Intimacy Begins Within

By: Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.

When we think about intimate relationships, most of us think first of intimacy between partners or friends. Personal intimacy is a state in which two individuals are truly able to let down their outer layers of defense and protection and allow themselves to let the other see him or her as she truly is while being able to create the space in which her partner feels safe enough to do the same.

Personal intimacy is about being willing to let someone see you as you truly are while being willing to let yourself see that person as he or she truly is. It is about lack of artifice or protection and requires great courage for most people as it lays raw the bits and pieces of ourselves and our history that we would rather others not realize we carry with us.

Self-Intimacy: Not as Simple as it Sounds

Although establishing intimacy with another person can take significant courage, being open to self-intimacy can be a surprisingly challenging task. It seems that there are two extremes when it comes to self-examination—whether it’s literal mirror-gazing or inner reflecting. On one extreme are those of us who look into a mirror and notice every flaw—whether it’s laughlines, blemishes, asymmetrical features, whatever. Then there are others of us who just steal a quick glance to make sure there’s nothing too horrifying or embarrassing about our appearance and dash out the door.

Being somewhere in between these two extremes is the most effective standpoint for building an intimate connection with your inner self. You have to be able to see yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you for who you are and who knows what you are worth. Self-esteem develops based on how we perceive that others perceive us. Self-intimacy requires that we see ourselves as we truly know ourselves to be.

Taking Time to Establish Self-Intimacy is Important

When we do not give ourselves time alone for reflection and self-intimacy, we are letting ourselves off too easy in life and not holding ourselves up to the inner scrutiny that allows us the space to acknowledge and address the areas in which we may need to grow. We also need time alone with ourselves to reconnect with who we are when we “show up” in relationships with others.

By intentionally choosing to spend time alone, you are also acknowledging the worth of your personhood—and the value inherent in being who you are. The need to surround yourself with the company of others often reflects needs to measure self-worth by popularity or to provide “evidence” of your social desirability.

It’s okay to enjoy spending time with those who care about you, this also should include enjoying spending time alone with yourself.

Suggestions for Making Space for Healthy Solitude and Self-Intimacy

It’s important that each of us finds time to sit and to simply “be” in our own skin. Maybe you find a connection to yourself through meditation, through quiet reflection, or through intentional self-exploration. The point of healthy inner solitude is to provide a space to explore the pieces of yourself that you treasure or that you wish you could change.

Healthy solitude is not about beating up on yourself for past mistakes or behaviors, dragging yourself down as you review your perceived missteps or failings, or ruminating on interactions that have not gone as you would have liked. It is meant to be a space of acceptance of self where plans for life changes are also developed.

  1. A good habit to encourage healthy solitude is scheduling daily reflective walks that allow you space to quietly review a particular aspect of your life or self that needs attention. These walks can be built into your regular routine—walking to your office from the parking lot (just pay attention to the traffic and do be careful) is one way to make space for personal intimacy.
  2. Taking five minutes at the start or end of your lunch break can also be a space in which you can “turn over the rocks and stones” and see what’s hidden or building up within you.
  3. Creating a journaling space in your life – at night before you go to bed or on your tablet, smartphone, or laptop, right after you clock out at work or in the morning ten minutes before you begin your workday are three different options for building in the personal solitude that grows increasingly necessary as our lives and technology grow increasingly intertwined.

How Easy It Is To Neglect Your Mental Health

By Trevor McDonald

We all know what taking care of our physical health looks like: eating right, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep. But do you know how to take care of your mental health? Neglecting your mental health can be easy, especially since it’s not something we are always taught or reminded to prioritize. However, taking a step back and examining your mental health is key to a happy and healthy life.

If you think you might be neglecting your mental health, here are a few reasons why—and what to do about it.

You’re Too Busy

It’s all too common to put your mental health on the backburner. Between family responsibilities, work obligations, and social situations, it’s no wonder why very few of us actually find time in the day to take care of our mental health. But in the end, if taking care of your mental health is a priority, as it should be, you will find the time.

You can take small breaks throughout the day to do what makes you feel good. Have a standing appointment with your therapist on the calendar. Turn off your phone for a little while. Hit the gym. Or pour yourself a warm bath with a cup of tea. No matter what your version of self-care looks like, make sure to do it routinely.

It’s Taboo To Talk About Your Feelings

So many of us, especially men, are taught to not talk about our feelings. From a very young age, we’re told to “just suck it up” and that showing any kind of emotion is weak. But this is an extremely detrimental thought, both to our relationships and our mental health. Emotions are a key aspect of connection and connection is a key aspect of mental health.

To fight this common misconception, start having more conversations about mental health. Depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions are not a choice, but rather a state of being. If you live with mental illness (or not), you shouldn’t be afraid to talk about your feelings and experiences.

You’re Not Sure Who To Talk To

Should you talk to a friend about how you’re feeling? A family member? A professional therapist? All of these are good options, depending on your needs. For example, if you think you have a mental illness, it’s best to consult a mental health professional.

