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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

7 Ways to Feel Less Depressed

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Depression, or the more common “blues”, affects men when they don’t even know they’re depressed. Dealing with loss of interest in the usual things, fatigue, hopelessness, despair, and other symptoms of depression can hinder your forward progress, and in some ways debilitate men.

The problem with men who are suffering from depression is that, often times, they don’t know they’re depressed and don’t know how to ask for help. The stigma of getting help sometimes prevents them from feeling better, and so they don’t seek out a doctor or a therapist.

There are immediate things that you can do to help feel less depressed, even if you’re on the fence about getting professional help.

  1. Admit there’s a problem: unless you come to terms with the fact that you may be suffering from depression, nothing’s ever going to change. Talk with a loved one, like a family member or spouse, about the possibility that you’re depressed, and stay open to the process of seeking help.
  2. Try mild to moderate exercise: a light, regular exercise is known to alleviate some symptoms of depression, and the vitamin D you’ll get from the sun’s rays can help stave off some of those depressed feelings.
  3. Develop a meditation practice: there are lots of types of forms of meditation to choose from, but the one that I like best for you health and healing is mindfulness meditation. Developing a regular practice of five, 10, or even 20 min. of sitting meditation a day over the course of time can directly would rewire the brain in ways that promote happiness. Mindfulness meditation can help you deal with those irrational, stuck beliefs that drive depression, so if you haven’t meditating mindfully, considerate. There are a number of good books and CDs on the topic, so check Amazon.com or your local library.
  4. Watch what you’re eating and drinking: stimulants such as caffeine or depressants such as alcohol can directly affect your mood, as well as your body. For some, too much sugar for refined carbohydrates (think white flour products, potatoes and white rice) can leave your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride, and when you crash, your mood plummets. Consider omega-3 fatty acids to promote better mood, and seek out unrefined carbohydrates, good fats and proteins, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Food is definitely mood, even for the most carnivorous man.
  5. Talk it out: even if you’re not interested in coming through the counseling door to talk, there are plenty of people in your life that you care about you and want to help you get better. Take a risk, and reach out. You may be surprised that they’re willing to want help you or listen to you. Don’t fall into possible false thinking that you’re alone, or that nobody cares, or that you don’t want to burden anyone with your problems.
  6. Sit with negative emotions: it may sound contrary to feeling better, but it works. When you can sit with and hold a negative emotion – the physical emotion in your body – it will often dull or diminish in size. Too much of depression is a swirling of negative thoughts with negative emotions, which leaves us frozen in the depression. When depression goes “cognitive,” or stays in your head, you disconnect from the felt sense of it in your boddy effectively disembodying yourself. You can work your way through the negative emotion if you sit with it. Try it for a minute or two when it comes up.
  7. Seek out professional help: whether it’s your family doctor or a psychiatrist for depression medication and monitoring, or talk therapy with a professional counselor or therapist, seeking out professional help works where others close to you can’t. In the case of counseling, it’s often in a neutral, third party environment. Sometimes, your friends and family want the best for you, yet may be part of the problem. A trained counselor can help you sort out your feelings, and get to the root of your suffering.

Depression is not a life sentence. Sometimes, with the right help and attention, it’s effects can be greatly minimized. Do what you can for yourself, and get the support you need. When depression or the blues are dragging you down, it’s tough, but there is hope and help, and all it takes is for you to ask.


 

“Do I Stay or Do I Go”: The Hardest Relationship Question

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Thinking about this topic, I know we’re heading into murky territory, but I’ve been talking with a ton of guys this season where that big question has come up. I think it’s something about the holiday season that makes us look back on our past year and assess both the good and the bad. Do we look back in happiness and success, or do we look back in regret?

The holidays seem to drudge that question up for a lot of people, because I think a lot of otherwise unhappy people want to be able to make a change for themselves with the new year. Relationships are no different. Many people who are unhappy or unsettled in their current relationships start to ask themselves this question around this time of the year, and start to ask themselves if they need to make a change.
This is one of the most difficult questions to ask -  “do I stay or do I go in my relationship or marriage?” This article is not going to answer that question for you, but it’s been a bring up some points for you to think about.

