Why We All Need Time Alone

why alone time is good

Why do we need alone time?

Alone time is underrated in our society. There is a push to be extroverted, to be around people, to not be “lonely” or a “loner.” However, spending time alone can be one of the most healthy things that we do for ourselves. Removing the stigma for ourselves is often the first step to accepting and building in alone time for ourselves. Here are five reasons why alone time is so crucial: 

 

  1. Alone time gives your brain a break and can foster a sense of calm and well being.

    We are bombarded by so much sensory input all day long. We are trying to process so much, so many demands that we can feel overwhelmed. Having some space to just be alone can give our brains the recharge we need. 

 

  1. Alone time can spark creativity.

    We are filled with ideas and creativity but often those ideas don’t get the space to be manifested if our minds are crowded with other things. Taking some space can give our creative minds the opportunity to come forward. This is the reason why some of our best ideas or “revelations” come in the shower. When we are alone! 

 

  1. Alone time can enhance relationships.

    If one is spending time reflecting and getting to know oneself, understanding one’s motivations, needs, strengths and weaknesses, this can help in relationships. If someone blows up at your partner out of the blue, the person who reflects and understands why they did it is going to have a better outcome than someone who has no idea why. 

 

  1. Alone time can build self-reliance and confidence.

    Insread of relying on others to stimulate you, to make you laugh or feel good about yourself, learning to find ways to do this on your own can bring a sense of confidence. In my own younger years, I would never be caught dead in a restaurant or a movie. As a result, I often missed out on an opportunity to see a movie I enjoyed or go to a restaurant I liked. Now that I’m older (and more confident), I don’t mind at all. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy doing things with people. But if I want to do something and no one is available, I just go and do it myself. 

 

  1. Alone time can help buffer depression and anxiety.

    Being out in the world having to perform, to be on top of our game, to be social and oftentimes not our most authentic self, can be taxing. And this can for some people feel overwhelming and lead to depression and anxiety. Being alone can help us come back to who we are, to know we don’t have to always be on top of our game, that we can just be ourselves and that we are ok.

 

Conclusion:

Being alone is often looked down upon in our extrovert-biased society. Some may also feel “selfish” for taking time to be by oneself. However, this can often be the healthiest thing you do for yourself. Make the time and enjoy spending it with yourself.

 

 

About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for the San Jose, Milpitas and Fremont areas. She is an introvert who needs her daily alone time. She helps others overcome their guilt for taking time for themselves in order to be better versions of themselves for themselves and their loved ones. If you are interested in working with Lia, find out more here. She specializes in couples therapy, Christian counseling and Therapy for Asian Americans

Boundaries With Family Over The Holidays

setting boundaries during the holidays counseling

Don’t know how to set boundaries with family over the holidays?

Setting boundaries with family is hard, but especially over the holidays.  Some people don’t share that experience–they  can’t wait to get home for Christmas and spend time with their parents and extended families. This is usually the expectation when we are talking to co-workers and friends.  However, what do we do when we feel conflicted about spending time with our own families?

 

Many therapy clients I see come to me talking about family functions and gatherings especially over the holidays. Their conflict shows that they care–they love their parents and want to please them. And if they are Christian and/or Asian, this expectation to always love and please may feel even heavier.

 

These values to honor are a good thing. However, you may feel discouraged or offended during these gatherings. There may be family members who are disrespectful– or parents who are controlling or critical. There may be a past hurt that was never addressed or is minimized by your family.

 

As a result, you may feel guilty for feeling conflicted and know you will feel doubly guilty for not going. You may feel you have an obligation to attend. Or you may receive slack from your family. And many family members just genuinely want to see you and you want to see them as well. And it’s the holidays, a time for family, so if you don’t spend time with them, you may feel lonely. It’s a conflict for sure!

 

Here are some tips to deal with this conflict:  

1. Assess the extent of the damage and set boundaries if needed.

 

Some of my therapy clients are able to go to family gatherings relatively unscathed.  However, many of my therapy clients feel depressed for days after going to a family function. Many times their interactions end in arguments or unspoken snide remarks that bring back old wounds (or new ones!). 

 

I  always tell my counseling clients that your first priority is always your physical and mental health.  If anything in your life causes you harm to your physical or mental health, it is time to re-evaluate the commitment to this person, job or event. No one is going to take care of you but you, so you have a responsibility to care for yourself, regardless of what others expect of you. 

