Life Transitions: 7 Ways to Navigate Them with Grace and Creativity

Life Transitions 7 Ways to Navigate Them With Grace and Creativity.png

By David Wachsman, MC

Life transitions can be daunting, no matter what point of life you’re in.

Whether you’re preparing for a big move, going off to college, getting married, changing jobs, or becoming an empty nester—these transitions are certainly a big life adjustment. However, it is possible to approach them, along with the accompanying emotions, with grace and creativity.

Whatever life transition you might be preparing for, consider these 7 tips to get through it as easily and stress-free as possible.

1. Prepare and Plan Ahead

This may seem like a no-brainer but being prepared for a big life event can help ease stress.

If you’re about to move, packing early and organizing your belongings will make the move so much easier. This will help you in both the packing and unpacking stages.

Maintaining organization will undoubtedly help you out in the long run in nearly every situation.

2. Try to Focus on the Positives

Life transitions, even in the best and happiest of situations, can be stressful, as well. Going away to college, moving away from your family, or becoming an empty nester are all events that can be quite bittersweet.

In these events, it is important to focus on the exciting aspects of the transition and keep in mind all of the positives that can come of a move to college or to a new town or city.

3. Spend Extra Time with Loved Ones

In a transitional period, it is easy to feel caught up in your concerns and lose touch with those important to you. Make the extra effort to grab coffee with a friend, to visit your parents, or talk on the phone with your brother.

These simple activities can help relieve your stress and make you feel less isolated during a potentially stressful time.

4. Keep a Checklist

A helpful and visual way to stay organized is to keep a checklist. This enables you to keep tabs on what tasks you still need to complete, and you can ease your stress as you slowly and surely check them off the list.

You can even go the extra mile and put your artistic skills to good use by creating a fun bulletin board or calendar that keeps track of all the tasks you need to accomplish. This is a simple but fun way to stay organized.

5. Create a Schedule for Visiting Friends and Family

A common life transition is moving away from home, which is often difficult and emotional. Simply knowing when you will see your loved ones next will greatly ease the sadness involved with leaving them.

If you’re going away to college, you can plan to talk to your parents on the phone twice a week. Conversely, your parents can plan to visit you one Saturday a month. Technology and social media provide an abundance of ways to stay connected, but don’t substitute it for phone conversations and face-to-face connection.

Simple plans like these offers something to look forward to and eases the sadness of leaving loved ones.

6. Consider Adopting a Pet

Animals can be a very comforting and welcome companion during a stressful period. Perhaps you’re moving to a new city and don’t know anyone there, in which case a pet might be a welcomed friend. Or, maybe you’re stressed about starting a new job—having a loving critter to come home to at the end of the day makes the transition much easier.

If you feel you don’t have the time or money to commit to a pet of your own, consider fostering cats and dogs or volunteering at a local shelter.

7. Take a Moment to Breath and Focus on Yourself

In periods of transition, it can be easy to let your physical and mental health slip. Simply take some time just to focus on your well-being. Put on your favorite song, splurge on a new outfit, stay active and exercise, or just take a moment to sit down and relax.

Allowing yourself focused moments for your self-care will only benefit your overall well-being in the long run.

David Wachsman.jpg

David Wachsman, MC, LPC Intern, works with individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. who may be experiencing challenges brought on by life transitions. If you are feeling stressed as these changes approach, consider therapy as a healthy way to cope. For help navigating these waters, schedule a session with David by calling (512) 270-4883, ext. 119, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

How to Tell Your Children You Are Getting Divorced - 4 Tips

How to Tell Your Children You Are Getting Divorced.png

By Sarah Wilson, PhD

When you have children, going through a divorce can feel ten times more difficult. A divorce can have serious, lasting effects on kids if it isn’t handled the right way. 

Thankfully, you can prepare your kids for the process and assure them that everything is going to be okay. 

Talking with your children before the divorce process actually starts is the best way to prepare them for what is going to happen. 

If you’re able to do it as a couple, that’s even better. But even if you have to talk to your children on your own, making sure they know what’s going on can make it easier for them to handle. As a result, they’re less likely to experience negative emotional effects now and as they get older. 

Let’s look at four helpful tips you can use to tell your children you’re getting divorced. 

Tip #1: Don’t Blame the Other Person

Again, when you tell your children you are getting divorced, doing so as a united front is best. But, if you have to do it on your own, don’t blame the other parent for everything. 

Your children don’t need to know every detail about why you’re getting a divorce. When you start to blame the other parent, you’re putting your children in an awkward position. They might start to feel as though they have to choose sides. Or they may look at you or their other parent differently. 