If your mind is full of thoughts that keep spinning around and around, talking it out and discussing your fears, anxieties, ambitions and goals, can help you to slow down your thoughts. With the help of your confidant, you can tackle them in a practical way.

You Can’t Afford To Care

Maybe you’re one of the many people who wants professional counseling but can’t afford it. Mental health care can be expensive. However, you should know there are options.

If you have health insurance, there are many mental health professionals who offer counseling at a discounted rate depending on your financial need. This is referred to as “sliding scale” and you can inquire with the provider what the adjusted rate would be. If you don’t have insurance, you can start by reaching out to your local social services agency by dialing 211. If you’re a student, you can talk to someone at your school’s student health center.

There are also options to talk to others about your mental health beyond professional counseling. You can join a free support group or call a warmline: a phone line where trained volunteers offer support.

There are many reasons why we continue to neglect our mental health, but what really matters is how to end that behavior. Take a second to check in with yourself and if you feel like you are neglecting your mental health, develop an action plan to change that!

Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who has been clean and sober for over five years. He is currently an Outreach Coordinator for Sober Nation. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.

Emotionally Intelligent Husbands Are Key to a Lasting Marriage

By: Kyle Benson

What does it mean to accept your partner’s influence? And how do you do it?

In the Japanese martial art of Aikido, there’s a central principle called Yield to Win, which is a method of using your opponent’s energy and actions against them to win a fight, rather than strong-arming them into submission. It allows you to conserve energy and choose much more effective and efficient tactics.

But we definitely don’t want you using Aikido moves on your partner!

For our purposes, yielding to win means accepting, understanding, and allowing your partner’s perspective, feelings, and needs into your decision-making process as a couple. It means really listening to your partner and forming compromises so that you both feel satisfied.

Which is really more like yielding to win-win, and that’s we’re aiming for.

When men learn how to accept their partner’s influence and work toward a win-win solution, the outcomes are wonderful in heterosexual marriages. In a long-term study of 130 newlywed couples, we discovered that men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages and are less likely to divorce.

And this critical skill is not limited to heterosexual couples at all. In fact, research shows that same-sex couples are notably better at it than straight couples. Straight husbands can learn a lot from gay husbands, and they’d be wise to do so.

Rejecting influence is a dangerous move

Marriage can absolutely survive moments of anger, complaints, or criticism, and even some longer periods of negativity if conflict is managed in a healthy and respectful way. They can even flourish because conflict provides an opportunity for growth as a couple. But couples get in trouble when they match negativity with negativity instead of making repairs to de-escalate conflict.

As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”

Clearly, counterattacking during an argument does not solve an issue or help to form a compromise. It does not allow your partner’s influence in the decision-making process. Our research shows that 65% of men increase negativity during an argument. And the Four Horsemen—criticism, defensiveness, contempt, stonewalling—are telltale signs that a man is resisting his wife’s influence.

This is not to insult or belittle men, and usually, it’s not a personality fault or cognitive shortcoming. Rather, it is to enlighten men as to some instincts and tendencies they might have, but of which they aren’t aware.

There are simply some differences in how men and women experience conflict (for example, men are more prone to stonewalling, and 85% of stonewallers in our research were men). It takes two to make a marriage work and it is vital for all couples to make honor and respect central tenets of their relationships. But our research indicates that a majority of wives—even in unhappy marriages—already do this.

This doesn’t mean women don’t get angry and even contemptuous of their husbands. It just means that they tend to let their husbands influence their decision making by taking their opinions and feelings into account.

Unfortunately, data suggests that men often do not return the favor.

If heterosexual men in relationships don’t accept their partner’s influence, there is an 81% chance that a marriage will self-implode.

Men, it’s time to yield to win-win.

What men can learn from women

Some say that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. While this is a common saying that cannot be true (obviously, we’re all from Earth and we have much more in common than we think), men and women often do feel different from each other.

This difference can start in childhood. When boys play games, their focus is on winning, not their emotions or the others playing. If one of the boys get hurt, he gets ignored and removed from the game. You see this in team sports all the time. Maybe someone comes to help carry the injured player off the field, but the game must go on.

But here’s the difference. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman explains that “the truth is that ‘girlish’ games offer far better preparation for marriage and family life because they focus on relationships.” And that isn’t necessarily about gender roles, but about learning emotional intelligence.

Developing emotional intelligence is the first step

The husband who lacks emotional intelligence rejects his partner’s influence because he typically fears a loss of power. And because he is unwilling to accept influence, he will not be influential, and that dynamic will result in gridlock.

On the other hand, the emotionally intelligent husband is interested in his partner’s emotions because he honors and respects her. While this husband may not express his emotions in the same way his partner does, he will learn how to better connect with her by listening to and validating her perspective, understanding her needs, and expressing empathy.

