So, You’re Not Having Sex?

A lot is being made in the media of how Americans having sex is dwindling. At first, I couldn’t make out really what was happening, and just wrote this off to a media spectacle, but the share of US adults reporting that they have not had sex in the last year has reached an all-time high in 2018. I found this article to be interesting.

Although lack of sex is attributed to the baby boomers and aging, researchers were also looking at the lack of sex driven by younger people. Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, said that the sexlessness attributed to millennials is related to the fact that they partner up later in life. She says the people in their 20s who don’t have a live-in partner will have less sex.

Why Less Sex?

What I found interesting was that since 2008, the share of young men under 30 reporting no sex had tripled.

One of the reasons attributed to this is for lack of workforce participation. After the last recession, men, and particularly young man, have fallen out of the job force, and researchers see the connection between that and lack of stable relationships.

The heavy use of digital technology, such as social media, and especially online porn, are also two other reasons.

I think there’s a perfect storm happening, in that a lot of men, especially young men, lack the skills and abilities to have a successful relationship, or even know how to date. They get a lot of their messages from porn or from other friends using porn, so that’s what they think it’s like to have sex, which is it not. Real sex is different from porn sex, but the line between the two blurs with increased use. A lot of men think that they need to act like porn stars to satisfy their partner, who is often not satisfied in this way because they might be lacking the emotional connection needed for women.

Sexual Energy: For Porn or For Real Sex

Another idea is that we only have so much sexual energy, and if guys are using this for masturbation and porn, that energy is not going towards the real sexual relationships in one’s life. When I talk with guys in therapy, they tend to get some or all of their sexual release from either porn, or masturbation, or both, so there’s not as much left at the end of the day to have a sexual encounter with their partner. What happens is that we end up having less real sex.

A lot of guys also have intimacy issues that have to do with emotional intimacy difficulties, which can often translate into sexual difficulties in the bedroom. Identifying those emotional intimacy issues and working on them can also lead to a more fulfilling sex life, which is something that guys often underestimate in its ability to produce a fulfilling sex life.

Feelings can also be repressed, and if you’re storing negative feelings towards your partner, without acknowledging them and communicating them, you’re setting yourself up to withdraw from your partner and break the connection and bond that you share. Dealing with those feelings might “reset” you and help you plug back in to the relationship, and to sex.

Working through sexual blocks is nothing to be ashamed about, because everyone has them. Sex brings up a lot of our unconscious stuff, so if you want a more fulfilling relationship, it’s worth working on those things, rather than retreating and hiding in porn or masturbation.

If you can work through some of those blocks, you would be able to have a more for filling sex life. A lot of times, we have had negative sexual experiences growing up, and haven’t been taught much about sex, because our caregivers or parents never had “the conversation” with us, and didn’t give men what they needed to thrive sexually. Also, awkward sexual experiences can leave imprints on us in adult life, which negatively affect one’s ability to have a healthy sexual life.

There are a lot of factors involved in a sex life that has diminished. Looking at the wide variety of factors, if you want a healthy, mutually enhancing sex life, is important, because what you don’t know could be hindering your success.

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How to Deal with Losing a Relationship or Marriage

There are several things involved when it comes to talking about how to deal with the loss of a relationship, whether it’s a friendship, a dating relationship, or your marriage.

I’m not gonna say it’s easy, or that it doesn’t take that long, because neither are true. If you are invested in the person emotionally or otherwise, there are things that you will have to deal with after the relationship has ended that will be uncomfortable, and probably new to you.

I tend to see the loss of a relationship in similar terms to losing someone through death. I see relationships or marriage in the same physical terms that we see our loved ones or those close to us when they end. A relationship or a marriage was once lively and vital, in the same way that people are, but can also die out and lose their strength and vitality over time, and end.

I think the most important thing to know about how to deal with losing a relationship is that relationships do end, whether or not we had anything to do with the end of them or the downfall. It is a part of life, even if we don’t want it that way and reject it when it happens to us.

It’s taken me many years to really appreciate that people in our lives do come and go, and some stay longer than others. I’ve started to learn this as I’ve gotten older, which has helped me to see things in a greater perspective and not cling as tightly to people, especially when they’re not emotionally available or if they’re not providing what I need for a for a fulfilling relationship.

Relationships do end, and a lot of the hardship that we experience comes from the clinging in the attachment that we have had to the person or to the relationship as it was. In Buddhist terms, this is suffering, and the cessation of suffering would come from learning how to work through the difficult and painful emotions that keep you attached, to eventually learn to let go and grieve, and then heal.

Considering that idea, it’s necessary to be realistic and to know that there will be some time and attention needed on your part to work through that difficult process of grief. And it is a process of grief. Just like I had mentioned earlier, losing a relationship is like losing a physical person. It is a process that needs attention and that takes time.

Usually what delays the grieving process is that we hold on in some way or another, and can’t or don’t want to let go of the person, the relationship, or the way things used to be when you were in a better place with the person.

A lot of the times, we’re holding on to the person as they were in the past, or as the relationship was in the past. Sometimes the person, the relationship, or yourself have changed, which have created a different type of relationship that has come to an end. The loss of relationship has happened, but you haven’t accepted it.

A lot of the holding on part can come from holding onto those positive memories, or to wishing or hoping that the relationship would be different in ways that you would want.

It can also mean that you’re holding on waiting for the other person to change, or to shift backward into the place that they used to be when you had met them and developed the relationship originally. For that matter, this is disillusionment, and it’s not seeing things as they truly are, which keeps people from not seeing things clearly as they need to be seen.

