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Keep on Keeping On

We live in a quick fix society. You are hungry and you want food now? No problem, there are a billion fast food places that will serve you up a full "meal" in under 2 minutes! You need info and you need it now? Just pull out your smart phone connected to the World Wide Web and you'll have any info you need at the touch of a button, in seconds! You need something to wear and hate your current wardrobe? No problem, ...

Don't Wait!

I see so many clients who have waited so long to start dealing with their heart wounds or relational conflicts. By the time they come to counseling patterns are deeply ingrained, relationships are on the verge of tearing apart, and hearts are badly broken. We wait to get help for so many reasons. Perhaps it's because we are ashamed to need help or scared of reaching out. Maybe we wait because we don't know if therapy will help or if it'll make things worse. Whatever the case, I encourage you to go ahead and reach out now. Waiting will most likely not make things any better. There is no shame in reaching out for help. When we are sick, we see a doctor. When our heart or relationship is broken, we see a therapist. Read about therapy, do some research; you'll find it's not as daunting as you might think! Call or email around to various therapists; find one that seems to fit your personality or values. Set up a few initial meetings after you've narrowed down your selection of counselors. Choose wisely! Counseling is a great thing. Don't wait!

Hectic Holidays

This is a busy time of year! There is the rushing around shopping for all the perfect gifts, the Christmas parties, wrapping all those presents, decorating the house, all while trying to balance work and family. This can easily lead to forgetting what the season is really about. For me this season is about celebrating when the Lord sent His son in human form to the earth to redeem us, to make a way for us to be in intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father! But it can be easy to forget that with all the input we receive about holiday shopping! Perhaps this year you and your family can find new ways to focus on the deeper meaning of Christmas. Perhaps you can give gifts that give back such as gifts from Ten Thousand Villages in Cameron Village. Maybe you and your family can put together an Operation Christmas Child shoe box for a child in another country. Maybe your church partners with organizations that help needy families have gifts for their kids on Christmas. Or perhaps you and your family can do something together that helps others - maybe volunteer at a soup kitchen or visit the elderly at a retirement home. These are neat ways to keep our mind focused on others and on Christ this Christmas. I'm sure you can think of other ways too! Brainstorm with your family and come up with a special tradition! 

Being Active Together (even in Winter)

When I'm working with clients in counseling for stress, anxiety or depression, we discuss how good nutrition, sleep and exercise are healthy coping skills towards managing their symptoms. I've blogged about that here, here, here and here. Staying active is important! And if you can incorporate activity in relationships, then that's even better! Doing something good for yourself with a member of your support system is a double dose of healthy coping skills! There are great ways to be active even in Winter in Raleigh! Raleigh Winterfest is going on Downtown right now and ice skating is a fun and active way to spend some time with a friend or loved one; I talked about that more in detail last week here! When it's not too cold outside, there are great places in Raleigh to walk or hike or run together. Even if it is cold, bundle up - the hat, gloves, scarf and all - and head outside. The Capital Area Greenway Trail System has trails all over the city. Umstead State Park is another great place to walk, run or hike. Lake Johnson is one of my favorites; it has some good hills to get that heart rate up! Plan some time this week to get outside and get active with a member of your support system; I bet it'll have a positive impact on your mood or stress level, or both!

Raleigh Weekend Activities: Date night, Family night, Girl's or Guy's night out!