When his partner needs to talk about something, an emotionally intelligent husband will set aside what he’s doing at the moment and talk with her. He will pick “we” over “me,” which shows solidarity with his partner. He will understand his partner’s inner world and continue to admire her, and he will communicate this respect by turning towards her.

His relationship, sex life, and overall happiness will be far greater than the man who lacks emotional intelligence.

The emotionally intelligent husband can also be a more supportive and empathetic father because he is not afraid of expressing and identifying emotions. He and his partner can teach their children to understand and respect their emotions, and they will validate their children’s emotions. And our Emotion Coaching parenting program is based on the power of emotional intelligence, which we can all benefit from learning.

How to accept influence

It’s most likely that men who resist their wives influence do so without realizing it. It happens, and that’s okay, but it’s time to learn how to accept influence. It is both a mindset and a skill cultivated by paying attention to your partner every day and supporting them. This means working on three essential relationship components: building your Love Maps, expressing your fondness and admiration, and accepting bids for connection.

And when conflict happens, the key is to listen intently to your partner’s point of view, to let them know that you understand them, to ask them what they need, and to be willing to compromise. One way to do this is for each of you to identify your core needs and search, together, for where those needs overlap. Then you can find common ground upon which to make decisions together.

That’s how you accept influence. Want to have a happy and stable marriage? Make your commitment to your partner stronger than your commitment to winning.

If you do that, you win, your partner wins, and, most importantly, your marriage will thrive.


40 Date Night Questions

Forgo the dinner and a movie and go straight to really connecting with your spouse.

Love is not self-sustaining but requires constant maintenance. We can often get stuck on surface-y conversations but need to work hard at diving deep in to heart level conversations. Don’t talk about this kids soccer schedules, your crazy boss, or your never ending to do list. Instead take these questions with you on your next date night and take turns answering them. Spend the time listening to your spouse’s heart and soul.

  • What is your favorite memory as a child?
  • What’s my best physical feature?
  • If you could change one thing about your looks, what would it be?
  • What is your favorite memory of us dating?
  • Which of your parents are you most like?
  • What are your top 3 strengths?
  • What’s a new hobby you’d like to try?
  • How often do you prefer sex?
  • What was the first thing you thought of me?
  • If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
  • What do you like most that I do in bed?
  • How would you describe an ideal day?
  • What is something I can do to make us feel connected even more?
  • What do you think we need to work on the most in our relationship?
  • What can I do to make sure you feel safe with me?
  • What’s the happiest you’ve ever felt?
  • What do you want to do when you retire?
  • For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
  • If you could meet one famous person, who would it be?
  • What’s another career that you think you’d love?
  • If you could go back in time, what age would you be?
  • Are you an optimist, pessimist or realist?
  • What was your favorite date night you’ve ever had with me?
  • What can I do that best says, “I love you.”?
  • In what areas are we the same?
  • Tell me a time when you felt really close to me?
  • How are we different?
  • Who do you know that has the best marriage? And what can we do to get there?
  • What’s your biggest regret in life?
  • If you bought a boat, what would you name it?
  • When did you first know you loved me?
  • How have I succeeded in our marriage this week?
  • What fears do you have?
  • What brings you the most joy?
  • How can I show you love this week?
  • If you gave money to charity, which one would you pick and why?
  • What turns you on?
  • If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  • What things do I do for you that refresh you the most?
  • What’s a question you’ve never asked me?

What Really Happens in a Therapy Session

When you take your car to the car mechanic, you know what’s going to happen: Your car will get repaired.

When you break a bone and visit your doctor, you know what’s going to happen: Your bone will be set in a splint or cast and eventually heal.

But when you make an appointment to see a therapist, do you know what’s going to happen? Many people aren’t quite certain. Will you just talk? Will you have to discuss your childhood? Will you be “hypnotized?” And what’s the “point” of seeing a therapist, anyway? Why not just talk to a friend?

There is a great deal of uncertainty in our society about what actually happens during a therapy session, what types of issues and problems are suitable for therapy, and what benefits a therapy session can provide. I’d like to address a few typical questions—and misconceptions—about what therapy is, what it isn’t, and how it really works.

Q: Do I have to be “sick” or “disturbed” to go see a therapist?
A: No. Thinking that one has to be “seriously disturbed” in order to see a therapist is a myth.

While some therapists do specialize in severe emotional disturbances—including schizophrenia or suicidal thoughts—many focus on simply helping clients work through far more typical, everyday challenges like mapping out a career change, improving parenting skills, strengthening stressmanagement skills, or navigating a divorce. Just as some physicians specialize in curing life-threatening illnesses, while others treat “everyday” illnesses like flus, coughs, and colds, psychotherapists can serve a wide range of clients with a range of needs and goals, too.

In fact, most of my clients are successful, high-achieving people who are quite healthy, overall. Most are challenged by a specific, personal goal—like losing weight, creating more work-life balance, finding ways to parent more effectively, or feeling anxious about dating again after a rough break up.