 

2. Be prepared for resistance. 

 

Some families will respect your boundaries. Others may feel hurt or not understand, or just get angry. Understand that you cannot make everyone happy and whenever you say no to someone, a lot of the time, they won’t be happy. 

 

Don’t let them guilt trip you or make you feel down for your decision to take care of yourself. Accept the fact that they won’t be happy, some for good reasons, some for bad. You are only responsible for your own feelings and to act respectfully towards your parents. You are not responsible to make them happy. 

 

What If I Still Want to Go But Am Dreading It? 

 

Some of us either don’t want to deal with the backlash from family members (which is totally understandable), or feel for the most part they can handle the gathering, but feel anxious. Maybe you feel things are very unpredictable at these gatherings, or you just never know what someone is going to say or do. Or you are just dreading going. Here are some tips: 

1. Set emotional boundaries.

 

Lots of my therapy clients feel obligated to go to a family gathering and be around them, in the mix of all the drama for the entire evening.  Some have family members, especially in Asian culture, ask personal offensive questions or make offensive remarks (e.g. you are fat, or how much money do you make?)

 

As a result, you may feel exhausted and overwhelmed by the end of the evening.  I usually advise my counseling clients to be emotionally prepared to thwart these questions or be ok to politely decline to answer, and then respectfully excuse yourself to use the restroom or take a phone call. You don’t have to engage emotionally with everyone that you talk to, especially if they are making you feel stressed out or offending you. 

 

2.  Set physical boundaries.

 

This may be obvious but if you are a “good” son or daughter, you may feel obligated to be around everyone 24/7 and engage. I would say it’s always good to show respect and be present,  but be mindful of your own bandwidth. Maybe some of you are expected to serve everyone hand and foot, clean the kitchen, and then drive everyone home all over the city.  All of that is good, but it can sometimes feel like a heavy expectation and one can feel like they are being used. 

 

If you feel yourself slowly shrinking down, take some time to be away. Go to the TV room, play with the kids or dogs, or just go somewhere and chill on your phone or call your friends. You can also set a time limit on how long you will stay. Bring your significant other, or your kids or your dog and have a code word for “I need to get out of here. Now.” 

 

3. Prepare for any negative interactions with family members.

 

I also advise clients to prepare themselves for any negative interactions. Preparing for something stressful can often help you feel more in control of a situation.

 

So if you are dreading having to watch Uncle #7 get drunk and fight with Uncle #8 and 9, or if you “can’t wait” to hear Aunt #3 compare you to her own kids who went to Harvard on a full scholarship, anticipate those landmines.

 

And then prepare yourself to disengage emotionally, to respectfully stand up for yourself, or physically remove yourself from the situation.

 

Conclusion: Settting boundaries with your family can often be the most loving thing you do. For them and you. 

 

We all want to show respect and love to our families. And for the most part, they love us too. We want the holidays to be a good time where everyone is happy. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Life is messy, every family has drama, and we can’t choose our family, they are given to us for life. 

 

We can be aware of our own bandwidth–emotional and physical and give as much as we can. And when those stores start to dwindle, we can take responsibility for our health and set good boundaries so we can enjoy our holidays together. 

 

About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in relationship therapy in the San Jose, Milpitas and Fremont areas. She works with clients who have relationship problems and need help working those out through counseling. If you would like to find out more about therapy with Lia, click here. If you want to find out more about individual therapy to work on family relationships, click here

7 Practical Tips to Prevent Emotions From Overwhelming You

How to Prevent Emotions from overwhelming you

Emotions are part of the human experience. Everyone, however logical they appear to be, is guided at least in part by their feelings.

Emotions often get a bad rap. Who hasn’t heard someone say “you/he/she’s so emotional!,” as if it’s a bad trait? In our society, “rationality” is often praised over emotionality.

The unfortunate (and fortunate) thing is that emotions are part of being human. And being alive. They can be wonderful. Who doesn’t enjoy feeling happy, experiencing healthy pride in an achievement, or falling in love? Emotions help us feel empathy and compassion. We were not created to be robots.

The trouble starts when our negative emotions get in the way of leading a balanced life, or when we act on them without thinking about the consequences.

