Married Women Need Girls Trips Too! Here’s Why

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So, you’re well settled into your marriage. Maybe you have a kid or two. Things are busy with work and juggling life’s demands overall. So, why do I think it’s a great idea to plan a fun weekend away with your closest friends? Here are my top 5 reasons:

1. You’re Feeling Less Connected – The older you get, the easier it can be to isolate yourself from friends and family. Between your own schedule, your partner’s and your children’s’ activities, it can be easy to become completely consumed with all the demands that may come your way. Isolation in general is never ideal and when left unchecked can wreak havoc on your emotional health. Another reality is that in order to have friends, you must make the effort to maintain these relationships. Taking a temporary step back from your day-to-day demands can free you up to connect with your friends on a more intimate level.

2. You Need a Good Laugh – There is absolutely nothing like sharing in a good laugh with great friends in person. Period. When you spend time around people that you care about, a hormone called oxytocin is released. This natural mood-booster can improve your mental wellness by decreasing your stress levels and anxiety. So, whether you decide on a road trip or travel internationally, the fun, special moments you can share while exploring new locations can provide you just the pick me up you need.

3. Your Partner Is Not The Globetrotting Type – No matter what, your spouse/partner can never truly replace the relationships that you have with your girlfriends. In fact, it’s unfair to even expect this in your romantic relationships. The pressure to be everything to any one person is often a burden to heavy to bear. This is especially important if your partner doesn’t love to travel to new destinations. Instead of pressuring your partner into going on your next trip with you, invite a couple of girlfriends instead.

4. You’re Craving New Memories In New Locations – It’s easy to get into the same routine when it comes to your friendships. Maybe there’s a restaurant or a lounge that you frequent together in your area. While there is something to be said for indulging in nostalgia, opening yourself up to a new adventure can do wonders for your friendships. The best times of your friendship aren’t necessarily in the past. Your most precious moments may in fact be ahead of you as you explore more about yourself and your friends at a new destination. So, if you’ve been bitten by the travelling bug, invite your friends along for the ride!

5. It’s Good For Your Health – Yes, you read that right. And no, interacting online is not a replacement for good old in-person interaction. According to a study published by Sage Journals in 2015, social isolation can impact your mortality. Avoiding contact with others shares the same health equivalent as smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day. So, there you have it. Isolating yourself from good friends is scientifically unhealthy. While travel can seem indulgent, it can be one of the most powerful forms of self-care you can practice.

 

So, book the flight, make the hotel reservations or hop in the car. Life is way too short to restrict yourself for fear of judgement from others. Let them judge away while you LIVE your life. Better health and wellness may be one awesome girls’ trip away.

2019 MTY Retreat Recap

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One week ago today, I touched down in Cancun, Mexico for the 2nd #MTYRetreat by Myleik Teele at the Nizuc Resort and Spa. As an attendee at last year’s MTY Retreat, I walked into the event without knowing anyone and was completely overwhelmed by it (and in a really good way). The fact that someone I’ve never met, would take the time to plan and curate such a unique and powerful experience for myself and the other guests honestly touched me in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. I could feel the love and care in every detail.

Last year, I shared with a few of the ladies in a more intimate setting that I have often felt like an outsider during my collegiate and professional careers. I’m not someone who grew up in an environment where networking and business connections were already in place. There was no particular blueprint that was laid out for me when I decided that I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship and dedicate my therapy practice to helping others cultivate personal wellness and healthy relationships. So, what was my not-so-secret weapon? The My Taught You podcast by Myleik Teele. Myleik’s podcasts cover everything from the challenges of entrepreneurship to finding happiness. Each episode has blessed my life which means that they have also blessed yours. Having the opportunity to thank her in person was one of the motivating factors that lead me to apply for The Retreat back in 2016.

photo credit: mecca gamble

photo credit: mecca gamble

As I walked into The Retreat this year, it felt like coming home. No nerves. No fear. No more wondering why or how I got there. Just pure excitement! Re-connecting with women from last year and meeting new attendees was such a treat! But the reality is, I don’t even have to connect with these women in person on a regular basis to feel their support from near and far. So many of us have forged such strong bonds with one another, which have led to local meetups, business collaborations, and strong friendships. Don’t let the cute stunts on the ‘gram fool you. The connections that Myleik has helped us to nurture are incredibly meaningful and they run DEEP.

