5 habits that keep your insomnia going strong

Your least favorite time of the day is night time. While the world is fast asleep, you spend your time tossing and turning. Perhaps you just lay in bed and try to count sheep, but after doing this for months- or maybe even years- it's aggravating.

Or perhaps you actually fall asleep like a baby each night, but the moment you wake up to sip some water or go to the bathroom, you lose the urge to sleep. You've done several Google searches to help you curb your insomnia, but nothing has worked. You've tried downloading every app, but it only works for a short while.

What if I told you that you that your habits could be making your sleep disorder worse? Perhaps your insomnia is actually caused by some of your habits. Well today is your lucky day. Here are 5 habits you need to stop to restore your sleep and improve your insomnia.

1) Taking your electronics with you to bed: These days our gadgets are almost an extension of us. We take our phones with us to the gym, to the store, to the bedroom and even to the bathroom (you know you do this). However these laptops, phones and tablets that are so dear to us emit blue light. The blue light actually sends a signal to your brain and tells it to reduce its production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that helps you maintain your sleep cycle. With this reduced production of melatonin, your sleep cycle is off and your body will think it needs to sleep less.

The solution: To make your life easier, just turn off your electronics about 1 hour before bedtime. If you feel like you absolutely can't do it, just keep them out of arm's reach.

2) Drinking coffee or caffeine all day long: Most people who struggle with sleep problems or insomnia drink quite a lot of coffee or other caffeinated beverages to help manage the grogginess and sour mood they experience in the morning. However, caffeine has a half life of approximately 5 hours. This means it takes 5 hours for your body to completely get rid of half the amount of caffeine you drank. So if you're drinking more than 1 cup of coffee a day, you're pretty much layering the effects of caffeine in your system.

The solution: To get good quality sleep, limit caffeine intake to no more than 1 or 2 cups in the morning. After noon, stay away from coffee, energy drinks and any other stimulant. This will give your body time to get rid of it completely before night time.

3) Staying in bed when you can't sleep: Many people with insomnia remain in bed for hours when they can't sleep. They'll toss and turn for hours. What this does is it sends a message to your brain that the bedroom is a place of anguish. Your bedroom should really be your vacation spot. When you walk in, you should think "I cannot wait to lay on my comfy bed." Not, "Ugh! My awful bedroom again." When you have negative thoughts about your bedroom, it'll sour your feelings and ruin your sleep pattern.

The solution: If you can't sleep after 30 minutes of laying in bed, get up. Go over to another room, do something relaxing for 30 minutes, then return to bed. Whatever you do, DO NOT pick up any electronics. Remember that blue light is exposure is bad for melatonin production.

4) Working in your room: I'm very guilty of this. I love my room so much that it's my favorite place to think and write. No I'm not writing this post from my bed. When it comes to sleep, it's important to trick your brain. The ideal scenario is to work somewhere else, wind down an hour before bed, then come into your room about 30 minutes before bed time. So the brain automatically knows that it should begin to shut down once you step into the bedroom. But when you work and use your laptop while in your bed, your brain doesn't know that it should shut down. The bedroom becomes a trigger for brain activity, rather than brain rest. You get it?

The solution: Use your bedroom for relaxing activities only. Don't do any writing, intense TV watching, talking on the phone, arguing, or anything upsetting in your bedroom. Use it as your sanctuary.

5) Sleeping in on the weekends: Many people make up for lost sleep over the weekend. They'll go to bed extra late, then get up at noon. The problem is if you sleep in 2 days in a row, that's enough to disrupt your sleep pattern. Your body needs to know when to produce adenosine (the hormone that's responsible for your wake up cycle), and when to start producing melatonin (the sleep hormone). If you aren't being exposed to sunlight, your body won't know to keep you awake, then by Monday you'll end up groggy when you should be alert.

The solution: Don't sleep in for more than an hour on the weekends. If you typically get up at 6am during the week, you should be up and out of bed by 7am. This helps your body maintain a regular sleep-wake pattern.

And if you would like to learn about some other habits to help you sleep, here is a list of habits to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Those are your first few steps in beginning to retrain your brain so that your insomnia can be a thing of the past. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist who provides counseling and therapy to women with anxiety. I also provide insomnia treatment in Murrieta using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). For women within California who are too far away from the Murrieta, Temecula or Menifee areas, I provide insomnia treatment online.

CBT-I is a 5 to 8 week treatment for people who struggle with insomnia. It's the first line insomnia treatment in the USA and it is highly recommended by sleep researchers and experts. Click here to schedule your free 15 minute consultation call so that insomnia can be a thing of the past.

You can also call me at 951-905-3181 to find out how CBT for insomnia can help you sleep again in as little as 5 sessions.

5 Myths about anger that are keeping you angry

In my anger management class in Murrieta, I teach people how to become more in tune with their emotions, how to express themselves in an assertive way, and to learn how to communicate better with the people around them. I've noticed a common thread among clients who take my anger management class in Murrieta. They often believe some myths about anger. Here are the top 5 myths about anger that I'd like to dispel:

Anger is genetic

How many times have you heard someone say "I'm Italian, so I have a big personality!" or "I'm from New York, so I scream when I talk." Or my favorite: "I'm Nigerian so that's just how I behave." We sometimes falsely believe that we should be angry because our parents were angry people or people from our culture or our town are angry. Well, I'm happy to let you know that anger is in fact NOT genetic. Your angry father did not pass his anger gene down to you like he passed down his brown eyes.

