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Archive for the ‘Chris Giles M.S.’ Category

Too Busy Not to Sleep

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

sleeping-1159279_1920In our society today, it seems that busyness is seen as a badge of honor. One of the things that is sacrificed most often in our run about life is sleep. If we need to do “one more thing” we often add it to the end of the day, or at least extend the end of the day to make that “one more thing” happen. However, the benefit vs. the cost of that “one more thing” may not add up.

It is a common belief that sleep disruption is a major symptom of many mental health concerns such as Depression and Anxiety. However, research has shown that a lack of consistent sleep could actually be a contributor to the development of these issues.

In an article from Harvard Medical School, the authors report that 50-90% of clients in psychiatric care (any type of counseling, both inpatient and outpatient) experience some form of chronic sleep problem. This is compared to only 10 – 18% of the general population. While many clinicians focus on sleep problems as a symptom of mental health disorders, some research shows that in many cases the onset of chronic sleep problems (insomnia, sleep apnea, etc) actually preceded the onset of the mental health concerns. In fact researchers have found that in both adults and children, people experiencing chronic sleep disruption are four times more likely to develop some form of Depression. So the assumption is that treating the sleep issues may help alleviate symptoms of the mental health problem. Getting a regular, sufficient amount of sleep may also help prevent future mental health concerns.

We know that good sleep habits and different stages of the sleep cycle aid in things like energy level, memory function and emotion regulation. All of which play major roles in many other mental health concerns.

Tips For Healthy Sleep:

1. Sleep Hygiene. No need to worry about putting on deodorant before bed. Sleep hygiene is all about routine. Most parents will find that a better structured bedtime routine leads to better sleeping children. It is no different when we grow up. We adults tend to neglect the importance of bedtime routine as we grow up.

Many researchers believe that insomnia is learned. Sleep hygiene includes maintaining a regular sleep-and-wake schedule, using the bedroom only for sleeping (or sex), and keeping the bedroom dark and free of distractions like the computer or television. Cooler room temperature and comfy clothes also help. New research suggests keeping your cell phone out of the bedroom as well.

Much of what we experience as Depression and Anxiety is linked to a feeling of chaos or a sense of being out of control in our life. The area of sleep hygiene (think “routine”) may be one of the simplest starting points in regaining that control.

2.Physical activity. Regular aerobic activity helps people fall asleep faster, spend more time in deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night. Regular, not necessarily intense activity. Don’t be afraid to start with a brisk 20 minute walk a few times a week.

3. Avoid CATS. Before all of you feline lovers out there stop reading, I am not talking about your furry lap napping pet. Actually, Caffeine, Alcohol, Tobacco and Sugar are all major contributors to sleep problems and should be avoided as much as possible, particularly near bedtime.

4. Relaxation Techniques. Get your body ready for rest with some deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation which you can read about or learn from your friendly mental health professional.

5. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Because people with insomnia tend to become preoccupied with not falling asleep, cognitive behavioral techniques help them to change negative expectations and try to build more confidence that they can have a good night’s sleep. These techniques can also help to change the “blame game” of attributing every personal problem during the day on lack of sleep.

So, challenge yourself to make sleep a priority. The dishes and tomorrow’s duties can wait. The better you sleep, the more able you will be to complete those tasks and feel energetic and in control to boot.

Call us at (918) 745-0095 if you are struggling with sleep or any other issue. We would be glad to help or get you to someone who can.

written by Chris Giles, M.S.

Where Have The Fathers Gone?

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

fathers-day-822550_1920The number one deficiency in our society today is Fatherhood. That’s right. Quite simply, there are too many children and not enough fathers. You many ask “How can this be?” We all know where children come from. Every child has a father, right? WRONG! Every child has a Male Biological Contributor, but unfortunately, a decreasing number of children have Fathers.

So, what does it take to be a Father rather than simply a male biological contributor? While this is likely not an exhaustive list, I have included characteristics that I believe bring men into Fatherhood.

