Online Therapy in Phoenix During COVID-19 Shutdown

Phoenix Men’s Counseling is now offering online therapy in Phoenix, over secure video conferencing through our practice management software Simple Practice. We invite you to consider online therapy as an option to in-person therapy during your time under shelter-in-place, in your home or other location.

We care about you and your family’s health during this very difficult time. We know that just because we can’t see each other in person, we still would like to help you get through these tough times, and get you back a little bit of the optimism and good feelings you had before everything was upended with COVID-19.

Many people have never tried getting counseling or therapy before, let alone doing video counseling. In fact, as the business owner, I can tell you that I only did video sessions a few times in the past. But in the last two weeks, I have really come to see it as an essential alternative to not having therapy at all. It does create the same “therapy feeling” you’d like as an in-person session, although over video. 

You might be skittish about it, and just say you’ll ride out the quarantine or shelter-in-place. You might even just tell yourself you’d rather wait until we’re able to see you in person. But, can you afford to? Are issues starting to come up now in your home? Just because you may be at home in place, stuck in your house with your family for an undetermined period of time, doesn’t mean that issues won’t come up. This would be a perfect time to try online therapy in Phoenix.

You may be experiencing marital issues, that might get worse under being stuck together for an indeterminate time. You may not actually be able to recognize that you have relationship or marital issues until you get stuck living in the same house 24/7 with someone, and you’re forced to confront them.

There’s a lot that could happen in the course of weeks, or even months, under shelter-in-place. You and your significant other, partner, or spouse will inevitably run into some conflicts, squabbles, or just general communication issues, of varying degree. Online therapy in Phoenix with us can definitely help you with that, and to prevent conflicts from flaring up and becoming unmanageable.

We can help work with you to develop better communication skills, so that you can navigate the space and the time more effectively, and more productively. 

We can help you and your significant other work on identifying challenging conflict cycles, so that you can learn to reduce them in a lot less time. It would get really uncomfortable if you and your significant other are used to not talking, or spending time apart, when you are in conflict right now, considering the fact that you’re so close in proximity and can’t go anywhere. For guys who are used to leaving and withdrawing, there’s nowhere to go now.

If you are not partnered or single, you may be experiencing loneliness as a result of being shut in or stuck in place. It’s a perfectly normal response, and most everyone that we talk with these days is experiencing some kind of loneliness or fear as a result of dealing with the coronavirus and its effects. You’re not alone. 

Online therapy can help in this way, because it can help you cope and deal with your negative emotions in a more appropriate and productive way, rather than just going to the tried-and-true coping methods of video games, drinking, eating, smoking pot or getting into other bad habits at home. Why make a bad situation worse, especially if you’re hearing it from others in your space?

You may also feel like you’re starting to lose your mind if you have a lot of people in your household, like your kids. You may just be trying to work your regular day at home, and may continually be feeling imposed upon by people who are also stuck at home with you. Your kids probably aren’t going back to school this school year, so a little stress management learning wouldn’t hurt right about now.

Most Phoenicians are dealing with fear, worry, anxiety, and stress, about their family and their families’ well-being, about their parents, about the economy and the plunging stock market, and about the security of their jobs. People are worried about other people. These are no small things, and we can help you manage more effectively while we go through this time together. 

Since many of the traditional stress management outlets are now closed or not working, such as the gym, massage studios, or just getting together in person for a happy hour, online therapy may be a good alternative to help you take care of yourself during this shut down and tough time. It’s an hour that you can relax and be good to yourself.

If you’ve made excuses to avoid therapy, now is the time to try it. We work with a lot of first time therapy clients, and we would like to work with you. If your life has slowed down considerably due to the coronavirus outbreak and sequester, there is no excuse to put it off anymore if you’re struggling.

Book an online appointment through our scheduling software, and we’ll send you a link to your first video session. If you’re not sure, give Jason a call, and he’ll answer any questions that you might have about the process. 

We wish you good health, security for your family, friends and work, and good mental health. We’re in this together.

Jason Fierstein

Owner, Phoenix Men’s Counseling

Phoenix, AZ

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Emotional “Gold Diggers”: Men Without Emotional Support Burdening Women

I read this interesting article this week in Bazaar magazine, which talks about the unfair emotional load that women carry from men. In it, it identifies this idea of an “emotional gold digger”, something that was coined in 2006, and speaks to the fact that men tend to over rely on women for their own emotional needs, at the expense of women.