An angry expression of emotions is actually a learned behavior. So when you were growing up, perhaps your dad would yell whenever he was irritated or your mom would hit you whenever you broke the rules. Watching them express themselves in this way shapes you to believe that this is the only way to express frustration.

What this means is that the angry expression of emotions can actually be unlearned. Just like you were taught to scream at people, throw things or punch walls, you can also be taught to speak assertively, communicate clearly and to express yourself in a different way. Isn't that nice?

Anger leads to aggression

Many people actually believe that anger naturally leads to aggression. They run away from the emotions because they fear that it will lead to hitting, getting into fights or doing something they will regret later. To be clear, aggression is any behavior with the intention of controlling the other person. So if you refuse to listen to other people's point of view, if you constantly talk over others and try to get your way all the time, you're acting aggressively. Few people will actually admit that they are aggressive.

Anger doesn't automatically lead to aggression. You are actually in control of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Now when people are in the heat of anger, they might feel like they have no control over themselves. This is untrue. The problem is you might not have the necessary tools to know what to do when your anger is reaching its peak. That's why you might feel out of control. But once you've learned specific tools to manage your anger (HINT: Which I teach in my anger management class), you'll find that your level of aggression becomes less and less.

Angry people always get their way 

Some people actually use anger as a form of manipulation. They believe that if they lash out or yell, their partners or loved ones will have no choice but to comply. Well, I have to say that it works sometimes. Their children, spouses and friends become so afraid of them, that they just do whatever they want to avoid an argument.

However, this can only work for so long. After a while, children grow up and become adults with boundaries. They'll move out of your house and decide to cut you out of their lives. Spouses will begin to stand up for themselves and you'll realize that you cannot always get your way. The only thing anger does is it creates separation between you and the people you love.

Anger is bad

Many clients have come in to my anger management group with their heads hanging low. They have been told or they believe that people who experience anger are bad. Anger is simply an emotion. And I believe it's neutral. Uncontrolled anger on the other hand, can lead you into a hot mess. When you are angry, it's important to dig in and figure out why exactly you are angry. In my group, I teach my clients that anger is simply a secondary emotion. This means it's just a symptom of something else going on. So when someone yells at you in public, you probably feel embarrassed or disrespected, which then leads to anger. When your child isn't listening to you, you might feel frustrated, which leads to anger. When your partner breaks up with you, you feel hurt, which leads to anger. 

Do you get it? Your anger is like the check engine light of your car. The light is simply a warning sign. The light is neutral. What you need to do is open up the hood of your car. If you cover up the light or ignore it, the problem will persist, get worse and then your car will be in worse shape. 

You should get anger out by hitting

Often times people say to me, "I'll just go hit the punching bags when I'm angry." While this might be a great work out, hitting something (or someone) when you're angry doesn't resolve anything. All it teaches you is how to be a great hitter. In the moment it feels great, because it's a good way to distract yourself from everything going on in your head, but punching something when you're angry doesn't resolve your relationship or soothe your hurt feelings. 

Ready to work on your anger issues so that your anger is no longer in control of you? Great! Click here to schedule a free 15 minute consultation call with me to see if my anger management group in Murrieta is right for you. You can also call me at 951-905-3181. Make anger a thing of the past. It's all up to you.

How to set goals you can actually accomplish in 2019

Happy New Year! I can't believe it's already 2019. It seems as if last year rolled by too fast. Now, if you're like most people, you probably have great dreams for this year. You want your life to be filled with joy, you want your family to be healthy, and you want to accomplish some great goals. The problem is you have a bad habit of setting New Year's resolutions and then forgetting all about them by February.

Remember that unused gym membership from 2018? Remember the time when you said you were going to write a book but you didn't? Well, today is your lucky day because I'm going to give you 6 tips to increase your chances of actually following through with your goal.

1) Make your goals SMART

We all set life goals, but the problem is that some of us have goals that are way too vague. 'Make more money,' 'Lose weight,' 'Be happier,' all sound like great goals on the surface, but they are way too broad. I like to break my goals up in a SMART way. Here are the steps:

Make sure your goal is Specific: Make sure your goal isn't too vague. You brain can't compute anything that's too vague and your heart won't become emotionally tied to a vague goal. If you are emotionally attached to your goal, you'll be more motivated to follow through. So, you could say something like "I want to make $1,000 more in January 2019." That's as specific as it gets. 

Make it Measurable: Quantify your goals. Make sure each goal either has a completion date or some type of number attached to it. So your money goal of making $1,000 in January 2019 is measurable. We know exactly how much money you're trying to make and we know the deadline for completing the goal. That way you can break it down further each week to know what targets you should be hitting to stay on track.

Make sure it's Achievable: It's always great to reach for the sky, but how many of us have actually ever touched the sky?  If your goal is unattainable, it has the opposite result. You'll get discouraged and stop trying to pursue it. If your goal is to make $1000 in January 2019 but you haven't held a job in the past 5 years, chances are you might not be able to achieve it. So set something attainable, then set another goal as soon as you reach that one. So if you haven't had a job in 5 years, perhaps your goal could be to make $100 extra in January 2019. After you've met that goal, set a goal to make $200. Be systematic.