Allowing yourself the space to grieve is so important. Grief does not look the same from person to person, and even if you’re expecting certain things to happen, such as following closely the stages of grief, it probably won’t happen that way. It happens on it’s own, and the more you’re open to letting those emotions come through you and pass, the easier the process will be in the long run.

Trust your feelings, and when those difficult emotions come up, just let them come up without avoiding them, pushing them away, or over-intellectualizing them. The kinder you are to yourself and the more space you allow for those feelings to come up and work them selves through, the easier the grief process will be, even if it feels like it’ll never end.

Get support, and find meaningful and positive people in your life who you can talk with and share your feelings about your relationship loss or break up. Take care of yourself, do what you can to get through the day, get the right rest and diet going, and know that grief and the letting go process does take some time. Sometimes it even takes years to get through it completely.

What I wouldn’t do is get into indulging your whims with the other person by continually checking on them or wondering what they’re doing. Try to not stay on social media and troll them online, or continually check their profiles to see what they’re up to. It’s not gonna do you any good. Stop texting them and calling them, and you’ll be able to help yourself let go a little bit more easily. I know this is difficult to do, especially when the feelings are so strong at the end of her relationship, but it’s important to try to take the highroad.

Dealing with the loss of a close relationship or marriage is painful, long, and can seem like an eternal rollercoaster of different emotions. The more you avoid this process, and push it away, the longer the process will stay in place and not allow you to move on and heal. Think about some of the advice above, and see if you can consider any of it if you’re dealing with a loss now, or if you’ve had with one in the past where you haven’t dealt with it. It may still be lurking somewhere in the shadows, affecting your ability to open up and have the healthy kind of relationship that you deserve.

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7 Ways to Be More Assertive with People

One of the most difficult things for people to do is to be more assertive and to stand up for themselves with others. In this post, we’re going talk about 7 ways that you can be more assertive and stand up for yourself more effectively with those people in your life. Even if you’ve tried and failed, or don’t know how to be assertive at all, try considering some of these points to help you.

  1. Know what you want: if you don’t know what you want, how will others know what you want? You need to know what you want, and be able to say it in a clear and direct way, so as others can understand you easily. If you’re wishy-washy, or aren’t clear in what you want, that’s going to come through when you try to communicate that with others. They may get confused, or will tend to assert their needs and wants over yours, diminishing your voice and pushing you back.
  2. Speak your mind loudly and clearly: you have to be clear, concise, and direct with people when you are trying to be assertive. Use “I” statements to communicate what you want, how are you want it, and when. Bring inflection to your voice, and don’t back or bow down. Be reasonable with others, and flexible, but firm in what you need or want.
  3. Be assertive, not aggressive: being assertive and being aggressive are two different things. When you’re assertive, you can politely but firmly stand up for yourself. When you’re aggressive, you are running over other people or creating harm in what you’re doing or saying, and your chances of getting what you need or want or become less. There is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive, and you should learn the difference. A lot of times for people who don’t know how to stand up for themselves, they get being assertive and being aggressive mixed up, and end up defaulting on being aggressive instead.
  4. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’: people who have a hard time saying ‘no’ either avoid conflict, or are scared and apprehensive about putting off other people. A lot of times it’s difficult for people to stand up for themselves and say ‘no’, which is a form of being assertive. They are concerned about the other people and their feelings, or about looking bad themselves, or about being rejected or disliked if they were to put their ‘no’ out. Basically, they’re too worried about the other people.
  5. Take an honest look at and be mindful of the inner emotions that come up for you when thinking about being assertive or actually being assertive: there may be plenty of emotions that come up for you, including apprehension, anxiety, fear, etc. Be aware of them, and don’t let them get in the way of being assertive. Just because you’re afraid or anxious about stepping up and being assertive, doesn’t mean that they need to keep you from doing it.
  6. Don’t be manipulated, knowledged, or cajoled: there will be pushback on your assertiveness, for sure. If people are not used to you being assertive, they may be used to taking advantage of you, pushing you over, or generally not taking you seriously. They may be doing their own thing, such as manipulating you or treating you in a way that is not honoring you or respecting your assertiveness. Be aware of this, and plan for it, especially with people who you think will be difficult to be assertive with. Keep moving forward, even if you think that you are getting this from other people. Plan on this with those select people who you know your assertiveness will be difficult with, and choose your behaviors or interactions with them wisely.
  7. Continue to practice being assertive as a regular maintenance behavior: you may not have perfected assertiveness overnight, and it may take several flyovers to be able to be assertive, especially with stubborn or difficult people. It may be that being assertive once is not enough, and you may need to practice this over and over again so that you become more comfortable about it, and that the people who are you were trying to be assertive with slowly or getting a message in a consistent way.

Being assertive with others is a long process, and can be a lifelong one. Standing up, saying ‘no’ when you need to say ‘no’, and learning how to be firm and assertive, rather than passive or aggressive, is an art. People in your life may need to adjust to this new way of being for you, but you’ll be happier in the end after knowing you’ve advocated for yourself in the way you need to.

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How to Not Stress Yourself Out More Than You Already Are

If you weren’t already aware of it, life is already pretty stressful and overwhelming, so if you’re doing things to increase your stress without knowing it, there may be some blind spots that you want to consider.

Stress is an inevitable part of life, especially in our modern living. We are bombarded and inundated with needs, requests, digital overwhelm, traffic, responsibilities, and financial obligations.

We play many roles in our lives, including parents, husband or wife, employee, baseball coach for your kid, son or daughter, etc. Stress will inevitably be a part of those experiences, and how you handle it may make or break you and the way that you approach your life.

