Overcoming Holiday Burnout

Do the holidays not seem to be as magical as they once were? Do you feel more dread than joy as you watch the holiday decorations and festivities make their re-appearance?

It is no secret that the holiday season can be both a happy and overwhelming time for everyone. However, they can be more overwhelming and difficult for those who are struggling with symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and grief.

In preparation for the holiday season, we want to give you five tips to help you avoid holiday burnout so you can be more present and engaged with the ones you love.

Tip #1: You Can Say No

It is important to be realistic in the expectations you have for yourself and others in periods of increased stress. The holidays can demand more time and money than we may really have to offer. Though it is uncomfortable, it is okay to say no and set limits on what you can/are willing to do. It is okay if you cannot realistically attend the three holiday parties you were invited to or buy a present for every house in your neighborhood.

Tip #2: Take Breaks

Having more on your holiday to-do list and a jam-packed schedule full of holiday activities naturally steals away from downtime. Be intentional about scheduling some breaks, even if it is just to watch your favorite Christmas movie.

Time with family also increases during the holiday season. While this is a fun time to reconnect with those we may not see often, it can result in conflict and boundary violations. When anxiety or frustration may start to rise, take a ten-to-fifteen-minute break or walk outside to regulate.

Tip #3: Create/Maintain Traditions

Family and personal traditions bring a lot of excitement and meaning to the holiday season. Prioritizing meaningful traditions can help you in building connections and bring you closer to the ones you love. Choose to create and maintain traditions that spark joy and excitement within you. They will likely create memories that you will lovingly reflect on even when the season is over.

Tip #4: Take Care of Yourself

As the stress of the holiday season increases, self-care can quickly decrease. Staying emotionally regulated and completing the tasks and demands of the season are going to feel impossible if you are not fully rested, providing your body with the nutrition it needs, and staying hydrated. Even taking time to exercise thirty minutes a day, can help in improving mood, increasing motivation, and decreasing potential holiday weight gain.

Tip #5: Ask for Help

The holidays are more enjoyable when surrounded by the ones you love. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask those around you for help. We do not have to do things alone and often there is someone that is ready and willing to help; we just have to ask. The professionals at Connections Family Wellness are also here to help you in managing your holiday blues. 

For additional information, you can contact us at (801) 871-5118.

We wish you a happy holiday season!

What is Emotional Dysregulation?

Every single one of us experiences and feel strong emotions, and we all use less-than-ideal ways of managing those emotions at one time or another. Being able to regulate your feelings and organize them in an appropriate and effective manner is called emotional regulation.

Emotional regulation can look like:
● Regular exercise
● Talking about your feelings with friends
● Meditation and mindfulness
● Therapy

Overall, listening to what your body and mind need and then doing it!
Emotional Dysregulation is just the opposite; it is “an inability to regularly use healthy strategies to diffuse or moderate negative emotions” (Rolston & LLoyd-Richardson, Cornell Research).

When we are unable to regulate our emotions and use healthy strategies, we turn to unhealthy strategies to help ease these emotions. Emotional dysregulation is what most often leads to self harm and suicidal ideation.

General signs of emotional dysregulation are:
● Abusing alchohol/other substances
● Avoiding or withdrawing from difficult situations
● Excessive social media use to the point of ignoring other responsibilities
● Aggression, verbally or physically
● Eating excessively

What can you do to practice emotional regulation rather than dysregulation?
It is vital that we pay attention to the thought-emotion-behavior patterns in ourselves to understand what triggers our strong emotions, as well as when it is more difficult for us to regulate the emotions. Certain scenarios can trigger a specific behavior such as eating junk food, scrolling social media, or drinking – but if we don’t connect the triggers to the thoughts, feelings, and then behaviors, we can’t effectively pinpoint the dysfunction. Taking the time to track our triggers (anytime a strong emotion is induced like anxiety, anger, sadness, etc), the emotions it evokes, and then finally the action we take because of it (or the action we want to take) can allow us to reroute the emotional dysregulation to a path that is healthier and more effective in coping.

Take the time today to start tracking your triggers, and you will find that changing the way you cope with difficult feelings can be done, and can be freeing.

For more information, visit

Managing Stress

What is Stress?
Stress refers to a psychological perception of a threat and our body’s response to it

What is the Body’s Response to Stress?
When our brain perceives that a situation is threatening, our sympathetic nervous system is automatically activated to prepare our body to deal with it. When this happens, our body releases cortisol and adrenaline, which causes our heart rate to increase, our blood vessels to constrict, our breathing to quicken, our pupils to dilate, etc. (American Psychological Association, 2018).

After our brain determines that the perceived threat is gone, our parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which allows our body to relax and recover (American Psychological Association,
2018). While the sympathetic nervous system can help keep us safe from a perceived threat, it can also drain our body and put us at an increased risk of developing many health problems when it is constantly being activated (American Psychological Association, 2018).

