Pregnancy and Anxiety after Infertility

You’re finally pregnant after struggling with infertility; so why aren’t you full of joy? If you’re feeling anxious or numb, know that your reaction is common and natural after such a long period of stress. That said, there are ways to decrease or eliminate these feelings so you can enjoy your pregnancy and your new baby.

Common emotional responses to pregnancy after infertility

When pregnancy is finally achieved after so many disappointments, you may not want to get your hopes up. You may doubt your body’s ability to carry to term and find yourself obsessing over every symptom – or lack of symptoms. You may feel guilty for complaining about morning sickness or aches and pains, feeling like you should be thankful for every discomfort since you’re finally pregnant.

Sometimes a pregnant woman is afraid that anything or everything she does could hurt her baby. You might be concerned about exercising too much or too little, eating the wrong things, even taking a bath! Then realizing you’re too anxious, you may worry that your anxiety could be hurting the baby, which makes you worry more – an ongoing cycle of anxiety.

And when you transition to an OB from your fertility doctor, you may be concerned that the OB doesn’t have the expertise you need or worry that he or she won’t understand what you’re going through.

Finally, some women feel like they don’t fit in anywhere. You may feel like you don’t fit in with other pregnant women who got pregnant easily, and now you don’t fit in with the women you met along your journey of infertility. In fact, you may feel guilty and want to avoid them, because you’re pregnant and they’re not.

Please hear me when I tell you that all these feelings are understandable, but they are not necessary and can be alleviated.

How to alleviate your stress

Make sure your OB has experience caring for women who have high-risk pregnancies or who are pregnant following infertility. Your provider must be understanding and supportive, willing to offer you more tests than most women get, and be able to address your fears and concerns. Do NOT hesitate to tell your doctor about your symptoms! Your doctor will be able to either allay your concerns or address your symptoms if they seem unusual in any way.

Though some women may choose to get a home sonogram or Doppler to listen for the baby’s heartbeat, I would advise against it unless your doctor thinks it is absolutely necessary. The home versions of these instruments are less powerful than those the technicians use, and a heartbeat can be tricky to find on a young baby. You will be worrying yourself unnecessarily. Simply ask for more frequent testing or find an outpatient testing facility that does ultrasounds.

Find a support group with other pregnant women who have struggled with infertility, either in person or online. You don’t know who else may have experienced infertility or miscarriage so this is an easy way to connect with people in a similar position as you are. These groups are really helpful because you can share your experiences and support each other. Your situation is not uncommon, so share your story and feel the love and support from others.

Educate yourself. By learning all you can about a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and infant care, you will feel more empowered and less a victim of circumstance.

Allow yourself to bond with your baby, and don’t feel guilty if it doesn’t come easily or quickly. Talk to your baby in the womb, play your favorite music and dance around the room with your baby. Prepare a system of supportive helpers for after the baby arrives and be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster ride.

New mothers often feel emotional — happy, fearful, and overwhelmed. On top of that, you have years of anxiety and grief that have built up following unsuccessful treatments and/or miscarriages. These feelings won’t go away just because you have a baby in your arms. Be sure to talk these feelings out with your husband, your family and friends, and if necessary, a trained counselor. Find someone who is an expert in dealing with infertility who can help you heal from the past pain and be free to experience joy in the gift of new life.

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Can I Save My Marriage If My Spouse Isn’t Trying?

It is common that only one spouse is willing to work to save a struggling marriage. Fortunately, in many cases, one partner can make changes that will turn the marriage around dramatically.

Some marriages need to end, especially if there is abuse involved. But in many cases, marriages can be improved with the initial efforts of just one spouse. It is often helpful to walk through the steps with a professional marriage counselor who can help you adjust your approach to your particular situation. The following are the things I suggest to my clients.

Avoid these tactics

No one stays happily married by force or guilt. Do not cry, beg, threaten, or guilt your spouse into staying. While those tactics may work for a short time, they will increase resentment and distance.

