Friday, November 30, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...Or Not!

By: Laura Hull, LMFT

This time of year is filled with lights, laughter, and loads of activities. From the week of Thanksgiving through the end of New Year’s celebrations, this is the most active/busy time of the year for many people. Though many regard this as a time of happy celebration, there is no doubt it is also a demanding time of the year. Between decorating, holiday parties, shopping, wrapping, food preparations, family visits, etc., it can be stressful to navigate the expectations that come along with the holidays. Sometimes the stress is enjoyable. For some people, the stress is more anxiety-provoking than pleasurable.

There is certainly an added social pressure to “enjoy” the holidays. After all, why would anyone be anxious or depressed when everyone else is partying and enjoying the festivities of the season, right? We are “supposed” to be happy during the holidays. But what if we aren’t? Depression and anxiety during this season can be an intensified problem for individuals, particularly those who struggle throughout the year. Individuals who struggle with the stresses surrounding the holidays often suffer in silence. There is a fear of being viewed as a “Debbie Downer” or a “Party Pooper.” No one wants to be seen as the person who does not enjoy Christmas. Grinch.

This is a more common issue than is often recognized. The holidays tend to bring out both the best and worst in people. On the one hand, people can be very thoughtful, generous and giving during the holidays. But it can also bring out the ugly side of stress. Look no further than the Black Friday stampedes and the obligatory fistfights that breakout, and it is obvious that the holidays sweep in loads of stress. The holidays have become bigger, more commercial, and more expensive. If there’s ever a time to feel the pressure of “keeping up with the Joneses”, this is it. The financial stress of the holiday season has worsened in recent years. Everything is more expensive. More people are unemployed or underemployed. We feel the pressure to buy, buy, and buy. We want to give our children the newest video games and other electronic equipment, whether or not we can actually afford them. We worry about how we can pay for all these things. We worry about the bills that will come due in January. Stress.

Another area, which can be challenging during the holiday season, is family relationships. For families that are feeling the strain of emotional distance and hurt feelings, the holidays can exacerbate problems already brewing. In fairness, this is not always the case. The holidays CAN be a time of reconciliation. However, if that is the expectation, that the mere fact that the “happy time of the year” is upon us will somehow smooth over existing problems, this is a set-up for disappointment. For individuals who do not have a family or close friends to celebrate the holiday season with, it can be a painful reminder of what is missing; perhaps what is longed for. For individuals who are grieving the loss of someone special, whether through death or any type of physical/emotional separation, the holidays can be an excruciating reminder of what has been lost.

When we find ourselves struggling with the stress of the holidays this year, there are ways to overcome it:

1. We can give ourselves permission to say no. Do not give in to the pressure to buy things we cannot afford. It is ok to say “we cannot take on this stress of this expense.”

2. Do not feel the need to be the life of the party. It is ok to turn down holiday invites. Do not feel pressured into participating in activities. Again, it’s OK to say “no”. However, that being said, find a way to stay engaged with others in a way that is personally meaningful and do not allow isolation to set in. Perhaps volunteering at a shelter or a children’s hospital would bring a greater sense of fulfillment than buying gifts or attending obligatory parties. This is a personal choice.

3. We are not obligated to spend time with individuals who are toxic. Yes, that includes family. In a perfect world, all of our family relationships would be healthy and loving. But sometimes, this is not the case. We are not obligated to subject ourselves to relationships that are destructive, even for the “sake of the season.” Let me say that again: we are not obligated to spend time with those who deliberately hurt us and attempt to take our joy.

4. If we are struggling with stress in the form of anger, depression, or anxiety, it is important to acknowledge it and address it. If it becomes debilitating, counseling is a great way to address these issues. Sometimes, it may be necessary to also include a medical evaluation to see if other therapies would be appropriate as well.

5. Most importantly, we must not lose sight of the “reason for the season.” I can promise you that God does not care if we have the latest trendy gadgets or the perfect holiday party outfit. We put those pressures, those stresses, on ourselves.

We have the power to release ourselves from these stresses. If we can step away, even just momentarily, from what we “think” the holidays should consist of, and really process what it is supposed to mean, things fall into place much more easily.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Finding Peace of Mind During the Holidays


By: Brian M. Murray, MS

Psalm 122:8 (NIV)
For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”

It is that time of year. The time when family and friends visit, sometimes planned and sometimes they just show up, and sometimes they just show up for a week or more. Surprise! Shopping for presents resembles a scene like a crowd of people trying to board a subway during rush hour. Then there is the constant competition of people jockeying for position at the checkout lines Holiday traffic on the road begins to challenge time management running late for appointments and parties. There are events to attend at church, work, neighbors, friend get-togethers, and then there is the “surprise” family still parked in the living room wondering what is taking so long.