There are some things that make answering that question easier, such as direct physical abuse, a partner who is mired in substance use, or other immediate response needs. I think those types of things need into serious inquiry into the “do I stay or do I go” question.

But, for a lot of men, they ask this question of themselves out of sheer reactivity and hopelessness. Many kind of choose to stay stuck between a rock and a hard place, and never seek out the help that they need, such as couples counseling. For some, it’s more comfortable. For others, it’s just denial.

A lot of times, the question “do I stay?” really means “ can I continue to deal with the problems that I am experiencing currently?” We often end up blaming our partners and creating a certain storyline about them and our relationship, and how it’s going to hell. If we get stuck in those types of thoughts, we’re toast. A lot of relationships and marriages that can be worked on, aren’t.

For men, it’s a little harder to take a look at the things that we are doing to our partners, and to take responsibility for the negative things that we do to them. I think the “do I stay?” question reflects a little bit of this, as well as “can I continue to deal with the negative emotions that come up inside me?” Sometimes, enough suffering drives people out of their comfort zone, where the pain of a bad relationship had become more than they can sit on.

For the guys who are emotionally avoidant already, the next logical question to start asking is “do I go?”. For men who avoid their emotions, and often avoid conflict situations in general, the desire to end a relationship or marriage is logical. It’s just easier to do it that way, and to start over from scratch. Problems are too difficult to work on in this relationship, you might tell yourself. She’s not open to a change, you might tell yourself as well. Or, this is just too much work, and I’m not up to the task, you might end with telling yourself.

I think the biggest question you need to consider is are you asking yourself if you want to flee the relationship based out of reactivity and emotion, or is this a rational, well-thought-out plan? For a lot of men, it’s acting out of reactivity and impulsivity, and that might work briefly in the short term, but not in long-term. We are bound to have to deal with this dynamic again, whether we get back together with our partner, or develop a new relationship with someone else. It’ll still be there.

And then, there is the “I should stay for the children” dilemma. I see a lot of couples wanting to hang in there, despite really difficult problems, for the sake of the kids. Some drudge through miserable marriages because they don’t want to expose their children to break up or divorce. Many times, it’s these guys who were those children in the past, and don’t want to do to their family what it is their parents did to them.

Really making a commitment to hang in there and work on the relationship issues, especially if you feel strongly about your partner, is really the first step. Identifying whether you’re wanting to end the relationship out of the emotion, or whether this is a well-thought-out plan, is one question that you could consider.

A lot of times, even the most hopeless situations can improve with some emotional connection, but it can be difficult for men to both connect to their feelings and to be able to listen to some of their partner’s issues with them and not want to fix those issues (which women often don’t respond well to, but do when you’re present and listening).

Is your relationship or marriage worth saving? Do you feel strongly enough about it, and about her, to start to do the heavy lifting to get your relationship back on track? Some guys do; others don’t. I’m not going to lie to you: it does take some work. But, your relationship is worth it, isn’t it?


 

Music For Many Moods: Summer Mix Tape 2010

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Ah, the sounds and sights of summer. Beach time. Grilling. Good friends and family. I was always looking for an excuse to bring my boombox somewhere when I was growing up, so that I could play my dubbed tape I worked weeks on. I had to wait for just that right moment when I knew the radio would be playing my song. It helped if I could break through the phone line to the station, to request it first.

Pumping Jams From The Shoulder
Times have changed, boomboxes have shrunk to iPhones, and radio requests, well, it’s not as thrilling with streaming music. But the music and the feelings never changed. To honor the symbol of summer – the mix tape – I present to you a list of timeless classics, and new finds, to match any mood you might be experiencing this summer. And it’s just for guys. (And, no, I’m not serenading you).

These songs don’t fit the bill for you? I’ll post this on my blog, so head on over and add your favorites. (This was the best of my iTunes for summer, so it’s a limited stock). Or, check out Tom Moon’s 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die.