Do not make the mistake of thinking it is all your fault – or only the fault of your spouse. Marriage problems usually arise because two good people have made small mistakes that have added up over time, or they have clashing personality quirks. These issues are in and of themselves fixable with the following techniques.

Determine your WHY

Ask yourself: “WHY do I want to save my marriage?” Write down every reason you can think of, and refer back to this list often to help you maintain your focus and purpose. I recommend you keep this private.

Change your thinking

There are multiple components to this step.

  • Remind yourself why you fell in love in the first place. What enduring qualities attracted you? What did you enjoy doing together? How did he or she make you feel? Why? Each day, spend time remembering those feelings and seeing your spouse as you once did. Fall back in love.
  • Do not just focus on the problems, focus on what is good. It is extremely important that you do not badmouth your spouse to your friends. Yes, you need friends to support you, but ask them to support you in saving your marriage and helping you focus on the positive. What does your spouse do, right now in your current situation, that is good? Bring home a paycheck? Help the kids with their homework? Take out the trash? Focus on that.
  • Redirect your thinking when you find yourself dwelling on the negative. Turn on happy music, do an engrossing activity, help someone else.

Change your approach

Whatever you are doing must not be working, so try a different tactic. This is where a counselor can be particularly helpful.

  • Are you being too clingy or attentive right now, when your spouse is not feeling reciprocal? Step back a little, but remain available and emotionally present, if not always physically present.
  •  Have you distanced yourself because of your pain? It is time to step forward into the relationship. Say or do at least one nice thing every day for your spouse. It could simply be to say, “You look nice today” in the morning.  
  • Remember what little things you used to do for your spouse to show affection and try again. Did you surprise her with flowers every now and then? Try it. Did you make him his favorite dish? Make it. Then build from there.

Focus on yourself

While changing what you think and what you do toward your spouse, you also have to change what you think and what you do toward yourself. Unhappy people have unhappy marriages. If your marriage is making you unhappy, you need other means of happiness in your life.

Work on your own health: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. As you do this, not only will you be strengthening yourself for a happy life even if you cannot save your marriage, you will be making yourself more attractive to your spouse. Strength, confidence, and health are much more attractive than weakness.

As a marriage counselor, I help walk people through the changes they need to make to lead them to happier, healthier lives and relationships. If you are in the New York City area, contact me and let us work together on your marriage.

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Calming a Worried Mind – What to Do If You Always Worry

Most of us worry from time to time, but if you worry too much, or even all the time, you need to learn how to calm your mind.

Many people acknowledge that over-worry is not helpful, but some people think that by worrying about something long enough they will eventually come up with a solution. However, worrying is not problem solving. Worry blocks the ability to think clearly and make good choices, and it adversely affects your physical health.

If worry is dominating your life, try some of these techniques to help calm your mind and get control back.

Techniques to stop worrying

1. Set a “worry period” when you will allow yourself to worry. Make it after the duties of the day but not too close to bedtime, and give yourself a specific end time. Keep it short, maybe 20 minutes. Then throughout the day when you have a worried thought, write it in your “worry journal” to think about later. When you sit down for your “worry session,” look at what you wrote for the day. And remember to STOP when your time is up!

2. Challenge your worrisome or negative thoughts. When you are having your daily worry session and you read your list, ask yourself challenging questions. “Is that really true? What evidence is there to support it? What evidence is there to negate it? What is the likelihood of that happening? Do I have any control over this? If so, what can I do about it? If not, am I ready to accept that there is uncertainty and trouble in life, and that is what makes it so wonderful?” Focus on reality, on putting a positive spin on things rather than a negative, and in accepting that life is full of surprises, both good and bad.

3. Try focus and relaxation techniques. There are many: tai chi, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, mindfulness. Look them up or talk to an informed friend or professional and find out what’s best for you.