So, the key is not to turn off our feelings. We need to embrace where our emotions help us. In the same token, we need to manage where our emotions cause problems.

Follow these tips to stop anger, jealousy, and other negative emotions ruining your day:

 

1. Take a few minutes to breathe.

Deep breathing often does not get the credit it deserves. We often write it off as some “woo woo” activity that doesn’t work. People often don’t realize the power it has and don’t try it, or give up too soon.

Here’s why breathing works (it’s based in science!): Taking deep breaths helps regulate your nervous system. Breathing actually works with your parasympathetic nervous system to  slow your heart rate, and make you relax.

Think about it–when you are angry, do take shallow, quick breaths or deep, slow breaths? How about when you are anxious?

Our bodies and minds are connected. If we can slow down our breathing, we can slow down our bodies. If we can slow down our bodies, we can calm our brains and feel calmer.

Deep breathing also helps us think clearly. When you experience a strong emotion, activity in your prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for rational thought – drops. That’s why it’s so hard to make good decisions when you’re under stress, and why calming down should be your first priority. Breathing can help us do that.

2. Remind yourself that all emotions pass.

Nothing in life is permanent, but when we are in a negative cycle, it can feel like it will never end. And this can lead to further feelings of hopelessness or depression.

It helps to take a step back and know that our emotions come and go. Some days are better than others.  Most of the time, our depression does not last forever. That heartbreak will not last forever. We will move on. It can take some time but we will see the end of the tunnel. 

 Ask yourself: will you remember feeling this way in a few days or weeks from now? Tell yourself that you don’t have to act on your feelings right now; they are only transient, after all. It’s better to wait, however hard that may feel, and react when you’re in a better frame of mind.

 

3. Have Faith

Oftentimes our negative cycles endure because we are holding on to things we cannot control. We may be trying to control something that we have no control over. This can be frustrating and depressing.

When we put our lives into the hands of a benevolent God or higher power, it makes it easier to let go of the outcome. If we trust that our God has a purpose and plan for our lives, we don’t need to get stuck focusing on what is wrong right now. 

When we are in a negative spiral, we often can’t find anything within ourselves to pull us out. Turning to God helps us trust that there is a force greater than ourselves. And this force will give you the strength and inspiration you need to turn the situation around.

Believing in a higher power can be very comforting when your emotions threaten to overwhelm you. Faith makes you feel less helpless.

 

4. Put the situation into perspective.

Life’s challenges can be great teachers. We know that the people you meet who seem to have the most depth seem to have gone through some challenging experiences in life. Seeing the purpose in our trials can help us persevere and even embrace the hard times we are going through in the moment. 

So be open to the fact that your situation might hold a few valuable lessons. Wise people understand that things happen for a reason, and sometimes we need to trust that time will reveal their true meaning.

I’m not saying that we should embrace a loved one dying, or jump for joy when we find out we have a diagnosis for a terminal disease. We can embrace both the sadness and the acceptance together.

 

5. Challenge negative thoughts

They are known as ANTS–Automatic Negative Thoughts. We’ve all had them. They seem to come out of nowhere and they are awfully hard to get rid of. (Just like real ants!)

Oftentimes, ANTS happen because there is a way of thinking that you are used to that was formed since childhood. As you continue thinking these thoughts throughout your life, it becomes like second nature to think these thoughts, almost like a habit. 

We all know that habits are hard to break. Changing takes, perseverance and energy. And when we are breaking a bad habit, we need to replace them with new ones. 

So here’s how we can stomp out the ANTS: 

When you catch yourself dwelling on negative thoughts, make a deliberate effort to think of something else. You have a choice to make: you can either choose to ruminate on whatever has gone wrong, or to imagine a good outcome and distract yourself with positive thoughts.

Challenging negative thoughts doesn’t just make you feel better in the moment; it also prevents you falling into destructive patterns. Negative thoughts and negative emotions go hand in hand. If you can detach yourself from the former, you’ll find it easier to detach from the latter.

 

6. Release your feelings

Negative feelings are like food stuck in the garbage disposal. After a while, left there too long, it will start to stink, rot and just get plain disgusting. 

We often think that by ignoring our feelings, we can make them go away. However, our feelings are meant to be expressed, so we may not be expressing them directly, but they WILL come out, whether you choose to express them or not. Sometimes they come out as using drugs or partying hard. Sometimes they come out as self-harm, or a shopping addiction. Some people have very intense nightmares. 

Make your expression healthy. Try exercise, journaling, singing, creating art, prayer, or meditation. Any healthy activity that lets you put feelings to words can help you move forward. Consider talking to someone you trust.

There is something powerful in allowing another person into your life and allowing them to share your burdens. There is research that shows that just putting words to feelings can change the which part of your brain is activated–from the fight or flight area to the rational, calm area of your brain.

 

7. Release yourself from emotional triggers

If someone – and that includes yourself – has made you angry or upset, try to forgive them. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you approve of what someone did, and neither does it mean forgetting about it. Forgiveness simply means releasing the emotional hold something or someone has over you in order to move forward. I often tell clients that forgiveness is for us, not for them.

Conclusion

Learning to master your emotions is a lifelong project. Everyone has to cope with life’s ups and downs, and it’s impossible to stay calm all the time. Welcoming your emotions and reframing your negative thoughts is one of the most important skills you can develop. It is not easy, and like any other skill, we need to practice. However, the reward is great and permeates into every area of our lives. 

Learning to manage our emotions can allow us great freedom. For ourselves and for those around us. 

 

About the author: Lia Huynh, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist serving the Milpitas, San Jose and Fremont areas. She helps individuals and couples manage their emotions so they can live happier and peaceful lives. If you are interested in couples , Christian, or individual counseling, find out more here

 

 

How to Cope When Life Isn’t Fair

How To Cope With Life

How to Cope When Life Isn’t Fair

We all know that life isn’t fair but how do you cope with it? Bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. Unfortunately, you can accept this on an intellectual level, yet still feel frustrated and angry when things don’t go your way.

Sometimes, it’s best to accept that – for the time being, at least – things aren’t going to work out. You can try your best, but your circumstances aren’t always under your control. For example, when someone dies, you lose your job with no warning, or your beloved pet gets sick, you need to face facts – the universe can be an unjust place.

The Power Of Radical Acceptance

If you can’t take charge of a situation, what can you do instead? Next time life throws you a curve ball, try “radical acceptance,” a technique made popular by therapist Marsha Linehan. Radical acceptance is about acknowledging your pain, looking reality in the face, and embracing your emotions in difficult times.

As the saying goes, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is not.” We all face problems, but people who work with the world as it is, instead of wallowing in their feelings, find it easier to move on. Paradoxically, sitting with the pain and accepting it will help you heal faster.

Lamenting the unfairness of life, or refusing to acknowledge reality, is a recipe for further hurt. If you can’t accept what is going on in your life, you’ll become bitter and chronically miserable.

The Danger Of Shutting Down

If you get into the habit of repressing emotions you don’t like, you’ll also become cut off from positive feelings. You will become numb to the world, and unable to feel joy when things do work out in your favor. Trying to hide your feelings or wish them away leaves you at risk of anxiety and depression.

Acceptance takes practice. It’s simple, but not easy. The next time you find yourself at the mercy of an uncontrollable situation, take a deep breath and pause. Tell yourself that you are scared, angry, frustrated, or whatever the emotion may be – and that you accept it. Tell yourself that it’s OK to feel unhappy.

Work On The Small Stuff First

Life is full of minor inconveniences and challenges. The good news is that they give you lots of opportunities to practice acceptance.

For example, when you have to wait in a long line at the grocery store or handle a difficult meeting with your boss, accept that you aren’t enjoying yourself. Realize that all situations arise from a long chain of events, with multiple causes. Tough times are inevitable, but you have a choice in how to handle them.

Radical Acceptance Isn’t Apathy

Apathy is a state of tired surrender, whereas radical acceptance requires you to “tune in” to the present moment. Accepting the present doesn’t mean that you can’t change the future. It just means that there’s nothing you can do about your circumstances right this minute.

In fact, the better you are at accepting reality, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to make positive changes. When you embrace life just as it is, warts and all, you learn that no feeling lasts forever. You’ll discover that you can survive any feeling. You are tougher than you think.

Acceptance, Forgiveness, & Grudges

Finally, acceptance doesn’t mean you have to forgive and love everyone who ever wronged you. Neither does it mean you have to agree with what they did, or try to rebuild a relationship that turned toxic.

