Therapist

Therapist

Six Ways to Feel Better About Being Single

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Sometimes being single can feel freeing or even empowering. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want without having to worry about what your partner is doing. But there are also times when being unattached can be lonely and frustrating.

COVID-19 has only helped to exacerbate these downsides for some single people. After all, it’s one thing to feel good about being on your own when it’s your own choice; it can be much harder to cope with when you simply can’t start a new romance because meeting face to face is too risky in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

Even if you are struggling with feelings of isolation and longing for a partner—or at least some romantic prospects—there are things that you can do to help feel better about being single.

Change Your Perspective

FInding ways to overcome loneliness and feel better about your single status isn’t just important for your state of mind; it’s also important for your health. Feelings of loneliness, including romantic loneliness, can have a serious impact on a person’s health and well-being.

Feeling isolated, unsupported, and lonely is linked to decreased immunity, worse sleep, lower cardiovascular health, and increased mental health problems.

Your perspective on your relationship status can play an important role in how you feel about being single. One study found that people who viewed themselves and being voluntarily single were less likely to report feelings of romantic loneliness.

*Stereotypes that portray single people as sad, lonely, insecure, and less satisfied

*Social pressure to find a partner and start a family

*Perceptions of single status as a source of individualism and independence

*Younger men are more likely to say they are single because they want to be free to date and not settle down.

*Younger women are more likely to say they are single in order to avoid being hurt or because they don’t feel they are desirable partners.

*Younger adults—both men and women—are also more likely to say that they were single because they lacked strong flirting skills.

*Young adults are also more likely to say that being single was due to a dislike of commitment.

*Older adults, by contrast, were more likely to report being single in order to have the freedom to do the things they want.

Consider finding ways to reframe your perspective. Rather than focusing on the downsides of being single, focus on the aspects that you do enjoy or the freedom that it brings.

People who felt that being unpartnered was involuntary, however, were more likely to feel emotionally lonely. How you feel about being single can be influenced by a variety of things.

Work on Your Goals

If you’re feeling frustrated by your single status, finding other goals to work on aside from building a relationship can help you feel more confident and empowered. Your goals might focus on your professional life, your hobbies, your family, your health, or other things you’d like to accomplish.

Things you might try include:

Other factors can also influence your perceptions of why you are single, including sex and age. For example:

*Taking a class or enrolling in a program to advance your degree.

*Keeping a journal to help track things you’d like to improve.

*Learning a new language or taking up a new hobby.

It can be anything—the goal is to stretch yourself and work on learning new things about who you are right now and who you want to be in the future.

Not only can this help you develop a sense of satisfaction with your life as a single person, but it can also help you get to know yourself a bit more so you are better able to see what you want in a life partner.

Stop Comparing

If you’re feeling down about being single, it can be tough to see your friends and family moving forward in their relationships. But it’s important to avoid comparing yourself to others, whether they are your family members, close friends, or online acquaintances.

The reality is that you can never know all of the details of another person’s life or relationship. What looks like a perfect, fulfilling relationship in a social media post might look a lot different in real life.

And just because someone else’s relationship is perfect for them, that doesn’t mean that it is something that you necessarily want. Instead of engaging in social comparisons that leave you feeling like you don’t measure up, focus on finding happiness in your own life and accomplishments.

Invest in Other Relationships

It’s also important to remember that your relationships with other people—your friends, family, and others—are also important to your well-being.

In other words, feeling like you have plenty of social support from the important people in your life is essential for protecting your mental health.

So while you’re single, focus on strengthening those non-romantic social connections. Make plans with friends—even virtual meetups, if need be. Keep up on what’s happening with your loved ones, whether you chat on the phone a few times a week or interact online.

Building new social connections and making new friends can also be beneficial. Joining online groups, volunteering for causes that are important to you, participating in local sports clubs, or even starting something like an online book club can all be ways to build your social support network.

And in many cases, cultivating social support might even lead to meeting someone you are interested in romantically.

Focus on the Benefits of Singlehood

While there are benefits to being in a relationship, research also suggests that being on your own can come with its own set of benefits.2For example:

*Spending more time finding the right relationship means you might be more likely to find a partner who is well suited to you.

*You have more time to spend pursuing things such as getting an education and finding a rewarding career.

*You have more time to get to know your own preferences, needs, and deal-breakers, which can ultimately help you choose a better long-term partner.

Meet New People

Even if you’re not ready to settle down right now, it can be helpful to spend time dating or meeting new people. Online dating apps can be a great option but friends can also be a source of new connections.

And if going out on dates in person isn’t an option, virtual meetups can be an excellent alternative. Consider an online video date where you can meet and chat while both enjoying a meal or other activity can help you get to know new potential love interests.

Plus, many people feel like ‘meeting’ virtually can serve as an icebreaker. When and if you finally do meet in-person, you might find that you feel less nervous and have more to talk about.