I thought this was right on. The article seemed to imply that in this post-“me too“ era, it’s women that are becoming hyperaware of how they are being taken advantage of and used by the male partners, in this case emotionally.

Women And Emotional Caretaking of Men

The idea is that women are working too hard to support men emotionally, because men have not learned the skills to help identify their emotions, talk about them, or work through them. It also talks about how men have failed to seek out therapy, usually opting to stuff their emotions or “handle it themselves.” It makes sense that women become mens’ therapists, adding another job that women may feel obligation or guilt around doing.

I also think also contributes to a lack of sex generally, as intimacy has plummeted among certain demographics, such as millennials. I think when women feel that the disproportionate burden or responsibility of caretaking their children, working, cleaning, and meeting their spouses needs, they end up feeling drained. For women, sexual connection is highly related to emotional connection, and if they feel burdened by their partners emotional needs, this will also have an effect. Lack of sex creates other problems, such as men emotionally withdrawing, and this ends up in a vicious cycle.

The author points out that “most of the women I spoke to for this piece believe that their ego and self worth or off and wrapped up in being a man’s crutch. But the older women get, the less willing they seem to be a man’s everything…”

Men and Friendships

The problem that is pointed out is that men have not only failed to deal with their emotional needs, but have also failed to develop friendships that could take off some of the burden from their relationship partners.

I do think that this is accurate, because a lot of men that I talk with in therapy have a hard time keeping and maintaining male friendships.

After one’s 20s and 30s, when life really settles in, including work, family, etc., a lot of guys lose touch or don’t have the staying power to keep friendships going. Also, male friendships typically revolve around external things such as sports, drinking, children, or hobbies. It’s not typical for men to connect emotionally with other men, usually due to the fear or the stigma of doing so, but I think that there is a huge amount of untapped value in this.

I do think men are being challenged in a number of ways now, and if you have the emotional skillset to be able to know how to navigate these newly charted waters these days, you’re setting yourself up for a better life in many ways: in relationships, in work, in self-esteem, and in navigating the world in a more confident way.

I have personally valued the male friendships over the years that have been emotionally connective, and had allowed me to be myself, sometimes being vulnerable with other guys. I never really felt the stigma of this, but I have run into plenty of walls with other guys who cannot go there themselves. It is limiting, but I do really value that aspect of my friendships, and I do think that men generally could benefit from taking the risk and either deepening existing relationships or creating new ones with guys that they could connect with in an emotional way.

I think that developing these friendships, even if they’re not emotionally-based, does take some of the burden off of your primary relationship partner.

An Emotional Burden on Marriage

With all of that burden, what typically happens is that women end up feeling resentful towards their spouses or partners, and this affects their relationship in a number of ways. I mention sex earlier, and sex could definitely take a hit if there is built up resentment, or a sense of duty that women are carrying that spills out into other parts of their relationship.

I think it could also set up this parent-child dynamic, where the wife or girlfriend ends up turning into the parent, by taking care of all of their boyfriend or husband’s needs. The man, in this case, ends up turning into the “child.“ I think this has very negative effects on one’s marriage, as well, including relationship codependency, taking your wife for granted, resentment, and other problems.

Breaking the stigma that emotions are in the realm of women needs to be the first step in terms of dealing directly with men’s emotional lives. Taking responsibility for them, which often involves getting therapy, is another step. Finding other sources of emotional support, such as siblings, friends, or others, is another.

I do think younger men are destigmatizing therapy, and are coming in and working on and taking responsibility for a lot of their personal issues. This will definitely help alleviate the undue burden that is put on their partner.

Until men can start to take more responsibility for their emotional lives, and women allow them to do that, the problem of emotional burdening or gold digging will continue.

What do you think? Has this been an issue for you in your relationships? Do you know others who have dealt with this?

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Better Ways To Be Emotionally Available For Men

Would you consider yourself emotionally available? Would your relationship partners consider you in the same way?

If I had to rate the most important aspect a relationship for guys, that I think that they could improve upon, it would be to learn how to be more emotionally available to others, especially to their relationship partners.

