Hot Stuff

Ahh summer…. The season outdoors and sunshine. To eat snow cones and visit the park. To…..get mean spirited and negative? To seek out arguments with your significant other? Well, as you’ve probably noticed, Texas in the summer is hot. Not just a “I need a short sleeve shirt today” kind of hot, but the “I could actually make a fresh batch of cookies in my oven-of-a-car” kind of hot. Does all this heat have your blood boiling in more ways than one?

Anger and irritation are normal emotions, but research suggests that the heat can fan the flame of your agitation and you are more likely to be aggressive. You are uncomfortable as the air feels like its slowly setting you on fire, your heart rate elevates, and then on top of all this nonsense, you have to deal with your normal day-to-day stress. As your face turns redder and redder from sunburns and high blood pressure, the slightest provocation can be blown out of proportion in your mind. And even if you are managing to stay level-headed and calm, your patience for those who cannot is drawn very thin.

While you shouldn’t ignore your emotions, you should do what you can to avoid them overpowering you. You are the thinker, not the thoughts, so you shouldn’t let them control you. Here are a few simple steps to reign in those sarcastic comments and that burning desire to just kick something.

  • Don’t Jump to Conclusions: Train your thought process to be logical. It is far too easy to get mad before you know all the facts or make the wrong assumption. Twisted logic twists our preconceptions, yet we firmly believe it is nothing but facts. Add in some uncomfortably warm apartments and all of a sudden we are finding petty reasons to become upset. Be aware of when and how you jump to conclusions, and try to see past your preconceptions.
  • Identify Primary Stressors: Other underlying causes will stress you out more than you realize and will get you really riled up when coupled with the heat. Evaluate yourself: Am I tired or hangry? Am I getting sick or dehydrated? Am I stressing over work or anxious about something? Honestly, the only chill pill you need is to recognize your underlying issues and to get yourself a breakfast taco.
  • Control the Energy of Anger: Find a better way to route your pent up aggression and irritation. We highly recommend some form of exercise. Put on your tennis shoes and go play an intense game of soccer. Beat the mess out of a punching bag. You’ll get a great workout in and you’ll find a more suitable way to get that energy off your chest. Or find a creative means such as forms of art. No matter what, avoid taking it out on those close to you. They don’t deserve it and you probably don’t mean it.
  • Recognize and Anticipate Your Emotions: What is an indicator that you are getting combative? Physical symptoms may include an elevated blood pressure and a pounding heart. You should pay close attention muscle tension and frustration level. You should acknowledge that you are getting antsy, and try to reason with yourself. Also, you should be aware of things that you know will set you off. When you fuse is short, try to avoid situations and certain locations that you know will get you going.  For example, skip the half hour wait for the food truck tacos and go get something indoors. Avoid crowded areas and carry cold water with you, especially if you are prone to dehydration. 
  • Stop and Think!: Count to twenty before you react. Logically plan out how and why you want to respond. Carefully choose your words while practicing a breathing technique. When you are feeling your irritation rising, chill out. No, really. Go inside. Get out of the heat. Remove yourself from the conflict for a while before you decide to react.
  • Practice a Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a way to connect yourself with your surroundings and to separate yourself from your thoughts. You observe your body, your emotions, and surroundings without judgement. You practice managing and controlling your thoughts instead of the other way around. It is a way to calm and ground yourself. For some helpful mindfulness practices, click here. 

By Bethany Gray

Making a Long Distance Relationship Work

"I'm jealous of all the people that get to see you every day.  Miles and miles between us.  Expensive plane tickets.  Long waits between visits.  Poor internet connections.  Nights spent alone.  But, you're more than worth it!"

Anytime you tell another that you're in a long distance relationship they will have an opinion and that opinion will generally be negative.  Your friends and family will try to dissuade you from the relationship.  They will tell you that the relationship won't work out.  These are well-intended others and they're not trying to be mean.  Their advice is simply coming from a place of caring.  Unfortunately, it's not helpful and it's not necessarily accurate. 

Honestly, most romantic relationships don't work out.  I mean that 99.99% of the relationships you will ever be in throughout your entire life...will NOT work out.  They will be short lived romances and long-term unions.  Still, they won't work out.  That doesn't mean you should stop trying...because it may not work out.  

Life is meant to be lived.  This means taking chances and finding your courage.  So, if you meet someone that doesn't live in your city...don't write them off.  It's rare to find someone with whom you have a soulful connection.  Another person that you have deep friendship, passion, compatibility, and chemistry with is rare.  Don't let it go.  Fight for it!  Below are some tips to help you make your long distance relationship work. 