By Kendra Cherry

How to Stop the Negative Chatter in Your Head

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A neuroscientist explains how to curb unhelpful thoughts

Did you make your New Year’s resolutions?

I hope you put “cognitive reappraisal” on the list. Psychologists use this term to refer to the practice of replacing negative thoughts with ones that are both more positive and true. People who control their self-talk in this manner have better mental health, more life satisfaction, and even better-functioning hearts, research shows. Experts say the technique, which is central to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is an important skill to master during difficult times. The good news is that you can do it at home.

Ethan Kross is an experimental psychologist and neuroscientist who specializes in emotion regulation. He is a professor of psychology and management at the University of Michigan and director of the Emotion & Self Control Laboratory, where he studies the science of introspection, or the silent conversations people have with themselves. He has a new book coming out this month called “Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why it Matters, and How to Harness It.”

Here are edited excerpts from my conversation with Dr. Kross.

Does everyone talk to themselves?

Dr. Kross: Yes. There are lots of ways we use language internally. We use it to keep things fresh in our heads, like repeating a phone number. We try to simulate what we are planning to say, like when we go on an interview or a date. We talk to ourselves when we’re trying to control ourselves or when we are trying to solve a problem. When we are doing something difficult we mentally walk ourselves through the steps we need to take.

Self-talk helps us to author the stories of our life, to capture stories that explain what we have gone through. Even if our self-talk is negative, that doesn’t always mean it’s bad. We can learn things from painful experiences that help us grow and improve.

How much time do we spend in self-talk?

We spend between a third and a half of our waking hours not focused on the present. And engaging in nonverbal reasoning, or talking to ourselves silently, is a significant portion of that.

Inner speech can take a compressed form, which allows our words to flow at a rapid pace. One study estimated that people can think to themselves at a rate that is equivalent to speaking 4,000 words per-minute out loud. A contemporary State of the Union address is about 6,000 words and can last over an hour. So you are getting the same verbal punch thinking to yourself for about a-minute-and-a-half as you would if you listened to an entire State of the Union address.

But sometimes self-talk can sabotage us?

Unfortunately, sometimes we go inside and verbally introspect hoping to find an answer to our problems, but we end up making the problems worse. We worry, ruminate or catastrophize. We end up getting stuck and start spinning in negativity. And that is what I call “chatter.”

Chatter can sabotage us by undermining our ability to think clearly and perform well. It can also interfere with our relationships, because it can lead us to push people we care about away. And it can impact our physical health.

Do tough times make our negative chatter worse?

This is the chatter event of the century. Political instability. A once-in-a-hundred-years virus that is causing us to not socialize directly with others. Tribalism. Civic unrest. Political divisiveness. Unemployment. A shaky economy. We don’t have a lot of control or certainty right now, and when we lose those qualities we try to regain them. We typically go inside and become introspective to do that.

Can other people make our self-talk worse?

We often want to talk about our emotions or share our feelings with others, to get help and improve the way we feel. But some people just help us keep the chatter active. We need help to broaden our perspective. Yet they get us to relive that event over and over. This is co-rumination, a vent session.

I am very deliberate in who I go to for help when I am experiencing chatter. I think carefully if this person is just there to hear me talk or can give me advice or help me put the experience in perspective.

Let’s talk about tools to control chatter. How can broadening our perspective help?

When we experience chatter we narrowly focus on our problem. What we want to do is zoom out. Think about our experience as something that many people deal with. Think about other people who have experienced something similar and have endured it.

One of my go-to techniques is to think about the 1918 flu pandemic. We got through it and endured and excelled and we will do it again. Doing this is empowering. It gives hope.

Tell me how to use “distanced self-talk.”

There is a lot of research that shows we are much better at advising other people than ourselves. So it can help to think of yourself as if you are someone else. One way to do this is to use “distanced self talk” and coach yourself as if you were advising a friend. Use your own name. “Ethan, here is how you do this.” Many people do this intuitively without knowing why.

Does it help to reframe your experience as a challenge?

Yes. It can be as simple as telling yourself: “I can do this.”

You can also reinterpret your body’s response to chatter. The next time you feel your stomach turning in knots before a big presentation, rather than interpreting that as a cue that you can’t perform, think of it as a signal that you are rising to the occasion.

You write that rituals can be helpful. How?

Rituals can provide us with a sense of order. They can help direct our attention away from the problem.

You could even create your own ritual, such as before you give a talk. For example, remind yourself of advice you’ve received by someone you value, take three deep breaths and clench and unclench your fists twice.

How does our environment affect our self-talk?

People crave a sense of order and control. But when we are experiencing chatter, our thoughts are spinning. You can compensate for the lack of order in your head by creating order around you. By organizing your space. Cleaning the kitchen. Tidying up the bedroom. Going for a walk in nature can help clear your mind.

One of my favorite topics is awe. How can experiencing awe help us control our negative thoughts?