There are so many fun things going on in Downtown Raleigh this weekend! Often times when I'm meeting with clients for counseling and we are discussing ways to enhance their relationships (whether it be their marriage, family or friendships), I hear people say, "there's just nothing to do in Raleigh." That is completely untrue! So clients end up sitting at home with their spouse, family or friends watching TV or movies. Now there's nothing wrong with some occasional TV nights or movie nights but it's good to mix things up a bit and try new experiences together. There are lots of options to take your friends, your spouse or your family to experience some winter fun together this weekend! Try a new experience together and see how it impacts your relationship, your conversations and your feelings towards one another. It's First Friday, so as always, there's lots to see this Friday night downtown in so many of the art galleries and local businesses. First Friday makes a great (and as cheap as you want it to be) date night! Also, Winterfest is going on, so there is outdoor ice skating too all weekend! Check their schedule to see all the fun options; Friday night they have a DJ and music! On Saturday at Logan Trading Company in Seaboard Station, you can shop for a Christmas tree, sing Christmas karaoke and get your kids' picture with Santa for free! Also on Saturday at the Museum of History there is a "Make it, Take it" event where you and your kids can make your own traditional NC Christmas ornament; my husband and I have done this with our niece and nephew before and it was so fun (and free!). For a little bit of cash you can see some gorgeous historic homes all decorated for Christmas on Saturday or Sunday for the 41st Annual Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour of Homes! This is a great way to see an amazing historic neighborhood, tour some homes and spend some quality time together. Take advantage of what downtown Raleigh has to offer this weekend and share an amazing experience with your loved one(s). This is a great way to build into your relationships and make fun memories together. 

First Friday time Raleigh!

I blog a lot about First Friday because it's such a great way to enjoy time with friends, family or your significant other and enjoy downtown Raleigh at the same time! And it doesn't have to be an expensive night out either! Fall is here and the Holidays are right upon us; usually around this time there is so much going on that date night takes a back seat as do family outings. But we need to keep a strong priority on date night and family outings even during the busy Holiday season; this is something my clients hear me stress all too often in counseling. :) First Friday is a great way to do that! Bundle up and enjoy walking around various Galleries and seeing what is going on in downtown! There's also BBQ downtown this Friday night so you could make that dinner; sandwiches are only $5.00! Yumm!

Fall Family Fun

Fall is here according to the calendar and some days the weather says it's here too! There are lots of fun fall activities you and your family can do together. When I'm working with clients in counseling, we discuss activities and outings as a way to build relationship and create memories. Whether your family has small kids, teens or whether your family consists of you and your spouse or you and your friends, doing a fun activity together is a great way to deepen relationship and make memories! Decorating your front porch with items from the Raleigh Farmer's Market is one fun activity. Carving a pumpkin and roasting the seeds are a few others! It could be a great family tradition to head to the Farmer's Market and pick the perfect pumpkin (or two)! One year we learned how to make homemade pumpkin pie using a real pumpkin; now that was a memory maker! Something fun we've done with our niece and nephew is visit a pumpkin patch where we got to "pick" our own pumpkin and do various other festive, fall activities! There are several pumpkin patches around the area like Hill Ridge Farms, DJ's Berry Patch and Porter Farms. Do something festive and fun this fall with your family! See if it doesn't create great space for the relationships as well as some great memories to look back on!

Being seen and known

The following quote from a book I'm reading (and really enjoying!), Introverts in the Church: Finding our place in an extroverted culture, really highlighted a point I make often with clients I counsel. He says it much better than I can.

There were three people in the rows in front of us who had their cell phones open during the entire movie. They were text messaging and surfing the Internet and otherwise annoying people. As I aw those cell phone screens open during the movie, I observed that the people using them were not fully committed to being anywhere during those two hours. They were physically sitting in the theater, even sitting with others who accompanied them, but their minds and hearts were scattered all over the place. They were not fully present, in terms of their attention, to the visual and auditory experience in front of them, they were not fully present to their friends and family that they were sitting next to, and they were not geographically present to the people they were text messaging. They had a hand and foot in several different places that were disconnected, leaving them as some sort of radical amputees. They were everywhere and they were nowhere. Aside from how piercingly bright a cell phone screen can be in a dark movie theater and how bizarre it is to text message during an intense and complex spy movie, I got to thinking about how handheld technology affects our sense of personal identity. So many people walk through their lives as ghosts, not fully present to anything, gliding through places and around people but not really seeing or experiencing or being seen or experienced.

We discuss the idea of vulnerability, of being known and knowing another deeply. This can be such a scary thing to do, to allow, to pursue, but is so deeply needed and desired. It's what we were made for: deep relationship. Our culture continues to find newer and faster ways of keeping us distracted and occupied and away from real, deep relationship. Do you allow yourself to be seen, experienced, known? Or do you drift through life like "some sort of radical amputee", never really being fully present anywhere? 