So, Should Stress Be Avoided?
Stress is unavoidable and can help us better meet challenges. Therefore, instead of trying to run
from it, we should learn effective ways to manage it. Five recommended ways to do this include:

  1. Perceive your stress as something that is helping you meet your challenge rather than something that is bad for you: according to Stanford psychologist and renowned researcher Dr. Kelly McGonigal, studies show that perceiving our stress positively
    increases courage, decreases anxiety, and keeps our blood vessels relaxed during the stress response rather than constricted (TEDx Talks, 2014). So, next time you experience
    stress, try thinking to yourself “This feeling is helping me rise to this challenge” rather than “I hate this feeling. It is hurting me and my body.”
  2. Seek social support and help others: according to Dr. McGonigal, seeking out social support and helping others cause our body to release oxytocin (TEDx Talks, 2014).
    Oxytocin is a hormone that acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, keeps our blood vessels relaxed during the stress response, and helps our heart cells heal from the damage caused
    by the stress response (TEDx Talks, 2014).
  3. Spend time in nature: studies have found that spending time in nature decreases stress (Yao et al., 2021) and improves cognitive performance by relieving mental fatigue (Stevenson et al., 2018).
  4. Embrace uncertainty: studies show that feelings of uncertainty and ambiguity increase stress (Bardeen et al., 2016). According to psychologist and renowned researcher, Dr. Elissa Epel, while anticipating the worst may seem like an effective way to better prepare for it, it is harmful to our health and does not result in a better response than not anticipating it (Suttle, 2023). We can learn to tolerate uncertainty by practicing mindfulness meditation, which helps us to stay focused on the present rather than ruminating about the uncertain future (Suttle, 2023).
  1. Seek professional help: a licensed mental health professional can provide us with specific tools to manage our stress that are effective for our unique circumstances. Mental health professionals can also provide cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment, which can help us change unproductive thought patterns that are stress-inducing to more productive and soothing ones.

American Psychological Association. (2018, November 1). Stress effects on the body.
Bardeen, J. R., Fergus, T. A., & Orcutt, H. K. (2016). Examining the specific dimensions of
distress tolerance that prospectively predict perceived stress. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy,
1–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/16506073.2016.1233454
Psychology Today. (n.d.). Stress. Psychology Today. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from
Stevenson, M. P., Schilhab, T., & Bentsen, P. (2018). Attention restoration theory II: A
systematic review to clarify attention processes affected by exposure to natural
environments. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 21(4), 227–268.
Suttle, J. (2023, February 15). Seven Ways to Have a Healthier Relationship With Stress. The
Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
TEDx Talks. (2014). How to make stress your friend. YouTube.
Yao, W., Zhang, X., & Gong, Q. (2021). The effect of exposure to the natural environment on
stress reduction: A meta-analysis. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 57, 126932.

Keeping Passion Alive in our Long-Term Romantic Relationships

By Lindsay Cowdin

gray scale of two couples on the beach

At the beginning of new relationships, we are typically flooded with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that creates feelings of reward, energy, exhilaration, and motivation (Slater, 2006). This dopamine flood is the reason why our heart pumps when our new lover walks into
the room, why we are happy to stay up all night talking with them, and why sexual attraction is strongest at the beginning of the relationship (Slater, 2006).

However, as the relationship becomes familiar, these feelings fade due to hedonic adaptation. Hedonic adaptation is the idea that as something becomes familiar, its ability to increase our excitement and feelings of reward fade (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). Although hedonic adaptation is inevitable for all couples, there are things we can do to challenge it and experience more passion in our long-term romantic relationships. We can do this by filling our romantic relationships with a variety of novel
activities that we and our partners can enjoy together (Slater, 2006).

We can do this by:
 Mixing up date night – be creative!
 Trying a new and exciting activity together
 Leaving love notes in surprising places for your partner to find
 Taking a spontaneous trip together
 Having spontaneous sex
 Learning something new together

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we can apply this idea by doing something out of the ordinary for the holiday to increase passion in our relationships. For instance, if you typically go out for dinner every year, try making a nice dinner together from home. Additionally, instead
of giving your loved one a dozen roses, try hiding each rose with love notes attached to them in different places where your lover will find them throughout the day. Another idea includes staying the night at a hotel in a city where you and your lover have never stayed before. The
ideas are endless! The key point is to avoid the ordinary and mix things up with activities that are new, exciting, and fun for both you and your partner.

Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing Happiness. Review of General
Psychology, 9(2), 111–131. https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-2680.9.2.111
Slater, L. (2006, February). Love. National Geographic, 209(2), 32–49.