We experience awe when we are in the presence of something vast that we have trouble explaining. Some people get it from religious experiences. Others from looking at the sky or at an incredible piece of art or by attending an amazing concert. When we experience chatter we are narrowly focused on our problems. Experiencing awe shows us how much broader the universe is. And that puts things into perspective pretty significantly.

By Elizabeth Bernstein
https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-stop-the-negative-chatter-in-your-head-11609876801?mod=hp_lead_pos13

How the Quality Time Love Language Impacts Your Relationship

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Every couple needs quality time together in order for the relationship to grow and to develop. But, what happens when one partner’s love language is quality time? How does that desire for time spent together impact the relationship especially when hectic lives get in the way? Here’s a closer look at how expressing the love language of quality time can not only improve your relationship, but also show your “quality time” partner that you are fluent in their love language.

A Closer Look at the Quality Time Love Language

When it comes to Gary Chapman’s five love languages, quality time is the love language that centers around togetherness. It is all about expressing your love and affection with your undivided attention. When you’re with your partner, you put down the cell phone, turn off the tablet, and focus on them. And, when you do that, it touches their heart in a way that really matters. They feel important, loved, and special—like you were intentional in setting aside time just for them.

Unfortunately, thanks to technology, quality time with our partners is becoming more and more scarce. Even when we are together, we are someplace else—usually in cyberspace or deep in our own thoughts. But being in close proximity to one another while doing something else does not always constitute quality time, no matter how long you sit there. And for someone whose primary love language is quality time, this lack of connectedness can leave them feeling empty and alone.

Tips on How to Speak This Love Language

When it comes to speaking your partner’s love language, it is important that you do things that will make your partner feel loved and appreciated.

This means if your partner’s primary love language is quality time, you need to not only set aside time for your partner, but also be intentional about how you are spending that time. And, if you don’t share the same love language as your partner, don’t be surprised if these efforts seem a little unnatural at first.

With time and effort though, you will be doing these things for your partner without a second thought. Here is an overview of some of the ways you can show your quality time partner that you love them.

Make Eye Contact

When it comes to quality time, eye contact is the gateway to loving your quality time partner. In fact, maintaining eye contact tells your partner that they have your full attention, which will make them feel loved, important, and understood. It also communicates that you care about what they have to say. But, when you are distracted and scrolling through your phone while your partner talks about their day, they will feel like you just don’t care about what they have to say and more importantly, that you just don’t care about them.

Use Active Listening Skills

Active listening is one of the most loving things you can do for your partner, but for many people this does not come naturally, Instead, most people think about their own thoughts and opinions more than they think about their partner’s. When quality time people are talking, it helps to focus on what they are saying and to even lean in slightly.

It’s also important to affirm what they are saying and to ask thoughtful questions. Also, avoid trying to offer advice, unless they ask for it. Quality time partners are more interested in feeling understood. They are looking for empathy and compassion and do not want to have their situations fixed. Likewise, they do not want to be evaluated and instructed. Try putting yourself in their shoes and seeing how you might feel in the same situation.

Put Away Technology

Nothing hurts a quality time people more than to be sharing something they feel is really important, and then to look up and realize their partner is only half paying attention while trying to answer an e-mail from a co-worker.

Make it a habit to put away your phone at dinner or during a coffee break and really focus on what your partner has to say. Even though you may not discuss anything earth-shattering, you are at least making an important and loving gesture by choosing your partner over technology.

Focus on Quality

When it comes to quality time, it’s not about the amount of time you spend together but instead the quality of your interactions that count. And with so much going on in your life, carving out a few minutes for a meaningful and uninterrupted conversation can be a wonderful way to show the person you love that you care.

The key is that you take the time to enjoy one another’s company, even if it is just sitting on the couch enjoying a cup of coffee before work. Remember it is not about the quantity of time you spend together, but instead about the quality of time.

Plan Something

While it never hurts to be spontaneous, planning to do something together can be just as fun and exciting as a last-minute dinner or movie, especially for a quality time partner. It’s often too easy for married or dating couples to get in a rut after they have been together a while. Instead of settling for the “same old, same old” try making plans to try the new restaurant in town, schedule a bike ride on a Saturday morning, or plan a leisurely walk along the riverbank after work. It doesn’t matter what you do.

Taking steps to initiate quality time will mean a lot to your partner. Plus, the anticipation of spending time together will really speak love to them. Remember, just because spending time together is expected when people have been together awhile doesn’t mean you cannot also be intentional about how you spend that time.

Develop a Routine

Look for small ways to connect with your partner on a daily basis. For instance, you could pray or meditate together every morning or read the Sunday funnies together each week. Finding a small way to connect on a regular basis will help your quality time partner feel fulfilled and appreciated. Plus, it’s something you can both look forward to doing together.

Be There

When your partner is feeling insecure or going through a tough time at work, you can really show you care by simply being there and spending some quality time together. Even though you won’t be able to take all the discomfort away—nor should you be expected to—you will be able to demonstrate that you are present and available whenever they need you.