We’re going to talk about some things that you might want to consider if you are adding stress to your already stressful situation. You may not know what you don’t know, so read on.

Are you aware of the possible ways that you might be contributing to your own stress? Have you ever really stopped to consider that maybe you’re making it worse to a certain degree?

Most people don’t. It’s really easy to get caught up in day-to-day living, and fall into routines and mindless living. We wake up, get dressed and go to work, come home, and crash, and then do it all over again. It’s hard to really stop, assess the big picture, and consider what is going on with things, so that things can be tweaked or altered to improve your overall approach to stress.

Right out of the gate, if your eating habits, sleep schedule, and exercise routines are problematic or non-existent, you’re going to have a lot higher stress levels, for sure.

If you’re not eating the right foods, getting the right sleep, and exercising on some kind of regular basis, your experience of stress will increase. I’m not going talk to much about this on this post, as I’ve blogged about this before.

Giving Too Much Away to Others

One of the things that I see people getting into problems with is overpromising to others, or taking on too much in their lives without saying no.

People want to be of assistance, be needed, or generally like to help and please others, but don’t know when to cut off and create a balance between taking care of others and taking care of themselves. I know this happens a lot with mothers at home, but I also talk with guys wear this happens, as well. It’s a zero sum game with energy, as there’s only so much of it to go around in your finite life and schedule.

Learning how to drawn healthy boundaries with others, your work, and your other obligations is key. Start by assessing your life energy, and how much of it goes where.

How much energy is not going to the places it should be going? Are you getting feedback from those in your life (friends, spouse, kids, boss, etc.) that they’re not getting the best of you, or that there are problems in the relationships that you have with them? Those are the best, first indicators that you might be taking on too much and not leaving room for other things and people.

How to Diagnose Your Stress: From Your Feelings

If you’re working a full-time job, and have kids and a family, the balancing act becomes even more important to achieve. If it doesn’t happen, typically frustration, resentment, and other negative feelings tend to accumulate. For a lot of men who don’t know how to express themselves, this keeps building up over time, and it affects one’s internal stress levels, as well as other relationships around them. It may manifest as headaches, body aches, general malaise, indifference or numbing, or a feeling of wanting to withdraw from the world and from people. It may go as far as depression, or at least dysthymia, which is a lesser form of depression.

I also see men withdraw and avoid other people when their stressors are piling up and they don’t have an outlet. A lot of these guys also don’t know how to take care of them selves, which is another point but I want to talk about now. Withdrawing actually will speed up and worsen stress in a number of ways, including by not attending to the stress management needs you may have (diet, exercise, meditation, getting out with friends) or attending to the important relationships in your life.

Knowing when you hit your limit is an essential part of the process of helping yourself. If you feel like you keep taking stress in, over and over again, with no output, things are going to keep building up and will manifest as either physical stress, mental or emotional stress, anger or irritability, or general withdrawal and disconnection. This is where the unhappiness starts, if it hadn’t started long before this point.

Being able to language the stuff is important, because if you can’t language it and communicate it to other people in your life, they’re going to have no idea what’s going on with you. You’re going to be suffering in silence and not feel like anyone really gets what you’re going through, which would be true, because you haven’t said anything to the people that matter. It’s important to be able to recognize that experience of stress, and identify some of your feelings about it (e.g. overwhelm, “drowning”, exhaustion, pain, etc.). You need to be able to call it something, and then get the help that you need.

Also being proactive about stress management is much more effective than being reactive. It’s easier to get things in place in your life and do them as often as you need to, rather than just pulling things off the shelf in a crisis.

For example, what I mean is that if you’re experiencing stress headaches, anger, or your relationships are starting to suffer, those are signs that you’ve waited too long to manage your stress.

After identifying the problems, and seeing them come up over and over again, it would be advisable to start to come up with some long-term solutions, meaning proactive ways that you can identify, diagnose, and prevent or minimize those stressors in your life from taking over.

Coming up with routines or simple solutions that accumulate over time is advisable when you’re trying to integrate stress management techniques. Meaning, come up with things that you can do quickly, they don’t take a lot of effort, time, or money, but that you can build into a routine or regular part of your life. You may have to experiment with what works in your life, and how it will fit into your busy schedule. This will be considered time for yourself, and no one else.

For starters, you can get to bed and get up at the same time like clockwork. You can also prepare for making bulk your food for the week, so that you’re not leaving yourself susceptible to stress, anger, or irritation because you haven’t eaten.

Do a weekly check in with yourself for an hour first thing Sunday morning, and take yourself out for coffee and journal about the previous week and see what stressors you experienced, and how you dealt with them. Come up with practical solutions when you hit your limits, and have conversations with those that need to know what you’re dealing with. It won’t be considered “unmanly” to talk about those things. Those stereotypes of “handling it all” are fast fading.

Learning how to name the stress, put a finger on it, and know that it’s actually there is good for starters. You have to be able to know that your stress is there in order to be able to deal with it. Learning how to communicate it, even if it opens you up to vulnerability. Without opening up, your loved ones actually may get the reverse from you, which is pushing them out or getting your anger. Neither one of those well help you deal with your stress of hand. They will just exacerbate it.

Learning how to deal with your stress can take time, and sometimes it’s a whole lot of trial and error so that you figure out what’s good for you. The idea here is that life is already stressful, but you might be making it infinitely more stressful on yourself in the ways that you’re living your life, or failing to.

Take a good look at your life now, see what’s working and what’s not, and commit to making minor weekly changes. Pick one or two things a week, and get an accountability partner, even your spouse or significant other. Commit to making one or two minor changes over a course of time, say 30 days, in the spirit of trying to reduce your stress or not actively work to increase it. Check results at the end, and make notes.