4. Decrease the opportunity for worry and distract yourself. If you know of certain triggers for worry and you can avoid them, well then, avoid them! Watching the news or using social media are two common triggers that are easily eliminated from a person’s life. When you start worrying, turn to something you enjoy: play a sport or a mind game, work in your garden, read a book. Going outside in nature has been proven to be good for mental health, so maybe sit outside and read.

5. Practice self-care. A healthy lifestyle decreases worry and anxiety because it supports the brain, where thoughts begin. Eat well so that you get all your nutrients, exercise daily even if it is just a short walk, and get sufficient sleep. Get involved in a cause or helping others – just make sure it is not something that will further your worry or anxiety.

6. Talk it out. Find friends or a support group you can turn to when you just need to talk it out. Make sure these people will not make your worry worse by feeding it or justifying it. Neither do you want people to minimize it. The trick is to find the right people who actually help you worry less. A professional may be the best option here.

How a counselor can help

If you feel like you need a little more help than these techniques offer, find a counselor who is an expert in the area of anxiety. There are a variety of treatments and your counselor can determine what is best for you.

I teach my patients skills to manage their anxiety and worry, take charge over their thoughts and feelings, and identify triggers. I train them in ways to control both their minds and their physical responses to their anxious thoughts.

If you need help and you are in the New York City area, reach out to me. I’d love to help you.

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Are You at Risk for Postpartum Depression?

While having a baby can be a joyful and exciting event, sometimes a mother can be hit with the “baby blues”: feelings of anxiety, weepiness, anger, and mood swings. These emotions can last for a few days or weeks and they are not uncommon. But if your “baby blues” last more than a few weeks or your symptoms are particularly severe, you may be experiencing postpartum depression, which should be addressed by a doctor or counselor.

Postpartum depression (PPD) occurs in approximately 1 in 9 mothers, regardless of age, number of children, or situation. PPD can have many complicated causes: a sudden change in hormone levels or other health conditions, worry about your child or your situation, lack of sufficient help, history of depression, to name a few.

Recognize the signs of postpartum depression

If you have any of the following symptoms and they go on for a month or more, you may have PPD:

  • Excessive or severe mood swings, anger, sadness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or failure
  • Inability to bond with your baby
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and activities you love
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Excessive sleepiness or an inability to sleep that cannot be attributed to childcare
  • Overwhelming fatigue or lethargy
  • Inability to think clearly or as well as before
  • Fear and doubt of your abilities as a mother

What you need to do

Mothers with PPD benefit from counseling and support groups. It is possible to recover from PPD without the use of medication although it should not be ruled out in severe cases. But even with medication, it is important for the mother to develop coping mechanisms and different thought patterns to help her deal with the depression.

If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, do not remain silent. Tell your loved ones how you are feeling and share with them the level of severity of your symptoms so as not to brush them off as “baby blues.”

For some women with mild PPD, finding a friend who understands or a PPD support group can help to speed her recovery. But for some, this is not enough. This is where a good counselor comes in. A counselor with expertise in PPD can help you understand your feelings, develop skills to deal with those feelings, and create a plan of self-care and self-talk that will bring you out of your PPD as quickly as possible.

Developing postpartum depression does not mean that you are weak or that you are a bad person. As I remind my patients often, we are wonderful, complicated beings affected by both our biology and our interaction with the world. We also have the marvelous ability to grow beyond our difficulties and to become stronger from them. Do not hesitate to get the help you need.

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Second Marriages and Couples Therapy

You may have heard that second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages. But yours doesn’t have to be a statistic if you know what to expect and take steps to strengthen your bond.

If you haven’t remarried yet but are thinking about it, one of the best ways to strengthen your future marriage is to begin couples therapy now, even if you currently have a wonderful relationship. The challenges of marriage, let alone a second marriage, tend to bring out personality traits and baggage that don’t come out when you’re courting. If you’re already married and this is a remarriage for at least one of you, you may be experiencing some problems that need to be addressed.

Complications of a Second Marriage

Emotional baggage

The biggest issue that tends to impinge upon every aspect of a second marriage is emotional baggage. Usually, there’s a lot of hurt and distrust, and the idea of “getting married and living happily ever after” has been shaken. The sense of marital stability has been undermined, and for some people, it can seem easier to “walk away” when things get tough again.