The children want special gifts which is something that about another half a million other kids want requiring hours of waiting in line at the malls. Then there is the parking, more jockeying for position, tempers flare at the grocery store, baking goodies for the events, and oh yea, the “surprise” family is still at home visiting and dinner is a last minute thought. After dinner the ladder is coming out and up go the Christmas lights and the tree. And then the realization kicks in, the tree has not been bought yet, another oversight leading to thoughts about what else has been forgotten.

Yep, it is that wonderful time of year when people give of themselves until they reach stress levels that soar into a panic. They near the end of their ability to give of themselves and begin redlining into emotional overload. Like the famous Ogre in the scene out of Shrek Christmas “this isn’t Christmas, this is chaos.”

Stop everything! Take a moment and slow down. It does not have to be this way and there are strategies to help manage what can feel like madness. The one thing that is often forgotten about during the holidays is the individual self. Taking time to relax and bring stress down to an acceptable and manageable level is important, especially during the holidays. Schedule time and make a plan to do something just for you and selected non-stressful company. Do not think about it or try to make excuses, take the time. Events get sacrificed, not thyself. There is no rule book anywhere that says people have to punish themselves in the name of trying to do it all.

A technique that is very useful to de-stress is something called mindfulness and creating a mental “safe place.” To do this, find a quiet place with no distractions, closing the eyes, mentally visualize a scene that brings calm and peace. The beach, babbling brooks and mountains are often favorites that bring a sense of serenity. Then, envision the self being there in that moment. This should be somewhere that is non threatening and a place to escape. This is just one way of many ways to combat anxiety and relax the body. There are breathing techniques and meditation that is strongly counter the effects of stress.

Above all else, take some time to focus on God in that quiet moment and know that He is in control of His Kingdom. Christ tells us in Matthew 11:-29-30 that we will find rest for our souls in him as his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Christmas is the time of year set aside to recognize the birth of the Prince of Peace. Take some time to reflect and meditate on the wisdom written in Psalm 46:10, “be still, and know that I am God.”


Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"

The Most Stressful Songs of Christmas

By Chris Hammond

Do you remember the old nursery lyric “Rock-a-bye Baby” that tells a story about a baby in a cradle in a tree that falls crashing down to the ground when the wind blows?  It’s not the most calming of lyrics nor is it a concept that is “baby appropriate”.  Yet the tune is sweet so we blindly sing the song.  But this is Christmas time and it is likewise full of similar songs that are more stress producing than peaceful.  Here are just a few samples:

1.       “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow.”  Perhaps your Christmas memories are different but I have yet to experience a Christmas when any “children listen” to bells or even adults for that matter.  Having an expectation that a child will be patiently listening for a bell in the snow is frankly silly and unrealistic.

2.       “Deck the halls with bounds of holly…tis the season to be jolly…strike the harp and join the chorus…follow me in merry measure.”  The demand of a decorated house, being happy all the time, playing cheerful music, singing, and dancing is a lot to accomplish when life usually hands the toughest of blows this time of year.  Statistically, this is the most depressed and lonely time of the year as many families are experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one, without a job or in worse financial condition than ever.

3.       “On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…on the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me.”  This song portrays 78 gifts that a “true love” gives to another which is an unusual amount of gift giving and excessive by most standards.  It sounds more like the “true love” is trying to buy love instead of showing love.

4.       “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”  Have you ever tried to roast chestnuts in your oven?  If you don’t score them precisely, they will explode in such a mess that it will take weeks just to get all of the gummy like nut off the sides of your walls.  Forget about an open fire, where a chestnut exploding can knock an eye out!  That shiner will definitely be a Christmas to remember.

5.       Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we've no place to go, Let It Snow!”   Just one look at your calendar will probably reveal that you already don’t have a free weekend and most of the weekdays are quickly filling up as well.  “No place to go”?  You must be kidding this season is packed with too many places to go and too many decisions to make resulting in too many people to disappoint.

6.       “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.”  Any repetitive noise such as a bell for long periods of time is not likely to cause fun but rather a piercing migraine.  Add to that an open sleigh which is cold and horses that poop along the way which is smelly and there is definitely no fun to be had.  Just because one person believes an activity to be fun does not mean that another person is going to agree.

7.       “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?”  What is this song saying, that we should forget our acquaintances and not bring them up any more?  Granted there are usually some acquaintances that you want to forget and never bring up anymore but unfortunately these are usually the ones that seem to hang around into the New Year.

