3 Ways to Treat Yourself this Valentine's Day

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, the longing for a significant other becomes overwhelmingly apparent for those of us lacking our “perfect person.” For those of us in a relationship, the pressure of Valentine’s Day can be growing and we may be running to find the “perfect gift.” It is impossible to walk through a retail store without feeling overwhelmed by oversized teddy bears and heart shaped chocolates. It is natural for us to want another half, someone to hold or hug, someone who brings out the best in us.

We all know a perfect first date doesn’t exist, even if we are in a relationship.

How can we make Valentine’s Day About Self-Love?

Movies portray an unrealistic vision of how love really looks like and ultimately forces us to create unhealthy and unnecessary expectations for a potential partner and Valentine’s Day celebration.

So, instead of blindly searching for your person this February, or the perfect gift, I challenge you to find your self-love.

Here are three tips to spend your day in a healthy way:

1. Galentine’s day (or we can call it Palentine’s day for the fellas out there): Have a Valentine’s Day exchange with some of your friends, Secret-Santa style. This time, focus your gifts on self-love: everyone loves a good face mask, scented candles, great book, a gift card to your favorite spa or restaurant.

2. Snag a friend for the day and take advantage of Valentine’s Day deals: A half-off couple massage and discounted dinner for two are definitely some deals to take advantage of. You do not have to be in a relationship to enjoy great discounts.

3. Pamper yourself: Maybe you don’t want to go out, that is totally fine. While others stress about the pressure of planning the most romantic day of the year, you can sit and relax in your bathtub, watching standup comedy or horror movies, while eating your favorite chocolate. Soak in those positive endorphins and focus on you.

Love is everywhere we look, including inside ourselves. Searching in the wrong places will just leave you finding something you were not looking for. By finding and loving ourselves, we attract others who have the same energy. Your Valentine’s Day is what you want to make of it, be positive about your relationship status and focus on the relationship you have with yourself.

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A Side of Love, Forgiveness and Patience

   You're at your favorite date night restaurant, and you've been looking forward to it all day. You order the salad with dressing on the side and wait patiently as you sip your glass of wine. Finally, the waitress comes over with your delicious salad bowl, and you dive right in! It takes you about a minute to notice...she forgot your dressing. A little dismayed, you flag her down when she's near, and politely let her know. She's is so sorry! She was buzzing around and it simply slipped her mind, she asks that you please forgive her. You tell her it's no big deal at all, you just wanted to remind her. You offer a reassuring smile as she scurries to go get your dressing. Within seconds, it's on the table and you go right back to your meal. It is delicious and you are once again reminded as to why this is your favorite place. 

     So why when your significant other doesn't listen to what you're saying or forgets something, are you not as forgiving and friendly as you were with the forgetful waitress? Surely you love them more than the waitress, so what is keeping you from being just as kind? Maybe because it's a common thing, and you feel as though you are constantly reminding, and repeating yourself. If that is the case, ask yourself this: when is the last time someone had to remind me of something? In today's world, I can guarantee it wasn't that long ago. 

    Communication comes in two primary forms. Verbal, and non-verbal. It seems that in times of frustration or stress, many of us remember our verbal communications well, but what about the non-verbal? Have you ever said something was 'okay' with your mouth, but your face and that long sigh said something else? "It's fine, I'll just run to the store myself and get it." You say, as you snatch the keys and shove them in your pocket, marching towards the door. Body language says everything when your mouth doesn't, and it can be one of the main roadblocks to proper communication. Reactions like this can bring such unnecessary stress into your relationship when one of you feels they have to walk on eggshells and have the memory of an elephant. The solution to this is something that must be practiced, and it involves three words. Love. Forgiveness. Patience. 

   There are many times during our day that I am sure we wish we had more patience. At the minimum, can we try to give our loved ones the same courtesy as we do our waiters and waitresses? All of us know what it is like to be human, and we should try to remember that the next time we say something without saying it. Do we want to be sure that we aren't doing this all for a show, right? Let's not smile through the conversation, and lament in our heads for the rest of the evening. Forgiveness not only releases the person, but it frees you as well from the burden of agonizing over it. The most important of the three is love, and it is my favorite. No matter what, you should always speak to your significant other out of love. This is a great way to keep yourself in check, and in times of frustration, you will be shocked at the results. Their reaction to being spoken to out of love rather than irritation will not only ease them but bring you both happiness in solving the issue together. Try it. Practice it. And be kind to everyone you meet, waitress included! 

Summer Loving

Hi all! I would like to introduce myself. My name is Bridgette, and I am a counseling student at the University of South Florida. I have been working with Mrs. Stephanie as her Administrative Assistant for the past year. Some of you may know me from our phone conversations, or by my assistance in the therapy room during my practicum experience. I am happy to share that I will be graduating next summer with my master’s degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling, and will be a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and a registered counseling intern with the state of Florida. I enjoy writing in my spare time, as I find it to be a fun form of self-expression. Mrs. Stephanie has asked that I join her in contributing to our blog, and I am thrilled to share my first post!

Aaah, it’s sweet summertime!  Our kids are out of school, or if we don’t have children at home, perhaps we’ve decided to take some time for ourselves this summer. Whether vacationing, stay-cationing, or simply taking some time to relax when we have a moment of peace after work, summertime can be ideal for connecting with oneself again, and refocusing on what is most important to us.  