Here goes:

Pure Summer Fun:

  • “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” – Lucinda Williams
  • “Desert Island” – Magnetic Fields
  • “Running on Empty” – Jackson Browne
  • “I’d Run Away” – The Jayhawks
  • “Honey” – Moby
  • “Golden” – My Morning Jacket
  • “Deadbeat Summer” – Neon Indian
  • “I’m Getting Ready” – Patty Griffin
  • “Statesboro Blues” – The Allman Brothers Band
  • “My Girls” – Animal Collective
  • “California Stars” – Billy Bragg and Wilco

Depressed:

  • “Fade to Black” – Metallica
  • “Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd
  • “Sour Times” – Portishead
  • “Manic Depression” – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • “When The Stars Go Blue” – Ryan Adams
  • “The Tracks of My Tears” – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
  • “Skinny Love” – Bon Iver

Happy:

  • “My Favorite Things” – John Coltrane
  • “Peaceful, Easy Feeling” – The Eagles
  • “Feeling Alright” – Joe Cocker
  • “Perfect Day” – Lou Reed
  • “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – Beach Boys
  • “Joy” – Bettye Lavette

Testosterone/Adrenaline Jolt

  • “Tom Sawyer” – Rush
  • “I Got Stripes” – Johnny Cash
  • “Communication Breakdown” – Led Zeppelin
  • “Negative Creep” – Nirvana
  • “Jesus Built My Hotrod” – Ministry
  • “Anarchy in the U.K.” – Sex Pistols
  • “Born Under a Bad Sign” – Albert King
  • “Lust for Life” – Iggy Pop

Problem Relationship Songs:

  • “Human Nature” – Michael Jackson
  • “Cure for Pain” – Morphine
  • “I’ve Got My Mojo Working” – Muddy Waters
  • “Respect” – Otis Redding
  • “This is Hell” – Elvis Costello
  • “Love Hurts” – Gram Parsons
  • “Trouble” – Ray LaMontagne
  • “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” Wilco
  • “Evil” – Howlin’ Wolf
  • “Jealous Guy” – John Lennon
  • “Dyslexic Heart” – Paul Westerberg

Good Relationship Songs:

  • “Love Keep Us Together” – Martin Sexton
  • “Sweet Caroline” – Neil Diamond
  • “Lady” – Fela Kuti
  • “You Make Loving Fun” – Fleetwood Mac
  • “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl” – Nina Simone
  • “Love and Happiness” – Al Green
  • “I Want You” – Bob Dylan

At Night:

  • “Harvest Moon” – Neil Young
  • “Pink Moon” – Nick Drake
  • “Nightswimming” – R.E.M.
  • “House of Cards” – Radiohead
  • “Wild Night” – Van Morrison

Stuck in a Rut? 5 Things to Think About First

Monday, June 21st, 2010

There’s a big difference between being stuck in a rut, and being depressed. The latter is chronic, the former is temporary. We all get stuck in ruts from time to time. We can’t always bring our ‘A’ game to everything we do. Our biorhythms, our lives, our minds: everything is cyclical. One day we’re flying, and another day feeling a little unmotivated and sluggish.

Popular culture professes to have many instant cures for feeling stuck in a rut, and this blog post is not one of them. Let’s talk a little more about what being in a rut might mean:

  • You simply don’t want to do whatever it is, say go to work, take care of yourself, stop drinking, etc.
  • Some outside entity forces you to change: girlfriend, paying your mortgage, getting to work to pay that mortgage
  • We lack the creative “spark” or energy to invest in whatever task or activity we will do – we’re simply not inspired
  • There’s a “should” or “must” attached to it; rule number one about humans is that we create an opposite reaction to forces telling us what to do. The energy is there – it’s just pent up and going the opposite direction. If we “have to do something,” it’s more likely we’ll drag our feet, or simply not do it altogether.
  • We’re not in touch with what flows, or what’s fun. Our sense of play has diminished, and our sense of obligation overrides what we really want to do.

Here’s some ways to remedy that sense of being stuck in a rut.