 

Here are some of my favorite highlights and key takeaways from this year’s MTY Retreat:

 

Yvonne Orji is Fearless

(Or better yet, she feels the fear and moves forward anyway)

photo credit: mecca gamble

photo credit: mecca gamble

When the actress (known as Molly on the hit show Insecure on HBO) was asked how she mustered up the courage to leave her career in public health to pursue acting, Yvonne’s response blew all of us away: “I hate regret more than I hate fear.” This was such a succinct but powerful statement that resonated with so many of us.

Morgan DeBaun Has No Problem Running You Her Receipts

(And neither should you)

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During Morgan’s master class, we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to another attendee that we had never met and share all of our accomplishments with them. What a powerful exercise! I had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with Olaide Ojekunle, creative entrepreneur, founder of Baedates, and winner of the #MTYReatreatContest! (She’s amazing by the way). Morgan, founder of Blavity, explained that the ability to clearly communicate who you are and what you have achieved is critical in life and in business. Many of us have deflected incredible opportunities in the name of “humility.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of yourself and your accolades. Share away!

Devi Brown Exemplified Karleen Roy’s Advice

(And I did not connect the dots until today)

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Before even beginning her presentation, Devi Brown (author and Founder of Karma Bliss) started off her master class by having each audience member extend their hand toward the back of the room to acknowledge Myleik (who was standing there holding her little one, Noah. Too adorable). Devi took the time to thank and extend support Myleik, the person that brought her into this space to begin with. What struck me about this moment in hindsight is that this act of acknowledgement is something that Karleen, founder and CEO of The Vanity Group noted as one of her best pieces of advice for building a successful business. Never forget to express your gratitude to the person who brought you into the room to begin with.

During her masterclass, Devi also touched on the importance of setting healthy boundaries with others (one of my favorite topics). She stated, “The work requires you to have difficult conversations with yourself and others.” This inner work is never, ever easy, but vital if you are hoping to find and stay on track to and through your purpose.

“They” Can’t Dim Myleik’s Light

(And they can only dim yours if you let them)

Photo credit: mecca gamble

Photo credit: mecca gamble

When asked about coping with people who go out of their way to diminish your character, work ethic or overall awesomeness, Myleik simply stated, “You can’t dim my light. I have the switch.” Leave it to Myleik to force us all the way out of our feelings on this one. The reality is that when you pursue a particular path in life, everyone won’t be supportive of you. In fact, some may even try to sabotage you. Kahlana Barfield and Luvvie also touched on their “time in the barrel” and noted that regardless of the criticism, we cannot be selfish with our dreams.

 

What I Hope You’ll Take Away From This Post

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If there is any aspect of your life that you don’t find satisfying, commit to bettering yourself in that area, while being mindful of who you’re spend your time with and how. This can be done in many ways including through in-person retreats, online communities and reading books. Creating healthy connections with other people is important for your overall health and well-being. And if your friends aren’t in support of that, it’s time to edit and thoughtfully expand your tribe. You have the ability to control who you spend your time with.

“Unapologetic self care” is something that Myleik speaks out about regularly and is one of the pillars of the MTY Retreat, unapologetic being the key word here. There is an unspoken stigma that comes with investing in yourself. As I always say, time and energy are LIMITED resources and it’s important to be mindful about how you spend yours. Do not be afraid to pour into YOURSELF.

Make the unpopular decision when you know it’s the right thing to do and take the leap of faith when you know there is no other way. You’ll be so pleased with what’s waiting for you on the other side.

Looking forward to the continued domino effect that is the #MyTaughtYou movement. I am the magic.

For more behind the scenes shots from the #MTYRetreat, check out my Instagram highlights here.

 

6 Secret Travel Tips To Re-Connect With Your Family

During spring break last week, my family and I had the pleasure of spending a week at Cabo Azul Resort & Spa in the beautiful city of San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico. By keeping my personal and family’s wellness in mind, this trip left me feeling incredibly grounded and connected with my husband and 2 daughters. How do you plan a stress-free family vacation? How can travel bring you closer as a family? Here are my secret travel tips for making your next family vacation enjoyable and intentional.

  1. Set Your Intention - It’s not uncommon for the goal of a family vacation to be “fun” or “relaxation”, but it’s important to go a little deeper than that. Before you step on an airplane or begin your road trip, talk with your family about what they are each looking forward to most and how they hope to feel during and after the trip. With this in mind from the beginning, you can more thoughtfully plan different aspects of your vacation that will fulfill some of these needs and wants.