Complicated finances

Money is a major cause of divorce even in first marriages, but second marriages often have even more complicated financial situations. As second marriages tend to take place in later life, one or both of you may have significant assets/debts or financial goals that will have to be blended. Child support or spousal support could strain your relationship, especially if you begin to have children together.

Bad habits

Problems that contributed to the dissolution of the first marriage may persist, leading to the same problems in the second marriage.

Blended family

Juggling all the details and schedules of family members becomes a herculean task when more than one family of children is involved. Add to that the problems that sometimes arise when step-parents try to bond with or discipline step-children and the marriage can get even more challenging.

How Counseling Can Help

Whether a couple has already married or is considering marriage, I help them recognize their emotional issues, personality traits, and habits that could contribute to tension. Together we create strategies to overcome these issues which in turn, leads to more support, love, trust, and intimacy.

Each spouse needs to come to recognize the hurt and distrust they may be dealing with to be able to effectively combat it when it becomes an issue. For instance, if a wife was previously a victim of infidelity, it’s important she not immediately doubt her new husband when he comes home late from work. Recognizing these automatic reactions is the first step to healing them.

I help couples to be vulnerable and to talk to each other about their hurts as honestly as possible. This is the first step toward redeveloping trust. Continuing our example, if the new husband understands his wife’s fears, he could take steps to reassure her until this fear is replaced by trust again.

Developing healthy communication styles that work for each person’s personality is the next key to a healthier marriage. Listening, discussing in a calm, non-accusatory manner, and compromising are important skills for any couple. Part of communication should include defining expectations, which would include the use of finances, disciplining step-children, and any other possible complicated issues.

Finally, we discuss setting aside time for the couple to have quality time alone together and to keep the spark of love a lively flame. It’s critical to recognize that there will be ups and downs in any relationship and that a bad time does not mean that the marriage is failing.

You can make your second marriage work. Get help if necessary, to work through the issues that can shake your marriage, and remember your love for each other.

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Male Infertility – Facing the Feelings and What to Do

Infertility is a painful trial for many couples. In fact, many more couples than one would expect struggle with reduced fertility. Much focus is put on female infertility, but 1/3 of the time the issue is male infertility.

Some causes and treatments of male infertility

Male infertility has a variety of causes, including low sperm count, sperm disorders, blockage, hormones, physical malfunction, disease, stress, or diet. Many of these problems can be treated with surgery, lifestyle changes, or medications. Talk to a fertility expert to get a clear plan of action.

Emotional realities

Although men are usually less willing to talk about their emotions than women, they are also deeply affected by infertility and need to address their emotions in a healthy manner.

Men who find their desire for fatherhood frustrated by their own physical problems struggle with anger, guilt, and shame. There is a social stigma about male infertility – the implication being that somehow the man cannot function sexually. He can feel his “manhood” questioned or diminished by his infertility, which increases his anger and frustration and the desire to keep the problem secret.

Being secretive increases the man’s sense of isolation, escalates his anger, embarrassment, and loneliness, and can cause additional emotional stress between him and his partner

These feelings will only become more problematic if allowed to continue unexamined and unresolved. If you’re a couple suffering from male factor infertility, please talk to a counselor to help you both work through these problems.

A trained fertility counselor understands the stresses that you are going through, and we understand that the answers for a man are not always the same as for a woman. But neither of you can ignore your feelings. Men are usually hesitant to talk about their infertility or their emotions; rather, they want a sense of empowerment. Addressing emotions from the perspective of solving a problem often makes men more willing to talk. Your counselor can guide you through this process.

It is also important for the husband to recognize how his silence or anger might be hurting his wife. He will want to find a solution to that problem, as well. Your counselor will guide you in developing healthy, love-affirming processes that will help you grow together emotionally, rather than apart, during this trying time.