  • Start communicating with yourself. Ask pertinent questions like, “Why am I wanting to do this? What do I get out of doing it? What would I rather be doing, and could I be doing it that way?”
  • Try not to “push” yourself through to the other side, and make yourself unstuck. This tends to create a behavioral pattern over time, which encourages chronic “stuckness” over the long term.
  • Take time out, and brainstorm your values. If you don’t know what your values are, take some time to come up with them. Write down values like, “exercise” or “personal time” or “time with my family/wife/girlfriend”. Try create ones like “creative time” or “do-nothing on purpose time”. When you get to the root of what you’re about – your values – and you’re doing activities that align with those personal values, you help yourself de-rut.
  • Identify the areas where you’re stuck, such as relationship, work, personal life, money, mind. Create an action plan to work towards solutions to address those specific area. Watch for overwhelming yourself by thinking in a ‘black or white’ mentality, and lumping everything together as a problem. You’ll overload yourself, and stay stuck. Maybe this is what got you into the rut in the first place.

Activating ourselves from the inside is most important, because others – whether they be our wives, girlfriends, bosses, or personal trainers – can only motivate us from the outside so much. Taking ownership for our situation, and making a commitment to ourselves to change is tough, but ultimately much more rewarding.


 

How To Fight Depression

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Depression is a problem that affects millions of Americans each year, and many more people are not aware that they may be suffering from it. Fatigue, loss of interest in usual activities, malaise, problems eating and sleeping – these all characterize forms of depression.

Here’s some tips on how to fight depression:

1. Recognize that depression may be what you’re experiencing, and decide to deal with it instead of avoiding it; stay open to feedback from friends or loved ones about what they’re seeing from you.

2. Seek out the help of a trained professional. Talk with your doctor, or seek out a psychiatrist or mental health nurse practitioner who can talk with you about a possible antidepressant medication. You may also benefit from talk therapy, or counseling, to deal with the underlying issues associated with your depression.

3. Get active: engage in moderate physical exercise daily to reduce depressed feelings. This can be difficult when you feel fatigued or disinterested, but it helps.

4. Get Vitamin D/get outdoors: vitamin D helps fight depression.

5. Take Omega-3 fatty acids, either in liquid, capsule or food form (cold water fish). Talk with a physician or a nutritionist about what’s right for you.

6. Get support from friends, family, people close to you.

7. Journal your feelings regularly to see what may be the source of your depression, if there are events or people that trigger your depression.

8. Ask yourself if there are things happening in your life that need attention, or if you are not getting any major needs met in your life at the time. Sometimes, situational depression can be a result of events that stoke depression.

There is help from depression, and some of these tips may assist your recovery. Seek our support from those closest to you, and ask for help from professionals who care.


 

4 X 4 Tips to Better Self-Esteem for Men

Monday, January 25th, 2010

(reprinted from January’s edition of “Mentality” for men)

Healthy self-esteem is a critical component in a well-balanced life. Guys need it just the same, and it’s a consistent practice over time to maintain and refine good self-esteem, or the relationship that we have with ourselves. The way we treat ourselves is a direct reflection of the way we attract others into our lives. Who we attract into our lives is a direct reflection of how we feel about ourselves – good or bad. Let’s take a look at some components to developing better self-esteem for men.

Here’s how this will happen: we’ll look at four common areas affected by self-esteem, and give four tips for each category.