I know other people (including therapists) might disagree, and name such things as communication skills, more quality time, or more physical or sexual connection, but I think that the ability to be emotionally available goes a very long way in terms of things like connection, repairing old wounds, having a closer relationship, and preventing problems from arising in the first place.

I think those other qualities are certainly important, yes, but if you don’t have emotional availability, none of those things are going to be maximized.

Men and Emotional Difficulties

Being emotionally available is really difficult for most guys that I talk with. I think to be emotionally available means several things, including learning how to be more vulnerable, learning how to be more self-aware about what you’re feeling when you’re feeling it, and being able to stay present with those emotions, even when they’re difficult. It also means to be able to bring those emotions back into the relationship to improve it, by communicating them and sharing them with your partner.

I think the mistake that men make when they talk about emotional availability is that they think it means to be tearful or to cry. Although I think that, too, is difficult for guys, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re emotionally available. Plenty of guys can cry at a movie; being emotionally available is something bigger.

Developing Emotional Availability

To begin, you have to identify what you are feeling at the time you’re feeling it.

A lot of guys don’t really have a clue about what their emotions are, because they’re too stuck in their heads and try to orient themselves to relationship problems with the kind of strategies that they use for work, which include figuring out solutions to problems, solving them, and working through things logically.

That’s all headwork, ways to thing and logical orientations. Dealing with emotions is a different skill, that you can also learn over time the more you expose yourself to your emotions.

Relationships and marriages simply don’t always work with the logical/headwork orientation that guys think they will. Relationships and marriages need a different way of orienting, and learning how to tap into your emotions is the key.

Through better self-awareness, you can learn how to recognize, name, and communicate the emotions that you’re feeling. If you’re used to being in your head and thinking about things logically, don’t beat yourself up if this is difficult for you.

Learning how to express your emotions is a skill, which takes time and effort. A lot of times, therapy can help you identify those things, when you’re having trouble doing so yourself.

Emotions vs. Thoughts: The Differences

Many times, emotions are stored physically, within one’s body, and often times they don’t really have to do with anything that’s in your head, such as thinking about things. In fact, thoughts can often times get in the way of feeling. Just put it this way: if you’re thinking about something, you’re not feeling it, and if you’re feeling it, you’re not thinking about it. Make sense?

Learning how do identify and name those emotions is the first critical step. You can ask yourself: “am I feeling sad today? Scared? Inadequate?”

“Positive” vs. “Negative” Emotions

Do you know how to recognize positive emotions? Sometimes the positive emotions are a lot easier to recognize and to talk about, rather than the so-called “negative” emotions, or the more difficult emotions. Bottom line: emotions are just emotions, neither good nor bad. When you judge them either way, you cling or avoid, and the “negative” emotions often get pushed away or not dealt with, accumulating over years or lifetimes without ever being dealt with.

Once you started to identify your emotions, it’s then time to start to develop self-awareness by exploring them through curiosity. If you’re used to running from your emotions, you may want to stop and not run anymore, but try to explore your emotions with more interest, rather than avoidance.

The more you can stay with your negative feelings, the more tolerance you will be building up, and the more likely you will be too able to communicate those emotions to someone else, such as your partner.

Taking Risk to Share Your Emotions with Others

Once you’ve started to identify, understand and connect with your emotions, it’s time to start to take the risk to start to share them with your loved ones, including your relationship partner.

What holds us back from sharing our emotions, which is the essence of emotional availability, is often times fear, of being criticized, of being rejected, of not being loved and cared for despite what we’re feeling.

Sometimes, we’re afraid that our partner won’t take kindly to the feelings that we’re having, especially if those feelings are negative and they have to do with your partner and your relationship. Those are indeed the times to take the risk and share, because if you don’t, you don’t get your emotions off of your chest, and you run the risk of never working through the problems that brought on your feelings.

Taking the risk to share and be more emotionally available, whether it has to do with feelings about your relationship, feelings about yourself and your life, or any other way to express vulnerability, takes time and practice. Again, this is a skill, but it’s a skill that requires practice and repeated efforts. You’ll start to feel better, and hopefully, you’ll start to achieve the kind of relationship that you’re striving for.

What’s worked for you? Do you consider yourself emotionally available as a partner? What would your partner (or previous partners) say about you?

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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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