Q: How can I choose the right therapist for my goal/situation?
A: Choosing a therapist is like choosing any other service provider—it’s a good idea to visit the practitioner’s website, and read client testimonials or reviews (if they have any—many do not, for confidentiality reasons). It’s also good to ask friends and family members, or your physician, for referrals (and of course, check to see who is covered in your health insurance network).

If you are hoping to work on a specific issue—overeating, smoking, making a career change—try to find a therapist with expertise in that area. Many list their specialties or areas of focus on their websites. There are therapists who specialize in relationship issues, parenting issues, anger management, weight issues, or sexuality—pretty much any issue, goal, or situation you can imagine. If you’re not sure about someone’s expertise, just call them and ask. If they can’t be of assistance with your issue, they may be able to refer you to someone who can.

Q: What actually happens during a therapy session?
A: Each session is, essentially, a problem-solving session. You describe your current situation, and your feelings about it, and then the therapist uses their expertise to assist you in trying to resolve that problem so you can move closer to having the life you wish to have.

At the beginning of a session, the therapist typically invites you to share what’s been going on in your life, what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you, or whether there are any goals you’d like to discuss. You’ll be invited to speak openly. The therapist will listen and may take notes as you speak; some, like myself, take notes after a session. You won’t be criticized, interrupted or judged as you speak. Your conversation will be kept in the strictest confidentiality. This is a special, unique type of conversation in which you can say exactly what you feel—total honesty—without worrying that you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings, damage a relationship, or be penalized in any way. Anything you want—or need—to say is OK.

Some therapists (like myself) may give clients some homework to complete after a session. That homework might be to set up an online dating profile and reach out for a first date, or to exercise three times a week. It may be to spend some time each day pounding a pillow to safely release pent-up emotions, make a nightly journal entry, or any number of “steps” and “challenges” relevant to your goals. During your next session, you might share your progress and address any areas where you got frustrated, stuck, or off-track.

Of course, every therapist is different, every client is unique, and every therapist-client relationship is distinct as well—which means that there is nouniversal description of a therapy session. Some therapists employ dream interpretation in their work. Others bring music or art therapy into their work. Others incorporate hypnotherapy, life coachingmeditationvisualization, or role-playing exercises to “rehearse” challenging conversations. The list goes on and on. Ultimately, regardless of their approach, a therapist will listen without judgment and help clients try to find solutions to the challenges they face.

Q: Will I have to talk about my childhood?
A: Not necessarily. Many people think that visiting a therapist means digging up old skeletons from your childhood, or talking about how awful your mother was, etc. That is a myth. What you talk about during a therapy session will largely depend on your unique situation and goals. And depending on your goals, you may not actually talk about your past that much. The focus of your therapy is as likely to be your present-day reality and the future that you wish to create.

That being said, if you REALLY do NOT want to discuss your childhood, the intensity of your desire NOT to talk about it might suggest that you should! When people have strong negative emotions—about their childhood or any other topic—it’s typically worth doing some excavating to figure out why that is. Whatever is causing them to feel such strong emotions about the past is more than likely impacting their present-day life in some way, too.

Q: How long will I have to go to therapy?
A: This varies from person to person. I’ve had clients who booked one session, we worked out their issue(s), and they were all set: They marched out and didn’t need a follow-up session. Sometimes, one brave, honest conversation is really all you need.

Other clients have booked sessions with me over a period of several weeks or months, focusing on one issue, resolving that issue, then perhaps moving on to a different challenge. Then there are other clients who I’ve been working with for some time—they appreciate having a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly “check-in.” They may share their feelings, sharpen their life skills as needed, or perhaps enjoy a deeply nourishing guided meditation or hypnotherapy experience to de-stress. As one client put it, “Every two weeks when I meet with you, I leave your office feeling like you pressed my reset button.”

Therapy is really about whatever a client needs—a one-time conversation, a temporary source of support during a life transition, or an ongoing experience to optimize health physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Q: Is meeting with a therapist over the phone—or through video chat—just as effective as meeting in person?
A: That depends on your personality and preferences. In the state of Hawaii, where I live, at least one insurer that I know of covers doing therapy virtually via video chat (like Skype or Facetime). This makes it a convenient option for people. Many of my clients do enjoy having some, or all, of their sessions via video chat because it means they don’t have to take time out of their busy schedules to drive, park, and so on. They can just close their bedroom or office door, pick up the phone or log in, and away we go—very convenient.

Where feasible, I suggest trying out both ways—do a traditional, in-person therapy session and then try a video session—and see which format is the best fit for you.

Q: Why see a therapist? Why not just talk to a friend or someone in my family?
A: If you are blessed with caring, supportive family members and friends, by all means, share your feelings, goals, and dreams with those people. They are a big part of your support network, and their insights and encouragement can be very helpful. However, people who already know you might not always be completely objective when listening to you. For example, you may want to change your career, and you confess this dream to your wife. She may want to support you 100%, and try her very best to do so, but she may also be dealing with emotions of her own—such as anxietyabout how a career shift will change your lives, not to mention your income. These emotions could make it difficult for her to listen and support you objectively.