1. Fathers are men, not boys. I am not speaking of age here. I know many mature boys and immature men. I could write an entire book on what it means to be a man, and some authors have done so. Stu Webber’s Tender Warrior comes to mind as a good one. Suffice it to say, men/fathers do manly things and boys do boyish things. This may ruffle feathers, but playing video games, refusing to take responsibility for his actions, going to clubs to get drunk or physically abusing any woman or child are just a few activities that boys do. These are not activities that men do. Quite simply, to be a father, the most important thing you must do is grow up.

2. Fathers are present. Having a father present in the lives of our children is important to the family and to society as a whole. According to the Census department and other U.S. government agency studies, there are far too many homes/children with no father present. According to these studies, 43% of children live without their male biological contributor present. This poses a number of problems which include: 90% of homeless and runaway children are fatherless; 71% of pregnant teenagers are fatherless; 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders are from fatherless homes. And the list goes on and on.

3. Fathers are not only present, but they are daily involved in the lives of their children. You may have heard “It’s about Quality time rather than Quantity time.” Well, that’s a myth. Children need a father who is present daily in their lives. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that we lead busy lives. But being there counts, big time. I’ve heard “Kids spell LOVE=T.I.M.E.“Here are some ideas to make quantity and quality time with your kids:

  • Do bedtime. Do not ever just send your kids to bed. Read, sing a song, pray, cuddle. This is a great way to end even a bad day.
  • Schedule a “date” with each of your children. I like the idea of a once a month breakfast date with each child, but there are other ways to have a date time with your children.
  • Play card games (Go Fish) or other board games with your kids.
  • Tell your children fun stories about family members they have never met (i.e. deceased grandparents, aunts/uncles).

father4. Fathers love their children’s mother and treat her well. Maybe someday I will write about how to overcome all of the excuses that men make to get out of this one; “we are divorced and she_____;”“We had a one night stand and there never was a relationship;”“She hurt my feelings when she_____.” None of these scenarios free men from the responsibility to show love and respect toward the mother of their children and treat her well. No matter what, children need to see you show respect to their mother, even if you have major disagreements with her and/or have to set serious boundaries with her. Trust me, it is possible. Your kids need it for their future.

These are just a few ideas of what fatherhood means and how to be a Father rather than just a male biological contributor. For the sake of our children and our future, we need more men to commit to being fully present and involved Fathers.

by Chris R. Giles, MS, LMFT

Small Steps to Change

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

So let me start with two background points: First, I despise running. I always have. I admire runners, but have never been able to make myself do it and enjoy it. Second, I am always on the lookout for analogies and word pictures. In almost any situation I will look for teaching moments and connections that I can use to explain something. I’m sure you know where this post is headed.

Over the past few months I have been working hard to trim down and get into better shape both for myself and my family. I have been doing pretty well with my eating habits and exercise. However, I have been increasingly motivated recently after discovering a show called “Surviving the Cut.” This is a show about our military’s finest putting themselves in unbelievable physical and mental agony in order to join a certain elite group of specialized forces. These young people willingly force their bodies further than they thought they could go, almost to the point of death at times for the opportunity to go out and put their life on the line for us. Check it out, it’s amazing!

So, this show motivated me to try running again. Believe me, I’ve tried a lot of techniques to get myself to run. I tried interval training and only got the 3 minute mark and stalled for 3 weeks before giving up. I went out the other day with running/walking on my mind. As I began I deliberately noticed my thoughts and my behavior (What I was saying as well as the steps I was taking). As I ran I noticed myself saying, “I’m already getting tired.” I also noticed that my stride was almost as long as it would be if I were sprinting.
So I thought back to those special forces guys and to the people I see running long distances. “How do they do it?” I began saying to myself “Smaller Steps…Slow Down!” I said this over and over. I realized that in the past I would wear myself out early then want to and eventually give up. Then I became fearful of trying again.

