Relationships: Secrets Of Happy Couples

Secrets of Happy CouplesAlthough more than 50% of all marriages end in divorce, many couples defy these odds and maintain lasting, healthy relationships.  What makes these relationships go “right?”  Psychologist Florence Kaslow offers the following:

*  Healthy couples see themselves as strong individuals, but they find that being a couple makes them happier.  They believe that by acting together they are stronger than they would be as separate individuals.

*  They share power.  Sometimes the woman takes charge, and sometimes the man, depending upon whom is more suited for the situation.

They are not afraid to quarrel because they have the confidence that their relationship can survive occasional outbursts.

*  They try to take a positive attitude toward conflicts.  When interests diverge or clash, they negotiate a solution that benefits the couple, without taking the attitude that one person is giving up something for the sake of the other.

*  They accept the fact that there will be some areas of disagreement, and they try to live with these differences.

*  They give each other some independence and privacy, allowing each other to have outside friendships and activities without jealousy.

*  They take interest in each other’s jobs and activities.

*  One person does not fear that the other will change.  In fact, they view personal change as good for the relationship because it keeps things interesting.

*  Their personal relationship is independent of their relationships to their parents and their children.  They do not allow their feelings for other family members to govern their personal relationship.

*  They share all emotions, sorrow as well as happiness.

*  They don’t assume that life has to be rosy all the time.

*  Closesness has its limits: They do not seek to become exactly alike, avoiding the urge to become “Siamese twins joined at the heart,” in Kaslow’s words.


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Why Drinking Alcohol To Induce Sleep Is A Problem

A young woman in her pyjamas drinking wine and watching her teleMany people use alcohol to help them fall asleep.  But the latest research reports that – while alcohol can help you fall asleep faster – its negative impact on the quality and quantity of your sleep far outweighs its sleep-inducing effects.  Plus, regular use of alcohol as a sleep aid may result in a dependency on alcohol.

How alcohol reduces the quality of your sleep
According to researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, drinking alcohol to fall asleep interferes with sleep homeostasis, the body’s sleep-regulating mechanism.  It reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage of sleep when you dream and an important phase of restorative sleep.   Alcohol may seem to be helping you sleep – as it helps induce sleep – but the result is lighter, lower-quality sleep, interrupted by frequent awakenings which lead to a poorer night’s rest.

How alcohol affects sleep apnea
Those suffering from sleep apnea should be extremely careful when mixing alcohol and sleep.  Sleep apnea is a condition caused by obstructions in the airway that makes it difficult to breathe effectively while sleeping.  Alcohol intensifies this problem by causing the airways to narrow even further and making it even harder for the person to get the quality of sleep they need.  Research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that men, especially, have longer episodes of sleep-disordered breathing after drinking alcohol.

Use of alcohol and dependency
Using alcohol on a regular basis to change your mood, relax or help you fall asleep is a dangerous choice that can lead to dependence.  One of the symptoms of alcohol dependence is the need to drink increasingly more to feel the same result.  Health experts recommend that regular use of alcohol as a sleep aid may result in a dependency on alcohol and that alcohol should not be used as a sleep aid.

Why a chronic lack of sleep is bad for you
According to the latest research, the consequences of too little sleep are more than just daytime fatigue, a bad mood or a lack of focus.  Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including depression, obesity, heart disease and diabetes – and it can shorten your life expectancy.  British researchers who studied how sleep patterns affected the mortality of more than 10,000 British civil servants over two decades found that those who cut their sleep from seven to five hours or fewer a night nearly doubled their risk of death from all causes.  In particular, lack of sleep doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Better sleep habits
If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, the following are tips to help you improve the quality of your sleep:

  1. Exercise regularly – Exercise dissipates stress and exercised muscles relax more easily, which will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  2. Avoid stimulants – Caffeine can keep you going long after you drink it.  It is best to cut it out of your day by 2 p.m.  Avoid alcohol or nicotine within three hours of bedtime.
  3. Set regular hours – Getting up at the same time and going to bed at the same time every day is an important way to train your body for restful sleep.
  4. Calm your body and mind– Give your body and mind time to settle into sleep by unplugging from all electronic devices and removing any stimulating activities near your bedtime routine.
  5. Create a relaxing sleep environment – Reserve your bedroom for sleeping and sex only.  Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature.
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Compulsive Spending: Do You Have A Problem?