Dealing with stress is essentially developing the good relationship you have with yourself. It doesn’t happen overnight, and new stressors are always introduced as we get older. Without that first hand knowledge and awareness, we don’t know what we don’t know, and are often left to the grip of stress without forethought and proper planning.

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How 4 Things Will Change The Way You’re Emotionally Withdrawing From Your Relationship or Marriage

One of the hardest things that men deal with in marriage or relationships is to actually stay in it, and not withdraw or check out, either emotionally, verbally, physically or sexually. This post will help you to troubleshoot some of those ways of disconnecting, and help you deal more effectively and help you strengthen your current marriage or relationship.

I think that one of the strongest predictors of relationship or marital failure on the part of a guy is if he checks out emotionally and withdraws. If this is you, you might want to consider this, because you may be doing more damage to your marriage or relationship than you know.

How would you know if you are emotionally withdrawing?

I think a good start to figuring this out is to listen better and more deeply to your spouse and partner. Instead of getting defensive, attacking, or withdrawing, you may want to listen more closely to what they’re trying to tell you. Your wife, girlfriend, or relationship partner maybe telling you that you’re not emotionally available, or are not giving them what they need to function best in the relationship. Start listening more, and start taking notes, because if you’re just dismissing this, it may prove to be problematic or fatal to your relationship.

If you’re the kind of guy that tends to emotionally withdraw or avoid conflict, this post is probably for you. A lot of guys that I talk with tends to avoid conflict, which is to say that they also avoid dealing with their feelings that get triggered from with in the relationship. They run from their own emotions and feelings, so it’s to say that they won’t stick around to face them during a conflict or potential conflict.

Step number 1 is to identify and diagnose the problem, which is that you’re emotionally withdrawing, and to take an honest and nonjudgmental look at whether or not you avoid, withdraw, or check out in any way of your relationship. Without really identifying this and taking any ownership or responsibility, it may be very difficult to preempt change, and have the kind of deeper and meaningful relationship that you want, either in this current relationship or down the road in future relationships. Yes, this is a pattern that will recur if you don’t do something about it now.

Step number 2 is to do something about emotionally withdrawing. For starters, you have to admit to yourself that you are an avoider or a withdrawer, and then commit to doing something about it. You could seek out a trained men’s counselor or therapist to help you identify your emotionally withdrawing tendencies. You could also start a fresh and honest dialogue with your relationship partner, and let them know that this is something that you are aware of and want to change for the better of the relationship or marriage.

Just that simple act of communicating yourself with your relationship partner may go a long way, even if you haven’t committed to a professional counseling yet. Your relationship partner may be feeling really validated and heard if you are to initiate a conversation with them about the fact that you’re withdrawing are checking out. It may do wonders from the start.

Up until this point, your partner may be feeling really neglected, invisible, or deprived of what they need in the relationship. The mere fact that you’re willing to initiate a dialogue with them may go along way – more than you would think.

If they’re used to you not talking or opening up, they’re in for a big surprise – a pleasant one – when they see that you’re really trying to open up and let them in. For most guys that I talk with, it’s a struggle and one that’s not easily solved.

Step number 3 is to consider your own relationship to your vulnerability, and consider how you can go about taking the risk to be more vulnerable. I don’t mean just to cry or shed tears. That’s the easy part, or should I say, it’s easy when it happens to you. The guys that I work with think that being tearful is the same as being vulnerable, but I don’t think so.

Being vulnerable is really about opening up and taking a risk to let someone into your emotional world. It’s the exchange of your softer feelings and experiences that you have that are usually pushed down and repressed, hide from common view and day-to-day life, and the feelings that your partner doesn’t typically get to see, such as insecurity, fear, inadequacy, sadness, and personal or private pain. It’s about letting someone into that inner world that you hold so private.

The act of learning how to be vulnerable and taking the risk that you can let someone in who will not hurt you is a huge step for men. Most people have been hurt in relationships, and bring that pain into the current one that they are in now, which makes being vulnerable so difficult.

When we take those old wounds and don’t do anything about them, they typically have a hold over us in the relationship that we were in previously. Learning how to deal with those old wounds and resolve some of the past pain that other people have caused a scene relationship will help you to become more loving and open, and consequently more vulnerable with your partner, which deepens connection.

Step 4 is to continue to challenge yourself and take risks to communicate, be vulnerable, and to practice not withdrawing emotionally from your partner.

In the heat of conflict, you’ll be challenged quite a bit, because you’re used to reactive patterns that are hard to break. Catch yourself emotionally withdrawing, and commit to moving into the relationship, not out of it. Ask your wife, girlfriend, or relationship partner to help you by letting you know when you’re checking out, withdrawing, or generally disconnecting from either conflict, or your relationship in general.

You may need some professional counseling or therapy to also help you to identify blocks or unconscious factors that you may not be aware of. Typically, a lot of these things are in place when we are children, and continue to stay with us throughout our life into our intimate relationships.

Because they are unconscious, it’s difficult to deal with them, let alone know that they’re there. A good counselor or therapist can help you to navigate those hidden aspects of yourself, so that you can get a hold of them and free yourself from them.

Dealing with getting a hold of your emotional withdrawal from your marriage or relationship can do quite a bit for improving the quality of it. If you aren’t diagnosing it and doing anything about it, you’re setting yourself up for problems later.

What do you think? Are you an emotional withdrawer, or has a partner ever pointed out that you are emotionally withdrawing from them? How have you dealt with it? What’s worked for you?