Does this sound familiar to you? How many times do we attempt a much needed change in our life the same way time and time again and because we don’t get the results we think we should get when we think we should get them we stop trying. It’s only natural that we stop trying. The pain of failure is too much to bear at times.

Try this: Smaller Steps…Slow Down!  
Here are some steps to follow:

1. Think about that change that you want to make in your life but haven’t been able to accomplish.

2. Look for other people who have done what you want to do. How did they make the changes that you want to make?

3. What is the smallest possible step you could take toward that change? Take it. It is often said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Well, it doesn’t matter how small that step is as long as it is in the right direction.

4. Did it produce a desirable effect? If so, Keep Going Keep going. Let this step sink in for a while. Get used to the process of change then take the next small step. If not, Slow Down. No one sprints a marathon.

5. Most importantly, pay attention to what you are saying to yourself as you take your steps of change. Are you saying helpful things or unhelpful things? You may think what you are telling yourself is neither, but I would say think again. “I’m already tired” doesn’t sound positive or negative, but it is. What I was really saying was, “See I can’t do this.” You may be saying “I can’t” or “If only my spouse would…” or “This is taking too long…” I would challenge you to challenge all of your thoughts, even if you believe them to be true or benign.

On the day that I mentioned above, people driving by may not have considered what I was doing as running. But it was more than I had ever done before. I am happy to say that now after many challenges; I am nearly in the best shape of my life and feel great. Time and time again I have had to say to myself, “Smaller Steps…Slow Down.”
-Chris Giles

Who Does Unforgiveness Hurt?

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

ForgiveWhen answering the question “Who Does Unforgiveness Hurt?” It is important to accurately define what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is very often misunderstood as something altogether different. Defining forgiveness and explaining who is hurt by it could take an entire book and is difficult in the space of one article. However, for the purposes here I will give a working definition which you may want to explore at a later time on your own or with a trusted counselor.

Forgiveness means: After determining that an offense has occurred, you willfully abandon (through considerable determination and deliberate work) the emotional and physical reactions (anger, resentment, revenge, etc.) that you may hold toward the offense and the offender.

Again, this is a very short, simple working definition of forgiveness. More exploration on your part may be necessary to fully grasp the full meaning of forgiveness. Because I have encountered much anger and scoff from individuals after suggesting the idea of forgiveness of past hurts as part of their recovery, I find it necessary to point out a few things that forgiveness is NOT. I will not fully explain each point here, but again, you can explore these ideas further if you wish.

            Forgiveness is NOT:

            – Excusing the offender for the offense

            – Tolerating the offense or the offender

            – Pardoning the offender or giving the offender a “pass” for his/her behavior

            –  Condoning the offensive behavior

            – Reconciliation of the relationship with the offender

            – Forgetting the offense

So, now that we briefly see what forgiveness is and is not, I want to try to answer the question: “Who does unforgiveness hurt?”

An easy answer to this question is that unforgiveness hurts everyone. That answer would take much too much time to explain. So for the sake of space I will discuss who is most impacted by unforgiveness. The person most affected by unforgiveness is the offended person who is harboring the unforgiveness. One of my favorite quotes on forgiveness is “Holding onto unforgiveness is like swallowing poison in order to punish your enemy.” It has been speculated that as much as 70% of adult inpatient mental health hospital admissions can be attributed to guilt (unforgiveness of self) and resentment (unforgiveness of someone else). Now, I do not know if that number would hold up under strict scientific scrutiny, but professionals do know that unforgiveness does lead to significant levels of depression, anxiety and anger as well as many serious physical health concerns.