  1. Seize the Opportunity:  This is your opportunity to get to know one another on a level you never could if not for the distance.  The physical interferes with truly seeing your partner.  The distance creates a chance to know your partner deeply without distraction.  See them...know them...who they are on an intellectual and human level. 
  2. Communication on the Regular:  Communicate with your partner in all forms throughout the day every single day.  This means talk, text, video/photo messages, FaceBook, Instagram, and straight up note/letter writing.  This helps the relationship feel more 3D rather than something that is flat and limited.  If you forget your phone send your partner an email to let them know why you're out of correspondence for the day.  
  3. Virtual Viewing:  You need to see your partner.  The way they look when they talk or just watching them move within their lives helps strengthen your bond.  Create shared moments even if they're virtual.  This doesn't mean you both need to do the same thing at the same time.  Most couples that live together often do different things at the same time they are together.  It just means be be present. 
  4. Join on Different Levels:  Do more than just talk, text, and FaceTime. Have other ways of engaging like playing games or sending gifts.  You would do this organically if you were together, but the distance requires you to put forth effort.  It will be worth it in the end. 
  5. Share the Burden:  One person should not take on the burden to be the "always" visitor.  This takes money, time, and energy.  Both parties need to do this even if it is easier for one to take it on.  Even if one partner says it's okay if they bare it alone.  Don't do it even if they make a convincing argument.  If it's one sided... one partner will become a part of the other's life, but it won't be bidirectional and the partner putting forth the effort will grow resentful. 
  6. The Minutia:  Share specific details about your experiences with your partner.  They miss out on the experience, but can share in the memory.  This is a way of making them a part of your life.  Baring witness is a part of being in a meaningful relationship.  
  7. Be Authentic:  You've must be honest in your wants, needs, and opinion.  Show your true self.  This means you will need to fully reveal yourself.  You need to be all of the good amazing qualities you are, as well as, the rude judgmental you always are at times.  You can't wear a mask or pretend you are something you're not.  Show up everyday and show your true self.  You don't have the luxury of this happening organically over time.  
  8. Maximize your Time Together:  When you're together...be together!  This means create memories with one another.  Plan fun experiences and go on dates when you see them.  Don't think that these fun exciting times will somehow skew your relationship.  These highs times are fully earned...so enjoy them! 
  9. Avoid the Danger:  Okay, so you will be vulnerable.  Your heart is open, because you're in a relationship...AND you're going to be lonely.  That open/lonely combination can lead you to a possible cheat.  This isn't because you're a cheater, it's because your heart is vulnerable.  You need to be on mental guard while you're with your friends and in situations another may try to trespass.  Be purposefully vigilant, because it will be worth it.   
  10. Have an Expiration Date:  There has to be an end date.  You must know how long you have to deal with the distance.  This needs to be agreed upon by both parties and both parties will need to shoulder the burden of making plans for relocation and job finding.  This is hard to do and will be even harder for the individual that is leaving their home.  Just help as much and as fully as you can...even if it means extra patience and listening to their frustrations about not being able to find a job in your city.

Really, just find your courage and do it.  You love this person...don't let distance and time ruin it.  What is a couple years of long distance compared to a lifetime together...

By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA

About Me

Most people never ponder the question, "Who am I?"  Instead, people regularly define themselves by their role in life.  Father.  Son.  Friend.  Girlfriend.  Husband.  Student.  Secretary.  Lawyer.  Athlete.  Who they are is what they do.  

The problem with this approach is that these roles are not permanent and they depend on variables that are out of your control.  You don't get to decide whether you keep your job when a layoff happens.  You don't get to keep your spouse from leaving you.  You can't make your adult child not move away.  You don't get to choose which schools accept you.  So, what happens when you stop doing what you do?

The result is...people become lost.  They grasp for anything that will define and create new meaning.  This can be other people, material things, major geographical changes, or just spending money.  

Sometimes, people turn to control.  Trying to control the uncontrollable.  They hold on harder to what and whom they want.  They use manipulation and put-down strategies to avoid or delay the inevitable. 

To fully define yourself you must first see yourself.  I mean really see yourself.  See all your qualities.  All your strengths and faults.  Where you came from.  All your education and the jobs you've held.  The roles you retain.  The places you've traveled.  Your culture and traditions.  What you have accomplished and where you have failed.  The food you like.  The traits you have.  Your likes and dislikes.  Know your values.  The experiences you've had.  Your spirituality.  Your physical capabilities and limitations.  What you look like.  How people have treated you in all areas of your life.  

