Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

What do you resolve to do for yourself in the new year? Resolutions are actually goals for ourselves. Personal fitness, financial and work-related goals are perennial favorites for most of us.
Keep resolutions reasonable and achievable to help maintain your motivation. They should also be measurable so you can see progress and know when you have been successful.
Reward yourself modestly when you reach your goal and then set another one.
Avoid dragging out a resolution that is too difficult, instead make a smaller goal and achieve it. Success builds on itself. You can do it.
Live Well. Now.


Be kind to one another- this is the Golden Rule of marriage and the secret of making love last through the years.
- Randolph Ray

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Right for Love?

Success in love is much more than finding the right person; it is a matter of being the right person.
- Unknown

Addiction in the Family

We recently received a second call from the young woman dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. She said she was doing better but she also had ongoing concerns about repairing damaged relationships.

We wanted to provide some brief ideas to help her, and anyone else, cope with addiction and the effects on families.

Understanding these effects can help you make better choices.

Even loving parents often let go of their addicted child at some point, after years or decades. They might stop asking about your life because they are afraid of being given more to worry about.

They refused to give you money or a place to stay because you have abused their love and kindness in the past. You have given them many reasons not to trust you; a proven track record of distrust.

Addiction can make good people turn to lying and stealing from family members. Family members separate from you as a way to maintain their own emotional health.

Don’t let anger and frustration derail your efforts at recovery.

Accept that it will take time for them to even begin to trust you again. Focus on getting your life back on track rather than proving to them that you are trying.

That means your recovery has to be the priority in your life, even when no one is watching you.

The bitter reality is that an addict can spend years complaining to the family about how difficult recovery is so they don’t have to really dig in and do it.

We can’t blame others when they become fatigued while dealing with our distorted lives. We all have a limit to our endurance, even Mom and Dad.

Of course this is oversimplifying the process. Many pieces of the puzzle need to be in place to maintain a healthy recovery plan.

We need to recognize that life can always get better but we must make an effort to get there. The first piece is deciding to be responsible for your life and what happens to you from this day forward.

Ask for what you need; people want to help.

Live Well.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Life or Death?

Do or do not! There is no try!
- Master Yoda

These following brief comments are related to a recent conversation with someone who is not a client of Insight Associates. She said she was addicted to drugs and alcohol and other behaviors as well.

She was most concerned with her damaged relationship with her family including her parents, siblings, and her own children. Her treatment history included stays at drug rehab facilities and occasional efforts at maintaining a counseling relationship.

When pressed for my opinion about her need to return to inpatient rehab, I said that it was a good idea, but another question was even more important. Are you ready to take charge of your life?

This is a simple question that many of us can make overly complex with ifs, ands, or buts. Our fear of change, and unavoidable consequences, help to keep us locked-in to unhealthy beliefs and behaviors.

For this young woman, the answer was tantamount to deciding if she would rather live or die. We hope she makes the healthy choice.

We all have the ability to begin anew by answering the question, "Am I ready to take responsibility for the course of my life?" The only good choice is also the most obvious one.

Live Well. Now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blue Cross Billing Changes

We are unhappy to have to say this.

Yesterday, Insight Associates announced a change to our Blue Cross/ Blue Shield billing policy effective 10/29/07. We have received enough questions about this change that we would like to clarify the background for this decision.

In our blog entries, we have promoted an uncompromising perspective on attaining your goals. Having a clear vision about what you want, and don’t want, forms the basis for life decision-making.

We have always known that we wanted to focus on the personal relationships of counseling and coaching rather than the “business” of running a practice. The reality is that we must do both.

But, when we have to make a choice between maintaining the clear simplicity of our vision and growing the business, we have chosen to maintain the simplicity.

We will continue to provide billing services for our clients with coverage by the Crescent PPO insurance companies. Crescent is a locally operated PPO and they have been responsive to our needs and easy to work with. We are still an in-network provider with Crescent.

We are also still an in-network provider with Blue Cross/ Blue Shield; only the submission process for reimbursement has changed. If you would like to use your Blue Cross/ Blue Shield benefits for our services, Insight Associates will provide you with a superbill, with all of the necessary practice information, to forward to your BC/BS insurance company for reimbursement. This way BC/BS reimburses you directly rather than Insight Associates.

This change is an effort to continue to do what we love doing while still being accessible to our clients. We have seen this choice as being roughly analogous to shopping at a boutique versus a big mart store. We have chosen to maintain our small size and simple processes to allow us to focus on relationships.

The choice is always yours and we hope you choose Insight Associates.

Please call or email us with questions. And Live Well.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Blissed Out?

I have no special talents; I am only passionately curious.
- Albert Einstein

Dr. Joseph Campbell made the now-famous statement, "Follow your bliss". Great advice, but how do we do this? It can be a life-long process to answer this question.

If you don't already have a clear path, the way to get started toward your bliss is to follow your curiosity.

Most of us have had the experience of being curious about something but never following through with it. Instead we might say to ourselves, "I'll do that when I have time". It might not be practical to do some of those things we would like to do.

How many of us have said things like:
I'd like to learn to paint.
I'd like to play the piano, guitar, etc.
Some day I'll read that book.
Some day I'll travel to that place.
Some day I'll get what I want.

The best thing you can do is to complete this line of thought by taking action. Complete something you feel passionately about.

Start small if you have to; write a short story rather than your epic novel. Or, write a letter to the editor of your newspaper about that issue that has been in the back of your mind. Bring it out; make it real.

I once worked in a nursing home counseling residents. When I told a resident that I would like to visit her home country one day she said, "Don't wait too long". I've never forgotten it; none of us should.

Live Well. Now.


The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn't matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.
- Barbara Hall

Someone once pointed out that we don’t wait for every stoplight on a street to be green before we drive ahead. We go forward when we have the opportunity and only stop if we must. This is a great analogy for achieving our life goals.