If you look at the symptoms of unforgiveness: Depression, Anxiety and Anger just to name a few, these are not symptoms experienced by the person who is not being forgiven. These are symptoms experienced by the person who has been offended and is not forgiving. Many people say, “This is not fair. I was victimized and now I have to forgive the person who did this to me?” My answer is “No, you do not have to forgive anyone.” However, I encourage you to consider two things. First, if you do not forgive it is like re-experiencing the offense over and over again as long as you have the mind to remember. You will feel the same helplessness, loss of control, anger and anxiety that you did when the offense first occurred. I would venture to say no one likes that idea.

The second thing to consider, for Christians and those who consider themselves believers is this: In Matthew 6:15 Jesus tells us, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” That is a pretty powerful statement. Whenever we find ourselves living contrary to the boundaries set for us in scripture, there are going to be consequences. In this case, we see the symptoms of unforgiveness. However, scripture never tells us to do something that is impossible. In fact we are always given guidance on how to achieve the precepts set for us.

When considering overcoming the anger, anxiety, depression and other symptoms of unforgiveness it is vitally important to remember the list of things that forgiveness is NOT which I listed above. I want to be very clear. If you are experiencing an offense that is ongoing such as abuse, infidelity or some other harmful activity, I believe you cannot forgive that person until that behavior has ceased.  For example, if you are in relationship with an abusive partner who asks for forgiveness after every abusive episode and you say you “forgive” and return over and over to the same abusive pattern, then you are not actually forgiving, but rather tolerating or condoning the abusive behavior. Only after the offense has stopped and you have completely separated from the negative pattern can you begin the process of forgiving. This is an entire other subject that needs to be explored that requires much more than one article, but it is very important.

Forgiveness is a process. It is not a one-time event accomplished with a statement. It is at times a difficult process that requires mental, emotional and at times physical work. Because of this we are motivated to forgive not because of the effects is will have on the person we are forgiving, but for the rewards that await us when we truly forgive. When you truly forgive, you experience freedom. Freedom from the emotional ties to past events. Freedom from daily anxiety that you may not have known was attached to past offenses. You will experience control over your own life rather than continuing to see yourself and responding to the world as a victim. You will begin to respond to your current relationships in real time rather than responding through a filter based on past hurtful experiences.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. –Lewis Smedes (Author)

Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. –Corie ten Boom (Holocaust survivor)

You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well –Lewis Smedes

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Chris Giles, M.S.

How to Keep Romance Alive in Marriage

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Romance can be defined in a number of ways. Emotionally, romance is the feeling of excitement experienced in a loving relationship. Behaviorally, romance is a special outward expression of love experienced in an intimate relationship. The first, you develop within yourself and the second you share with another person. One thing that I know about romance is that the term has become very ambiguous in its use in our society. So the first thing that I would suggest in order to keep romance alive in your marriage is limiting the use of the word. Instead of using “romance” in your discussion with your spouse try being specific and descriptive with your wants and desires.

Yes, I said discussion, with your spouse, about romance. Many people think that it is not romantic if you have to discuss it. This is one of the great myths imposed on our society by Hollywood. The idea that “romance” must be spontaneous and natural to be “real” is very dangerous in a relationship. So the first key to keeping romance – emotional and behavioral – alive in your marriage is open communication.

It is very important to understand that good, effective, romance making communication is made up of two equal parts. Speaking and Listening. Use your words to honestly talk to your spouse about your wants, desires and even your fantasies. Be sure to express your desires etc. to your spouse rather than focusing on what he/she is doing wrong or “needs to do differently.” For example, “I would really like it if we could…” or “I have always wanted to try…”

If you want to ensure the emotional excitement remains strong in your marriage, remember the importance of giving daily compliments to your spouse. Research is very clear that if you deliberately look for things your spouse is doing well and tell him/her that you notice,  both of you will experience “good feelings” as a result. “I really like the way you _____ when we were at dinner.” Or “When you __________ that feels really good.”