That puts a lot of pressure and confusion on children. So, try to keep your language about your spouse as neutral as possible. 

Tip #2: Make Sure They Know They Aren’t the Cause

It’s not uncommon for children to think their parents’ divorce is somehow their fault. It’s crucial to make sure your children know the divorce has nothing to do with them. 

Again, you don’t need to go into detail about why you’re splitting up. Saying something like, “Your mom/dad is a great person, we just can’t live together anymore,” is a great way to remain neutral toward your spouse while giving your children just enough information to be satisfied. 

They might have more questions about why you’re getting a divorce. It’s okay to answer them. Just make sure not to cover anything that could pin them against the other parent or make them feel guilty. 

Tip #3: Don’t Go Back and Forth

A divorce is an incredibly serious matter. But some couples use it as a threat or file a divorce only to take it back later. That kind of back-and-forth decision-making can cause enormous emotional distress for children. 

So, only tell your children you’re getting a divorce if you’re absolutely sure you’re going to go through with it. If you tell them you’re splitting up and you immediately get back together again, it can cause a lot of confusion. Plus, in time, your child may develop trust issues. 

Tip #4: Be Calm and Consistent

You might be going through an emotional roller coaster right now. The process of going through a divorce is a difficult one, even if it’s the right choice. It’s okay to show some of this emotion in front of your children. It makes sense that you are going to have emotional reactions to certain situations--you are only human! However, always remember your kids are watching your actions and how you react. You can be an example of how to handle the situation. By taking the separation in stride, it will be easier for your children to do the same. 

As much as possible, try to stay calm in front of your kids, and find an outlet for your emotions—either on your own, in a support group, with trusted friends, or with a therapist. It is crucial to have someone to talk to during such a significant life transition.

Ultimately, it’s important to let your children know that things are going to remain as normal as possible. Everyone’s lives may change a little, but you will still be there for them.

Sarah Wilson.jpg

Sarah WIlson, PhD, LMFT Associate, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin who are going through divorce or separation. If you’re not sure how to tell your children you are getting divorced, please don’t hesitate to contact us. It’s important to have someone to talk to during a such a significant transition. To schedule with Sarah, give her a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 104, or request a session online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page. Let us help you through those first steps and into the next chapter of your life.

Dealing with Divorce: 5 Benefits of Having a Counselor by Your Side

Dealing with Divorce 5 Benefits of Having a Counselor By Your Side.png

By Ellen Rohr, MEd

If you’ve never considered the benefits of having a counselor by your side while dealing with divorce, it’s time to give it some thought!

Going through a divorce is difficult, no matter what. Whether it’s an amicable and smooth process or a long, drawn-out court battle, it’s not easy.

You’ll likely experience a roller coaster of emotions throughout the process, and you’ll have to learn to grieve. Going through a divorce is still a loss, even if you think it’s for the best.

Still, you don’t have to go through it on your own. A therapist can make a big difference in how you come out the other side. Let’s look at a few benefits so you can make a more informed decision on whether counseling is right for you during the process of divorce.

1. Encourage Personal Momentum

It’s common to think about going to therapy while dealing with divorce. For many people, counseling is extremely helpful.

A therapist can help you to figure out who you are, the impact of your personal history, why things happened a certain way, and more. Together, you can focus on mindfully paying attention to your emotions and the events of your current situation. A counselor can also help you work on setting goals for the future and moving you forward.

Over time, a skilled counselor will help you manage the broad range of emotions you may experience while you are dealing with divorce and work with you as you move toward the next chapter of your life. You will learn to put the past in perspective and how to make choices and decisions that serve you and your new life well.

If you’re feeling “stuck” in your divorce process, for example, a therapist can help you pay attention to your thinking and behavior. They may encourage you to challenge negativity and unproductive thought patterns to help you out of your emotional rut.

2. Help You Realize Your Goals

Marriage can sometimes cause you to lose your individual identity. Or, at least a portion of it. You may have lost some of your goals and aspirations along the way. It’s possible they didn’t line up with the goals and aspirations of your partner, relationship, or family. Maybe life just got in the way.

Now that you’re dealing with divorce, you can re-evaluate your goals. A counselor can help you to realize goals you may not have considered for years or new ones you would like to achieve.

3. Support Purposeful Decisions

Therapists certainly don’t ignore emotions. However, at times, they can help you focus more on actions and purpose.

Emotions can sometimes be dangerously overwhelming, hindering healthy decision-making during a divorce. A therapist can help you find ways to regulate your emotions so that you can make better choices. This support often offers direction as you go through the process.