Stay in the Moment

For people whose primary love language is quality time, they never lose sight of the fact that time is limited and tomorrow is not promised. As a result, they view time together as a priceless gift that they want to give and receive in relationships. To them, life is about being in the moment more than it is about what you are doing. It’s also about prioritizing the people you love over everything else.

Invite Them

Everyone has days when their to-do list is a mile long. Rather than run all your errands by yourself, invite your quality time partner to come along. Even though you are doing something mundane and boring, you can sneak in some quality time. For instance, turn off the radio and talk to one another. Ask how your partner’s life is going and what is stressing them out right now. You can turn just about any activity into a chance to sneak in some quality time if you are creative.


By Sherri Gordon

The Benefits of a Morning Routine

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Does your current morning routine consist of hitting the snooze button four times and walking out the door five minutes later as you put on your shoes and eat a protein bar, all while checking email on your phone? From that point on, our entire day can feel like we’re always trying to rush and catch up, never really feeling on top of our game or very productive. We can do better!

Many of us are busy, have a lot of responsibilities and obligations, and often feel strapped for time. Having a great morning routine can make all the difference in being productive, achieving goals, feeling organized, and doing all of this with confidence.

Why Bother?

It is well known that morning routines can be a deal breaker for people having great, productive days. Particularly in the professional fields of sales and leadership, the development of a solid morning routine can be a dealbreaker in terms of productivity and success. Although not all of us are in sales or a leadership position at work, we are all designed to be leaders of our own lives. This includes giving ourselves the best opportunity for feeling confident and productive each day.

Productivity coaches suggest that daily habits can be an indicator of increased productivity and achievement. Although coaches have varied ideas on the types of daily habits to include, most agree that how we begin our day has a tremendous impact on how the rest of the day seems to go.

Creating a morning routine is not focused on who can accomplish the most or check off more boxes than everyone else, it is about allowing yourself to begin your day with confidence, peace, and a positive attitude. Starting the day this way can allow us to effectively complete tasks and to handle things that come our way without constantly feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Potential Benefits

Physical Health

According to researchers from Harvard Business School and Stanford University, workplace stress can be as damaging to our health as secondhand smoke.1

Emotional Health

Feeling good, physically, can certainly influence how we feel emotionally. We usually don’t walk around having the flu with a smile on our face or being overly optimistic. Our emotional health can be impacted by how we feel we are managing our day.

When we are constantly in a rush and trying to make the next appointment, always running behind, or feeling lost in a sea of tasks, we can easily become overwhelmed, stressed, sad, and frustrated. Over time, if this were a continual pattern, it makes sense that we could possibly begin to feel hopeless as if we’ll never catch up! A sense of peace and confidence in our day can help us maintain positive emotional health and help us to become much more resilient during times of stress.

Relationships

When we feel overwhelmed and stressed, our emotions can easily show up in our relationships with important people in our lives. How many times have you come home from a long, stressful day and taken your frustrations out on a loved one? This could be through venting, anger or even isolation from those we love.

As we start building a morning routine that allows us to feel more confident, productive, and resilient, we might find that our relationships feel closer, more connected, and positive as well.

Productivity

The morning routine helps us set the tone for the day, better allowing us to control our schedules rather than our schedule controlling us. As we start each day fresh, we can better focus on what is in front of us, where to prioritize our time, and, ultimately, increase our productivity.

Productivity is not always about how much we are getting done but can also refer to the level of quality and intention we are giving to tasks. Finishing the day with 10 half-completed tasks feels a lot different than completing six tasks and feeling proud of the quality of your work. When we are constantly reacting to additional tasks, stressors, or needs of others, we can find it very difficult to effectively prioritize and follow-through.

Confidence

Being confident means more than simply saying, “I like myself.” Authentic confidence is grown through experiences. Self-efficacy is a term that refers to our belief that we can achieve goals and complete tasks—a belief in our own abilities. Different from self-esteem, which is an overview of our feelings of self-worth, self-efficacy is more influential in helping us build confidence and resilience.

Walking through experiences in our day and actually observing ourselves completing tasks and feeling a sense of accomplishment helps to reinforce our sense of self-efficacy. Having a morning routine helps to set the stage for better prioritizing, more effective time-management, and greater productivity. All of this, in turn, is likely to have a positive impact on our self-efficacy.

Peace

Stress can cause us a lot of trouble, emotionally, physically, in our careers and in our relationships. Not feeling as if we can accomplish tasks, or feeling as if we are always behind, causes great stress. Our self-efficacy feels low, we can begin to experience negative self-talk and end up feeling distressed and overwhelmed.

A solid, consistent morning routine can offer us a time to practice intentional mindfulness and/or prayer, leading to feelings of greater peace as we go through our day. Feeling productive in our day can lead to a more peaceful evening and, in turn, a better night’s sleep and a refreshed morning the next day.