Conversation Starters

When I'm counseling couples, I often find that they don't converse much at all (or much anymore). After time of not deeply conversing together, it can be hard to pick back up with great conversation. Where do we start? What do we talk about? Those are questions I hear a lot. It can be difficult to come up with conversation topics when things in the marriage aren't going well or there are tension and hurt present. I like to point couples towards conversation starters; that way they don't have to do the work of coming up with topics of things to talk about, they can simply choose questions from the list and start talking! Here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here are various links to conversation starters; these are all geared towards married couples but couples who are not married will find that many of the questions can apply to them as well! For families and friends, these conversation starters can be great for getting to know you conversations or for deepening relationships as well; you may just have to cut some questions out and/or tailor some to be age-appropriate if you are using them for family conversation! 

Face-time vs. Facebook

Face-time: the act of spending intentional, relational time with another face to face (definition/word-use is mine for the purpose of this post and not to be confused with the Apple product FaceTime). Often when I'm out, I notice how people are together doing something (coffee, lunch, dinner, etc) but aren't really being together; their face-time is minimal. They are typically both on their phones - perhaps texting or checking Facebook or maybe posting something on Twitter. Sometimes I just watch (non-stalker-like) to see how long they go without talking to each other...sometimes it's a long time! As a counselor, a lot of my job focuses on helping clients have stronger, healthier, deeper relationships - with themselves and with others. I wonder what role technology and social media has on decreasing our awareness of ourselves as well as decreasing the quality of our relationships. Many of the teenagers I see for counseling have a lot of difficulty telling their peers things in person; they are much more comfortable sharing via text or Facebook. What does this say about future generations' abilities to form and deepen relationships as our society becomes more dependent on technology? Where has all the face-time gone? People have become so accustomed to spending time with their phones rather than engaging in face-time conversations; when there is a lull in conversation, rather than thinking of something else to ask or share, they grab their phone and start browsing around. Technology and social media seem to have become quite a crutch; Facebook is much less risky and vulnerable than face-time. Rather than journal and increase awareness of personal thoughts and feelings, people turn to their email, Facebook, blogs or Twitter. Rather than dialogue and intentionally get to know someone better or resolve issues in relationship, people distract themselves with their technology or social media; in essence they avoid or delay relationship/face-time. What impact would individuals experience if they took the first 30 minutes of every day to think, pray, journal, read and did it without any technology? I wonder what would happen if friends made a commitment to sit at lunch or coffee and put their phones away completely; turn them on silent and put them away (totally unseen and don't check them)! What would happen if families had a technology-free time each day or each week where they focused on their relationships without any technology distractions? What impact might couples feel on weekly date nights if technology wasn't allowed? Would people talk to each other more, face the discomfort more, or become more aware of their thoughts and feelings? Would we learn more things to share about ourselves or think of more questions to ask others? There are links to helpful conversation-starters on my blog here and here if you want to have these printed out before hanging out! :) Is there a relationship in your life that could use more technology-free time? The benefits from focused relational face-time would likely far surpass any semi-interesting fact you might miss on Facebook!

Too Attached??

I have worked with so many clients in counseling who have formed unhealthy attachments with people in their lives. Perhaps they are too dependent on someone else for their worth, value or stability. Or sometimes they find their worth, value and stability from allowing someone else to be too dependent upon them. Either way, it's unhealthy for these clients and they work to learn how to detach from these relationships and to then have healthy attachments. We were made for relationships (including significant others and friendships). However, we are all messy people and things can get unhealthy pretty quickly in relationships. Once unhealthy attachments are formed, it can be really tough to let them go and learn to be healthy in relationship. Jade Mazarin, a friend of mine from graduate school, has written a couple of posts about how to let go of unhealthy attachments (she's referencing more than just unhealthy relationships). Take a look at part 1 and part 2 of her posts "How to let go of unhealthy attachments"! She has also written a book, "The Heart's Journey to Freedom", for women who have unhealthy attachments with men; here is where you can read more about it and buy the book!