4. Bring Ease to the Legal Process

Therapist and counselors aren’t lawyers. They do not provide legal advice. They can, however, give you practical advice. They can also help you to better understand yourself and your emotions as you move forward.

Essentially, knowing what you want for your future can help smooth the way legally. When you work with a counselor during the process of divorce, you may have more clarity about the questions you want answered, or, you may be more willing to come to some sort of amicable agreement or settlement with your partner.

5. Boost Your Confidence

Divorce can wreak havoc on your self-esteem. You might start to think you weren’t good enough for your spouse. You might wonder whether you have what it takes to be married at all. When your confidence is gone, it’s easy to feel lost, alone, and scared.

A counselor can help you rebuild your self-confidence so that you can release fear and silence your inner critic. This helps you to create realistic expectations for the rest of your life.

If you are having trouble dealing with divorce on your own, or you’re not sure what you want your life to look like after your divorce, consider the benefits of seeing a counselor. Professional support could be a great addition to your team.

Ellen Rohr.jpg

If you are currently going through divorce, or think one might be in your future, remember that you don’t have to go through it alone. Ellen Rohr, MEd, LPC, helps individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin who are in the process of separating from their spouse. With the perspective and support of a seasoned counselor by your side through this life transition, you can come out on the other end with clarity and grace. Schedule an appointment with Ellen by calling (512) 270-4883, ext. 115, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page. We’re here to help.

Constructive Solutions: Develop These 6 Powerful Relationship Skills

0cff6fed-887a-41b0-b9ba-acb2c62b00b3 (2).png

By David Wachsman, MC

From all angles, there are relationships that need nurturing—professional connections, friendships, family members, and, of course, romantic partners.

Strangely enough, it’s our most intimate relationships that often draw the short straw. Sometimes, we completely forget to employ our most basic relationship skills with our loved ones. Forgetting these basic skills can result in creating unnecessary distance, miscommunication, and misunderstanding.

To nurture the closeness between you and your partner, keep the following relationship skills in mind. In addition to creating closeness, these skills will support your partner in their own life endeavors as well as catapult you toward success in many ways.

After all, relationship skills are the kind of abilities that trickle over into many areas of life.

Here are six ways you can get started.

1. Practice Empathy

Familiarity can frequently intrude on our natural tendency to be empathetic toward our partner. We may get used to them complaining about work difficulties or issues with their extended family, for example. Little by little, we may stop listening and genuinely caring about those concerns.

Remember that true empathy can go a long way toward creating a strong bond between you and your partner. It’s as simple as making an effort to put yourself in your partner’s place when they are experiencing a rough patch.

2. Take Perspective

To practice the essential relationship skill of taking perspective, make it a point to really try to understand your partner and have genuine concern for what they are going through. This means holding back any natural urge to give advice or try to “fix” a situation for them.

In this frame of mind, you may have a difficult time seeing anything from your partner’s point of view. Being unable to take perspective is a bit more than simply believing you know what is best. Rather, it goes as far as making the effort to understand what they’re going through and validating what they are feeling, without making judgments, even if you don’t agree with your partner’s point of view.

3. Show Affection

People thrive on physical touch.

Consider how much you express your positive emotions by hugging, touching, or caressing your partner. An affirming and supportive touch can mean the world to them. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a big event. It could be something as simple as holding hands or a quick kiss on the cheek.

4. Be Trustworthy

This may seem like a no-brainer, but being trustworthy goes beyond the margins of fidelity that many of us assume.

For example, do you keep intimate information private between the two of you? Or, do you gab about your partner’s personal struggles with your friends? Do you make fun of your partner’s ideas when they’re out of hearing range?

Regardless of what others do, keep in mind that it’s important to be the person your partner can trust with their emotions, their thoughts, and their experiences.

5. Support Positive Experiences

When you’re one part of a couple, it’s important to be a cheerleader for your partner. After all, they’re counting on you to be in their corner and support them even when their endeavors flop.

In addition to being supportive, try to extend that sense of validation beyond what’s already taking place. For example, make it a point to go try new things together such as going out to eat at a new restaurant, or taking a class together.

Humans crave novelty and fresh experiences to enrich their overall level of life satisfaction. So, go and tackle life together, and bask in the closeness your adventures provide.

6. Rebound from a Conflict Quickly

Take stock of how quickly you get over a disagreement or argument.