The second equal part of good, effective, romance making communication is listening. Effective active listening is a skill that very few people come by naturally. You may need to read a book or attend a marriage enrichment weekend or even a few sessions with a relationship counselor (Such as the ones at CFI) to gain more knowledge about this tool. However, it is beneficial to remember this: Always listen to your spouse’s wants, desires and fantasies with a non-judgmental ear. Never respond critically to your spouse when he/she is being open and honest with you. There are few things better than never having to guess what your spouse wants or desires. And if you shoot him/her down when they try to tell you, guessing is what you will be left with.

As part of your open and honest communication, include discussion about your expectations. This goes hand in hand with your desires. However, unlike desires, you may not always be fully aware of your expectations. So, become aware of your expectations, then talk about them. You may find that your expectations for your spouse are unrealistic, in which case you can work together to develop a more realistic plan. Many times, simply making your spouse aware of your expectations in an assertive, non-demanding way will go a long way to getting them met. An excellent resource for this is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Recognition that you and your spouse have different, but equally important desires for expressing and receiving love is very important to keeping the romantic spark in marriage.

couple-1363960_1920Finally, any information on “romance” in marriage would be incomplete without two of the most important aspects of lasting love: Quality Time Alone and Physical Touch. Romance and friendship go hand in hand. You cannot achieve romantic love without friendship. And you cannot achieve true, loving friendship without spending time together. Of course I am not talking about everyday activity time together either. I am talking about fun, relaxing, quality time together. Regular date nights (does not have to be expensive), special traditions, even walks around the block discussing things you enjoy about your relationship, would fall under the quality time together category.

Quality time builds the friendship needed as the foundation of romance in a marriage. Special physical intimacy sets the relationship apart from every other relationship in your life. You know where this is going. SEX. Sex is very important to maintaining romance in marriage. But I am not just talking about sexual intercourse. There is so much more available. I am talking about sexual intimacy. This requires a deep knowledge of your spouse unlike any your other relationships. To achieve this you need all of the topics discussed above; Open communication; discussion about realistic expectations, desires and fantasies; a great deal of time getting to know one another in this physical way. Research shows unquestionably that married people have better sex than single people. Why? Because we take the time necessary to do it right and build that intimacy.

In most areas of life, routine is an essential method of reducing stress. However, in marriage, routine can be a romance killer. You’ve heard “Variety is the spice of life.” This is absolutely true with regards to marriage. If you find yourself in a routine (also known as a rut) in your romantic life, talk with your spouse about adding variety. Try new places to eat on date night, or different days of the week for date night. Try having date night during the day. Spice up the bedroom by experimenting with new “techniques” – frequently. Since the audience reading this may vary, I won’t go into much detail about this, but variations in the “When, Where and How” will go a long way to adding to the sexual intimacy and romantic experience in your marriage.

Romance, both emotionally and behaviorally is very important to the health of your marriage. This article only scratches the surface of the myriad of things to consider in order to keep that “spark” alive. But one thing is certain; Romance does not just happen. Romance in marriage takes time. Time to effectively communicate, time together, time to get to know one another and enjoy one another. If you and or your spouse are not “feeling” that romantic spark anymore, please understand that it is not because you are not meant for each other or that you do not love that other person. It simply means that the tools necessary for maintaining romance in the marriage are not being utilized. You can get those tools and use those tools to re-kindle that flame that you desire.

Happy Romancing!

Chris Giles, M.S.

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Holidays for Newly Married Couples: Do’s and Don’ts

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Well, the wedding is over. You and your spouse have returned from your honeymoon in the Caribbean or Branson, Missouri or where ever you spent your first days of wedded bliss. Walking through the store on your weekly grocery trip you begin to see all of the displays of holiday decorations. You think, “Oh how exciting! Won’t our first Christmas together be so special?!” And then out of the blue a thought hits you like a cold chill. “We haven’t decided where we are going to spend the Holidays!” Maybe the realization comes when Mom calls and tells you she’s so excited to have you visit during Christmas. Maybe it’s when your spouse tells you his plans to take off early so you can drive to his parents’ house three states over. Whenever it hits you, you realize “This is not going to be an easy decision…”

One of the first dilemmas that a newly married couple encounters is the decision about where to spend the holidays. His family or Her family? Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries are typically times for family tradition and good memories. However, Thanksgiving and Christmas (or Hanukah or Kwanza) tend to have more of an emotional connection for each spouse as well as both sets of in-laws, therefore making this decision much more difficult.