Your counselor will also help you redirect your focus from “having a baby” to other love-affirming activities. Sometimes the stress of trying to have a baby makes infertility worse, and by refocusing, you can decrease your stress, increase your happiness as a couple, and be ready for any outcome.

I have worked with many couples struggling with infertility and have helped both partners find renewed emotional peace and a vision for the future. If you’re dealing with infertility, find a counselor or support group you can trust to help you.

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When You Can’t Bond with Your Newborn and Other Postpartum Depression Symptoms

When a woman has a baby, she generally expects that as soon as the baby is put in her arms, she will fall instantly in love. For many women, this bonding does happen immediately or even before delivery. But as many as 20% of women admit that they didn’t bond immediately and the confusion and fear that triggers may contribute to postpartum depression (PPD).

The human body is regulated by the many hormones and other chemicals excreted by the brain. Although scientists aren’t always sure which comes first, the emotion or the hormone, there is no doubt that bonding is associated with the increased production of dopamine and oxytocin. Dopamine is the “happy hormone” secreted when we experience something we enjoy, while oxytocin is the “cuddle hormone,” produced when we cuddle with or nurture another person.

When bonding is limited or non-existent, so are these hormones. Without them, we feel like we’re just going through the motions, and resentment, guilt, sadness, and other negative emotions take the place of the feelings of joy and rapture we’re “supposed” to feel with a new baby.

Is it Postpartum Depression?

Symptoms of PPD are similar to those of general depression, with the care of a baby thrown into the mix. Sleep deprivation and added responsibilities, especially if there are other children to care for, can make anyone exhausted and weepy. But PPD is a more intense condition affecting multiple aspects of your life.

With PPD, you may have mood swings or sadness that won’t go away; you lose interest in things you used to enjoy; you withdraw from loved ones, including the baby; your sleep patterns are disturbed (more so than can be expected from being sleepless due to a newborn); you feel guilty and worthless; you have difficulty concentrating; you think about harming yourself or the baby.

Steps to Healing

So what can you do when you don’t bond with your baby right away? Is there any hope that you eventually will? Emphatically, yes! But you will need to take the situation in hand. Here are some steps I recommend to help you.

1.       If you suspect PPD, seek professional help immediately. Don’t wait. Make sure the counselor is experienced with issues of PPD.

2.       Don’t hide these feelings from your spouse or those closest to you. These feelings are common, so you don’t have to feel guilty or alone. Your family and friends love you and will want to help you, and sometimes just talking it out helps. But choose people you believe will be supportive. We all know people who are judgmental or who offer well-meaning but unhelpful advice.

3.       Request and accept help to complete your daily duties and help that allows you to take breaks. Sometimes you just need a daily nap to help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Arrange for friends or relatives to come in once a day to give you a break. Ask your husband to help when he is home. He needs to bond with his baby, too.

4.       Even if you don’t feel warm and fuzzy, cuddle with your baby. Babies’ brains need the physical contact as well as feelings of security, warmth, and love in order to grow healthiest. Cuddle and bathe the baby, coo and smile. The baby needs that, and, in fact, so do you, to kickstart the oxytocin. It may not be enough to overcome the lack of bonding you are feeling right now, but those feelings are not likely to come if you don’t go through the motions. Give yourself breaks and have other loving people help you create that warmth and security the child needs as you’re recovering, but do make the effort.

Even if you don’t think you have PPD, sometimes talking to a professional anyway can help. I have helped many mothers navigate their way out of depression, or even just the feeling of being overwhelmed, to the joy of motherhood.

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5 Romantic Things to Do in NYC This Spring

Relationships need constant attention and maintenance, like anything else. Take time to do something together that both of you enjoy, away from the everyday pressures so you can focus on each other and create memories together.

While it’s important to do this at least weekly, even if it’s just a dinner out or a walk around the block, going out of your way to visit a new place or do something exciting and romantic together can really strengthen your relationship. Try to do that throughout the year, and what better time than in the spring, the season of new beginnings?