Sometimes reducing our stress during Christmas is more about thinking through the programed songs that are sung and resetting your expectations to more realistic levels.  It might not be the “most wonderful time of year” for you but that is ok; it does not have to be.  You can however make it more wonderful by not expecting children to be patiently listening, decorating every inch of the house, insisting that others have fun your way or getting frustrated that you can’t forget something that you would rather not remember.   


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Entertainment Trap Part 2: Refreshment and Getting Your Gusto Back

By Matt W Sandford, LMHC


In part 1, I discussed the profound impact that entertainment has on our culture today and offered my view on why it has developed such a strong hold over so many of us. I then proposed that there is a line between entertainment being a healthy and energizing resource or becoming an unhealthy and potentially addictive source of avoidance, emotional and relational numbing and spiritual deadness.


So, how do you make your entertainment work for you, bringing refreshment and energy?

1.      The first step is honesty. Evaluate the types of entertainment you gravitate to and their influence on you. Ask yourself why you like the entertainment you do. Does it make you feel connected when in reality you are more disconnected? Does it make you feel important or smart or special? Does it make you forget your troubles? We choose the things we do for a reason, and usually that reason goes deeper than simply, “it’s fun”. The point isn’t to redefine them in terms of good or bad but to understand our motivations. We will not likely transform our choices and behaviors without understanding the motivations behind them.

This is entertainment used to make myself feel good about myself.


2.      Then comes a commitment to make some changes. Rather than trying to quit something “cold turkey” that meets a need you have, look to add something to your life rather than only subtract things. What this means is that when you only try to subtract something you leave a void, and we don’t like voids. You’ll either get miserable, or you’ll go back – and be more entrenched than ever. So, first plan to add something different than another form of entertainment. Maybe join a small group at church, investigate a new opportunity for self development, like taking a class, or how about volunteering your time with kids or a cause? I would guess that most options will involve interaction of some kind with people. And that’s a good thing. You haven’t been avoiding people and relationships, have you?


            This is entertainment being used to fill up my voids and distract from inner pain.


3.      Re-evaluate your beliefs about time. How you use your time is a reflection on what you believe about your own efficacy, and what you believe about yourself. You see, if you blow a good percentage of your time on entertainment, I would wager that either you don’t care about anything or you don’t believe very much in your own ability to make a difference in the world for good.  I’m not suggesting having no entertainment time in one’s schedule, for I am offering the perspective that entertainment can be refreshing and restorative. But this is about a long standing pattern of a high percentage of time invested in entertainment. And I am saying that that type of lifestyle points to a person who is either highly self absorbed and narcissistic or who does not understand their own value and abilities very much. Are you struggling because you don’t believe you have much to offer, and so you shrink back from opportunities? If so, I wonder if you are focusing on the wrong issue – that of your impact – rather than focusing on being faithful to God and having the heart to care. If you are struggling with fear or insecurity, consider investing in some counseling, or check out our website for more resources on these topics.

This is entertainment used to hide from my weaknesses or shrink back from involvement with others.


4.      Then review your heart. Entertainment is by nature highly self focused. What would I enjoy? What am I interested in? Sure, there can be a shared aspect, when you are with someone else or a group – “what do we want to do?” And yet, often, if the individual or group decides on something contrary to what we would like, what do we do? Well, we often go along with it, but with some grousing inside, which diminishes our enjoyment of it. Why? Because we wanted to do what we wanted. What if we were able to shift our focus to enjoyment of the others we are with, or even to enjoy an activity just because someone we love is enjoying it and we are invested in their fulfillment? What I am saying is that it is love that can make our entertainment satisfying and refreshing, when our entertainment is not just for ourselves but involves opening our heart to blessing others. This is one way to free us from the grip of soul sucking, time wasting, addictive entertainment.

This is entertainment used to gratify the selfish part of me and hide from loving others.


5.      Lastly, entertainment can be truly refreshing and energizing when we are walking with God. God has called his people to be the body of Christ in this world, to be his ambassadors, to reach the world with his love and to bring his kingdom, “on earth as it is in heaven”. But, if we are instead focused primarily on submerging or avoiding pain and getting all the enjoyment we can, then we have missed what it means to walk with God and find the abundance of life that Jesus promises. He does want our best. But I think most of us doubt this when things go wrong. And like Abraham did when God’s promise of a son was long in coming, we look to take care of things ourselves; to take care of our emotional selves, to relieve our pain, all on our own. And when we do, we disconnect from the God who is the source of comfort in our pain as well as the source of refreshment and energy and motivation. If you don’t know how to connect with God in such a way, that’s okay. Come to him and tell him that. And then look for people who do know how and be teachable. I bet he’ll bring them around.