Make sure it's Reasonable: Also pay attention to your abilities, the level of support you have in your life, and your resources. If your goal is to travel to 5 countries this year but you know that you work a regular 9 to 5 job and you don't have any time off, that's pretty unreasonable. Even though it's great to think outside the box, an unreasonable goal will discourage you. And a discouraged person most likely won't be motivated to complete a goal.

Make it Time Limited: Add a completion date to your goal. An open ended goal will kill your ambition and you'll lose steam fast. But when you know you're going to be working toward a goal for a limited amount of time, it's easier to maintain focus. It's helpful to set 3 month and 6 month goals to begin with. Then as you get good at maintaining your focus, you can stretch those goals into 1-year, 2-year and 3-year goals.

2) Get an accountability partner: When you have someone positive cheering you on, you are more likely to work tirelessly toward your goal because you know they're going to ask you about it. No one wants to deal with the embarrassment of letting their accountability partner down. Make sure you only pick someone who is positive and encouraging. A Debbie Downer will kill your mojo.

3) Post your goals somewhere visible: I like the added accountability of posting my goals on a mirror, a door, in my car or somewhere I cannot ignore it. Why? Because if you can't see your goals, you can easily ignore them. Out of sight, out of mind. But when you are greeted by your goals every single day, you'll be more motived to actually work towards them.

4) Plan out small steps towards your big goal: A 5 year goal can be very daunting. So after writing the long term goal, break it down further. If you want to accomplish something big like buying a house in 5 years, what would you need to do in 3 years to help you reach the goal? Break it down further. What would you need to do in 1 year to reach your goal? Break it down further! What would you need to do in 6 months to reach your goal? Even further. What would you need to do in 3 months, and then weekly to reach your goal?

5) Schedule everything: Once you've broken down your goal into smaller steps, it's time to schedule it out on your planner or phone. I love Google Calendar. It's free and it can also send you reminders. Spend 1 day planning out your tasks and setting them automatically on your phone. That way when the alert pops up, you remember to get right on it.

6) Give yourself a reward: Goal setting is difficult business. Set a benchmark for yourself and agree to give yourself a reward every time you hit that benchmark. So for example, if your goal is to make $1000 more in January, you can buy yourself a treat every time you make $250. If your goal is to buy a house, you can do something special every 3 months as you're on your way to rocking your goal.

There you have it- 6 easy ways to actually accomplish your goals this year. And if anxiety or insomnia are keeping you from accomplishing your goals, I'd love to chat with you for 15 minutes to see if I might be a good fit for you. I help anxious women, insomniacs and engaged couples in the Temecula/Murrieta feel calmer, sleep better and lay a solid foundation for their future. Click here to schedule a free 15 minute consultation call.

 

How to deal with your difficult family this Christmas

Christmas time is here! Merry Christmas to all you folks out there in Murrieta, Temecula and the entire Inland Empire. I hope today will bring you lots of happiness, and all the warm and fuzzy feelings.

But for some people, Christmas time is not so warm and fuzzy. Christmas time brings painful memories of family woes. No matter what type of family you were raised in, understand that it is possible to still have a happy, healthy life-there are just a few boundaries you can set.

Here are some ways you can begin to manage a difficult family:

1) Decide what you want: If you have a toxic family, you'll know it. They leave your self esteem lower than ever, you don't want to open up to them about personal areas of your life, they're judgmental, your heart races every time you go to visit them, you hold back tears when you're in their presence, and you breathe a sigh of relief when the festivities are over. If you nodded your head to the above statements, chances are your family is either really difficult or toxic.

If majority of your holidays end in disappointment, you must decide if it's worth it to sacrifice your precious days off to be with your family. Perhaps you'd do better if you spend the holidays alone or with people who actually fill you with joy. Although it's a tough decision to make, decide what you want and stick to your decision. This is important for those days when you're feeling guilty for not spending all your time with them.

2) Challenge the overt or covert messages they've sent you: Many people who are in a dysfunctional family, have no clue how much their family has harmed them emotionally. Spend some time thinking about some of the negative things your family members have said and done. Once you've thought them out, write out about 5 of them. Next to each one, write out how that event has made you feel about yourself. For example, if every time you see your dad, he talks about how much weight you've gained, your dad's statements might have made you think to yourself, "I'm fat."

Now remember, because your family members say something doesn't mean it's true. If your dad talks about your weight all the time, you do not have to change the way you look just to suit him. If the message you've been telling yourself is "I'm fat," come up with another, more realistic message to counter it. Such as "I am beautiful just the way I am" or "I love the way my body looks." It'll take a while for your brain to catch up with your heart, but say these more realistic statements over and over again.

3) Create some space: Many of us were raised with the idea that every holiday must be spent with family. But what happens if your family holidays are perpetually sad or filled with arguments? Then it might be time to find someone new to spend the holiday with. A few weeks before the holidays, let your family know that you'll be going elsewhere to celebrate. Yes they might yell, they might be offended and they might clutch their pearls, but if you do this every year, they'll eventually get the message and get used to your new plan. You cannot please everyone.

You can also create space by limiting communication with them. Avoid contentious topics, reduce the number of calls you make to them, and just try to keep the conversation civil and light. The goal is to keep your mental space stress free and as positive as possible.