This is why working with a therapist can be so valuable. It’s a unique opportunity to share everything you’re feeling, and everything you want to create, without anyone interrupting you, imposing his or her own anxieties onto the conversation, or telling you that you’re “wrong” or that you “can’t.”

A therapy session is a space where you don’t have to worry about hurting anyone else’s feelings—you can be totally honest. It also means you have the potential to solve problems faster and with greater success. In the long run, that’s better for you and everyone else involved in your life, too.

To sum it up:
Therapy is a valuable tool that can help you to solve problems, set and achieve goals, improve your communication skills, or teach you new ways to track your emotions and keep your stress levels in check. It can help you to build the life, career, and relationship that you want. Does everybody needit? No. But if you are curious about working with a therapist, that curiosity is worth pursuing. Consider setting up one or two sessions, keep an open mind, and see how things unfold. You have very little to lose and, potentially, a lot of clarity, self-understanding, and long-lasting happiness to gain.

Suzanne Gelb, Ph.D., J.D, is a clinical psychologist and life coach. She believes that it is never too late to become the person you want to be: Strong. Confident. Calm. Creative. Free of all of the burdens that have held you back—no matter what has happened in the past. Her insights on personal growth have been featured on more than 200 radio programs, 200 TV interviews and online at TimeForbesNewsweekThe Huffington PostNBC‘s TodayThe Daily LovePositively Positive, and much more. Step into her virtual office, explore her blog, book a session, or sign up to receive a free meditation and her writings on health, happiness and self-respect.

Holiday Magic Is Made By Women. And It’s Killing Us.

I have yet to send out my Christmas cards this year, but the various steps necessary to complete this task have been weaving through my mind for months. I booked a session with a photographer at the end of August. I picked out and shopped for outfits for the entire family in October. In November, the actual photoshoot took place, but not before a flurry of back-and-forth emails deciding on time and place while factoring in the weather.

The photos will be in soon. Perhaps there will be a clear winner, but the most likely scenario is that I will spend hours deciding which child’s “weird face” picture is the most palatable to send to grandparents. They can never just smile, no matter how much coaxing and bribing is involved. Then I will spend time carefully picking out the right photo card and figuring out just the right holiday message before ordering. I’ll have to check my address book, contact a handful of people for updates, decide who is getting a card, order stamps, hand-write addresses until I have carpal tunnel and lick envelopes until my tongue is swollen.

Of course, I could forgo this emotional labor and take the cards off my list entirely. It would free up a little mental space in an already hectic time, but it would also come with the consequence of disappointed relatives. I know because I actually did skip the holiday cards one year. My elderly aunt was heartbroken not to receive one. My husband’s grandparents were left without a set of great-grandchildren pictures to hang on the mantle. I had failed not only in the emotional labor of orchestrating the Christmas card, but also in considering the expectations and feelings of others.

“Women already perform the bulk of emotional labor … but during the holidays, this work ramps up.”

Women already perform the bulk of emotional labor ― the psychological phenomenon of unpaid, often unnoticed labor that goes into keeping everyone around you comfortable and happy. But during the holidays, this work ramps up. There are more mental lists to juggle, more commitments on the calendar to keep track of, more tasks to delegate. There is more pressure to make things magical for those around you. It takes a lot of unseen and underappreciated effort to keep everything humming along smoothly.

Melody Wilding, a licensed social worker and coach who helps clients overcome challenges like emotional labor, says that a tendency to put too much on our plates and let self-care slip is often par for the course during the holidays.

“Putting pressure on yourself to have or create the ‘perfect holiday’ can send your stress skyrocketing, and overcommitment can quickly lead to exhaustion and burnout,” she told HuffPost.

How to manage the stress of emotional labor this time of year

I certainly try to keep self-care in mind during the holidays, usually taking on a yoga routine and drinking lots of decaf green tea to combat the stress. But the overwhelm still gets me. While it’s up to my husband to put up the lights and trim the tree, the vast majority of the holiday planning falls to me.

It’s me who puts the parties and potluck dishes on the calendar, keeps track of the winter coat drive, plans the get-togethers with both sides of the family, expends the mental energy of figuring out gifts for everyone. It’s exhausting, and seems unending (at least until after the new year rolls in). Normally this level of productivity would make me feel like a rockstar, but during this time of year, it simply feels like I’m falling short.

Experts say that this type of intense pressure can lead to perfectionism ― and in its most extreme form, perfectionism can be associated with mental health issues. Research has linked perfectionism with anxiety, depression and even thoughts of self-harm.

“Question the voice of your inner critic that says you’re not good enough.”