This is entertainment that connects us to God and others and gives us energy to faithfully serve and be God’s sons and daughters.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” Ephesians 3:20

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16

So how about you? Does your entertainment make you feel special or gratified, distract you from inner pain, give you an easy out from addressing your weaknesses, or give you excuses to hide from loving others? Maybe you are like me and you have a mix of them all.

I know this will be tough! You have formed a relationship with entertainment and it meets some need of yours. And it may be hard to see how you can be more free, more energized and experience your needs more satisfyingly met by giving up some of your entertainment, or replacing it with a new form of entertainment. But I believe God has your best in mind and wants to be your source of refreshment!

I would be really interested in hearing your feedback.


Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"



Monday, November 26, 2012

Defusing an Anger Time-Bomb

By: Brian M Murray, MS


Anger is a natural emotion that all people experience at one time or another. How people handle anger is what can make the difference between a constructive outcome or destruction. Often getting in the way of handling anger are cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are the result of automatic thoughts that occur when we experience events in life. These distortions can and often create a false reality. A false reality can be construed in different ways such as feeling the need to always be right about topics of discussion or life events. This can lead to magical thinking of how things are supposed or should be leading to maladaptive beliefs.

In many situations when maladaptive beliefs are challenged it can stir up angry feelings of which one of the biggest culprits is feeling disrespected. A good question to challenge a maladaptive belief about what a person might be thinking or feeling in a situation is to get to the bottom of  “what is it that I believe about this situation that makes me angry?” This question addresses emotional reasoning that if a person feels angry then it must be true.

Sometimes what people say and do may feel like disrespect or create feelings of being challenged. However, could it be possible the other person is simply discussing the subject and would like some further information? The underlying message of interpretation of the offended person is unfair treatment from others. This can be a slippery slope and this line of thinking can lead a person down the road of despair and that life in general is not fair. The reaction response which is anger is “I will not stand for it and I am going to fight.” Unfortunately there are times when people drift off into a negative mind set and that everything in life has be dealt with forcefully and angrily.

Okay, hold on a minute. Before we don our boxing gloves, ring the bell and the fights on, let’s slow things down and look at some resolutions on how to defuse an anger time-bomb. The first is split second thinking and this is often the hardest part. Catching our initial thoughts in mid-stream before reacting to a situation is of utmost importance. This is literally the very first split second thought. There is this teeny window of opportunity that allows us to catch ourselves and think to the self “hold on, what am I reacting to, and what is the threat?” Before reacting, think of how to instead respond. There is a difference between reacting and responding. One is about aggression and the other is about being assertive. Reacting, especially in an explosive manner, is aggression and responding is being assertive.

A balloon is a good example of how this works. Adverse events come to us in our lives and each time this happens it adds a little bit of air to the balloon. When we respond to the event, we are asserting ourselves, it lets some of the air back out of the balloon. This is how the anger is managed, air comes in and some of it gets let back out. When the air goes into the balloon and does not get let out it keeps building and expanding until it can no longer hold the volume of air and it reacts, an explosion occurs. As human beings there is only so much we can hold. The idea of defusing and managing anger is to be more assertive by responding to others and events. This can be done is a respectful manner where feelings and thoughts can be expressed and easing the building tension and anger inside of us.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Word To Learn By


 By John C Maxwell

In my years of studying leadership and evaluating leaders, I have stumbled across a leadership shortcoming that continually amazes me. Leaders will manage a team, work with the same individuals every day, yet they hardly know anything about their people! These leaders have never prioritized acquainting themselves with the dreams, thoughts, hopes, opinions and values of those they lead.

The best leaders are readers of people. They have the intuitive ability to understand others by discerning how they feel and recognizing what they sense.

I have found that leaders overestimate the amount of time and effort needed to get to know someone. In fact, in only one hour with you in private conversation, I could, probably by asking three questions, find the passion of your life:

What do you dream about?

A person’s dreams are powerful revealers of passion. When a person starts to talk about their dreams, it’s as if something bubbles up from within. Their eyes brighten, their face glows, and you can feel the excitement in their words.

What do you cry about?

Passion can be uncovered by peering into the hurts deep inside a human soul. The experience of pain or loss can be a formidably motivating force. When listening to a story of grief, you hear a voice thick with emotion, you see watery eyes flooded with feeling, and in that moment, you glimpse the intense connections between a person’s deepest pain and their greatest passion.

What makes you happy?
I have fun hearing what makes people tick and seeing the smile that comes when they talk about where they find joy. Enjoyment is an incredible energizer to the human spirit. When a person operates in an area of pleasure, they are apt to be brimming with life and exuding passion.

