging, get creative. Of course, reach out virtually. Host an online party. There are lots of online platforms available for that as well.

Don’t have the right workout equipment at home? Lots of workouts available online will have you using alternate equipment for weights, blocks, straps, and other stuff. Improvise. You have amazing flexibility, adaptability, and creativity. Now’s the time to use it.

Got an old addiction, habit, or tendency? I’m not saying this is the time to quit smoking or stop drinking entirely…but it might be. For anyone else tempted to mitigate your stress with alcohol, food, or some other unhealthy obsession, do everything you need to do to stay focused on your overall health. It’s that Gentle, Benevolent Observer part of you getting some exercise and growing bigger even now, in fact, especially now.

4. Make a Schedule

Some routine and structure is good for all of us. If you’re home with kids, they need this. If you’re suddenly working from home, you gotta set some limits on how much you work. More details on upcoming blogs discussing Parenting in the time of Corona and Suddenly Working from Home in the next days.

Especially with your relationship during quarantine, maintain some structure.

Is Wednesday night date night? Keep it. Dream up ways to make it special. Even if you have kids at home, structure this around their sleep, or if they are old enough (and game) let them be your servers at the home restaurant, or let them enjoy their own treat-time downstairs while Mom and Dad are alone together in the dining room, dancing in the living room, or settling in with a movie. (By that time, maybe the young ones can join for the movie…or maybe it’s bedtime for them!)

Is Saturday hiking time? Do it, even if you have to walk closer to home. The two of you can hold hands, you just have to stay 6 feet away from everyone else you meet (or not in your household.)

Let your days be structured. And stick to it.

Don’t let Quarantine disrupt your relationship

You don’t have to let love go sour during Corona. No matter how you do it, don’t waste your quarantine. The two of you are made, move through the world, and process differently. You are each going to face this challenge a little differently.

It really can be a time of greater intimacy, connection, and learning in your relationship. Or it can add to the aggravation, irritation, and ultimately cement a super-unhappy memory.

You got this.

And when you don’t, call. I’m here for you. I’m meeting online with couples and individuals virtually everywhere.

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perseption is everything reframe for relief

Cognitive Reframe to the Rescue

Cognitive reframe is not just a psychotherapy term. It is that. But it’s more. You can actually do it with your masterful mind and FEEL better. It’s sort of like magic. Or ninja neuroscience.

Here’s how to engage a cognitive reframe: you notice how you’re thinking about a thing: “oh my God, there’s no toilet paper! What will we do?!” For example.

You don’t label that thought. It’s not bad or good. You just notice that’s the way you’re thinking about it and then ask yourself, “Is there another way to think about this?”

The answer is, yes.

You frame it differently in order to have a different impact. For instance, “Wow, someone else has A LOT of toilet paper. I wonder what that stack looks like in their house?”

This is not a joke, although some of you might be smiling. I get that. Those of you who own the toilet paper right now, you’re probably definitely smiling.

This is also not a value judgement about whether you TP hoarders really need ALL.That.TP. This is for everyone else looking at that empty shelf who might actually be in danger of resorting to wash cloths and having a moment of sheer wonder, anxiety, and possible almost-panic. It’s okay. Don’t worry; that feeling can happen to ANY of us. There’s no judgement.

Another cognitive reframe:

There’s nothing wrong with wash cloths.

In fact, they don’t leave TP pilling. (Most of us think that’s a good thing.) And they are reusable. They worked for hundreds of years.

Does anyone remember cloth diapers? Hullo? They have always been a good thing for the environment and very effective in helping the littlest bums learn to hold the pee for the little potty.

When I think cognitive reframe, I think creativity

Know what? You don’t have to actually believe and invest in your reframe, you just have to consider it as a possibility. It loosens the death grip on your ONE WAY of seeing a thing and helps ease the associated suffering: anxiety, heartache, depression, grief. Whatever ails you.

Know who’s good at this?

Kid-minds.

They’re flexible and imaginative and don’t put ALL the stock in the first way of seeing things. Try it. Put on your best kid-mind and dive in. You can do this with anything.

A Cognitive Reframe Story

Some of you know I love a good story. Here’s one: Monday, working from home, I thought I’d do the responsible (and prudent) thing and I ordered some grocery supplies on line. Things like face wash and body wash, mouth wash and deodorant: things no one else will care about so much (except my honey) if I am endlessly working from home. But I care about these things!

(Apparently I have plenty of toilet paper, but not an abundance of run-of-the-mill cosmetic supplies.)