Once you deeply see yourself the next step is acceptance.  You must accept the good and the bad.  See yourself for nothing more or less.  Choose to stop wishing you were something different or more.  Know that who you are is something unique.  Who you are is perfectly imperfect.  Who you are is enough.  

A few simple suggestions to begin this growth process:

  1. Seek out the opinions of other's regarding you and your current/future path.
  2. Write responses to the areas identified above.
  3. Start gaining new experiences to learn what you like and don't like.
  4. Talk to a trusted confidant about your insecurities and experiences that cause you discomfort.
  5. Seek professional help.

By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA

Post-Breakup Instanity

Post-Breakup Insanity, or PBI for short, refers to an unhinged state of mind after termination of a romantic relationship.  Signs and symptoms of PBI can include emotional lability, intrusive thoughts of your ex, physiological distress, extreme and irrational thinking, potential stalking, aggressive confrontation, and drastic attempts at reunification with your ex.  These symptoms occur shortly after the break up and generally last several days to a few months.  This is not a clinically diagnosable disorder as is not found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM 5).  It is however, a real phenomenon and tends to affect mostly adolescents and young adults.  Both men and women are affected.  It should be noted that  most people do not frequently experience this, but over 3/4 of people will at one time or another in their life. 

Symptoms of PBI:

  • Emotional Lability typically means that even during periods of relative calm there still tends to be underlying anxiety and agitation punctuated by very strong and explosive emotional responses.  It is described as drastic ups and downs or frequent and rapid shifts of emotion.  An example would be, feeling anxious and unsettled one minute, then experiencing uncontrollable crying, then involuntary laughing, then intense anger, then uncontrollable crying again, then possibly feeling numb.  These shifts in emotions are unprovoked and involuntary.
  • Intrusive Thoughts of Your Ex are thoughts you try not to have, but they keep coming back and won't go away.  These thoughts can be memories and images of past experiences with your ex.  These can either be both positive or negative.  They may be focused on what your ex is doing at the moment since you know their schedule.  Regardless of their focus, these thoughts seem to come out of no way and just pop into your head.  They are consistently present throughout your day and may also be in your dreams.  You can't seem to distract yourself from them.  You don't have any ability to stop them or control them in the least. 
  • Physiological Distress is your body basically revolting to the stress of the breakup.  This is physical exhaustion, muscle soreness/pain and fatigue, physical agitation (feeling like you need to physically do something), GI upset and diarrhea, heartburn, ravenous hunger or no appetite, and headaches.  No intervention will help and if something helps it is short-lived.  
  • Extreme and Irrational Thinking can be very alarming for a reasonable person.  These thoughts are so unusual most would call them "crazy."  This could be imaging that you were being physically aggressed upon by a strange person and your ex saw and came to your rescue; or thoughts about staging a pregnancy, because in your head you think he will take you back; or feeling the need to reach out to your ex to tell them how much you love and want to be with them, but they already know that and still don't want you; or thinking how you can expose your ex to an STD; or contemplating ways to ruin their life.  These thoughts are so extreme and so irrational that you under normal circumstances would not ever consider them.  
  • Stalking can be in-person, cyber, and through a third-party.  In-person stalking is usually spying on your ex.  You may drive by their house, or go to their favorite hangout and hide in the back, or going into their home to just look around since you still know where they keep their spare key, or go checkout their new romantic partner.  Cyber stalking is tracking them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  If you are no longer "friends" with them on social media you may create a trojan horse, which is a made up account with personal information and a picture of an attractive person so that they accept this trojan horse's friendship and then you have the ability to watch their activity on that social media.  You might have put a tracker on their phone so you can trace their movements.  You may log into their email or bank accounts to see their activity.  Stalking through a third-party is really just using other people for information about your ex.  This could be asking them questions or even logging on to their social media to track your ex.  
  • Aggressive Confrontation can be directly to your ex, their property, or their reputation.  Aggressing on your ex in person is to physically or verbally attack them.  You may also have revenge sex (making sure they find out) with their best friend or sibling to hurt them and their relationship.  Attacking their property refers to property destruction either their vehicle, clothes, office space, or gaining access to their home and destroying their belongings.  Some may even go as extreme as stealing a pet and giving it away.  Attempting to destroy another's reputation is making slanderous statements which may be true, great exaggerations of the truth, or outright lies.  These statements will be shared with people that know your ex and even those that don't.  You may also share nude photos of them or a sex tape you made with them.  
  • Drastic Attempts at Reunification with Your Ex may be the most humiliating of PBI behaviors.  These are actual attempts at getting back into a relationship with your ex.  This could be gaining access to your ex's residence and waiting in their bed naked for them to get home, thinking that your nude available body will remind them of their desire for you.  Threatening to kill yourself if they leave you, or staging a suicide or accident to get them to come to your rescue.  