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Ketamine: Right for Your Depression?

This week, the FDA approved a new type of depression medication for those suffering with difficult to treat types of depression. The medication, called esketamine, is a nasal spray and works a lot faster to treat serious mood problems such as depression. Esketamine works within hours or days, and helps those who have been considered “treatment resistant” to other antidepressant drugs.

This is in contrast to the widely used and accepted antidepressant medications such as Prozac or other serotonin enhancing medications that have been on the market for several decades now. Those suffering from depression already feel hopeless, and when they try a medication regime that is not working, such as an antidepressant medication traditionally used, their hopelessness may be worse. Those people may want to consider the use of this new drug.

Ketamine’s history is that it was originally developed as an anesthetic, but then was popularized as a club drug, called “Special K.” It provides quick relief for depression, as well as works with other mental health issues such as anxiety and suicidal thinking, which Ketamine can blunt.

If you are considering this, please talk with your doctor or psychiatrist to see if this is a viable alternative to helping you with your depression.

If you are experiencing mild depression, or moderate depression, this treatment may not be for you.

Talking with your doctor or psychiatrist, you may benefit from the use of an antidepressant to help you. If you’re not interested in using an antidepressant medication to treat your depression, there may be other things that you can do such as changing lifestyle factors or seeking out talk therapy to alleviate your depression.

Lifestyle Factors and Depression

Exercise, sleep, and right diet can vastly improve depression, although some of these things are difficult to do when you’re actually feeling depressed. It’s hard to get up out of bed and mobilize when depression gets extreme, so learning to take care of yourself during these times takes extra effort.

Rigorous exercise two or three times a week, including some cardiovascular exercise such as brisk walking, light jogging, or swimming, can certainly help. Exercise has been shown to be a consistent aid in dealing with depression.

If you’re not getting the right amount of sleep, or quality of sleep, this may be exacerbating your depression. Try to aim for 6 to 8 hours of good, quality sleep, which is uninterrupted.

Your diet also may be making your depression worse. If you’re eating a lot of foods high in sugar, fat, a lot of fast food, then you may be feeling more depressed in general.

Try eating the majority of plant-based foods, such as fresh vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, nuts, and omega-3 fatty acid’s in wild fish, flax oil, etc.

Try to regulate your blood sugar levels so that they even out, rather than going on wild up-and-down cycles with sugary foods or too many refined carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, potato chips, pizza, sweets, desserts, etc.

Many people also don’t want to use medication or an antidepressant to help them with their depression. I think that in some cases, both the regular use of antidepressant medication and regular talk therapy can be very powerful in assisting mild to major depression. Sometimes, just talk therapy or counseling can make a major dent in your depression, as well.

If you have never considered talking to a professional counselor or therapist, this may be the time.

Talk Therapy and Depression

A lot of men tend to hold in their feelings, and just buck up and deal with their mental health issues without seeking out any help. This may be due to the stigma of getting help if you’re a man, or it may be that you have a difficult time diagnosing problems going on with yourself and treating them, either out of pride, avoidance, or whatnot.

Regular talk therapy with a professionally trained and licensed therapist or counselor can greatly help in alleviating your depression. Talking through the problems that you have not dealt with or have repressed, therapy may be able to help you unlock certain parts of yourself and solutions to some of your problems with depression.

It may help you start to process some of the underlying and unconscious negative emotions associated with your depression, as well as help you identify negative or dysfunctional thought patterns that may also be underlying your depression, and help you change both.

Learning how to change around your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors can do a lot in alleviating your depression, and possibly even getting rid of it for good.

What do you think? Have you experienced depression, or think that you may be dealing with it now? What’s worked for you, in terms of treatment, and/or lifestyle factors you’ve reconsidered?

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When Home or Work Environments Cause Stress and Depression

Our work and home environments can affect our mental well-being and stress levels more than we might think. I’m going to talk about this, and things that you could be aware of to change your surroundings to improve your general mood, mental well-being, stress, and relationships.

Recently, I moved out of an office space that I have been practicing in for the last year and a half. Then, I searched high and low for the right type of space that would be conducive to doing counseling and therapy. Although I thought that I found the right place for my practice, it soon started becoming apparent that there was too much noise and foot traffic, and that the other business owners who co-resided in the space with me didn’t have the same needs concerning quiet, harmony, and a tranquil space. The environment wasn’t working anymore.

I began to really question being there, and eventually I decided to move. I found a much more conducive space to therapy, creating the sensitive home, harmony, and tranquility that I was desiring in a practice space. I’m going to talk about ways that you may be able to achieve this in your own space, whether you decide to move or just change your surroundings.

Clutter and Mental Health

One aspect of your living more office space that you can immediately control is clutter and lack of organization. A lot is being said right now of tidying or clearing your space, so as to maximize joy and happiness. Marie Kondo, a Japanese tidying and organization expert, has made it big stateside after conquering Japan with her practical and easy to use manual on tidying your spaces. She hit a deep vein with people who have overconsumed stuff, and consequently overcrowded their living and work environments.

If you’re not a de-clutterer by nature, or are not organized by nature, consider your current space in terms of how much stuff you have. Consider how many items you have in your general space, and if every item is essential for being there. If you were feeling a sense of overwhelm, and your space is cluttered with too many items in disarray, you may be creating that feeling of overwhelm or stress for yourself. You may also be adding psychologically or emotionally to your plate by continuing to push off tidying or getting rid of unnecessary items that you’re holding on to.

If you’re procrastinating and pushing it off, ask yourself why and how is this happening. If you know that you need to get rid of and tidy your space to be able to clear your mind, ask yourself what is preventing you from this?