So, I ordered online for delivery. All the cosmetic supplies and frozen vegetables, which, if you know me at all, is almost blasphemy. Fresh is my mantra. But: wrong face scrub, no veggies, sample size pit-juice, and, to top it off, the shopper picked himself up a box of brownie mix which I never ordered, I did pay for, and I did not receive because he obviously took them home as a tip for his less-than-stellar job as my personal shopper. (I really did NOT order brownies! Honestly. I’d make those from scratch… most of the time.)

Of all the things to surreptitiously add to a grocery order!

At any rate, the order was such a fail, I braved the store myself the next day.

And purchased $276 worth of food, beverages, and supplies to get me through at least a month if I were to be quarantined all by myself in my house.

Which is not happening anyway, btw. I’m not quarantined nor will I shelter in place all by myself. There’s My Honey for company (which is not his real name.) And the cat (also not his real name.)

Fast forward to the grocery shelves.

Yes, there were vacuous, bare, clean racks with NOTHING on them where the meat and seafood usually are, where there used to be dairy and bread and paper products.

But do you know what my cognitive-reframing-trained brain did?

It got creative.

What other protein can I introduce?Β  There WAS packaged meat, just not the freshly cut stuff.

I even remembered to buy sauerkraut, potatoes, and (chicken) sausage in order to celebrate St Patty’s Day with “bangers and mash.”

Personally, I shrug at bread since I consume so little of it, being gluten sensitive, but whole wheat crackers fit that bill nicely.

I bought not-my-brand decaf coffee and chose organic microwave popping corn since all the families with kids off school obviously absconded with the other stuff and the overwhelming sense I had was of…

ABUNDANCE!

I have enough, I am enough, I do enough.

Oh my word! There were some empty shelves, but there were aisles and aisles and aisles and plenty of lush, fresh produce, and multiple choices of real food just waiting to be loaded into my cart and organized in my pantry.

And guess what? There was still PLENTY when I left it behind, despite the fact there were so many shoppers in the store, dutifully staying 6-feet apart, allowing turns choosing similar items and lining up with some distance between carts to check out.

Makes me wish I owned stock in Kroger, Cub Foods, Byerly’s, Lund’s or Whole Foods!

Made me proud of us as humans!

We can feed the world, people. And make toilet paper galore. And replace the paper towels that sold out! I hear that PnG (right here in Cincinnati) is thinking flexibly about all kinds of anti-microbial products and sanitizing solutions they will sell to us this year!

For EVERY negative, there is a positive reframe

This is not just half-empty, half-full rigmarole. It actually matters. There is always a different way to look at the darkest thing you’re considering. And it does not need to be related to these unprecedented, strange times. It applies to your relationship. To your parenting. Your money. To your food, your sister, your workplace, your circumstances, your self-imposed, silly limits, and every single other thing that troubles you today.

And if you can’t see the alternative just by getting creative, or you’re having trouble thinking flexibly, call your therapist. Or me. We want to help you. We’ve got ninja magic neuroscience tricks up our sleeves that work. Cognitive reframing is just one of them.

Be well. Be safe. Get in touch. Follow on Inst or FB. Join the Insiders so I can send you Love Letters . Reach out for contact or an appointment. I’m here to help.

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peace comes from faith not fear. learn to handle fear

Handle Fear Itself

The way you handle fear just might be your biggest challenge in life. Not just right now, but in absolutely everything at all times. In fact, it might be the only challenge that really matters. (Well, that and managing shame, the other troubling emotion but even shame does not paralyze in quite the same way as fear. It’s not as contagious, for starters. More on that in a later blog post.)

When Franklin D. Roosevelt said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” he knew what he was talking about. It applies today. And yes, it does apply to fear around our money as FDR meant when he said it in his first inaugural address.

Now is a great time for people NOT to panic about the economy and about their money. History bears this out time and again: those who resist the panic and keep their wits about them are the ones who get the real pay off in the end. Especially when it comes to economic things.

No matter what you apply it to: health, relationship, wealth…everything we do is either in faith or in fear.

I mean it. Every single step, every move you make, every vow you take (sorry, I distract myself with song lyrics.) But it’s still true; it’s ALL fear or faith.

Every single thing you confront today is either done in faith or fear. You are moving through life in faith or in fear. Going to work, driving your car, flying on a plane, submitting that work proposal, trying to improve your health, talking about that thing with your boss, your mate, your sister, or your dad.

I guess you can be doing something in a trance as well, unconsciously. Yet underneath it, even your subconscious is in faith or fear.

It matters.

Facing Fear

When handling fear, you don’t need to shout it down or summon angels for help or start a war. That really just makes it worse. It’s like struggling in quick sand. Exactly the opposite of what helps.

Fear is just fear. It’s an emotion. It’s just like every other emotion. And that means you can notice it, say to yourself, “hmmm, that’s interesting” and allow it. Breathe. Let it go.