The first step to managing your PBI and reducing the fallout is to acknowledge that you're in it.  The next step, is to NOT act upon your PBI.  The more you act out behaviorally, the longer the PBI will stay.  Enlist a couple of loved ones to help you through the toughest times, which are usually the first 1-2 weeks following the breakup, anniversaries or meaningful dates, when you find out they're dating someone new, and following any contact you've had with your ex post-breakup.  I would also suggest no sex of any kind with your ex after you break up.  The final, and most important step, is to accept that the relationship is over for a good reason and dating them again will only result in the same outcome.  Cut your losses...you were lucky to dodge this bullet...and focus on yourself, your needs, your goals, and your happiness! 

By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA

The New Kid on the Block

Austin is a dynamic city with a small-town feel.  It's culture is fully reflected by the saying, "Keep Austin Weird."  It's many green belts, warm weather, and focus on health and green living inspire people to live healthier lives.  Austin draws around 150 new people per day and loses only 40 residents.  This influx is partly due to the large tech industry and claim as the Live Music Capital of the World.  There is a constant flow of newcomers, but this is especially true in the Spring and Summer.  Each transplant is met with the same relationship-challenge, though some may already have friends in the area.  This challenge is "how to make new friends?"  Friendships are key to happiness and contentment.  Without our friendships, we are less active, less willing to explore, and more negative about our surroundings. 

People usually have friend-networks developed from their school years and from work.  The majority of people haven't had to develop the skill of making new friends, because there's been no need.   Most don't even know where to start.  Below, I've included 5 tips for making new friends. 

  1. Identify your interests and seek out locations (Town Lake hike and bike trail), groups (hobbies, athletics), venues (live music) that cater to that interest.  Go to these places/activities alone.  Don't wait on someone else to go with you, because you could wait a very long time.  When you're engaged in something you find interesting you will be more willing to approach other like-minded folks and will also make you more approachable to them. 
  2. Respectfully and casually date.  Utilize Tinder, Match.com, and other social network dating sites to meet people.  This is a good way to meet people through people.  This will only work if you are up-front with your date and tell them that you are just interested in  meeting new people.  You also must maintain a friendly and respectful attitude toward them.  If you lead them on, engage in sexual activities, or use them...you probably won't be very welcome in their social network.  Instead of being in the friend-zone you will be in the no-go zone. 
  3. Sign up for a race (running, biking, triathlon, duathlon, etc.) and join a training group or join a CrossFit gym.  Austin is full of these opportunities.  This is a great opportunity to meet new people and make a workout-buddy.  This requires you to go regularly to your training group or gym plus talk to others.  When you do, be sure to exchange contact information and try to plan a 1:1 meet up focused on the activity you're doing.  If they are more skilled than you, ask them for some tips.  If you are more skilled, do not impart unsolicited guidance as this will only annoy them.
  4. Once you've met potential friends, invite them to do something at their convenience.  Remember, these people already have their own friend networks established.  Be mindful that they will have more social engagements than you.  Be flexible.  If they invite you to socialize with their network, agree and be self-sufficient.  Be ready to be friendly and talk to strangers.  Don't expect them to hold your hand by staying around and talking to you all night.  If you do, they probably won't be calling you later. 
  5. Once you've made a potential friend you need to develop the relationship.  That means you need to keep hanging out with them.  If they ask you to do something, accept.  Most people will only ask another to do something a couple times if it's continually declined.  I would suggest not declining twice in a row and not declining in the first several months of knowing them.  I would also suggest asking them to do something once every week or every other week that is interesting to both parties.  This does not have to be a long duration activity.  In fact, activities that take less time are more welcome in the beginning.

Just remember, you are not unlike others that move to Austin every day.  It may feel anxiety provoking and lonely at first, but it can get better.  There are a lot of people out there that are ready to be your friend.  People generally don't just luck into a friend group.  These friend groups need to be found, cultivated, and maintained.  You can do it!

By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA