Monday, January 31, 2011

Valentines Day Relationship Check Up

Q. I have been married for several years now. It seems Valentine's Day has lost its importance to me. What could we do to spice up the romantic side of our relationship?

A. Great question! I have a wonderful answer for you, too! As a counselor who has the wonderful opportunity to provide premarital counseling to couples who are so in love, I have developed a rule of thumb that Valentine's Day is more than just a greeting card holiday. Valentine's Day is also a good time to have a couple check up.

We all go to doctors, dentists and eye doctors to make sure we are in good physical health, but what are you doing to make sure your relationship is in good health? Valentine's Day is a great day to check in with your spouse and check up on your relationship. Even if you feel like you have a healthy marriage relationship, it is important to check in with your spouse. Sometimes hidden issues can be lurking which can cause a major disruption. Click here for previous Ask Anne articles about dealing with issues in marriage.

Even if there are no hidden issues, reflecting on your relationship strength can be rejuvenating too. For a great couple check up, take this quick survey from Prepare-Enrich. This assessment will allow you to see your relationship's strengths and areas of growth for you and your spouse. I would even recommend the book Couple Checkup Book by David H. Olson, Amy K. Olson-Sigg, Peter J. Larson. This a great book to help you and your spouse stay on the right track. You can also take this short quiz to identify other relationship strengths: Couple Quiz.

Make this Valentine's Day a little different this year. Let the day be about strengthening your marriage and celebrating the strengths that are already there. You can still have your roses, chocolates and nice dinner, but make sure you go a little further and give your relationship a good check up.

And if you are considering getting engaged this Valentine's Day, check out our premarital counseling too. Getting started on the right track is vital to a healthy marriage!

Check back next week for some great date ideas that can be used for Valentine's Day or really any time you need a date idea.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Baby Blues

Q. I am so blessed to have had a new baby a few weeks ago. Everyone keeps telling me to enjoy this time and soak up every moment, but I am so exhausted and emotional. I feel so guilty because I am just so tired and overwhelmed. Could I be suffering from postpartum depression or is it simply the baby blues?

A. What a wonderful time it is when a new life has come into the world, or at least that is what everyone says we should think. Bringing a new baby home is a joyous experience, but it is also a very stressful and overwhelming one. Did you know that 70% of all new moms experience some form of the baby blues? This tells you that you are not alone. The first few weeks after bringing baby home can be one of the most stressful events in your life. So how do you know the difference between the baby blues and a much more serious case of postpartum depression?

The baby blues is defined as a biological response to a woman's rapidly changing hormone levels after pregnancy. This can be exacerbated due to the lack of sleep, lack of alone time, and the need to healing after delivery. Some symptoms of the baby blues are:
  • tearfulness
  • irritability
  • impatience
  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • lack of or increased appetite
These symptoms generally arrive for the new mom very soon after birth. However, they do not generally last more than 1 month. If the symptoms do last for longer, we encourage you to make an appointment with your obstetrician to be evaluated for postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is much more severe than the baby blues. You will most likely have the symptoms listed above, but you would also experience an inability to preform daily activities and have a lack of interest in your newborn. About 8-20% of women suffer from postpartum depression. If you feel like this is you, seek help immediately. There is no shame in saying that this time in your life is difficult, and learning how to manage and cope through it is very important.

If you are experiencing the baby blues, there are several things you can do to help yourself. Research shows that there are 4 keys to combating the baby blues: resting, exercise, proper nutrition, and a good support system. You have heard it before, "Rest when the baby is asleep." This is actually great advice. Tell yourself that the chores can wait. You need your rest so that you can function as a new mom. If weather permits, go for a walk with your baby or use baby yoga videos with her. Moving and exercising will help you greatly. Watch what you are eating, too. If you are not giving yourself proper nutrition, you will feel depleted and lack the fuel necessary to take care of yourself and baby. Finally, be willing to ask for help. Talk to your church group, family and friends about what you need. More than likely, they will be eager to help you out.

If you feel like you just cannot get ahead of the baby blues, seek professional help as well. You can call us here at Pathways Professional Counseling if you live in the state of AL, or find a trained clinicians in your area who can help you form an action plan to combat these feelings. You can also click here for a downloadable action plan. If you would like more information on this topic, click here for a brochure.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Setting Goals in the New Year

Q. I read your article about New Day Resolutions. I am wanting to set goals in the new year, fitness and learning something new, that I feel I can actually achieve. It just feels like I make plans and don't follow through with them s often. Do you have any suggestions for me?

A. Did you know that studies show only 3% of people in the United States set goals? Zig Ziglar, motivation speaker, tells us those people also happen to be the wealthiest! Setting goals is a great idea, but you must do it right if you want to achieve them. When we as counselors have someone come in for counseling, the first thing we do with them is set goals. We have to know what they are working toward if we will ever see progress.

There is a time honored acronym to remember when setting goals: SMAART. It stands for:
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Accountable
  • Realistic
  • Timely
Be Specific
You want to write out your goals and be as specific with them as possible. Know exactly what is that you want to accomplish.

You want to be able to answer the question: "How will I know I have accomplished my goal?". It cannot be abstract like, "I will feel better." But needs to be a measurable unit such as times per week, pounds lost, or scriptures memorized.

This one is very important! You must set your sights on something you can do. If you set yourself up for failure, you will be less likely in the future to want to set goals. However, if you set your sights on something that is attainable, then you will feel mastery and success. This sets you up to wanting more. Make sure you have your expectations in order.

You will want to talk to other people about your goal as well. The more people know what you are working for, the more likely you are to want to achieve your goal. Get a group of friends together and talk about what your goals are. Once you have established your goal, written it down, and found accountability, you are on a great track for success.

Make sure the means by which you plan to achieve your goal are within your reach. Can you afford this? Can you give it the time necessary? Is your family going to suffer if you work on it? There are many questions you need to ask yourself if you want to be realistic about your life and your capacity to accomplish your goal.

Set yourself a time frame. Putting an end to your goal gives you a clear picture of where the finish line is. Without a time limit there is no urgency to get started. We all work better on a time table. Whether it is a week, a month or 1 year, it is important to put an end to your goal.

If you are looking for something to guide you along your path in goal setting, Zig Ziglar has a great goal sheet you can follow. Zig Ziglar's Goal Sheet: Click Here

Good luck to you in your goal setting in 2011. Hopefully by making a SMAART Goal, you will see yourself in the elite 3% of our nation that has learned to achieve what they want.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US:
or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.