  2. Be Flexible - While it’s great to have a plan of what you’d like to see and do, being flexible will allow your family to experience the unexpected. These surprising moments can be so much fun and create lasting memories that you all can share. Resist the urge to plan out and over-schedule every moment of your trip and instead, go wherever the day takes you.

  3. Let the Kids Plan - This is critical to a successful family trip with children. Would you want to go on a trip where you have absolutely no say in what you do or where you go? I think not! Battling over how you’ll be this precious time can take the fun out of your vacation altogether. Instead, allow your children’s creativity to shine by assigning them the task of planning out a full day (you’d have to set a few parameters, of course). From activities and locations to food, your kids will have a great time with this and so will you!

  4. Check In - At some point in the middle of your vacation, have some one-on-one time with each family member. Whether it’s a quick chat over dessert or while you make a run to the local store, hearing what their experience has been like through their eyes will allow you to have a greater understanding of how they experience the world around them.

  5. Try Something New - There’s so much good that can come from trying something new, especially with the ones you love. It’s easy to feel stuck in your day to day routine. You can even get stuck in day to day routines on your vacations too! Break up the pattern a bit by trying something as a family that none of you have experienced yet. Doing so will bring you closer together and you may learn that you love something you never thought possible.

  6. Reflect As a Group - At the end of your trip, have a family gathering and share what each of you learned about yourselves and something new you learned about another family member. The insights you hear from your family about who you are and what they observed from you can help you strengthen your bond and initiate further conversations on similar topics in the future.

While putting together a family vacation can be challenging, the trip itself shouldn’t be! Remaining open and flexible throughout the process from the beginning will set the foundation needed for an amazing getaway.

The Don'ts of Relationships On Social Media

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Social media has drastically changed our romantic relationships from the way we meet one another to how we express our love. Many have often adopted the belief that if you didn’t post it online, it didn’t happen. Here is a quick guide on what NOT to do on social media, when it comes to love and relationships.

Don’t Fake It - It is not uncommon for individuals that feel particularly self conscious about their relationship to post incessantly about how much they love their partner and how amazing they are. This “fake it til you make it” strategy can be particularly damaging as the focus of the poster becomes projecting a positive image to the public versus making the actual relationship better in reality. Instead of promoting an image of perfection that’s not your current reality, take some time to reflect on whether your current partnership is best and healthiest for you. Worrying less about what others think about your relationship will give you the time and energy to focus on what’s most important: your overall well-being.

Don’t Rely on Joint Accounts - Some couples have chosen to start joint social media accounts in hopes of preventing any inappropriate online exchanges with online friends. Trust is critical for any healthy relationship and while these accounts may work well for some couples, they provide no guarantee of keeping your partner from straying. Instead of using joint accounts, setup up mutual social media boundaries for yourself and your partner. Will you follow your exes? Like or comment on racy pics? Correspond with strangers via DM? Set and agree to any parameters up front to avoid confusion or disappointment further down the road.

Don’t Assume Reciprocity - Love languages certainly come in to play with our social media behaviors. For example, someone that consistently tags their partner in posts expressing their love and/or highlighting their partner’s accomplishments is likely hoping to receive these kinds of public displays of affection in return. It is not uncommon for these actions to go overlooked, as the partner may prefer to express their love in a more private setting. If expressing your love online brings you joy, that’s great! But, it’s important to be clear about your intentions here. Attempting to shame your partner into professing their love online is unrealistic and unfair. In fact, it has less to do with your relationship and more to do with others. Instead of keeping tally of who posted an online declaration of love last, ensure your efforts in real life are even greater. Make sure that you go out of the way to tell your partner how much they mean to you face-to-face. Speaking and demonstrating your love for one another in real time will strengthen the foundation for your relationship for years to come.

Why You're Dimming Your Light (And How To Stop)

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We’ve all heard a phrase similar to the following: Never dim your light for anyone. In theory, this statement is easy to accept and agree with. But what about in practice? What do you do when competition and jealousy begin to rear their head in your relationship? Here are some tips to ensure your date/partner appreciates and encourages you to shine bright.

  • Know Your Worth - Having a healthy sense of self-worth is important for your own wellness and personal satisfaction. With that being said, the way that you regard yourself can have a significant impact on your relationships. If you are unsure of yourself and insecure about your abilities, you may attract a partner that will exploit that. Focusing on confidence building help you feel more comfortable in your own skin, which can help you feel more attractive and help you attract the right mate.