I’m not one to strive for perfection, but during the holidays it’s so easy to point out those spots where it would be feasible for me to do more. We could go chop down our own Christmas tree, but I’ve never actually gone ahead and planned a trip. I could learn to use my sewing machine and make a festive table runner and napkins. I could make a beautiful gingerbread house from scratch if I really tried hard. I find myself thinking I’m probably doing enough, but I feel like I could be doing more.

Wilding says a solution to that irrational feeling might be stepping slowly away from Instagram. It’s advice that makes sense: Studies show excessive social media use is linked with increased feelings of lonelinessanxiety and depressive symptoms.

“Social media makes it seem like everyone else’s life is perfect and enchanted … except yours,” she said.

Wilding recommends taking the time you’d otherwise spend surfing Facebook and use it for more restorative activities (so probably not baking gingerbread houses from scratch, unless you’re really, truly into that sort of thing). There is plenty of emotional labor to be done without seeking out more. It may be best to reevaluate what you do, drop some commitments and choose to only do the emotional labor that you genuinely value.

“Question the voice of your inner critic that says you’re not good enough,” Wilding said.

That voice is usually wrong, Wilding stressed. So when it crops up, head in the opposite direction.

“Don’t be afraid to drop a ball, or two,” Wilding said. “You’ll discover the world won’t end, and in fact, will encourage other people to start picking up their share of responsibility.”

By Gemma Hartley

Getting Older Veterans Proper Care

In an era of ongoing armed conflict, the impact of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is more widely recognized than it was 40 years ago when veterans were knee-deep in the atrocities of the Vietnam War. In fact, PTSD wasn’t even recognized as a mental illness until 1980.

While the disorder is more visible today, we usually only see young, male veterans representing all veterans experiencing PTSD. But there’s still a large population of Vietnam veterans who have been struggling with PTSD symptoms for over four decades, often with little support.

recent article by The Family Institute at Northwestern University highlighted the ongoing impact of PTSD in older veterans, and how we can ensure they receive the unique types of support and interventions they need.

What Older Veterans Need

Diagnosis has typically been delayed in older veterans, which means some have been struggling for decades. These heroes face age-related events that could trigger an exacerbation of symptoms—like retirement, the loss of a loved one or changes in health.

Due to their unique needs, some experts suggest older veterans might benefit from a counseling approach that integrates the following:

  • An approach that embraces the veteran’s story and affirms their feelings
  • Technology that increases access and decreases isolation (such as telehealth)
  • An affirmation of the realities of both the trauma and the resulting symptoms of PTSD
  • Peer support

Encouraging older veterans to embrace the benefits of therapy and counseling can be a challenge, so they may prefer to work with professionals who were/are also a member of the military in order to feel a sense of camaraderie.

Delayed-Onset PTSD In Older Veterans

About 31% of male American veterans who served in Vietnam experienced PTSD at some point in their lifetime, according to the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study. A 2013 study on the long-term effects of the conflict found that approximately 1 in 10 veterans who served in Vietnam experienced PTSD 40 years later.

This is called delayed-onset PTSD. Although most people experience symptoms of PTSD within a few months after a traumatic event, sometimes it can be years before someone experiences the full spectrum of their symptoms.

Dr. Dawn M. Wirick, daughter of a Vietnam veteran and a veteran herself, counsels older combat veterans and has seen the effects of delayed trauma: “What they end up telling me is down the road, when they retire, once they aren’t so busy, they start having recurring nightmares.”

There are a variety of complex factors that can lead to delayed-onset PTSD. Some of the main reasons why it was so prevalent among Vietnam veterans were:

  • They were drafted
  • The conflict itself was highly unpopular (so they were reluctant to talk about it)
  • The troops were often treated poorly when they returned home

Additionally, as is the case for most men, they were told to “man up” and be strong, so expressing sadness was viewed as a sign of weakness. In result, many veterans repressed their feelings. This created more complex psychological reactions to their time in combat, andrepressed feelings often find their way to the surface much later.

Older veterans need proper treatment to overcome these long-term effects of living with PTSD. Coming to terms with events that occurred decades ago is no easy task, but access to effective counseling can help validate what they are feeling, eliminate the sense of isolation and begin the healing process. Coming to terms with events that occurred decades ago is no easy task, but access to effective counseling can help validate what they are feeling, eliminate the sense of isolation and begin the healing process.


If you are a veteran in need of help or are concerned about a veteran in your life, visit the Veterans Crisis Line website or call their 24/7 hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


Colleen O’Day is a Digital PR Manager and supports community outreach for 2U Inc.’s social work, mental health, and speech pathology programs. Find her on Twitter @ColleenMODay.

Making The 2018 Mid-Term Elections About Mental Health

Throughout NAMI’s history, mental health advocates have shaped laws, increased funding and promoted research to address the inequalities and injustices facing people with mental illness in our country. In the last two years alone, NAMI advocates sent hundreds of thousands of emails to Capitol Hill and made countless phone calls and visits to their representatives in nationwide efforts to pass mental health reform (the 21st Century Cures Act) and to stop dangerous health reform proposals that would have hurt people with mental illness.