However, holding onto a grudge or obsessing over someone else’s behavior isn’t healthy. Your anger or resentment doesn’t punish the other person; it just keeps you mired in suffering.

Instead of working yourself up into self-righteous fury, try to understand what the situation taught you. Underneath the drama and pain, there are bound to be a few useful lessons. By accepting the past, you can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. In time, you’ll discover that radical acceptance is an amazing tool for self-development.

 

About the author: Lia Huynh is a Milpitas, Fremont and San Jose therapist  and counselor who works with clients struggling to radically accept the unfairness that life brings from time to time. If you would like to find out more about working with her in counseling or therapy, click here: San Jose Therapist

Why Stress Can Make You Depressed

depression treatment

Stress Can Make You Depressed

Stress has a bad reputation, but it is useful in moderation. For instance, it can give you the push you need to meet a deadline at work. However, long-term stress can lead to full-blown depression. To understand why, we’re going to look at what happens to your body when you feel under pressure. Can stress really make you depressed?

First, you need to learn about the effects of cortisol. Also known as the “stress hormone, it triggers a chain of reactions in your body that can lead to depression.

What Is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone that plays a key role in lots of bodily functions, such as blood sugar and blood pressure regulation. Our adrenal glands, which are positioned on top of our kidneys, release cortisol when we are under stress. It keeps us energized and alert in the face of danger. Cortisol also triggers immune system activity, which can help ward off infectious diseases.

In summary, cortisol serves lots of useful purposes. However, if you are habitually tense and stressed out, your adrenal glands will release so much cortisol that your body and mind will start to suffer.

If your cortisol levels remain high for a long period of time, your blood pressure and blood sugar will shoot up. Your immune system won’t work as well as usual, and you may start to store more fat around your midsection. Your risk of having a stroke will increase, and you will be at greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Cortisol, Stress, & Your Mood

Stress also affects how your neurotransmitters work. Neurotransmitters are your brain’s chemical messengers. They have many functions, such as regulating your moods and controlling your appetite.

If your cortisol levels are high, your brain might no longer be able to properly metabolize its neurotransmitters. This can have significant consequences.

For example, cortisol levels can change how your brain processes serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates your moods. Lowered serotonin levels are linked with depression and sleep problems.

Normally, our cortisol levels are highest early in the morning and gradually decrease throughout the day. However, if you’re depressed, your cortisol levels stay elevated until the late afternoon or evening. As a result, you will spend more time feeling low compared to someone with normal cortisol levels.

Cortisol Changes How You Respond To Therapy

Talking therapies are an effective treatment for depression, but studies show that if your cortisol levels are unusually high, you are less likely to feel the benefit. This is why lifestyle interventions, such as meditation and exercise, can be so important for people with depression.

7 Easy WaysTo Lower Your Cortisol Levels

1. Learn how to meditate.

Meditation and mindfulness are now widely recommended treatments for anxiety and depression.

2. Use a journal to safely express your thoughts and feelings.

Talking to another person about your problems can be difficult. Writing about them in your journal can be a good alternative.

3. Do something creative.

You don’t have to be an accomplished artist to enjoy some art therapy.

4. Book a soothing massage.

The power of touch is well documented. It can relieve stress within minutes.

5. Make time for the things you enjoy.

Even if you have a busy life, it’s important to have some fun.

6. Nurture your relationships.

Loneliness is stressful. People with strong support networks are more emotionally resilient in the face of life’s challenges, and enjoy better mental health.

7. Pray and turn to a higher power

Having a higher power can give you a feeling that something is in control, even when you don’t feel like you have it. And prayer is shown to lower areas in the brain related to stress.

When To Get Help

If you can’t get your stress under control, or if you have started to feel depressed, talk to a mental health professional. They can teach you how to manage stress, tackle the symptoms of depression, and regain your quality of life.

 

About the author: Lia Huynh, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has helped many people manage their stress, anxiety and depression in the San Jose, Fremont and Milpitas areas. If you want to learn more about working with Lia, click here

9 Things I Wish People Told Me Before I Had A Baby

baby and mom

Before I Had A Baby…

Most of us assume that new motherhood is the happiest time of a woman’s life. In reality, looking after a baby is full of ups and downs. Sure, becoming a mom is special, and every child is a gift. On the other hand, it’s normal to struggle.