Another way to do it is to do a drive by Christmas with your family, and then spend a longer period of time with someone who brings you joy. So you could choose to spend an hour with your family, and then spend the rest of the day with more cheerful, positive people. That way you only have to take your family in small doses and your entire holiday isn't ruined.

4) Remind yourself why you're doing all this: When you start to create some space, the backlash will begin. Remind yourself why you have to do it. If you remain in the toxic environment, it WILL drag you down. But if you hold on to your boundaries, work on your mindset and surround yourself with positive people, your Christmas will go off without the usual frustration and tears.

Ready to learn how to maneuver a difficult or even toxic family? I love to help women and engaged couples in Murrieta figure out how to create lives that are anxiety free. Click here to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation. You could also call me at 951-905-3181.

 

6 topics engaged couples seldom discuss that could lead to divorce

You just got proposed to, the ring is fabulous and you can't wait to start planning the wedding of your dreams. You have always imagined yourself in a beautiful, big dress with lace sleeves. You've picked the bridesmaids, you know your location, but have you had the right discussion with your fiancé to make sure that you are both in sync? Or do you still have fears that your marriage might end up like your parents'?

Now I know there is nothing romantic about having a serious discussion with the one you love. You'd rather focus on the fairy tale wedding. But if you plan to spend the rest of your life with someone, you better make sure you have laid the right foundation. You don't want to end up like your parents who are now unhappily divorced or like your friend who used to be so happy, but now she can't stand her husband. Laying the right foundation for your marriage will ensure that you both are happily married.

Here are 6 topics that every serious dating and engaged couple should discuss so that the marriage doesn't end up in strife or divorce.

Finances: Money is a huge trigger for many people. Some of us are taught how to take care of our money, and others were never taught. We typically take care of our money the way we saw our parents take care of their money. If your father was a big spender, chances are you'll also want to spend your money quickly. But if your parents or guardians were frugal, you'll probably have a smilier mindset. In some families, money is actually never discussed, meaning that the kids grow up to believe that money is a taboo topic. 

While you are still engaged, it's important to talk about how you both will manage finances. Will you have 2 separate accounts or 1 joint account? Will you split bills half way or will one partner contribute more to the bills? Will you be setting a monthly budget or will you play it by ear? Money is one of the top reasons for divorce. Although it might be uncomfortable, get the discussion in now before you say your vows.

Kids: I can't even tell you how many couples do not ever discuss the issue of kids until after they are married. How many kids do you both want to have? Who will take care of the kids? Will one of you stay home for a while to care for the kids? Will the kids be in daycare? What type of daycare are you comfortable with? How will you raise your kids? What values will you like to instill in them? What are your parenting styles? Will you be a listening parent or a barking orders, do what I say parent? Will the kids be home schooled? If both parents cannot agree about how to raise kids, I promise you, it'll become an ongoing argument once the kids get here. So while it isn't romantic to go over these issues, it's definitely practical.

Holidays: Holidays are joyous times. We spend the time with our loved ones, we have special rituals around that time of year, and we definitely know what type of food should be served. But when an engaged couple gets married, the question becomes, "Do we celebrate holidays at your parents' house or mine?" Great question.

Marriage is a joining of two families. And you can't expect one person to completely leave their family behind. And if both of you are from different cultures, you have to add a separate layer to it. Your spouse might celebrate holidays that you've never heard of. Take some time to talk about what holidays you both would like to celebrate, where you'd like to celebrate, as well as who you'd like to celebrate it with. It might sound too simple to discuss, but when one partner feels like her family is ignored every year, it could lead to resentment, which leads to bitterness and anger. 

Chores: When you're single, you get used to running your household however you want. You can leave your dishes in the sink for 2 straight nights, you can vacuum 3 times a day if you'd like, and you can cook all the stinky cheese you please. No problem. But when you become engaged, then get married, you have to learn how to compromise. Don't take chores for granted. Before you move in together, talk about how you plan to split chores around the house. Is it his job to take out the trash, or will you both do it? How often do you expect the house to be cleaned? Specify what cleaning looks like, because for some people, cleaning simply means sweeping the floor, for others, cleaning means, sweeping, dusting, mopping, fluffing pillows, cleaning the blinds and scrubbing the grout. Make sure it's obvious what your expectations are. I can assure you that something as simple as a dirty home will drive you to daily conflict. 

Religion: This is a huge one. Be very honest about your religious and spiritual beliefs. This is not something to glance over. Talk about your beliefs and how you express them in daily life. So if your expectation is that you go to church on Sundays, then say that. if your expectation is that you volunteering Sundays, go to mid-week service on Wednesdays and also participate on other days, let that be clear. And if you are 2 people form different faith backgrounds, it's even more important to discuss what that would look like. Religious beliefs run deep so put everything on the table and let your expectations be very clear. This WILL lead to strife if not ironed out while you're still and engaged couple.

Roles: Discuss what each of you believes the wife and the husband's role is. Usually, we expect to run our household the way our family of origin ran theirs. So if your mom stayed home and watched the kids, you might want to do the same. If your dad worked two jobs and your mom worked one, you might assume your husband wants to do the same. Do you believe the husband is the head of the household? And what does that mean in practice? Get very specific. The easiest way to do this is to think back to your family of origin. Write out what roles your mom and dad played and think about if you'd like to continue that lifestyle or if you'd want something different.