Give Yourself Time

Don’t hit snooze! It can be so hard, especially in the beginning, to not go back to old ways and hit that snooze button so you can lay in bed just a little longer. A good morning routine allows you enough time to actually enjoy—and benefit from—your routine!

The amount of time can vary from person to person but could range anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. There is sometimes the assumption that you have to wake up at 4 a.m. in order to have a good morning routine. Productivity professionals suggest that you listen to yourself and know what would be realistic for you to do and keep up with. Don’t worry about what others are doing.

By Jodi Clarke, MA, LPC/MHSP

How to Practice Empathy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to sweeping changes and disruptions in nearly every aspect of daily life. With mandates and guidelines changing all the time, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by our own anxieties. It is important to practice empathy during this time, not only for others but for yourself as well.

There are many benefits to practicing empathy. Empathizing with others can help you feel less lonely and more connected. It also increases the likelihood that people will reach out and help others when they need it.

In addition to boosting social connectedness and increasing helping behaviors, empathizing with others also improves your ability to regulate your emotions during times of stress. Feeling empathy allows you to better manage the anxiety you are experiencing without feeling overwhelmed.

Ways to Build Empathy

Some people are just empathetic by nature, but there are plenty of things that you can do to cultivate your own empathy skills. Research has also shown that empathy is an emotional skill that can be learned.

Listening to others, engaging in acts of service, observing the empathetic actions of others, and imagining yourself in another person’s situation are all strategies that can help build empathy.

Here are some things you can do to try to stay empathetic even when it feels like staying in touch with other people is more difficult than ever.

Stay Connected

In a time when people are practicing social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine, it’s all too easy to turn inward and focus solely on yourself or your family unit. But research suggests that caring about others is one of the best ways to fight feelings of isolation.2

Showing empathy and engaging in helpful actions, whether it’s donating to a charity or writing a supportive note to a friend, can increase your feelings of social connectedness.

So while you may be keeping your physical distance from others to prevent the spread of the virus, it doesn’t mean you need to be emotionally distant. Show concern and stay connected to the people in your life.

Be Aware

Consider some of the ways that the pandemic has affected your life. Are you working from home or on paid leave? Are your kids out due to school closures? Do you have plenty of food in your pantry and freezer?

Now think about how others might answer those same questions depending on their situation and circumstances. Many people have lost their jobs and are out of work, others have no choice but to continue working. Some people are worried about how to find childcare as they continue to work, and many may be struggling to find or pay for basic necessities.

Empathy and understanding are a critical part of compassion and, more importantly, action. Think of others and look for ways that you can help.

Be Kind

Take it easy on yourself and others. It’s ok if you aren’t managing to do it all. It’s ok if your kids are watching a little too much tv or if you aren’t keeping up on your usual routines. It’s a lot to deal with and everyone copes with stress, anxiety, and fear differently. Cut yourself some slack and practice self-compassion.

Working parents are struggling to manage kids who are home all day now that many schools have closed. Not only is the work situation unsettled, but parents are also trying to help kids with distance learning.

Those working in healthcare and finance are busier than ever. Not only are they dealing with the stress of being on the front line of a public health crisis, but they may also be struggling to find someone to watch their own kids while they are at work.

We all have our own anxieties, but that doesn’t mean we should lose our kindness in the face of a crisis.

Be Considerate

Sometimes we may be quick to criticize others without making the effort to understand how their situation and experiences are impacting their choices. Yes, it’s easy to lob criticism at others in a time of crisis, particularly those who don’t seem to be taking the situation seriously. Try to remember that everyone copes differently. People may also feel overwhelmed by conflicting information from news sources and social media.

While you cannot control how others behave, you can control your own actions and do your part by sharing health information from legitimate sources. Ask others to observe your desire for physical distance and try to gently encourage friends and family to stay home, wash their hands frequently, practice social distancing, and self-isolate if they experience symptoms.

Help Others

In the midst of something that seems overwhelming, helping others can provide a sense of control and empowerment. When the world feels unpredictable and chaotic, finding tangible ways to do good and make things better for someone else can be a source of comfort.

Stay home. One of the best things you can do to support others is to simply stay home. Follow the guidelines outlined by the CDC. Avoid groups, stay home as much as possible, and practice social distancing. Staying out of the way helps prevent the spread of the virus, which helps ensure that healthcare professionals and resources are not overwhelmed.

By Kendra Cherry

Pandemic Panic? These 5 Tips Can Help You Regain Your Calm

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Anxiety thrives on uncertainty.

And, as the coronavirus spreads, our unanswered questions can make us feel vulnerable or fearful. “Will it come to my community” or “Am I at risk?’

“We’ve got national anxiety at the moment, a kind of shared stress, and we are all in a state of extreme uncertainty,” says Catherine Belling, an associate professor at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, who studies the role of fear and anxiety in health care.