Healthy Social Media Use

By Lindsay Cowdin

apps business cellphone cellular telephone
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

According to Pew Research, 71% of Facebook users and 59% of Instagram users report that they visit their social media site once to several times per day (Atske & Anderson, 2022). Clearly, social media has become central to many of our lives, but is this a good thing?
According to Dar Meshi, a research professor at Michigan State University, we are compelled by social media because we have evolved to find social connections rewarding (Gupta, 2022).

Therefore, this technology provides us with a new way to experience social rewards, such as support and connections (Gupta, 2022). For instance, being active on social media allows us to
connect with many people we may have otherwise lost contact with. This can help decrease feelings of loneliness, which studies have found is highly detrimental to our mental and physical
health (CDC, 2021).

Additionally, we can receive social support by receiving “likes” and
comments on our posts. Receiving compliments and support from others has been found to activate the reward center of our brain, which creates feelings of pleasure, reward, and energy (Gupta, 2022).

Despite these benefits, there are a few dangers of social media that users should be aware of. For instance, Professor Dar Meshi found that social comparisons are a large driver of social media
use (Gupta, 2022). According to social comparison theory, we compare ourselves to others in domains such as attractiveness, success, wealth, popularity, and more to determine our worth (Psychology Today, n.d.). These comparisons are linked to poor mental health, such as
depression, anxiety, and lower life satisfaction (Gupta, 2022).

Unfortunately, social media provides us with a way to compare ourselves to a large number of people (Gupta, 2022). Additionally, people typically only post the best parts of themselves and their lives. Therefore,
social media may be setting us up for unfair comparisons on a large scale. Social media can also lead to problematic social media use, which resembles an addiction (Gupta, 2022). This can result in preoccupation (i.e., constantly thinking about social media), mood modification (i.e.,
going onto social media to change your mood), tolerance (i.e., needing more and more social media to feel its rewards), conflict (i.e., social media causing problems in your personal and work life), withdrawal (i.e., experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit social media
use) and relapse (i.e., relapsing when trying to quit social media use) (Gupta, 2022).

How can we use social media in a way that allows us to enjoy the benefits while avoiding the dangers? According to Professor Dar Meshi, those who use social media excessively and passively (i.e., overly scrolling through social media without making posts) experience the most psychological distress (Gupta, 2022). However, those who use it in moderation and actively (i.e., making posts periodically while avoiding excessive scrolling) receive the most benefits (Gupta,2022).

Therefore, we do not need to avoid social media altogether to avoid its dangers. Instead, we can moderate our use, become active users, and recognize the risk of unfair social comparisons. By doing so, we can more fully enjoy the social connections and support that social
media can provide to our lives.

Atske, S., Anderson, M. (2022, May 11). Social Media Use in 2021. Retrieved January 26, 2023,
from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/04/07/social-media-use-in-2021/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, April 29). Loneliness and Social Isolation
Linked to Serious Health Conditions. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from
Gupta, S., (Host). (2022, May 11). Social Media and our Brains with CNN’s Chasing Life [Audio
podcast episode]. In The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos. Pushkin Industries.
Psychology Today. (n.d.). Social Comparison Theory. Sussex Publishers. Retrieved January 26,
2023, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/social-comparison-theory

4 Steps To Improve Connection With Your Teenager

4 Steps To Improve Connection With Your Teenager

therapist south jordan

One of the common phrases I hear in my therapy office is ‘My teenager is struggling and I don’t
know what to do!’ I reach into my toolkit and pull out these 5 strategies to help these parents in

  1. Reaffirm Attachment Connection
  2. Increase Connection
  3. Balance expectations and demandingness
  4. Learn to manage your own emotions and decrease reactivity
  5. Schedule/Plan regular quality time together

Reaffirm Attachment Connection

The more I work with kids and teens, the more I realize that teens are very similar to infants. I know. I know. I just said teens are babies, but hear me out. Based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to:

– act on impulse
– misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions
– get into accidents of all kinds
– get involved in fights
– engage in dangerous or risky behavior

Adolescents are less likely to:

– think before they act
– pause to consider the consequences of their actions
– change their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors

Have you ever seen a toddler dive off a kitchen counter or barstool? Your teen is effectively doing the same just with larger and more consequential situations. Why? To see if you will be
there to catch them. I believe that children need attachment reaffirmation each time they hit a different developmental stage.

Newborn – will mom/dad be there to feed me?

Toddler – will they catch me?

School age child – will they be at my soccer game/pick me up from school on time?

Early adolescent – If I do something my parent doesn’t like, will they still love me?

Teen– Is my parent’s love really unconditional? If I miss curfew will they still love me? What if I lie or do something I regret? Will they distance or disown me?

It is not easy, but do we as parents pass these tests?