Healthy Giving & Receiving in Relationships

I meet with many clients for individual counseling, family or couples counseling who have difficulty in their relationships. One thing that often comes up is the role of give and take (I prefer to call it giving and receiving) in relationships. Some clients struggle with giving; selfishness comes easy to us humans and we often want it all and now! In those relationships, clients learn to give more, be more available, create space for the other in their relationship to enter, actively listen to the other and sacrifice their wants at times for the desires of the other in the relationship. However many clients I see give too much; they receive very little from the other in their relationship. They are always sacrificing, giving, listening, yielding to the desires of the other. In those cases, we work on clients becoming more comfortable with being vulnerable, assertive, asking for their desires and sharing about themselves. As with most things, a healthy balance is best. We do need to be giving and sacrificing in our relationships; as Christians we are called to that kind of love and sacrifice. However, a healthy relationship also allows us to receive love from others, receive their sacrifices of love for us in order to have a balanced relationship; to love and be loved, to know and be known, that is a healthy relational goal. This is a delicate dance but one that is rewarding to figure out in your relationships. Dialogue with your friends, family or significant other about the ways you see yourselves giving and receiving in the relationships. We can learn so much from those kind of intentional discussions. Do you like the amount of giving and receiving you are experiencing? Do they? Are their things you think your relationship could benefit from changing? Does one person need to practice giving more and the other receiving more? Changing roles and patterns in relationships is difficult and takes time. Be patient with yourselves and with each other as you attempt small changes! The end result is so worth it!

Sharing New Experiences

Looking for something fun and different to do? Bogged down with the same old routine for your fun nights out or date nights? I always encourage clients I see for counseling to try new fun things, to spice up their nights out with family, friends or their significant other by trying a new experience. Sharing a new experience together helps increase connection and gives you something new to converse about together. When we share a fun new experience together, we feel closer and more connected to that person. It creates new memories also. So get out there and try it! Carolina Rollergirls have a double header this Saturday April 14 at Dorton Arena in Raleigh. If you haven't been to see the Rollergirls yet, it's quite the experience and a guaranteed good time! Take your significant other, a group of friends or your family to this exciting event and enjoy sharing a new experience together watching the Rollergirls! 

St. Patrick's Day Parade in Downtown Raleigh

It's St. Patrick's Day this Saturday and there will be a fun parade and festival in Downtown Raleigh to celebrate. Spring is in the air and it's time to come out of hibernation and start enjoying the warmer weather. This parade and festival will be a great way to get outside and do something fun and different with your friends, significant other or your family. Doing fun new things together creates connection and closeness in a unique way. We all tend to get stuck in ruts and do the same thing each week and each weekend or for each date. Break up that routine and try some new things as a family or in your marriage. This creates a new kind of closeness because you are sharing in a new experience together. You're learning new things, seeing new things, doing new things and that allows you to connect in new ways. Plus it's a great way to add some new energy into your relationships. So whether or not you decide to take part in the St' Patty's Day festivities (don't forget to wear green if you do go!), I encourage you to grab your family or your spouse or a good friend and get out there and try something new. It's a great way to deepen your relationships, relieve stress and say goodbye to those winter blues. Enjoy a new experience together and increase your connection to each other as you do something new and different. If you struggle with anxiety, stress or depression and despite the longer days with more sunshine and the warmer weather you are still feeling bad, it might be time to consider counseling. Or if your family or relationship is struggling and though you try new experiences, the relationship is still tense then counseling can be a helpful thing to try.

I feel ______ because __________.

Communication is so important in friendships, family relationships and romantic relationships. It's also important in professional relationships. How we communicate says a lot about us and also contributes greatly to how others view us. Healthy communication contributes so much to positive self worth and healthy conflict resolution. Healthy communication can also assist in decreasing stress, anxiety and depression. You don't have to spend long in counseling with me before you learn this tried and true phrase in healthy communication: "I feel (insert feeling word) because (insert reason, situation, etc)." For example, "I feel disappointed because you told me you would take out the trash and didn't follow through". That sounds a whole lot better than, "You didn't take out the trash and I'm so upset." When we start communication with "you", it puts the other on the defense. It typically results in the other person automatically raising their gloves and getting ready to fight. However, when we start communication with "I feel", we are simply sharing our feelings, our perspective, our opinions with another person. That kind of initiation will more often get a positive response than a negative one. Monitor your communication this week when you are interacting with coworkers, friends, family or significant others, especially when it's about something negative or involves elevated emotions. Notice if you tend to start off saying "you" or "I". The "I" statements will more often elicit positive responses from the other than communication started with "you". Practice starting communication with "I feel (insert feeling word) because (insert reason). Here's a brief article that gives emphasizes this point too!