And here’s a catch-22: The more you stress, the more vulnerable you can become to viruses, because stress can dampen your immune response.

But there are steps you can take to push back against the communal anxiety.

1. Plan ahead to feel more in control

Those of us prone to anxiety, like to be in control. So, if you take basic steps to prepare for the possibility of an outbreak in your community, you may feel a sense of relief. For instance, ask your employer about a work-from-home option. Be prepared for disruptions such as school closings. Have contingency plans for these disruptions. In addition, identify trusted sources of information you can turn to in the event of an outbreak.

“It’s very important to say, well, no matter what happens, I’ve done the best that I can to be prepared,” Belling says.

2. Unplug. Learn to be in the moment

It’s important to be in the know. But you don’t need to obsess over the news. “There’s a point where, information gathering could become problematic,” says Stewart Shankman, a psychologist at Northwestern University who studies anxiety. He says it could have the unintended effect of driving up your fear.

If you’re taking basic steps to protect yourself and stay informed, that’s enough. “There’s no way to reduce your risk to zero,” Shankman says. You could spend all day and night reading headlines, news alerts or tweets but this “does not change your risk of getting coronavirus.”

Once you unplug from the news for a bit, why not try a mindfulness app such as Headspace or Simply Being to help you let go of anticipatory anxiety. “We know from numerous studies that mindfulness is very effective at reducing stress and anxiety,” Shankman says.

3. Prioritize good sleep

While there’s still a lot to learn about the new coronavirus, prior research has shown that well-rested people are better at fending off viruses.

For instance, when researchers sprayed a live common cold virus into the noses of a bunch of healthy people as part of a study, not everyone got sick. “Individuals who were sleeping the least were substantially more likely to develop a cold,” study author Aric Prather, of the University of California, San Francisco told us when the study was published.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia can be helpful.

4. Exercise and eat well

This is always good advice, and it’s worth emphasizing during times of uncertainty. There’s lots of evidence that daily exercise can help promote feelings of well-being — and boost your immunity. For instance, this study found that physical activity protects against symptoms of anxiety. And getting your heart rate up each day, just by taking a walk, lowers the risk of many chronic conditions. So, keep walking your dog, that counts. Or maybe, get sweaty doing a group activity (Just don’t stand too close to anyone who might be sick!)

What you eat can also help improve your outlook. A recent study found that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein helped reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety among a group of young adults.

“Eating sugar and ultra-processed food increases inflammation and suppresses immune function,” says Mark Hyman, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. So, now may be a good time to lay off the Cheetos and sweets.

5. Wash your hands. Embrace the elbow bump.

When an infectious disease hits a community, there’s only so much anyone can do. You can’t sterilize your entire environment. But taking a few preventative actions will help reduce your risk and hopefully relieve your anxiety.

The coronavirus is transmitted from person to person via respiratory droplets. When an infected person sneezes or coughs, droplets containing virus particles are released. If you are standing close, you can become infected. “The respiratory droplets travel about three feet before they tend to settle out of the air, ” says infectious disease expert Daniel Kuritzkes of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Federal guidelines suggest six feet of separation, so keep your distance.

In addition, droplets can land on surfaces, such as elevator buttons, doorknobs, and shared work spaces. So, if you touch a contaminated surface, then touch your face, you can become infected. The virus can enter your body through your eyes, nose or mouth.

During an outbreak, proper hand-washing is your best defense against a virus. So, follow the evidence-based advice to wash for 20 seconds or more using soap and water. Or use hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol. In addition, you may want to forego hugging and hand-shakes, and embrace “low-touch” salutations such as the elbow bump.

BY ALLISON AUBREY

Lonely People Report More Severe Cold Symptoms, Study Finds

Therapist
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Your sniffles may feel worse if you’re lonely.

A study published Thursday in Health Psychology found that among people who fell ill after being exposed to a cold virus, those who were lonely were more likely to report severe runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and other symptoms. That adds to the evidence linking loneliness to more serious health problems including heart disease and early death.

There’s been much less research on whether loneliness is correlated with common, acute, short-term illnesses like colds, says Angie LeRoy, an author of the study and a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Houston who is also affiliated with Rice University.

To conduct the experiment, LeRoy and her fellow researchers recruited people 18 to 55 years old who agreed to undergo some psychological screening tests, to be exposed to the common cold virus via nose drops and then to be quarantined in a hotel for five days. (Participants were also paid $1,060, which may explain why anyone agreed to do it.)

At the beginning of the study, the 159 participants were scored on a scale indicating their level of loneliness and another one indicating their level of social isolation, as measured by the size and diversity of their social networks. Those who were lonely were no more likely to fall ill with a cold after they were exposed to the virus. But, among those who did become ill, those who were lonely were almost 39 percent more likely to report higher-severity symptoms than those who were less lonely, says LeRoy.