And if it's too difficult to have these discussions on your own, I provide premarital counseling/therapy for engaged and premarital couples. Let's make sure that you are confident when walking down the aisle. Start your marriage off right with solid counseling. Don't make the same mistakes your friends and loved ones did. And if you'd like to schedule a free 15 minute consultation call, to see if premarital counseling in the Murrieta/Temecula area is right for you, click here or call 951-905-3181. I also provide online premarital counseling throughout California.

Are you a Highly Sensitive Person?

You have always felt like you're different from other people. You get overwhelmed easily, you feel other people's emotions strongly, certain fabrics feel like sandpaper when they touch your skin, and you tend to get anxious a lot. You don't fit in in the world, your family thinks you're too sensitive, and your friends certainly don't get you. You were called "Weird" when you were growing up, but you've always hated that. You don't enjoy going to the club, other loud places, or being among a large crowd. You also tend to spend a great deal of time on your own. There's something about time alone that soothes you and makes you feel rejuvenated.

Maybe you're simply just unique.

You were created with certain unique gifts that set you apart from the people around you. Maybe that's why you never fit into a box. But let's face it, a part of you always wanted to be understood. A part of you wished others would understand you. But maybe you were never meant to fit in, maybe boxes weren't made for people like you.

A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is someone who processes stimuli a lot stronger than others. The term was actually coined by a researcher called Dr Elaine Aron. So you might hear a lot sharper than others, notice little nuances in the environment that others ignore, feel sensations stronger (hence the itchy fabric issue) and even feel emotions more strongly than others. You feelings might get hurt more easily. A HSP is often very empathetic. They might cry more when they watch a sad movie, or they might be completely horrified and might not be able to watch violent movies or play graphic video games. They often see the hurt and the pain that other people try to hide. Because they're so empathetic, others tend to gravitate towards them and pour out their hearts to them. But the problem with this is, a HSP often feels the need to help everyone- leaving her with no energy left for her own emotional needs. If you're curious to see if you're a HSP, take the test here.

Here are some traits of HSPs:

1) People think you're sensitive or shy.

2) You are bothered by loud noises and bright lights.

3) You get frazzled when there's too much going on in your life.

4) You enjoy structure.

5) You avoid violent movies and games.

6) You love spending time all by yourself.

7) You tend to soak up other people's emotions.

So if you take the HSP test and find out that you're a HSP, congrats!! You are one of the chosen few. Only 15% to 20% of people are HSP. This is why others find it difficult to understand you-it's because you're a rarity. So take off the stigma of being weird and different. You are indeed unique- not weird. I love helping HSP women learn how to care for themselves, learn how to maneuver their way in this loud world so that they can how harness their innate gifts and create meaningful relationships. Click here to schedule a free 15 minute consultation call, so I can help you move from emotionally exhausted woman to a master boundary setter. I also provide online counseling for women throughout CA.

Confessions of a therapist- everything you don't know about your therapist

Most therapists go into the mental health field because we either have a burning desire to help people live great lives, or we have experienced hurt and pain, which creates a need to walk people out of the pain they are currently experiencing. It is a great responsibility to walk side by side with you as you are on your journey of healing. Now there are many misconceptions about therapists and counselors. Many people view us as mysterious people- but what you don't know is that we are quite easy to crack. Here are some secrets you should know about your local therapist.

I'm a regular person-just like you: Even though I'm a therapist, it's important to know that I'm a regular person just like you. I have hopes and dreams- to be healthy and happy. The only difference between me and you is that I have dedicated my life to helping people become unstuck so they can move on to brighter futures. Many therapists have families, we live in homes, some have spouses and kids. Some of us create art, sing, dance (even though I might have two left feet), watch movies, and travel. We have hobbies and do regular people things. It really is the only way we can take care of ourselves so that we can give you the care you need. If you're local in the Murrieta/Temecula area, you might even catch me around town just living life. If you've worked with me before, then you've probably heard my really loud laugh, my animated jokes and all the craziness that comes out of my mouth.

I sometimes nap on my couch: Now this is one of my deepest, darkest secrets as a therapist or counselor. Sometimes the days can be long, and when I find myself lucky enough to have a long break between sessions, I sometimes take a cat nap on my lovely couch. You see the couch isn't just for you to feel comfortable, it's also a great napping spot for me (Shh! Don't tell anyone).

I believe in you before you can even believe in yourself:  So often clients come to me broken, disillusioned and feeling lonely. Life feels so horrible that they just can't bear it. The moment you walk in to see me- sometimes with tears in your eyes-I usually can tell that you will be just fine. Because I've worked with so many women over the years, and I take great care to only take clients whom I believe I can help in some capacity. I have high hopes for you when you come to see me. I believe it is my job to hold the hope for you until you believe that you deserve to hold the hope for yourself.

I don't place judgement on you: It usually takes a while before a new client can trust me. But eventually, all my clients learn to trust me. I completely understand why many take a while to trust- after living a life of brokenness, trust is difficult to come by and must be earned. Sometimes clients are not completely truthful with me- because of guilt and shame. It is important to know that when you walk into my office, all you will receive is kindness, empathy and understanding. You can trust me with your emotions, but it is important to be truthful so I can help walk you out of the stuck, dark place.