Compulsive Spending: Do You Have A Problem?According to a Stanford University study, 17 million Americans or 6% of the population are compulsive spenders or shoppers.  Researchers from the University of Florida reported that the average compulsive spender is carrying $23,000 in debt (not including a home mortgage).  Compulsive spending can be thought of as a chronic tendency to purchase products far in excess of a person’s needs and resources.  Are you a compulsive spender?  At what point does a fun shopping habit become a problem behavior that needs to be addressed?

Consequences of compulsive spending

One of the main differences between compulsive spending and non-compulsive spending is that compulsive spending usually results in negative consequences.  Some of these consequences are:

— Stress from increased debt or trying to figure out how to pay for everything
— Marital or relationship difficulties due to hiding overspending or lying about it
— Legal, family and relationship difficulties caused by massive credit-card debt
— Guilt and shame associated with the problem of compulsive spending
— Increased anxiety and depression

What’s behind compulsive spending?

Compulsive spending is a symptom of a bigger problem.  Compulsive spenders use shopping as a way to improve their mood or avoid troubling feelings like depression, sadness, anger, emptiness, boredom or low self-esteem.

Do you have a problem?

Review the questions below.  If you answer “yes” to more than one of these questions, you may be a compulsive spender:

— Do you shop as a means of relieving stress or escaping everyday problems?
— When you are shopping, do you experience feelings of euphoria and excitement?
— Do you feel guilty or remorseful after shopping?
— Do you ever hide your purchases from relatives or loved ones?
— Do you buy things on credit that you would not normally buy if you had to spend cash?
— Is your shopping habit causing emotional stress, financial debt or ruined credit in your

What to do

Admitting that your spending is out of control is the first step to overcoming a problem.  For free and confidential help for you or one of your dependents, contact your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for professional counseling, referrals or additional information.  We’re here to help you.

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How To Minimize Holiday Stress

How To Minimize Holiday StressThe holidays are supposed to be a joyous time of happy families and friends gathering in a spirit of warmth and celebration.  Yet, for many, the holidays are instead trials of grueling schedules and high stress.  Follow the tips below to help ease holiday stress and help you enjoy a meaningful and happy holiday season:

*  Set a budget and keep it  –  Not just for gift giving, but the top-dollar amount you can afford to spend for everything including gifts, big family dinners, wrapping paper, decorations, parties, etc.

*  Suggest your family participate in a “Pick-A-Name” gift exchange  –  Buying presents for everyone in a large extended family can be a real “budget buster.”  Some families pick names.  This way everyone gets one nice, thoughtfully chosen gift and no one goes broke from the need to buy so many presents.

*  Think about yourself during the holidays  –  This time of the year, many of us get the “put-upons” and start feeling the pressure.  Deal with everyday stress immediately.  Many times, we feel we just can’t handle everything right now, but once we attack the problem, we feel much better.

*  Budget your time as well as your money  –  Plan for more rest and schedule some personal time to do something you enjoy.

*  Keep holiday plans realistic  –  Simpler can be better and make for a happier and more relaxed holiday.

*  Make a “To Do” list  –  Prioritize what has to be done.

*  Delegate responsibility and/or divide the chores  –  Have family members draw lots from a hat or use the “grab-bag” system to assign tasks such as putting up the tree, outdoor decorations, cookie baking, gift wrapping, etc.  Set time goals for each assignment. 

*  Factor in changed circumstances  –  Are you recently laid off, newly divorced, grieving a recent death?  Now’s the time to “Keep It Simple.”  Keep the demands on your time, energy, emotions and wallet to a minimum.

This holiday season, keep in mind that people – not things – are important and that less (spending, hectic activity) can give us more (satisfaction and meaning).   Happy Holidays! 


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Tips For Communicating More Effectively With Your Boss

Tips For Communicating More Effectively With Your BossHere are some ideas that may help you to communicate more effectively with your boss.

1. Schedule time to talk with your boss one on one. Get a sense of his or her personality and when it is alright to approach your boss to talk. Make an effort to how to best communicate with him or her. Bosses are people doing their job just like you are.

2. Bring problems to them in person and in private. Don’t challenge them openly, in front of co-workers or other management.

3. Let them know that you appreciate the things they do and how difficult many of their decisions are.

4. If you disagree with a new procedure or rule, go to them with alternatives and solutions, not recriminations or a bad attitude.