  • At Work
    • Feel accomplished by breaking up large projects into easy to manage tasks, and structure your time.
    • Periodically ask for constructive criticism from superiors to do a better job. Don’t wait for your review. It’s not ass kissing if you to want to perform better, and wiser.
    • Use your lunch productively: do some stress management for yourself for thirty minutes
    • Set quarterly goals for yourself on the job, and work towards gradual achievement of them; if you’re unhappy at work, set quarterly goals to get yourself out of there and into a better job or career
  • Relationship with Ourself
    • Identify and watch the toxic “self-critic”. Start to watch how it beats you down mentally, and how much of your behavior may be driven to succeed to “show” or compensate. This is the voice inside your mind that tells you “you’re not good enough, smart enough, successful enough.” Yes, that one.
    • Identify your needs and communicate them to the people that can meet them for you. Deal with the ones that can’t.
    • Identify your feelings and communicate them to the people that can listen to them. Deal with the ones that can’t.
    • Know what your limits are. Learning to say “no” is just as important for men as it is for women. Having healthy boundaries – which originate in ourselves first – is the foundation for practicing self-care, and developing good self-esteem.
  • Lifestyle
    • List three things you’ve been saying you’re going to do – that you’re not already doing – and develop an action plan to start to do them. This includes interests, hobbies, investment in relationships, etc. Identify the blocks and barriers, and write them down. Repeat.
    • Consider your friendships, and how they should be mutually satisfying for both parties. Do you feel good about them, and feel like you’re getting from them, as well as giving to them? If not, is a change needing to be made? Our friends can be great mirrors of our self-esteem, if we look closely. Research shows that mental health,  like depression, can be socially contagious, so why wouldn’t positive (or negative) self-esteem? Surround yourself with well-intentioned people who are good for your self-esteem.
    • Practice 20-30 minute regular exercise routines and do it not for an end-result, but as a commitment towards greater energy and positive self-esteem. Do it for your partner (or kids) if nothing else. We’re not talking Lance Armstrong here. Shake up those feel good brain juices.
    • Align your values with your behaviors. Are you practicing what you preach? Are you doing things in the world that are consistent with what you believe in? Sometimes, recalibrating them brings improved self-esteem, when we’re living from our core values instead of someone else’s.
  • Stress Management
  • Practice 10-15 minutes of conscious breathing (you can do this at work) or mindfulness meditation. You’ll be able to “unstick” from negative thinking about yourself through this process. E-mail me for instructions on meditating or breathing exercises.
    • Create a “stress list”, and record the daily items that stress you. Dump the stressors onto that list, and put the list in your desk drawer, or in a glass jar labeled “To Worry About”. Don’t stress: you’ll get to them later.
    • Practice better anger. You can exercise it out, yes, but you can also get in touch with the experience of anger in yourself, and communicate your anger in a healthy way to those that are the cause of it. Don’t stuff your anger, but don’t explode either. Choose “the middle way,” and cool your anger and frustration each time it comes up. But time it well.
    • Don’t smoke, and drink a little less. Both will spike stress, and exacerbate negative thinking about yourself (especially if you then tell yourself you want to quit. This is called “cognitive dissonance”, when stress appears as a product of two competing ideas. (“I want to quit, but I’m still doing it.”)

Self-esteem is a relationship that we build with ourselves over time. It requires some work, and continuing to do the right things over and over again. If you think you have chronic self-esteem problems, and need help, contact me to see how counseling or psychotherapy might benefit you.


 

Maintaining Good Male Friendships

Monday, January 25th, 2010

(reprinted from January’s edition of “Mentality” for men)

Being the social beings that they are, women are generally more predisposed than men to seek out the support of their close friends when there are problems or challenges. Women are better at seeking out friends, and knowing how to support themselves by doing it.

On the other hand, men are not wired this way. Guys in our culture tend to have more superficial relationships, based on common interests, hobbies, work and sport. Men do have “guys’ night”, but usually entails some male bonding activity through watching sports or playing poker. Men bond with activities outside of their emotions, and our culture has never been supportive of men relating to other men in any other way, especially emotionally.  Look at the abundance of “bromance” movies in the last couple of years, such as “I Love You, Man.” Culture, or more specifically, Hollywood, usually needs a comedic vehicle in which to introduce the idea of men connecting on an emotional level. It’s just too “weird” or “uncomfortable” without the humor. It’s kind of sad, because a lot of guys have nowhere else to turn for support.

On a practical level, many men do state that they want more male friendships. They often don’t know how to go about getting them, or aren’t willing to put the work in to maintain friendships. Again, this is where women do it better than guys. They can not only seek out social support from friends, and learn how to meet their needs in this way, but have the ability to maintain friendships and invest the time and energy than it takes to keep them going.