Summertime can serve as a great time to reconnect with our values, strengthen coping mechanisms, and re-center ourselves. For school aged children, teens, and young adults, summer may serve as the ideal time to begin therapy. Oftentimes when planning for summer we think of all of the most enriching possible activities out there. We register our kids for a great summer camp, and plan educational trips to museums. We plan picnics outside at the beach, and splurge on all access passes to Adventure Island, (anything to beat the scorching Florida heat). We take time to travel, and to be outdoors. What we often overlook during the summer is helping our young ones, and ourselves, to work on our mental health.

The benefits of therapy are innumerable. Research indicates that 75% of individuals who enter therapy show some benefit (APA, 2017). The following are some benefits of attending therapy over the summer as I have identified. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and as you are reading I encourage you to open yourself up to what benefits you could see for yourself of going to therapy.

  • Gain coping mechanisms In counseling we cultivate coping mechanisms that will be carried with us far beyond our time in the therapy room. Oftentimes when life throws us barriers, we develop coping mechanisms that don’t serve us. We may not even be aware of what these maladaptive mechanisms are. In therapy we learn to identify our not so helpful coping mechanisms, and to find what is healthy, and what works for us.

  • Manage our stress The summer can be an ideal time to take a break from our usual routine, and to work through out stressors with our therapist. The act of going to therapy itself may also serve to reduce stress. Therapy means having regularly scheduled appointments to look forward to for y-o-u.

  • Improve our concentration Whether we have a break from responsibilities this summer, or if we are still engaged in school and work, summer can be an excellent time to refocus, and to gain skills to help us concentrate throughout the year.

  • Cultivate self-esteem It’s the dreaded time of year again when we get to see the beautiful (beautifully photoshopped) models showing off their tans and their ‘beach bodies’. Rather than focusing on trying to look like the celebrities we see, this summer perhaps we can turn inward to work on cultivating our self-esteem.

  • Get a handle on our anxiety and depression Although we often think of wintertime as a time that individuals most often feel depressed and anxious, summertime can often bring those feelings to the forefront of our lives. The extra time off may be a relief, but it may also bring to light feelings we are coping with all year long. In therapy we can gain the skills we need to cope with feelings of anxiety and depression.

  • Gaining insight of ourselves Our modern society doesn’t often provide us with opportunity (or time) to take a step back and think about ourselves as individuals. Therapy, for some, may be the first opportunity for a higher level of introspection, and may be an opportunity to feel truly heard and understood by a compassionate listener.

If you or a loved one has been on the fence about when the right time for counseling is, I hope you consider taking time for yourself this summer to find a counselor who is a good fit for you or your loved ones needs. Whether you are reading this post this summer, or if it’s any time of the year, I encourage you to find a clinician who will work alongside you while you work on yourself.

Relationship Love Bank

All couples experience disagreements, this is a part of being two different people with emotional needs. What if there was a way to improve your relationships by using the balance of giving and taking everyday? 

You are in luck, there is such a thing! The concept of a "love bank" can be applied to how many times love is deposited and withdrawn from your relationship. Deposits can be compliments, actions, words of kindness, spending time together and positive ways in which you make your partner feel special. The withdrawals on the other hand are harsh, negative criticisms, attacks and insults. In order to maintain a well balanced "love bank" you must have more deposits daily rather than withdrawals. 

Now, what if a withdrawal is made and it is irreparable? This is a possibility with couples who have experienced a trauma, such as infidelity. The couple must decide if the relationship is worth fighting for and if the "love bank" can be once again filled. In this instance couples therapy can assist with the couples decision making to reflect each persons needs. 

Depositing into your own love bank and spending time with your own friends is also necessary for your relationship. Find time for your own interests and take time to connect with yourself outside of your partner. This will help you feel more complete and may lead to wanting to spend more time with your partner after you miss them. 

The "love bank" concept can help couples during negative times. Having increased positive deposits can make you a stronger couple and may make difficult moments more bearable. Depositing positive memories into your relationship "love bank" can help you and your partner feel more emotionally connected. 

The Bachelor: Is finding true love that easy?

The craze with The Bachelor seems to be never ending and thousands of viewers tune in weekly to watch the drama unfold. Many of us wonder, is finding "true love" that easy? Well for starters, what is "true love?" Many of us believe "true love" is the happily ever after kind of love and our eternal devotion to our partners. However, knowing that the divorce rate in America is between 40% to 50% for your first marriage, we may be looking for the wrong kind of love for the wrong reasons. 

Love and infatuation are two different factors. Infatuation seems to be what The Bachelor loves to show us every week. The butterflies in your stomach, traveling to new exotic places and the lust of wanting each other. The Bachelor does not show us "true love" and it is misleading. We have to remember The Bachelor only films for six weeks, that is barely enough time to form a new habit for most of us, let alone get to know a potential partner. 

The truth is most of us will experience some sort of boredom in our relationship and may want to stray away. How do you overcome this? Step back and focus on you. Ask yourself, what is the real issue within me that I am bringing into our relationship? You will be surprised after some soul searching. You may realize you feel unattractive, you may be stressed at work or your family may be the source of unwanted turmoil. Relationships fluctuate and that is natural, do not let go just because your prince charming (or Bachelor) does not meet your checklist of all your requirements at all times. Be patient and unlike the speedy six weeks of The Bachelor "true love" means "true work."