5. Do your job as a professional and build a reputation as someone who gets things done without complaint or problems. This type of reputation will give you credibility with your superiors that you cannot achieve in any other way. It also allows you to disagree sometimes, without coming off as a trouble maker.

6. Learn to pick your battles. There are times when it is just better to keep quiet and do what you are told. Not every battle is worth fighting and winning can cost you more in the end than the battle was worth.

7. Take responsibility for your mistakes and show your boss that you are big enough to admit when you are wrong.

8. Realize that bosses can have bad days too. Let them know that you support and understand them.

9. Be a team player, bring positive information to your boss about co-workers or jobs well done and not always complaints and difficulties. Commiserate with them about a tough day or reminisce about common experiences that you shared on the job.

10. Don’t go over their heads without talking to them about it first. No one likes it when people go behind their backs. You wouldn’t like it and your boss won’t either.

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Self-Test: What Is Problem Drinking Or Drug Use?

Preventing Binge Drinking in Teens and College StudentsAlcohol and drug problems occur at all educational and social levels, and in every age group.  Ask yourself the following questions.  If the answer to any of them is yes, you need to examine how alcohol or drug use is affecting your health, safety, job performance and relationships with others.

Do you have a problem?

  1. Do you ever drink heavily or get high to help you cope with problems in your life?
  2. Do you tell yourself you can stop drinking or using drugs any time you want to, but you keep getting drunk or high when you don’t intend to?
  3. Has a family member, friend, or your employer ever expressed concern or complained about your drinking or drug use?
  4. Have you had financial, work, family, or legal problems as a result of your drinking or drug use?
  5. Have you driven a car while intoxicated or in a drug-induced haze?  Have you gone to work drunk or high?
  6. Do you need to resort to chemical assistance in order to do something (start the day, work or have sex, for example), to change how you feel (sad, scared, anxious or angry), or to banish shyness or bolster confidence?
  7. Do you notice you have an increased need for more alcohol or more of your drug of choice in order to feel high?
  8. Have you developed medical problems or suffered injuries as a result of your drinking or drug use?

Symptoms of chemical dependency

The questions above represent some of the symptoms of chemical dependency.  Generally speaking, chemical dependency is the repeated use of a physical substance (alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, prescription drugs) that causes trouble in the user’s personal, professional or family life.  When a chemically dependent person drinks or uses, they can’t always predict when they will stop, how much they’ll drink or use, or what the consequences will be.

What to do

Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step toward recovering from problem drinking or drug use.  If you think you might have a problem, here are some steps you can take:

— Acknowledge the problem openly.
— Seek professional help from doctors or therapists who deal with alcohol/drug problems
and recovery.  You might benefit from counseling or a recovery program at a hospital or
private clinic.
— Avoid time spent with people who encourage alcohol/drug use, or who believe that a
drinking or drug problem is a problem of weak will.
— Seek out the support of people who are recovering themselves.  Many 12-step
programs are available, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.


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Research: Talk Therapy and Exercise are Effective Treatments For Depression

Four Steps to a Longer LifeSeveral recent studies have reported that talk therapy and exercise are effective treatments for depression.

A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry reported that cognitive behavioral therapy – a type of talk therapy that involves changing a person’s negative thought patterns – can be as effective as antidepressant drugs for treating those with moderate to severe depression.  The study concluded that “there are clearly at least two options for patients who are suffering from moderate to severe depression,” cognitive therapy and antidepressant medication.

Numerous studies have concluded that exercise can also be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.  In a review of psychological research, the American Psychological Association concluded that regular exercise is a viable and cost-effective treatment for mild to moderate depression and may be useful in the comprehensive treatment of more severe episodes of depressive illness.  A study at Duke University Medical Center found that middle-aged people who suffered from depression gained as much benefit from 30 minutes of walking three times a week as a comparison group did from an antidepressant medication.

Overcoming Depression

Over 8% of adult Americans – some 18 million people – suffer from depression at any given moment.  If you are concerned that you or a family member may suffer from depression, the most important thing to do is seek professional help.  An appropriate diagnosis must precede any effective treatment.  Without treatment, symptoms often get worse, and can last for weeks, months or even years.  The good news is that depression is increasingly treatable.  More than 85% of people with serious depression can be treated successfully with antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.