I’ve talked with some people who think that de-cluttering or tidying a certain space would make it easier for them to move forward with the major tasks that they need to do, so if they keep things cluttered, it’s like enabling them so that they don’t need to go do what they need to do. There’s a safety and comfort in staying stuck, and I think for some people who I’ve talked to, it helps them to stay stuck.

Toxic/Problem People in your Work Environment

Dealing with people in your living or working space may be harder than decluttering it with stuff. You have a lot more sense of power and control over the things that inhabit your space, but often times much less control over the people in it.

If you’re in an office space, it may be hard to leave it, but if it’s populated with toxic people and personalities, you may want to consider that option. If you can’t steer yourself around these toxic people, you may need to ask yourself: 

  • Is this a work environment that’s good for my mental health and my stress levels? 
  • Is this environment plagued with toxic or stressful people and personalities, so much that it is deteriorating my productivity, and my life at home? 
  • Do I feel more stressed and depressed being around these people? What does my gut say?
  • It may not be realistic to leave or quit your job, but would it be an option to try to find another space within your office setting or building? 
  • Are the ways that you can work around or avoid the people who are contributing to your stress and poor mental health? 
  • Do you need to confront one or more people to be able to create a better working environment for yourself? Can you start a productive conversation with someone?

Stress in your Home Environment

Sometimes it’s the home environment that is more stressful, compared to the work environment. Or maybe both are contributing to your stress, overwhelm and depression.

Identifying and diagnosing the problematic factors at home is the first step to figuring out how to deal with them. What are the immediate stressors in your home environment?

Possible ideas to consider in your home environment:

  • Clutter or disorganized environment; tasks or chores gone uncompleted
  • Projects gone on completed, such as fixing the drain or toilet, repairs, backyard needing work, general house or home maintenance incomplete
  • Other tasks around the house that you are pushing off or delaying
  • Marital tension or stress between you and your spouse
  • Constantly running late to get places, or to drop your kids off
  • Dark environment without good lighting
  • Conversations that need to happen that are not happening now, either with your spouse or your kids, that are weighing on you and creating a stressful, “heavy” environment
  • Not talking with someone at home, and creating that uncomfortable silent stress
  • Car traffic, other other ambient noises inside or outside (or smells) that are creating stress mentally or physiologically for you or your family

Things You Can Do To Improve Your Home or Work Environment 

  • Figure out what you’re feeling: can you check your gut or intuition? Do you know what you’re feeling emotionally in a particular environment, such as work or home?
  • Diagnose the situation: ask what might be causing those feelings, if they are related to the surroundings
  • Figure out what action steps you can take to remedy what you can change
  • Figure out if you can have conversations with someone that is creating a negative or toxic space or environment
  • Ask yourself if you can de-clutter, organize, or move objects (furniture) around for optimal mental and emotional well-being

Your home and work environments are where you spend a huge amount of your time, so it should be the spaces that you make sure are working for you, and that bring you good feelings, with less stress and other emotional chargers. Consider these things when you’re considering your mood, health and emotions, and see if there are certain things that you can do to change your environment for the better.

What do you think? Have you had difficult environments at home, or work, and not known what to do to fix them? What’s worked for you?

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Still In The Right Relationship?

If you’ve started to have the creeping feeling that the relationship that you have been in is gradually not working for you, there are either one of two problems:

It may be that the skills that you have to deal with conflict need work, such as learning how to improve communication, or learning how to stop avoiding and withdrawing enough to deal with conflict. You may need help in terms of learning how to develop more intimacy, sharing your emotions or thoughts with an intimate partner, or just benefitting from general relationship help.

If so, you might benefit from learning how to develop those skills, in the context of therapy or counseling. If you have historically been an “avoider” or a “withdrawer” from conflict, your perspective will be altered if you’re seeing things through that lens. Assessing whether your relationship is the right one for you may be dependent on learning how to build these skills up, because if you can learn how to communicate better, or deal head-on with conflict, you may actually want to be more in the relationship that you’re currently in. You may be skewed in your thinking if you’re not dealing with these issues.

Now, the bigger of the two problems: that your relationship is not the right one for you. If you feel like you’ve tried to make things happen and get better, but your partner is not bending or is unwilling to see their side of things, or to take any real responsibility for the relationship problems that you are experiencing, it may be that you are hitting your head against the wall in trying to make changes unilaterally. It may be that the relationship is not working for you (or both of you) anymore:

What to look out for if you think this is the case:

  • You try to approach the situation and confront the issues, and your partner is not willing to
  • It feels like you’re just going through the motions, and there isn’t any connection, including physical intimacy and sex; maybe the family, kids or finances is the only “glue” left
  • Your partner is unwilling to take any ownership or responsibility for the problems that you are experiencing in your relationship
  • Your partner consistently gets defensive, blames you, shuts down or gets aggressive or otherwise when you try to confront the problems directly with them
  • You consistently feel like you’re not getting your needs met in your relationship or marriage, even after trying to advocate for those needs and constantly trying to communicate them to your partner
  • You’re very unhappy, and have been for a long time without any change
  • You have been considering break up or divorce for sometime, but keep coming back into the relationship against your better judgment, and may or may not know why
  • You’ve tried to make changes, but feel like you’re the only one working at the relationship
  • You’ve tried to make changes or decided to leave before, but guilt, fear, obligation or a sense of responsibility for your partner keeps overpowering you; you’re scared to be alone

I think one of the hardest aspects is really just figuring out that your unhappiness is attributable to the relationship itself, and not another situation or person. I talk with plenty of guys that are generally unhappy, but I think that their marriage or relationship is making them unhappy situationally.