Because of this emotional connection, the dilemma can be a source of conflict for a newlywed couple. However, with a little proactive planning, a couple can avoid conflict, maintain positive relationships with both families and continue to build new happy holiday memories. By the way, if you or someone you know is currently engaged, this would be an excellent topic of discussion during pre-marital preparation sessions.

Please begin this discussion with a few key understandings and assumptions. First, this is usually not an easy decision. You will need to take deliberate measures to avoid conflict regarding this issue. Second, remember that your spouse likely considers his/her family traditions as just as special as you do your own family’s traditions. Third, you and your spouse need to plan as a team. You will be tempted to side with your parents/family during this time, but avoid that temptation at all costs. And fourth, there’s always next year and many after that. Plans made this year can, and likely will, be altered for future holidays.

Let’s look at some “Do’s and Do not’s” to keep in mind when discussing this topic as a couple.

DO NOT Criticize your spouse’s parents or other family members.

DO NOT Criticize your spouse’s family traditions.

DO NOT Make plans or promises with your family before talking with your spouse.

DO NOT Blame your spouse if you decide together that you will not spend the holiday with your family.

DO NOT Tell your family that your spouse refuses to spend the holiday with them or insists on spending the holiday with his/her family instead.

DO Make plans for the holidays as far in advance as possible.

DO Speak to your spouse respectfully.

DO Use “I” statements as you share your ideas and tell your spouse about the special traditions that your family has.

DO Listen to your spouse with openness. Your number one goal during this discussion should be to understand your spouse’s point of view rather than winning and getting your way.

DO Tell your family your plans for the holidays assertively as a team. Assure them that you understand if they are disappointed. Let them know of any plans to alternate homes in the future so that they have something to look forward to.

Again, this decision may not be an easy one. (Did I mention that already?) Some factors to consider are:

How far do your families live from you?

How far do your families live from each other?

Do your families consider one holiday more special than the other? (for example, Is Thanksgiving celebrated more than Christmas? Does one family celebrate on Christmas Eve and the other Christmas Day? Etc.)

Are there extenuating circumstances, such as the death of one parent, or the return of a family member from military service that may influence your decision?

Above all, BE FLEXIBLE. One exercise that is incredibly helpful is brainstorming. Sit down with your spouse and write down as many options for dealing with the holiday dilemma as possible. Here are a few important rules for effective brainstorming:

  1. Make it fun. Write down even the wildest ideas. You never know, those wild ideas may be something to build from later.
  2. Suspend Judgment. Do not criticize any idea, no matter how unlikely. Remember, have fun and be flexible.
  3. The brainstorming session should be a short discussion. Just write each idea down and move to the next idea.  You’ll come back to review the list later.
  4. Once your list of ideas is complete, discuss and expand on the best ideas.

Here are a few ideas just to get you started on your brainstorming activity.

  1. Alternate holidays. Visit one family for Thanksgiving and the other for Christmas this year. Then switch for next year.
  2. Spend Christmas Eve with one family and Christmas Day with the other.
  3. Have both families over to your house for Thanksgiving and alternate Christmas
  4. Begin your own tradition and go to the Bahamas for Christmas.

After the brainstorming session, decide together which approach will work best for you and your spouse. Then, share your decision with your families as soon as possible. Be assertive when informing them of your decision.  Take the time to express understanding if your family has disappointment about your plans.  If you follow these tips, you will be able to avoid conflict in this area this year as well as years to come.

Chris Giles, M.S.