The older a guy gets, the harder it is to “teach a dog new tricks.” It just becomes “too hard” for a lot of guys to risk seeking out new friendships, and spending the time and energy that it takes to preserve them. Sometimes it’s just a little scary to reach out.

We say to ourselves that we want more friendships, but sometimes we aren’t willing to put the work in that relationships take. Friendships are similar to intimate relationships or marriages in that way: they’re good when you put the work, time and investment into them, and atrophy when there’s no investment. Even if you just “synch” with someone, you still got to put the work in to maintain friendships.

Fear is one way that we get stuck from advancing towards generating an up keeping friendships. Sometimes, fear prevents us from taking the risk of seeking out new male friendships or reigniting old ones. Laziness is also a common roadblock towards developing friendships. We don’t want to put the work in, or “have other things to do,” which is another way to say that we are prioritizing certain things in our lives over developing more room for personal friendships. It’s just one choice over the next choice.

Friendships don’t just come to us; they take a lot of work, energy investment, and mutual willingness. it’s the same as keeping a marriage healthy, and it’s a way of helping keep yourself healthy by learning to meet your needs as a man. Guys need the support just like women do, and friendships are a great way to get that support when they’re mutually satisfying.


 

Signs of Depression

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

You may be struggling with depression and not know it. Here are some of the signs to look out for if you suspect you’re dealing with depression:

1. Lack of pleasure in things you usually find pleasing

2. Significant weight loss or gain

3. Feel sad a lot of the time, for prolonged periods of time

4. Feeling unclear, fuzzy or lacking attention; inability to concentrate

5. Irritable, angry or generally unhappy

6. Feeling worthless

7. Excessive guilt

8. Feeling flat or unmotivated

It’s difficult to actually admit that it might be depression that you’re suffering from. Sometimes, we write these symptoms off to other things, such as stress or interpersonal problems we’re dealing with. For men, it’s harder to put the signs of depression together and admit that they’re depressed; culturally, depression implies a sign of weakness or inferiority, so many men who struggle with depression make it worse by hiding it or putting off treatment.

There is help for depression. A combination of antidepressant medications and professional counseling will help. A change in lifestyle, whether that’s more exercise, better sleep, social support, better dieting and nutrition, or investment in more meaningful activities or deeper relationships also ease the pain of depression. Depression is a multi-facted problem, with many possible causes and treatments. But, first, simply admitting that there’s a problem is the first step.


 

The Happiness Factor

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

I think about happiness a lot. I think about it around this time of the year quite a bit, as happiness and the holidays are so closely wedded. I meditate on the nature of happiness, and how we go about seeking it.

Happiness can come from finding meaning: in the work we do, in the friendships we create, and in the intimacy we deepen with our partners. It comes when the roads of the imaginary and reality merge.

Happiness can come from being present: to ourselves, to our thoughts and to our emotions. Being present and undoing the destructive emotions and thoughts that lead to destructive behaviors can lead to happiness. Quieting the self-destructive voice inside our heads, and learning to deal with the pains of life as they arise – and not continually pushing them aside – will lead to being happy.

Happiness comes from the little joys in life, not from always trying to get somewhere or grasping at trying to accumulate more stuff. We’ve tried that as a society, and it’s gotten us into an epidemic of mental health suffering. And medications don’t always help make us happier.

Happiness is about “knowing thyself”; it’s about developing a compassionate eye back at oneself, and learning to accept oneself as one is. It’s about ceasing to compare ourselves to others for a change, and even to stop comparing ourselves to ourselves. Compassion comes when the voice of comparison quiets down.

There are a lot of distractions to happiness, especially during the holiday season. We’ve seen where our surge to happiness has brought us: into the worst economic crisis in 70 years. We buy more, and crave more, and buy more, and never manage to fill ourselves up with more, now matter how big our appetite grows. We seek solace in self-help wisdom, and cultural gurus, yet things don’t always seem to get better.

Happiness is being away of our mortality, yet not succumbing to the fear of it. It’s being aware that our days are numbered, which encourages us to enjoy our relationships, be mindful and enjoy the fleeting nature of things: good music, colors, delicious food and the mystery of nature.