We often hear of people who have decided to move forward in their lives only when conditions are right. Unfortunately, this often means that they never get to where they want to go.

Waiting, without a plan, can result in frustration, hopelessness and despair. Eventually, this process damages our self-worth and our hope of being able to change our lives for the better.

If this happens, improving our lives becomes much more difficult.

Make a resolution to move ahead without waiting for stars to align or conditions to be perfect.
We are not advocating for reckless decision-making; good planning is essential. But, once you have made your plan, carry it out regardless of the obstacles.

Stop waiting and get started, one step at a time. Insight Associates can help.

Live Well. Now.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Choosing (To Avoid) Negative People

We have all had friends who consistently irritated us with their negativity. Maintaining these friendships can sometimes reach a point of draining our energy or enthusiasm. If this is a damaging pattern you see in them, then you should evaluate if it is also damaging to you.
It can be easy to overlook their behavior by saying to ourselves, "That's just the way they are" or "They've always been opinionated". We often know these people from our personal history rather than consciously choosing them.
If their behavior continually taxes or batters us, then it is time to consider ending that relationship.

We are drawn those relationships that consistently give us more of something (energy, love, attention, kindness, etc.) rather than taking something from us.

This is a constant in the relationship universe; we have to get more out of it than we put into it.

If maintaining a relationship consistently costs too much (in emotional or other terms), then it will drain us.

We have all known a young person who dated someone that we thought was not a good match for them. That young person often learns that fact for themselves when the other person disappoints or hurts them emotionally.

A healthy process of understanding is to assess what happened in that relationship and then to adjust our choices to avoid those personal characteristics in the future.

Who are the "right" friends and partners for us? Those that increase our sense of interest or energy or feeling good about ourselves. And, this positive feeling continues to occur over time and more often than not. These people consistently provide support, concern or love rather than taking from us emotionally.

Consciously choosing our relationships is a large part of Insightful Living. We need to maintain those friendships / partnerships that help us live fuller and happier lives. And, avoid the rest.

Live Well (And Consciously)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself. It is not in your environment; it is not in luck or chance, or the help of others; it is in yourself alone.
--Orison Swett Marden

Friday, September 14, 2007

Polarized Thinking

One of those cognitive distortions that can limit our happiness is called Polarized Thinking. This is a habitual way of thinking that puts life events into all-or-nothing terms.

It tries to put things into clear categories that are easy to deal with.

Most of us have known someone who has used this style. Sometimes this style works very effectively when used in a work environment. Managers who use this style are often seen as decisive and no-nonsense. Their co-workers know what is expected of them and they often try to keep up with the expectations.

In a worst case scenario, this person can develop a reputation as a “bull in a china shop” because of their seeming to be unconcerned about the feelings of others.

When used in our personal lives, polarized thinking, can make someone appear stubborn, inflexible, and unwilling to compromise. Conflict with loved ones is a common reason for us to begin to examine the limits of our thinking style.

Styles are neither right nor wrong. They simply require us to recognize them and make choices about using them rather than to be on “auto-pilot” with our emotions.

So is polarized thinking a skill or a habit? That depends on how much you use it to the exclusion of rational decision-making. Are you making choices about your life or are you simply doing what you have always done regardless of the facts and feelings involved?

As always the key here is balance. Use what works and avoid what limits your outlook. Insight Associates can help you identify and establish this balance; call us to discuss how.

Live Well.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cognitive Distortions

"Nurture great thoughts for you cannot go higher than your thoughts."
-- Benjamin Disraeli

Dr. Albert Ellis, the father of Cognitive-Behavioral psychology, identified some of those thought patterns that contribute to our continued good health and our potential illness.

He called these thought patterns, “cognitive distortions”.
All of us have used these statements at one time or another. What we have to ask ourselves is if we rely on them to the point of making them habits that limit our happiness.

Habitual ways of thinking limit our perspective and tend to keep us doing the same things repeatedly, for better and worse.

Next time you interpret a situation negatively, ask yourself if your conclusions are the result of habitual thinking or an objective assessment.

Having an objective partner to help you see alternatives and develop new, healthy styles of thinking can lead to a more satisfying life. Call us to discuss how Insight Associates can help.

We will identify the categories of cognitive distortions individually in coming blog entries.

Live Well.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Some Basics of Personal Growth

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
- Confucious

Recognize the need for change.
Do you feel the way you want to feel most of the time? Are you generally satisfied with the course of your life? If not, do you want to make the effort to improve your life? Having a timeline for gradual and sustainable life change helps keep us on track to getting what we want.

Get started now!
If you know you need or want change in your life, then waiting only delays your potential for happiness. Even if you put off major changes for the time being, begin planning now to take control of your life situation.

Avoid negativity, in yourself, other people and even life situations.
Examine your beliefs about yourself and your life. Which buoy you and which weight you down? Consider changing those that hold you back.

Learn more about how you function in your life.
Notice what you say to yourself and others about the issues in your life and how you handle daily situations. Are you taking responsibility for what you can control or blaming others or leaving things to chance?

Find people who are living the way you want to live.
Note how others live well. What is it about how they live that you would like to emulate? You might find that one person has one aspect of what you want but someone else has another. That’s fine; no one person has the exact life you would prefer.

Get help from others.
Friends, family, clergy, organizations; anyone who cares, likes or loves you can help to some degree. If your current social resources are not enough or you simply don’t want to deal with them, call Insight Associates for assistance.

You can do it.
If you want more from life, try not to settle for less. There are always things we can do to feel better and enjoy more.

Don’t wait for life to happen to you; take that first step to go after your goals and live the life you choose.

Live Well.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Economic Empowerment

One way for most people to feel safe is to have money in the bank. It allows us to get the services we need to maintain health and it promotes a feeling of control over our daily lives.

Personal finance might seem to have no connection to our emotional well-being but most of us have experienced the stress of not having enough at some point in our lives. We are more likely to feel helpless if we have fewer financial resources.

Get your personal finances under control to decrease stress. There are numerous books available as well as community organizations that help people regain control of their money. Your bank can also help.

The experts say to pay down credit card debt and save for an "emergency fund" to cover unexpected expenses. Then, learn how to invest to continue the process of economic empowerment.

Money doesn't buy happiness but it can help us to avoid desperation. Start small if you have to but get started today.

Live Well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harrahs Cherokee Casino Employee Health Fair

We are happy to be a part of the Harrahs Cherokee Casino Employee Health Fair that takes place tomorrow, 07/19/07. Stop by our table to discuss what we can do to help you maintain your good emotional health. We hope to meet you there.

Live Well.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Stigma & The Courage

Fear is a question: What are you afraid of, and why? Just as the seed of health is in illness, because illness contains information, your fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if you explore them.
- Marilyn Ferguson

We have said in the Q & A section of our website,, that stigma represents a lack of knowledge about emotional processes and the benefits of getting assistance. It's true.

Additionally, people have different attitudes about asking for what they need, even from a spouse in many cases.

Many people have the attitude that asking for help is somehow bad or that it is too big a risk to ask for what they want.

It takes courage to confront our own beliefs about ourselves, and also to risk having others disagree with us.

Even if we are comfortable with asking for help, our fear of how others see us, can inhibit us, sometimes for years.

We can be overly concerned about the opinions of others who believe that asking for help is the last thing we should do.

At Insight Associates, we help you evaluate your attitudes about life, and one of the most important is simply to make decisions based on what is best for you, regardless of other's views.

You deserve to have the life you want. But it does take courage to do things a different way.

Avoid those who are unwilling to accept your healthy choices. Get the helpful assistance you need from family, friends and yes, Insight Associates at

You can do it!

Live Well.

Friday, July 13, 2007

We're Back

We have been away from our blog for some time now but we are back on track with more entries beginning tomorrow. Thanks for your continued questions and support.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Attitudes and Excuses

The most inhibiting factor in getting mental health treatment is often our own attitudes about seeking assistance and being labeled with “needing help”.

Where have our attitudes come from? Why do we maintain our own roadblocks to a better life?

We can usually identify the reasons for our attitudes easily. Maybe we saw someone else’s difficult situation with a therapist or agency that didn’t go well. We might have been a part of a social group that emphasized self-reliance to the point that “needing help” was frowned upon.

Regardless of the reasons, we have to ask ourselves, “How do I get more of what I want, and less of what I don’t?”

We focus on starting from where we are right now and developing skills and steps to reach our goals. Developing goals often begins with the simple statement, “I want to live a better life.”

Identify your skills and preferences, no matter how insignificant they might seem. These form the foundation for your new life. Everyone has them, but we might not have tallied them up.

Next identify what you want. If you can’t do that easily then list what you want to be different in your life. This process provides a clear direction.

Also, list those people that can help you to reach your goals. Have at least one friend, family member or therapist or coach that believes in you and will help support you when you need it.

This simple process needs to be a regular part of our lives if we want to stay on track to a better life. Maintaining contact with a clear vision of what we want provides hope, clarity and inspiration for living the life we most want.

Live Well

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Your Good (Sexual) Relationship

Maintaining your relationship is made up of many elements. Physical intimacy with your partner is one of the most obvious (and enjoyable) ways of strengthening your relationship.

Sex has numerous benefits for our physical and emotional health. In addition, it is an opportunity to express our love and commitment to our partner's pleasure and well-being.
Sex is a sensitive barometer of an intimate relationship. Among healthy couples, not having sex is usually an indication of a conflict. And it doesn't necessarily have to be a big conflict. An accumulation of small problems or old, unresolved issues can often result in decreased desire.

Luckily, most of these are easily remedied. It might seem unrelated but the better we are at resolving conflicts in our relationships, the better our sex life might be.
Our emotional health also plays a big role in our sex lives. Most everyone knows that stress, among other issues, is a major player in decreasing sexual desire. Taking care of ourselves emotionally will benefit our sex lives as well.
Can a relationship survive without sex? Yes, but we all need to get our needs met in our relationships. If we are not getting what we need, problems in our relationship tend to grow. And sometimes people begin to look outside of their relationships to get their needs met.

This is of course terribly, and often irreparably, damaging. Sexual affairs should be avoided at any cost if you hope to keep your relationship.

No, having a good relationship is not solely dependent upon your sexual abilities. And sexual dynamos might not always make good partners. But if you are healthy and in a good relationship, nature generally takes it's course.
Take care of your emotional needs (like decreasing stress) and learn to resolve your disagreements without maintaining an ongoing conflict to allow a enjoyable and healthy sex life to grow.

The bottom line on sex is; have it. Live Well.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Your Good Relationship- Bed Time

Go to bed at the same time as your partner. It sounds easy enough, but many couples have different bedtimes.

This is not necessarily a problem, but going to bed at the same time has its benefits.

Not only does it support a designated snuggle time, but it helps to coordinate energy levels and healthy priorities like sleep.

And of course going to bed at the same time makes it easier for busy couples to have sex. Together you can put to rest all of the competing priorities of the day. Close proximity to one another is a necessity for intimacy.

Bedtime is a shared opportunity to be together in a peaceful and relaxing setting. You can live without a mutual bed time, but with all its benefits, why would you want to?

Live Well.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Paralyzed by Fear- Avoidance

Many of us have doubts that prevent us from considering all of life’s options.

We might stay in unhealthy situations because we fear the potential outcomes of doing something differently might be worse than doing nothing at all.

But then frustration, anger, anxiety or depression can build up to further complicate matters. Now we have the original concern and another emotional layer to deal with.

Avoidance of consequences is an understandable and common way of dealing with daily life. We have all gone out of our way at some time to avoid pain, humiliation, etc.

This can become a big problem if avoidance becomes our primary method of coping with our lives.

Avoidance can take many forms; substance abuse, running away, lying, sexual affairs, overeating, and numerous other behaviors. These can all serve the purpose of helping to distract ourselves from making difficult decisions and taking difficult actions.

If our use of avoidance prevents us from living the life we want, the way we want it to be, then we are maintaining a roadblock to our own happiness.

Like the kid most of us have seen at Big Mart, gripped by a parent, who dances around to avoid the discipline he knows will be painful, we too can bend over backwards to avoid taking an emotionally painful hit.

Our emotional contortions actually make things worse for ourselves.

We encourage and teach our clients to address problems directly, deal with the consequences effectively and then move on.

Think of coping as being like a ship cutting through a large wave.

Don’t try to outrun problems, hit them head on. This process builds our confidence and helps us move forward in our lives rather than remaining stuck on one problem indefinitely.
You can do it. Live Well.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Thought-Stopping: Negative to Positive- Continued

Change your thoughts and you change your world.
-Norman Vincent Peale

We have looked at ways to limit negative thoughts (in the form of negative self-talk) by recognizing them and then consciously telling ourselves to stop. This process is appropriately called “thought stopping”.

The next step is to choose a positive self-statement that replaces the negative. We always have a variety of potential responses available to us. Making the most useful choice for ourselves and then repeating it can help make this process second nature.

This step-by-step process can be practiced at any time and can lead to a less negative outlook when used with other cognitive techniques in a coordinated manner.

It takes practice and it's only part of the change process. If you are having trouble using this technique, a coach or therapist can help. Take care of yourself and your thoughts.

Live Well.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Your Good Relationship- Greetings

Greet you partner with a hug and a kiss whenever they leave home and upon their return. It doesn't need to be elaborate.

If your partner doesn't catch on quickly, you can still be the one who does this when you come or go.

Can you always do this; No. Is this sometimes inconvenient? Yes. But, try it for 2 months, at least.

Those couples who already do this hello/ goodbye greeting know that soon it becomes a habit that is missed if it doesn't happen. Have an open discussion about it or just start doing it.

It demonstrates that you both consider each other to be more important than anything else you might have been doing. It also helps to build trust, closeness and intimacy.

Lay down the newspaper, break away from the television for 15 seconds, to make your good relationship a priority.

Live Well.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Get What You Need

He must often change who would be constant in Happiness or Wisdom.

We all like a comfortable routine. The way we think and the way we live tend to remain consistent unless we actively try to change them. This can sometimes make it difficult to consider alternatives.

We carry our ideas and beliefs from the past. Many cliche's about perseverence are still common in our society. They were the best we had at one time. Now, with other options available to us, our attitudes need to catch up.

Some people might not want to talk about their feelings or concerns. Some might not want to ask others for help. Still others might not want to use a medication to help them cope, even temporarily.

The most unfortunate folks have all of these and their dissatisfaction, unhappiness or frustration continues to build.

Ask yourself what is it about your own ideas and beliefs that keep you from getting what you need. This is not the same thing as blaming yourself for your problems. Bad things do happen to good people, but we can still choose how we respond.

Not only can we choose, we have to choose. Why would we leave such things to chance or to others to decide?

You might also ask why you choose to struggle when you might not have to.

Waiting for anything is rarely the best choice. Actively going towards the life we want puts a measure of control in our hands.

This process of active participation in healing and enriching ourselves, gives us the best chance for a happy and satisfying life.

Live Well.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Talking to Myself

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.
-William James

We are always talking to ourselves even if it is not spoken aloud. Our thoughts form a running dialogue that influences how we feel about our life experiences. Gaining some control over how we think, allows us to feel differently about our lives.

This self-talk comes in 2 basic forms; positive and negative, depending on whether they contribute to our feeling good or not.

For example, if we ask 2 people who are dealing with similar degrees of chronic pain to rate their levels of discomfort, the person with the more negative outlook will score higher. They feel more distressed by the pain than someone with a more positive outlook.

So how do we change these thoughts? As always it begins with recognition of how we think. We can learn to recognize when we experience thoughts that distress us.

Notice when you feel disturbed by something and ask yourself what you are thinking at that time. Most likely you will hear the thought that you had was a negative assessment of the experience.

If someone cuts you off on the highway, you might find yourself saying, “that guy did that to me on purpose!” If he did or not, is not important. What you say to yourself determines how you feel about that experience.

After recognition, try imagine a stop sign in your mind. This visualization serves as a mental turning point. It’s an opportunity to change direction and say something else to ourselves.

The final step is to replace the negative statement with an innocuous or even optimistic one. In our highway driving example, you would likely feel differently if you said to yourself, “that person must be dealing with an emergency of some kind.” You might even say to yourself, “maybe they are going to the hospital to have a baby!”

Some might find self-talk to be silly or even disingenuous to oneself. Try it anyway. Making the effort represents your ongoing desire to improve your life.

This exercise takes time to perfect and you can practice it whenever negative thoughts occur. Like any effort to change a habit, it can be an ongoing challenge that becomes more effective and easier over time.

Make the effort and don’t quit. You deserve to have peace of mind.

Live Well.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Lighten Up

Peoples of the world...Relax!
-Tom Robbins

Most people think that they relax from doing less. If you are only slightly stressed, this might work for you. But the more stressed you are, the more you must do to relax.

A surprising number of people have very few activities they use to relax. Watching television, managing the kids, running errands, are not usually relaxing despite what some report.

Most of us have some idea of what we would do to relax; hobbies, sports, reading, whatever. Yet most of us push them aside if there is work to be done.

So why is it so difficult for us to relax? Often, we don't relax frequently enough or long enough to recover from the stresses of daily life.

This can result in an accumulation of stress. If we don't counterbalance our stress with relaxation, we can become distressed.

Make relaxation a priority. Schedule time regularly for activities.

Develop your interests in hobbies or other activities you can just pick up and do when you have spare time.

Do something just for relaxation. Combining errands with relaxation is not as effective. We do this for convenience, rather than for ourselves.

Do different activities to fit your mood; vigorous activity if you are agitated; slower-paced activity to wind down.

Be with other people some of the time and alone some of the time. Relaxing activities with both, others and ourselves, are valuable in different ways.

Learn to say "no" to taking on too much work.

Don't let an accumulation of stress impair your ability to enjoy life. Schedule time to relax. Your good health deserves to be a priority.

Be Well.

Monday, April 30, 2007

If it is to be, it is up to me.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
-Anais Nin

When we consider how we might have developed our styles of living, we have to wonder how much we do is related to habit, and how much is due to conscious thought and decision-making.

Living an Insightful Life is easy to avoid. We can use any number of strategies to distract ourselves from a painful reality. Excuses can be built into our feelings about ourselves, our actions, the people around us, and our environments.

These excuses that we say to ourselves, help us cope, at least up to a point. If we use them too often or too long, they sometimes lose their effectiveness. This can leave us feeling vulnerable, angry, or just unhappy.

How does hopeful change happen? We simply have to recognize that we are dissatisfied with things as they are. We can then evaluate the situation to determine if they are important enough for us to devote the time and energy to improving.

If we choose to do something, then we must decide how to go forward. Talking with someone you trust is one of the best ways of sorting your feelings out. Friends, family, or anyone who understands your concerns and will be non-judgemental, can be helpful to you.

Many times the people around us (work, family, friends) have unrealistic expectations for us. They might not like the idea of our changing. It can be seen (and felt) as destabilizing. If this is your situation, use the professional help that is available to you.

Make a small commitment to yourself to do something you have wanted to do. Don't make a big change right off but do something meaningful to you.

You can start by setting aside some time in your daily routine to think about the questions you have in mind. If you only have 10 minutes for it, that's fine. For that 10 minutes really focus on the questions.

This small and simple act represents a change of direction in your life as well as a recognition that you are in charge of your happiness. You will have made yourself a priority.

Take the time to consider what you want and if you are on your way to getting it. No one else can do it for you.

Live Well.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Your Good Relationship- part 2

Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Good relationships are made up of many elements. In our series on maintaining wellness in our relationships, we identify those small parts that add up to the satisfying whole. The series is based on the 20 Basic Rules for a Happy Marriage but they apply to most of our intimate relationships as well.

People often describe having fallen into a rut with their partners. There is a feeling of dull sameness to the relationship and maybe even a lack of interest in one another.

We all like satisfying patterns in our lives, but we have to decide if we have drifted into a limiting rut or simply developed a comfortable rhythm.

The key is to keep the relationship dynamic. We are not necessarily referring to wild excitement here. But, we have to balance our need for relaxing time together (and apart) with our need to keep life interesting for ourselves as a couple.

A dynamic relationship has something interesting going on that stimulates the couple, enriching their lives together. The activity provides an opportunity to build a shared sense of satisfaction, support and accomplishment. And just as important, it can promote having fun together.

Try to always have a project going as a couple. Collecting, gardening, regular exercise, weight loss program, dancing, making new friends, etc.

Avoid making an unhealthy activity "our time" together. Going to bars, watching TV, or any activity that doesn't fit your idea of healthy, is unlikely to have a positive effect on your relationship.

Make it a fun thing just to be looking for new activities. You don't have to do them all but the process of searching can be fun in itself.

Plan a vacation that you both would enjoy and go.

Include your kids as much as you can but set aside some time that focuses on your partner exclusively as well.

Make it a regular weekly event like an end-of-the-week massage night, movie night, dinner outing, or local trip to a favorite location.

Developing interests together as a couple can be fun in itself. If it turns to drudgery to search out new activities, take a week off and start again, maybe on a smaller, less regimented scale. Maintaining your good relationships is worth the effort.

Live Well.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Keeping Secrets?

Many of us were raised to keep secrets. They have often served to keep us safe in some way. Over time they can become a growing burden.

What is the big deal about secrets? We all have them, right?

If we were afraid of the alcoholic, or drug addict, violent or hyper-critical person, in our home we developed survival strategies to cope. Our painful feelings of fear, shame, or low self-worth, can contribute to our developing and maintaining protective secrets.

The secrets that can be damaging are those that we keep because they say something about ourselves that we don't like. We believe that others would not like us if they knew about them. At some point they can even prevent us from moving ahead with our lives.

Only you can know if you have damaging secrets. They can sap your energy, discourage or immobilize you, and keep you stuck in destructive patterns.

Notice when you have strong reactions to something or someone. Anger, frustration, irritability, substance abuse, overindulgence, and even relationship conflicts can all have roots in a damaging secret.

Make a decision to do something about it. Talk to others you trust about how you feel. Make the changes you need to have a better quality of life without the burden of secrets.

Live Well.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Overindulgence- Dieting and more

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Dieting can be seen as an effort to reset the body's balance to a healthier weight. Yet the effort to establish a new weight can make us feel off-balance or even deprived.

Our current methods of maintaining ourselves have worked, at least to some degree. Changing those methods is inherently stressful. If we don't find ways to deal with that stress, our frustration will continue to build.

If we let our frustration continue to build, we make ourselves susceptible to an impulsive decision that takes us off our planned course. Depending on the scale and duration of it, you can call this an overindulgence, a binge, a relapse or just a poor decision.

Make a list of all the reasons why you want to lose weight. List the ways you can deal with uncomfortable feelings; call a friend, take a walk, etc. List the resources you have to help you (including Insight Associates). Look at these frequently, and use them, to help you avoid feeling deprived of what you want in terms of food.

Plan to reward yourself when you achieve important milestones; this can help limit your feeling deprived.

If an incident happens, stop as soon as you are aware of what you are doing.

Talk to someone who can support you as you get back on track.

Don't beat yourself up with guilt.

Return to your plan immediately.

Start to deal with your underlying frustration next.

Look out for food substitutes like overspending, alcohol or drug use, gambling, etc.

Make a plan to help you work out the situations that caused the frustration.

Ask for the help you need.

Recognizing this simple process can help you cope with overindulgence incidents quickly and effectively. Talk with friends and participate in local programs that will help you to be successful.

Live Well.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Your Good Relationship-Part 1

A good marriage is like a handshake...there is no upper hand.

People often ask about what they can do to maintain a good relationship with their partner. We'll identify some of these here and in future postings as well. They are not necessarily in order but this one is fundamental.

First, do no harm. Agree to never hurt one another intentionally. Of course, avoiding physical abuse at all costs should be a given for both individuals. Attempting to deliberately harm the other emotionally, needs to be equally unacceptable.

Most relationships that don't learn this don't survive for long. If they do survive they can be miserable.

We all know how to "push the buttons" of our partners. Make a commitment to yourself and each other not to do it; even if you believe it would allow you to get what you want or to win an argument.

Agree that your disagreements should be efforts to identify a compromise rather as a win-lose contest of wills. It sounds straight forward, but many of us don't learn the importance of this concept until after damage is done.

Have a discussion with your partner that identifies what each of you considers "the limit" for yourselves. Knowing what we can say and not say, helps to avoid an escalation in frustration and anger. Some couples learn this by a painful process of trial and error. Better to discuss it and agree.

Take a time-out if your discussions become too heated or are unproductive for too long a time. The first one who calls the time-out needs to have their feelings respected; let them go. Agree to meet in an hour or a day, what ever time is appropriate, to follow up.

Also important, discuss and agree on what you can each do to make the other feel "cherished & adored" according to relationship expert, Pat Love. Start with efforts you can do frequently and easily and become more creative from there. The benefits for your relationship will be well worth the effort.

Live Well.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Counseling, Psychotherapy and Coaching

We are all in the process of becoming.
-Sigmund Freud

We are often asked about the differences between counseling, psychotherapy and coaching. There is some overlap in techniques used in sessions but the three have different goals.

Counseling is primarily concerned with developing and implementing problem-solving strategies that allow you to effectively deal with your daily life. The interaction between you and your therapist helps you identify and cope with emotional or behavioral problems that complicate your life and limit your satisfaction.

Psychotherapy uses a therapeutic relationship to help you modify self-defeating or limiting thoughts, emotions and behaviors. It promotes personal growth and development by improving knowledge of our selves and our patterns of dealing with our internal and external environments.

Coaching is intended to deal with the here-and-now attainment of goals. It is a process that helps clarify what the goal is (if vague or unknown), and how to best attain it. A strategy is developed with successive steps that lead toward the goal. The coaching process continues to provide feedback, encouragement, and course-correction until the goal is attained.

Which of these approaches is most appropriate for you depends on your individual needs and goals; these are decided early in the partnership with your therapist or coach. Discuss your questions and concerns thoroughly to ensure you get what you want out of your efforts. Most of all, get started.

Live Well.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friendship and Wellness

The only way to have a friend, is to be one.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Healthy friendships are a great benefit to us. They help provide the emotional safety net we need in difficult times. In good times, they provide acceptance and stimulation that enrich our lives.

The numbers of people who say they have no friends might be more than you would expect. Both men and women report similar reasons for their lack of friends.

Some might not trust others enough to have close friendships. Others feel that they would "burden" others with their concerns and so they maintain a distance. Still other people say they have no opportunity to meet others or the time to spend with them to build friendships.

Consider these ideas:

Make an effort to make new friendships. Look for opportunities to meet others and communicate with them.

Broaden you perspective with the type of friend you can have. Different age groups, different backgrounds; consider those you might not have considered before.

Get involved in activities that put you closer to others. Sports, church, civic groups, where ever there are people getting together.

Take a risk. Be the first one to make an offer to get together for lunch, coffee, or just to "stop by sometime" to watch a sports game on TV.

Don't beat yourself up if it doesn't work out. Try to accept that some people will not prefer our company. It works that way for all of us. That's okay.

Give it time. Building the trust it takes to be friends can't be rushed. Some take longer than others.

You don't have to evaluate someone for "best friend" status. Take them for who they are. A special purpose friend, like a fishing buddy, is fine.

We tend to like people who like us. Be friendly. This should be a number one priority.

Start close to home and work out from there. We probably already have close contact with neighbors and co-workers. Take the next step.

We tend to be friends with others we see often. These are ready-made opportunities.

Put in the time it takes to be friends. Make them a priority when available to you.

We can do these things at any time, regardless of our past track record. Recognize the need for more friendships and make the effort. Having more friends is like having money in the bank; you can't have too many or too much.

Live Well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Set Your Own Pace

The system always taxes its elements.

Multi-tasking is the term used to describe the juggling of multiple priorities. We can learn techniques and strategies to work more quickly and efficiently. This is very helpful in getting a lot of work done in a short time.

Our juggling skills might be rewarded by our supervisor at work for having a high level of productivity. We feel good to check things off of our "To Do" list. We can adopt this pace as our default state.

But, we need to know when to use it and when to turn it off.

Problems can develop when we try to live our personal lives by continually doing more and more. Our inability to keep up with an unreasonable pace can result in frustration, conflicts, and over time, erosion of our self-esteem.

What do we do?

Slow down. Develop a pace for your life that is based on human speed. This is closer to walking to the mailbox than tapping on a keyboard.

Practice focusing on one thing at a time.

Make an effort to do less, not more.

Set aside time to do only one thing.

Accept that some things won't get done on time.

Look at your schedule of work, family, and individual commitments and ask your self if they are reasonable. Reschedule things until they fit comfortably.

Recognize activities that "speed you up" (driving in traffic, watching TV, phone calls, email) and activities that help slow you down (hot tub, massage, meditation, nap). Ask your self if you are doing too much of one and not enough of the other.

Practice your"refusal skills"; say no to taking on too much.

Easier said than done, it's true. Some things are out of our control. At least we can make a conscious decision to get back on track as soon as possible.

Since there is always too much to do and not enough time to do it, we must learn to set a sustainable pace for ourselves. Life is more like a marathon than a sprint. Set your own pace and stick to it.
Live Well.

Dealing with the "Slips" in our Dietary Goals.

Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
-James Joyce

Setting goals for ourselves is the basis for making positive changes in our lives. A good goal leads us in our chosen direction and is reasonable and attainable. But having reasonable expectations for ourselves can be a challenge.

If we believe we should always be perfect then we are setting ourselves up to fail. We follow our plans carefully to reach our goals but we have to allow for some imperfect moments.

Slips, backslides, and relapses, are all part of the learning process. We can become angry, frustrated, and demoralized by our mistakes. These feelings can further distract us from getting back on track quickly to keep moving forward.

So what do we do to help maintain balance between our goals and our actions?
  • Follow your plan closely, but don't expect perfection.
  • Don't give in to negative self-talk that might derail your efforts.
  • Use positive self-talk to counter the negative.
  • If you are fixated on your efforts to the point of frustration, then take a planned break from your regimen with a small (not overly-indulgent) reward for what you have accomplished. Then immediately get back on track.
  • Recognize what you need and ask for it. Others want you to do well and they want to help.
  • Vent your concerns and get the support you need.
  • Don't quit. The only real mistake is in not trying.

Remember that one of the keys to living well is Balance. Sustainable lifestyle changes are measured over time, not by one meal or one incident. Pace yourself in your efforts. You can do it.

Live Well.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Sometimes people carry to such perfection the mask they have assumed that in due course they actually become the person they seem.
-W. Somerset Maugham

Being honest with ourselves can sometimes be a challenge. We have lots to juggle on a daily basis. That momentum can keep us focused on getting things done rather than taking care of ourselves. Balancing both takes a conscious effort.

Some of us have an amazing ability to live in difficult circumstances by convincing ourselves that "it's really not that bad". This can be a valuable skill. It is very useful for getting through a short-term crisis. The problem really occurs when someone uses this denial process as a way to live daily life.

Recognizing our desires, hopes, and limitations, gets us on the path of conscious decision-making. That allows us to make choices and solve problems that give us the life we want. Listing our options, and the pros & cons of each, is a useful tool for prioritizing things.

Live Well.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Managing Stress

We can be sure that the greatest hope for maintaining equilibrium in the face of any situation rests within ourselves.
-Francis J. Braceland

The topic of stress is one that we are all familiar with. Stress is inevitable and not necessarily a problem in daily life. It motivates us to do what we need to do in order to survive and thrive.

It contributes to the quality of our lives if it occurs in manageable levels. We refer to stress that has begun to move beyond a manageable level as being "distress". That level is different for each of us.

Several things can happen that can make stress turn in to distress. Basically, if we have too many demands, that are too big, in too short a time, stress can overwhelm us. We are especially at risk if we are already tired, worried, sick, or otherwise overburdened.

We need to actively do something to help ourselves immediately if this situation occurs.

Some simple "Stress Busters" can help keep us resilient enough to better tolerate and cope with stress. They also help keep stress from becoming damaging distress.

Eat your breakfast. Every engine needs fuel and your body is no exception. Our ability to concentrate and cope with challenges, is improved by simply eating those foods that fit our dietary needs.

Get a good nights sleep. Sleep helps our bodies and minds recover from the damage of daily life. Sleep restores the body systems and provides rejuvenation. Make sleep a priority by having a regular schedule of going to bed and getting up at a set time daily.

Severely limit the amount of conflict in your life. Make a rule in your household that no heated debates, arguments, or discussions occur after dinner, or what ever time you choose. Save emotionally charged topics for earlier in the day.

Taper your activities so that you are less stimulated as the day and evening progress. This includes not only direct contact with others but also what you read, and what you watch on television or Internet before bedtime.

Schedule relaxation time into your day. Most of us have had the experience of being so busy during a given day that we forgot about lunch or even limited our trips to the restroom. Sounds crazy right? It is.

Give yourself more time between commitments in your schedule. If you are lucky enough (or purposeful enough) to have some "free time", use it to relax with exercise, music, or other soothing activities.

And of course, get professional help before a distress crisis develops.

If we are not willing to take care of ourselves, other demands will intrude on us. We can help others, contribute to our community, and generally get things done, only by making ourselves a priority. We then have the desire and motivation to do the rest.

Live Well.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Spirituality and Wellness

The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.

What do you do to feel closer to something bigger, greater, or more than yourself? Does it interest you at all?

The role of spirituality in our lives is a certainty for many. The question is to what degree it influences our beliefs. As we noted previously, our beliefs affect our thoughts and experiences and therefore the quality of our lives.

We are defining spirituality in the broadest terms here. It refers to our level of "connectedness" to everything else.

Spirituality provides meaning and purpose beyond mere physical survival. It provides a context for understanding. This framework can help us maintain balance, hope, and even optimism, in challenging circumstances.

Some people focus on God, others on nature, others on tradition or religion. Even those who say they have no sense of spirituality in their lives still must use something as a basis for their beliefs. Scientific facts form the belief system for many of those who say this.

It is important to consider how our beliefs affect our thoughts and the quality of our lives. Clarifying these issues, regardless of the outcome, helps us to understand ourselves and our priorities.

Live Well.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Role of Self-Awareness

I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time.
-Anna Freud

The concept of self-awareness, or insight, is not one that all of us are familiar with. These terms refer to our understanding of our own internal mental processes. These processes in turn, determine what decisions we make and what actions we take to deal with our lives.

Many of us were raised to ignore our distressing feelings if we had no control over our life circumstances. Before modern times, this would have been a viable survival strategy. Now, this strategy can prevent us from considering other options or taking action to improve our situations.

So what do we do? As always we must start from where we are.

We need to begin to recognize our own thoughts are an important piece of the equation. The experiences we have daily, result in thoughts and feelings that lead us to take certain actions in response to those experiences.

Ask yourself if your thoughts, feelings, and actions tend to lead you toward more satisfaction in your life or less.

Understanding how we operate as thinking, emotional beings is the best way to greater life satisfaction. Think about how you view things and why; discuss this with people you trust and write your observations in a journal to look for patterns in your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

The process of gaining self-awareness cannot be avoided if we are to make choices that improve our lives. Our options are either to understand a little or to understand a lot. Either way the information is largely within us.
Live well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Power of Choice

The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.
-George Eliot

Many people think that happiness is like an object to be found; they only need to look long enough to get it. In a worse case scenario, some might wait for the "right situation" to come to them. This can be in the form of money, a love interest, a job, or just plain good luck. Years can pass while we wait for things to go our way.

In reality, happiness is a by-product of who we are and what we do. It's true that bad things sometimes happen to good people, but we can still make choices, based on our beliefs, in the worst of circumstances.

Who we are is, in large part, all that we believe about ourselves and what we believe about everything else. This is why examining our thoughts is so important to improve our lives. They come from what we believe and they are reinforced by what we say to ourselves about our life experiences.

We all know someone who never seems to get what they want. Things somehow don't work out for them very often. Sometimes they make efforts to do something about the state of their lives and other times they just keep doing what they have always done. Most often, their core beliefs about themselves and the world don't change.

In daily life we can practice a technique to help us examine our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Next time you feel a distressing thought, ask yourself what is at the center of it.

For example, if I say "hello" to someone who doesn't respond in kind, I can think, "What is your problem", or "maybe they didn't hear me" or even "they must not like me". Some or none of these might be true. All of these self-statements are attempts at explaining an experience to ourselves.

Make a conscious choice to believe the least irritating version.

No, this doesn't change the reality of the situation but it can change your experience of it. Actively avoid making the most painful or angry choice.

This is only a portion of the process. By itself, it might look like self-delusion. It is actually part of a coordinated effort to change beliefs, expectations, and our life experiences.

The greatest tool to improve our lives is already within us; it is the power of choice.

Live Well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Maintaining Emotional Health

Maintaining your emotional health is a big subject. We will begin to identify some elements of self-care over time but we will start with the basics here.

The level of influence our genetics has over our health is well-established. In general, our genes have tremendous importance, but our behaviors are what we can control.

All of us know we should do those things our Physicians has always espoused; eat right, get enough rest, exercise regularly, don't smoke, avoid high-risk behaviors. You can't argue with good advice.

In addition, to these physical elements of maintaining health, we also need to be aware of those elements that positively and negatively affect our emotional health.

A study put out last year said that generally people are happier if they do more of what makes them happy. Why didn't we think of that! It's so obvious many of us overlook it.

List those things you like to do or used to like to do and start to make time for them in your life. Try to work up to doing something everyday that you find enjoyable. This simple element of good health is missing from the daily life of many people.

What is the number one reason why people don't fit enjoyment into daily life. Time. Most folks complain that finding time for hobbies, exercise, and other activities is impossible due to time constraints. Lots of us feel that we work so much with job and family that there is nothing else. This often (not always) results over time in increased frustration, irritability, and sadness.

Yes, this is oversimplifying the situation, but we have to start somewhere. Start doing more of what you want to do (as long as they are healthy activities) and less of what you don't to begin living a better life.

Lots of these future topics overlap and intertwine to form our outlook on life. We don't have to wait to fidure it all out before we do something. The important thing is to get started. Live well.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Early Detection

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

The most important thing we can do to improve our lives is to get started on a better path.

The concept of "early detection" is common in the medical realm but it is rarely applied to peoples emotional lives. It means that we take responsibility for our own health by closely monitoring ourselves.

If we use the concept of early detection to monitor our emotional lives, what would we be looking for to indicate that we might benefit from assistance?

The symptoms of emotional issues are numerous and varied. They can be physical (headaches, stomach problems, etc.) or emotional (worry, sadness, irritability, etc.). What they have in common is that they are distressing to us. They get in the way of our enjoyment of life; they occupy our thoughts when we try to forget them.

The age-old tradition of enduring emotional distress is largely based on the fact that there was nothing else to be done in the past. Now that we have services to assist us, our expectations for ourselves have yet to catch up.

The irony is that oftentimes we are the only one in the way of living a better life. Our beliefs that we should be able to handle things alone, or that we should be able to tolerate more distress, hold us back and keep us from moving forward.

Our pride or fear shouldn't keep us from going to see our Physician if we have physical pain. We also go to the Dentist or Optometrist for check-ups to find problems early. We expect to do these things to care for ourselves.

Yet our ability to enjoy our lives by maintaining our emotional health is often neglected. If we work to maintain good physical health, we have to consider that our good emotional health is equally important and deserves that same effort.

Live Well.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Insight Associates

Welcome to the first posting of the weblog. We wanted to create a venue for discussion that contributes to the understanding and enrichment of our internal (emotional/ mental) and external lives. This blog will be updated frequently. Feel free to contribute any questions or comments to the discussion. We want to hear from you! Be sure to review our website at We are looking forward to having this direct line of communication with you. Thanks for joining us.

Live Well.
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