Just like every other emotion, fear gets more powerful and bigger the more space you give it. What you focus on amplifies. Every troubling nuance, when given attention, becomes something bigger and more troubling.

Good news: when you focus on all the good stuff, that grows too. Including faith. And faith is NOT just an emotion. πŸ˜‰

Faith is actually a bit meatier. Now, I’m not meaning this in any kind of religious or spiritual sense. I don’t have to be talking from that perspective for this to be real because this is a truth that exists in the secular, human psychology perspective as well. It’s just true. (But if you have a religious or spiritual relationship with faith and perspective, you might already know what I’m talking about. And go ahead, draw on that as you reflect on this if it helps.)

Faith is more powerful than fear. You just need a tiny little bit of the stuff for it to grow. More than an emotion, faith is the expectation of things hoped for. In fact, one text calls it “the evidence of things not seen.” Did you hear that? Faith itself is the evidence of things not seen. Because the faith exists, (the positive belief, shall we say) the unseen thing actually IS. More than an emotion, faith is a state of being.

You’re either stuck in the emotion of fear or you’re in a state of faith.

Managing Fear with Faith

Making this distinction takes power from fear and gives it to faith. Think of fear simply as an emotion and faith as your chosen state of being and you are well on your way to complete freedom from the paralyzing effects of fear, my friend.

It’s that simple.

You know how to manage your emotions.

They’re just feelings you HAVE, and just like any other feeling you have, they will change. So you can tolerate the not-so-fun ones in the moment. They will change. Even the really hard ones based on real crappy things…like learning a mate cheated, or getting dumped, or losing a job, or having a loved one die… I mean those things truly hurt, AND those painful emotions do not stay as intense forever without your help.

Some of you know how to tolerate your pain, not just manage your emotions and that is a very necessary skill. Especially when the thing you feel is pretty unpleasant. And let’s face it, sometimes fear can be pretty intense and grab hold of you. It can seem once you’re in its grip, you’re trapped. But that’s not true.

Handle Fear Intentionally

Concentrate on the good. Count blessings. Garner joy. Repeat the positive. Avoid negatives and catastrophizing. In like fashion, avoid mockery and derision, conspiracy, and complaint. These are all quite a waste of your time and bring fighting energy to a thing that really doesn’t need to be a struggle.

Choose faith. On purpose. Adopt a few soothing mantras if you need them. “Everything’s gonna be all right.” I believe in goodness. “Good things will come of this.” All shall be well.

No matter what phrase or phrases you choose, keep them around and bring them out as a habit, not just when things look dark or threatening. Notice the difference they make.

One woman I see often in the shared lavatory of my office building obviously experiences a lot of fear. She’s always worried about something: the weather, the roads, the soap dispenser, the flu. Her constant mantras are definitely affecting her overall mood, health, movement, and experience in life.

Adopt some positive ones and make them a habit. You’ll reap the benefit of those as well.

Handle Fear with Your Brain

It’s amazing how research and clear thought can keep gnarly emotions at bay. Some of you #brainfirst people already know that. (The downside we talk about sometimes in therapy is too much intellectualizing, too much “thinking your feelings” when those puppies were meant to be felt, enjoyed, and even shared, producing connection, intimacy, and interdependence.)

But at times when the fear factor threatens to overwhelm, there’s nothing like good rationale and clear thinking for truly clearing the clutter and helping one breathe and get back to balance. Take, for example, this Washington Post article explaining why it’s so crucial to slow our movement at times when a virus is on the loose. Good research, informed thought, and measured response help all of us make good decisions and formulate a plan.

And when you’re feeling fearful, having a plan is comforting.

Handle Fear with Movement

That’s right. Move your body. (And if you’re slowing your movement to help slow the spread of coronavirus, move your body within those parameters. I’m heading to pick-up that Kroger order later, for example. I’m not going into the store…because I don’t need to. )

So, if you are slowing your movement, working from home, suddenly with kids home from school, think about your movement and making it intentional. Plan to exercise in the house. Or go out for a walk or run and don’t stop for a chat with the neighbor. Wave. Smile. These are good.

Clean, de-clutter, and organize some more. Knock yourself out and disinfect. Again. Physical movement like this can increases hopefulness, add to lightness of being, keep you from getting cabin fever, and underscore a sense of control.

Just check with yourself to be sure the ways you are moving within your own parameters really ARE serving you, helping keep you measured and well, and feeding your faith, not the fear. There’s no need to be frantic in these movements either.

There you have it. Go with faith, my friend. As much as you are able. And then the rest of the way, when you’re having a hard time with faith, be comforted. You’re not alone. We are in this together. (And that goes for ALL of life, not just virus-time.)