Happiness is there for the taking. It’s those self-imposed obstructions that, with presence and awareness, can free us from the suffering and neurosis that keeps us stuck.

13 Days of a Merry Christmas..Relationship

Friday, December 4th, 2009

(Press Release)

13 DAYS OF A MERRY CHRISTMAS…RELATIONSHIP!

Men’s Counselor Jason Fierstein Gives 13 Tips to Help Relationships Survive the Holidays

November 30, 2009- Phoenix, AZ – With the holiday season in full swing, emotions, tempers and tantrums can flare. Jason Fierstein, owner and founder of Phoenix Men’s Counseling, has created 13 humorous but practical tips to help all relationships survive this sometimes tumultuous season.

Tip #1 – Avoid Heat Seeking Land Mines! - Every couple should have a strategy between each other on how to troubleshoot potential road hazards; the father that always criticizes, the perfectionist mother-in-law . Anticipate behavior so you and partner know not be REACTIVE. Remember, alcohol and sugar combined can help set off those land mines.

Tip #2 – Pigskin Planning – Communicate with your partner ahead of time how each social scenario is going to play out. For example, first there will be dinner, then everyone gets up from the table and watches football, then there is an intense discussion of what movie to go see…etc. Let your partner know what to expect so that he/she can anticipate what is going to happen.

Tip #3 – Be A Yes Man – Be a “Yes” man especially if you and your partner are hosting festivities in your home. Be aware that this will be a stressful time for your spouse, girlfriend or partner. Get into customer service mode… you can’t lose with “how can I be of help.”

Tip #4 – Don’t Let Credit Cards Pull Your Sleigh – Have the holiday budget talk with your partner. Sit down and come up with a gift giving strategy. Figure out how much you are going to spend per each person and discuss and agree on the budget before shopping.

Tip #5 – The Holidays Can Gobble You Up – there are so many ways that they holidays can erode good will, just trying to find a parking space in a busy mall, can raise ire and frustration. Allow yourself plenty of time to accomplish the tasks at hand and be mindful of keeping realistic expectations.

Tip #6 – Prevent an FUI – Family Under the Influence – The word libation is a word close to liberation and verbal liberation can cause a lot of family strife. You may get yourself in a verbal situation that can become triggers for old family issues. Make a pact with yourself and your spouse or partner to an alcoholic drink maximum (before drinking begins) and vow to not let others who are drinking push your triggers.

Tip #7 – Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat? – Men need to be sensitive to the fact that a woman’s physical appearance and perceptions are highlighted during the holidays. Be complimentary and sincere…and don’t even think about mentioning any holiday weight gain!

Tip #8 – In Case of An Emergency Break the Glass – have an exit strategy with your partner. A key word, phrase or tug of an ear to let the other know that you are at your family, office or holiday party limit and it is time to go.

Tip #9 – Stay in DMZ (the Demilitarized Zone) – Agree to stay on neutral ground whether with family or co-workers. Don’t ask questions or bring up topics that are going to invite pain or conflict. Remember alcohol exacerbates every situation and often not in a good way.

Tip #10 – Call A Delay of Game – If conflict begins, give yourself five minutes to re-center. Don’t buy into the conflict.

Tip #11 – Saddle Up Your Parenting – if you have children don’t let the kids manipulate you or your spouse or partner.

Tip #12 – Check the Pressure Cooker – check-in with your spouse or partner to make sure the pressure of the holidays isn’t negatively affecting them. Do a status check for depression, loneliness, or despair. Offer help, love and support to offset these attributes.

Tip #13 – Embody Your Inner Jimmy Stewart – “It’s A Wonderful Life” – have an attitude of gratitude, ENJOY family and friends, practice random acts of kindness and remember to CELEBRATE the holiday season.

Jason Fierstein is owner and founder of Phoenix Men’s Counseling which focuses on men’s mental health and relationship and marriage issues. Phoenix Men’s Counseling is located at 668 N. 44th Street, Suite 300 in Phoenix. For more information, visit www.phoenixmenscounseling.com or call 602-309-0568.

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