  • Connect With Other Superstars - When the norm among your friends is to conform to predetermined expectations and diminish your greatness, it can be increasingly difficult to break free from that mold. Seek out connections with other women that are successful on the dating scene, while resisting the urge to sacrifice their happiness in the process.

  • Banish Your Fear - Fear of your inability to find a partner that will truly accept you for who you are often fuels temptation to scale down certain aspects of your personality, boundaries and successes. Instead of focusing on quantity, focus on quality instead. The last thing you want are a string of dates or partners that will encourage you to deny all the positive aspects of who you are. Instead of focusing on what you’re afraid of, make decisions based on your hopes, dreams and the potential for positive outcomes instead.

Healthy connections are always better than more connections. While they may be fewer in number, a healthy relationship will allow your light to grow and flourish more beautifully than you could ever imagine.

5 Healthy Ways To Baby-Proof Your Marriage

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After a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (formerly known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) are now preparing to welcome a new baby into their lives. Making the transition from married couple to new parents is one that should not be taken lightly. Just as many relationship experts will tell you (including myself) preparation is the key to a successful long-term relationship and marriage. Beyond the wedding and the honeymoon, the more work you’ve done to prepare for this new position in life, the better. The same holds true for parenthood. It is easy to romanticize becoming a parent. Shopping for baby clothes, decorating the nursery, developing a birthing plan can be incredibly exciting. But no one is ever truly prepared for how bringing a new life into this world makes you feel. The stress and strain of a new baby can wreak havoc on your love life. It may even bring up issues from your own childhood that you have yet to heal from. While the transition from being a family of 2 to 3 can be challenging, here are some tips to get you through:

  1. Discuss your expectations - Whether we realize it or not, we all have expectations of reaching certain milestones in our lives. What parenthood looks and feels like will likely differ tremendously from what you had in mind. And partner’s response to a crying baby may surprise you even more! While it may seem premature, take the time to discuss some of the logistics you’ll need to sort out. How soon will you and your partner go back to work, if applicable? How will middle of the night feedings and diaper changes be divided up? When these scenarios have not been explored prior, your relationship can suffer tremendously.

  2. Rally your support network for help - Many new parents wait until they are in desperate need before considering reaching out for help. The problem is that when you’re feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, you may be even less likely to seek out support. Before your new baby arrives, start the habit of accepting help from others when it is offered. Accepting assistance from others doesn’t always come naturally, but with practice and time it gets much easier.

  3. Find parenthood mentors - Balancing a healthy relationship with your spouse and a little one can be tough, but it is possible. Seek out other couples with children who have gotten through this stage of their marriage with their sanity in tact while continuing to prioritize their relationship. These mentors can give you fresh ideas to help you stay connected with your spouse when time and energy are in limited supply.

  4. Banish ideas of perfection - Trying to live up to ideals you’ve built up in your mind since childhood can definitely take it’s toll on your marriage. Your partner will never be the perfect parent and neither will you. Much of the beauty of parenthood will be experienced in imperfect situations and circumstances. Embrace that this time in your life may be messy and chaotic (and that’s ok!).

  5. Make a plan to prioritize your relationship - It’s not enough to simply state that you don’t want to lose that spark with your spouse. This will not happen magically and may not happen as spontaneously as it once did pre-baby. Whether a friend watches the baby while the two of you enjoy an uninterrupted dinner in another room or you plan a more elaborate date, do your best to commit some time to one another, however small.

Parenthood is a journey that can put a strain on any marriage, but committing to support one another throughout the process will help your relationship and your little one thrive.

5 Reasons To Keep Kondo-ing Out of Your Dating Life

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The minute I read Marie Kondo’s “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up”, I was instantly inspired to sort through all of my belongings, ridding myself of all items that no longer brought me joy or peace in any way. I raided my closet, emptied my drawers and cleared out my nightstand that was overflowing with old mail and greeting cards. From there, I set my sights on the kitchen next, de-cluttering my refrigerator and pantry to ensure that each item I held onto served a very specific purpose for either myself or one of my family members.