In that case, I ask guys to take a real deep and serious look at themselves and see if it’s not their fundamental unhappiness that has nothing to do with their partner, and if they are just blaming their unhappiness on their partner or on their relationship. If they can genuinely say that they’re not fundamentally unhappy within their own skin, and it’s attributable to the relationship, then it may very well be that the relationship needs to be dealt with.

Diagnosis is the first step; trusting oneself is the second step. You need to be able to trust yourself to proceed through your relationship enough to deal with it, and possibly end it if it is not working for you. I think it warrants many different steps to try to repair it, including several attempts to try to communicate it or confront it, and possibly getting couples or marriage counseling or therapy to try to address it professionally.

It’s difficult to trust yourself, because a lot of the neurotic or pathological motivating factors drive us into a situation that is not good for us. We often feel responsible, whether there are children involved, finances, a sense of duty or responsibility, or generally worrying about your relationship partner enough to keep you in a bad situation. Learning how to trust yourself as a process, so go easy on yourself, but know that you need to start listening to your gut and what it is trying to tell you to do in your current situation.

Why therapy helps this is because it helps you to uncover those deeper and unconscious messages that you may have about your relationship or marriage, that have originated from your growing up. A lot of times, we get negative or problematic messages about marriage and relationships from our parents or our caregivers when we’re young, and we adopt those messages unconsciously, which serve to drive our way of showing up in a relationship later in life.

Therapy can help you work through those unconscious beliefs systems, and help you deal more effectively in your current relationship. It can also help you start to choose better partners for yourself, and break old relationship patterns that have guided you thus far.

If you do get to the point of trying to end your relationship or marriage, here are some things to think about:

  • Be kind, compassionate, but assertive. Speak your mind, and don’t be hurtful, but say what you mean and mean what you say. Be honest and forthright with the person as best as possible.
  • Make sure that you have tried to communicate your thoughts and feelings to your partner several different times over the course of your unhappiness. Make sure that they are indeed not listening or open to hearing what you are trying to say, and double check that there is no resolution to be had, because you would hate to end a relationship that might be able to be salvaged.
  • Develop better self-awareness and really get in touch with and understand what keeps bringing you back. Do you have strong emotional ties that you can’t shake? Are there kids involved, and are you deciding to stay because you want to preserve the family? These are all really important questions that you should ask yourself as you’re going through this process. Ask yourself “why am I really doing this?”
  • Get therapy to help you work through the break up. Even if you have the steps down to break up with your relationship partner, it may very well help you when dealing with the break up or the ensuing grief that may come as a result of the relationship break up.

Ending a marriage or relationship is a very serious thing, and has many implications, but you want to know that the decisions that you’re choosing to make are the right ones for you, and can minimize damaging or negative impact all the way around. It’s not good for anyone staying in a relationship that is not working, either for you or your partner, because then they’re not getting the best of you in the relationship that you both would deserve.

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Going Childfree

The decision to have a child, or multiple children, and to establish a family is no easy task. Assuming that you found a mate who wants the same things in life as you do, it can still be very tricky territory to navigate, especially if you are not quite clear yourself. Going childfree can be a very tricky and laborious decision, but it could be the right one for you and your mate.

The decision to go childfree, in my opinion, is a lot harder for women, but I talk with a number of guys who struggle with whether not to have kids for themselves. For a variety of reasons, not excluding the sheer cost of having kids, a lot of people are now opting to be childfree or to try to get their needs met in other ways rather than having kids.

I think it takes a level of sophistication (introspection, deeper communication with your spouse) to really challenge whether not you want to have a child, because we are inundated with so many messages about having kids, from parents, from our religious upbringing, our friends, our social circles, and the media. A lot of the times, kids are just something that have always been in the plan, but never really giving any consideration to anything other than that decision.

For many, the reality of our economic situations now, paired with the fact that relationships have become a lot more disposable, means that the decision to have a kid really is quite pronounced. Plenty of people are in quite a lot of debt these days, be it student loan debt, housing dad, our credit card debt, and it doesn’t become financially responsible to think about having more than one child, or any children at all. I think people, including younger people like millennials, are challenging tried and true ways of doing things from the past, and are doing it their own way. Many are opting out of having children, and are okay with it.

I do think it is critically important that if you want a long-term relationship, that you and your significant other are on the same page about whether to have a child or not. A lot of the time, couples don’t even talk about this topic, but when they do, it’s usually fighting or someone dragging their feet about it, not talking about it productively. They are often times not productive conversations, or no one has cared to ask or has been too intimidated to broach the topic early in their dating.

Sometimes, deeper into the relationship, whether to have a child or not becomes a severe relationship rift. One person wants it, and the other doesn’t, so this can often times be a dealbreaker for the relationship. It may inevitably end.

It’s important to start with asking yourself why you want a child in the first place. A lot of the times, we don’t really question the fundamental messages we have gotten from growing up, and from those close to us in our lives. We just take it for granted that we would have kids, or not to, but don’t really critically analyze it for ourselves. 

You have to be really clear with your own motivations, as well as confident about what you want, because it is obviously a very big decision to make. If your partner is not on the same pages you, it’s still important to hold to what you want, because if you’re acquiescing and giving in, you’re doing it out of obligation to your partner, and you’re going to carry resentment towards that person for the duration. And that does not make for a very healthy relationship, and your child would certainly pick that up from you.