If you can uncover a person’s dreams, hurts and joys, you’ve discovered the central dimensions of their life. This lesson is designed to show you the types of questions that can draw out the passion inside of a person. I’ve included my own answers to give you an understanding of how the process works. Try to limit your answers to one or two words. Also, notice how each question is asked both positively (what makes you happy?) and negatively (what makes you cry?). I have found that by expressing opposite feelings and emotions, you reveal your true inner self.
To maximize this lesson, I’ll give you four easy assignments.

1. Ask yourself and answer the questions posed in the lesson. In doing so, you’ll enhance your self-awareness.
2. Share your answers with your team to allow them to learn about you.
3. Ask your team to answer the questions to encourage their self-discovery.
4. Ask your team to share their answers with one another. This practice will bring team members closer together.

What is your biggest asset? My greatest asset is my attitude. I discovered this when I was in high school, and the coach of my basketball team appointed me as team captain at the beginning of the year.

I was surprised because I wasn’t the best player on the team. John Thomas was the best player. I was the second- or third-best player, but I wasn’t the best. I was sitting on the floor of the gymnasium with my teammates, and I think the same question was in all of our minds: Why is John Maxwell going to be the captain of the team?

Anticipating our questions, our coach gave an explanation, “Of all the players on this team, the kid with the best attitude is John Maxwell. He doesn’t get discouraged, he believes that we’ll win the game, and he’s going to be the captain of the team.”

What is your biggest liability?
My biggest liability is unrealistic expectations. As with many weaknesses, my unrealistic expectations are the Achilles’ heel of my strength.

Many years ago I quit hiring, and I have stayed away from it ever since because I’m a terrible hirer. Why? Because I naturally look for the best in people. When I see a potential employee, I see the raw talent, and I begin thinking about how I can help shape the person into a star. I’ve had numerous failures hiring lousy leaders because I convinced myself I could mold a flawed leader into a top performer.

What do you like most from others?
For me, it’s encouragement. Encouragement is the oxygen of the soul, in that it allows you to breathe. Encouragement supports and sustains leadership, especially during the hard times.

What do I like least from others?
I cannot stand people who make excuses—blamers, complainers and explainers who refuse to accept responsibility for their mistakes.

I admire a person who will admit their faults, since it shows me the inner character of that individual. I can accept another’s imperfection if they take ownership of their errors, because we’re all human, and we all fail from time to time.

What is the best thing to have?
I think the best thing to have is friends. For me, nothing compares to the joy and fulfillment of going through life with friends you can laugh with, cry with and celebrate alongside.

What is the worst thing not to have?
I can’t imagine a life without hope. Even if my health is failing or my financial situation is grim, if I have hope, I can see a way out of my difficulties.

Hope is the foundation of all change. When people come to me as leaders, and they say, “I want to create change within my organization. What should I do?” My response is the obvious answer, “You have to create hope.” Nobody changes unless they think life is going to improve. Hope is the motivation that allows people to change.

About the Author
John C. Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold over 16 million books. EQUIP, the organization he founded has trained more than 2 million leaders worldwide. Every year he speaks to Fortune 500 companies, international government leaders, and audiences as diverse as the United States Military Academy at West Point, the National Football League, and ambassadors at the United Nations. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week best-selling author, Maxwell was named the World’s Top Leadership Guru by He was also one of only 25 authors and artists named to’s 10th Anniversary Hall of Fame. Three of his books, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader have each sold over a million copies. Discover more about his leadership development at

Follow ICCA daily Christian coaching insights at
or at our Christian coaching blog:

Stay Connected with fellow Christian Coaches through ICCA!

AACCThe International Christian Coaching Association (ICCA) is the largest membership organization of Christian coaches in the world. ICCA is open to all coaches, counselors, pastors, chaplains and lay counseling ministry leaders who want to learn and accomplish more as a Christian Life Coach.

How to Stay Married to an Attorney

By Chris Hammond

Just in case you missed this key fact while being married to an attorney here it is: law school changes the way you think.  This is intentional on the school’s part and is done to properly prepare an attorney for the line of work they are entering.  Everyday a law student reads, studies, and analyzes case after case in preparation for their next class.  The professor then selects a random student and verbally quizzes them about one of the cases until they fail.  The questions at first are open-ended, meaning that multiple answers can be correct, and then rapidly become close-ended, meaning that there is a right or wrong answer.  This is called the Socratic Method of teaching which has been very effective for centuries.