We’ve made progress, but we still have further to go. NAMI’s members have an opportunity in the 2018 mid-term elections to vote more mental health champions into office. From district attorneys to county officials to governors to members of Congress, every elected official plays a role in determining what services and supports are available to people with mental illness—and there’s never been a better time to cultivate mental health champions.

NAMI members are instrumental in helping raise policymakers’ and candidates’ awareness of mental health issues by sharing stories that help make those issues real. The goal in talking with candidates is not to convert them—it’s to converse with them. As a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NAMI seeks only to educate politicians. This is how we develop trusting, invaluable relationships on both sides of the aisle, rather than being just another special interest group.

When speaking with a candidate, share a fact or two and let the person know how important mental health care is to you. Asking open-ended questions gives candidates a great opportunity to reveal their thoughts and share their visions for improving mental health care. Here are some policy positions that might help you identify whether a candidate is a mental health champion.

What Policies Should A Mental Health Champion Support?

1. Increasing The Availability Of Mental Health Services And Supports

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences a mental health condition, yet more than 60% of those adults go without treatment. We need more access to quality mental health services and supports, especially for underserved groups like our nation’s veterans and people living in rural and frontier areas.

How do you know if a candidate is committed to increasing the availability of mental health services and supports? Ask them how they would improve mental health care. A mental health champion would invest in:

• Expanding access to mental health care, including for veterans and people living in rural and frontier areas;

• Supporting health insurance protections that cover mental health care at the same level as other health care;

• Ensuring Medicaid coverage for people with mental illness based on income to make sure people can afford the care they need;

• Increasing supported housing programs that offer stable, safe and affordable housing for people with mental illness; and

• Growing supported employment programs that help people with mental illness get training, search for jobs and be successful in the workplace.

2. Promoting Early Intervention For Mental Illness

Approximately half of all mental health conditions begin by age 14, and 75% begin by age 24. Every young person who experiences a mental illness deserves to realize the promise of hope and recovery. And the quicker a young person gets quality services and supports, such as first episode psychosis (FEP) programs, the better their recovery outcomes.

Ask candidates how they would increase early intervention for mental health conditions. A mental health champion would support:

• Increasing FEP programs, which provide recovery-focused therapy, medication management, supported education and employment, family support and education, case management and peer support;

• Promoting school-linked mental health services for youth, which bring mental health professionals into schools to provide mental health care to students; and

• Integrating mental health care into primary care settings to increase early identification and treatment of mental health conditions.

3. Ending The Jailing Of People With Mental Illness

About 2 million Americans living with mental illness are jailed each year—mostly for non-violent offenses. Unfortunately, a person experiencing a mental health crisis is often more likely to land in jail than in a hospital. Mental illness should not be treated like a crime. Instead, people with mental illness who are in crisis should be diverted into effective treatment options.

Ask candidates how they would address the jailing of people with mental illness. A mental health champion would support:

• Expanding Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT), a community policing model that helps law enforcement divert people to mental health treatment instead of jail;

• Ensuring that mobile crisis response teams can intervene and effectively de-escalate mental health crises; and

• Increasing Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams that provide intensive, wraparound treatment and support to people with serious mental illness.

When candidates hear from NAMI members about the importance of mental health care, they listen. We need more elected officials like this who understand and support mental health issues—officials who are committed to funding the services and supports people with mental illness need to be safe, stable and on a path toward recovery. You can do your part by engaging in a dialogue with candidates and voting for people who will become tomorrow’s mental health champions.

Reflections On Medicine, Shame And Stigma

As I was entering medical school, I found out that my mother had made a postpartum suicide attempt. I did not find out from her; it was shared with me in hushed tones by another family member who thought I should know, “now that I was going to be a doctor.” I was quite surprised by this information. And it made me sad to think that this wasn’t a topic she felt she could openly discuss.

Suicide is a challenging issue for all of us. Secrecy surrounds the topic, with shame as a common co-traveler. That’s why it’s an honor for me to be a small part of NAMI’s movement to make seeking help and support more acceptable. I’ve met many resilient people in the NAMI community who have overcome suicidal thoughts or actions. Often because there was a person who stood by them during a crisis or a new treatment approach that made a difference in their life. Some found sobriety for a co-occurring substance use disorder. Others found clozapine or lithium, which have been shown to reduce suicidal thinking. Some learned coping skills through a psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy. Many found relief in the community of NAMI. Regardless of how, their suicidal thoughts or actions were talked about and changed.

My field sorely needs similar conversation and change. Doctors also have high rates of suicide and it’s a major issue that some of the doctors we turn to for care are often not taking care of themselves. We need to teach help-seeking behaviors in the medical and psychiatric fields. Doctors need the same support and encouragement to get help as their patients.