It's First Friday Raleigh!

First Friday is something I love about Raleigh. It gets us out and about, shows us great local art and lets us enjoy some amazing local venues in a unique way! Grab a friend and make it a girl's night out. Grab your significant other and tell them it's "Date Night"! Grab the family and tell them it's time for a new family experience together. Head out to First Friday. This can be a cheap idea too if you are on a budget. Spend some time intentionally pouring into your friendships, relationships, family with a new experience!

Southwest Raleigh / Raleigh's Creative District

I'm proud to live, work and play in Southwest Raleigh, also known as Raleigh's Creative District. My husband and I have been following this blog for a while; my husband followed one of the bloggers before in another blog about our neighborhood. Keeping up with this blog is a great way to learn about things going on in the area, find new restaurants to try and keep up with super-local news. I am honored to be featured on the blog today! Check it out then stay and peruse the blog to see why I love Raleigh's Creative District and have chosen to live, work and play in Southwest Raleigh! Being a part of a community is important. I often talk to clients I'm counseling about social support, community and friendships. It's important to have healthy people around you that you can be honest with and derive support. This helps keeps us healthy and stable; it acts as a buffer between us and stress, crisis and trauma. I hope you have a solid community around you and if not, look around and see what steps you can take to become an active part of a healthy community. 

Winter Raleigh Family Fun - Great Date Idea!

So much to do in Raleigh this time of year. Winterfest downtown is one of those things! There is ice skating and other fun things to explore and experience. Bundle up and head downtown to City Plaza. This would be a great outing for families to do together. It would also be a great date idea. At just $8.00 per person, it's not too expensive either! Ice skating can be a fun activity and perhaps quite humorous even! Make a day of it or an evening of it. Wander around downtown and try some of the great local restaurants. You might find a few great shops to do some Christmas shopping as well! Stitch is a really great store with fun things to buy! Take advantage of your area Raleigh. There's so much to discover. Spend time playing together as a family or as a couple. Then spend some time reflecting on your relationships. I encourage couples and families I'm seeing for counseling to spend time both in "shoulder" time (doing the same things together) and "face" time (intentional conversations about your relationships). These combined help relationships grow and maintain their closeness. What fun holiday traditions do you have? Are there ones you want to implement? What are your favorite holiday memories? If holidays are a difficult time of year for you, share that with each other too. Be intentional about your family outings and your date nights. Intend to grow your relationships, nurture them and watch how spending time together draws you closer together. Have fun this Winter Raleigh!

Fun Raleigh Idea

This is a great time of year in Raleigh and there is so much going on in our area! One fun thing to get into this weekend is the Boylan Heights Art Walk on Sunday afternoon. Check out the website for a map and some sneak peaks of what art will be featured. This is a great experience (and great day-date idea!) for friends, families and couples! There will be lots to see (even if you don't want to buy anything) and it's a gorgeous neighborhood to explore. It looks like it's going to be a goodweekend weather-wise, so get outside. Move about! Do something fun in Raleigh. The Boylan Heights Art Walk is just one of many fun ideas!

Holiday Family Fun!

I love posting things about Raleigh goings-on because I love downtown Raleigh and there is so much to do! The holidays are here and that means there is even more going on in Downtown Raleigh. This weekend is the Christmas Parade. What a great time to pile on warm clothes, pack up blankets and chairs and head downtown to watch the parade. So much to see and so much fun to be had. This is a great way to get in the holiday spirit and have some fun holiday family fun! I encourage you to grab your family, significant other or a group of friends and head downtown to watch the 2011 Christmas Parade. It's bound to be tons of holiday fun! Enjoy!