Feature by Simran Bharadwaj
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I hope to god they don’t mention anything about my weight. I think I’ve lost a couple pounds since the last time I went home. Will they notice? Maybe I’ll just suck it in and not eat that much at dinner. They won’t notice anything then…Right?
As the holiday season approaches, we feel ourselves mentally preparing to see our families. Often the biggest concern for many is someone commenting on their weight. Women especially have felt the need to look thinner each time they go back to visit their families. In an effort to look thinner and not be commented on in a negative way, many have taken to sucking in their stomach. It feels like an easy way to avoid all the comments. However, sucking in your stomach too often or for too long can lead to health implications.
Stomach gripping is when individuals repeatedly and for prolonged periods of time suck in their abdomen in an effort to appear as if they have a flatter stomach. It leads to training upper abdominal muscles to contract for long periods of time and in an unnatural manner. This can lead to back pain, breathing problems, and other health concerns which then leads to imbalances known as “hourglass syndrome.”
Although an hourglass can be considered a preferred body shape, hourglass syndrome is nothing to envy. As a result of stomach gripping, the lower abdominal muscles are underused and become weak. The four muscles that become overused are the upper fibers of the rectus abdominis, internal obliques, transversus abdominis and the diaphragm.
In an effort to look thinner, the rest of our body is put at risk of weakened muscles and health problems. If you notice back and neck problems, a horizontal line on your stomach, a weak pelvic floor, or other signs of stomach gripping, try to break the habit by practicing proper breathing techniques. This holiday season, let us try to practice body positivity or body neutrality and be comfortable in our skin potentially starting with therapy to help challenge thoughts and feelings tied to body image concerns.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help challenge thoughts regarding body image concerns and increase self-esteem. Developing a more realistic perception of your body through using kind and positive self-talk and cognitive restructuring can help avoid the preoccupation of negative body image thoughts. Maintaining a self care routine through journaling and avoiding compulsive behaviors will take practice and patience however will also help avoid physical ailments in the future.
Feature by Nikita Fernandes
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ADHD or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a state of neurodivergence in which people's executive functioning skills are impacted differently from people without ADHD. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with ADHD experience inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. There was recently a surge on the tiktok platform of people claiming they have ADHD. Although the symptoms of ADHD are recognizable in childhood, some people go years without being diagnosed and find out late into adulthood. This can bring about an identity shift in how they've previously seen themselves. There is a lot of research that exists about ADHD during childhood but the research looking at adult ADHD is still scarce.
Feature by Nikita Fernandes
Narrative Therapy has emerged as one of the most powerful types of therapy to support minority communities. It has gained popularity in 2022 along with the rise of movements such as the Black Lives Matter and the focus on mental health after the pandemic. Narrative therapy is relatively new. It was developed in the 1980's by Michael White, an Australian social worker, and David Epston, a family therapist from New Zealand. It gained traction in the United States in the 1990's.
Narrative therapy is a nonpathologizing, empowering and collaborative experience for clients who hold minority identities. The empowering nature of this therapy can be experienced through nudging clients to reframe their past experiences, gain control over their present and shape a better future. Narrative therapy uses prompts to have client reflect over the stories they tell themselves about their life. For example, a therapist might ask a client to write about their past struggles and highlight what helped keep them afloat. This strengths based approach can help remind clients that they are much more resilient than they believe.
Feature by Nikita Fernandes
Mahatma Gandhi writes that “The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane.” There is power in acknowledging our humanity. To be human means that we make mistakes, say the wrong things, trust people who hurt us and feel emotions deeply. Being human also allows us to feel a great capacity of love, compassion and empathy. A humanistic therapist engages in humanistic therapy when they hold space for their client to sit with their humanness. In sitting with this, we are able to access grace and kindness for ourselves and for our past.
Feature by Nikita Fernandes
In the safe space of therapy, it can be empowering and healing to use a relational-cultural approach when working with people of color or queer individuals. Relational-cultural theory, and by extension, relational-cultural therapy stems from the work of Jean Baker Miller, M.D. The practice aligned with the feminist and or multicultural movements in psychology while embracing many social justice aspects of these movements.
By; Shira Keller-Ohana, MHC-LP
I used to wonder what makes one individual more resilient than another when faced with a painful situation or struggle. Linehan M. speaks on the concept of radical acceptance and its usefulness in painful situations. When one is faced with a painful or challenging situation, there are several ways in which he or she can perform: they can solve the problem, change how they feel about it, accept it, or stay miserable. However, Linehan talks about total and complete acceptance – radical acceptance – as a way to manage life’s challenges. When one accepts his or her situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean the person is glad about it. In actuality, radical acceptance may bring about sadness; but this is accompanied by an added feeling of centeredness. On the other hand, when we don’t radically accept our situation, the sadness may not be present. Instead, a deep sense of unbearable pain may take its place.
There are times when reality is painful and, as a result, we try to push away the associated emotions and or fight against it through unhealthy coping mechanisms. Although this form of coping tends to bring about a temporary relief, in the long run, it intensifies the unwanted feelings. This happens when we bury the underlining emotions or situations and instead resort to obtaining temporary relief through unhealthy coping mechanisms. When one incorporates radical acceptance into their daily life, they are committing to accepting their reality as it is, and understanding what they can and cannot control. Furthermore, part of radical acceptance is being nonjudgmental and looking at just the facts of the situation, in addition to letting go and not fighting against the reality of the situation. While Many of us find it difficult to be present when dealing with uncomfortable and painful moments or emotions, that is all part of radical acceptance through which we can achieve a meaningful life.