I lost a patient to suicide early in my psychiatric residency. This was a person with many strengths, who was also in tremendous psychological pain. I worried about him during off-hours and felt powerless to help at times. After I learned of his tragic outcome, I was upset, slept poorly and struggled at work for months. I was worried I had said the wrong thing or had failed in some way as an inexperienced psychiatrist. I seriously considered leaving the field and entering another specialty. I was lucky to receive support and empathy from my colleagues and supervisors as they encouraged me to seek therapy. I did my best to carry on, but I never forgot about this patient and his suffering.

Last year, at an American Psychiatric Association (APA) event, I was impressed that even doctors are wondering if they worry, struggle and stress too much. APA president Anita Everett reviewed the stresses that commonly consume doctors and announced that psychiatric wellness would be a core feature of her leadership. Dr. Everett’s thoughtfulness and openness on the stresses doctors face and her emphasis on help-seeking was powerful; her efforts have started many overdue conversations across the entire field of medicine. Unfortunately, the same shame that led to the secrecy around my mother’s postpartum suicide attempt is alive and well in the medical field.

Doctors don’t have all the answers for stress, mental illness and suicide—our most challenging aspects of being human. Medical culture needs to continually evolve and learn from the remarkable and resilient people like those I have met at NAMI. Facing your mental health challenges head-on and working to get help with a supportive community behind you is a key piece of NAMI culture. It’s a culture we can all learn from.


Ken Duckworth is medical director at NAMI.

How To Have A Healthy Relationship With Social Media

Social media has allowed society to become more connected than ever. Over three billion people around the world use social media to engage with others, access the news and share information. In the U.S. alone, seven out of ten people are active social media users.

Some would argue that social media is inherently bad for our health. Recent research explores the negative implications of social media, including sleep issues, an overall increase in stress and a rise in mental health conditions and addiction to technology. There are also concerns about cyberbullying and youth and teen safety online. Fortunately, tech companies are proactively addressing these types of concerns. For example, the recently released Parent’s Guide to Instagram helps parents who are “raising the first generation of digital natives, for whom the online world is just as important as the offline world.”

On the other hand, there are many benefits to social media. Young people today consider social media as platforms for sharing their voice and finding a community of like-minded peers. And users of all generations understand that with social media, you can celebrate milestones or reconnect with old friends and relatives.

Regardless of what type of impact we believe these digital platforms can have on us, we must be intentional in how we use social media. For example, as NAMI’s social media manager, I use social media as a tool to spread mental health awareness. Through my experience, I’ve learned several tips and tricks for having a healthy relationship with social media. Here are some you might find helpful.

Unfollow Unhealthy Accounts

It’s important to remember that, often, the images and stories on social media aren’t reflective of real life. Whether you follow friends, influencers, businesses or organizations, social media feeds are filled with carefully crafted, curated posts. Consider the following: Does your feed leave you feeling overwhelmed or less-than? Do you constantly compare your experiences with others? If yes—and you notice an overall decrease in your happiness, self-esteem and life satisfaction, it’s time to make a change. Put an end to the negativity by reviewing the accounts you follow—unfollow, block or delete accounts that don’t bring positivity, motivation or inspiration into your life.

Support And Connect With Others

There are many people you can connect with through social media, even if they’re on the other side of the planet. And that’s a good thing. However, if the interactions you’re having leave you feeling isolated or upset, you should reevaluate why you use social media. Do you want to engage with others who share your interests? If so, search for digital communities of people who you have something in common with. From there, you can be more selective with who you connect and engage with.

Take Note Of What You Share

These days, it can be challenging to determine reputable sources of news and information. That’s why it’s important to play a conscious role before sharing something you see online with your friends or followers. Think about whether the content—be it an article or video—is helpful or harmful to others. Also consider if it truly provides knowledge worth sharing. If it doesn’t contribute something positive to the digital world, it may not be worth sharing on your social media account.

Reduce Your Screen Time

Smartphones are quite everywhere these days. In any public setting, you’ve likely noticed others with their eyes glued to their phones. In fact, recent studies reveal that people spend an average of over two hours a day on social media. If you’re concerned you may be spending too much time social media, try adopting healthier habits. Start by tracking the time you spend on social media; if you’re on Facebook or Instagram, look out for the new tool that helps users manage time spent on their accounts. When you limit your screen time, you’re creating more time for enriching, real-world experiences.

Take A Break

Completely stepping back from social media can be hard, but it’s a good way to help you reconnect to reality. Log out from your accounts for a full day, a week or even a month. Have a friend change your password so you don’t feel tempted to log back in to your account. Then, take notice of how you spend your time. Perhaps you rediscover an old hobby or sport. Or maybe you’re able to schedule more quality time for your family or friends. Either way, it’s more exciting to live life as it’s happening, as opposed to “living” through a screen.

Rather than thinking of social media as something that only hurts our health, we should reevaluate when and how we use our accounts. Social media platforms can be used for good—it all depends on whether you choose to use it for good.


Ryann Tanap is manager of social media and digital assets at NAMI.