If you choose not to have a child, it’s important to get counseling or therapy to help you deal with this, because there may be a lot of emotional attachments to wanting to have a child even if you don’t necessarily follow through with it. There may be expectations from your parents or family, from your religious background or association, or messages that you’ve been telling yourself about having kids and how you see your own life. If you really dig, you may find that you could also have a happy life without kids, as an option.

It’s also important to do some grief work around the kid or kids you end up not having. Just because we don’t have a child does not mean that we get rid of the emotional attachments or emotional residue associated with having one, so it’s important to find a professional that understands this and can work with you to help you work through some of that emotional build up. I think for many people, including women, the concepts of things like weddings, marriage, and having children have very strong, evolutionary response systems that need to be challenged, and if they turn out to be correct, then at least you’ve done your due diligence.

For men choosing to go child free, I think that there are other alternatives to getting the fulfillment that you might from having a child, albeit in different ways. I think you can certainly give that energy to nieces or nephews if you have siblings that have kids, or through volunteering. Yes, it’s not the exact same as having a child, but I think if there are needs going unmet for you, it’s important for you to recognize what are those unmet needs and how could you try to come up with a substitute to have those fulfilled.

You might start by really doing some deep introspection asking yourself why you want to have a child in the first place. What really drives you to have a child, or what drives you to not have a child? How can you recognize the imprinted messages that you’ve picked up over your life, and how can you strip those away and differentiate those from the voice that’s maybe telling you what you really want, and not what others want for you?

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How to Make Peace with Your Critical Self

People, including men, are notoriously hard on themselves, and many times have an adversarial relationship with themselves, which I refer to as a negative self-critic. They push themselves harder and harder to succeed, and then beat themselves up when they don’t.

Since we are really the only ones that we live with full-time, doesn’t it make sense to develop a better relationship with ourselves?

Starting to make peace with yourself means learning how to identify unhealthy patterns that keep you stuck. A lot of the times, we have a critical self that we’re not aware of, but that keeps us from living life that we should be living. We’re unconscious to this part of ourselves that is running the show from behind the scenes.

Identifying the critical self, and learning how to push him or her back, is fundamental in learning how to develop a better relationship with yourself. Just watch your mind and see: how often do you find yourself beating up on yourself, criticizing yourself, or reminding yourself of screw ups? Are you relentless and do you not give it up even way after the thing happened?

The problem is often not the actual mess up or failure; it’s what we do to ourselves after that that becomes the real problem. We may fail, miss out on something, or generally not perform at our best, which is one thing, but we are making it infinitely worse by beating ourselves up and not letting ourselves off the hook, and fall into this cycle of self abuse, negativity, shame, anger, and self deprecation that never lets us out of this vicious cycle.

What happens as a result is that we tend to fall into depression, despair, carry around anxiety with us, and stay stuck in stagnant in our lives. On top of that, we have to live with the guilt and the regret of not living the life that we wanted to because we’ve been so stuck and set in our self critical ways.

The first step to change this is identification. You have to realize just how much you are beating yourself up or succumbing to your personal critical self. In order to make peace with yourself, you have to learn how you’re at war with yourself. If you never really truly comprehend the degree of your self abuse, you will stay stuck and in the dark, constantly looking for solutions, avoidance strategies, or ways out.

Forgiving yourself or developing compassion for yourself are helpful to consider. It requires making peace with your critical self, or your negative self-critic. Sometimes, this requires a little bit deeper working more attention, such as one that you could experience in a therapy or counseling session. Sometimes recognizing your negative self critic is not enough; you have to actually find a trained professional to be able to help you to deal with it directly and experientially.

Learning how to re-direct your anger not at yourself, but towards other sources is also beneficial. Sometimes we learn as children to flip the anger on ourselves, which creates a negative or critical self, rather than ever learning how to successfully (healthily) put our anger back out into the world, or towards the people that have hurt us.

A lot of the time, because we can’t verbalize our anger as kids, it never comes across to the people that have caused it, such as our parents. Many times, the environment is not conducive to being able to get angry, because we have ended up stifling it as to play our unconscious games with our parents or surrogates. Again, in therapy, these are things that can be worked on so that you can learn how to more appropriately you re-channel or read direct your anger so that you don’t end up directing it at yourself. You have to become conscious or aware of your negative critic, and your anger, to be able to deal with it directly.

Meditation and yoga do help, and do assist, in terms of starting to recognize the self critic. They are not the end-all be-all solutions, though, so don’t mistake them as “things that I can do to fix my critic.” Men are notoriously bad at working through issues because they think that they can fix them, and on their own by themselves.

In meditation, it’s a lot easier to observe the negative thought patterns and look at how the negative self critic tends to go to work. In meditation, it’s about being observant, and not as surly giving in to the usual unconscious responses. Yoga has a similar effect, in that it promotes self-awareness through concentration on the breath and the body.

Simply giving yourself a break, or making a conscious effort to do so, does really help. Committing to this, or starting your day with that type of thinking, can really help. You can leave your self critic “at the door” For the day, and give yourself some time away from beating yourself up or coming down on yourself. If you can’t do that, just start journaling a recording how many times your self critic is active, and what he is telling you. Start to write down the actual negative thoughts, and come up with a thought log. Start to see the patterns and the consistencies between negative thoughts about yourself, And the events, people, or situations that trigger that response. Start to develop your own patterns and sense of their origins.

Once you start to identify your negative critic, you’ll be able to start to recognize that “this isn’t just who I thought I was,” and start to see the critic as a different entity. That’s a powerful shift, and one that counseling can better highlight for you. Give us a call for more information on how we can work with you and your negative critic – we know the terrain and would like to help you.

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