The researchers purposely measured subjective reports of symptoms, since whether someone is feeling well is more likely to be the reason they would stay home from work or curtail normal activities than more objective symptoms like, um, the amount of mucus production.

“Even something as simple as the common cold can be affected by how you’re feeling beforehand,” LeRoy says. The reason isn’t clear, and she didn’t want to speculate, but other research on loneliness has suggested multiple mechanisms, including effects on the immune system and behavioral factors.

The study has some limitations. The researchers controlled for a host of variables, including age, marital status and depressive symptoms, but they couldn’t control for everything. Some other factor, such as sleep quality or quantity, might have affected how people experienced cold symptoms. And the psychological assessment was conducted only at the beginning of the study, so researchers don’t know whether the sense of loneliness fluctuated during the course of the cold and how that might relate to symptoms.

There’s also a difference between subjective indicators such as loneliness and objective ones like number of contacts or relationships. Although LeRoy found a link between loneliness and cold symptom severity, the size and diversity of a person’s social network did not predict more severe cold symptoms.

“You can be lonely and not isolated, and vice versa,” says Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, who wasn’t involved with this study. She was an author of a 2015 analysis of existing research that found both types of indicators were significant predictors of early death, and neither was more predictive than the other. Most studies only measured one or the other, however.

She says it’s important that researchers figure out the proper target as people in the field work to translate the evidence into some kind of intervention that could help people live healthier and longer lives. “If you’re trying to decrease loneliness, simply increasing social contacts may not help,” says Holt-Lunstad. The quality of relationships is important, she says.

LeRoy says that, while it’s not yet clear how to intervene to help people who are lonely, the health care field should be assessing psychological symptoms as well as physical ones.

LeRoy says she’d like to study older adults, who are more likely to be lonely, and are also more susceptible to the common cold.

BY KATHERINE HOBSON

Managing the Balance of Power in Relationships

Therapist
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Most of us don’t like to think about “power” when we think about relationships. Intimate relationships involve sharing and cooperation — but it takes two to share and cooperate. What if one partner doesn’t want to?

Whoever wants less of a relationship has more power. The most obvious example of this principle is divorce. It just takes one person to end a relationship. It doesn’t matter how much the other partner wants the marriage to work.

This basic principle can be seen in many smaller interactions. Dinner and a movie? Only if both partners want to. Sex? That too works best when it is consensual and cooperative. Certainly, sex is not always consensual, but relationships don’t usually last long after marital rape or other forms of non-consensual sex.

1. What makes non-consent such a potent tool? Not only does it put the non-consenter in the position of decision-maker, but it also sends a clear message that “my desires are more important than yours.” For the partner who wants more from a relationship, this can be a devastating message to receive. It suggests that, for the future, the non-consenting partner will have the option of choosing to withhold or grant cooperation, affection, and support — with no regard for the needs or desires of the other member of the relationship.

Responding to Non-Cooperation in a Relationship

There are really only three possible responses to non-cooperation in a relationship.

1. The first is to accept the decision of the non-consenter, whatever it may be, in order to maintain at least a semblance of cooperation and mutuality. This option, while it may be acceptable for a period of time, cedes control completely. For most people, it is not a viable long-term solution.

2. The second is to fight for cooperation — a risky choice for someone who strongly desires a relationship.

3. The third is to walk away, saying — in essence — “If you choose not to support me or join me, I’ll go it alone or find someone else to give me the support or companionship I need.” While this option may seem like the most promising, it can also be the most difficult for a person who relies on an existing relationship for security and self-esteem.

If this is the case, then how do relationships last? Trust is an essential component. When we trust our partner we are, in part, trusting that they won’t leave. We are also trusting that our partner will consider our needs and desires when making decisions that will affect both partners. This trust is built gradually. If someone proves trustworthy in small ways we then take the risk of trusting them with even more.

Human relationships are about much more than power. These relationships are about intimacy, friendship, love, respect, curiosity, contentment, sharing, communication and much more. Despite this, it’s still true that whoever wants less of a relationship has more power. In a good relationship, power shifts back and forth, as each partner considers the other’s needs and takes or cedes power accordingly.

By Leonard Holmes

How to Get Over Someone

Therapist
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The end of a relationship is never easy. Breakups are filled with raw emotions, including everything from hurt and betrayal to anger and sadness. But, just because heartbreak may feel like the end of the world, the reality is that the pain and anguish you feel right now is only temporary. Eventually, you’ll be able to move on—and one day you’ll find love again.

In fact, research indicates that it takes about 11 weeks to feel better after a dating relationship ends, according to a study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Meanwhile, a separate study found that it may take up to 18 months to heal if it’s a marriage that ends. Either way, neither situation goes on forever.

Just remember that getting over heartbreak and moving on is a grieving process that looks different for everyone. Consequently, don’t hold yourself to any set timeframe. There are a lot of factors that impact your healing including how long you were together, the memories and traditions you shared, and even if you had children together. But you will get through it.