Well in some cases, you can have too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to managing your relationships. This new KonMari trend has now made an impact on the way some are approaching their relationships. The “Kondo-ing” dating trend takes a different spin on Kondo’s popular cleaning method, as partners drop their mates the moment they no longer spark joy. Here’s why eliminating someone from your life completely because they don’t bring you joy can spell disaster for your connections with others:

  1. You’re missing out on supporting them - If your partner is going through a difficult time at work or in other areas of their personal life, they may not have the emotional energy to “cheer up” or “relax and have a good time.” One of the benefits of having a relationship is for support when life’s circumstances challenge us. Instead of cutting them off completely and assuming you know the root cause, take the time to express your concern for their happiness and well-being.

  2. It sabotages your ability to commit - Any real, meaningful connection will be tested at one point or another. Cutting someone out of your life simply because you’ve had a disagreement robs you of the opportunity to sharpen your conflict resolution skills and create an even deeper connection with your significant other. When conflict arises, discuss your concerns and be open to hearing your partner’s. We can learn so much about ourselves and those around us when we are open to hearing other opinions.

  3. It stunts your personal growth - Sometimes you need to hear the cold, hard truth and it WON’T always “bring you joy”, but it can bring you a new outlook or perspective you hadn’t considered before. While you may think you want a partner that always says “yes” to any and everything you want, the ideal mate will challenge you to be your best self. Stepping into the fullness of who you are can be uncomfortable and an amazing partner will encourage you to do just that.

  4. It breeds resentment - Imagine living with a partner that has expressed that the moment you upset them, they will leave. The threat of abandonment in this case is incredibly cruel, one-sided and unhealthy. In fact, it’s not a relationship at all. Over time, this kind of arrangement will breed resentment and is prime for infidelity, as only one person’s needs are being met.

  5. It’s unrealistic - The reality is, there is no way that your partner will always bring you happiness. While the good times should certainly outweigh the bad, life changes and situations will arise that cause you to question what truly makes you happy to begin with. How can we expect our partners to bring us happiness when we are not always sure what that would entail? Saddling your partner with aiming for a moving target is unfair and a waste of everyone’s time and energy.

The real key to enjoying yourself and building healthy relationships is to bring yourself joy. So, instead of eliminating your partner the moment they do something to upset you, challenge yourself to examine the situation, your feelings about it and express that to your partner. By working through the issue together, you may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

Relationship Reset: 5 Tips to Stop Relationship Patterns Dead in Their Tracks

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Feeling as though you are committing the same relationship mistakes again and again can be both overwhelming and frustrating. Check out these tips to get a fresh start.

#1. Are you ready?: Ask yourself if you are willing and ready to endure some discomfort as you charter new territory by approaching your relationships differently. While it may be unsettling at first, the potential for happy and fulfilling relationship possibilities are endless.

#2. Take a closer look: In order to make change, we must examine our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. What are your thoughts about your last relationship? How do those thoughts make you feel? When you experienced those feelings while with your partner, what did you say or do in your relationship? The answers to these questions may lead you to a deeper understanding of how and why you repeat the same relationship patterns time after time.

#3. Remember the family factor: Many of us often try so hard to either replicate or reject the experiences of our parents that we find ourselves getting into trouble as a result. Whether through therapy, prayer or self-reflection, examine what your family taught you about relationships and how these lessons may or may not be serving you well today.

#4. You’re worth it, right?: Examine your own self-image and compare the kinds of relationships you’ve had in the past with the kind of relationship you are seeking. Do you feel in your heart that you deserve to be happy?

#5. Move on: Learn how to move on from past relationships by forgiving your former partner and yourself for past mistakes. Don’t bring your baggage from your last relationship into the next.

Rhonda's Top 7 Tips to Nip Stress in the Bud Now!

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Stress can be both physically and emotionally overwhelming and has been linked to many medical and mental health issues. Here are 7 tips to help you nip stress in the bud:

1) Connect with others – Seek out support from family, friends and pets.

2) Manage your time – Take the time to write out a to-do list. As you complete the tasks on your list, cross them off and pat yourself on the back.

3) Avoid unhealthy coping – Just say no to relying on alcohol, drugs, or smoking as they only provide temporary relief without addressing the source of your stress.

4) Get some exercise – Hiking, salsa dancing, boxing. Whatever you prefer, pick something you love and get moving.

5) Mental imagery – Take some time to visualize yourself conquering a difficult situation. What would that look like and how would you feel?

6) Get some rest – Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability and increase overall stress. Wind down 1 hour prior to bedtime by doing things that relax you like reading a soothing book or drinking a cup of hot tea.