Increase Connection

When our patience is stretched to the limit, sometimes the last thing we want is to ask for our child’s time. We may just want to run away physically or emotionally and just get some space,
but that only creates distance. Connection is increased when things get hard and we don’t go anywhere. This action proves to our teen that no matter how tough it gets, they are not alone in the struggle.
Check in with your child, ask about their day and really listen. Ask open ended questions instead of ones that elicit a yes/no response. For example ‘what are your thoughts about prom?’ rather
than ‘do you think you want to go to Prom this year?’ Even if the response initially is ‘nothing’ or ‘I dunno’ you are opening the door for them to share when they want to. If you ask the second
question you are opening yourself up for the yea/nay response.
Look your child in the eyes. It is that simple. I believe that parents have a ‘sixth sense’ when it comes to their children. You will see if your child is happy or hurting by looking in their eyes. Research also shows that just like infants, looking teens in the eye increases attachment
connection and security.

To recap, here are the few small things you can do that will increase overall connection.

  • Stay (they are not alone)
  • Check in (even if the response is undesirable, this shows that you are aware of them)
  • Look them in the eyes

Balance Expectations and Demandingness

The optimal parenting style is Authoritative parenting. This type of parenting is a balance of demandingness/expectation and connection. When kids and teens have both unconditional positive regard and family guidelines, they thrive. It is difficult to take a look at ourselves, but
the other three parenting types come with negative behaviors and effects so in the long run this balance is worth the introspection. Thankfully therapy and parenting support can help with this!

Learn to Manage own Emotions and Decrease Reactivity

Many parents that I see question, ‘am I the problem?’ The answer is …yes..but no.. kinda? I’ll explain. When we use our children’s moods and behavior to dictate our own, we have a high level or emotional reactivity. If our children are ‘monkey see..monkey do’ they will exhibit the
same behavior, and both of you will likely be bouncing your anxiety and stress back and forth off of each other. I read a quote once that said, when little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not to join their chaos.” – L.R. Knost. If you find that you rely on your teens for emotional support, regulation, or that you are extra sensitive to their moods, come in and let’s work on this together!

Parents, we can do this! You are not alone, and it is possible to connect and improve relationships with your teen. They need you!

Have more questions? Contact Connections Family Wellness to talk with our client care coordinator and schedule your first session today!

How To Know When It’s Time To Start Seeing A Therapist

How To Know When It’s Time To Start Seeing A Therapist

Are you wondering how to know when it is time to start seeing a therapist?  Sometimes it can be hard to tell if the thoughts or feelings that we are having are normal.  Knowing when to seek professional help can be a challenge.  Here are a few signs that it might be a good time to make that first appointment to talk to a professional:

  1. Your psychological health is starting to affect your physical health.

Physical aches and pains such as stomach aches or headaches can sometimes stem from mental health related issues.  It is always best to visit a doctor to rule out any medical problems first.  If there are no known medical issues, your doctor may recommend that you meet with a therapist.  Depression, anxiety, and stress can present themselves in physical symptoms, and working with a therapist can help you start to feel better.

  1. Your symptoms are starting to get in the way of your everyday life.

Some common symptoms of mental health issues that you may see in your everyday life could be difficulty focusing, having a hard time controlling your emotions, or decreased productivity.  If your stress, anxiety, or depression is preventing you from completing your day to day responsibilities, it could be a good idea to talk to a professional.

  1. Your sleep schedule is off.

Struggling to fall asleep at night?  Sleeping way more than you should be?  Insomnia and oversleeping are both symptoms related to our overall mental health.  Talking to a therapist can help you work through some of your issues and get your sleep schedule back on track.

  1. You are frequently using unhealthy ways to cope.

Sometimes when we have negative thoughts and hard emotions we can start to cope with them in unhealthy ways.  Some examples of this could be excessive drinking or oversleeping.  Avoiding your problems can sometimes make them worse.  If you notice yourself trying to avoid the hard things in life by using unhealthy coping methods, it could be a good time to seek help.

  1. Your emotional state is starting to impact your relationships.

When your emotions are all over the place it can take a toll on the relationships in your life.  You could be feeling distant, quick to anger, or just not like yourself.  When you are not feeling your best it can be hard to put energy into your relationships.  Seeing a therapist is a good way to improve your mental health and help you improve your relationships.

If you aren’t sure if you should see a therapist or not, it will never hurt to give it a try.  Speaking with a mental health professional doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you.  It takes so much strength to reach out for help.  If you can relate to any of these experiences we recommend reaching out to a therapist near you.  

Connections Family Wellness uses a collaborative approach to create individualized plans for each of our clients.  We are now taking clients in Logan, Utah and South Jordan Utah.  Call to set up your initial appointment with us today! (801) 871-5118