I also have struggles of my own: I'm a therapist, not a robot. I have struggles, emotions and hard days. I have learned how to schedule my time appropriately so that I can take care of my own needs. I practice what I teach my clients. You see, self care helps me do my job effectively. But if I didn't have struggles or difficult days, I wouldn't be able to walk with you in the dark places. It is my humanity that helps me better understand my clients.

I've been in therapy before: Now I'm sure this confession will make you gasp. But there's no scandal here. Sometimes we also need our own therapists to help us see our blind spots. You see, the reason why therapy works so well, is that the therapist is able to view your situation from the outside looking in. When you're trapped in your struggle, all you can see is the struggle. It takes someone who isn't emotionally attached to you to help guide you out of your troubles. And yes, I've been in therapy before. It was one of the greatest blessings. My therapist was awesome and she helped guide me out of some of my blind spots. She was honest, capable and so very kind.

I don't walk around "Therapizing" people all day: People often ask me, "Ibi, are you analyzing me right now?" The answer is no. When I'm out and about, I take my therapist hat off and put my human hat on. I don't walk around watching parents interact with their kids or sniffing out anxious women in Murrieta. Nope. I live my life. So you don't have to run away from me if you catch me at a mental heath fair or at a pumpkin patch. But if you're my client, I'll let you say hi to me first to protect your confidentiality. 

So if you're a woman in the Murrieta/Temecula area who struggles with anxiety, and you are looking for a human therapist who can lead you from frazzled to calm, click here to schedule a free consultation call. You can also call me on 951-905-3181. I also provide online therapy for women throughout California. 

This is why your life sometimes feels sucky

Thanksgiving is around the corner. The turkeys are in the freezer, pumpkins are everywhere, the leaves are looking colorful, and the air is crisp. But for some reason you are not feeling your best. All you want to do is stay in bed, be upset and not talk to people. You wonder if something is wrong with you- and maybe there is something wrong- but perhaps a few simple tweaks can turn the day around. Sometimes you feel like your life just sucks. You get trapped in an ugly black hole. The more you try to climb out, the deeper you seem to fall. 

But little do you know that there are some things you could do to possibly help you get out of the hole for good.

Start your day off right

Many people start their days off without any intentions. They spring out of bed in the morning, rush into the shower, make a cup of coffee, skip breakfast and hope for the best. If you want your days to consistently feel great, then plan them out. Now don't get it wrong, there are no quick fixes to give you a perfect life. However, people who have an intentional approach to their lives often end up enjoying their lives more than those who wake up, are unplanned and who just hope for the best.

Try to wake up 10 to 15 minutes earlier than usual. I know it sounds alarming, but trust me, your future self will thank you. When your alarm rings, slowly get out of bed, say one or two things you're grateful for (It'll even be better if you could get a notebook just for this), say a quick prayer, meditate on scripture, then reach for a glass of water to rehydrate your thirsty body. Once you're out of bed, spend about 5 minutes stretching your body. As you stretch, create a visual for how you would like your day to unfold. Imagine yourself walking to work with a smile on your face, or dropping the kids off while saying "Have a great day," or giving your spouse a hug before he or she runs out of the door. 

Intentional minds create much more positive results.

Bring the joy

Once you begin to dive into your usual tasks, do them with joy. Even if you're picking up dog poop or combing your screaming child's hair, remind yourself that you are actually lucky that you get to do these things. These subtle mindset shifts will help you move from disgruntled to appreciative. When you go to the store, greet the greeters with a smile. Smiles are free, and they bring joy to most people (ignore the perpetually grumpy folks). 

Before you begin your work day, take 30 seconds to breathe and tell yourself that today will be a great day. It'll be great, not because everything will be perfect, but it'll be great because you have decided to bring the joy with your wherever you go.

Pick the right people to do life with

Life can be so sweet- that is if you have the right people to do life with. When your friends and family members are negative, uninspiring or unsupportive, then it's time to do something different. Now of course you don't get to pick your family members, but when you notice that you are trapped in a toxic environment, perhaps it's time to put them at arms' length. I'm not saying to cut them off, but you get to decide how much time you can spend with them, and how much of yourself to share with them.

The same goes with friendships. If the top 5 people you hang out with aren't living the happy, balanced life you've always dreamed about, then it's time to evaluate your circle. You should only be hanging out with people who leave you feeling recharged, excited about life and feeling great. if your friends seem to be going nowhere fast, chances are your life will go nowhere fast. You are who you hang out with. So take a long, hard look around you.

This might sound harsh, but I've seen too many people be sucked into negative spirals by friends who are no good for them.

Put the phone down

This last one sounds strange. What does a phone have to do with a sucky life? Well too many people spend entirely too much time scrolling mindlessly on social media. They could be working out, networking, taking naps, eating, and enjoying the world, but they spend all the time on social media. Make an effort not to pick up your phone right when you wake up and right before you go to bed.

Give your thumbs, your eyes, your posture and your mind a break. When you feel the urge to post all of your feelings to complete strangers, perhaps think of a friend you could share those feelings with. Create real connections. When you are at work, try to plow away at your actual work tasks and resist the urge to use your phone as a crutch. 

Another problem with too much phone use is that it creates the green grass syndrome. You begin to imagine that everyone is living their best lives except you. You look at their flashy cars, their 6-pack abs, their amazing executive offices, and you begin to feel self pity. Truth is, social media only highlights the best of the best. very few people chronicle their journey to the top. Most people only show themselves on their best days-with great hair, great makeup and their best outfits.