There’s so much to do and see and explore in New York City that I’ve created a list of suggestions to help you start thinking.

Exploring the City

There are numerous opportunities to explore New York; romance is what you make of it and for some it’s a couples massage and others it’s a quiet dinner for two. Excitement and romance create bonds in a couple’s relationship, so be sure to have a little of both.

Other wonderful ways to enjoy the scenery of New York are to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, enjoy the view from the Empire State Building, or visit the One World Observatory on the top of the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere. And don’t miss the opportunity to visit Times Square at night.

Enjoying Nature

Even in the midst of New York City, there are many opportunities to enjoy nature in a romantic setting. A picnic in Central Park is a classic opportunity for romance, and you can even book a service to create a basket for you!

The High Line, built on the elevated platform of an abandoned freight line through west Manhattan, offers a unique opportunity to enjoy nature and relaxing activities in the midst of the cityscape. The New York Botanical Gardens are world renowned, and the Hayden Planetarium provides romantic night scenery. If you enjoy animals, the Bronx Zoo is the largest in the United States.

Taking in a Show

This is an iconic activity in New York City. Whether your tastes tend toward a jazz show, nightclubs, stand-up comedy, or a show on or off Broadway, you can find whatever you like here.

Dinner and Drinks

Dinner and a show is the classic romantic evening out. Cocktails before or after the show at a “speakeasy” or a rooftop bar will make the evening complete.

History and the Arts

New York was the entry point for most of the immigrants of the 19th century. Both a visit to the Statue of Liberty and a ferry tour around it are popular activities. The Cloisters is a museum full of medieval art and architecture, which is very interesting since it’s a time period the U.S. did not experience.

NYC also has some of the finest arts in the world. For performing arts, the Lincoln Center is the home of the Metropolitan Opera House and the New York City Ballet. The Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, Queens, is a free outdoor strolling park where sculptors of all styles exhibit their work. And don’t forget the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses one of the most impressive collections of art in the world.

What to do?

With so many possibilities, there are sure to be a few things you will both enjoy. If you each have different preferences, why not pick two things? If one of you prefers the great outdoors and another prefers the nightlife, go to the gardens in the day and end with a show. That makes the day memorable for you both, and you will be strengthening your bond because compromise and collaboration are important aspects of every healthy relationship. Most importantly, have fun!

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Infertility: The Anxiety of Worst-Case Scenarios

A diagnosis of infertility usually causes emotional anguish, and for some couples, it can be devastating. The ability to “google” about infertility often makes things worse, causing the would-be parents to worry about things that don’t even apply in their situation. Medical terminology, worst-case scenarios, heartbreaking stories of other couples’ infertility, and joyful stories of success that they feel they may never experience can work to increase anxiety, cause negative self-talk, and damage the couple’s relationship.

It’s in times like these that talking to a counselor is particularly important. Infertility treatments can take months or years. It’s crucial to develop coping skills and ways of strengthening your bond as you go through this difficult time. There are many issues you will face, and you need to face them together.

First, there is the internal battle. Both men and women suffer from the diagnosis of infertility. If the problem is in one partner, that person often feels broken. The negative, haunting self-talk begins: “There’s something wrong with me; I’m not a real man; I’ll never be a mother; I don’t deserve to be a parent; God is punishing me; Will my partner leave me?” This inner talk can lead to depression and self-medicating to quiet that terrible inner voice.

Next, there is the relationship. Often, the infertility is not caused by one partner or the other. This situation actually makes the burden easier to bear, because neither spouse can “blame” himself or herself. But it has its own challenge: the thought that maybe “we aren’t really meant to be together.” The pressure of treatments can cause stress between the couple, as well. And sometimes they just don’t know what to say to each other. When a wife is devastated by the diagnosis of infertility, a husband naturally wants to protect her and help her but he is often afraid of saying the wrong thing. Meanwhile, a man might throw himself into his work to prove to himself and to others that he’s still strong.