Here are a few things I wish I’d known before having my first child:

Motherhood isn’t always blissful, and that’s OK. Babies are wonderful, but being a mom is tiring! Don’t worry –– most women feel the same way.  You can be a great mom even if you don’t always love everything that comes with the role.

It’s fine to ask your loved ones to take over for a few hours. It’s normal to be relieved when someone offers to watch the baby for a while. All mothers need time alone to relax and focus on themselves.

Your marriage won’t be your first priority for a while. A new baby changes your lives, and it takes time to readjust. Focus on pulling together as a team. Don’t beat yourselves up if your life lacks romance for a few months. When the baby becomes more independent, you can work together to get your intimate life back on track.

Breastfeeding comes with lots of benefits, but it’s not always easy. Ask your midwife, paediatrician, or doula for advice. Your local hospital or clinic might run support groups where you can share tips and experiences with other new moms.

Parenting books are helpful, but reading too many is a recipe for disaster. It’s a good idea to read a couple of books to get an idea of what to expect when your baby arrives. Ask your midwife for recommendations. However, overloading yourself with information can make you feel inadequate and stressed, so don’t buy too many.

Postpartum depression is a serious condition that requires treatment. Around 10% of women experience depression in the year after they give birth. Note that this is not the same thing as the “baby blues,” which go away after a couple of weeks.  

Symptoms of postpartum depression include feelings of sadness, a low mood, problems bonding with your baby, problems focusing, trouble making decisions, and having unwanted, frightening thoughts.

Get professional help if you are depressed. Ask your doctor for advice; they might recommend antidepressants or self-help techniques. Consulting a San Jose counseling therapist can help you get through this difficult time. Remember that depression or other mental illness doesn’t mean you are a “bad mother.”


We’re all individuals, and that applies to babies too! Your family and friends will have their own opinions on how you should raise your child. Trust your own judgment as a mother. You know your baby best. If you do ask someone for their advice, take what you like and leave the rest.

When you feel overwhelmed and sleep deprived, remind yourself that parenting gets easier. One day, your baby will sleep through the night, and eat on their own. When they learn to walk, you’ll no longer have to carry them around. When they learn to speak, you’ll no longer have to guess what they want.

Enjoy your baby. As the saying goes, they really do grow up too fast. The years will fly by, and suddenly your little baby will be a teen. Take lots of photos to capture those precious memories. You’ll treasure them forever.

 

About the author: Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who serves the San Jose and Milpitas areas. She works with many mothers adjusting to their new role. This article comes from her own personal experience with post-partum depression and anxiety.  Raising a child is hard work, but you don’t have to go through it alone. If you need help, feel free to reach out to her here. To find out more about individual counseling with Lia, click here.

5 Steps To Find Hope After A Break-Up

A woman reflecting on her breakup

Whether you were dating your partner for just a few months or making plans to settle down, it’s hard changing your status to single. Fortunately, dealing with a break-up hurts less when you set a game plan. Here are five simple steps to help you conquer heartbreak:

  1. Process your emotions during a break-up

When you and your beau part ways, it’s easy to deny you’re hurt. But working through your emotions is key to moving on. If you need to cry, grab those tissues and let it out. Fight the urge to criticize yourself for being sensitive. Lean into the pain and mourn the loss. It’s tough when the people we love leave us, or we need to leave them. If you’re struggling to cope on your own, talking to a therapist can speed up the healing process.

  1. Take yourself on a self-care date

After we accept being single, it doesn’t take long to feel the nagging urge to partner up. It’s totally normal to see your partner as your closest companion. As tempting as it may be, avoid going on the rebound and try a new approach: Dating yourself! Many of us feel like we lose a part of ourselves when we’re in toxic relationships. Some of us gain weight, and others lose sight of their goals. Take advantage of being single to focus on self-care. Indulge yourself with a trip to the salon or a spontaneous personal day. Pampering yourself pays off in spades.

  1. Jot down your gratitude

Broken relationships create a sense of lack. We lack the love and nurturing that gave us happiness; the empty side of our beds keeps us up at night. All we see are happy couples and loneliness comes knocking with a vengeance. LPT: don’t focus on what you don’t have! Practicing gratitude keeps your spirits up and helps you cope. Hit the bookstore and buy a new journal (no worrying about cost!). Each day, jot down at least three things that bring you joy. Each week, compliment at least one person who has your back.