So before you get sucked in, put the phone in a drawer, or in another room. Put your head up, and enjoy the life you actually have. Remember, the grass isn't greener on the other side. It's actually greener where you water it.

And if you are feeling like you just can't take these steps on your own. Click here to schedule a free 15-minute consultation call to determine if I'm the therapist to move you from sucky life to happy life. You can also call me on 951-905-3181. I help women who are overwhelmed and anxious, create boundaries, find their strengths and live calm lives.

 

Top 6 reasons why you haven't met with a therapist

You've known for a while that something is off. Your mind is swirling with worry all the time, you feel sad when you should be happy, and sometimes, you seem to cry for no reason at all. You know you're a smart, competent woman, but sometimes you just doubt yourself. You wonder if you'll be like this for the rest of your life. It's bringing you agony and you just can't stand it.

You've heard some of your friends talk about therapy. It has crossed your mind to maybe call someone, but you're not sure if a therapist will be able to help you. After all, you're not 'Crazy,' so why would you want to call someone? Well, here are some of the possible reasons why you probably haven't picked up the phone to schedule your first appointment.

1) You're too scared: Well, that's all good. Most people are terrified when they first call or email me. It's actually quite normal. Think about it- you've struggled with this huge problem for weeks, months, or even years and it's terrifying to bare your soul to someone you barely know. Well, one of the reasons why therapy could work so well for you is that your therapist is a neutral third party who is trained to identify behavioral and relational patterns. I personally don't judge you when you walk through my doors. My job is to ask the right questions so we can figure out-together- how to get you out of the rut you feel. If I were to criticize you or judge you it'll actually get in the way of me doing great work.

2) You think a therapist might label you as crazy: I've heard this one before. "I just want you to know that I'm not crazy." Well, when a potential client calls me, I don't for a second label her as crazy. The way I see it, people call a therapist when they are tired of feeling stuck. It's as simple as that. Never would you hear me use degrading or insulting words. And if your therapist ever addresses you in a demeaning or disrespectful way-please run fast in the other direction. You don't deserve such horrible treatment.

Let's set the record straight. Therapy isn't for "Crazy people." Therapy is a great way to treat mental health symptoms, get some clarity and move closer to the goals you have set with your therapist. Therapy can be a powerful tool because your therapist is well trained and can give unbiased guidance. If you were "Crazy," a therapist wouldn't be able to help you anyway. 

3) You don't want your friends or family to know that you're talking to a therapist: The great thing about therapy is that it is actually confidential. This means that we keep whatever you say as a secret. Just call me Murrieta's best keep secret. The only issues we must report by law are child abuse, elder abuse, dependent adult abuse, as well as if you are a danger to yourself or somebody else. And of course, these laws are put in place because we protect people who cannot otherwise protect themselves. I'd rather you get mad at me, and I ensure you're safe, than let you harm yourself. So your family and friends will not find out that you are in therapy- unless you want to tell them. I pride myself as being the best kept secret in the Murrieta/Temecula area.

4) You don't know if you'll be able to trust a therapist: Talking to someone you've just met is really difficult. Trust me, I know. But the great thing about therapy is that because there is no judgement, your therapist is able to see things clearly. When you are in the eye of the storm, all you see is debris and chaos. And usually, you- the client are in the eye of the storm. But your therapist sits right outside of the storm where he or she can see everything else. Of course at first it will all feel awkward when you come into session, but with time-if the therapist is a great fit for you- you'll feel more comfortable.

This is why I offer all new clients a free 15 minute consultation call so we can both decide if we will work well together. I also only see a very limited number of clients so I can provide each client with individualized, targeted service.  You're not a number. You're a person with feelings, challenges and goals. And my job is to help you overcome those difficulties. And then what happens if you meet with a therapist and you absolutely can't stand her? Well, you just let her know that you're not a good fit and you find someone else if you so wish. You are under no obligation to keep on working with a therapist you don't connect with or trust.

5) You don't have time: Majority of my clients come in to see me once a week, and then when things get better, we go down to every other week, and sometimes, even once a month. It all just depends on their individualized needs. But what happens when you can't seem to fit 1 hour a week into your schedule? Well, then you discuss it with your therapist ahead of time so that you both can work on a mutually agreeable solution. Some people choose to do online therapy. It's therapy from the comfort of your own home or office. The benefit is that you still get to work on your goals, while in the comfort of your home. You also avoid driving time. It's definitely something to think about.

6) You don't have the money: Sometimes people do not even search for a therapist. They assume that they cannot afford one. Some therapists are contracted with specific insurance companies. It means that they signed a contract with that company so they can be reimbursed for services provided. Note that for an insurance company to cover your sessions, you will have to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Same thing as if you were going to see a physician. He or she will have to give you a diagnosis in order to be reimbursed. Sometimes you will be responsible for a co-pay or you'll have to meet a certain deductible. It all depends on what insurance plan you have. You can call your insurance company to verify how much it would cost and how many sessions they are willing to cover. 