Disputes are bound to happen in a close relationship. Yet, a couple certainly doesn’t need to nosedive down to the bottom of the argument ocean every time a conflict presents itself. Part of fighting fair is allowing the conflict to come to a healthy resolution or compromise, rather than letting it hang over your relationship like a dark cloud for several hours or days.

Learn to repair after conflict with your partner. Own your part of the way the disagreement was handled. Be specific about what you are apologizing for or regret. Listen to your partner. Be respectful.

Building a healthy, intimate relationship can be a challenge in today’s modern world, but these relationship skills can help you get there. 

David Wachsman.jpg

David Wachsman, MC, LPC Intern, works with clients at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin to build healthy, intimate relationships with their significant others. David can help you practice and employ different communication skills to deepen understanding with your partner. If you or your partner are seeking guidance to strengthen your bond, try giving David a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 119, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

12 Enjoyable, Non-Sexual Ways to Boost Intimacy!

Non-Sexual Ways to Boost Intimacy.png

By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Boost intimacy without sexual contact? Yes, you can!

Of course, sex plays a very important role in a long-term relationship. However, intercourse is just one path to a loving, satisfied union. There are many other lovely ways to feel connected and close to your partner.

Take into consideration the daily discussions, rituals, and bonding moments you share with your partner on a day-to-day basis. Even non-sexual interactions such as these should be honored and cherished. After all, they are often the backbone of your relationship!

So what happens when those moments start to wane, become repetitive, or seem a little stale?

Never fear! Read and employ the following list meant to make sure you can boost emotional and physical intimacy a little more each day:

1. Start the Day with Pillow talk and a Cuddle

Before life rushes in to steal you away from each other, roll over for a bit of snuggling and face-to-face connection.

2. Establish Separation and Reunion Rituals

It’s comforting to know you are missed when you are gone and welcomed when you return. Stoke the fires between you by sending each other off warmly with a lingering kiss and a long embrace. Greet each other similarly, even add a boxed dessert or glass of wine to sweeten the moments you come together again.

3. Hold Hands to Boost Intimacy

There’s nothing like the sense of connection that comes with holding hands. When your partner reaches for you, it feels good to be seen and wanted. The sense of safety and comfort that comes from bonding through simple, non-sexual touch is invaluable.

4. Ensure that Fond Feelings Flourish

Kill the tendency to criticize and nitpick. Keep each other’s positive characteristics and attributes in the forefront of your minds. Express more positivity than negativity. Compliment and celebrate your partner. Accept each other’s flaws with grace and love.

5. Use Your Tech to Touch Base

Our screens tend to distract and divide our attention, stealing intimate moments. Take charge of your tech. Put it to work daily as a date night scheduling, love-text writing, “just called to say I love you” machine.

6. Faithfully “Turn Toward” Your Partner

Well-known relationship expert and researcher John Gottman notes that you can boost intimacy when you make every effort to turn toward your partner’s bids for attention and connection. Be good listeners, show empathy and compassion. Turning away or against your partner will result in resentment and broken connection.

7. Send Your Love through Snail Mail

Who doesn’t love a love letter? It says that your partner took time to consider your connection, write out their feelings, and send it to you the old-fashioned way. It is lovely and endearing to read and reread pages that cannot be deleted or lost if you lose your phone.

8. Go Green: Candlelight Dinners and Long Walks

Turn out the lights and save on gas several nights a week, all while building the romance and intimacy into your evenings. Make plans to slow down. Look deeply into each other’s eyes over a meal. Walk and talk afterward… hold hands too!

9.  Share Your Sweetheart’s Enthusiasm

Do you and your partner have beloved hobbies or interests? Why not throw yourselves into each other’s favorite activities? Simply demonstrating that you want to understand each other’s enjoyment speaks volumes. Sharing it with them can be loads of fun.

10. Do More Life Together

It seems simple, but we often forgo intimacy in the simplest ways. Deepen affection and connection by sharing all kinds of everyday chores and activities. Run errands, get groceries, and cook meals together. Seek each other out. Enjoy each other, reminisce, make the mundane fun.

11. Don’t Hold Back on Daily Gratitude

When you show each other appreciation, you build intimacy immediately. Knowing that your partner considers you a gift strengthens the bond. You’ll want to continue pleasing each other and giving each other reasons to think highly of one another.

12. Share, Talk, Laugh, Repeat.

Communicate with curiosity, common ground, and connection as your primary goals. Practice being able to converse, have conflict, and come together again with a strong sense that you belong to each other, even through disagreement.

Work on remaining open and vulnerable. Encourage deep sharing and make time for it.

Give each other room to table issues if you need to and interject humor (but never at your partner’s expense) to maintain your connection as much as possible. Most of all, don’t let any issue drive a wedge between you. Passion and friendship will both be boosted by a willingness to come together to repair your relationship when necessary and reconnect without long delays.

Ultimately, boost intimacy in ways that make you comfortable and bring delight to each other. Relish your connection and make the most of love.

Jill Baumgarner.jpg

Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin who are looking to reclaim the spark in their relationship. If you and your partner are seeking therapy to enhance intimacy—in or out of the bedroom—give Jill a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, to schedule an appointment. You can also request a session online by visiting our RCC Austin Scheduling page. We hope to hear from you.

Anxiety Under Control: 6 Ways to Calm Down Quickly

Anxiety Under Control 6 Key Ways to Calm Down Quickly.png

By Roy Faget, MA

Anxiety abounds in a world filled with 24-hour news cycles, hectic schedules, social expectations, and our own state of personal ups and downs.

You don’t have to expect to just muddle through with worry and stress as your constant companions. You can get your anxiety under control and live the free and productive life you long for. But how?

The idea is to keep anxiety reserved for real danger and to feel more in control when worry and fear creep up. You can develop the power to rein in your thoughts and restore calm quickly and effectively. These tips for getting anxiety under control can help you relax:

1. Make Self-care Happen

This one is non-negotiable.  A lack of sleep, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle can have a huge impact on your mental health. To feel less pushed around by anxiety, improve your sense of balance and self-control with the basics:

  • A regular sleep routine. Take a nap if you need it!

  • Healthy eating and hydration habits

  • Daily movement, exercise, and enjoyable activities

  • Repeat an uplifting mantra throughout the day

Self-care is the cornerstone for your overall health. Don’t put your personal needs aside. You matter!

2. Address your Stress

Stress and uncertainty are a part of life. Some of us can roll with life as it comes. Some of us need a bit of help managing the roller coaster ride. There’s no shame in building in some daily techniques to reduce the strain on your mind and body. Practice one or more of the following to ease anxiety on a regular basis:

  • Meditation

  • Tai Chi, Yoga, or deep stretching

  • Deep breathing exercises

  • Journaling

  • Calming visualization

3. Reduce Mental Input and Pay Attention

In other words, step away from the beeps and buzzes alerting you to your technology. Let the emails and voicemails wait. Turn off the newsfeeds and background noise. 

Do your best to get quiet and notice what’s happening within you. 

  • What thoughts are recurring?

  • How is your body responding?

  • What feels soothing or distracts you from the worry?

Anxiety counts on your inability, or unwillingness, to slow things down. It counts on racing thoughts and reaction. Choose to be deliberate and thoughtful about what you allow to affect you and how you respond. Remind yourself that you are in charge of you. Stay present and intentional.

4. Put Your Thoughts to the Test

Be tough on your racing thoughts. Get real with the critic in your head.

  • Will the wedding toast really be “totally humiliating?”

  • Does your partner truly have one foot out the door?

  • Does your boss really think you are the worst employee on his team?

Challenge the thoughts you allow to derail your peace and participation in life. Regret and fears don’t have to rule you if you can learn to recognize unhelpful rumination and push through it. Calm down quickly by logically rejecting what isn’t true about you and others.

Ask a few of these questions to reduce anxiety:

  • Are my worries realistic or likely to occur?

  • Is the worst-case scenario, really so bad? 

  • How might I manage my imagined catastrophe?

  • What do I think being unprepared or incapable of handling bad things says about me? Is this true?

Think things through. Let yourself process, challenge, and put to rest unproductive thinking.

5. Get Busy: Goals, Generosity, and Gratitude are a Great Start

Some clichés are based on reality. It’s true that when we focus on the suffering of others, we find peace and calm. There may be nothing more centering than kindness.

 Life is much more than a list of worries, possible problems, or unwanted uncertainties. What if you weren’t upset so often? How would you live if you were worry-free? Who would you reach out to if you felt sure and confident? Those are the things that give life meaning and direction.

To get out of your head and restore calm, you must act more and obsess less.

Make a point of doing what matters to you, giving your time and energy to others who are in need. Actively look for things and people to be grateful for.

6. Accept What Is and Embrace Your Place in the Present Moment

You may have been frightened, freaked out, overwrought, even panicked. Okay. Tell yourself the truth about that (without judgment) and allow it to be the former state of things. Realize too, that all you must deal with right now is to calm down quickly. 

And, what’s happening right now? You are reading this blog, seeking help, and exercising a moment of freedom and choice to overcome anxiety. Congratulations! Reaching out for help by talking to trusted friends or a counseling professional is a brave first step toward reducing excessive worry and anxiety.