I help clients work through their inner conflicts and develop healthy communication, both with each other and with that inner “self” that can be so hard on us. The first step is to talk out all those things that haunt you and all the fears and feelings that are affecting your relationship. Even if your bond is strong, it’s important to know how to communicate well in order to keep it that way.

After this, I help couples find the positives in their situation and focus on them. There are always positives. A healthy view of the situation will help you find them together and capitalize on them.

Infertility can be considered a two-patient challenge. Couples are evaluated together, counseled both separately and together, and are both included in the decision-making process. Remember, you’re not waging this battle alone; you have a partner who is waging it with you. Find a counselor who specializes in infertility to help you grow closer during this process. And in the end, whether the fertility treatments are successful or not, there will be more important changes and more need to work things out as a couple. Keep your counselor close by in that early transition period.

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Holding Yourself Back? 7 Steps to Moving Forward in a New Year or Any Time in Life

You’ve heard the saying, “You’re your own worst enemy.” This is true even for many successful, happy people. There are usually some behaviors or beliefs in all of us that need adjusting so that we can be our “own best friend” instead. The New Year is always a great opportunity to evaluate our lives and see how we can improve. Consider these seven important steps to a happier, more successful YOU.

1. Develop new core beliefs about yourself

Over our lifetimes we collect a lot of experiences and beliefs, including a lot of debris. For many of us, we develop negative thought patterns that cause negative self-talk. Recognizing and changing your core beliefs about yourself will take time and effort, but will have the biggest impact when it comes to improving your life.

  • Pay attention to your inner self-talk. Write it down. It’s important to catalog your thoughts in order to be aware of them. Then ask yourself, would you say that to a friend? Would you say that to a child? How would that affect the child’s growth and success? That’s what you’re doing to yourself.
  • Think about aspects of your life that are not as you would like them to be and try to think of why that is. Write it down. Just keep writing and eventually, the core reasons should come out.
  • Look at your life, experiences, and accomplishments as if writing a resume. Focus on the successes. Put a positive spin on everything, as if you’re really trying for a job or an award. This will help you see positive aspects in your life that you may have missed before.

Take your time to do this, perhaps over several weeks. After a while, look back and review. Make a decision to start saying positive things about yourself, as if you’re trying to encourage a child or your best friend to succeed and be happy. Look at your successes and what you want to do with a positive perspective, recognizing you are successful, you have talent, and you can keep growing.

2. See obstacles and mistakes as opportunities

Step 1 is so important because it will help with every other step, especially this one. Life is messy. You will never be perfect, and you don’t have to be. Life is a wonderful adventure, a chance to learn and continue to grow. Obstacles make us stronger and mistakes are opportunities to learn. When we encounter them, obstacles and mistakes hurt. But if you can turn your thoughts around, they won’t hurt for long and they will help you grow.

3. Choose the right people

Spend the bulk of your time with people who make you feel positive and loved. Find people who share your interests and passions and who generally like you to strengthen you and give you confidence.

4. Conquer fear with love

Love of self, love of your dreams, love of others: when love is strong in your heart, you will conquer fear, because you will have motivation to surpass it for the good of others, your dream, or yourself.

5. Be grateful

Wake up each morning and try to immediately think of something for which you are grateful, even if it’s just that you’re grateful you have another day. Focus on gratitude throughout your day. If every day you feel like you’ve received a gift, then every day will feel like your birthday.

6. Forgive

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that it’s okay that someone did or said something hurtful. It means you will not let that person hurt you anymore. This is huge and often takes counseling if the harm is grave. But for many people, it’s an important step in moving on.

7. Do YOU

Hopefully this process has helped you see more clearly who you are, what you like, and where you want to go. Be courteous to others, but be yourself. You don’t have to mold yourself into something you’re not in order to please other people.

The New Year is full of potential. Taking the time to reflect, review your life, and make some changes can make it an even better year than last. If you need help going through this process, a therapist can often help. I love helping people evaluate their thinking and choices to make changes that support a happy, healthy life.

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