As always, let me know if I can help. I’m here for you. And because I truly believe it is the most responsible and community-minded action, I’ll be seeing you in my virtual office for now. Don’t worry; you’re going to like it too. Plus, I’m here at the blog, on Facebook, and on Instagram…and just a phone call or email away.

Keep the faith. Chin up. Rely on your brain. Move intentionally. You got this.

freedom in personal growth through self-acceptance

Personal Growth; it’s human

Personal growth is one of those “given drives” of humanity. You don’t have to work hard at it. And yet, most of us do. (Especially faced with crisis: divorce, break-up, infidelity, death, financial pinch, job change, that extra ten pounds after the holidays STILL not moving after the whole month of January.) We really strive. We work harder. (And sometimes we give up and reach for the chocolate.)

Sure, we get somewhere. We make some progress. Things shift over time. But sometimes that happens despite our efforts and working real hard and not actually because we are giving our attention to the right things. Also, next year or next month we might be on to the next great workout plan or the umpteenth diet. Or talking about the weight or the need to get in shape but doing nothing about it. That too. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

Take for example, a seed, planted in good soil. It just needs light, water, and time. It needs to BE left to grow in that beautiful (and just-right-for-it) environment. It needs to not be scooped up and checked on every day or shouted at to GROW. It does not need to be doused with water every single hour or screamed at to GERMINATE!

Personal growth is like that too.

We grow and change and move all the time.

We were made for personal growth.

And yet many of us stress ourselves to the max trying to make it happen! (Um, I speak from experience…hence, I CAN speak.)

Did you see my quote on FB and Insta: What if working on yourself doesn’t work? Crazy idea, right? And yet, it’s true. Sometimes the harder we push the sweatier we get…but we get no better.

Just like that perfect little seed, which in the right conditions, will germinate, sprout and grow incredibly strong, we humans just need to foster the right conditions for our own growing.

It just takes the right environment.

That does not mean become a hermit. It does not mean you need to cloister yourself away or go to an ashram. You don’t need to meditate more or do more yoga or eliminate monkey mind or lie prostrate and say ten “Hail Marys.” Some of those things, in the right spirit, may indeed bring good effects.

In the spirit of more striving and doing and trying, they do harm.

That does not mean we should clear out all the “low-class friends” and all our substandard stuff, nix our connections with family and break up with the boyfriend!

It doesn’t mean we need to get hypervigilant or legalistic about what we consume or say or see.

It means we stop doing the things that actually accentuate our own suffering.

That means you stop shouting at the sweet little seed of YOU that’s in the already fertile ground of life! Stop demanding with your loud, impatient shouts that you GROW or ARRIVE or FIGURE IT OUT or TRY HARDER.

Dang, that’s so harsh.

Be nice to yourself. Be kind. Be gentle.

Lighten up.

You’re already pretty amazing. Like that tiny little seed, you have all the DNA and information IN YOU already to grow into what you were intended to be!

Anyone know that scripture regarding having the faith of a mustard seed being ALL the faith you need?! It’s kind of like that. It’s ALL already in there.

But we make things harder for ourselves.

Why?

Because, rock bottom, we actually believe we have to DO more and BE more and TRY harder, GIVE more, and STRIVE in order to EARN it…whatever IT is.

But we don’t. You don’t have to DO more. You do enough. You don’t have to be more. You ARE enough. Trying so hard and giving more or proving something or earning it mean nothing. You are on the planet and you are human. You are HERE for heaven’s sake.

And that is enough.

Give yourself a little credit.

Carl Rogers, a founding psychologist once said in his book, On Becoming A Person, β€œThe curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

And you’ve heard my Love Equation (TM) because it is the absolute FOUNDATION of all my work, my practice, my approach to helping, to my life and my movement in the world: Love is to See accurately, Understand (deeply) and Accept unconditionally.

Then and only then can real personal growth happen.

So don’t yell at the tiny seed of you or the germinating you or the sprouting you, the seedling, the juvenile or young adult you. Just enjoy the process. Set the course for where you want to go and then believe that you will get there.

Ask the gentle “how” questions along the way, not the pressing analysis and demanding definition questions “why” and “what.” Then wait. Allow the answer to come. Let the growth and the change you want happen naturally. Because the right conditions for such change…any change you wish to make… truly do begin with seeing yourself accurately, understanding your humanity, and offering yourself unconditional, warm regard.

  1. Gentle up
  2. Believe that you will grow and that you are enough
  3. Decide where you want to end up and then
  4. Reach for the sun in that direction.

You will GROW. And you’ll be surprised; it really is amazing how quickly and easily things change when you aren’t striving so hard.

Need help? I coach people through this all the time. I’d love to hear how it’s going for you and let you know how I can help.

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