Roy Faget.jpg

 Roy Faget, MA, LPC Intern, LMFT Associate, works at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin with both couples and individuals who are experiencing anxious thoughts, feelings, and anxiety-provoking life circumstances. For support in combating worry in your life or your partner’s life, give Roy a call by dialing (512) 270-4883, ext. 109, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

How Exercising and Resting Your Mind Can Help You Cope With Stress

Exercise Helps Cope with Stress.png

By Jim Duncan, MA

Is stress keeping you down, exhausted, anxious, or depressed? Research shows us that, to cope with stress, exercise might be the answer!

It is just as important to take care of your body as it is to take care of your mind, and studies repeatedly demonstrate the important links between physical fitness and mental health.

If you are feeling out of shape or overwhelmed by stressors in your life, exercise may be the solution to both problems.

Here’s how exercising and resting your mind can help you cope with stress.

Physiological Factors

There is a natural, biological reason stress affects us so negatively. The brain is impacted when our minds begin to experience stress and sends signals to other body parts. Stress can make our muscles tense and our breathing shallow or irregular, while also impacting our sleep cycles and lowering our alertness and concentration.

When the effects of stress hit the body, we can feel powerless to stop them. But, just as our bodies are designed to chemically feel stress, they are also designed to fight against it. When chemicals called endorphins are released by our brains, we naturally feel more positive. Endorphins act as our body’s natural painkillers and can even produce a euphoric sensation.

Two Birds, One Stone

Exercising is one of the easiest ways to trigger endorphin production in the brain.  Studies have shown that those who exercise regularly live generally lower-stress lives than those who do not. And, with the countless benefits of exercise, it is not hard to see why!

When we exercise, most of our focus shifts to the task at hand. Physical activities such as walking, running, biking, swimming, hiking, climbing, or dancing require coordination and concentration. While our minds still wander during exercise, we must devote a moderate amount of mental energy to the motions and movements mandated by the activity.

Therefore, it is impossible to run, bike, swim, or hike while balancing the checkbook, writing data reports for work, sitting in on office meetings, tending to our small children, or any of the many other stressful tasks in our lives.

Exercise gives us a very tangible break from the things that are stressing our minds and allows for mental rest—all while engaging our bodies and improving our health. And moving our muscles while resting our minds is a very effective strategy against feelings of overwhelming stress.

Benefits of Exercise to Cope with Stress

While we understand that exercise physiologically improves our chances of fighting stress, the benefits of exercise can also be found more immediately on the surface. We don’t need to know the science behind endorphins to know that exercise simply helps us feel good.

It’s motivating enough to know that exercise can improve our moods and help us cope with stress nearly instantaneously.

Some of the greatest benefits of exercise include:

  • Deeper and better sleep

  • Increased self-esteem and self-confidence

  • Boosted energy levels

  • More positive outlook and attitude

  • Decreased feelings of depression and anxiety

  • Better bodily function and overall physical health

  • Mental clarity

Stress has a way of convincing us that we do not have time or energy to devote to exercising. The truth is, however, we cannot afford to not exercise. Feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, and worthlessness can be significantly decreased through regular exercise. With consistent physical activity, our moods are better, and our minds are calmer.

Exercise is one of the most effective tools against stress, and it is both completely free and widely available. If you want to improve your health and free your mind, begin incorporating exercise into your routine to cope with stress.

Moderate exercise that is done most days of the week is best, but any movement is better than none! However, always consult your physician before starting any new exercise program. Good luck and good health! 

Jim Duncan.jpg

Jim Duncan, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. As a Certified Personal Trainer, Jim has a unique understanding of the link between physical fitness and mental health, and incorporates this when working with clients who may be experiencing stress in their lives. To schedule a session with Jim, call him at (512) 270-4883, ext. 117, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy and How Can It Help Your Relationship?

What is Emotion Focused Therapy.png

By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Relationships often need support to remain strong. That’s where Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) comes in.

When you are in a close relationship, you want to maintain your emotional connection while successfully managing conflict.

What is required to do these things? A deep attachment to your partner or loved one.

Of course, life happens to relationships. People get busy. We get stressed and short with each other. We drift away, resentment builds, and closeness can be replaced with distance and compromised communication.

Can you recover your closeness?

The answer is yes! Couples are often well supported in this effort by this evidenced-based approach.