  1. Make a difference  

When your relationship hits the rocks, it’s natural to feel sorry for yourself. You obsess over what went wrong, and you wonder if you were good enough. But focusing on yourself multiples your misery, so reach out and lend a hand. VolunteerMatch.org is a great free tool to find community service projects. If you attend church or another spiritual community, this is also a great way to focus the attention on others. Commit to volunteering two hours per week to a good cause. Drawing your attention away from the drama gives your heart room to heal.

  1. Set your boundaries

Be honest with yourself about staying friends with your ex after the break-up. Does your chest ache when your ex posts a pic with their new beau? Do you hope that by keeping in touch, you might rekindle your love? If you’re stuck in the past, it’s difficult to move on. Hit Unfollow and delete old texts before you change your mind. If you and your ex share friends, inform them that you’re no longer hanging out. Keep the message short and sweet: Hey, I’m taking a permanent break from my friendship with (your ex’s name). No mutual meet-ups. Period, end of sentence.

It’s not always easy to cut ties with your ex, even in a toxic relationship. And opening your heart to someone new takes time. Remember to be kind to yourself. It’s painful to lose your partner, but our darkest moments are often blessings in disguise.

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

-Rumi

Lia Huynh, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who for 17 years has helped others find healing after hurtful events like a breakup. To find out more about her services, click here.

 

If you need help and want to talk through your break-up please reach out to me. I would love to help!

How Should I Spend My Free Time?

A woman spending her free time reflecting

Lia,
I feel so overwhelmed with all the things and activities that are on my plate! I don’t want to miss out on stuff but sometimes I feel like I’m just going to activities to “get it over with” and then it’s on to the next!  How should I spend my free time so it’s really “free” and not burdensome?  –Too much to do

Dear Too Much to Do,

Kudos to you for really examining what is going on in your life. You want to live life with purpose and meaning. Right now it sounds like you are just jumping from one activity to the next without any thought about why–and without any thought about if it’s actually something you want to do. Here are a few tips to help you sort through this dilemma on how to spend your free time:

1) Don’t just do what everyone else is doing. Do an inventory of your values, priorities, what you think is genuinely fun. if you don’t like the clubbing scene, but all your friends are going, go once in a while, but pursue your own interests and you’ll make friends who are more aligned with who you are and be happier as a result. If you genuinely like knitting, or water skiing, make sure you are aware of that and pursue that.

2) Be aware of your body. Sometimes we tend to just want to fill our calendars because we don’t want to miss anything. Or maybe we are so driven that we will sacrifice our health for a goal because are young and invincible. But what happens is we end up feeling tired, and not enjoying anything. Or we end up sick and less productive than if we had just paced ourselves. I know this sounds obvious, but when you are tired, rest!

3) Learn to say no. There are a myriad of reasons why a lot of us have a hard time with this. But at the end of the day, we need to be able to assess whether or not we have the capacity to fulfill someone’s request. And if the answer is no, this needs to be communicated. The alternative is bitterness and feelings of resentment. Plus, if you can never say no to anything, you also are saying that you cannot really say yes to anything, either.

4) Ask yourself what gives you life. There are some activities that we do where time flies. Maybe it’s a sport, or a certain friend you spend time with, or a cause that you feel very passionate about. Those are things that you want to really allocate and make room for.

5) Of course, take care of business, but if possible, delegate. Yes, wash your dishes. Take a shower. Go to work. Take care of your business–it’s inevitable, there are mundane tasks that just need to be done. But if you have the means, delegate the tasks to others. Pay someone to wash your car. Don’t worry about making homemade butter (unless you really find joy in it), when you can spend that extra hour at your spin class or out having coffee with a good friend.

6) Lastly, remember that we honoring God with our time is the best use of it. You cannot go wrong walking in His will, doing as He’d do. Jesus seemed to always manage his time well, was always purposeful, and always full of joy. We’d be wise to follow in His footsteps!

 

Lia Huynh is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the San Jose, Milpitas and Fremont areas who helps people find healthy, life-giving ways to spend their time. If you are interested in working with Lia, find out more about it here