Why Breaking Up Hurts So Much

Relationships with others form the foundation of a person’s life. As a result, when you lose a relationship, especially one that you considered important and central to your life, it’s like losing a part of yourself. It is not uncommon to feel like you have lost your sense of meaning and purpose in life. You may even feel like you lost a huge part of yourself. And, in some respects you did. You will not be the same person you were when you were with your ex.

But, if you wallow in that feeling of loss and shaken identity for too long, you will end up clinging to your past and desperately trying to “fix” the relationship so that you can get your ex—and yourself—back.

As difficult and painful as it might be to accept, you have to let that part of you and your life go. It’s part of the past. Yes, it is hard. But you can do it. You can take the steps needed to get on with your life.

How to Get Through a Breakup

Getting over someone has a lot more to do with how you think about the breakup, your ex, and even yourself, than it does following trying to erase the pain you are feeling. Consequently, as you navigate the muddy waters of your breakup, you need to continually remind yourself that this is a process, not a destination.

Not only do you need to be patient with yourself, but you also need to take this time to really think about who you are, who your ex was, and why your relationship didn’t work out. Learning from this experience will not only make you stronger, but it also will help you know what you want in a relationship and maybe have more success the next time around. Here are some steps to processing your breakup and getting on with your life.

Take Your Time

Getting over an ex is a process. It is not something you can rush through. What’s more, you should avoid rebound dating at all costs. While going out immediately after a breakup may put a band-aid on your pain, it won’t cure it. And as hard as it might be, you have to face your feelings and deal with them in honest and effective ways.

Sure, this process stinks. It takes a lot of time, energy, and hard work to process your feelings and emotions. But in the end it will be worth it because you will come out stronger and better than you were before.

Allow Yourself to Feel

No one enjoys experiencing pain. But the fact of the matter is, you have to allow yourself to feel if you are going to heal. Ignoring your feelings, pretending like they don’t exist, or trying to numb them in some way, is only going to set back your recovery. Be honest about the hurt, pain, and rejection you are feeling. There is no shame in being sad.

Chances are you spent a good portion of your life with this person and breaking up is bound to cause some very strong emotions. It’s only when you take an honest look at how the breakup made you feel, that you will be able to navigate through your emotions in a healthy way.

Eventually, you will be back out there dating again if you want to be. And, even if you choose not to, that’s fine too. You are never be defined by your relationships. You have the same value and worth in life regardless of whether you are in a relationship or doing life alone. You matter and make a difference in the world. Never forget that.

By Sherri Gordon

Does Unconditional Love Make Healthy Relationships?

Therapist
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The idea of unconditional love in relationships is a noble one. Each of us wants to be loved as we are, without conditions, and to see ourselves as capable of bestowing unconditional love on our partners. However, this type of love, in its narrowest definition, is difficult, if not impossible.

The Meaning of Unconditional Love

Part of the problem with unconditional love in relationships is the lack of understanding of what it means. Most of us will think of a parent’s love for a child, or a child’s love for a parent, as unconditional love. This type of love depends on nothing other than the familial bond and doesn’t break down based on what the child or parent does—at least in an ideal scenario.

In the purest sense, unconditional love is about caring about the happiness of another person without any concern for how it benefits you. Research tells us that the parts of the brain that light up during unconditional love are similar to those involved in romantic love and maternal love, and are linked to the brain’s reward system. This suggests that unconditional love may be rewarding without receiving anything in return.

Unconditional Romantic Love

The question becomes whether adults in relationships can also show each other this type of unconditional love. To feel safe in a relationship, it makes sense that you need to feel as though the other person is not going to abandon you based on a whim. You need to know that person is committed to loving you unconditionally no matter what the future brings.

The problem is that this definition in romantic relationships can break down under numerous conditions and for good reason. As much as you might love an alcoholic, a liar, or a cheater unconditionally, this isn’t healthy for you as a person. This means the definition of unconditional love in romantic relationships needs to be expanded a bit. For love to continue, there must be mutual respect, not an attitude of your partner that “you will put up with me, no matter what I do.”

Unconditional Positive Regard

This brings us to the topic of unconditional positive regard, probably a closer approximation of what we mean by unconditional love in relationships. In this sense, unconditional love doesn’t mean always giving people what they want or always accepting what they do, at the expense of your own needs.

Instead, it is a mature type of love that means treating the other person with love and respect, even while maintaining your boundaries and protecting yourself. Whereas the immature version of unconditional love would have you feeling as though you must be everything to the other person, the mature version has you recognize that your only obligation, in the face of the other’s behavior, is to communicate your message with love and respect.

This means being attentive and attuned, even while you are setting limits and boundaries. It also means honoring the requests of others when you are able to do so without harming yourself.

It means not being harsh or dismissive, as this does not lead to compromise or solutions. At its core, this is assertiveness—letting the other person know where you stand so that together you can work out the best outcome for the two of you together.

By Arlin Cuncic