What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

The attachments and bonds that support intimate relationships shape the premise of Emotionally Focused Therapy. This type of therapy specifically centers on love and the bonding process among adults. Developed by Drs. Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg in the 1980s, Emotionally Focused Therapy is relatively short-term method of couples therapy. Generally covering between 8-20 therapist-led sessions, the method is grounded in well-supported relationship research. Overall, love is viewed as an attachment bond between partners. One that can be hampered or stifled by unaddressed, negative communication practices.

Emotionally Focused Therapy closely examines emotional patterns that arise from a key fear in close relationships — the fear of abandonment. Yet the goal is not to spend a great deal of time delving deeply into the pain or trauma of the past. Instead, EFT is an active, present mode of therapy. It investigates your current relationships and the behavior patterns you exhibit within them.

Basically, Emotionally Focused Therapy can help you and those you care about build secure and lasting bonds. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to mend weakened intimate connections.

How Does EFT Work?

Emotionally Focused Therapy tackles the here and now. Your skilled EFT therapist essentially helps facilitate the discovery of negative or unhelpful patterns and individual behaviors in your current relationship.

Primarily, this is done via talk therapy. As you and your loved one discuss conditions and circumstances that have affected your relationship, you’ll share your feelings as well. In addition, you’ll share the ways you can resolve issues between you.

In EFT sessions, your therapist observes relationship dynamics and helps you see what may be eroding your connection. After identifying areas of concern, you try to determine, within your relationship, how the issues came to be. Then, the usual next step is to devise a more productive strategy for reconnecting and managing conflict well.

You can expect compassion from your therapist. They will listen and question without judgment. You will be given the chance to recognize and fully understand your own emotions. Learning to welcome, allow, and regulate your emotions is key.

Soon, your ability to better assess, respond to, and manage emotions is improved, as well.

EFT is generally thought to have been successful when the couple in therapy has increased awareness of their emotional experience. They may also have an improved ability to regulate their feelings and transform unhelpful emotions.

What Can EFT Do For You?

Emotionally Focused Therapy helps you and your partner reclaim your connection. By engaging in the process, allowing yourselves to be vulnerable, and committing to lasting change in your relationship, you will be enhancing the effectiveness of EFT. As you and the therapist work together, a new way of functioning and relating starts to emerge. You may notice that you no longer allow poor habits and unproductive behaviors to keep you distant and detached from your partner.

Most of all, everyday interactions will benefit. For couples, intimacy, both emotional and physical, improves. The relationship rebounds instead of falling apart. Essentially, EFT provides a lifelong tool for getting close, and staying that way.


 Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin by using Emotionally Focused Therapy. If you and your partner are seeking to discover negative patterns in your relationship and reclaim your close connection, Jill’s training in EFT may be the right approach for you. To schedule a session, call Jill at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

How Happy Couples Handle Disagreements: Tips for Conflict Management

How Happy Couples Handle Disagreements.png

By Jim Duncan, MA

Have you ever heard of a couple who claimed to never fight with each other? As if learning to handle disagreements was a step they were fortunate enough to skip?

You might wonder how a “no fighting” relationship is even possible. The truth is, it’s not!

Arguments, disagreements, and conflicts will occur in an intimate relationship. It’s a normal part of any relationship. The key to successful conflict management is how the conflict is handled.

To get you started on the right foot, managing conflict like the happy couple you want to be requires a plan of action. You already know that learning to handle disagreements is a part of your relationship. It makes sense to have a plan in place for when those pitfalls occur.

Here’s how to make a conflict management plan like the happy couples do.

“Know Thyself” to Handle Disagreements Well

First, it’s vital to know how you respond to any type of conflict, friction, or confrontation. As you may have imagined, to “know thyself” requires some intense honesty on your part.

For example, do you have a compulsion for communication, desiring to talk it out? Or, does your blood boil, and you need a minute to step back from the situation to retract your claws?

Some might believe that there is a perfect way to respond to conflict—calm, cool, and collected. Yet, the funny thing about humans is that we’re not perfect. So, work with what you know about yourself to support the best results.

Respect Resolution Styles (and Triggers)

To go along with the previous point, be sure to know your partner’s resolution styles as well as your own. The same goes for their emotional triggers, too.

It may be difficult for the communicative partner to give some space to the blood-boiling partner. This is why it’s so important to have your plan of action in place before you approach a disagreement.

Happy couples take the time to get to know the inner workings of each other. Furthermore, they respect each other’s resolution styles.

Put the Blinders On

A common tip floating around online articles and magazines is to stick to the task at hand. It’s a solid key to better conflict management!

Happy couples fight about one thing at a time—not the socks on the floor, how the dog still needs his bath, or that awful gift from 10 years ago.