Sometimes therapists will not bill your insurance company directly, but they will charge you a fee up front before each session. Therapists' fees range so don't assume that you can't afford one. The key is to keep searching for the right fit. And in some cases, if you have a PPO insurance, you might be able to get reimbursed if you see a therapist who doesn't have a contract with your specific insurance company. Of course, always ask your insurance company first to verify your benefits. Usually, you'll pay the therapist's fee upfront, then the therapist will give you a receipt called a super bill. After you submit the super bill to the insurance company, they will reimburse you according to their specified rate.

And there you have it. These are the top 6 reasons why many people do not reach out to a therapist when they are struggling. If you are on the fence about working with a therapist, click here to schedule a FREE 15 minute consultation call to find out if I can help you go from stuck to thriving. And if we decide we are not a good fit-that's alright too.

How to set appropriate boundaries in your relationships

If you follow me on social media, I talk about boundaries A LOT. Why? Well because boundaries either create a sense of safety or they provide a sense of vulnerability and insecurity. We all have boundaries- even if we don't know it. Some people have very rigid boundaries that keep them safe, yet keep people out. And others have very porous, open boundaries that let lots of good (as well as bad) in. But porous boundaries hurt you in the process. Having both types of boundaries serves a specific function. Rigid boundaries will definitely keep you safe-especially if you've had loss and hurt in the past. It's a great way to protect yourself when you've experienced lots of bad. The problem is that rigid boundaries also keep good, safe people out. So you'll definitely feel safe, but you might end up being lonely.

With porous boundaries you will get lots of good people coming into your life, but the bad will also be able to come in. It's a great way to get to know lots of acquaintances and have tons of fun, but it means you don't have a screening process to let the good in and keep the bad out. Many people I talk to don't give much thought to boundary setting. I suggest that you start to think more about it. If you don't think about boundaries, you might open your world and your heart to people who aren't a good fit- thereby causing you a world of pain, confusion and frustration. In reality you want healthy, flexible boundaries so you can keep the bad out and allow the good in. And once the good is in, flexible boundaries allow them to stay in.

So, how do you begin to set boundaries?

1) Get clear on what your values are: If you've never decided what your values are, you'll open your life up to just anyone and everyone. So sit and think, "What are my top 5 non negotiable values?" These will serve as a guide when you're on the hunt for friendships, acquaintances, business partners and romantic partners. Because boundaries aren't just for marriages, boundaries affect every aspect of your life. If your values include honesty, sobriety, patience, family togetherness and love, then you will instantly screen out anyone who doesn't have the same values. Does this mean all your friends have to be just like you? Nope. It just means your friends should have similar values- even if their personalities are different from yours. If you value sobriety, but everyone you hang out with is using substances, chances are you'll always feel uncomfortable around them and might even end up using just like them. You are who you hang out with after all.

2) Know what your people limit is: How many people do you want in your life? Sometimes you might feel the need to have 100 close friends. Well, not everyone can tolerate a full social life. Be honest with yourself. If you feel exhausted being with a lot of people or always being on the phone to check up on the people in your life, then perhaps you don't need a huge list to fulfill your social needs. But if you have a few close friends and a yearning to open your life up to more people then perhaps you need to do just that. But be honest with yourself. Are you expanding your social list because you think it's the thing to do, or will adding more people bring you more joy? It's your life. You get to set the limit regardless of what others think.

3) Write a detailed list of the type of people you deserve: Now that you're clear on your values and how many close friendships you can comfortably tolerate, the best step is to dig deeper and write out the specific qualities you want in your people. Realize that hot every person is your person, and that's just okay. Even if the people around you believe both of you would make great friends or acquaintances, you don't have an obligation to include everyone in your life. So, what are the qualities you deserve in a friend, acquaintance or partner? Write them down, review them regularly and study them. This list will set you up for boundary success.

4) Write a list of the type of people you don't deserve: After you've created a list of the qualities you'd love in someone who is a part of your inner circle, what qualities do you absolutely not deserve in a person? Think about habits and character traits that drive you nuts. Or think back to people who have caused you pain. What qualities do you need to be protected from? Of course, you should add things related to abusive and controlling traits as those will only bring you pain- no one deserves abuse and mistreatment.  

5) Figure out what type of person you need to be to attract the right people: Like attracts like. The next step is to figure out what type of person you need to be in order to attract people with your desired traits. Why do you need to do this even for friendships? Well because your friends will either raise your self esteem or completely tear it down.  You need good quality friends who will fill you with joy, give you sound advice and help your journey through life be better. The people you spend majority of your time with will do a great job of shaping your ideas about who you are- so pick wisely. Many women think they can attract nice, respectful friends, but are they also nice and respectful? You see, if you want to attract good people, you also have to work on building your character. Sometimes coaching or therapy- depending on what your needs are- can help you with this.

6) Figure out a system to push out the bad: Once you've set your values, figured out who you deserve around you, and worked on building your character, the next thing to do is to weed out the bad. When someone tries to date you, but you realize they don't meet your character standards, then you simply turn away (or run!) in the other direction. It's that simple. You don't owe anyone anything. What if the person is family? Well it's time to learn how to spend less time with that person and reduce the impact they have in your life. Remember, bad boundaries could even affect your self esteem.

So are you ready to start creating healthy boundaries? Which one of the above works best for you? And if you'd like to work with me on setting clear boundaries so you can become a confident women, click here to schedule a FREE 15 minute consultation call. Life is too short to spend it with people who don't life you up. I also offer online counseling or therapy sessions for women who live anywhere within California.