7) Set goals – Jot down a few short or long term goals for yourself and post them up where you can see them each morning.

Try one or all of these tips.  Your mind and body will thank you for it!

Event Recap: Spring Into Self-Care with Burke Williams Day Spa

Burke williams spring skincare media event 

Burke williams spring skincare media event 

Day spas have long been a staple for my personal self-care routine. From the classic Swedish massage to taking a dip in the whirlpool, a day at the spa always leaves me feeling rested, rejuvenated and ready to take on the world! So, when Burke Williams invited me to their Spring Skin Care Event at the Westfield Topanga, I simply could not pass it up!

mini massage at the burke williams spring skincare event

mini massage at the burke williams spring skincare event

In honor of Stress Awareness Month, guests were treated to mini massage treatments, facials, custom-blended body products and "Instalifts" via Nu Face. I also had the opportunity to learn all about the signature H2V skincare line, sold at Burke Williams Spa.  

Discussing life and love with Theresa Armour, co-founder of Burke Williams Spa, was certainly one of the evening's highlights for me. She shared some insight on how she built her amazing brand while keeping her marriage and family at the top of her priority list. During it's inception, Theresa envisioned Burke Williams as "a place for the soul to rest," which has led to the creation and overwhelming success of these spaces for recovery, healing and wellness. Bravo to Theresa and Burke's amazing staff!

 

Rhonda richards-smith & Theresa Armour, co-founder of burke williams day spa

Rhonda richards-smith & Theresa Armour, co-founder of burke williams day spa

I will be sharing some of my favorite self-care strategies during the month of May here. What are some of your favorite tips when it comes to taking good care of yourself? 

Supporting New Parents

While becoming a new parent can be exciting and wonderful, it can also be extremely stressful. Keep some of these tips in mind the next time you encounter a new mom or dad:

What Not to Say
1) “You’re doing it all wrong” – Part of the joy and at times anguish of being a new parent is figuring out the best way to raise your child. While newborn parents may make some mistakes along the way, do not rob them of this experience. Mastering the balancing act of parenthood is an achievement that they can and should have the opportunity to experience, without criticism.

2) “Why aren’t you breast feeding?!/Why aren’t you using formula?!” – Infant feeding has been a really hot topic, especially over the last several years and remains a controversial issue. It’s not uncommon for parents and others individuals to have strong views on this issue, but berating newborn parents for choosing an option you don’t agree with is never OK. Their baby, their decision.

What Not to Do
1) Don’t bombard newborn parents with the latest infant statistics, trends, gadgets and techniques. While there is nothing wrong with some good tips here or there, try not to go overboard. Becoming a new parent is already overwhelming and you don’t want them to feel more anxious than they already are.

2) Don’t assume you know what their baby needs. It can be very irritating for newborn parents to hear that their baby is hungry when they’ve just finished eating, sleepy when they’ve just taken a nap, or have a dirty diaper when it has just been changed. Comments like these can often be received as criticism for newborn parents and can be very frustrating to hear.

What To Say
1) Offer words of encouragement and affirmation. Sometimes a simple “You’re doing a great job” can do wonders to boost a newborn parent’s mood.

2) Normalize any struggles they experience early on with your own as a new parent, is applicable. By doing so, newborn parents may feel less isolated and more confident in the abilities.

What to Do
1) Offer to help whenever possible! Many newborn parents are too embarrassed to ask for help. Whether you can deliver some meals, do a load of laundry or wash some dishes, ask to pitch in frequently.

2) Listen to newborn parents without judgement. While parenthood is a common experience overall, people can and do respond to it very differently. While the experience can be exciting, it is not uncommon for newborn parents to feel stressed, overwhelmed, disappointed, or even incompetent. So, instead of assuming how they feel, stop, listen and be there to provide support and encouragement.

As friends and family, do your best to uplift new parents by supporting them in the way that they would prefer. Transitioning into parenthood can be a rocky and uncertain road and there is nothing more comforting than the support of your “village.”

Positive Relationship Rituals for Couples

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Relationships are living, breathing organisms that need to be nurtured on a daily basis. Relationship rituals are behaviors that a couple participates in on a regular basis to communicate their thoughts and feelings, verbally or non-verbally. Demonstrating these behaviors is a way of signaling to your partner that you support him or her in a way that no one else can. Long-lasting, healthy relationships are those in which you choose to be with your partner again and again each day and these rituals serve as a reminder of that.