What To Do

  1. Contact your EAP – If you or a dependent suffers from depression, begin by contacting your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for confidential counseling, referrals and/or information.  EAP counselors are specially trained to help people get the right kind of help for depression.
  2. Start treatment early – Don’t believe in the myth that you should be able to “handle” depression on your own.  Because it takes several weeks for treatment to begin to work, it is important to get treatment early, before your depression gets worse.
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Are You In An Abusive Relationship?

Counseling can help even very distressed couplesAll relationships have their ups and downs, but there are certain types of behavior in any relationship that are unacceptable and abusive.  If you think that your partner is abusive, review the information below.  Recognizing the signs of an abusive relationship is the first step to breaking free.

What is relationship abuse?

Relationship abuse is a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviors used to maintain power and control over a former or current intimate partner.  An abusive relationship means more than being hit by the person who claims to love or care about you.  Abuse can be emotional, psychological, financial, sexual or physical and can include threats, isolation and intimidation.  Abuse tends to escalate over time.  When someone uses abuse and/or violence against a partner, it is always part of a larger pattern to try to control him/her.

Self-test: Is your relationship abusive?

Does your partner:

– Embarrass you with put downs?
– Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
– Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
– Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
– Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give
you money?
– Make all of the decisions?
– Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
– Prevent you from working or attending schools?
– Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
– Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
– Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
– Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
– Force you to try and drop charges?
– Threaten to commit suicide?
– Threaten to kill you?

What to do if you’re being abused

If you answered “yes” to even one of the questions above, you may be in an abusive relationship.  The first step toward changing things is recognizing that your situation is abusive.  For your health and safety – and the security of any children who may be involved – seek the help of a professional counselor who can provide you with support, advice, information and resources to help you break the cycle of abuse.

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Better Parenting: Take Time To Talk (and listen) To Your Child

Mother and teen conversations can prevent harmful drinking behaviorThe National Mental Health Association recommends that parents set aside at least 15 minutes a day to listen and talk to their children.  Research shows that outcomes are generally better for children whose parents actively engage them in daily conversations about their lives in and out of school.  As a result, these kids tend to have better grades, are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, have higher self-esteem and are more likely to attend college.

The following are additional tips for more effective parenting:

Really Listen.
Listening means understanding and communicating by giving undivided attention and by encouraging the expression of feelings.  Have real conversations when you both listen and respond/react to each other.

Encourage Family Activities.  
A sense of belonging is developed by doing things together such as social activities as well as household chores.

Discipline Constructively.
It is important to give clear directions and to enforce limits on behavior.  Use a positive approach “Do” rather than “Don’t.”

Be Consistent.
Discuss and post house rules.  If they change, announce the change.

Be Reasonable and Understanding.
Be willing to hear the child’s point of view.

Be Authoritative.
Trust your own common sense.  If you are not sure, announce the need for some time to think.  Then do not hesitate or be indecisive.

Develop Mutual Respect.
Model basic trust by being honest and sincere yourself.  Insist that all family members treat each other with respect.  Apologize when you err.

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Focus On Gratitude Can Improve Health and Happiness

Tips to Increase HappinessResearchers studying gratitude report that practicing gratitude can improve your health and well-being.  Robert Emmons, Ph.D. and colleagues at UC Davis randomly divided study participants into three groups, each which made weekly entries in a journal.  One group had to write about five things they were grateful for.  Another group was assigned to write about five things they found annoying or irritating.  And a control group was asked to list five events that affected them in some way.  At the end of the three-week study, those who focused on gratitude reported feeling better about their lives overall, were more optimistic about the upcoming week and reported fewer health problems when compared to the group that focused on hassles, or the control group.

Other research on gratitude reports:

— Study participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a
two-month period when compared to study participants who did not focus on gratitude.

— In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of positive moods, better sleep quality and duration and more optimistic rating’s of one’s life, when compared to a control group.

Cultivating gratitude

If you would like to increase your focus on gratitude, the suggestions below can help:

Maintain a gratitude journal.  Set aside time each day to record at least three to five things that you are grateful for.  Psychologists say this is probably the most effective strategy to help you create the habit of focusing on the positive in your life.

Create a list of benefits.  Create a list of benefits in your life and ask yourself, “To what extent do I take these for granted?”  Seeing these benefits in writing can help you become more mindful of the good things in your life.

Use visual reminders.  Use visual cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude.  Put Post-It notes listing the things you are grateful for on your desk, your refrigerator or the steering wheel of your car.  Or use other devices that signal you to pause and count your blessings. 

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