More than likely you have already had an “ah-ha” moment just reading that description as it is likely to resemble your last disagreement.  It probably started innocently enough with an open-ended question from your attorney spouse.  You answered the question but then for some reason your spouse did not like the response and began asking question after question until you became so confused that you just said whatever you needed to just to end the discussion.  Thinking that turn-around is fair play, you then attempt the same tactic only to find that you are shut-down after the first remark.  This leaves you angry and confused however if you try to verbalize your emotions, the response is generally unsympathetic.

Don’t ask questions.  Your attorney spouse has a black-belt in answering questions the way they should have been asked, dodging questions they don’t want to answer, and anticipating your line of questioning long before you might even know where you are headed.  So don’t ask questions especially if you already know the answer and are trying to get your spouse on your side.  This will back-fire every time.  Instead make statements.  “I want pizza for dinner” instead of “what do you want for dinner”.  “We are going to the Jones’ house for dinner” instead of “do you want to go to the Jones’ house for dinner”.  Just be careful not to sound too bossy in your statements because once again you will be met with resistance.

Don’t over explain.  Your attorney spouse is already likely to over explain nearly everything and have multiple reasons for even simple tasks so don’t fall into this trap and add to the over explanation.  If you do your spouse is likely to find the hole in your explanation and then the entire discussion becomes questionable.  For if one small part of the argument is wrong then the whole thing can be thrown out.  The best way to avoid this is by not over explaining.  If you have to repeat the same explanation over again, this is preferable to going on and on.  Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no” and keep your statements simple. 

Don’t get emotional.  Your attorney spouse has been trained to keep their emotions in check while inciting you to an emotional state.  Remember the professor at the beginning?  Just put yourself in the shoes of the student and imagine how frustrating it must be to know that the goal of the professor is for you to fail.  Yet if the student shows any signs of frustration, the professor attacks even harder.  This is done because if you get emotional, then your arguments are not likely to be as rational and therefore can be easily broken down.  So do your best to keep you emotions in check during a disagreement.  There is nothing wrong with taking a break if you feel out of control and agreeing to discuss the matter later.  But then you must discuss it later as in within the next 24 hours or you will be met with additional and avoidable frustration.

By understanding how your spouse has been trained to think and working with that way of thinking instead of against it, you can minimize the disagreements and reduce the tension at home.  Stop trying to change your attorney spouse and instead change your response and get over the idea that your spouse needs to change for you.  After all, they will not be an attorney for long if they abandon the way they were taught to think in law school. 




Reprint Permission- If this article helps you, please share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"

About the author-
Chris Hammond is a
Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at LifeWorks Group w/ over 15 years of experience as a counselor, mentor & teacher for children, teenagers & adults.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Spending Money Under the Influence of Marriage

By Brian Murray and Christine Hammond

Saturday morning drinking coffee and eating breakfast together.

Her. [Ok so I need to go get a new pair of shoes today but if I tell him what I’m up to he will start in on me about spending too much money again.  But I need these shoes so I think I’ll find out when he is leaving and then I’ll escape and buy them before he gets back.  He’ll never know the difference cause he can’t even tell when I get a new haircut.]  “So honey, what are you doing today?  Do you have any plans?”

Him. [Here she goes with that leading question again; she’s going to force me to go for the bait.  I wonder what she wants now.]  “I’m not sure, what’s on your mind?”

Her.  [Darn, I was hoping for an easy out.  Why can’t he just go play golf with his buddies like all the other husbands?  Now what am I going to say that will get me out of the house without him suspecting anything is up?  Could he put more cream cheese on that bagel?  You can’t even tell there is a bagel underneath it, it looks like thick frosting.  Gross.]  “Well, I have to go to the grocery store and I know how much you hate to do that so I was trying to plan around your day.”

Him. [Just get to the damn point.]  “I really don’t have any plans, I’ll go with you.”

Her. [Ugh!  I’m like Lucy trying to pull the football from Charlie Brown and instead he is coming up behind me.  Great, now I’m not going to get those shoes that were so perfect for my outfit on Sunday night.  He’ll never let me spend the money now. I know, maybe I can get him to go to Bass Pro Shop and then he will be more willing to let me get the shoes.  Hmm, that might work.]  “Yea, I’m so glad that you can come maybe we can stop by a couple of stores on the way.  The Bass Pro Shop is on the way.”

Him. [On the way to where.]  “Sounds like you want to go somewhere else so why don’t we hit that on the way back.  Now where are we going?”

Her. [Good time to shove some bagel in my mouth that will give a minute to think about what I’m going to say now.  If I tell him about the shoes, he’ll say no.  If I try to go later, he’ll catch me cause he has his full guard up now.  If I don’t tell him something, he’ll say I’m lying.  Either way I’m stuck.  The only thing that will fix this is sex but I’m not really interested now.  Great, I’ll just tell him what is going on.]  “Remember that cute little outfit I got for Sunday night?  Well there were these great shoes on sale for today only and I wanted to stop by and pick them up really quickly.”