To handle disagreements like a happy couple, stay focused on the one issue at hand.

Keep It Above the Belt

When you stick to one issue at a time, fighting fair becomes much easier. However, it’s important to constantly remind yourself to keep it clean.

What this means is that your partner is your safe zone. You are your partner’s safe zone, as well. You share intimate details about your life with each other.

Ultimately, that sort of information should be handled with respect. Intimate information isn’t meant to be used against someone else simply to win a battle.

In short, don’t take cheap shots. Happy couples take the long way around a disagreement to come to a resolution.

Wear the Same Colors

Most importantly, being part of a couple is a lot like being part of a team. A good way to think of your partner is as that special person on your side of the playing field. The two of you wear the same team colors. A disagreement doesn’t automatically make them the opposition.

Remember, you’re trying to find a solution to the problem by tackling it together, not to ultimately win a battle.

Add Some Humor

Finally, when you take the team concept to heart, don’t forget to splash the conflict with some humor. Light humor, never at your partner’s expense, can help bring down tension and reset escalated emotions.

Even during a disagreement, your relationship is still the same one it’s been up until now. Find comfort in that.

Of course, there is a time to be very serious, but you’re also both imperfect humans. Which can be a laughing matter all on its own.


Jim Duncan, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin who seek to improve their communication techniques with one another. For support in learning to handle disagreements and develop stronger conflict resolution skills with your partner, schedule a session with Jim. To make an appointment, give him a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 117, or submit an online appointment request on the RCC Austin Scheduling page. We hope to hear from you.


Communication in Relationships: Stop Struggling to Talk to Your Partner!

Communication in Relationships Stop Struggling to Talk to Your Partner.png

By Jim Duncan, MA

Have you noticed lately that you are struggling to communicate with your partner? If you are finding it harder to talk about important problems or even the everyday struggles, you are not alone.

Good communication is the foundation of every relationship, yet, we sometimes struggle to have even basic conversations.

Since we love and care about our partner, talking to them about anything should be easy, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple.

If you have noticed that your communication is lacking, you have already identified the problem. This is an important first step!

Now, you and your partner can work together to improve over time.

Mastering Communication Skills

Learning to communicate well takes time. Many of us are not born being strong communicators or effective listeners—these skills take practice to develop.

There is no overnight fix if you and your partner are struggling to communicate. To improve the communication within your relationship, you will both need to put in the effort and the time.

Here are several tips to help you and your partner learn to master the art of effective communication:

Designate a Place

While you are learning or re-learning great communication skills, you will need to consider your environment. Some places simply are not conducive to having a meaningful conversation—crowded malls, loud restaurants, and even in some areas of your home.

For the best chance at success, designate an appropriate place to have conversations with your partner. This could be during a walk around the neighborhood, at the kitchen table, or in the car during a long drive. By making the location of your conversations intentional, you and your partner will be able to communicate more effectively.

Designate a Time

Just as the location of your conversations is crucial, so is the timing. For successful communication, you and your partner need to consider the best times of day for your conversations.

Set aside a time that works for both of you, making sure to factor in personality preferences, as well. Are you an early bird while your partner is a night owl? Do you love to chat during mealtimes, but your partner would rather relax quietly? If the two of you are struggling to connect, designate a specific window of time to talk—and stick to it, even when your schedules change.

Listen More Than You Talk

For most of us, talking comes naturally. It’s usually the listening side of conversation that needs some work.

To be a successful communicator, you must learn to listen more than you talk. Make your partner feel heard and understood by giving them plenty of time to speak without fear of interruption. Rather than focusing on how you are going to respond, redirect your attention to what your partner has to say and make an effort to truly hear every word.

Focus on the Face-to-Face

In our digital world, it can be tempting to rely on text messages for many of our conversations. The truth is, however, that typed messages can be misinterpreted—not to mention that they remove body language and non-verbal cues from the equation.

Keep all important conversations strictly in-person. And avoid relying too heavily on your digital devices to communicate with your partner.

Considering Couples Counseling

If you and your partner have been actively working on your communication skills for a few months and are not seeing much progress, you may benefit from professional guidance.

Couples counselors, for example, are trained to help couples communicate more effectively. Additionally, therapy provides a safe space where you feel more comfortable discussing your feelings and asking for help.


Jim Duncan, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples in all stages of their relationship at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you and your partner find yourselves lacking tools to effectively discuss anything from big problems to small everyday struggles, we can help. To schedule an appointment with Jim, give him a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 117, or request an appointment with him online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page. We hope to hear from you.