It’s no secret that an “inside joke” can bond people together like nothing else. In times of stress, it is critical that couples maintain their relationship rituals whenever possible to keep them grounded, connected and supported. In 2011, The Communication Quarterly published a research study regarding the necessity of relationship rituals to maintain a satisfying relationship. It concluded that participating in relationship rituals led to the development of a small but very powerful cocoon of two, providing support and the space to share and express intimacy.

My Top 4 Recommended Relationship Rituals

#1. Practice mindfulness together – For a few moments each day, stop what you’re doing, close your eyes and join hands in silence. Doing so will keep you grounded, focused and decrease stress. Prayer and/or meditation can also be incorporated is applicable.

#2. Keep it Sexy – While you may not be able (or want to) have sex everyday, why not talk about it? Compliment your partner’s appearance, give them a pinch here and there or let them know how much you are looking forward to your next encounter. Engaging in sexy talk and touch keeps things fresh and let’s your partner know they’ve still got it.

#3. Perfect your “hello” and “goodbye” – Chances are, if you’ve been together for awhile, you already have a special way that you say “hello” and goodbye”. Whatever you do, keep it up! There’s nothing like wishing your partner well as you embark on your day and greeting them when you see them again.

#4. Allow yourself and your partner alone time – This one may be surprising, but giving yourself and your partner the time and space to do things solo or with friends on a regular basis is an essential relationship ritual for most successful relationships. Giving one another both physical and psychological space allows for a deeper emotional connection and a stronger appreciation for one another.

Is Long-Distance Love Right for You?

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While it may not always be the goal, it can and does happen. So when life’s circumstances land you in the middle of a long-distance relationship, use these tips:

1) Be clear about what your expectations are of one another from the beginning. Don’t wait to establish ground rules once trouble arises. Instead, let your partner know what you expect from them and vice versa.

2) Work together to determine the maximum amount of time you all will spend apart without seeing one another in person. Even if you live thousands of miles away from your partner, it’s important that you sacrifice and make the commitment to meet up with one another at the mutually agreed upon times. Long distance relationships are hard work, but this is a great way to demonstrate your ongoing commitment to your partner.

3) Don’t bother driving yourself crazy regarding who your partner is with or what they are doing every moment of the day. Whether long distance or local, trust is the cornerstone of all successful and long lasting relationships.

Is Hidden Stress Hindering You?

While it’s normal to experience low levels of stress, severe and prolonged exposure can lead to serious physical and emotional issues. While trouble at work or family problems are common, here are some less notable situations that may be sending you into a tailspin:

1) Over committing – We’ve all been guilty of it from time to time, but saying yes to completing a task that you know you do not have time or energy for is bad news all around. This kind of pressure we place on ourselves will not only stress us out but can lead to letting others down, which in turn causes even more stress! It’s a horrible cycle that must be broken and it is essential that you make your physical and emotional state a priority. So, instead of committing to an appointment, errand, event, or task that you know you will struggle to complete, have the courage to just say no.

2) Holding Grudges – While it’s not uncommon to be upset by someone else’s actions, holding grudges keeps you in a constant state of anger, preventing you from experiencing any peace or contentment. People who hold onto these situations often relive the event in their minds time and time again, obsessing about what was said, what could have been said, what should have been done, etc. Prolonged anger leads to stress and its effects can have both physical and emotional implications. The next time you feel resentment building, focus on acknowledging your anger and the thoughts you are thinking when you become angry. Once you begin to breakdown your own thoughts and beliefs, you will feel some emotional relief, making it possible for you to forgive the other person for your OWN well-being.

3) Don’t be tardy – Being habitually late can place an unnecessary amount of stress on your plate. From the rush out of the house to racing through traffic, showing up late can be downright unnerving. So, take the time to set your alarm 20 minutes earlier. You’ll save yourself the headache (and angry stares) when you arrive to your destination on time.

4) Toxic Friendships – It’s tough when you have invested so much time and energy into a friendship, but not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime. There can be times when maintaining these relationships take an extreme emotional toll. Take a step back and assess your stress level while interacting with friends to determine whether the friendship is worth keeping. If so, accept them for who they are and how they enhance your life, understanding that each individual has strengths and weaknesses within a friendship. If not, cherish the good times you had, the lessons you learned and move on.

As 2016 comes to a close, commit to making 2017 less stressful by keeping an eye out for the hidden stressors in your life.