Him.  [I’m never going to get to buy a boat.]  “You’ve already spent $200 on this outfit, how much more is it going to take?”

Her. [Boy I’m glad that he thinks I’ve only spent $200 because it was much more than that but the outfit is so perfect and I really wanted it.  Let’s see, if I say the sale price is $50 then I can spend the other $20 on something else.] “It’s only $50.

Him. [This woman must think that I’m a walking ATM machine.]  “You always spend money on your clothes, when do I get to spend money on my stuff?”

Where is this going? Often in a marriage there are two perspectives in a situation and coming to an understanding of the other person’s point of view can be a challenging process especially when what is thought is often not what is said.  It’s kind of like shooting at a moving target, just when you think have your aim, the target moves.  Let’s explore how each spouse could have better handled the situation before, during and after.

Before.  It’s not about the shoes or the boat.  It’s about financial wants and needs not getting met or in this case not even properly communicated.  Long before the outfit or boat is purchased, the couple needs to sit down and discuss their preferences.  It is natural for one person to be a spender and the other person to be a saver and while both have their place in a marriage both need to tolerate the other person’s desires.

During.  When a conversation is treated like a game of chess, it amounts to nothing more than a game of manipulation and control in your marriage.  Trying to checkmate your spouse and back them into a corner will cause them to come out fighting.  Instead, be honest in your awareness of their avoidance and address it honestly. 

After.  Create a financial plan where each person feels they are getting their needs met along with some of their wants without feeling as if they are being left out.  Communicate any changes in the plan as your priorities are likely to change over time.  If necessary, create separate spending accounts for each person.


Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"


Anxiety & Sleep Loss

The Connection between Emotional Stress & Exhaustion
By: Dwight Bain

Sleep deprivation is common in North America and one of the top reasons is from internalized Anxiety. Everyone feels pressure, even small children and when they pressure turns into stress, worry or anxiety it can have devastating effects on our health.
Some people believe they can get away with less sleep yet lack of it can actually make us less productive, even when you feel as though you are getting more done by sleeping less. Sleep deprivation can actually do much more than hurt your productivity. According to a recent report by MSNBC*, When we deprive ourselves of sleep, this can affect both our mental health and our physical health. These are a few possible effects of poor sleep hygiene:

Fatigue, irritability, careless mistake, difficulty concentrating, and slower reaction times which add up to increased stress levels.

One of the biggest concern is the affect lack of sleep has on relationships, performance at work or school, and the ability to really enjoy life. Many studies have been done which reveal that sleep deprivation increases the risk of injury and accidents at work or on the highways. After a few days of sleep deprivation a person’s body undergoes changes similar to “fast-forward” aging, memory loss, metabolism problems (with sugar and hormones), and changes causing poor athletic performance. 
If sleep deprivation continues over the long term, it increases the risk of more serious health problems, such as:

  • weakened immune system,
  • diabetes (because the body cannot process sugar properly)
  • depression
  • energy loss
  • high blood pressure
  • obesity
Sleep educators have found needs vary from person to person and from night to night. Some people think they can train their body to require less sleep. However, the most important thing is to establish good sleep rituals and stick to it.

Improving your sleep hygiene can give you more rest for your body, restore mental energy, improve muscle tone and skin appearance. Athletes have been charted running better, and lift more weight when their sleep habits improved.
Remember, in the caring counseling environment of the LifeWorks Group we can help you unpack internal issues that cause anxiety, stress, and depression which often are the primary factors that prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Call 407-647-7005 to speak with a counselor now, since we are committed to finding answers that will help make life work better for you.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Are You in a Supportive Relationship?

By: Brian M Murray, MS

One of the hallmarks of a great marriage or relationship is being involved with a person who values the other person’s feelings in a respectful and caring way. Validation in a relationship is kind of like a relationship health check. It is the ability to communicate thoughts and feelings that are accepted by the other person. Healthy relationships do not criticize or belittle the other person for expressing their feelings. Whether intentional or not, being critical or belittling the other person can send signals that what is being expressed implies the other is wrong, or somehow it makes them a bad person. Invalidation is negative behavior that can and often turns the overall mood of the relationship sour. The initial gut response to the negativity is often anger and resentment. The anger and resentment are the result of feeling the pain of the invalidating comment.

Emotional support is very important as it validates each other’s feelings by communicating the importance of how valuable the other person is. There are certain characteristics or “checkpoints” that a person can look for in a relationship. Like anything else in life, once in a while it is good to have a checkup. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some points to ask for a quick self check. In parenthesis are examples of invalidation.