Taking a step towards self-betterment, and achieving a sense of centeredness happens when one completely and totally accept their reality, even if they think the reality is unbearable. Through psychotherapy, therapists and clients work together to bring about a radical acceptance of the past and present, in order to accomplish a more centered sense of self in any given situation.
Linehan, M. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: The Guilford Press, 1993.
Shira Keller-Ohana, MHC-LP is a psychotherapist in New York City where she provides individual, couple, and family counseling. You can contact Shira at email@example.com read more of her blog posts at www.mwr.nyc/blog
The term courtship is defined by the Webster dictionary as; “a period during which a couple develop a romantic relationship, especially with a view to marriage.” How does developing the romantic relationship work? What does having a view toward marriage look like? How long is this period? What does the relationship look like? What behavior does this period include? None of us ever sat down to a “here’s what courtship is” kind of talk. While some can navigate the courting scene seamlessly, others find themselves stuck in a rut. Patrick Carnes, in his book Facing the Shadows, outlines the stages of courtship. Knowing each phase can help you identify where you are getting stuck, or which step you are overlooking, causing courting to go awry.
Noticing – This is the conscious ability to recognize traits that you find attractive yet at the same time recognizing traits that may not be good for you. “Noticing also means discriminating (Carnes, 2010).”
Attraction – Permitting yourself to feel interested in the other person and being capable of imagining yourself acting on your desires. There is a desire and interest to learn more about the emotional, physical, and intellectual traits of the other person. Attraction is what keeps an existing relationship alive, by remaining open to the unknown, change, and learning new things about your partner.
Flirting – Everyone should have some flirting skills, even animals in the wild flirt. Bowerbirds in Australia build nests and decorate the nests for potential mates. The purpose of flirting is to send a signal to the potential partner that you are interested and attracted to them. Flirting includes playful, seductive, and charming behavioral social cues. Flirting also requires recognition of when it is appropriate to flirt.
Demonstration – In Bonobo mating we call this phase; “presenting”. The female Bonobo will present her swollen genitals to the males in the group, signaling her interest in mating. Demonstrating is showing the potential partner your prowess at a specific skill, physical trait, capability, or sexual act with the intention of attracting the other person to you. Obviously, demonstration must be done appropriately and only after interest was shown by the other person.
Romance – Notice how many steps come before romance. The definition (see above) of courtship seems to go directly to the romance phase. Romance is the “ability to experience, express, and receive passion (Carnes, 2010).” Receiving passion from another requires a sense of self-worth and recognition that you are worthy of another persons love. Romance also requires being in reality and recognizing when romance is shared or only a projection or imagination.
Individuation – Individuation is the opposite of enmeshment. Enmeshment is when a person does not have his or her own identity in the relationship. When people are in love it is easy to forgo ones own desires, interests, and goals, causing them to lose their own identity. Being an individual in the relationship constitutes the ability to be able to ask for your needs without the fear of being rejected or going elsewhere for your needs. Individuation is a sense of freedom to be who you are and confident that your partner will not intimidate or force you to change.
Intimacy – The key components for intimacy are attachment and the ability to be vulnerable. In order for an intimate relationship to develop you need to be willing to attach to another and allow the other to attach to you. Attachment requires the willingness to be vulnerable and open with your partner. Intimacy is: “Being known fully and staying anyway (Carnes, 2010).” Intimacy is a risk. If you fear that your partner will reject you, you will create barriers so that they never fully see you.
Touching – There are different types of touch in romantic relationships; Intimate touch, sensual touch, and erotic touch. Couples can incorporate all levels of touch during the relationship or at different stages in the relationship. For touch to feel safe there must be respect of each other’s bodies and respect of each other’s boundaries. Each partner should feel confident to say no to touch that they do not feel comfortable with. If you cannot say “no” then you cannot say “yes”.
Foreplay – Foreplay is a very important aspect of courting and should not be skipped. Foreplay allows partners to express their deep sexual passion toward each other. Foreplay is a sharing of pleasure and the goal does not have to be intercourse. Sometimes, foreplay is the goal itself.
Intercourse – “More than the exchange of body fluids, this is the ability to surrender oneself to passion (Carnes, 2010).” In order to be able to surrender oneself to another, there has to be trust between partners. Intercourse is a form of giving up control; where you allow your partner to see your vulnerabilities. Intercourse has no rules, abandon ideas of how it “should” be.
Commitment – Commitment is the phase in which partners commit to each other by bonding and attachment. When a relationship does not have feelings of attachment partners will look elsewhere for attachment. This can lead one to seek out “trusting attachments” such as, alcohol, drugs, sex, and risk-taking behaviors.
Renewal – Courting never ends. Renewal is continuing courtship even in a committed long-term relationship or marriage. Continuing to flirt and attract your partner. Continuing to show interest and care for each other.
When we encounter relationship dysfunctions or struggles while dating it is indicative of a hiccup in one of these stages. Notice how marriage is not included on the list. Courtship does not have to include marriage or a vision toward marriage. Courtship requires a willingness to be open and vulnerable so you can create a trusting bond with one another.
Sara Schapiro-Halberstam, MHC-LP, CASAC is a psychotherapist in New York City where she practices individual therapy, couples counseling, and sex counseling. You can contact Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org and read more blog posts at www.mwr.nyc
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