  • Are you open to each other’s ideas, thoughts and feelings and implement active listening? (looking or walking away when they talk)
  • When discussing feelings and emotions is the other person non-critical of you for having them? (stop crying, or, don’t be such a baby)
  • Do you both accept the fact that your feelings and thoughts are your own without being judgmental toward each other? (oh, just get over it, get to the bottom line and stop digressing)
  • Are you both able to ask for help and support from each other without worrying about how the other person will respond? (not my problem, you’re on your own)
  • Are you both able to talk trusting that the other will empathize with you and have an understanding ear to your concerns? (you are too sensitive, why are you so sensitive about everything?)
  • Do you both feel accepting of each other with positive regard and have a general sense of mutual support for each other’s endeavors? (I hate it when you come to me with this type of junk, you are all talk and no action)

Congratulations if you answered yes to all of these questions as these are some of the hallmarks of a great marriage and relationship. For the ones answered no it might be worth it to take look and see if there is something can be done. These questions serve as guidelines that indicate mutual respect by honoring each other. In other words, they become statements where one person validates the other by setting the self aside for a moment while the other person is valued in the moment. Validation is important for the relationship to grow and mature where each person has the freedom to be themselves without condemnation, criticism and judgment from the other.

Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. “Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005″


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Socially Connected & Feeling Lonely


By: Brian M Murray, MS, IMH


“It sometimes takes a state of solitude to bring to mind the real power of companionship.”
― Stephen Richards…


A woman is married for 18 years has 3 children, active at her church and involved with a women’s small group two times a month. She goes home, sits in front of the computer and logs onto a social network. Looking around she notices all of the things that other people are doing in their lives and starts to think about her own. Everyone looks happy, enjoying time with their families and friends and yet, deep down inside of her she knows the truth about her loneliness. Even though she is socially involved with others she has a lost empty feeling inside like something is missing. She realizes one day that in spite of all of her efforts to stay busy she realizes that she is really a very lonely person.

This story is too often a common scenario. So how can a person be socially plugged in and still feel lonely? Feeling lonely is not about how many friends or contacts a person has but it’s about the quality of those connections. With 3 children and a husband how can anyone have time to be lonely? It is possible and it happens. For starters getting plugged into a social network may be a good way to stay in contact with friends and family but is hardly a source of real connection. Furthermore, social networks offer a lonely and bored person an avenue to compare and contrast their lives to others. When a person begins to look at their life and feels like there must be something more, feeling empty and alone then it sets up the perception that they are all alone.

Social connections involve being with people we can connect with in a deep authentic way. This allows us to be ourselves when we are around those people and we are able to share ourselves with them and them with us. While the married woman in this story presents a woman who is socially active, she lacks the deeper friendship who is a close confidant. There is a quality connection that is not found in other relationships, even her husband and kids who are busy doing their own stuff in other rooms of the house. Without this deep connection a person can begin to feel left out leading to depression and other health problems.

So what can a person do about it?

Loneliness can be used as a signal that emotionally we are becoming or already have become isolated. It is an emotion, a feeling that true companionship is absent. Adding more people and connections doesn’t very often fulfill this void. Often a person will add to their list of people hoping that one of them will provide the long desired deep connection that is missing in their lives. It becomes like a game of salesmanship, if numbers are increased then sooner or later a connection will occur. Sometimes utilizing the “miracle question” can be a great way to explore what is making a person feel lonely. Asking, “If I woke up tomorrow and I was not lonely, what would that look like.” While this can be a great abstract question, it may not provide relief for the feelings; however the answer to that question is designed to bring awareness to what needs are not being met. This can help someone find what is being sought after in a relationship.

Begin the process to problem solve and develop an action plan. Find a person you really like and begin to cultivate a friendship with that person. To have a good friend requires being a friend. Sometimes waiting on someone becomes an endeavor that never reaches fulfillment. Invite someone to the movies, or to a museum. Something along the lines of “hey, I am going to the art museum and thought of you and that you might be interested, do you want to go?” If the person says no then go anyway and tell them later about the experience. Sometimes the tendency is to isolate and withdraw when others do not want to go. Think of being self worthy of the endeavor and go anyway, or call another person that may be of interest. Practice small acts of kindness. This can go a long way in showing another person how much you care about them by saying thank you for something they did or paying a compliment. What these solutions can offer is moving yourself away from being a victim of feeling lonely to being proactive. If you don’t like feeling lonely, take steps to change it. Being socially active is good, it provides the opportunity for authentic friendships, but remember, it’s not the numbers of people known, but the quality of intimacy with one or few that makes the difference.


Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"